Authors: Shannon Mayer
PRAISE FOR RISING DARKNESS
“Shannon Mayer’s Rylee Adamson paranormal romances keep me glued to the page. Rylee is a kick-ass character who loves with her whole heart and reminds me of my own Rose Gardner—a collector and protector of lost and broken souls. Every new book is better than the last and I always finish her latest book hungry for more.”
-Denise Grover Swank
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author
“The Rylee Adamson Novels are filled with a wonderfully detailed and rich paranormal world with engaging characters, a fast paced plot and lots of action. A must read for urban fantasy lovers.”
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author
“If you love the early Anita Blake novels by Laurel K. Hamilton, you will fall head over heels for The Rylee Adamson Series. Rylee is a complex character with a tough, kick-ass exterior, a sassy temperament and morals which she never deviates from. She’s the ultimate heroine. Mayer’s books rank right up there with Kim Harrison’s, Patricia Brigg’s, and Ilona Andrew’s. Get ready for a whole new take on Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance and be ready to be glued to the pages!”
-Just My Opinion Book Blog
Thank you to my editors, cover artist, assistant, and family. You all put up with me and my crazy ways, my too tight deadlines, my crazy ways (yes, I meant to put that twice). And through it all, you all help me to keep doing what I love. Thank you!
The Rylee Adamson Novels are not written as standalone novels. While each book MAY be read on its own, to get a comprehensive understanding of characters and their interactions, I always advise to read the series in order. As the characters do make repeat appearances, I’ve decided to add in a state-of-the-art feature to refresh your memory when necessary.
In the digital editions of The Rylee Adamson Novels, the reader will come across occasional hyperlinks when a character first appears. Clicking on this underscored text will take the reader to a brief description of the character and how they relate to Rylee, for those interested in getting a reminder of characters and past events. Just hit your back button or click on the name in the character list to return to the spot you were reading.
However, these links are in no way necessary to understanding and enjoying each book on its own or The Rylee Adamson storyline. The ebook format has allowed the opportunity to utilize this state-of-the-art functionality in a way that has been impossible in the print world. I hope this feature enhances your enjoyment of The Rylee Adamson Novels.
“Remember my child, that the darkest hour of all is the hour before the day breaks.”
It is highly recommended by the author that prior to reading “Rising Darkness”, you have completed reading
“Stitched: (A Rylee Adamson Novella 8.5)
because the events that unfold in the novella lead directly into the beginning of this book.
reathing was difficult;
the scent of death filled the air, sticking to the inside of my nose. I rubbed the back of my hand over my mouth, fighting the churning roll of my stomach. Around me, bodies were strewn about on cots, like dolls tossed from a child’s toy chest, scattered without care.
A tight band circled my chest, the anxiety I’d fought for the last six months surging upward, choking off my air. There was no way we could help everyone, no way to stop the raging plague. I walked as if in a dream, my eyes taking in what was in front of me for the first time in a long time. Seeing what was truly happening.
Pustules littered the bodies, moans rumbled in rattling chests, pale, thin skin pulled tightly from the inability to swallow around the pox inside the throat. Yet we weren’t here to try and save these children, not really. We were here to make sure they didn’t become possessed.
They were the ones the demons would take over in a few short days. That was
they didn’t die first.
They laid on their tiny beds, pitiful in their pain, tears trickling from their swollen eyes. Nurses moved between the beds, here and there a parent sat with a child, yet there was nothing any of them could do.
Dressed as a volunteer with my yellow nametag, I moved to the child closest to me and laid a hand on her head.
“Hello, my name is
She barely registered I was even there, her body fighting the disease as best it could. I wondered if she had any family left. That was how bad it had gotten. The world was being decimated at a rate the World Health Organization couldn’t keep up with. Ebola had nothing on this plague.
A resurgence of smallpox had spread, as only a demon driven disease could. At least that was what
said, and I had no reason not to believe her. The demons had started it, sent it forth, and even though most of them were locked in the deepest level of the veil, they had gotten the ball rolling. The demons who’d been cut off and stuck on this side of the veil were keeping the disease alive and well.
