Home > Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(13)

Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(13)
Author: Cassie Alexander

“I don’t know how you expect me to repay you when I don’t have anything to repay you with.”

“Ah, but you do, and you’ll pay the price I ask,” Dren began. He leered, and I could see his fangs, longer than his other teeth. “We hear King Winter himself is in repose on your floor. Get me royal werewolf blood, or I’ll drain your brother dry.”

I swallowed and took a step back. “But—you can’t—you’re not allowed.”

“Just because it’s not allowed doesn’t mean that anyone will stop me in time. Trust me, I can be quite fast.” He unholstered the sickle he wore and twirled its handle in his one good hand so the blade made a golden circle, spinning in the light. “I wonder if royal blood is really blue?” He rolled the r in royal with mocking condescension. “I’ve never eaten that high up the food chain before.”

“But—why?”

He stopped spinning the blade and tilted his head to look at me in an insectile fashion, far removed from any humanity I knew. “It’s that or your brother’s life. Does your curiosity matter?”

If Jake fell by himself again, I could maybe stomach that. I’d been instrumental in keeping him afloat for so long, no one could blame me for being tired. But if I had a part in his death because of something I could have done here? I would never forgive myself. There was pride in my work, and honor … and then there was family. “How much?” I heard myself ask, before I’d even fully thought it through.

“That’s my girl. Let’s say a fat drop.”

“Wet or dry?”

Dren laughed cruelly. “Surprise me.”

I had no idea how I was going to smuggle blood out of a room where I wasn’t the primary nurse—one that might, if Gina’s guess was right, have guards outside the door by now. “If I do this, are we done?”

“Oh, no. You’ll still owe me—but we can deal with those payments later.” He holstered his weapon.

I inhaled. “Dren—tell me why?”

“If I told you now, I’d have to kill you, girl, and that’s the truth.” He pondered for a moment, for show, flipping the collar of his coat up against the dregs of the evening sun. “I would say I wouldn’t enjoy it, but that would be a lie.”

He tugged his hat brim lower and walked out into the last of the day.

* * *

Fuck f**k f**k. I considered things on the elevator ride to Y4. Luckily, since I was coming in for the end of a P.M. shift, the locker room was empty. I checked the bathroom too, just in case, then made a furtive call.

“Daytimer central, here for all your nefarious deeds,” a woman’s voice answered me in a singsong.

“Sike? Is Anna there?” I said.

“She’s in seclusion,” Sike said. It sounded like she was packing in the background—drawers were being opened, and fabric rustled.

“Sike, I saw Dren.”

“Really?” She made a thoughtful purring noise. “I haven’t seen him in a while. How is he? Does he seem lonely?”

“He wants me to get him a sample of werewolf blood from the hospital.”

“Hrmph. No accounting for taste.” The sounds of packing continued.

“He says if I don’t do it, he’ll drain my brother.” I couldn’t tell her precisely what was happening on Y4 right now, but surely she understood why I’d called. Just because I wanted Anna to thrive didn’t mean I wanted to be bullied by the whims of every other vampire.

“That sounds like a moral quandary for you.” There was the sound like the closing of a closet door.

“It’s not.” I frowned at the locker room floor. Should it be more of one? It should, and yet—“Sike, after Anna’s ceremony, will you all be able to protect me from him?”

She paused in her actions again, on the far end of the line. “I don’t know. We’ll need to talk to Anna. But—”

“She’s in seclusion. Great.”

“You’ll have your answer in less than a week. And what’s a little blood between friends?” Sike said, hanging up. Sike and I hadn’t gotten along the past few times we’d met. I don’t know why I’d thought this phone call would be an exception.

My phone’s screen jumped to show me the time. I was late. Fuck.

I changed scrubs and put my leftovers in the Y4 break room fridge, then ran up to trauma ICU, repeating a mantra to myself: Only four hours, holiday pay, only four hours, holiday pay.

It’s always strange to be a float on another unit. I’d floated around enough to be able to find a saline flush within twenty feet of anywhere in the hospital, but each floor had its own peculiar habits, and its own people you learned you did not want to cross.

I knew from prior experience that the charge nurse for the trauma ICU was one of them. You know how some people played the game where they added the phrase in bed at the end of fortune cookies? You could add the phrase are you stupid? to everything she said. She just had that intonation.

