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

Doran did a double take. “How . . . ?” He pointed at Faris’s arms, as in at two arms where there had been only one not long ago.

Faris grunted. “I am not without my wiles, Doran. You know that.” So, he wasn’t going to admit he’d had help in that department. Again with the stupid vampire games.

From outside the tent came a low murmuring of voices. Lying next to my feet, Alex grumbled, “Fucking vampires think they can pick on Berget.”

I saw a shadow move against the wall of the tent. “That a vamp, Alex?” I tilted my head toward the tent side.

He gave a sniff in the air. “Yuppy doody.”

My sword was freed of its sheath in less time than it took to draw a breath. I drove it through the thick canvas and into the body of the vamp. His—by the sound of the scream—body jerked and danced.

I yanked the sword out. “Any of you touch my sister and I’ll fucking well roast your heads on a spit.”

“That wasn’t necessary, Rylee,” Doran said softly.

I shook my head. “Maybe not for you, but they need to remember you aren’t the only one to be afraid of.” I wiped my blade on the interior wall of the tent and then slammed it back into its sheath.

Doran ran a hand through his hair and beckoned everyone to sit again. The others did. I chose to stand.

“Rylee, there is one other thing. The reason Deanna suggested trying your blood on an infected supernatural is because there are rumors flying around. Rumors that you are the cause of the pox on the supernatural community. That if you were killed, the pox would go away like magic.”

“What has that got to do with her blood?” Faris leaned in, his fists on the table.

Doran looked from Faris to me and back again. “The rumor is not only that killing her will help, but that her blood will heal. So if they can’t kill you, they’re more than happy to bleed you out.”

I snorted. “Please, they aren’t actually falling for this propaganda shit, are they?”

“Rylee,” Deanna’s voice was soft, the fear in it thick. “Those who are sick are terrified and delusional. The fever that grips them burns away so much of who they are. Those who normally wouldn’t consider harming someone are destroying those around them. They believe you are the cause of all this.” Something in her voice made me really look at her.

“And you, Deanna? Do you think I am the reason this happened?” I wrapped my fingers through my belt, gripping the leather hard. I worried I already knew the answer to my question.

Her lips trembled as she tried to keep them pursed together, a good minute passed before she answered. She broke the silence carefully. “Everything started when you left. I don’t know why you had to go away, or why you came back. But the correlation is there.”

I shot a glance at Doran. He shook his head. So no one knew I had been pregnant. That was probably for the best. The fewer people who knew about that chapter of my life, the safer my daughter was. Still, I had to deal with this shit, and deal with it fast. Time was ticking and I had to get moving.

With a wave of my hand, I said, “Bring in a supernatural. I’ll offer up my blood to show it won’t do any good.”

Deanna swept out of the tent, almost running. There must have been someone she had in mind because within seconds, she was escorting in a hulking creature wrapped in a blanket despite the heat. Whoever it was towered over the rest of us, even if they were moving slowly. For a moment I thought maybe it was an ogre. But no, Mer had a look of distinct distaste on her face. So not an ogre. Everyone else pulled back from the infected one. I didn’t blame them. If I hadn’t been immune I would have done the same.

“What kind of supernatural?” I asked, trying to see into the folds of the blankets.

“Does it matter?” Deanna snapped and that brought my head up.

“Why, yes, it fucking does,” I said so sweetly my teeth ached.

She pulled the cloth from the creature’s face with a shallow sigh. A troll stared back at me, its lips hanging down past its chin, pustules oozing inside its mouth. Pale green skin hung in folds and flapped as it moved. Gills on the side of its head. A water troll. Rare and generally pretty quiet from what I knew.

“Ah, fuck, couldn’t you find someone else?”

“No. Most supernaturals die quickly when they’ve been infected. Twelve hours is the longest I’ve seen it take.” Deanna slumped into a chair. “He’s been infected for six.”

Damn it, I didn’t want to help a troll, but then, I had known a couple of half-breed trolls that were exceptionally awesome.

I bent and yanked a blade from my right boot. “Anyone got a cup?”

Faris disappeared from the tent and was back quickly with an empty Styrofoam cup. “Here, use this.”

I put the cup on the table and debated where to cut myself. With Doran in front of me and a cup waiting for my blood on the table . . . the scene took me back. The last time I’d done something this drastic had been with Doran, when I’d been looking for India so many months ago. The memory slowed me, which was good.

Faris stepped up beside me. “Your upper arm, there’s a vein on the underside that will be easy to wrap, and if you go too deep shouldn’t interfere with movement.” He pointed to a spot on the inside, upper flesh of my left arm.

I handed him the knife, not even blinking. “You think you can hit it straight?”

Deanna snorted. “We are in a triage situation, why don’t I get a needle?”