Raising Innocence(Rylee Adamson #3)(10) by Shannon Mayer
Unable to control himself, he shifted into his two-legged form, the sudden change in perspective throwing him off balance. As na**d as the day he was born, he wobbled, and then fell to one knee.
The cold winter air bit along his bare skin, but he took it in, appreciated that he could feel it. The first few weeks of being a shifter, he’d taken out his rage on the local pack. They’d quickly realized he wasn’t to be ignored, and when he staked his claim around Rylee’s property, they’d backed off. Now though, he had no purpose. And still, he couldn’t bring himself to go back to the world that had once been the only one he’d known. The thing was, he wasn’t just a wolf. Something else lurked inside of him.
“What am I doing?” His voice hoarse from disuse.
A feminine sultry voice whispered across his skin, like fingers trailing along the overheated flesh. “Running away. That’s what you’re doing. But you don’t have to run, Liam.”
He spun in the snow, half-crouched, a snarl on his lips.
Dressed all in white, down to a thick white wolf pelt for a jacket and white boots topped with rabbit fur, Milly watched him with her bright green eyes. He resisted the urge to cover himself, but stayed in a crouch effectively blocking her roving, hungry eyes.
“How . . .” he coughed, clearing his throat. “Did you find me?”
She smiled and actually batted her eyelashes at him, as if that would work. “A friend of mine has a special place in his heart for wolves. A connection, if you will. He sent me to find you. To help you.”
O’Shea took a deep breath and caught the scent of another wolf. Narrowing his eyes, he let out a low growl. A flicker or movement twenty feet or so behind Milly confirmed his nose. She’d used a wolf to find him, to track his scent. But the wolf was a submissive, he could smell that much, and it was enough for him to dismiss the other shifter.
Did he trust her? O’Shea wasn’t sure. Rylee had trusted her, but did she still?
Taking the better, smarter part, he kept his mouth shut.
Milly filled in the silence. “I have something for you, something that will help you be human. You can chase the wolf back with it. Permanently.”
Lifting her hand, she dangled a woven strand of metal that, by the smell of it, was gold and diamonds. A torc, made to slip over his neck.
“You could keep her safe if you could control your wolf. As an alpha, it can take years to gain the control you need. She could die in that time. But with this you could keep her safe.”
His insides twisted at the thought of hurting Rylee, his desire to protect her overriding whatever other sense he might have at the moment. If it weren’t for the rage that took him unawares, he would have sought Rylee out already. As it was, he couldn’t trust himself not to kill her. A part of him knew that it wasn’t just the wolf that made him this way; it was something else. Something stronger.
Milly took a few steps closer, holding the torc out. “You don’t have to fight the beast in you if you don’t want to.”
The wolf inside of him spoke softly, though it was images more than words. I am a part of you now. Together we are strong. Alone, we are weak.
The wolf was right, and though a part of him wanted to silence the rage, he knew he had to figure this out on his own. Even if it did take years.
Stepping back, he shook his head. “No, I have to find the balance. Thank you, Milly.” He turned his back to her and let the shift begin to take him.
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Liam,” she said softly, the scent of ozone snapping through the air. “Truly, I am sorry.”
With the suddenness that only nature can provide, lightning cracked through the air, slamming into O’Shea’s body, stopping his shift. Light and dark danced in his vision, eyes of green coming into sharp focus as Milly bent over him.
The cold metal torc slid around his neck, tightening like the collar it was.
“Come now,” Milly said softly, drawing him to his feet, his mind screaming that he couldn’t go with her, that she was one of the ones, obvious now, that would hurt Rylee. But his body wouldn’t respond, bound tight by the spelled torc hanging so innocently around his neck.
With a smile that turned down at the edges, liquid brimming in her eyes, Milly brushed back a lock of his hair. “You have much to learn, Liam. So much to learn.”
We were somewhere over the Atlantic when Agent Valley finally deemed me worth coming to speak to rather than just shouting at me from across the plane. Apparently, he was still stinging from our encounter at my house. Too damn bad. I wasn’t here to pander to his emotional issues. Bad enough that I struggled to deal with my own and Alex’s.
Standing next to me, he held out a yellow manila envelope. “Here are some of the pictures of the children who’ve been taken. Now that you’re on the case, you can start Tracking them.” He flopped the envelope into my lap and walked back to his seat. Yup, definitely still pissy.
