Home > Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(9)

Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(9)
Author: Cassie Alexander

I felt foolish about caring, and then feeling foolish made me feel angry again. That anger shone too brightly for me to think of very much else.

“With Brandon, it feels real. As close as I think it’s ever felt for me.” Gina walked away from Winter to put the flashlight down and scan the IV pumps. “But if I date him—if it goes farther than that—the Consortium will step in.”

I hadn’t realized our extracurricular activities were that closely monitored. By the Shadows, maybe. But the Consortium too? No. “Where were they when I was dating a zombie?”

She made a face. “I mean it a little different from dating—”

An intercom I didn’t know we had in the room turned on, and I heard Meaty’s voice over it. “Ladies, incoming.”

Gina’s tone went from familiar to professional in an instant. “I knew it.” She reached back and snatched the gun from me. “Go outside.”

“What? Protocol—”

Gina started sweeping me out with the butt of the rifle. “Go, fast, now.”

Frowning and not entirely sure I should listen to her, I stepped out of Winter’s room, gown and all. “Gina—” I protested again.

She shut the door, closing herself inside.

CHAPTER TEN

“Gina?” I beat on the door with one fist. The monitor set beside the door flickered off. “Are you kidding me?”

There were footsteps coming down the short hall. I pulled my mask up and hitched up my suit to sit down in the chair like I was in charge of whatever situation was going on inside the room in front of me. Just me, nursing no one in particular, in complete isolation gear, just sitting in the hall. Fuck this. I frowned at the open charts.

Someone addressed the back of my head. “Where is he?” I turned on my chair and saw a squat bald man wearing a bowling shirt underneath a black woolen peacoat. “Where? I know he’s here—”

And this was why Gina’d shoved me outside. My innocence would make me a better liar. “I don’t know who you’re talking about, sir.” I quickly folded paperwork and closed charts, so that no identifying information was showing.

“You know exactly who I’m talking about.” He reached into his coat, pulled out a phone, and typed a quick text with stubby fingers. “He’s here, and you’re keeping us from him.” When he was done texting, he looked up at me, eyes narrowed. “The longer you lie, the more there’ll be hell to pay.”

Awesome. Just awesome. I inhaled and exhaled, taking the part of myself that might have felt outrage and stuffing it into a separate mental box. He was entitled to his anger, just like we had every right to be cautious. “I’m sorry, sir. You’ll need to come back tomorrow, when the social worker’s here—”

“I cannot believe you’re keeping us from him.” He came nearer, looming. I pushed my chair back. Being right wasn’t always a guarantee that you wouldn’t get hit. Behind him, a man and a woman, clinging to each other, rounded the bend.

“Jorgen. Stop that at once,” the woman commanded, and he stepped back. I reached forward, grabbed everything off the desk, and set it into my lap. Then I pushed back again, out of swinging range.

The woman was older, blond going gray, wearing a navy pantsuit. Her arms were wrapped around the younger man, like he was supporting her. She looked around and moaned.

“Oh, he’s here, Jorgen—just as I was afraid of.” She reached out to the bald man, and he held an arm out toward her. Like a swinging monkey changing vines, she switched the men she leaned on, coming closer to me. “How is he? Is he okay? What do we know?”

“Nothing,” Jorgen spat at me. “She won’t even admit his presence. Despite the fact that I can smell him here.”

The younger man took a step forward. He was my age, wearing casual clothing: jeans, an army-green hoodie.

“What can you tell us?” he asked.

“Nothing.” There wasn’t much protecting me just now. Meaty was around the corner, Gina was still inside, and the Shadows weren’t known for being timely unless it suited them. I held all of Winter’s charting to my chest. “I’m sorry. I can’t say a word.”

As if she had no spine, the woman slid down from Jorgen to bring her eyes level with mine. “You have to save him. You have to do everything you can.” Her eyes were icy blue, rimmed with the red of tears, and she put her hand on my gowned knee. Her fingers knotted with restrained strength. “Everything. Just give him till the moon,” she pleaded.

The young man put his hand on her shoulder, until she stood up. “Jorgen, Helen—let’s go.”

“But she knows things—” Jorgen protested.

“I’m sure she does. But we’re stopping her from doing her job. If he is here, we don’t want that.” He cast a glance down at me, wrapping his arms protectively around the weeping woman. “Keep him safe—and alive.”

