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Authors: Shannon Mayer

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Veiled Threat (7 page)

BOOK: Veiled Threat
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Liam stared down at her face, soft with unconsciousness. She was his world, and she kept coming so close to dying that he knew at some point fate would catch up to her and that would be it.

He could only hope he was there in that moment and could trade his life for hers.

A prayer slipped from his lips. “Let it be done that way, or not at all.”

The flight was smooth, mostly because I recalled none of it. With seemingly no transition, we were on the ground and I was packed into an adobe house I distantly recognized, but I couldn’t remember who owned the house. Someone, I knew the person. Maybe. Did it belong to a Daywalker?

Vampire. He was a vampire now.

Hands hovered over my face. How did I get on my back? Fingers snapped and the fog shrouding me cleared. I jerked up to a sitting position, gasping and choking as if I’d been running a fucking marathon.

“Oh, well, welcome back, Tracker. Nice of you to join us.”

Doran sat across from me, knees apart, elbows resting on them. Berget stood to one side of him, her eyes on me. Louisa was behind them both.

“All your favors are used up, Rylee. There will be no more freebies,” Louisa said and then walked out. No goodbye, no see you later. But then, that was a typical shaman for you.

Doran, on the other hand, was not so typical. In any way. He leaned forward, eyes intense. “How are you feeling?”

I ran a hand over my face, closed my eyes for a brief second. “Fine. I think. What the hell happened?”

Footsteps, the sound of lowered voices, then Erik stepped into the room with a more-than-agitated Liam right on his heels. “I told you she’d be fine, ease down, wolf man.”

“It’s not about her being fine, I never doubted that. You knew going in, and you let her do something stupid without—”

Erik rounded on him. “I did try to stop her, but if you haven’t noticed, she’s faster than a human, faster than she should be even as a Tracker or a demon hunter. I won’t make that mistake again. Trust me on that, there will be no more demon hunts until she’s had at least the rudiments of training.”

“That ain’t going to fucking well happen. We have to get Milly and Pamela out. I can’t leave them there.” I pushed myself to my feet and was pleased to see I wasn’t unsteady in the least. “Why the hell did you bring me all the way here if I wasn’t in trouble?”

Blaz reached out to me.
Erik is lying; your spirit was being bound. You were alive and wouldn’t have died, but who you are was being eaten. Your bond to me staved it off long enough for Doran and Louisa to break the bond between you and the soul sucker demon.

My eyes darted to Doran of their own volition. “Thanks. Seems you saved my ass again.”

“My pleasure; after all it is such a nice ass to be saving.” He gave me a grin and a wink, his green eyes full of life and so very different from the eyes I’d seen in other vampires. Even Berget didn’t have the spark I saw in his emerald depths. Unlike other vampires, his soul remained intact when he’d become a night walking blood sucker. Apparently it had something to do with my blood being the catalyst in the spell that turned him. I shook my head.

“Whatever. You need to get laid, vampire.”

He let out a laugh and held out his hand to me. “You offering?”

Berget’s words came back to me full force and I shot a glance her way. She lifted an eyebrow and one pale shoulder.

“Thanks, but my dance card is full.”

I hoped that would get the point across; I really didn’t want to be a bitch to him. He was a friend and an ally, and it looked like Berget was staying with him, which was good for her. He wouldn’t hurt her, or take advantage of her, and the memories trapped inside her head could help him lead the vampires better than if he was doing it on his own.

Doran stepped toward me, one hand out as if to touch my cheek. “You sure about that?”

Instead of continuing that thread of conversation I turned my back on him and changed the subject.

“Berget, anything on your end of things?”

She shook her head, soft blond hair shimmering. “Not yet, but I think I am making some progress.”

“Okay.” I reached out and pulled her into my arms, gave her a hug. “Thanks.”

She grinned at me. “We’re family, you don’t have to thank me.”

“Just be careful.”

“Of course.”

Doran’s eyes whipped from me to her and back again. “What are you two up to now?”

“Nothing you can do anything about.” I let go of Berget and then kept my eyes down as I checked my weapons. They were all there; that at least was an upside to this mess.

Doran stopped me with a hand on my arm, and very gently pulled me aside. “There is a betrayal coming your way, Rylee. One I can’t see clearly, but it is there nonetheless.”

I went still. He was buzzing on the blood I’d fed him in order to turn him into a fully blooded vampire? Damn, he must have gotten more than I’d thought at the time. It was the only time he could Read my future.

“What kind of betrayal?”

His brows crinkled, tugging the silver piercing downward over his right eye. “Your life and your wolf’s will be on the line, but it will be up to Liam and another to stop it from happening. It’s muddled because your blood runs thin in my veins. I should have thought to do a reading sooner, but I’ve been busy.” No doubt that was true, taking over the vampire nation was no small task.

