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Rising Darkness(Rylee Adamson #9)(2) by Shannon Mayer

The summer had hit full force and the heat had gone off the charts, leaving those who were sick struggling even more. I had to give it to Orion, if he wanted to “save” the world, even I was ready for him to do so. The humans would have handed anyone the keys to their world if that person could stop the smallpox from continuing its worldwide dominance.

I pushed my way into my tent, not bothering to seal the flap shut behind me. I wanted the breeze to come in and cool the sweat dripping down my spine, gathering at the backs of my knees.

On the table in front of me were my worksheets Deanna had me read every chance I got. How to nullify a vow. How to heal. How to hold an attack away from you. All things she thought I should know. I crinkled them up and tossed the balled paper across the room. “Useless.”

The thump of a tail on the bare floor caught my attention.

“Alex, are you going to talk to me today?” I bent to run a hand over his black fur, gently rubbing his ears. His golden eyes were dull and he shook his head. “Please?” A part of me felt like maybe things wouldn’t feel so dim if he would speak.

He curled around his body, bushy tail flipped over his face so only the tops of his eyes were visible.

I sat down beside him. “I miss her too, you know.”

He let out a whimper.

Why I kept trying, I’m not sure. Six months and he hadn’t spoken a word. Yet I couldn’t help but keep asking him. “She’s probably not coming back.” And there was the other truth I spoke to no one but Alex. “She’s smart, she wants to save herself, that’s why Liam died. So she could live.”

He pulled away from my hands, grumbling under his breath and I froze.

“What did you say?” Maybe insulting Rylee would do the trick. I licked my lips. “If she loved us, she wouldn’t have left, she would have taken us with her.”

His back hunched and the fur stood on end, his body quivering.

I stood, anger rushing through me, and I realized I wasn’t just saying these things to get a reaction from him. I believed them. “Rylee is a bitch; she left us here to face all this alone. ALONE! I hate her!”

Alex spun, lunged at me, and knocked me down. I hit the ground hard, wind knocked out of me, and when I tried to roll, he pinned me easily, his weight bearing down on my shoulders. Snarling, his mouth was right in my face, long canines bared, saliva dripping on my face.

But he didn’t say a word. Really, he didn’t need to; the unspoken words were enough.

“Get off me, Alex!” I slapped his face and then picked him up with a flick of my fingers, holding him there in the air.

Snarling, he tried to lunge at me again, and another piece of my heart broke. “She left us, and you would still choose her over me?”

He closed his mouth, a low snarl rumbling out of his chest as he strained against the magic holding him tight.

I swiped a tear away. “Fine. Go find someone else to bother, you stupid, retarded wolf.”

I put him down and pointed at the door. He stalked, stiff-legged, out of the tent. I waited a full minute, standing there, biting back all that hurt that welled in me. Abandoned.

Again.

I fell on my bed and buried my face into the pillow, catching my sobs until I fell into an exhausted sleep.

A hand stroked my cheek, gentle, soft.

Kind.

“Can you hear me, Pamela?”

I knew the voice, and as always wondered how she knew when I needed her.

“Milly?” I opened my eyes and saw I was dreaming. Milly sat beside me, wearing a long black dress cut low over her generous breasts and pulled snug through the waist, accentuated by a silver threaded corset. We were in a sumptuous room. The bed I was on was soft, the sheets slippery under my hands. She sat on the edge, one hand on my head.

A smile flickered over her lips. “I thought maybe you could use a friend.”

The sob that caught in my throat spilled out as she gathered me into her arms. “Shh, child. I am here for you. I will teach you. But you can’t tell anyone, or they would take me from you too. And we don’t want that.” She stroked my hair and I let her, as if I were a little girl instead of a nearly grown witch.

I wiped my eyes and leaned back. “How did you know?”

“That you needed help?” She tipped her head and her eyes took me in from top to bottom. “I was once in your place, and those I Ioved turned against me, too. Rylee, she tried to kill me, and then she took my son. I . . . .” She bowed her head, a hand over her mouth and her shoulders shook. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly as she’d done for me only moments before. She was like me, treated wrong, sent away.

Broken hearted.

“I’ll help you, I’ll help you get him back.” I whispered the words, knowing that was what she wanted without her even asking.

“You would do that?”

“Rylee doesn’t care about me. Why shouldn’t I help you?”

“Then I will train you. You will be the most powerful witch this world has ever seen. Stronger than even me.” Her eyes lit up and I thought, for a moment, I saw a glimmer of something in their depths. A writhing black snake that flicked its tongue at me.

I shook my head and looked to her eyes again. No, they were the clear, spring green they had always been. “I want to learn. I want to take care of those who love me, to protect them.”

“But not Rylee,” Milly said, her face a mask of seriousness.

I shook my head, knowing I’d finally found my place. “No, I won’t protect her anymore.”