Sliding the pictures out, I cradled them in my lap. Each one had a name printed neatly on the back. I looked for Sophia’s, as she was the first to go missing, and according to Valley, wouldn’t stand a chance of being alive.
I reached out for her, to Track her, and encountered a big fat nothing. My muscles clenched and Alex turned to me as my heart rate spiked. No, this couldn’t be happening, not now, not again.
Only one other child had ever proved impossible for me to Track. My sister, Berget. When she went missing, my Tracker abilities came on line, only I didn’t know that until later. Every attempt I’d ever made to Track her once I knew what I was doing, to bring her body home so that she could be at peace finally, had ended in exactly this same feeling. Nothing.
Even if the child was dead, I should still be able to find them; I could still Track them. But this emptiness, this impossible feeling that they never even existed? Shit on a stick, I was in trouble. Trembling, I pulled another picture out, Benjamin, and Tracked his threads, looking where they should have been.
And got the same damn result. Nothing, a big fat emptiness in my head where the traces of his life should have been.
Shit, shit, shit.
I went through the whole pile of pictures and couldn’t get a bead on a single one of the kids. What the hell was I going to do if I couldn’t Track? Tucking the pictures back into the envelope, I stood and headed to the bathroom.
Locking the door behind me, I leaned on the sink, attempted to slow my breathing and heart down. This wasn’t possible. I’d never had this problem before except with Berget. But she was an anomaly. Even Giselle, when she’d still been lucid, had thought that Berget was a one-off, a single case that I would likely never have to deal with again. And now I had twenty-plus kids falling into the same category as Berget. What the f**k was I going to do?
The mirror reflected my eyes back to me, wide and sketchy, the tri-coloured rings swirling with gold, green, and dark brown. My skin was pale and I leaned forward, not wanting to see the evidence of my imminent failure. The minute we landed, I’d be screwed. How did I tell them that I couldn’t sense the kids? What would I do with my life if I couldn’t Track?
I splashed water over my face and put a cold, wet paper towel over the back of my neck. A soft knock on the door barely made me twitch.
“Ma’am,” the flight attendant said, her voice sharp like she was hoping something was wrong with me. “Are you alright in there?”
“I’m fine. Bugger off,” I barked. I heard Alex repeat the ‘bugger off’ and the flight attendant gasped; then it went quiet outside the door.
I tried again to Track the kids, going through their names one by one, hoping by all that was holy in this world that it was a glitch, some sort of freaky accident that was done and gone
Nope, still nothing.
Wracking my brain, I wished that I could phone Giselle when we landed, and ask her to help me through this. Bile rose in the back of my throat, coating my tongue. Between the grief of losing my mentor, and the fear of what was happening. I could barely breathe.
It took everything I had to still my mind and look at this in a more logical way.
I was going to see another Tracker—he would help me. Jack Feen would know what was going on. He had to. Clinging to the faint hope that a man I’d never met would be able to solve a riddle I didn’t understand, I left the privacy of the bathroom and went back to my seat.
I didn’t look at the pictures again, couldn’t. Because if I no longer had the ability to Track, I had no idea what I would do with my life.
From my seat, I listened to the conversations around me, an attempt to subdue the panic in my heart futile. Until I heard a voice I recognized. The kid in the red hoodie, the one who’d come in last and slumped down into his seat. Agent Valley was just leaving him and heading back to his own seat.
Kyle, that little bastard was on the plane? Here was the distraction I needed.
Jerking to my feet, I stumbled all the way to the black line, hesitated, and then strode over it. Agent Valley and his partner threw themselves at me, and with a roundhouse and two swift front kicks, I dropped them one right after the other. Hunched in his seat, Kyle seemed oblivious to what was going on. The agents were pulling themselves to their feet, and the flight attendant was standing against the far aisle, her eyes bugging out, her hands twitching.
Kyle’s hoodie was down, and his ears were plugged with headphones. Perfect, he never even saw me coming, the cocky little shit.
I reached down and clamped a hand over his shoulder, digging my nails into his scrawny frame. Letting out a yelp, he looked up and paled. I dragged him out of his seat and back to my area of the plane while he begged and pleaded.
“Rylee, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t keep something like this a secret! A huge government cover up! Please, listen to me, I didn’t mean to get you in trouble. I wouldn’t have come to your place or taken the papers, but I couldn’t get back into the FBI files, they blocked me after I hacked in . . . you had the only proof that the government knew about supernatural beings—”
“Shut the f**k up,” I said as I reached the black line and tossed him over it.