Home > Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(8)

Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(8)
Author: Cassie Alexander

* * *

From my position near the door, gun at my shoulder but barrel pointed down, I could hear the end of Gina’s report. In a way, I was relived to be holding the rifle—despite my poor track record in shooting things on Y4 and at the range, it was easier than managing eight separate IV drips. We were supporting him in every way possible, keeping his blood pressure up but not too high, tracking his insulin every hour, running in antibiotics that I didn’t even recognize the names of. It sounded like Winter had a lot more wrong with him than just a straight trauma.

And at the end of it, I heard the term LKA. I blinked, and looked harder at Winter. Sure enough, under the sheets, his left lower leg was gone, amputated below the knee. The accident had turned Karl Winter into a three-legged dog. It sounded like it ought to be the punch line of some joke, but I doubted Winter would find it funny when and if he woke.

There was the rustling of paper and the chart check behind me, and then the drawers of the metal isolation cart slamming as Gina pulled on her gear.

“I don’t suppose you got any range time in between now and the last time we did this.” Gina’s voice didn’t sound like she was kidding. She was in nurse mode now, and although we were something that almost passed for friends, I wouldn’t press things tonight.

“I was a little too busy to go through my allotment of bullets this month,” I admitted. Our jobs at Y4 came with access to ammo and free time at the range. We both knew I was an awful shot. “I’ll make up for it by standing close.”

“Sounds good,” Gina said, though I noticed the first thing she did was dial Winter’s sedation up.

I watched her check the lines and then check her patient. It was strange watching another nurse do her job while I was hampered by the gun. The nearer she got to him, the tighter my finger felt around the trigger.

“How is he?”

“Rough.” She shone a bright light into each of his eyes. “There’s some brain function—he’s initiating some breaths on his own, but the ventilator’s doing most of the work of breathing. It’s hard to say if there’s anybody home.”

“When will we know?”

Gina shrugged. “Full moon?”

“Oy.” I tried to imagine myself standing here, a rifle halfway up my shoulder, on and off for the next six nights. I’d wind up having a hunchback.

“They think the bleeding in his brain’s stopped at least.”

“Why’d they have to take his leg?”

“Were-limbs are hard as hell to reattach. Their stupid healing powers—it’s like working with superglue, and gluing your fingers together instead of your project. You stick the limb on, it adheres, but none of the blood vessels talk to one another on the inside, and then it gets infected and just falls off…” Gina’s voice drifted off as she leaned in, listening to him breathe. “It’s one thing if the patient’s awake and can control himself, slow it down. Entirely another if he’s out and he’s in shock.”

I waited till she took the stethoscope out of her ears to ask my questions. “Wait. I’m confused. Why didn’t he just heal himself up at the scene?”

“The brain injury stuff—I think that prevented him. The surprise, then the damage—who can say?” She gestured to her own head, then looped the stethoscope over one of the IV poles. “Plus, he’s old.”

“He doesn’t look that old.” Sure, he looked sixty, but that wasn’t that old nowadays. Hell, there were whole wings of County that were filled with people over seventy-two.

“Edie, he’s the oldest were I’ve ever seen alive.” She stripped off her gear and stepped outside. I walked backward and set my back against the doorjamb. My left arm was already aching from holding the rifle at half-mast.

“How old is he?”

“Fifty-eight.”

“My mom is fifty-eight. Fifty-eight is the new twenty.”

Gina snorted, which was nice because it let me know she still had a sense of humor. “Werewolves run down as they age. The metabolic processes their transformations require of them—it’s not easy running like that, always overhot. They live in dog years. Our No Info is way older than they usually get to be.”

“Oh! That reminds me—Meaty told me to tell you his name is Karl Winter.”

Behind me, I heard Gina suck air through her teeth. “No wonder he looks familiar. Shit.”

“Why? What?”

“He’s the werewolf king.”

CHAPTER NINE

“And I’m the Nutcracker,” I said. There was silence from behind me. “Hello, Gina, that was funny—”

Gina groaned. “He’s not only a werewolf pack leader—he’s the only pack leader in town. He calls it a coalition, but they’re not exactly a democracy.” She pulled out the doctor’s charts from his admit the day before.

“How do you know?”

