Rising Darkness(Rylee Adamson #9)(5) by Shannon Mayer
I had more problems then I cared to think about, but I made myself list them as we packed up the kids.
Find the Destroyer.
Find a way to keep the demons from tracking me.
Save the world from the pox.
And those were just the top four on the bucket list. Never mind all the little things popping up. Like Faris suddenly making himself my personal guardian.
Yeah, I wasn’t trusting that, either.
We carried the three kids into the hospital, Peta leading the way, the white tip of her tail twitching the farther in we got. The children’s ward, for all that was holy in my life, I couldn’t have imagined what I was looking at and the horror of it. Babies and toddlers, covered in oozing pus, their skin broken and their eyes staring blankly as their mouths moved in silent cries.
The old anger I’d nursed for years surged and I tamped it down. As bad as this was, there was only one way to stop it. I had to finish this calling. I had to finish and fulfill the prophecies.
The nurses barely looked up as we stepped into the ward, their eyes dull with fatigue and hopelessness. Their uniforms were clean, but hung off their frames, as if they had accidentally taken clothes two sizes too big.
“Where can we put them?” Faris asked the first nurse who passed our way.
“Anywhere you can find room.”
“Not much of a children’s unit,” Faris said, contempt riddling his words.
I had to agree. I wouldn’t put my kid here, especially if she were sick. Soiled blankets littered the floor, the smell of shit and piss thick in the air, and the room was smoking hot. Why didn’t they open a window at least?
The nurses’ backs snapped straight as a unit, all four turning to face us. But only one spoke. She turned on her heel, her voice hard, and her eyes like flint. “You watch them die for months and then you tell me how much of a children’s unit it feels like.” Her unspoken words hung in the air: morgue, this was a morgue and the bodies just didn’t know they were dead yet.
I held the boy in my arms a little tighter, wishing I could do more than drive the demon from him. The smallpox still held him in its grip and he gave a moan. There was a bed, empty, on my right.
“Faris,” I called to him and he turned to see where I pointed. We laid the three kids down, and they snuggled against each other. Jaw tight, I strode away from the ward, my emotions warring within me. Sorrow for those who faced death with their children and gratitude it wasn’t my child lying in a bed, dying from a disease supposedly eradicated.
No one tried to stop us, not a single person commented that we weren’t supposed to have animals in the hospital. Peta still led the way, not once glancing back to see if we followed.
“Isn’t it strange they wouldn’t say something to us?” Faris asked. “Humans are notoriously suspicious when it comes to things out of the ordinary. Like people just showing up with sick kids and dropping them off in a hospital room.”
I nodded, noting the humans did seem particularly blind to us. We made it outside and I stared, mouth hanging open in shock. The parking lot was set up like an army camp, tents and military personnel everywhere.
“This is worse than we thought,” Faris said.
“Thanks, Captain Obvious,” I snapped. The world was going to hell in a demon’s hand basket and I had less than a week to stop the free-fall before it got worse. Knowing what had been happening was one thing, seeing the results of said free-fall was something else entirely.
Staring around us, I had a hard time believing it could get worse, but it would. And in a damn hurry, too.
“Fuck,” I whispered. “We’ve got to get our asses in gear.”
Peta let out a little meow that caught my attention. Stalking toward us was a large, black werewolf, teeth bared in a snarl that had saliva dripping from his mouth. Narrowed golden eyes locked onto us as his silver tipped black fur stood on end, the tips catching the weak light from the camp.
I smiled at him, ignoring his snarling face and ran for him. “Alex!”
His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open, the snarl falling from his face. Tears welled up and then slid down his furred cheeks as he blubbered, grabbing at me. I caught him in a hug and held him, his sides heaving under my arms. He fought to get closer, his claws digging as he squeezed me to the point of feeling my ribs flex under his strength.
“I’m here, buddy, I’m here. I’m not going without you again.” I buried my face into his neck and breathed him in. He shook, his body trembling as he clung to me, whimpering.
I pulled back so I could look into his face. “Hey, aren’t you going to say anything? Didn’t you miss me?”
He nodded, his chest still shaking as he gasped for air and I braced myself, feeling the howl coming on as his lungs filled.
Alex’s howl jerked me out of sleep and I stumbled from my tent to see him wrapped around her.
I stepped forward, a smile on my face, a huge weight lifting. She was back, and she would make things right again.
And then I remembered she had left us, that she wasn’t the person I thought she was.
That I’d had to kill Liam because of her.
She lifted her head and saw me. A smile, so rare on her face, beckoned me, and I couldn’t stop moving toward her like a moth to a flame.
“Pamela!” She caught me in her arms and I fought the warring emotions. I wanted to bury my face against her, and let her take care of everything that had gone wrong. Of all the things I’d had to face. And I wanted to hurt her, make her pay for those same things.