Great, just what I needed. That meant it would be me and Alex in trouble. Awesomsauce. “Any idea of time frame?”

“Soon. Within the next few days. Death will be heavy with the one who betrays you.”

That made no sense, but it was all he was able to give me. At least it was something. I thanked him and turned to leave, almost running into Erik. Bouncing off his chest I grimaced. Time to get back on track.

“I’m not leaving Milly and Pamela in that freaking purple hole in my bathroom wall, Erik. So how are we going to get them out?” I didn’t wait for him to answer, but started down the hallway. Liam caught my eye and slid in behind me.

“Alex is already with Blaz.”

“Good, we’re already so far behind we’re in fucking first place,” I muttered under my breath, half pissed that they’d brought me here, so far from home. But also knowing that if they hadn’t, there wouldn’t be anything of me left. What a hot shitty mess.

“Where do you think you’re going? I was not kidding when I said that hunting demons is a bad idea until you know more,” Erik shouted after us as we strode through the night-darkened courtyard and past the koi pond to the two dragons waiting for us. They barely fit in the front yard, but it didn’t matter that this was a suburban area. Doran’s house sat within a fold of the veil, or a wrinkle, if you will. He used the veil to hide his whereabouts from the humans and anything within that fold couldn’t be seen by human eyes.

So much disbelief in the world of magic kept them blind to all the wonder—and horror—that surrounded them.

More horror than wonder.
Blaz said softly, and I had to agree. There was far more horror in our world than I liked to admit. Yet I knew very little else.

I was up on Blaz in a matter of seconds, Liam behind me.

“Erik, either you’re coming with me or I’m damn well going in on my own. My friends need me, that’s all there is to this.”

Erik scrambled onto Ophelia’s back. “You are no different than your mother, running headlong into danger for your friends.” He shook his head. “Fine. But you will listen to me the whole damn way back, not a word out of you. Understood? It is the only way it will work if we’re going to go into the deep levels of the veil to bring them back.”

I nodded, ignoring his comment about my mother, my heart pounding with something akin to excitement. Shit, I was terrified for my two girls, but I was excited to learn I finally had an ability that would give me an offense instead of a defense. Blaz leapt into the sky, his wings stirring up the surface of the pond, lifting Berget’s curls back from her face. I lifted a hand to Berget and Doran who waved back to me in return. They watched until I could see them no more, and I had the feeling they watched still, long after we were out of sight.

Yet there was no time to ponder what the hell I was supposed to do with Doran’s affections. Nope, I had a couple short hours to learn about being a demon hunter before going into the deep levels of the veil.

Oh, I had to believe that we could do it, that we would be able to walk in, slaughter a few demons and pull both witches out intact.

Yet a small part of me knew it was going to be much harder than that. I only hoped that small part of me was wrong.

Listen to that small part of you, Rylee. It is what has kept you alive all these years.

Blaz words resonated truth within me.

That’s what I was so very afraid of.

Chapter 7

T
he farm was
still, the fields black and reflecting light only here and there on the patches of snow. If the clouds surrounding us were any indication, we were in for another big dump of snow that would cover the fields in a matter of hours.

However, the weather was the least of my concerns.

Ancient words still rang inside my head, two hours of memorization with Erik and I wasn’t positive I would be able to deal with the demons after all. To me the words didn’t feel like magic, or strength, or even anything important. They sounded like nonsense, gibberish words that would do dipshit. Would I use them? Yup, even if I thought I sounded like a fool. I had no choice. I was going in after Milly and Pamela. Just meant it was going to be a bitch of a rescue. Liam grasped the words quicker than I did, and Alex, though he didn’t recall any of the words, listened to everything Erik taught us via Ophelia. She projected his words to us along the flight home.

Standing in front of the dark farmhouse, I knew at least the rudiments of how to tangle with the lesser demons.

A loud screech turned us around to see Eve and Frank bursting out of the barn. Frank was downright tiny next to the Harpy, but it looked like he’d finally gotten used to her.

Eve skidded to a stop, her wings flapping, right in front of me. “What happened? Did you find Pamela and Milly?”

“Not yet,” I shook my head, “we’re going in after them now.” No need to point out that I’d blown it the first time.

Frank cleared his throat and pushed his glasses up on his pimpled nose. “Umm. That might not be possible.”

Liam put a hand on the kid’s shoulder. “Why not, Frank?”

Frank gave a tiny shrug. “I can feel the … veil … when it opens. And when it closes. I think they closed this one.”

“Why the fuck would they do that?” But I knew the answer to my own question. I really had blown it, we’d had our chance to go in after Milly and Pamela and because I didn’t listen to Erik those demons had closed the breach.

Of course, no one answered my question. They all knew as well as I did the why of it.

