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Priceless(Rylee Adamson #1)(11) by Shannon Mayer

Doran stared at me across the flames, his gaze travelling the length of my body twice before resting on my face. Slowly, he smiled. “Perhaps you can guess at my price for the knowledge you seek.”

For the second time that day I blushed, the heat from the flames was nothing compared to the heat in my face. My jaw clenched at what he was implying. “I think you’d better just spit it out. I don’t like guessing games.”

He grinned at me, white teeth almost sparkling. My eyes narrowed; I didn’t like this, but he was the only chance I had at finding India in time. Almost without thinking, I reached for her and was surprised when she reached back, just the faintest brush of her mind at the very edges of my own.

“Help, please.”

Stunned, I saw Doran’s mouth moving but heard nothing. Not one kid had ever reached for me, had ever felt I was going to try and help them. “I’m coming, just hang on,” I whispered under my breath, not sure if I could speak to her mind to mind.

“What was that?”

I waved my hand at him to continue and tried to piece together what he’d already said.

“You see, I have some very particular needs,” he said, a smile tipping up the corners of his mouth. “I have very refined tastes, and quite frankly, the people around here just aren’t satisfying them.”

Jaw tight, I held very still. It was the first time I’d ever dealt with a male shaman. I didn’t know if he was bluffing or if he truly wanted to get in my pants. “I’m not that kind of girl.” I bit out.

“Not even to save a child? A little girl?” Doran spread his hands across his knees and rubbed his thighs. “Isn’t she about the same age as your sister was when she went missing?”

Ice formed around my spine and heart. Maybe he thought I’d buckle under the mention of my lost family. “No, actually. Berget was younger by a few years.” Stepping around the fire I leaned down until our noses almost touched. “Try to use her for bait again, Doran, and it will be you that will go missing next.” By the end, my words were a bare whisper, only just audible above the crackle of the fire.

“Oh, Rylee, how I wish I’d met you years ago.” He whispered back, as if I hadn’t just threatened his life. “A pint of blood will do, I suppose. Though I’d much prefer it to be taken by my mouth, I suspect you’ll insist on a blade?”

I snapped backwards as if he’d slapped me. Blood. If he wanted blood, then . . . “You’re a daywalker?”

Steepling his fingers under his chin, he laughed softly. “What did you think? That any old shaman could step in and replace all those women?”

Daywalker. Vampire. They were the same thing, only one roamed the night, and the other roamed the day. Why hadn’t Dox warned me about this? Likely he didn’t know.

I started to sweat, old fears surfacing. I’d faced down a daywalker once, to save a child. The end result was the daywalker was dead, and the kid safe, but I still had nightmares. Not to mention a few deep tissue scars that would never fade. The one in my lower back, just above my tailbone, started to throb as if I’d poked it. The daywalker had tackled me from behind, almost wrapping his teeth around my lower spine. If Milly hadn’t been with me on that search, I’d have been killed. What Doran had just said caught up with me.

“Speaking of those missing women, where are they?” I forced the fear back down my throat.

Doran tipped his head to one side. “You don’t hunt for adults, Rylee, so why would you care what happened to them?”

“It’s important to a friend. He wants to know.” I fingered the handle of my blade. “And since you took their places, you should know what happened.”

“I do, but if you want that information, you’re going to have to give me more than blood. I want you bound to me.”

Nope, no one was worth that, not even the shamans I’d come to count as allies. In fact, I wasn’t so sure I’d bind myself to him even for a kid. I shook my head.

“Whatever, I’m not looking for the shamans.” I cracked my knuckles, nerves starting to show through my tough girl exterior. “I guess you can’t help me then, especially not if it’s one of your own that took the girl.” I started to back away from him. No f**king way I was turning my back on him now.

“Oh, I can help you, Rylee. Besides, it wasn’t one of mine who stole the girl, I can tell you that much.” He paused and took a long slow breath as if tasting the air. “You see, I just want a taste of the good stuff. The blood all the daywalkers and vamps sing about when we get together for our yearly convention.” His eyes, they were full of laughter. He was having fun with this, teasing me.

“Only one blood sucker has ever bitten me, and he’s no more,” I said, sure of myself.

Of course, he blew that out of the water with what he said next.

“Rylee, Rylee. You don’t understand.” Laughing, he stood and started toward me. For each step he took, I stepped back. “All of us blood suckers, as you call us, are connected by the same blood. So when he bit you” —he reached out for me and I batted his hand away— “we all knew just how delicious you were. It’s what got him killed. He was so caught up in your blood singing through his veins, he didn’t recognize the danger of having a witch behind him.”