A flash of movement stopped my musing and brought me to my knees. Between the children in front of me was
, a sad smile on his lips, watching me, seeing through me. I closed my eyes, counted to ten, and opened them again. He was gone and I could breathe once more. I knew it was just in my head, but it felt real. And it scared me.
The little girl in front of me groaned, her cry turning into a pitiful whimper. Healing was not my strong point, yet Deanna asked me to keep trying even though it was the smallest ability I had.
She kept pushing me to try and do things that I either couldn’t, or didn’t want to learn. I stroked the little girl’s head, focusing my magic on repairing the damage within her body, trying to bring her back into balance. I yanked at the magic, forcing it to do my bidding, stuffing it into the little girl. Within seconds, the effort brought sweat to my face.
“Damn you, Deanna, I am terrible at this. Why would you make me heal?” I whispered as the little girl’s skin lightened to a healthy pink, and the pustules faded to tiny scars. I slumped against the bed, breathing hard. I could throw fireballs all day without feeling a hint of fatigue, but healing sucked me dry in minutes. And that was if I could manage it at all. Anger flared through me, but not at Deanna. “Damn you,
, for leaving us here.”
At first, I’d been glad she’d left. I’d been so afraid to face her for what I’d done to Liam. But as the days, weeks, and months passed, I began to hate her. For leaving us, for letting us face this hell on our own. But more than anything, because I needed her.
I needed someone strong enough to help me. The darkness
had said would make a bid for me . . . she’d been right, and now the moment had come. But someone had stepped up to help me, probably the only person who could. The only person as strong as me, and with far more experience.
would be the one to help me turn back the darkness, not Rylee.
Shouting erupted outside in the main ward, someone going psychotic with pain and fear, no doubt; it wasn’t the first time. Nurses ran out, not even seeing me. I stood, wobbling, and moved to the next child.
I repeated the process, bringing the worst of the children back from the brink—barely. I couldn’t do any more, the magic flat out ignoring me when I tried to help the final child in the row. My body and heart were drained of everything I had to give. I lay my head next to the child I’d just healed—another girl—and closed my eyes. “I will just rest for a moment.” That was what I said, but that isn’t what happened. I fell asleep, fatigue from the continuous work sucking me under.
Hands scooped me up, startling me, and I automatically wrapped my arms around his neck. The ward was dark, the glow of the monitors and machines the only light.
held me, his face lit by the tiny blinking lights. Seeing me watching him, he gave me a wink. “Come on, little witch, you’ve done your duty today.” He smiled, and I relaxed until he laughed. “What, are you finally tired enough to not demand to be put down?”
I struggled, but it was a half-hearted effort. “I can walk.”
Having the leader of the vampire nation pack me around was a strange thing. Yet, there he was, doing just that. He took me out of the hospital and gently lowered me until my feet touched the pavement. I stumbled away from him, jerking from him when he went to steady me.
He held his hands up. “Prickly witch.”
I turned my back on him.
All around us, triage was set up. Deanna and what was left of her druids were healing people as best they could without the humans getting suspicious. They would take those who were just showing symptoms and clear them of the plague, stopping at least a few points of infection. To me, it was more than futile. It was a waste of resources. I shook my head and carefully made my way to my tent that flapped in a sudden gust of warm night wind.
The summer had hit full force and the heat had gone off the charts, leaving those who were sick struggling even more. I had to give it to
, if he wanted to “save” the world, even I was ready for him to do so. The humans would have handed anyone the keys to their world if that person could stop the smallpox from continuing its worldwide dominance.
I pushed my way into my tent, not bothering to seal the flap shut behind me. I wanted the breeze to come in and cool the sweat dripping down my spine, gathering at the backs of my knees.
On the table in front of me were my worksheets Deanna had me read every chance I got. How to nullify a vow. How to heal. How to hold an attack away from you. All things she thought I should know. I crinkled them up and tossed the balled paper across the room. “Useless.”
The thump of a tail on the bare floor caught my attention.
