Veiled Threat(Rylee Adamson #7)(2) by Shannon Mayer
In the courtyard below, row upon row of red caps covered the ground. Big hulking bastards covered in muscle and armor. They had their pikes in one hand shield in the other. They looked like the Hulk pumped up on steroids. Yeah, they were that big and ugly. Shit, we’d faced them before in the castle and I’d nearly died, and Pamela was with us, blasting her way through them. Where the hell had they come from? Maybe another doorway was still open.
They stood tall and proud, blood trickling down their faces from the gruesome organic hats on the top of their heads. The thing with redcaps was they loved their “hats,” but only if they were made of the guts of enemies they’d slain. One stood in front of others, a half head taller and what looked like viscera on his shoulders that dripped with blood. He paced in front of the other red caps, finally coming to a stop. “There are intruders here, ones who have destroyed the doorways.”
A deep rumble rolled through the red caps and even at this distance I saw their large hands tighten on their weapons and lips lift into snarls. Shit, this was not good. Particularly since I was pretty sure we were the only intruders in the castle, and I doubted red caps would wait for us to explain we hadn’t blasted the doorways apart.
“We should go, now, while they’re busy.” Liam stepped away from the window and motioned for me to follow him.
“Wait, just wait.” A part of me wondered whose side they were on, because if we could get them on our side, they would be an amazing fighting force against Orion. Lots of them and blood thirsty as they came.
Below us, the leader let out a loud snarl. “We will hunt them down and use their bellies to brighten our caps and their skin to shit in.” His troops roared their agreement.
Never mind, time to go.
On the second floor, nearing the stairway down to the main level, the first red cap loped around the corner behind us.
He let out a roar, his head thrown back as he lifted a six-foot long pike over his head. That was the opening we needed, but Liam beat me to him.
Liam lunged, his blade snapping forward and driving through the red cap’s neck. His head rolled, held by the spinal column.
“Not even a clean cut? I’m disappointed.” I headed down the stairs as the body thumped to the ground behind us.
“The blade is too short, which makes it somewhat useless. Besides, don’t I even get a ‘thank you’?”
No doubt he still wished he had guns. For the safety of the supernatural world, we destroyed the spelled munitions while in Europe. So Liam was back to blades or teeth and claws. I was happier with them gone. The guns made me so damn nervous I could barely sleep at night, dreaming of Orion finding them. In the wrong hands that technology would have literally been the death of our world.
Liam trotted down behind me as the sound of footsteps on stone echoed around us, probably called in by their buddy’s last roar of defiance. I jogged faster, skipping steps where I could. We were nearing the first floor, but our doorway was on the other side of the castle.
Not that I was dawdling, but I was doing my best to keep quiet. Red caps en masse were not something I wanted to deal with if I could help it.
And the stairwell was dark and shadowed. Of all the things in my arsenal, night vision was not one of them. Last thing we needed was me falling and breaking a leg or an arm and alerting the red caps to where we were. Liam wouldn’t break if he fell; I on the other hand was all too capable of snapping a bone.
“I’ll thank you later. Besides, you keep telling me your job is to protect me. See how I let you do your job?” A smile twisted across my lips and Liam laughed under his breath. Being hunted by red caps doesn’t seem much like a laughing matter. Yet, in my life, it was a fairly minor deal on the scale of scary shit I’d seen and gone through. At best, a five out of ten.
Water dripped down the walls of the castle, hitting the pitch-covered torches, flames hissing and flickering with each droplet of moisture. But we were almost to the doorway, so who the hell cared if the lights went out? Or so I thought, until Liam grabbed my arm, his voice low. “We aren’t alone.”
Every muscle in me tensed as my eyes searched the hall ahead of us. With the light dancing, every shadow seemed alive, every dark spot could hold someone waiting to take us out when we least expected it. I’d been ambushed more than once in dark places like this. Being supernatural you’d think I’d learn to avoid them, but honestly it seemed my life was nothing but dark places and battles.
There will be no rest for you, Rylee. You know that. Yeah, I did. The echo of Giselle’s voice in my head was not needed to remind me of that particular fact.
Behind us, at the far end of the hallway came a loud sniff, as if a creature were scenting the air. Red caps didn’t scent the air; they were more human like than animal, even if they did bathe in the blood of their enemies and wear intestine scarves.
Liam let out a low growl. “Some sort of hound, we have to move.”
So be it.
I strode toward our exit point, the only door besides the steel one unbroken. The shadows beside the door shifted and a man stepped between us and our exit.
Unfortunately for him, I had very little patience for this kind of shit. “Move or I’ll move you in pieces.”
He let out a soft laugh that tickled along the back of my senses. The hounds behind us let out a unified howl that filled the air, doing far more than tickling my senses.
The man didn’t move. His face was shrouded by shadows, his arms loose at his sides. Almost like he wasn’t sure what to do with himself or what he was doing next. I didn’t like it. His eyes darted from us, to the doorway, and then back to us. Uncertainty was a good way to get killed in our world.
“Rylee. I never thought to see you again, child.” His voice was thick with an accent I thought might be Russian.
“Good for you, you know my name. Now move your ass out of our way.”
Hesitating slightly, he opted for a sweeping bow, then stepped away from the door. “After you.”
Heavy feet and armor along with the scrabble of claws behind us propelled me forward. I didn’t trust this shadow man, but I didn’t have a choice. We couldn’t face all those red caps, not without serious casualties. At least once on the other side of the doorway we’d be safe. One of the few perks with using doorways—very little would come through after you.
I yanked the door open and paused to stare at the man. “I suppose you’re wanting to come with us?”