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Raising Innocence(Rylee Adamson #3)(8) by Shannon Mayer

His shoulders tightened up, almost imperceptibly, then slowly relaxed. “Past tense. She asked of me things I could not do. Spells she wanted that I was unwilling to give her. For all her strength, and she is the strongest to wield wild magic in centuries, there is a darkness in her.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair. “It was too late when I saw it, too late to stop her.”

Terese was shaking her head. “No, I won’t believe it!”

I’d had enough of this diplomacy crap. Two strides and I was in Terese’s face, not even an inch away. “She’s trying to kill my family, has spelled an anklet that drains the wearer’s life away, has threatened the life of my werewolf—”

Stunned silence met my words and they exchanged glances several times before anyone spoke.

“Did you say your werewolf?” Terese asked, her brows knitting over her ridiculously stunning eyes.

“Um, yeah.” I wasn’t sure what I’d stepped in now.

Terese pursed her lips. “Would you be willing to have us lay a truth spell on you?”

“It won’t work, but sure,” I said, wanting to hurry this up.

“Then we’ll lay it on her.” Terese pointed at Giselle, who nodded without hesitation.

“I will, if you will answer questions for us, and if once you see the truth, you will make a peace pact with Rylee.”

Terese agreed and the others stepped around us in a circle. My shoulders tightened with anticipation; I didn’t like people where I couldn’t see them.

The thing was, I wasn’t sure what a truth spell entailed, and I should have known better than to just agree. Should have, but I thought Giselle knew what she was up to. Of course, that was just it, she did.

Terese beckoned to Giselle to kneel in front of her, and then placed one hand on either side of her head.

“En memories benefactor justifus.” Terese intoned.

Giselle flexed and let out a moan. Terese’s eyes glazed over and I realized that she was seeing what Giselle had seen as she flinched and her face grew sorrowful. Tears slipped down her creamy skin, and I hated her a little. Terese had no right to be upset; Milly had been my best friend, not hers. And no, I don’t care how stupid that sounds.

Terese let go of Giselle. “They are speaking the truth. I have seen it. Milly is not who we thought she was.” She covered her lips with her dainty freaking fingers. The murmuring started and she lifted a hand again for silence. “We must meet with the full Coven. There are things Milly has done that you could not know were against our precepts.”

“You mean like the anklet?” I asked.

Terese nodded. “The threat to your wolf, that alone will gain her excommunication.”

That surprised me. “Why?”

“The local pack is a part of our extended family, if you will. Milly was their liaison.” Terese stared at me, as if willing me to understand the unspoken words.

It only took me about two seconds to put it together. Milly was in good with the pack, and the pack was trying to kill Alex. I thought back to when the pack had chased us and Milly had refused to do anything about it. All the puzzle pieces were becoming painfully, razor-sharp clear.

The rage that had dimmed with the pummeling I’d taken came flooding back, my muscles awash with adrenaline. I stood there, shaking, but unable to move just yet.

“Then you have no problem if I kill her?” I asked, proud at how steady my voice was, how quiet and deadly.

Terese stared at me, the pulse in her throat jumping. “I saw her connection to you through your mentor’s eyes. If you must kill her, there will be no retribution from us.”

The other witches gasped and the previous Coven leader, Milly’s boy-toy, stepped forward, mouth a thin line, eyes hard with anger.

“No, Milly could be helped—”

This time it was Giselle who lifted her hand in a sharp slashing movement, cutting him off.

“No, she can’t. The darkness in her has taken root; the only way to keep that darkness from spreading is to destroy its vessel.”

Her words hung in the air, and the finality of the situation slid over me. Milly—for all the love I’d had for her, for the memories we shared, the oaths we’d taken together—would never be back.

This was it.

I was going to kill my best friend.

6

The first thing Terese did was make a blood oath with me, one of peace. One that would keep me on the good side of the Coven, regardless of the fact that I was going to kill Milly.

We repeated the necessary words as blood from a finger prick from each of us dropped into an open brazier.

“By blood and oath, a binding tie between magic, death and honor.”

Thank the gods it was simple and no freaking Latin.

Terese sent us off with a pre-made spell that would enclose Milly and put her to sleep, making the final blow easier on both of us. Of course, after Terese had told us everything Milly had been telling the Coven, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go easy on my former best friend.

