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Raising Innocence(Rylee Adamson #3)(12) by Shannon Mayer

I scooted my chair forward and he took my hand gently, which surprised the hell out of me. “What can you do besides Tracking?”

He turned my hand over and I answered. “I’m an Immune.”

Chuckling, he nodded. “I wondered when I couldn’t get a bead on you. I’m a Reader.”

I nodded, recognizing the name as one of many Giselle went by. Looked like he’d dodged the curse that had claimed her. I’d say he was lucky, but by the looks of things now, maybe not so much.

“Do all Trackers have multiple abilities?”

Holding my hand lightly, he touched a scar above my wrist. “Yes. It’s necessary in order to be a good Tracker to have some additional abilities. It seems the gods favoured us and cursed us all in one breath.”

Alex lifted his head up and peeked over the edge of the bed at Jack, his claws curling around the bunched up blankets.

He took a sniff and wrinkled his nose. “Sick?”

Jack looked down at the werewolf. “Dying.”

With an exaggerated pout, Alex flopped onto his ass. “Alex no like dying. Dying sucks shit.”

A burst of laughter escaped Jack. “Yeah, that’s what I think too.” His eyes flicked up to mine. “Comic relief, I like it. Keep him close; you’ll need all the laughs you can get. The longer you’re in this business, the less you’ll feel like smiling.”

The smile that had teased at the edges of my mouth slipped. “Jack, what can you tell me about being a Tracker? I feel like I won’t get another chance like this . . .” I trailed off, not wanting to point out the obvious.

Shifting his weight in bed, Jack leaned closer. “You’re right, you won’t get another chance. Far as I know, I thought I was the last Tracker. So that means now you’re it. You’re all we’ve got.”

A prickle of unease crept alongside my excitement. “What do you mean?”

Jack hung onto my hand. “Which one of the vampires has made a bid for you, or have they both?”

My muscles clenched, and a mixture of fear and surprise shot through me. I leaned forward, lowering my voice. “How did you know?”

“Wolf, go shut the door.” The Tracker commanded and Alex did as he was told, trotting over and slamming the door shut. “Lock it too.”

Over the scrabbling of Alex’s claws, Jack spoke. “You think I’m here by accident? The doctors are claiming its lung cancer, but I ain’t never smoked a f**king day in my life. You know what stimulants do to us?”

That I did. “Something like smoking would send our hearts into overdrive, cranking our metabolism up to the point of having our hearts burst.”

He nodded and went on. “There were two leaders of the vampire nation. Emperor and Empress. They have a child, one they’ve raised to be the heir. But before they could get their kid on the throne, they were killed by a usurper.”

I knew what was coming, so I beat him to it. “Faris.” Jack’s eyes all but sparkled, a thread of life still beating strong in his ravaged body.

“Yes. Now there is a full-out battle coming between the two factions. You are the key. They will both vie for you.”

I snorted. “Why? What can I do for them? They can’t even turn me into a vampire.”

A soft click and Alex got the door locked, then made his way into the bathroom. The faucet came on and then the slurping of water, followed by a splash. He’d be busy for a few minutes at least.

“You really don’t know your limits, do you?” Jack asked softly, his eyes full of worry. “Shit. I can’t teach it all to you, not in one session.”

“Tell me what you can. Please. And I’ll come back as soon as I can.” I swallowed hard and spit out my biggest concern, one that weighed on me far more than Faris and any stupid vampire shindig I might get yanked into. “I’ve been trying to Track the missing kids, but I can’t feel them. It’s like they don’t exist; like they’ve never existed.”

Jack laughed, a choking gasp at the end that had me reaching for the call button. He waved me off. “Try now.”

I didn’t want to fail, but even more, I didn’t want to fail in front of someone I’d prefer to impress. One deep breath and I reached for the kids, all twenty or so of them. Like a blinding beacon, I could feel them, dead, but still there. I was still able to Track their faded threads. Relief coursed through me, making me sag into my chair.

“You tried to Track them on your side of the water, didn’t you?”

“No, when we were in the air. What does that have to—”

With another wave of a gnarled hand, he cut me off, his other hand tightening over my fingers.

“Large bodies of water, like an ocean, bar our ability to Track. There is no child you can’t find, Rylee. You just have to be on the right side of the water.”