The door bumped against my back. I twisted the handle, but it was slippery under my sweaty fingers, making it impossible to turn.

Doran lunged forward, pinning my body to the door with his own. “I won’t hurt you, Rylee, I promise, you will like the bite I give you.”

Nope, not doing this again.

Kicking out, I caught him just below the knee. The bone crunched under my foot; he screamed and I caught a glimpse of fangs. Spinning out of his reach, I put the fire between us. The worst part of this was that I couldn’t just leave. I needed him to give me an entry point into the other side of the veil. I pulled my blade, holding it at the ready, eyes narrowed, ready to do what damage I had to without killing him.

Doran limped toward me, a grimace on his face. “I don’t have time for this. I forgot how damn touchy your type are.”

My ears perked up. “You aren’t going to try that again?”

With a grunt he slid into a heavily cushioned chair. “Joints are the hardest thing to heal. They are never a clean break and take a lot of energy to put the pieces back together.”

“Why would you tell me that?”

“I get the feeling you might need the info when you go after this girl,” he said, his hand rubbing his knee.

Hmm. Interesting. And what had he meant by my type? Like blood type? Or that I was a Tracker and an Immune?

“Let’s keep this simple, Rylee. I want your blood. I’d love to sink my fangs in you . . . amongst other things.” His gaze held mine and a burst of heat whipped through me. Damn, he was good if he could rile me up even after freaking the hell out of me.

“Don’t even think it,” I said, tearing my eyes from his.

“I will settle for you donating into a cup for me.” He pointed at a table across the room. Sitting there, as if he’d known I wouldn’t go for the whole ‘bite me, do me’ routine, was a crystal flower vase with a straight razor beside it.

Swallowing hard, I let out a sharp puff of air. “Okay. But I will fill it half up. Then, you will tell me my entry point, and I will fill it the rest of the way.”

Winking at me, he settled deeper into the chair, one hand massaging the knee I’d busted. Stupid daywalker, my fear was giving way to anger.

The crystal vase sparkled in the light, sending rainbows of colour skittering across the table. Pretty.

Rolling up my left sleeve, I ignored the razor he’d laid out for me and pulled a knife out of my boot. It was clean, sharper than the razor and, better than both those things, I knew it had no added substances on it. Like a drug that would knock me out and leave me vulnerable to Doran’s fangs.

With a swift slice, I cut across my arm, deep enough that I didn’t feel it at first. The blood welled in the groove I’d cut; I placed it over the vase, and then I felt the first sting. With every ounce of my self-control, I kept my arm dripping into the crystal vase while keeping an eye on Doran. At the halfway mark, I nodded at him. Holding the knife cut shut, I moved my arm away from the vase.

“Okay, spill,” I said. My arm dripped blood on the floor; somehow I knew that would drive Doran nuts, the wasting of “good blood.” I was right.

He started to splutter and stood up. “Put your arm back over the vase.”

“Tell me my entry point.” I felt the distinct shift of power move from him to me.

His eyes dilated and his mouth hung slightly open, fangs extending, like a junkie staring at his next fix. No response.

I let go of the cut and let the blood drip to the floor, then scuffed it with my boot. “I can let the next half pint fall to the floor and technically, I’ve fulfilled the bargain.”

Licking his lips, he gestured with his hand, waving me back to the vase. “A mineshaft. You’ll find the closest entry point to her in a mineshaft.”

Well, that only narrowed my search down a bit. Coal was plentiful in North Dakota, and along with that came a lot of mineshafts. Some known, some not so known.

“No other details?” I squeezed out another few drops onto the floor. It hurt, but his response was worth it.

“Stop! Okay, put your arm over the damn vase, Tracker,” he snapped, his eyes glittering with anger.

“You’re going to actually help me? Rather than just give vague answers?”

Nodding emphatically, he again gestured. “Just stop wasting that blood.”

Placing my arm back over the vase, I let the blood run. With every pump of my heart, a gentle flow slid out. I’d cut deep, but not into an artery or it’d be spurting blood—though I was going to have to make a side trip to the hospital for stitches after this.

Doran came to stand behind me, his body close enough that I could feel the heat off his body. Unlike their counterparts whose skin was cool and tended to be clammy, daywalkers ran hot. Not that I knew that from a personal introduction; I’d never had to deal with a true vampire. They were rare, deadly, and didn’t tend to leave their territories. Not to mention daywalkers were weaker, more human and less badass blood suckers.