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Wounded(Rylee Adamson #8)(14) by Shannon Mayer

Erik ducked around a corner, banging my knees into the wall as we ran (and I use that loosely since I was doing no running) through the kitchen. “You know, you could stand to lose a pound or two.”

“I love you, too, Uncle Erik,” I mumbled, my head fuzzy as I bounced in his arms.

“This way, quick!” Bert shouted and we didn’t question him.

We should have.

He led us into the back of the house, the morning sun peering over the horizon, highlighting the row upon row of ogres waiting for us. The prick had turned on us; I don’t know why I was surprised.

“Bert,” I said and wormed out of Erik’s arms, my hand going to a sword on my back.

His eyes watered as he looked up at me. “I can’t help you, I wish I could. I am bound; my mouth is literally unable to speak the words. It is a curse placed on all the demons Orion uses, so we cannot turn on him.”

So he would take death over dishonor. If he hadn’t been a demon, I would have thought better of him for that choice. Honor I understood, but coming from a demon, I wasn’t so sure about it. Besides, he’d just admitted that he would have spilled his guts if he’d been able to.

The ogre closest to us was red-skinned and, for a second, I thought it was Raw. He chucked a spear at Bert, pinning him to the ground. The doppelganger’s eyes went wide and then slowly the image he’d projected faded, leaving the bare husk of a body I didn’t recognize. Whoever he’d possessed hadn’t been a large person. Hell, I couldn’t even tell if it had been a woman or a man.

“Rylee, you know we’re in deep shit?” Erik asked as he slid my feet to the ground and put himself between me and the ogres we faced. Pamela put her back to me and faced the way we’d come. Her hands flung out and the adobe house crumbled to the ground, the earth shaking beneath our feet.

“Yeah, deep shit is a place I know well,” I said. “Pamela, when you’re done there, think you can make a hole for the ogres to sleep in?”

I hated to ask her to be so violent, mostly because I knew what it was like to lose the childish side of your soul to fighting and surviving at such a young age.

The thing was, the ogres weren’t actually doing anything to us. Which freaked me out. It reminded me of being in the deep veil where the demons all lived and yet, for a huge chunk of the time I was there, I hadn’t encountered one. The whole thing was unnerving.

Above us, Eve and Marco circled, screaming obscenities at the ogres, who mostly ignored them. A standoff between the two sides and yet, I wasn’t sure why the ogres hadn’t attacked.

As Pamela raised her hands toward the ogres, I stopped her. “Wait a second.”

Erik choked, but didn’t turn to look at me. “We may not have a second, Niece.”

I pushed past him, carefully so I didn’t lose my balance. “Why aren’t you attacking us?”

The red ogre who’d thrown the spear sneered at me. “You are wanted by the master, alive and in one piece. All four of you.”

Oh, that did not bode well. “Pam.”

“Yes?”

“You want to work for Orion?”

I didn’t need to say anything else. Her hands were a blur as she whipped them out in front of her. The ground didn’t begin to shake, didn’t roll or heave. There was no warning.

The ground fucking well exploded beneath the ogres. Bodies flew through the air, twenty feet up before being flung outward, clearing a perfect path for us. Screams and moans rose in a cacophony that would make any horror film buff happy.

“Time to go!” I yelled, though I really wanted to duck and cover. Erik took my arm and Pamela led the way, flinging bodies left and right, her lips tight and eyes narrowed. Yeah, pissing off the powerhouse witch was a bad idea.

“Glad she’s on our side,” Erik said as we hit the open space. There was no question of that, but I agreed with him. The look in Pamela’s eyes was more than a little spooky.

Eve swooped down, landed and I scrambled onto her back. Erik climbed on with me, and Pamela leapt on Zorro—I mean, Marco—with Alex. Three seconds and we were in the air while Pamela rained down fire on the remaining ogres who stood and waved their weapons at us.

None of them were dead though; it wasn’t that easy to kill demons. And Pamela was too filled with rage to actually do more than push them away.

“If she could learn to channel her emotions more clearly, there would be no need for us,” Erik said, his body adjusting to Eve with ease.

“What do you mean?”

“Witches, their emotions run hot and cold and finding the balance for them to fight from a place of their heart is nearly impossible. They can help Slayers, but most of the time they can’t actually kill demons.”

That made a weird sort of sense. All the years with Milly and I’d certainly seen the proof of her emotions being all over the map. “If anyone can figure out the balance, Pamela can.”

Erik shrugged. “If she can, she could help save us all.”

No pressure at all. I heard what Erik said and dug my hands into the silver harpy’s feathers.

“Do you have a name?” he called back to me—wow, wait, he?

“Aren’t you a harpy? I thought all harpies were female?”

He snorted and dipped his wings, making me shriek as I slid to one side, even though it was only a few inches. He righted himself and glanced back at me, a twinkle in his eyes.

“What, do you think harpies come from eggs?”

My jaw dropped and then he winked. “The males tend to be unheard of. We are the mellow half of the species; we have to be. The ladies get all the press because of their stellar dispositions.”

“Oh.” Harpies didn’t tend to be mellow at all, fighting and shrieking at every opportunity. I was completely thrown by the fact that he was male. “I’m Pamela and this here is—”

“I is Alex,” Alex barked out. He clung to my waist, not that I had that much better of a grip than he did. His tongue hung out, flapping in the wind. “I am werewolf.”

The harpy bobbed his head, the same way Eve often did. “My name is Marco. Do you have an idea which direction we should head?”

That was a good question.

“Rylee,” I yelled to the other trio, “where are we going?”

She turned toward me, her skin pale and sickly looking, and her eyes dull. “London. But we’ll need to stop first.”