I stood up with a jerk and reached for Berget before he’d even stopped speaking. Her life force blazed through me and with a sob I dropped to my knees. Golden sunlight and blue eyes beckoned to me, the scent of summer and the warmth of my little sister’s love was a rush so heady I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

She was alive! Oh my god, Berget . . . A hand patted my shoulder. “Hush now. You thought she was gone for good?” I must have spoken my thoughts, though I could barely pull them together. I clung to Berget’s thread like a drowning man to a dingy. She was alive; I could take her home. I wasn’t alone—my family wasn’t all gone.

Shaking, I stood and turned to go, already formulating how to get to Berget. Forget the other children. They were dead; they could wait. Berget was alive and I was going after her. Right now.

Jack spoke, his words echoing mine in a twisted way. “Rylee, wait. There is so goddamned much more. Your sister can wait a few more minutes, can’t she?”

I took in a long, slow breath, my heart beating as if I’d been sprinting. My back still to him, I said, “You don’t understand.”

“I do. Perhaps more than any other Tracker would. I was like you. My abilities came on line long before I found someone to share their knowledge with me. Let me pass on what I know before you run off after her. Before I die.”

Biting down, I clenched my jaw, turning to face him. “Quickly.”

“It can’t be f**king done quickly, but I’ll give you what I can right now.” He settled in back against his pillows. “You can Track more than a single person?”

I nodded, already figuring this lesson out for myself.

“You can also Track groups of people. Like a group of supernaturals. This is what the vampires want you for. You can find creatures that no one else can, that everyone thinks are gone.”

I frowned, not understanding the significance of what he was saying. “So?”

He reached out for me, and I reluctantly let him take my hand. I wanted to go, Berget was so close!

His fingers dug in around my wrist. “You can help them Track their enemies, help them pinpoint people around them. You are a tool for them; remember that above all else. They will not see you for anything else. And if you don’t work for them as they wish, they have no problem breaking their tools and finding new ones.”

A chill swept through me. “That’s what they did, broke you, and had me brought in?”

He nodded. “Give me one last thing, a last request.”

Inwardly, I groaned, but I squeezed his hand in agreement.

“Go and find the missing children that I couldn’t Track. That is my last wish. Do it before you find your sister. Prove you are a Tracker first, above all else.”

9

Jack Feen’s hand tightened over mine. “And once you have found your sister, come back to me. I don’t want to f**king die alone in this bitch of a hospital.”

Oh, for the love of all that was holy! I closed my eyes, fought the warring emotions. The logical part of my brain told me that he was right. I would never be able to get away from Valley and his minions to go after Berget. The missing infants and toddlers would have to come first. But the other side of me raged. To be this close, to be on the verge of finding the one person who meant more to me than any other, only to be denied, wasn’t fair.

“I know it’s f**king hard, Rylee. But you have to do what’s right.”

Giselle had said life wasn’t fair, only that I should follow my heart, and Jack’s words were echoing my beloved mentor’s. And while my heart still loved Berget, I knew that I had to go after the other kids first. Jack was right. Son of a bitch.

“All right, I’ll go after the kids.”

He let out a long slow breath. “Good, that’s all I ask of you.”

A knock on the door and a muffled, “Ma’am?” on the other side interrupted us.

Alex let out a woof as if he were a guard dog. Yeah, not so much.

“A little late, buddy,” I muttered, letting go of Jack’s hand. The knock on the door came again, harder this time.

Striding to the door, I flicked the lock and opened the door. A police officer for sure by the way he held himself, but he was dressed in a suit, more like an FBI agent. A glimpse of a shoulder holster made me leery. On the off chance he wasn’t an officer of some sort, he could be trouble. His eyes looked me over in a single, raking glance, his nostrils flaring ever so slightly like he didn’t like what he saw. Well, piss on him too.

“Ms. Adamson, I’m here to pick you up and take you back to the police station.”

His voice was smooth, the English accent soothing and soft. That made me wonder about Jack, who’d had no accent that I could discern. I’d have to ask him about that when I came back with Berget.

“How do I know you are who you say you are?” Sure I was being difficult, but also recognizing that he could be working for Faris. I’d have to watch everyone I came in contact with now. This was going to be difficult.

Lips tight, he pulled out his ID card and handed it over to me. William Gossard, SOCA, the symbol stamped on it was an attacking cat of some sort leaping over the earth. Funky.