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Shadowed Threads(Rylee Adamson #4)(19) by Shannon Mayer

“Tricky, very tricky,” I grumbled.

I went to my belly, flattening myself out as lightning danced amongst the vortex. Alex mimicked me, army crawling forward. “Follow Alex.”

We shimmied along the ground and Alex led me to the first witch. From my belly, I slashed upward, my blade sliding into his groin, slicing his leg three quarters of the way off. He fell backwards, and the swirling vortex faded as he screamed for help from his friend in what sounded like French. I crawled the few feet up and over him, driving my sword through his heart, silencing his screams.

The swirling snow fell still, and the last witch standing stared around him. His eyes were not wide with fear as I’d thought. They were full of rage. He screamed a death spell at us, and I rolled over Alex to take the brunt of it, feeling the black aura dissipate over my skin. I stood up, gave the witch a smile.

“You done?”

“What are you?” His accent was heavy, laden with deep French undertones.

“Does it matter? You’re trying to kill my wolf. Which puts you in a piss-poor position when it comes to us getting along.” I stepped toward him and he stepped back.

“I may leave, but I will come back—”

O’Shea hit him from behind, teeth snapping closed over the screaming witch’s neck. There was the sharp snap of bones breaking, and silence reigned. O’Shea dropped the witch, then glared up at me. Very slowly, he backed away. I Tracked him, felt nothing that was O’Shea.

What if Milly had been telling me the truth? What if O’Shea was completely gone?

“Liam.” I went to my knees and reached out to him. “Liam, please.”

He snarled at me, and then the snarl left his lips as his nose lifted to the breeze. From my knees, he stood over me, dwarfing me with his bulk, his black fur rippling in the wind.

With no response to me, he spun and loped away, back into the forest.

I bowed my head, fought the loss that kept me on my knees.

The cold seeped into me, even through my lined pants, but I didn’t move. I knew the Beast was on the move again; we maybe had half an hour before he was on us. Maybe.

Thirty minutes to do what? Liam wasn’t responding, was maybe gone completely. I lifted my head and looked at the sky. The sun had set and the final glow of the day was fading. Berget was still alive, though I felt a sudden confusion off her, she wasn’t afraid. Faris had lied to me, though I wasn’t sure any of it mattered. With a deep sigh, I pulled myself to my feet and slid my swords from their sheaths. We, I, would have to make a stand here against the Beast and hope to all that was holy that I could maim him bad enough. Fuck, just thinking about how I was going to have to lop off each limb while somehow keeping my own body intact—

The shattering inside my head, the burst of pain and the threads of Berget’s life untangling in a flurry of emotions froze me in place. Stunned, I felt her heart slow as her life slipped away, felt her breathing ease a sudden shard of fear piercing her as the last of her life faded. I tried to hang onto her threads, as if my will alone would keep her alive.

“NOOOOOOOO!” I grabbed my head, fell to the ground, could barely connect the animal noises I was making with the person I knew myself to be.

This was not happening.

I couldn’t have lost her, not like this, not without even trying. Not when Faris had tried to warn me, had tried to get me to help her.

What had I done?

The wolf stood on the edge of the clearing, feeling the woman’s pain as if it was his own. Why should he care that a human was hurting? She wasn’t a witch, so he wouldn’t kill her, but her pain should be of no concern of his.

Her screams echoed through the air as if she’d been wounded, as if her life blood leaked out onto the snow. He paused, smelling the air again, trying to discern who she was, what she was.

Mate. Rylee.

He didn’t question the voice, only knew that it was right, and so he obeyed it. Stepping back into the clearing, he moved toward the woman, his heart thumping with anticipation. How could a human be his mate?

On her knees, she was bent forward, rocking with whatever pain it was that clung to her. The wolf sniffed the air, didn’t smell her blood. That didn’t make any sense. The scent of another wolf snapped his head around and he glared at the half creature in front of him.

“Alex no hurt,” the half creature said, and the words made sense, which disturbed the wolf even more. He snarled at the creature, and the submissive fell to his belly, putting his paws over his head. That would do; he would prove no fight for the wolf. His eyes flickered over the clearing and the bodies strewn about. More witches would come. But for now he couldn’t leave, not with the woman, his mate, inconsolable.

There was nothing the wolf could do for the woman but stay by her side until the pain passed, until the hurt was gone. With a heavy sigh, he felt something twist inside of him at the sight of her tears, her strange eyes clouded with whatever wounded her.

