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Shadowed Threads(Rylee Adamson #4)(5) by Shannon Mayer

“Are they about me?”

“Get out of my library.”

I stepped up, put my nose to his. “Are. They. About. Me?”

He slammed his cane onto the center of table in a small depression, and the air shifted, a spell he’d obviously planted there. With a crack, the books disappeared.

“You’re an a**hole, Jack.” I grabbed my sword and strode from the room, equal parts anger and fear biting at my insides. I clung to the anger.

Much easier than admitting that the words I’d read scared the shit out of me.

Chapter 4

THE NOVEMBER RAIN hammered down on the conservatory where I’d chosen to hide, though if anyone asked, I’d tell them I needed a place to think things over. Jack never went to the conservatory, and Pamela didn’t like the way the shriveled up plants looked. She said it reminded her too much of Anna’s rooftop and what had happened there.

Me, I was just happy for the peace and quiet as I let my head try to sort things out.

So there were some supposed prophecies that looked like they could be about me. But none of that really applied to me now. Not really.

Really?

I shook off my doubts, had to if I was going to move forward. Fear was a paralyzer, that much I knew. Right now I had to find O’Shea; that was the first and foremost issue I had sitting in my lap. And if I was going to find him, I couldn’t be scared out of my mind because of things that might, or might not, be about me.

Not much of what Jack had told me was going to be helpful; in fact, there wasn’t much at all I hadn’t already learned. A few quirks of Tracking, like not being able to feel people’s life threads across large bodies of water, the ability to Track groups of supernaturals. All good information to have. But not worth waiting three weeks for.

And sitting here was getting me no closer to going after O’Shea. There was nothing in my way now, I just had to get my gear, my weapons, and I’d be off after the FBI agent turned werewolf, kidnapped by a witch and held captive against his will.

Yup, no problem at all.

I stood, already planning the things I would need, as Jack hobbled into the conservatory, much to my surprise.

“What do you want?”

He leaned on his cane, his face even more haggard than just an hour before.

I opened my mouth to ask if there was anything else he had for me, anything he could teach me, when Alex came bounding into the room.

“Cookies, cookies, coookkkkiiiieeeessss!” He howled and then took off running around the conservatory at top speed, tucking his tail between his legs and grabbing at plants with his mouth and paws as he ran. Twice he stopped to spin in place, not chasing his tail, just spinning as fast as he could. Tongue hanging out, spit flew and I put myself between him and Jack. Just in case.

Jack grumbled and took a swing with his cane at the werewolf as he raced by for the third time. “Let’s go get some damn cookies.” Again, a diversion. Even though I understood some of his reasoning, his diversionary tactics pissed me off. As in royally f**king pissed. It took everything I had to not lash out at him.

Walking beside him, Jack acted as though we’d never had a fight.

Classic male pattern avoidance. Fine, I’d pretend like I didn’t remember the previous hour either, then.

“The last thing you need to know, you already know part of it. You can Track people who are dead already.”

I nodded, and he gave a double tap of his cane. “Then you need to know that you can also Track the spirits of some people. Not all. But those who have work left, or who are in limbo. They float between the first level of the Veil and the human world.”

“Ghosts you mean.”

“Ghosts. You can Track them. They move around a helluva lot more than most people realize, going wherever the f**k they want.”

“Do I have to know them? Or can I Track them like I would a group?”

“Both. But be careful because Tracking Ghosts has its downfalls too. They can yank you through the Veils. Heard about Brin getting dropped into the third level once. When he came out, his hair was white as snow and the prick was only twenty one at the time.” He paused and then gave me a tired smile and a wink. “The ladies loved it though.”

We made our way into the oversized kitchen. Copper pots hung above the granite-topped island, wooden barstools lined up along the edges. The kitchen was equipped with two of everything. Handy I suppose, but—I glanced at Jack—I wondered how many people it had served since Jack became the owner of this place.

The kitchen was warm; both stoves were running full tilt. Pamela had flour all over her face, the floor, the counter and even on a few of the hanging pots. But she was smiling and pointing at a cooling rack covered in irregularly shaped cookies. The smell of chocolate and peanut butter wafted through the air, and my stomach growled loudly, demanding some the warm, calorie-packed treats.

“I made chocolate chip peanut butter.” Pamela dropped a dirty mixing bowl into a sink full of sudsy water, earning a glare from Jack.

“Don’t break my shit, witch.”

