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Shadowed Threads(Rylee Adamson #4)(13) by Shannon Mayer

She sucked in a sharp breath and let it out in a rush. “Bad.” She finished for me, her eyes full of unshed tears.

She bit her lower lip and muffled the sounds escaping her. Fear, pure and simple. Alex hung below us still, Eve clinging to him, and he was still barking like a mad man, but again, that was the least of my worries.

I whispered into Pamela’s ear. “When we land, you and Alex run for it. As far and as fast as you can. Got it?”

“What about you and Eve?”

“We’ll be right behind you.” Lies, I was lying to her and we both knew it. This was going to get ugly and the best thing I could do was send her away. The best thing I could do was try to protect her, even if that meant Eve and I didn’t make it. What the f**k had I been thinking bringing them with me? I should have gone after O’Shea by myself. I was a f**king moron.

“I can help,” she said, her eyes wet with tears.

Eve answered her. “Your magic will fail on the dragon. They are Immune like Rylee. You cannot help us; do as your mentor says.”

Oh, f**k, Immune? We were done, toast. Maybe in the most literal of senses.

The dragon let out a roar and suddenly we lost altitude with a speed that yanked Pamela out of my hands. She screamed and I reached up, grabbing her as her ass floated above Eve’s back. I yanked her back down, the leverage I had with my legs pinned to Eve’s side working in my favor.

“I gotcha.” I held her tight against me, my heart in my throat. I Tracked O’Shea, feeling him in the north, then Tracked Berget, feeling her closer, here in the south. She was happy, ecstatic about something. I held tight to Pamela.

This felt like goodbye to me, felt like there would be no more after this. How did you fight a dragon who was an Immune like me? You didn’t. You ran or you died. Eve couldn’t run, so neither would I. Which only left one option that I wasn’t particularly happy about.

Dragons were rare, something you didn’t hear about anymore, their numbers cut by disease and the use of their body parts for powerful spells. All I knew was that they killed intruders of their territories without mercy, and that they didn’t bargain with their captives.

Ever.

The dragon sped toward the base of a mountain, and I grit my teeth against what I knew was going to be a sudden stop.

With a back wash of leathery wings our downward descent stopped and again Pamela was jerked out of my arms, despite how tightly I held her.

“Rylee!”

I managed to snag the back of her pants. “Get ready to run, you got that? Alex, you too, you look after Pamela. Protect her, got it?”

His reply was a shaky, “Yuppy doody, Rylee.”

There was no cave, just an indentation in the mountain, like a half-assed box canyon. At the back there were piles of bones, corpses of animals both natural and supernatural, in several stages of decomposition. At the front ‘entrance’ of the canyon were piles of boulders, each one at least the size of my Jeep back home. They partially blocked the canyon, giving the illusion that there was nothing beyond them.

“I’m sorry, Rylee,” Eve said, her voice trembling, the fear leaking out with her words.

“Don’t be sorry yet, Harpy. We aren’t done until the blood spills and we aren’t breathing anymore,” I said, trying to figure out a way to get our asses out of this mess.

The dragon touched down and I pushed Pamela off Eve’s back. She hit the ground with a grunt, rolling with the fall, cradling her left arm. Eve dropped Alex and he herded Pamela away, the two of them running as fast as they could. Pamela glanced back as they reached the edge of the indent in the mountain, a determined look on her face. Ah, shit, apparently she was as bad as me when it came to taking orders.

“No!” I shouted, but I was too late. The young witch threw one hand in the air, lifting three massive boulders from the entrance and then, with a flick of her fingers, flung them one by one at the dragon’s head.

The first one caught him on the side of the head, smashing him sideways. He roared, but more importantly, he let go of me and Eve.

The Harpy crashed to the ground, the puncture wounds from where the dragon had pierced her oozing blood. Her wings were crumpled, as if they’d been made of tinfoil and flexi straws instead of bone and cartilage.

“Run, Rylee,” Eve yelled, dragging herself across the ground. She wasn’t going anywhere.

“I’m getting mighty pissed with all this running. Freaking Beast of Bodmin Moor and now a dragon? Nope, no more running,” I said, loosening my swords. Above us, the sky lit with a crack of lightning followed by a ridiculously close boom of thunder, the clouds bursting open as if the lightning peeled away whatever held the rain back.

“It’s the dragon,” Eve said, dragging herself along the ground. “He is controlling the weather.” Oh, that was just f**king peachy.

The dragon turned to face us, hatred burning in his eyes, which was really not an encouraging feeling. Seriously, what had we done to piss the dragon off?

