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Raising Innocence(Rylee Adamson #3)(17) by Shannon Mayer

The bells tolled again, and this close, the sound rumbled through my chest. Leaning up against the huge wooden doors, I pressed my ear tight against them. Chanting, a lot of chanting. My skin crawled in remembrance. The last time I’d been on the other side of a set of doors and chanting we’d almost lost a little girl, India in fact, to a serious demon possession.

Though I doubted that was the case now, I still couldn’t turn around and just leave without making sure whoever was being chanted over was okay.

With a shove, I opened the double doors wide and strode in, stopping in the vestibule, the scene before me not something I’d expected.

Two circles of priests surrounded a girl strapped down on the altar; a cloth was draped over her body and a chunk of wood, what I was betting was a heavy wooden cross, was on her chest. One priest held a bowl over her head as he chanted, then slowly poured the water out on her face.

She snapped her head to the side. “Get the hell off me!” Her English accent made me think of the girl from Harry Potter. Hermione, if I remembered the name right.

The priests, of course, didn’t listen, nor did they listen as she flicked her wrist and sent one of them flying into the air. They had no idea what they were dealing with.

“You should let her go,” I said loudly, and the church went silent.

Stepping down out of the vestibule and into the main alley between the pews, I ran my fingers over the wooden armrests. “She isn’t possessed and you have no right to torment her.”

Two priests came toward me, faces grim, the one on the right doing all the talking. “Her family gave her to the church to heal. Now be gone with you.” They shooed at me like I was a stray dog.

I smiled and slid my two swords from the crossed sheath at my back. “I don’t play nice, boys.”

They stopped their advance on me and it was my turn to motion for them to get out of my way. They listened, stepping back.

The head honcho, the one with the fancy scarf around his neck and ridiculous looking hat, lifted his hand to me, palm out. “God will not be denied, and no matter the temptations that the devil will send, we will be faithful and bring this child to the light of Christ.”

I lifted my middle finger to him. “This ain’t got nothing to do with God or Christ. Now. Let. Her. Go.”

The priest’s eyes blazed with anger; I just continued to smile. This was about to get fun. I wouldn’t really kill any of the priests, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t make for some good practice. I put my swords back into their sheaths one at a time. There were nine priests, just enough to make this interesting.

I beckoned to the high priest, or whatever the f**k he was. “You’re going to have to take me out before I let you put one more drop of holy water on her.”

The church went even more silent, as if everyone held their breath, as if the air and tension from the tombs below had crept upward.

Mr. High Priest with the funky scarf and stupid hat made a motion with his left hand toward me. “Take her. We must not be interfered with; the child’s soul is at stake.”

Let the fun begin.

Hands circled around my waist in an attempt to keep my arms pinned. I snapped my head backwards, connecting with his nose, the crunch of cartilage crackling through the air, blood hitting the back of my neck. He screamed and let go. Spinning, I jerked my right foot up catching the second priest under his chin, knocking him out cold. Damn, that was over way too fast.

Dusting off my jacket, I turned and lifted an eyebrow at the remaining priests. “Anyone else care for a go?”

Six of the remaining seven moved toward me, spreading out through the pews. Perfect. Hopping up onto the pew closest to me, I ran toward the closest priest, dropping my weight and sliding along the wooden bench, as he swung a sloppy right hook at me.

“Let me guess, you’ve got mommy issues. That’s why you’re a priest,” I said, spinning on my butt and pinning the priest to the pew in front of us. He glowered at me and I booted him hard in the chest, knocking the breath out of him. As he slid down, a second kick to the jaw made his eyes roll back in his head.

Moving quickly, I dispatched the next two priests with ease, leaving three young men who looked like they were fresh out of seminary, two of the three covered heavily in pimples.

“Listen, I can kick your asses and you can wake up tomorrow morning uglier than you are now . . .” I paused to let them take that in, “or you can f**k off and keep what’s left of your pride.”

They grouped tighter together and slowly advanced.

Smiling, I said, “Alrighty then.”

I unhooked my whip and let the tail drop to the floor, the leather shushing along the wood as I walked. A flick of my wrist snapped the whip into the air, and I pulled down hard with my whole arm to crack the leather tip over their heads. They scattered like a herd of sketched out cows, running for the exits.