“We know all your secrets, Rylee—about your Immunity and the best way to work around it. About your Tracking and the ways she’d learnt to shift someone’s threads and the vibrations they gave off to another. She knows your strengths and your weaknesses, and will use them against you, as she did us. My only piece of advice is to kill her swiftly.”

What had infuriated me the most was, as we drove away, knowing I had to leave for London and wouldn’t be able to take care of Milly until I got back. She was a burr under my skin, itching and irritating the hell out of me. How was I going to find the witch if I couldn’t Track her? Shit, I’d have never thought someone could shift vibrations; the threads always seemed so distinct to me.

Was that what had happened with my last salvage and the Trolls? Maybe that hadn’t been Troll magic shifting the kid’s energies, masking them so I thought he was still alive.

Fuck, maybe it had been Milly.

More than ever, I knew I needed to get to London and learn from the Tracker waiting there. I had to believe that Jack Feen would have the answers.

I turned my head to look at Giselle. Her eyes were closed and she was leaning back in the seat.

“Giselle,” I said softly. “Are you okay?”

“Just tired. A truth spell is one that drains the person it’s used on.”

“Do you want me to pull over, or . . .” Damn, I didn’t know what she would need. I’d never had a spell used on me and never would; I had no idea what would help the recovery time.

“No, just take us home. That is where I need to be.”

I drove as fast as I dared on the winter-kissed roads. Black ice was a bitch, and I’d already had one accident that winter. I had no need to make it a repeat event.

We pulled into the driveway and made it all the way up to the farmhouse before I registered that Giselle had gone very still. I slammed the Jeep into park and reached over, putting my fingers against her throat.

My own heart hammered so hard I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, if anything.

“Giselle, please, not yet.”

I pressed harder up under her jaw. Almost ten seconds passed before the flutter of a heartbeat brushed against my fingertips, like the touch of a butterfly’s wing, it was so hesitant.

Leaping out of the Jeep, I ran around to the passenger side and opened the door. This couldn’t be it, it just couldn’t. With as much care as I had in me, I lifted Giselle out and half-jogged, half-speed walked up to the house, somehow managing to open the door without putting her down.

Placing Giselle in my bed, I again felt for a heartbeat. The feel of her blood pumping was faint, and so subtle, so quiet I could hardly convince myself that she was in fact still alive.

She let out a moan and I sat beside her. “Giselle, what do you need?”

Her eyes fluttered and opened, staring up at me. “It is time, my girl.”

My heart slammed against my chest. “No, not yet.” I reached out and touched the side of her face, feeling the coolness of her skin. I pulled the blankets around her, and then curled up beside her, giving her the warmth of my own body. Her hand lifted in the air, then dropped light as a feather onto my hip.

“I’ve told you much, but there is a little more.” She took a breath, but her chest didn’t rise, as if the air were escaping her somehow.

I closed my eyes and put my face into the crook of her neck, breathed in deep, as if I could somehow help her. I could say nothing, didn’t trust my voice to do anything but crack and crumble under the strain of my heart breaking.

“You will need this.” She touched the opal stone hanging from her neck. “I cannot see clearly why, only that you must take it with you to London.”

I put my hand over hers. “All right.”

Her eyelids fluttered and her body shivered. I held her tighter, as if I could stop her from going. Even I couldn’t stop death, though, no matter my abilities.

“You are more than a Tracker, Rylee, and in some ways, that is the least of your worries.” She took a breath, let it out, took another. “You are touched with the Blood of the Lost.”

I circled her with my arms, not caring what she said, only knowing that it would be the last I ever heard her speak. Let her tell me to find my blue socks for years, I would take that over this. But it wasn’t my choice, and in my heart I knew that she wanted to be free of the madness.

“Rylee.”

The thrum of her heart, unsteady and hesitant as if it wasn’t sure it would give another beat, thumped pitifully against my ear.

“I’m here,” I said, my voice thick with unshed tears.

“My last advice for you.” She paused, her opposite hand coming across to stroke my face as she spoke. “Trust your heart, always. Even when your head tells you not to, it is your strength. And remember that I love you—” Giselle took a sharp shuddering breath and I froze, my mind and heart screaming together a cacophony of denial.

“Giselle?” I sat up and her hand slid off my hip, limply falling onto the bed. I stared down at her and knew without Tracking her that she was gone, but I did it anyway, reaching out in desperation for her threads.