Wounded(Rylee Adamson #8)(1) by Shannon Mayer
ALL AROUND ME was silence; but under that silence was a brooding tempest of fear. Doran’s home and courtyard had never been so fucking quiet, though the calm hid the dread flowing around us. The four horsemen of the apocalypse would soon be upon us, thanks to Orion, the demon I was supposed to stop, according to the prophecies. We were in trouble, and as the truth set in, a literal explosion occurred within the council. Chaos. Total and utter madness ripped through the group, driven by fear, by the announcement Faris had made, and by the sight of his missing arm.
Faris was a powerhouse, a vampire who not many could take on and survive. Yet he’d been nearly killed by Orion’s demons, the ones preceding the four horsemen, who were, for all intents and purposes, stronger and more deadly.
The four generals of Orion were upon us.
There was a slam of hands on skin, roars of anger and fear. Yelling, pushing, and shoving. I watched as one of the ogres tripped over a zombie that rose under his feet; another zombie erupted out of the ground next to Faris and grabbed his legs. Faris ripped the zombie’s head off and tossed it behind him, inadvertently hitting a unicorn on the ass. The equine kicked out and nailed an ogre in the guts. Turning my head didn’t improve the view. Doran and Berget used their phenomenal strength to toss those who were closest to them backward, creating a space the zombies kept trying to push into.
All because no one had thought it would come this fast. No one thought they would really have to deal with the demons. Not with me here. Understanding dawned.
They’d said they would stand with me against Orion, but they hadn’t really believed they would have to. I could see it in the way they looked at me, their gazes sliding over me. Hope and fear lingered in their eyes, along with a healthy dose of recrimination. Like I should have already stopped this by now.
They didn’t think demons were truly something they would have to face. They thought there would be other supernaturals, or maybe humans they would each have to battle. But demons? No, that realization had only now sunk in. And it scared the ever living shit out of them. As it should.
In a matter of seconds, the council, so newly formed, was about to incinerate into tiny, dangerous shards that would leave us standing on our own against Orion and his demons.
Through it all, I sat, unmoving. Liam stood behind me, Alex sat at my feet and Pamela sat to my left. Against the edge of the house, my uncle Erik, last of the trained Slayers, leaned, watching. Surreal, the scene seemed to push me out of myself. I needed a moment; I needed distance. So I sat and did nothing to stop the fights breaking out. In that moment I needed calm and the only way to get it was to withdraw.
I needed to think, to remember why I was doing this.
Had it only been months ago that I’d gone after India, the young spirit seeker? It felt like years. That had been the first case I’d worked with Liam, though I’d known him as O’Shea then. The first case where I’d ever faced a demon. From that moment forward, my life had gone into overdrive. I’d been stung by a Hoarfrost demon and nearly caused an apocalyptic winter. I’d faced down a necromancer raising children from the dead, her blind attempt to fill the void her long deceased daughter had left.
My best friend Milly had alternately turned on me and saved me and now she was lost to the deepest veil, captive of Orion once more, and there was nothing I could do to save her or the child she carried. I’d found Pamela, a young witch who was fast becoming a power to be reckoned with. I’d lost Giselle, my mentor and mother of my heart. I’d fallen in love with Liam and chased him across Europe to prove it, to bring him back from the brink of losing his humanity.
I’d lost one of my best friends—Dox, an ogre and ally I could never replace. I’d lost Jack, someone who could have been a great mentor, a Tracker like me. I’d gained back my little sister Berget, who I thought was gone forever. Blaz and Erik had come into my life, giving me two someones to lean on as I faced what was on its way.
All of those things, both good and bad had brought me to this moment.
The current through everything in the last five months was a sense of urgency, a fear that drove me and those around me. Orion was coming, a demon sent to take the world into his hands and claim it for his own.
I was to stand between him and the world with nothing more than the memory of the books of prophecy I’d read before they’d been destroyed by Deanna and her druids.
I leaned back in my chair, watched the supernaturals around me yelling and roaring at one another, the noise distant in my ears. In some ways, I wish I didn’t need their help. The days of Tracking a child on my own seemed so far gone, and so simple.
A missing child to find, bring them home no matter what—what had seemed difficult at times in the past now looked straightforward. Almost easy compared to what loomed ahead of me.
Yet here I was, supposedly the only person who could save the world.
Something in me clicked into place. Saving the world would save more than one child; it would save many, many thousands. This was my fate; this was my place in the world.
This was what I’d been born for, even if it scared me worse than anything I’d ever faced. There was no greater cause than stopping Orion, no matter how much fear the task gave me.
Enough daydreaming of the past and how I wished things were as they’d been. We needed someone to lead, someone to pull the reins on this runaway carriage or we might as well give Orion our souls on silver and golden platters.
I’d already known, but still, a small part of me hoped Doran or someone would have stopped the hemorrhaging of this open wound, the council falling completely apart. Nope, looked like it was going to be me to pull this together.
“Are you all about done with your pissing and moaning?” I barely raised my voice. Didn’t yell, didn’t scream. Booyah for me, acting all calm and cool. Leaderly-like, even.
The silence that dropped over the outside courtyard was more than a little cool. It was downright icy. Or that could have just been the late January wind whipping through and around us, teasing at the spray of water over the koi pond. Everything stilled, zombies included.
Ogres, vampires, necromancers, witches and werewolves, and unicorn. All turned to me, and more than one was a little … ticked.
Blaz’s voice whispered through my mind, and I stared at him on the edge of the courtyard, his eyes on mine. They are afraid. Be careful not to drive them away, Rylee. Orion has planted the seed of fear well and it grows with a violence that will cut down those in front of it.