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Wounded(Rylee Adamson #8)(5) by Shannon Mayer

“Berget. What aren’t you telling me?”

She shook her head and took her hand from his. “Nothing you need to know.”

He stared down at her, as if he could will the truth from her. But he knew better. Tiny though she was, there was nothing he could do to make her spill her secrets before she was ready. Even if she hadn’t been a vampire, she was a woman—that alone meant she wouldn’t say anything if he pushed her, and she wasn’t yet ready to talk.

He let out a sigh. “Will you tell me at some point?”

Her shoulders sagged and she closed her eyes. “Yes, Liam, I will. But not today.”

There was a large part of him, the wolf in him that wanted to grab Berget and shake the truth from her. Mostly because he had a feeling it would impact him in ways he didn’t want, and he hated not knowing.

For now, though, her promise that she would tell him would have to be good enough.

Across from them, Rylee looked up and he gave her a wink, immediately pushing back the frown he knew had been on his face. Her lips didn’t move, but he could see the smile in her eyes, her face, the way her head tilted. No one else would see it.

And that was fine by him.

Until we had more information, there was no point in continuing to hold the council together. Doran dismissed everyone, nicely of course, asking them all to come back after we’d had some time to discuss the possibilities with Bert. No point in riling everyone up without just cause. The ogres and unicorns headed off together. Their camps had been set up so the ogre’s camp was a larger circle around the unicorns, in a defensive measure. Having the smaller contingent, and having brought their only foal with them, the unicorns had agreed that was best. Just in case things got ugly.

Once the courtyard cleared, it was just me, Liam, Erik, Bert, and Faris. I sent Alex and Pamela to bed since it was nearing three in the morning and they were both yawning like crazy. Pamela frowned, but didn’t argue. A sure sign she was exhausted. Even Doran and Berget backed out of the mini council.

Doran tried to swat me on the ass as he left. “There are so many things that need to be attended to and you don’t need me. Faris will fill me in later.” I managed to dodge his hand impressively, considering how fast he was. Of course, there was a chance he’d let me dodge him, too.

In the relative silence that followed, I listened to the spill of the fountain for all of about three seconds before diving in.

“Bert, you’re up. What can you tell us about these bastards we’re dealing with?” I stared hard at the wimpy demon, but he didn’t flinch, seeming to gain some confidence from the fact we were actually listening to him.

Bert stood in front of us, his hands clasped together behind him. A frown settled over his face before he started to speak.

“Well. I don’t know for sure what packs have come through. There are seven kinds of demon packs.”

Erik stopped him. “There is precedence to this, though. This is not the first time a powerful demon has tried to take over the world.” He had everyone’s attention with those words.

“Wait, what?” I blurted out, my eyes widening. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t think that all of the disasters that humanity has faced were all natural, do you? The bubonic plague is a good example. It was blamed on a number of things. Rats, the Jewish people, punishment from God. It all led to a cleansing of anything unusual. Mostly supernaturals who were trying to blend in, and in that process, the humans wiped out many of their best defenders against the demon population, which then went on to spread the plague across the world. But that is just one example.”

“What was the point, though? Wouldn’t the demons have wanted people to be alive so they could possess them?” Liam asked.

Erik gave a ruthful smile. “Yes and no. The bubonic plague wasn’t so much about killing people off, as it was infecting them. Making them weak and easier to possess. The plague compromised their immune systems, allowing them to be taken over. Especially the young.”

Something about what Erik said sent a twang through my brain. I struggled to put the pieces together, but they floated just out of reach. Damn it. Liam touched my arm. “What?”

I closed my eyes and pressed my palms into them, blocking out any light. “Let me think for a minute.”

The feel of the night air and the sound of the fountain filled my ears as I looked at the pieces one by one.

Demons escaped in London who bred fast.

Minor supernaturals were being possessed by lesser demons and evil spirits.

Packs of Orion’s demons were free to cause chaos.

The only thing we were missing was a plague, and then Orion would have access to all the young people he wanted. The urge to vomit swelled up through my stomach and burned the back of my throat.

“Children are normally hard to possess, aren’t they?” That was why it had taken a full pentagram when the black coven was trying to have India possessed so many months ago. At least, that was what I understood.

Bert bobbed his head. “Yes, it can be very difficult to possess a child. There is a natural protection over the young when it comes to demons, something the elementals put into play.” He grimaced as he said ‘elemental’ and again I wondered at these particular supernaturals that I’d only just been hearing about. “But when the small humans are ill, that protection goes into keeping them alive, rather than keeping them from being possessed.”

Feeling like a bully, but not really caring, I leaned in to Bert. “How did the bubonic plague really start?”

An interesting thing happened. Bert paled and shook his head. “I can’t tell you.”

My eyebrows shot up and I glanced at Erik. “You want to make him talk, or do you want me to make him talk?”

Erik shrugged. “Either way is fine. I haven’t interrogated a demon in years. I’ve missed it.”

Bert paled even more and his lower lip trembled. “I can’t tell you. I can’t. Tracker, Slayer, both of you have to trust me. Please.”

“Begging will get you nowhere, little demon,” Erik growled. He had a short, serrated knife in his hand that he’d pulled from somewhere within his robes. It was curved, like a skinning knife, and if it hadn’t been for the rough edges, that’s what I would have called it.

“Track demons and evil spirits,” Bert blurted as he fell to his knees. “Proof I am on your side, that I truly want to help, but cannot tell you about the plagues. Track them; you’ll see it isn’t me fooling you.”