Raising Innocence(Rylee Adamson #3)(2) by Shannon Mayer
Turning my back on her, I headed back toward the rambling farmhouse, the sinking sun giving the perfect backdrop for a picture. Too bad cameras wouldn’t work for me; this was a scene I needed to remember.
“Aren’t you even going to say goodbye? And what about Giselle, I want to see her sometimes.” Milly called after me, the echo of the lost girl she once was heavy in her voice.
My feet stilled and I rolled my shoulders. I’d said goodbye to her before, hoping she’d come back. She had, but she’d changed and not for the better.
“I’m not going to say goodbye.” I lifted my eyes to hers, saw my own pain mirrored on her face. “And Giselle is none of your concern. I’ll take care of her, no different than before.”
Her body stiffened as if I’d struck her and the pain turned to anger, her lips parting as if to speak. I tensed, muscles prepped for a fight. If she wanted to get ugly, she knew my secrets, knew what would hurt me the worst both in the physical and metaphysical sense.
The air stilled, the ever-blowing wind of North Dakota stopping, as if it too held its breath. We stared at each other, eyes locked, the tension building until something had to happen. I sure as hell wasn’t backing down, though. Her green eyes sharpened and I thought she would try and spell me. Shaking her head ever so slightly, she broke eye contact first. I let out a slow breath. The last thing I wanted to do was fight with her, because if it came down to it and she forced my hand, I would have to hurt her. Maybe even kill her. And despite everything, I still cared about her.
Milly ducked down into the BMW, the door slamming behind her. Within seconds she was peeling out of the driveway spitting gravel and dirt at me. The pebbles sprayed the bare skin on my arms, but I barely felt it. This was not like before, when she’d broken her ties with us for the Coven. I could feel it in my gut; Milly and I were done. The line had finally been drawn in the sand and we were on opposite sides.
Why then did I suspect this wouldn’t be the last time she caused me grief?
Back inside the house, I let Alex out of my room and then cleaned up my hands, the raw skin biting at me with the antiseptic cleaner. Muttering under my breath, I wrapped my hands as best I could. It wouldn’t take me long to heal. I wasn’t near as fast as Alex, but still faster than the average human.
I cursed my way out to the main living area, my words stilling on my tongue as I took in the scene. Giselle sat in the corner of the window seat, staring out into the evening sky. Alex was curled up beside her, pointing at things.
Though they were at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of supernatural abilities, the werewolf and my mentor had bonded over the last month. Maybe it was because in a weird way, they were the same, learning how to live in a body with a mind that was no longer their own. He was forever a child trapped inside his mismatched body, and she was only at times lucid.
While they sat and stared out the window, I sat on the floor, crossed my legs and went to work on a routine, one that drained the shit out of me to practice. But it was necessary, especially with Alex.
With some effort, I’d learned over the last year to hold my Immunity back, just on my hands. Just enough to keep my Immunity from affecting Alex’s collar and thus exposing him to the world as a werewolf. I did it without thinking for the most part, and the practicing was something I did now more when I was bored and had nothing better to do.
I played with it, peeling my Immunity up and over my wrists, sweating, but doing it. Because Giselle has said it was good for me to stretch myself and my talents, even if that meant trying things that seemed silly at times.
After an hour, I finally let my Immunity go back, flow over my hands. A slight tingle, and it was done.
Standing, I stretched, back popping one vertebrae after the other. “Giselle, are you hungry?”
Alex flipped himself over backwards, scrabbling across the hardwood floor, the silver tips of his fur catching the light. He slid to a stop at my feet and rolled huge amber eyes up to mine.
Giselle chuckled to herself. “Socks, have you got your blue socks yet? You’ll need them soon.”
Helping her to her feet, I guided her into the kitchen. “No blue socks yet. But when I find them, I’ll let you know.”
“That’s good. Blue socks. You need them for sure.”
I settled her into a chair and heated up some leftovers. Nothing fancy, but at least it was home cooked. Alex dug in, alternating between using his claws and the fork, finally giving up and just using his mouth.
My mentor didn’t eat; just sat there and stared. What was I going to do with her when I got my next salvage? There was no way I could take her with me when hunting for a kid. Even now, I had to lock her bedroom door at night; she’d wandered off three times in the last month. With the weather sitting well below freezing, it was a bad time to develop a thing for midnight walks in her nightshirt.
