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Tracker(Rylee Adamson #6)(4) by Shannon Mayer

I put him down and crouched beside him, wipolding my face dry. “Charlie, how the fuck did you survive?”

“What are you talking about?” Liam asked.

Charlie tipped his head and arched an eyebrow at me. “Didn’t tell them, did yous?”

“No time.” Which was true and not.

“Yous better tell them. Only way now. Cause even if you don’ts, I wills for ya.” Charlie pushed himself back onto the couch and settled in.

Alex and Pamela came in from the other room. Alex waved at the brownie, then ran over to him, putting his head into the small man’s lap. “Hiya, Charlie!”

Charlie patted his head. “Hiya back, foolish wolf.”

I cleared my throat, thought about the oaths I’d made to Faris. “Charlie, you tell them. I don’t want to start breaking my word. Even to that asshat.”

The brownie nodded and gave me a wink. “I gets it. Long story short, Faris threatened Rylee that if she don’ts help him find the Blood, which is the only way he can secure the throne, he will kill all those that’s she loves.”

Liam snorted. “And you believed him?”

Charlie tapped his wooden leg against the couch. “He snatched me and tossed me through the veil into the lava to make sure she agreed to help him.”

“Who did, Orion?” Milly came in from the kitchen, her right hand at her neck, fingers pressed into her skin until the tips were white.

“No, Faris,” Liam growled at her.

Stillness fell on the room, and the air cooled. Giselle’s spirit guides didn’t like this kind of talk; that much was clear.

“Listen,” I said. “I’d planned to run this by you all, there just hasn’t really been a moment to say ‘Hey, the fucking vampire is trying to blackmail me so we need to find a way around his shit’ with what happened at the farm.”

Liam touched my lower back, giving me support. “I know. And I believe you, but Charlie, that still doesn’t explain how you survived.”

The brownie smiled wider yet, his eyes sparkling as if he were going to tell us a particularly dirty joke. “Well, yous see, I don’t think vampires knows toos much abouts brownies. If he did, he’d be knowing that brownies use doorways and windows as a way to jump around. An opening through the veil, it justs bees another kind of doorway.”

Pamela laughed softly. “Cocky vampire—even I know how brownies move around.”

Milly laughed softly, shaking her head. “He was always over confident. I knew it would bite him someday.”

I didn’t join in the laughter, and neither did Liam. He shared a quick glance with me, his silvery golden eyes full of questions. No doubt the same ones that rattled and tumbled in my head.

Of all the things Faris was, and there were a lot of things I’d call him, stupid was not on the list.

He had to have known Charlie would save himself, would show up here and tell us he was alive.

So why the fuck would he do it?

I slumped into the closest chair, understanding washing over me. He’d gotten me to speak oaths, oaths I would be bound to because of my very nature. And he’d sealed my belief by “killing” Charlie.

“It doesn’t matter if he’s not really threatening all of you.” I ran a hand through my hair, catching on a knot but not really feeling it. “He got me to say I would help him. And hatlp him.he will hold me to that.”

Milly put her hands on her hips. “You can’t be serious? You can’t help him now!”

Charlie surprised me, lifting his hand. “Besides these oaths yous spoke, that’s not really the issue. You hold a choice, Rylee. Whos will lead the vampires: a child gone mad with power and a belief she should rule all the world, or a man who is fighting to lead his people and keep them safe, and keep the humans ignorant of the supernatural a little whiles longer?”

If I thought the air had gone still before, it was nothing compared to the ice that crept into the room.

“There has to be another choice,” Liam said.

I slumped even deeper into the chair, feeling the truth of both Liam’s and Charlie’s words. What they said cut to the core of the problem. There was no third choice, no dark horse to bring up the rear and be better than both Faris and Berget.

“Fuck, Charlie, you’re right. One of them has to lead, and if I have to choose, it won’t be Berget. It can’t be.”

Milly stared hard at me. “You’d help Faris, after all he’s done?”

I glared at her, anger icing my words. “I haven’t killed you yet, witch, after all you’ve done. And unless you have someone better to lead the vampires, we don’t have a fucking choice.”

Her teeth snapped shut and she flushed along her cheeks. Point for me.

Liam sat on the edge of my chair, partially blocking me from Milly. Subtle—not so much. But I understood he would never fully trust her, and he was there to protect me, even from her.

Charlie jumped off the couch and strode toward me, his wooden leg only giving him a slight limp. “I’ve gots to bees getting back to me abode. I just wanted to sees that yous was all right, Rylee. And to tell yous I is all right.”

“You aren’t staying?” Pamela looked to me as if I were going to stop him. “There’s a war coming, Charlie, and we need everyone. Even you.”

The brownie glanced at her, then at me. “Read the prophecies, did yas?”

I frowned, irritation flowing through me. “Does everyone damn well know about those fucking prophecies except me?”

He shrugged and gave me a half smile. “Part of why I wanted to works with yous, Rylee. I knew what you were the minute I laid eyes on yous, not just a Tracker, but the one that would bees saving our world. When yous need me and all me brethren to fight, we’ll be there.” As he passed my chair, he patted my hand. “It’ll work out, Rylee. I believes it.” Charlie stepped through the archway between the living room and the hallway and disappeared. No puff of smoke, no twist in the air, not even a feeling of power.

Just gone.

Milly sucked in a deep breath. “He didn’t bend the veil to jump it.”

Shit. “Is that how it’s done?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

She looked at me, and then shook her head. “You don’t want to know how to jump the veil, Rylee. The cost is too great.”