She opened her mouth and I shook my head, stalling her. Her lips turned down in a hard frown, but she kept her mouth shut.

Alex side-stepped closer, and then sat on his haunches, drool slipping from his lips in great gobs that splashed onto the white tile floor as he stared without blinking at the cookies. Subtle he was not.

“Give him a cookie quick before we get flooded the f**k out,” Jack said, taking a cookie for himself. Pamela handed Alex a cookie, which he took without hesitation and popped into his mouth.

I grabbed one, and tossed it back and forth between my hands to help it cool off. Alex downed at least three in the space of ten seconds, Jack had his eyes closed as he savored the cookie. Pamela puttered about, cleaning up the mess. All so f**king domestic it made my head hurt.

And me? I bit into the cookie, the perfect blend of sweet chocolate and nutty flavors doing nothing to still the roll of my gut. Between the prophecies I’d read, the desire to go after Milly and O’Shea, the knowledge that Berget was alive and, whether she knew it or not, waiting for me to Track her, not to mention attempting to train Pamela, and keep Alex and Eve out of trouble … I wasn’t sure what I was feeling was true gut instinct and what was just stress. Fuck, I hated stress. I wanted things to go back to the way they were. Simple and easy. Get called out on a salvage and go after the kid. In that, at least, Jack was right. With everything else going on, I was being pulled away from what I should be doing—Tracking kids. How many back home were waiting on me? Just the thought of how many kids would die, how many were going missing as I stood there eating a cookie, made me sick to my stomach.

The phone in the kitchen rang, actually jumping in its cradle, startling me. Jack walked to the wall where it hung and lifted the receiver, a sour look twisting across his face.

“What the f**k do you want, witch?”

I choked on the cookie in my mouth. Jack was a Reader, like Giselle. Which meant he would know who was on the phone the minute he picked it up.

Pamela’s blue eyes went wide and she mouthed the name I had come to hate.

Milly.

I strode to Jack’s side and he handed me the phone, but didn’t let go right away.

“Don’t let her manipulate you. Remember what I said about people using you.”

I pulled the phone out of his hand and put it to my ear, the crackle of static hissing ever so lightly. “You need to let O’Shea go, Milly.”

“He’s already gone. There is no way to bring him back, Rylee, so don’t bother trying. The wolf in him has taken over completely.”

The phone creaked under my grip. “You calling to gloat, you piece of shit?”

“No, I’m not. You should know, though, that he will be taken care of. You won’t have to worry about him anymore.”

“What the f**k is that supposed to mean?” I didn’t care that my voice rose in intensity, didn’t care anymore that Pamela was hearing me swear.

“He is hunting witches, actively hunting them. The local Coven has sent a team to deal with him.”

“You mean kill him.”

She drew in a breath and I could almost see her bite her lip before answering me. “Yes.”

I had to find O’Shea. As in now.

“Why are you telling me this?”

She was silent for a heartbeat, maybe two before answering. “You’re like my sister, I don’t want you to be hurt—”

Anger, sweet and hot, made it hard to speak evenly. “The next time we meet, witch, be ready to pay your penance to the gatekeeper, because I will be taking your head. You don’t give a shit about anyone, just yourself.”

“Don’t hang up!” She called out, like I hadn’t just threatened her life. “Please, Rylee.”

The phone was already away from my ear when she screeched out words that stopped me.

“I’m calling to ask if you would be the godmother of my child.”

Not much could have thrown me for a loop. But that did. I stared at the wall. Milly was pregnant?

She kept on talking, quickly, as if to stall me.

“It’s Ethan’s baby. I thought he was going to come to Europe to be with me, but Terese won’t let him. I need to know my baby will be safe if something happens to me. I don’t expect you to help me or anything—I know better than that. I get it, we are on opposite sides; you’ve made that very clear.

“But if anything happens to me, I need to know that you will take care of my child, that you’ll raise him and protect him. Please.”

This was not happening. It couldn’t be. The ‘Milly is pregnant’ scene wasn’t what was throwing me for a loop. Shit, that had been coming for years. But for her to think that after she tried to kill Alex and Eve, compelled O’Shea, and now O’Shea was being hunted by other witches as a result of what she’d done, not to mention she’d essentially killed Giselle, that I would for one instant do what she wanted—

“You took an oath to protect and save children at all costs, even to the loss of your own life,” she said softly, her voice dropping into a whisper. “Please, Rylee. For whatever love we had as sister-friends, promise me this.”