“Doesn’t matter, you still need to go in and check it out.” Erik didn’t pull his weapons out, instead looked at me expectantly. And maybe with more than an ounce of disappointment in his eyes. I blushed under his recriminating gaze. I didn’t need the less than subtle reminder that I’d screwed this up. “Mark your blades,” he instructed. Liam swung his sword in the figure eight and the blade burned, Alex followed suit with his claws, and I reluctantly did the same with my weapon.

Something didn’t sit well with me, but fuck if I could figure it out.

“If anything shows up,” Erik said, “that doesn’t fit the descriptions I’ve given you, run back out and I will deal with it.”

“You’re a human with a few words and a few hand gestures. You really believe you can do this better than me?” I wasn’t being cocky. I’d seen more than one human go down in flames because they tangled with the supernatural with the belief they ‘had it in them’ to do so.

“It’s unlikely, but if anything does show up, Rylee, this is what I do. It’s always been humans trained for hunting demons.” He pointed at the door and I started forward. Stopping when a question caught me off guard. One I didn’t want to wait on.

“Why the humans?”

“Because the demons expect to be able to control a human with hardly a flick of their claws, a tip of their eyes in our direction. Which for the most part is true. But,” he stepped up and held the door open for me, “when a human finally sees the truth, and knows what they are facing, they become an unknown quantity in some ways.”

“A wild card.” I stepped softly into the house, avoiding the broken glass as best I could.

“Yes. Exactly. Even now, they don’t think a Slayer has much ability against them, not understanding the fates gave us the words to stop the demonic in their tracks. At least, if you are one of the few families blessed to have the blood that will kindle the words.”

I left him there, Liam and Alex following me through the shit and piss marking the demon hounds passing, down the hallway and to the closed bathroom door. But I already knew it would be too late, the breach would be closed.

I pushed the door open and the inside of the bathroom held exactly what I was expecting.

Nothing.

“Motherfuckers,” I snarled. The floor was splattered with blood where I’d cut off the creature’s tongues, and the back wall was no longer the swirling violet of the veil. The yellow tile was scorched, chipped and hanging from the wall in pieces.

But no breach in the veil.

A low groan drew me to the tub and I raised my blade, whispering, “
Adonani”
before actually stepping closer. The word would still my soul, keep it attached to me and keep the demon from sucking me down again. Supposedly.

Another groan and I leapt forward, my blade sailing downward toward the face of … Eagle. Shit on a stick. Twisting hard, I drove my blade into the side of the tub, just missing Eagle’s face. The porcelain shattered around my blade and Eagle, and what looked like all of his blood spilled out onto the floor. He was a guardian, but more than that, he had been Eve’s mentor, helping her control herself and her harpy tendencies. And I suspected she was more than half in love with him which was only going to make this that much harder on her.

Ignoring the blood, I dropped to my knees, put one hand on his chest and the other behind his head. “Eagle, what the hell are you doing here, what happened?” As a guardian, there was no way injuries like this should have hurt him so badly. Never mind the fact he was supposed to be in New Mexico with his shaman. Not here bleeding out in the remnants of my tub.

His silver eyes rolled up to mine. “Tracker. Demons and evil spirits everywhere. Must stop them.” A shudder rippled the length of his body, a single breath gurgled from his mouth with a bubble of blood and then nothing. I swallowed hard, my mind and heart racing.

“They shouldn’t have been able to kill him.” I lifted my eyes to Liam’s, fear clenching my gut tight. We’d been acting like Liam was invincible, that he was immune to any kind of trauma except decapitation.

Looked like we were wrong. And at the worst possible time.

Alex slipped closer, his nose quivering, but he said nothing. He just watched, his golden eyes taking it all in.

“Rylee, I don’t hear any fighting,” Erik called from the front of the house. “If there are no demons, I suggest you get your ass out here and we continue to train.”

“Doesn’t know you too well, does he?” Liam squatted beside me, his eyes sorrowful. I doubted it had to do with just Eagle’s untimely death.

“Talk to me, Liam. You know what this is; you spent time with Peter talking about guardians and werewolves. You know what’s going on, don’t you?”

His eyes slid closed and he slowly shook his head. “Maybe, I don’t know.”

Well, that was an improvement. When we’d been in Europe, he and Peter had gone off on their own for days at a time. He hadn’t spoken to me about what he’d learned, and I wasn’t sure he ever would. More and more, he was keeping things from me, and it killed me to know he didn’t fully trust me.

More likely that he can’t tell you, Rylee.
Blaz whispered to me.
Every species has its secrets they are not supposed to share. He will be no different.

Ignoring Blaz, I let the subject drop between me and Liam, stood and strode to my bedroom. Even in there, the demons had done their job of marking territory, shredding my bed, shitting on the pillows. There was nothing to be saved. Beside the bed was my mother’s journal, the only thing I had connecting me to her and my father. Shredded into pieces, I was glad I’d read it through once. I thought about what my mother had written about Erik, about how bold he was, about his willingness to jump into danger. He sure changed a lot since his younger years if his standing outside and waiting for me to do the dirty work was any evidence. A long coiled pile of feces sat on the front cover of the journal; I pushed the book with my toe.

