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Wounded(Rylee Adamson #8)(2) by Shannon Mayer

The dragon was on point, of course, and I knew they were afraid. Could almost smell it, even though I was no shapeshifter.

They were not the only ones who thought facing down demons called “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” was a very bad idea.

Yeah, if I were a betting gal, I wouldn’t bet on us, either.

I lifted one hand, palm up, and wiggled my fingers at them. “Look, this is what Orion wants. He wants us fractured and freaking the hell out, because he knows if we are too busy fighting each other, he can swoop in and kick all of our asses. So everyone calm the fuck down.”

Liam hadn’t move from his position behind me. Nor had Pamela or Alex shifted away from me. Okay, Alex as making faces at the crowd, his long tongue flapping at them, but he stood by me. My heart swelled. Even if everyone else walked in that moment, I wouldn’t see this through alone. I had my family.

Nikko, the black unicorn was the first to nod, his voice projecting much like Blaz’s, inside all our heads at once.

You are right, of course. There is no sense in fighting one another. We will do the demon’s job for him if we kill each other now. I will listen to what you have to say, Tracker. We have promised our help, and we will stand by our word. He lowered himself to the ground, then tucked his legs underneath his body, his golden horn glinting even in the starlight.

One by one, each of those in the council found a seat or at least put their weapons away. On each of them I saw tightened lips, narrowed eyes, twitching muscles, sweat-dripping skin in the cold winter night air—marks of fear. I wasn’t sure I could convince them all to stay, and we desperately needed them to stay.

Without the numbers, I wasn’t sure we would have any way of stopping Orion and his demon hordes. Because even if it came down to me and Orion, one on one, I was pretty sure I would have to battle through his demons to get to him. Or at least, I was assuming.

Doran and Berget stood side by side, unmoving, looking as if they hadn’t just been ready to toss everyone out. This was, after all, Doran’s place we’d invaded. I wouldn’t blame him. But he looked at me and gave me a slight nod of encouragement.

I stood, felt the world sway, and locked my knees. Fuck me if I was going to pass out in front of all these powerful supernaturals.

First thing’s first.

“Faris, tell us exactly what you saw.” I paused and fought to say the next word without a hint of sarcasm. “Please.”

Faris pushed himself away from a shadow that held tight against the house, his eyes flicking to Thomas, then back to me. He didn’t cradle the stub of his missing arm, though his good hand twitched as though he’d like to. “I went, at Doran’s bidding, to check on the state of the castle. We wanted to know for sure that all the doorways were indeed destroyed and there was no way through those left into the human world.”

His eyes went to Doran, who gave him a nod.

“There was nothing at first; I didn’t see anything or smell anything. Then a woman stepped out of a third floor balcony—”

I lifted a hand to stop him. “What did she look like?”

He took a breath before answering. “Long white hair, but young in the face. I didn’t get much more from her than that.”

“Did she give her name?” I suspected who it would be, but I wanted to be sure.

Faris shot me a look, his eyes puzzled. “No, she didn’t.”

“I’ll bet it was Talia,” I muttered. Who else would it be, really?

Apparently, I didn’t mutter so quietly. Thomas sucked in a sharp breath. Of course, he would recognize a fellow necromancer. Maybe he’d even trained her. I’d only met her once, and I knew she worked for Orion, albeit reluctantly. Orion needed a necromancer to open the gateway to the deep veil and he’d been training Talia against her will for some time. At least, according to what she told me.

The vampire went on. “She did something to the last doorway, the one that leads to the deep veil. The one that leads to the demons. I don’t know how, but she opened it. And then the pack of demons was in the castle and I was fighting them.”

He shook his head, his lips tightening, his fangs peeking out between them. “I thought I could take them, but there seemed to be nothing I could do. I fought my way free far enough to open the veil to escape. As I fell backward through the veil, I saw them leave through the gate in the courtyard. The broken doorways seem to have slowed them, but not by much. Whoever broke the doorways has done us a favor.”

There was silence for a few heartbeats, nothing but the sound of the wind and the trickle of the fountain splashing.

“You’re welcome.” Erik pushed himself from the wall and stepped forward, drawing everyone’s eyes to him. “Rylee, if I may address this?”

My eyebrows had never climbed higher, but I cleared my throat and managed to answer. “Yes, say what you’ve got to say.”

He nodded as I gave my permission. “I broke those doorways and sealed the final two, making them traversable only one way, because I ran out of time. That was when I was grabbed by Talia and her little helpers. They hunkered down and waited for you while Bert took my spot.” He must have seen the question in my eyes. How the fuck did someone take out a Slayer like Erik? He gave me a wry twist of a smile, “They hit me from behind.”

“Blaz, tell Bert we want to speak to him. Maybe he can enlighten us on what the fuck Orion is up to.” Bert was still an unknown to us in many ways. He’d started out as my Uncle Erik’s doppleganger, sent by Orion to get close to us and take out our two dragons. But we’d caught him in time, and now he’d sworn fealty to my uncle. It was that or die and he’d chosen wisely. Strange to think, though, that a demon was on our side.

He’s coming, Blaz said, loud and clear so everyone heard him.

While we waited, Faris handed me two pieces of paper. One was handwritten with no signature; the other was a picture. I looked at the photo first, memorizing the kid’s face. It was a young boy, maybe sixteen years old, with the name Simon scrawled across the back. Faris dropped his voice to a low, quiet pitch. “The necromancer slipped this to me before the fight. Said it was all she could do to help and asked me to give it to you. Likely it is a ruse, but I don’t know for sure.”

I stared at the picture, the dirty blond hair, and skin so dark I wondered if it was his heritage or if he just tanned that way. But it was his eyes that caught me, made me hold my breath. Eyes that seemed to have blue, green, and aqua swirling within them. Shit, a Tracker? Another one?