“I’m the were-vet. Of course I know. Now I’ve got to double-check everything.” She flipped wildly through the charts, reading notes.

I’d taken care of someone who was related to a senator in my former nursing life, a fact that that patient managed to work into each and every conversation. Nothing like the threat of being sued by someone who actually knew lawyers to strike fear into the hearts of hospital employees. “But this guy’s No Info, right? So no one will know.”

“I give it forty-eight hours. The Deepest Snow pack leader doesn’t just go missing—”

“Okay then, you’ve only been his nurse for forty-five minutes. I think you’re safe so far.”

“You’d think, but I really like my license. Hang on.”

I was quiet while Gina reviewed her work, watching Winter breathe, his chest lift matching the corresponding line on the ventilator.

“Okay. I think we’re all up to date,” Gina said at last. “I don’t need to make any changes.”

“Good. Can I come out now?”

“Yeah, I think that’s best.” She looked up from her charting, and squinted into the room and our future. “I’d bet money that within a day there’ll be guards on his door.”

“Too bad for you I’m too smart to bet against you. Plus I’m poor.” I came out of the room, and she sealed the door, turning on the camera feeds. We could still look up at what was happening in the room—and hear things, as it turned out, when a pump beeped to warn it was running dry—while remaining safely outside the room.

“I’m looking forward to the end of tonight,” Gina said around three A.M.

“I’m going to be a cripple tomorrow.” I held up my right arm. “This is my mashed-potato-whipping hand.”

Gina snorted. “I keep forgetting that it’s Christmas.”

“Me too. I’m in denial.”

There was a lull in our conversation while she wrote down Winter’s latest set of vitals. I stared at the monitor showing Winter’s sleeping form. “Brandon said he has something big to ask me tomorrow,” Gina said from behind me.

“Brandon?”

“The guy I’ve been dating, whom I don’t talk about, so people won’t judge.”

I glanced over my shoulder, and Gina was still charting, but also chewing on the inside of her lip. I tried to figure out why she’d be sharing information with me now, and it hit me like a hammer. “Oh, God. He’s a former patient, isn’t he?”

“No. His brother was.”

I wasn’t sure how I ought to take that news. Did she want me to be the blindly supportive friend? Or the wise friend who told her she knew better? “He’s not a vampire, is he?”

Gina snorted. “No. He’s a were-bear.”

There was another long pause between us. I decided to feel things out. “How long have you been dating him?”

“A while.”

“What do you think he’s going to ask?”

“I don’t know,” she said without looking up.

I couldn’t seriously endorse marriage, for myself or for just about anyone. But that probably said more about me and my hesitant attitude toward commitment—and the fact that I rarely bothered to learn the names of men who shared my bed. “Well, just because my track record’s been bleak doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try,” I said.

“Thanks. I think.” She stood up and shook herself, a little like a wet dog. “It’s on the hour. Ready to go?”

“As ready as I’m gonna be.” We both suited up.

* * *

“The thing is, when you were sleeping with a zombie it wasn’t particularly contagious,” Gina said as she shone a light into Winter’s eyes again, one at a time, in case the size of either pupil had changed. Bleeds in the head would apply pressure to the nerves in control of the pupils—a blown or uneven pupil meant a fresh bleed.

“I made sure he didn’t bite me,” I said sarcastically. To be honest, I didn’t know all the ins and outs of becoming a zombie. And Ti, my erstwhile boyfriend, had been the cursed kind of zombie, not a mindless ghoul. “I showed him my bra but not my brains. I think that was the trick.” I went around the room to stand opposite from her, so that she never blocked my shot. I’d actually shown him a lot more than my bra, but I didn’t want to embroil Gina in a TMI.

“Do you miss him?”

“I don’t appreciate being ditched.” No matter how much it might have been for my own good. Ti had rescued me at the end of my trial, and I knew he’d felt he’d been seen by too many people there, even before that, when he’d been out acquiring extra … parts. We’d walked through the hospital lobby looking like we’d been through a bloodbath, and a lot of the blood had been mine. I could understand why he felt like he needed to lay low for a while, but I didn’t like being left behind. Even though we hadn’t been together very long, him choosing to keep his cover over me hurt. Especially when he hadn’t made any promises about ever coming back.

   
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