He carefully curled his body around her, sheltering her from the biting wind that coursed through the trees as night fell.

And for the first time since he’d been freed from the witch, he felt at peace.

This was his mate, his heart.

She was his home.

Warmth surrounded me, and the world went black with dark fur. A heavy head lay across the back of my shoulders and a low-pitched whine broke through my own keening. Distantly, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew that O’Shea had come back, had somehow known who I was. But a part of me had almost hoped it was the Beast. Let him have me, let him tear me apart.

For the second time in my life, I’d failed Berget, failed her completely. In the instant of her death, I was thrown back to losing her the first time, the guilt compounded by years of blaming myself and now … now to know that I’d had a chance to go and find her. To bring her home. I’d known she was alive for weeks, but I’d avoided going after her because I’d been afraid that what I could offer her wouldn’t be good enough. That she would be in danger if I brought her into my life.

And now she was dead. I couldn’t stop the tears, couldn’t stop the sobs that erupted out of me. There was no reason, no way to take back what I’d done. No way to make it right. Her death lay squarely on my shoulders; Faris was wrong, I didn’t blame him. I blamed me.

Berget’s death was my fault.

O’Shea let out a low warning growl, one I could feel through my bones. I lifted my head to see a man standing on the edge of the clearing. He limped toward us, his one arm at a bad angle, his face swollen and cut. His blue eyes pierced me through to my heart. I let out a groan and buried my face. Faris had tried to tell me, to help me save her.

“I tried, on my own, to stay her death.” His voice reached me, but I could tell he’d stopped moving.

“Did you come to gloat?” I could barely muster up the strength to speak, to lift my head and look at him.

“No. But there is more now to this story than a simple death. Far more. Come, we must be gone from here, the Beast is close.” Faris held his hand out to me, and O’Shea snarled, leaping to his feet, stalking toward the vampire.

Faris chuckled. “I see that he does remember some things.”

I sat there, staring at them, knowing that I should do something. Anything. I struggled to my feet, swayed once, and then I was up.

Faris and O’Shea squared off, but it was Faris that took the first swing, smashing O’Shea on the side of the head, sending his body flying through the air.

I didn’t even think, I just let my training take over. I pulled a sword and rushed Faris. His eyes widened first, and then narrowed into a glare.

“Rylee, this is not a wise move.”

I slashed at him, cutting into his shirt, but not actually hitting him. Not that I wasn’t trying.

“Fuck you, you did something to O’Shea.”

Faris kept a few feet ahead of me. “Why would you say that?”

“Because the only other people he’s attacked are witches. Milly held him. You did something to make him hate you.”

He shrugged, and then he was just behind me, like I had closed my eyes and let him sneak up on me, but that wasn’t the case. Faris was just that damn fast.

He pinned my arms to my sides, and then called over his shoulder. “We’re going to have a little chat. Wait for us like a couple of good doggies. We’ll be back in a minute.” O’Shea let out a snarl, Alex howled, and then I heard nothing.

With a gut wrenching twist, the world shifted, bending around us, and my only thought was that this was how he travelled, how he showed up wherever the f**k he wanted to, not unlike a Necromancer; he cut his way through the Veil, using it to travel wherever he needed to go.

He stepped out of the Veil, still holding me against his chest. Faris lowered his mouth to my ear. “I’m going to let you go; you need to put your sword away or I will take it from you and you won’t like that.”

What did I care if he killed me or if I had to lower my weapons? I nodded, numb from the onslaught of emotions. I scrabbled at the threads that were Berget, at her life that was gone. I could still pinpoint her body, of course, but what made her Berget was gone.

Dust in the wind. I closed my eyes as Faris let go of me, not really caring where we were … I blinked and looked again. We were on the other side of the Veil in a place I knew all too well. The castle O’Shea and I had found India in.

Maybe he saw the recognition in my eyes. “This place is a turning point on this side of the Veil. It opens into a myriad of places and allows me to move freely to where I need to be.”

So not quite like a Necromancer. But still handy, useful. I knew that I was focusing on the stupid things to avoid thinking about Berget. Knew it and didn’t care.

“Rylee.” He let out a heavy sigh, dropping into a chair against the wall. He slid a hand over his face, a very human gesture that seemed odd on him.

“What? You want to say you told me so? Neener, neener, neener?”

“No.”

“Then why the f**k am I here?”