All that was in me wanted to nod, or comfort them, but I couldn’t. Officially, he wasn’t here—and beyond that, only foolish nurses promised things they couldn’t guarantee. I wasn’t a were-vet, I had no ideas about his outcome—more good reasons why Gina was the one on the inside, not me.

Jorgen eyed the whole hallway with dismissal, then looked again at me. “We’ll be back,” he said. And then he howled. His form was human, so the howl was misshapen, a rough imitation of a howl. Helen seemed startled at this, and the young man surprised. Then they joined in, their howls more wolf-sounding, hers an alto, his a tenor, sliding together up and down an otherworldly scale. I’d never seen humans make those noises before—and remembered a camping trip from a long time ago, with my family, my brother, and me sitting around a fire, mocking wolves from afar, trying to join into their distant choir.

The wolves here closed their eyes as they howled, like they were praying, sincere. The howls reverberated up and down the short hallway after they stopped, their own echoes answering them.

When they were done, Jorgen hung his head. “He would have answered, if he could.”

Helen sobbed, and the young man pulled her closer. Conjoined in their sorrow, they walked back up the hall.

I waited thirty seconds, then knocked on the closed door. “Gina, get back out here.”

The monitor flicked on, and she stood in it, front and center. “Still in one piece?”

“No thanks to you, yes.”

The door to Winter’s were-corral opened. “Hey, I was the one in here with the sick werewolf.”

“You were the one with the tranquilizer rifle,” I said. She laughed and handed it back to me, pulling off her gown. “Did you see any of that?”

“Yeah. I made the cameras one-way. It was a regular telenovella out here.” She tossed her gown into the linen cart.

“Are all weres so … emotional?”

“Depends on the were, and the animal. Wolves? Yes. Cats? Not so much. Depends on the pack, too, and the family, and the percentage were, major, minor, bitten or born—”

“Okay, okay. Sorry I asked. What did you make of all that?”

“Makes me glad I won’t be the social worker here tomorrow morning—and that I have tomorrow night off.”

Wishing I did, I set all the charts back down on the small desk. “What now?”

“Now, I need a new bag of neo. If pharmacy hasn’t sent one, mix one up, will you?”

I was thrilled to be asked to perform concrete tasks instead of lying to visitors. “Sure. Be right back.”

* * *

The rest of the night was slow and report to day shift went quickly. All us night-shift nurses waved at one another again at the elevator doors before going our separate ways. I saw Charles in the lobby walking ahead of me—he must have caught the previous elevator up.

I jogged to catch up with him as he speed-walked out the lobby’s front door. “Hey, stranger—where were you last night?”

“With my patients.”

“And you didn’t come down the hall, not once? What is it, I smell?” I shoulder-checked him in a companionable way.

Charles kept walking quickly, so I double-timed to keep up. “No. Just keeping my head down. As soon as Meaty told me who that patient was—they don’t pay me enough to take care of him.”

“They don’t pay us enough to take care of anyone,” I said, my voice light. Charles ignored me. “Really, Charles. What’s wrong?”

“That scar I showed you—I got that during the last were-war. Trying to stop them from fighting in the hall. They always say later they don’t know their own strength, and that they’re sorry. It’s a f**king lie.”

“I’m sorry, Charles,” I said, because I was, and because I didn’t know what else to say.

“It’s not your fault. But just don’t ask me for anything more than saline flushes, okay? And even then, I might just throw them down the hall to you.”

“Okay. I’m a good catcher.”

We waited for the light to change so we could cross to the parking lots. “I’m parked legally today, Spence. See you later.”

“Merry Christmas, Charles.”

“You too.” He waved at me and headed toward the staff parking garage.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

I didn’t like feeling as if I couldn’t count on Charles—and I was afraid of anything that frightened him, instinctively. Charles was brave, smart, and strong. He was the nurse I wanted to be when I grew up, when I eventually would know it all, or at least know better.

I picked my way out to the visitor parking lot in the dark morning. The visitor lot always looked like a war zone. There were bags of fast-food wrappers, dirty diapers, crushed soda cans—all the trash people couldn’t possibly be bothered to carry twenty feet to one of the many available garbage cans. The few trees that survived had birthdates of children carved into them, gang signs, profanity. ID bands littered the ground, like patients had chewed them off, or dogs had escaped their collars. Mucky snow wasn’t helping things. I concentrated on stepping around numerous slushy landmines until I reached my car—and there was someone leaning against its side. A man wearing a green hoodie.

   
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