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Tracker(Rylee Adamson #6)(14) by Shannon Mayer

Sweat slid down the back of my neck as I did my best to keep the truck on the road. As the tires slid off the pavement and onto the gravel, the truck finally gained traction and I was able to give it some actual direction.

One more fishtail as the truck settled onto the road, and we were good. I glanced in the rearview mirf trearvieror, expecting the black sedan to be on our asses. But the road was blessedly empty.

Less than a half hour later, we were bouncing and sliding across the badlands, and I was doing my best not to get us stuck. Even with the four-wheel drive, I knew there were holes and slush that would suck us down with ease. Ahead, I could see the edge of the mineshaft peeking out of the fresh blanket of snow. Almost a foot in fewer than twenty-four hours. It didn’t seem that long since we’d crawled out the mineshaft with the ogres in tow.

I put the truck in park, and Alex and I jumped out. I sank to my knees in the snow and had to slog my way through to the top of the mineshaft. I had a sudden vision of coming back through the mineshaft, the tall FBI woman with mocha skin at the top with a gun waiting for us.

Shit, that would not be good. There was a chance the phone wasn’t a tracking device, and it was not a chance I was willing to take. Not with my life, or Alex’s.

I swallowed hard and sent out a silent call to Blaz, knowing even though he was at the barn, he could hear me being this close.

Tracker, where are you?

I licked my lips and concentrated on forming the words clearly in my mind, finally gave up and just looked at the mineshaft.

There was a pause before he answered. Yes, I see it. But what is that in your mind about Faris?

Oh, fuck a duck, that was the last thing I needed, Blaz on a rampage after the vampire for being, well, Faris. I blocked everything to do with Faris and concentrated on the mineshaft and a desire for Blaz to keep an eye on the place while I was on the other side to keep it clear of anything nasty.

I waited, hoping he didn’t pursue the Faris thread. The downside of Blaz was he could be inside my brain and there wasn’t much I could do about it. All part of the bonding between him and me.

Yes, I will check. But I’d rather not leave the farm unless I’m needed.

“What the hell?” I grumbled and apparently that went through loud and clear.

We can discuss it later; it is not urgent. But I am … somewhat in hiding.

My eyebrows shot up and I leaned my hands on the mineshaft edge. Hiding? What the hell could a dragon be hiding from?

An image of a large, red dragon flashed inside my head, then was gone before I could be certain of what I saw.

“Fine. Hide. We can ‘discuss’ this when I get back.”

Eve is not back yet; that is another reason to stay where I am. There was a slight overlay of worry in his thoughts, amusing since he ate Harpies on a regular basis.

I Tracked her and felt her not too far from us actually, out with the Tamoskin Crush. The unicorn group wouldn’t hurt her, of that I was certain. Not after their future leader Calypso had brought the Harpy back to life. Eve’s emotions were smooth, and while not necessarily happy, she was at least calm and not afraid.

I let him see her, feel her emotions and that she was not far. Through me, he could in a sense “Track” as well. This was so damn frustrating, not being able to speak like he did. Seemed some things didn’t go both ways. As it was, I did my best to soothe him.

“Don’t worry about her, she’ll be fine,” I said out loud.

I almost felt him snort. I wasn’t worried about the Harpy. I knew you would worry about her.

“Whatever,” I muttered, then called Alex to my side. There were still ropes leading down into the shaft from the last time. Probably not the safest practice, but hell, not many people wandered the badlands this time of year.

I tested the ropes. “Alex, can you …” I trailed off as he expertly wrapped the rope into a harness, holding it out for me to finish off the knots.

“Alex watches Boss.”

Well, I’ll be damned. After I tied the knots, Alex climbed carefully over the edge and lowered himself down. Like he’d done it a hundred times. Shit, that was a hell of a lot easier than I had planned. The werewolf could still surprise me. Then again, he was growing up in a way, losing his submissiveness, and as it went, he became more mature. Day by day, he seemed to be gaining back his humanity, and with it I was losing the goofy werewolf who’d shown up on my doorstep two years ago.

Again, I set my thoughts aside to pay attention to what was in front of us.

The cave was no different than any day before, but it felt different. More than likely it was the backwards footprints we followed. Every now and then I saw the outline of an ogre’s foot, and I found myself wondering which of the boys it was; my heart aching for their loss, and had to push it away. One day I would honor all those who had fallen, all those I’d loved and lost.

One day. Just not today.

Alex and I crossed the veil with no difficulty, sliding through without anything pushing us to cross. Of course, that didn’t mean what was waiting for us on the other side wasn’t difficult.

Worse, it wasn’t Doran.

Chapter 7

The castle was quiet—eerily so—and the stiff hair on the back of my neck told me it wasn’t a good thing. For the moment, I ignored my gut. On our side, the doorway from North Dakota opened onto the first floor of the castle. Nothing fancy. But we needed New Mexico and that meant descending the stairs into the dungeon. A walk I’d taken more than a few times lately. Again, I was surprised at the quiet. Not that the castle tended to be noisy.

“Alex, you smell anything?” I paused at the juncture of three hallways, the torch in my hand burning the pitch with a spitting hiss releasing the scent of pine into the air.

Alex sat back on his haunches and sniffed the air several times, tipping his face toward one hallway after the other. “Funny air.”

“Yeah. I got that much.” We were in a hurry, but I had a feeling something was off. Which meant I had to look into it, I couldn’t just leave it alone. I set the torch into a wall sconce and pulled a sword free. With one finger to my lips, I signaled Alex to follow me with a head jerk. He tiptoed, taking in long breaths as we went. I didn’t think about where I was headed, just followed my instincts.

We stood at another intersection, this time with a flight of ascending stairs. My gut tightened as I stared the steps.

“Here we go.” I crept up, feeling the, _e tension rise as I went, the tingling sensation of imminent danger I knew all too well working its way along the edge of my nerve endings.