“Nasty shit heads,” Alex muttered, rubbing at his nose.

“Yeah, that they are.” I backed out of the room.

I only hoped the demons hadn’t gone into the root cellar, that somehow they’d missed it. I headed out of the house, Alex trotting beside me.

“Boss is sad. Rylee is sad. Everyone is sad.” He shook his head, the silver tips of his fur catching the scattered moonlight.

“You aren’t sad, Alex?”

He shook his head. “Nope. Alex has Rylee. Has Boss. Has Evie and Pamie. Alex has love.”

My feet stilled and I dropped a hand to his head. “You are pretty damn smart, you know that?”

He snickered and sat in a patch of snow. “Nope. Alex just loves back.”

Such a simple truth. Just love back. I wished it could be that easy when it came to facing demons.

Behind us, Liam’s footsteps on the porch reached my ears. “Did they take the book?”

He didn’t have to say what book; there was only one book the demons would have been after. The black-skinned book of prophecies.

Around the side of the house I went, my heart sinking to my boots when I saw the busted open door of the root cellar.

“We are so fucked,” I whispered as I carefully made my way down the broken and slippery stairs. The weapons, remarkably, were left untouched for the most part, and there was no marking going on. But the lock box I kept the book in was missing.

Not surprised, I headed back out.

Liam took one look at me. “Gone?”

I gave him a sharp nod. “Help me get the weapons out.”

With everyone helping, it didn’t take long to empty the root cellar and put all the weapons into the barn.

Once that was done, the house no longer had a purpose.

“Blaz, burn it down.”

Frank sucked in a sharp breath. “Why would you do that?”

“You can’t salvage it, kid,” Liam said. “The house has been destroyed and anything of value taken.”

Are you sure, Rylee?

“Yes. Do it.”

He lifted his head and inhaled, his body expanding, belly rumbling with fire, burning hot. I gave him a nod and he exhaled a brilliant shot of flame that sparkled and danced in the air.

Eve stepped over a half frozen mud puddle to my side as snow began to fall. Shit, I had to tell her that her mentor was dead. I glanced at Liam and he shook his head. I let out a slow, disheartened breath.

“Eve, someone died in there. Someone you know better than anyone else. He was very important to you.”

Her beak clacked together, and her eyes filled with fear and grief. “Please, don’t say his name. I know, I felt him die.”

I clamped my lips shut and put a hand on her trembling wing. “I’m sorry, Eve. I don’t know how they did it, but the demons know how to kill guardians.” A sudden thought flashed through my mind. “Will you take this news to his shaman and warn the others?”

Sure, I could have phoned them, but Eve needed something to do with her grief. Something constructive or I was afraid she would resort to her natural inclination of Harpy destruction and terror.

“I’ll go with you, if you want,” Frank said, looking from Eve to me. “I’m not much use here anyway.”

In a way he was right. He was young and inexperienced both in life and as a necromancer. But if he could get a little training he could jump the veil easier than anyone else. I Tracked necromancers as a species, and felt a hit in the deep south.

“Go to Louisa and the other shamans, then see if you can convince them to help you pinpoint another necromancer. I’m getting pings off one in the deep south, feels like Louisiana.”

Frank nodded, but Eve didn’t react.

The fire behind us warmed the air and sent shadows dancing across her body. She stared into the flames, tears trickling down her feathers. I wished I could spare her this kind of pain; grief was something I knew all too well.

“Eve, can you do this, can you help Frank find the necromancer?”

A deep breath escaped her in a long exhalation. “It will help stop the demons?”

Best to keep it simple. “Yes.”

“You aren’t sending me away? To keep me and Frank safe?”

“Eve,” I tugged on one of her long, tawny pinion feathers. “Look at me.”

She slowly turned her face to mine, tears scorching across her cheeks.

I touched my hands to the tears. “No one is safe, it wouldn’t matter where I sent you; I expect there to be danger. But together, you and Frank have a chance at accomplishing two things I don’t have time for. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important, nor does it mean they will be safe.”

“I’ll look out for her.” Frank stepped beside me, scuffing the dirt with his worn sneakers.

“More likely she’ll end up saving your ass; that’s the way it’s always been with her and me.” I laughed softly.

“You like Blaz better than me.” Ah, here we were at the crux. I’d been waiting for this, knowing it was only a matter of time before the teenage harpy finally said it. But seriously, did it have to be right now? I restrained the bitchy side of me that wanted to tell her to take her insecurities and stuff them until this was all said and done. Only there was no guarantee there would ever be a time when it was all said and done. So now it was.

BOOK: Veiled Threat
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