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Wounded(Rylee Adamson #8)(9) by Shannon Mayer

Take my daughter with you. We will circle around. There was an edge to Nikko’s voice that Liam caught. The savvy unicorn knew something was up, and he knew better than to come right out and ask.

“Of course. Come on, pretty lady, let’s go see Rylee.”

Calliope trotted over to them and put herself next to Mer. Without hesitation, the ogre dropped her hand to the filly’s withers. Calliope gave a snort and butted her nubby horn against Mer’s thigh.

Mer gave a soft gasp and Liam glanced over to see her face healing. “Don’t forget to thank her.”

The green ogre bent and kissed the tiny unicorn on the nose. “Thank you, precious one.”

Of course. Calliope’s voice was a tiny echo of her father’s; the power was there, but not the iron hardness. At least, not yet.

Liam started them across the long walk to Doran’s home, each step ratcheting up the tension along his spine. Something bad was coming and he was pretty damn sure he knew it would be in the form of ogres trying to kill them. Mer’s back straightened as they walked, but he noted she didn’t offer to stay now that the worst of her wounds were healed.

“He wasn’t always like this. He’d never hit me until after the ceremony with Sas to break ties with the rest of the ogres.” Mer glanced at him.

“Not here. We can talk about it later.” He bit the words out. Calliope turned her eyes to him.

Is something wrong?

Many eyes were on them as they walked, and not one was kind, or even just curious. Hatred flowed through the air like an overwhelming perfume. Someone had heard what Mer had said, and it was going through the ogres like a wildfire.

“Mer.”

“Yes?”

“Protect the foal at all costs.”

He counted the moments in heartbeats. When he hit six and they were forty feet from the ogres’ perimeter, Raw stepped in front of them. He lifted his massive hand, a flame appearing above his fingertips.

“Going somewhere, precious?”

Liam put himself between Mer, Calliope, and Raw.

“She’s coming with me, sweetums.”

Yeah, he had truly begun to take on some of Rylee’s lesser qualities. Like pissing off the bad guys when he shouldn’t. Raw’s face dipped into a shade of red that was almost purple.

“Mer.” Liam put his hand out, pointing at Doran’s, but didn’t take his eyes off Raw, “Take her and go.”

Mer didn’t hesitate, just scooped up Calliope and bolted the last forty feet past the ogres who reached for her. She managed to dodge them all and then she was in the clear. Good enough.

“Our master doesn’t care about a unicorn foal and an ogre whore,” Raw said, laughing. “But you, you are important to him. He will be so very pleased when we hand him your head. Do you know that this knife”—he pulled out a dull, copper blade with a wooden handle—“is cursed? It is the knife that killed the last guardian.” Raw’s grin was feral, madness oozing off him.

Liam didn’t wait. This was not a time to fight, but he needed to buy himself some time. He leapt toward Raw as he shifted into his wolf form. Startled, Raw stumbled back, but not before swinging with the copper knife. It hit Liam in the chest, slicing through his muscles, stuttering his heart. He let out a howl as he hit the ground, calling the wolves to him, even though he’d just sent them away.

It wasn’t his time yet. He knew it was coming, but he’d be damned if he let some piddly-ass demon take him out.

Chapter 4

WAITING ON LIAM was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. So I didn’t wait. I ran inside, Tracking Doran. He was in his herb room and I skidded to a stop in the doorway. “Tell me you can exorcise evil spirits.”

He didn’t flinch. “Maybe. But we are leaving, are we not?”

“Liam is out there, trying to get the Tamoskin crush clear.”

Doran closed his eyes for a split second. “Are you willing to donate to the cause? Your blood makes me stronger.”

I tipped my head and pulled my shirt down, baring my neck. “Do it.”

No need to ask him twice. His lips were on my neck, his teeth pushing through the skin with a soft pop. For Liam, I would give up anything and a little blood was not too much to ask as far as I was concerned.

Doran drank deep, his hands circling around my waist, holding me tight against his body. I stared at his right ear, and noticed the new gold cuff circling the top of it. Wondered if it signified anything.

“Berget, take her.”

Doran handed me off and I was going to protest, but I could barely open my mouth. Shit, how much had he taken?

“A lot. I took a lot to make this happen, Rylee.” He breathed, his eyes sparkling with power. Without another word, he was gone, like he’d disappeared into thin air. Then again, I might have just closed my eyes for a second or two. Berget held me against her side and I didn’t remember her even being there, or taking me.

“That was not smart; he took a lot of your blood. Each time he does, it ties you more to him.” She brushed a hand over my neck and the skin tightened, the two pinpricks healing over.

“Mm frothing bhmmd.” Damn, the words wouldn’t come out. I tried again. “Liam is worth it.”

She let out a little sigh and helped me stand. I was wobbly, but already a little strength was coming back. “Faris?”

“He’s trying to get Thomas to work with him to open up a double doorway, one the unicorns and harpies can easily go through.”

“The harpies are here?”

“Eve, she’s gone to meet them, stall them if she can.” She helped me walk and tried to pull me to the back of the house. “Faris is out here.”

“But Liam is this way,” I grunted and slid out of her hands, using the wall to support my steps. Berget let out a sigh and came around to help me.

“I could just pack you out there, you know.”

I snorted. “Yeah, I know.”

But she didn’t try to, and for that I was grateful.

The courtyard was a seething mess of supernaturals by the time we got there. No one had listened to me. Apparently, everyone wanted to stay and fight. Fucking hell. I’d almost prefer they were still afraid enough to run. A part of me, though, was secretly pleased. When push came to shove, they would fight and work together. That was a good sign at least.

Standing on top of the fountain, Doran chanted, his deep baritone taking me back to the first time Liam had held me tight as the hoarfrost poison had been drawn from me. Doran’s words swirled through the air creating a fog that cut through the night, silvery and sleek.