“Giselle, you need to eat.” I held up fork with some food on it and pressed it against her mouth. She turned her head away like a naughty child. But I couldn’t be angry; it wasn’t her fault. The fault lay with the abilities she had to see what no one else could. The more she’d used her abilities, the more she was drained of her sanity; apparently it didn’t happen to all of the supernaturals like her. But a lot of them, for sure, had the same trade off. Not a very good exchange rate. Being a Tracker and an Immune, I didn’t have drawbacks like that. Thank the gods.
I tried again to get her to eat, holding the fork up. She pushed it away. “Someone comes.”
The sharp rap of knuckles on the front door sent a shiver of adrenaline through me. There were very few people I could call friends, and fewer still who’d show up unannounced.
My head and heart tripped over one another. O’Shea, it had to be O’Shea. Running full tilt to the door, I flung it open, breath catching in my throat.
Not O’Shea. But it was an FBI agent.
Agent Valley stood on my front porch looking up at me. Brown eyes flecked with green were definitely his best feature. He sported an overbite and an offset nose that looked as though it had been broken more than once. Jowly and a good four inches shorter than my 5’6, he wouldn’t seem the type to be in charge. Yet, here he was, department head for the Arcane Arts division of the FBI. His perfectly pressed black suit and the file folder under his arm made him look like a travelling salesman.
Still, he was O’Shea’s boss and my wannabe boss.
I didn’t say anything, just stared down at him.
Finally, he cleared his throat. “May I come in? I have some information you might be interested in.”
“About what?” I held the door, ready to slam it. Agent Valley wasn’t a bad guy, just not exactly as good as I’d have liked. He’d tried to guilt me into coming to work for his division, and that was a real piss-off in my books.
“Some cases we are looking at. And I would like to speak to you about O’Shea.”
Ah, here we go. He didn’t know where O’Shea was, either. I could still Track him, but had only done so once. That one time was enough for me. He’d been close—in fact, I suspected he had something to do with the local werewolf pack’s sudden loss of interest in Alex—but O’Shea was not a happy boy, his mental state fluxuating from rage to sorrow to blood lust, and then back through them all again. If I were to make a guess, I’d say that O’Shea could shift back and forth; his emotions were far too complex for him to have ended up like Alex. At least that was good. But I respected his choice. O’Shea wanted to figure this new part of his life out on his own. I wouldn’t begrudge him that, though I missed him fiercely.
I waited another ten seconds before slowly opening the door and allowing the agent to step in. I didn’t share my personal space well at the best of times—and this night certainly wasn’t that.
Agent Valley made his way further into the room, selecting the same chair he’d sat in last time he’d shown up unannounced, his feet not quite touching the floor.
“Are you going to sit down, so we can speak?” He opened the folder and drew out sheets of paper clipped together.
I folded my arms over my chest, tucking my bandaged hands away from sight. “No, I’ll stand.”
“So be it. But I will warn you, this is going to be a long conversation.”
Snorting, one corner of my lips lifted. “I doubt that very much.”
He seemed unfazed by my rudeness. One by one he laid out the paper-clipped piles on the table in front of him. “These children were all stolen from hospitals, all within the last two years.”
I couldn’t stop my ears from perking up. Why hadn’t I heard about this? Something like this would have been all over the news. Bending, I scooped up the papers closest to me, thumbing through them. Six months old, in the hospital for not even twenty-four hours before going missing. Youngest of three. Sophia. That was almost a full two years ago; she must have been one of the first.
“There seems to be a strong correlation between the illnesses that the children came in to have treated and whether or not they get kidnapped,” Agent Valley said, leaning back in his chair. I crouched to the ground and flipped through another pile. Age, four years. Oldest of two. Benjamin. There was nothing about why he was in the hospital.
Age, two and a half. Only child. Jasmina.
Age, three weeks. One of two twins. Elana.
Age, five years. Middle of seven. Kent.
The list went on; there were over twenty children missing.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what the correlation is?”
I spread the papers out, unable to stop myself from caring, even knowing that Agent Valley was manipulating me. “I suppose you’ll tell me eventually. If not, it doesn’t really matter. I can find them.”
“So sure of yourself,” he said softly.
I lifted my eyes to his. “It’s one of the few things I’m sure of in my life.”
Alex came trotting in from the kitchen, Giselle clinging to his collar. Neither one said anything to Agent Valley. They just went back to sitting on the window seat, staring out into the night sky.