Pamela continued to hold the boulders up, her whole body shaking with concentration, her lips tight. I stood there, swords in hand as the rain cascaded down on us.

And then things went from bad to worse. As in really f**king gods-be-damned worse.

The air around the canyon shifted, the whirlwind weather stirred up by the other dragons flying in, perching on outcroppings of rock along the mountain.

The dragon that’d snatched us out of the sky let out a long, low growl, but he didn’t move toward us. I settled into a fighting stance, putting myself between Eve and the dragon, and trying not to think about the newcomers. There wasn’t anything I could do about them anyway. One dragon at a time, thank you very much.

“Are we going to do this, or are you just going to stand there and think about how badly I’m going to kick your ass?” I shouted, my words punctuated with several flashes of lightning.

His head snaked backward and he let out a roar, lifting his head to the sky and baring his throat. I drove my two swords into the ground at my feet and yanked my crossbow forward, slamming a bolt into the channel. The idiot continued to roar as I lifted the crossbow up, aimed and pulled the trigger. The bolt flew straight and true, burying itself deep into the flesh between his jaw and his neck. He let out a strangled gasp of air, blood spurting past his lips.

You have drawn first blood. This battle will be true to the rules laid down centuries ago. The voice in my head was not my own and I did my best not to stare up at the other dragons, where it ‘felt’ like it had come from.

“What?” I shouted, popping another bolt into the crossbow as the dragon in front of me clawed at his own neck. A lucky shot, a perfect shot. One I doubted I could duplicate again. Already the bolt was being pushed out as the dragon’s body healed itself. Damn supernaturals and their talents with healing.

The battle must now be between the two of you. If you best him, you will be free to go. If your friends help, we will destroy you all. We have waited for this battle, sensed its imminence since the dawns arrival. This has been foretold since Blaz’s birth. A battle of blood was seen, as much as he might not agree, it is what we knew would come. It is why we are here, to witness this.

Well shit, I didn’t like the sound of any of that.

“Pamela, lift Eve up and you three get the hell out of here. If you help me, the other dragons will be shitting witch, werewolf, Tracker and Harpy tomorrow.”

I didn’t have the luxury of making sure she did as I asked, I had to trust her. Only one other time had I faced such a big reptile, and that hadn’t gone so well for me. Giselle had saved my life, and if she hadn’t been there, I had no doubt I would have been swallowed whole and slowly digested while I still breathed.

But that was then, this was now. I had no other choice but to fight to win. To kill him or at the least make him beg for mercy.

Right.

I lifted the crossbow and aimed at the dragon’s head, aimed for the glittering eye. I hit the trigger, watched the bolt bounce off the side of its head. Unfortunately for me, it not only didn’t do any damage, it reminded the big f**ker I was still there.

Oops.

His breath came in raspy belts, blood trickling out his mouth and over his steel-colored teeth as he advanced on me, ignoring my three wards. Guess he got the same memo I did. One on one or not at all.

I dropped the crossbow to the ground and grabbed the handles of my swords, pulling them free of the dirt. Fear bounced along my spine and down my arms, but I pushed it back. There could be no panic, or I’d lose whatever edge I had. Assuming I had an edge against him.

His body was easily twenty feet long with at least another ten feet of tail and though he was big, and injured, he moved fast.

He swiped his front claws at me, one after another, reminiscent of a bear swiping the dirt in order to scare an intruder, to show how tough it was.

I backed up, let him advance, and as he began to raise his right claw for another pass, I raced toward him. Bolting between his front feet, I slashed his underbelly with my sword, felt it stick hard in between the scales. I let it go rather than fighting with it. The dragon squealed like a stuck pig, the squeal turning into a bellow of rage that was echoed back to us by the other dragons.

I ducked out from under him and, without another thought, used his back haunches to climb onto his back. Each protrusion along his spin made for a perfect handhold. If I could just get to his neck, I could drive my sword—

He bucked hard, sent me flying through the air to slam into the ground a second time. I rolled with the momentum and scrambled to my feet. But not before the dragon was back on me, his head swinging toward me like a club. I took the blow, tried to roll with it again, but f**k, he had a hard head.

For the third time I hit the dirt, blood coating the inside of my mouth, mingling with the dirt and sweat, and I was getting seriously pissed off. Could I take a dragon on my own? Probably not, but I was angry enough not to care anymore. When he swung his head at me a second time, I was ready for him. Holding my sword handle at my ear, I braced for the impact, driving the tip of my blade into the soft tissue of his jaw. He jerked away from me and the blade cut even deeper as it slid free. Blood splashed all over my hands, the warmth of it a morbid relief in this chilled weather.