I pushed through the doors and made my way to the charge nurse’s desk.

“Edie Spence, I’m floating here tonight.”

The charge nurse ignored me. “You’re late.” Are you stupid?

“Sorry. Traffic.” We both knew on Christmas Day, it was a lie. She pointed without looking up.

“Your assignment’s on the board, your break is at nine. Don’t be late, or you won’t get it.”

“Gotcha. Thanks.”

I wrote down the room number I was responsible for and trotted down the hall.

* * *

Trauma was always loud—even louder than Y4, and the noise here was around the clock. I’d never been here before when there wasn’t an admit going on, and someone being discharged to make room for someone new. There were the normal hospital sounds, machines, pumps, ventilators, but above and beyond that—chatting, crying, chat-crying. Visitors. They were what sucked most about coming in early. Visitors were never good. Even when they were happy there’d always be something. It was one thing to consider yourself a highly skilled waitress with access to narcotics—it was another for someone else to treat you like it. Repeatedly.

Still, it was Christmas. And sad things were happening here, by virtue of the fact that it was trauma. You could ask visitors to tone it down, but you could hardly throw them all out.

I made my way down the floor to my assignment. I wasn’t very surprised when my echolocation of the loudest visitors found them inside my room. Of course—because I was the float.

As a float nurse, you were either given the easiest patients because they didn’t trust you, the hardest because they didn’t care if you drowned, or the ones with the worst family members, because everyone else was over dealing with them. I stood in the doorway of my assigned room and looked inside.

There were rosaries hanging on all the IV poles. An entire Latino family was in here, but most of the noise came from one older woman crying, wailing the ancient refrain of Why God, Why. Everyone at the hospital wanted answers from God, and He was never around to give them. She looked up at my entrance, and I could see where her tears and overzealous use of Kleenex had completely wiped away one of her makeup eyebrows. An older man was pacing beside her, and a younger woman stood at the head of the bed, petting my patient’s cheek. The nurse I was replacing was across from her, programming an IV pump.

“Hello?” I knocked on the doorway, and the nurse inside came out.

She kept her report brusque and devoid of emotion. Seen it all, done it all was the motto of the trauma ICU nurse. Innocent bystander syndrome. Gangbanger fight. Gunshot wound to the spine. Paralyzed now, and losing sensation as the swelling continues. On pressors to keep his blood pressure high.

The trauma from the gunshot, the bullet’s cavitations, or the subsequent swelling had done an odd number on his spine. It had already rendered him unable to move, and as his injury progressed his ability to feel was being stolen away from him, one centimeter at a time. The outgoing nurse and I checked the IV drips together and probed along his side. When we found the spot where feeling ended, we drew another dot with a purple Sharpie, like we were turning him into a connect-the-dots paper doll, one dot after the next. The wailing in Spanish didn’t stop.

I took advantage of the old nurse leaving the room to leave myself, co-signing the chart, rifling through the history and progress notes.

Truth was, I was hiding.

In nursing school we went to some cultural classes, but they weren’t so much about learning about other cultures as they were Being Nice to people with different beliefs. That part had worked so well that I could now Be Nice to vampires, so surely I could deal with anything here. But part of me always remembered that time I’d asked a patient if he was frijoles, instead of frío.

I read the chart for a bit, trying to look official, and found out what I already knew: Javier Rodriguez, male, aged eighteen, was inside. And this would be the last night he had feeling below his neck.

I closed the chart, said a silent prayer hoping that the doctors had already answered all of the hard questions in eloquent Spanish, and went inside.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Javier had short dark hair and wide shoulders. He was dressed in a hospital gown and had a plastic collar on, protecting his neck from any pressure or torque.

Standing over him and stroking his hair was his sister—or maybe his girlfriend. She was strikingly beautiful. High, precise brows over wide, heavily made-up eyes; lips outlined in red, with the lipstick fading in between, from time spent kissing Javier’s forehead. Her straight black hair spilled down the bed to his armpits.

“Hi. I’m Edie, I’m going to be your nurse for the next four hours,” I said over the sound of his crying mother. He grunted.

I ran the blood pressure cuff, took his temperature, felt for pulses, listened to lungs. A small dressing beneath his right clavicle was stained with the color of old blood. I took a Sharpie and drew its boundaries, just in case it opened up again.

   
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