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Rising Darkness(Rylee Adamson #9)(4) by Shannon Mayer

“Three.” I twisted, pulling my crossbow from my back and set a bolt into the channel in a single fluid motion. I breathed out and squeezed the handle, the bolt flying true, pinning the demon in the middle head knocking it farther off balance. Faris ran in, dropping to his knees to slide under a flailing pincer as the demon arched backward, a high-pitched scream reminiscent of a rabbit being slaughtered cracked through the air as it stumbled, trying to gain its balance once more.

Faris slammed his sword’s handle into the head on the right side, bone crunching under the power behind his blow. The demon let out a whimper and fell over completely, hitting the roof hard, sending out a spray of gravel from under its collapsed body.

I had to get close enough to put a hand on the thing without getting a pincer through the gut. I dropped my crossbow.

“Here we go.” Two of the pincers swept over my head as I ran in close. The heart was the best place to put my hands—that was what Erik had shown me. I leapt up slicing my blade through a pincer coming from the left and ended up landing astride the wasp waist that held the demon together. I reached up and put a hand over the barrel chest, the black exoskeleton cool under my touch.

“Be free,” I whispered and the demon roared and shook under my hand. I couldn’t let go, the connection to the beast drove deep as I tapped into all the love in my life and used that as the strength to send the demon back. Or at least, release the children.

Because that was the truth of things at the moment. With the veil closed, there could be no demons coming through, which was fucking awesome. But the closure went both ways. We couldn’t send the demons back anymore, either. We could only release their hosts and hope it took the demons a long time to find new ones. Which wasn’t all that difficult with the state of the world.

A cloud of spinning vapors, black, gray, and flashing silver spun up around us, like the buzzing of a thousand insects, sliding through my hair, whispering in my ear.

“You are not safe, Tracker. You are going to die. We will feast on you and your family. Orion will win. He will fuck your child and bring forth his bloodline through her.”

I closed my eyes and focused on the brightness in me, the strength of heart I’d gained. Losing Liam had been the worst thing I’d ever experience, worse than being accused of killing my little sister, worse than losing Giselle. And yet, without losing him, I never would have found my own strength.

I breathed in and out, thinking about the love in my life, about Liam and our daughter. Her shining eyes, and room-lighting, toothless smile. About Milly’s child Zane and his sweet laughter, about Erik, Alex, Pamela, Blaz. The more names I added to my list, the more the warmth spread.

A hand shook my shoulder. “The demon is gone.”

I opened my eyes to see Faris staring at me with more than a little concern on his face. “You were totally out of it. Another demon could have shown up and if I weren’t here to protect you, you could have been killed.”

“Faris, the day you truly protect me will be the day hell freezes the fuck over.” I swung my crossbow onto my back, as Faris glared at me. I glared right back. “What? It’s the truth and you damn well know it.”

“Things change, Rylee. You of all people should know that.”

Nope, not going there. I tightened the strap holding my crossbow to my back. “Time to go. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

But we couldn’t leave just yet. No, we still had a responsibility to those we’d taken down. Still laying on the rooftop were the three children the demon had possessed. Their tiny hands intertwined. I swallowed hard and made myself walk to them. Three brunette babies, were they triplets maybe? Looking at them laying side by side I thought that might be the case. Of course, I was avoiding thinking about what I was looking at in truth.

Children, dead by my hand, though there was not a single injury on them that I could see. My whole adult life had been spent rescuing children, bringing them home to their families. And now I had resorted to killing them—it didn’t matter that the cause justified it, I could never justify it. My heart clenched and I fought the tears that threatened. I crouched beside them and put a hand on the chest of the little boy closest to me. His lungs barely lifted under my hand. How the hell had they survived?

“They’re alive, Faris, help me.” I scooped the boy up and Faris lifted the other two.

“You seem surprised.”

Erik’s lessons over the last six months flowed through my brain. “It depends on how deeply the demons have their grip on their host, and how strong the host is. Demons are tricky bastards and they seem to know how hard it is on me to see the small ones succumb to them.”

“Speaking of demons, you remember what Erik said? Not to Track them anymore?” Faris said softly, and I nodded.

I remembered. The last trial run I’d gone on with Erik, honing my demon destroying abilities had nearly ended in disaster. I’d Tracked demons as a whole, searching them so I could work on pushing them out of their host bodies. And what we’d gotten was a swarm. But it had been while I was still Tracking them that they’d latched onto me and I hadn’t been able to shake them. They could sense me through my Tracking threads, and I could hear their thoughts.

Killherkillherkillherkillherkillherkillherkillher.

Yeah, not pleasant. I’d been able to shake them, but I could no longer Track them as a whole. Even worse, the demons had somehow zoned in on me when Tracking anyone. So even Tracking Pamela and Alex could and probably would bring Orion’s minions to me. Fucking little creep-show bastards. They picked up on me too fast. More would be coming our way. From experience, I was betting I had maybe half an hour at best before we got hit with another demon.