, are you going to talk to me today?” I bent to run a hand over his black fur, gently rubbing his ears. His golden eyes were dull and he shook his head. “Please?” A part of me felt like maybe things wouldn’t feel so dim if he would speak.
He curled around his body, bushy tail flipped over his face so only the tops of his eyes were visible.
I sat down beside him. “I miss her too, you know.”
He let out a whimper.
Why I kept trying, I’m not sure. Six months and he hadn’t spoken a word. Yet I couldn’t help but keep asking him. “She’s probably not coming back.” And there was the other truth I spoke to no one but Alex. “She’s smart, she wants to save herself, that’s why Liam died. So she could live.”
He pulled away from my hands, grumbling under his breath and I froze.
“What did you say?” Maybe insulting Rylee would do the trick. I licked my lips. “If she loved us, she wouldn’t have left, she would have taken us with her.”
His back hunched and the fur stood on end, his body quivering.
I stood, anger rushing through me, and I realized I wasn’t just saying these things to get a reaction from him. I believed them. “Rylee is a bitch; she left us here to face all this alone. ALONE! I hate her!”
Alex spun, lunged at me, and knocked me down. I hit the ground hard, wind knocked out of me, and when I tried to roll, he pinned me easily, his weight bearing down on my shoulders. Snarling, his mouth was right in my face, long canines bared, saliva dripping on my face.
But he didn’t say a word. Really, he didn’t need to; the unspoken words were enough.
“Get off me, Alex!” I slapped his face and then picked him up with a flick of my fingers, holding him there in the air.
Snarling, he tried to lunge at me again, and another piece of my heart broke. “She left us, and you would still choose her over me?”
He closed his mouth, a low snarl rumbling out of his chest as he strained against the magic holding him tight.
I swiped a tear away. “Fine. Go find someone else to bother, you stupid, retarded wolf.”
I put him down and pointed at the door. He stalked, stiff-legged, out of the tent. I waited a full minute, standing there, biting back all that hurt that welled in me. Abandoned.
I fell on my bed and buried my face into the pillow, catching my sobs until I fell into an exhausted sleep.
A hand stroked my cheek, gentle, soft.
“Can you hear me, Pamela?”
I knew the voice, and as always wondered how she knew when I needed her.
“Milly?” I opened my eyes and saw I was dreaming. Milly sat beside me, wearing a long black dress cut low over her generous breasts and pulled snug through the waist, accentuated by a silver threaded corset. We were in a sumptuous room. The bed I was on was soft, the sheets slippery under my hands. She sat on the edge, one hand on my head.
A smile flickered over her lips. “I thought maybe you could use a friend.”
The sob that caught in my throat spilled out as she gathered me into her arms. “Shh, child. I am here for you. I will teach you. But you can’t tell anyone, or they would take me from you too. And we don’t want that.” She stroked my hair and I let her, as if I were a little girl instead of a nearly grown witch.
I wiped my eyes and leaned back. “How did you know?”
“That you needed help?” She tipped her head and her eyes took me in from top to bottom. “I was once in your place, and those I Ioved turned against me, too. Rylee, she tried to kill me, and then she took my son. I . . . .” She bowed her head, a hand over her mouth and her shoulders shook. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly as she’d done for me only moments before. She was like me, treated wrong, sent away.
“I’ll help you, I’ll help you get him back.” I whispered the words, knowing that was what she wanted without her even asking.
“You would do that?”
“Rylee doesn’t care about me. Why shouldn’t I help you?”
“Then I will train you. You will be the most powerful witch this world has ever seen. Stronger than even me.” Her eyes lit up and I thought, for a moment, I saw a glimmer of something in their depths. A writhing black snake that flicked its tongue at me.
I shook my head and looked to her eyes again. No, they were the clear, spring green they had always been. “I want to learn. I want to take care of those who love me, to protect them.”
“But not Rylee,” Milly said, her face a mask of seriousness.
I shook my head, knowing I’d finally found my place. “No, I won’t protect her anymore.”
Yet as Milly set to teaching me, right then, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d made the right choice.
What if Rylee came back?
What would I do then?
No, she was never coming back, so those questions I would never have to answer.