Laughing softly, I tucked the whip away and turned to face the final priest who, no doubt, wished he had some magical powers of his own right then.

“You are of the devil and I cast you out,” he yelled, flicking holy water at me.

I couldn’t stop the laugh that leapt out of me. “Oh my. Please, throw some more lukewarm water on me. I’m trembling with fear all the way down to my tight little ass.”

The high priest shook with what I could only assume was rage as he started in on the Latin.

I cleared my throat, then held up a hand to him and miracle of miracles, he stopped. “Listen, I’m going to take the girl, and you’re going to say that she ran away. Got it?”

“She is my charge! I cannot—”

My sword cleared its sheath, the blade slicing through the air so fast he couldn’t dodge it; I held the tip against the hollow of his throat. “You can. She doesn’t belong with you in your world. She belongs in mine.”

He opened his mouth to speak, and I stepped closer; let him see my tri-coloured eyes as they swirled.

Stuttering to a stop he stepped away. “Get thee gone. And take the devil child with you.”

I saluted him with my sword. “Excellent.”

Two swift slices and the girl was free of her bonds. She slithered off the altar, clutching the tablecloth over her. The priest snatched it away. “Do not touch the emblems of Christ!”

“Stuff a sock in it,” I said, as I held my hand out to the girl.

Barely covered with a thin sack-like dress that hung to the floor, she stood in the shadows of one of the stained glass windows, the faint midday light coming through doing nothing to give me a better look at her. Blazing blue eyes glared at me, and though I felt her power swirl around me, it did nothing. Her eyes widened and I smiled at her. “You can’t hurt me. Not like you do the others.”

“I don’t want to come with you.”

Ignoring the priest and his muttering, I kept my focus on the girl. She made me think of Berget. They were so similar in colouring with the blonde hair and almost shocking blue eyes, but this girl, from what I could see of her, was rail thin, all angles and points. It looked as though they’d been starving her, the bastards. If she’d been a little older or better trained, they never would have been able to tie her down. They were lucky she hadn’t killed them by accident.

“Well, here’s the thing,” I said, putting a hand on the altar and swinging across it to sit with my legs dangling on the other side. “You don’t really fit in this part of the world, do you?”

Her eyes narrowed.

I went on. “And I’m betting your family just dumped you here, once your temper tantrums got out of control?”

“They weren’t temper tantrums!” Tears starting to leak out of her eyes, the first I’d seen since I’d stepped into the church. This was one tough little kid. She reminded me a little of myself.

I softened my voice. “No, they weren’t. But that is what they thought, isn’t it?”

Gulping back a sob, she gave one short nod.

“Come on, kid. Let’s get you out of here.”

In my heart, I was crying with her. To be abandoned by your family, to have them walk away from you because you were a freak, that was a wound that would never truly heal—and if it did, it would scar her deeply. I would find her a place to learn, to study and hone her skills. Somewhere safe. Maybe the Coven back home. Now that I knew they weren’t what Milly claimed, they would probably welcome the kid with open arms.

Sniffling, she reached out for my hand.

I covered her fingers with my own. “I won’t let anyone hurt you. I promise.” Dangerous words, but she needed that. I could see it in her.

She lifted her eyes to mine. “My name is Pamela.”

“I’m Rylee. Or as dipshit over here would say, ‘The Devil.’”

“You admit it!” He screeched.

I was rewarded with Pamela stepping out of the shadows and nailing him with a pure bolt of power, flipping him ass over tea kettle and into the far wall with a thud.

“Easy kid,” I said, pushing her hands down.

“He hurt me,” she whispered, staring at where he lay.

My hackles went up, anger spilling through my body, but what she said next slowed me down.

“And that should even the score.”

I smiled at her. “Come on, let’s go.”

She took two steps fully into the light, her socks peeking out from under the long sack dress. Shocked beyond the ability to speak, all I could do was stare at her bright blue socks.

12

Milly had him carry her through the Veil and into the castle where they’d first found India. He was unable to do anything physical to stop what was happening, but his mind formulated plan after plan. He just needed to . . . what? He had no way to break this spell Milly had on him. Not unless he could get the torc off his neck.

“I don’t want you to hate me, Liam. I know Rylee loves you. And she’s like family to me.”

He could hardly believe the lies pouring from her lips; was she really going to try and explain this backstabbing behaviour?