Shifters' Captive:Magical Menages 1(10)By: Bonnie Dee
Brian Cox was a middle-aged, African-American man of medium height and build with permanent frown lines etched between his brows. As different as he was in appearance from John Walker, there was an odd similarity in his bearing when he cocked his head and gazed at her. From the way his nostrils flared, she got the impression he was inhaling her scent and assessing it. His frown deepened.
“This is supposed to be our healer? She doesn’t seem very special.” If he was in wolf form, his hackles would be raised and he’d be snarling. With a scornful twist of his lip, Cox turned and led them into the house.
An open plan living-dining-kitchen area filled the first floor. Two women stood by the stove with arms folded, watching as they passed. The younger of the two looked like she’d been recently crying, and Sherrie guessed she might be the sick girl’s mother. The older one could be a grandmother.
In the living room, a couple of teenage boys, one black and one white, were playing a video game on the TV. They paused the game to look at the stranger too. The silence and watchful eyes and lack of polite introductions made Sherrie nervous and uncomfortable. She was here supposedly to help yet they acted like she’d caused the sickness.
As she and John followed Cox upstairs to the second floor, John whispered near her ear, “I told you, they don’t much like strangers.”
“What’s your daughter’s name?” Sherrie asked, determined to break the barrier. It was not for nothing she’d been a waitress most of her life. She’d had a lot of practice finessing difficult customers.
“Liberty.” Cox stalked ahead of her along the hallway and paused before an open bedroom door.
Sherrie’s already speeding heart pounded a little faster. She felt like she was about to see a scene from The Exorcist. What was wrong with the kid anyway? She was relieved when she followed her reluctant host into the room and saw a normal, sleeping child on the bed.
The girl’s dark hair was braided tight, framing her small face. Her complexion was ash-gray. Sherrie could see her eyes moving behind the closed lids, watching the invisible dream world. Her breathing was shallow, her bird-chest rising and falling rapidly. An IV drip hung beside the bed, fluids running into the girl’s arm.
“Does she have a fever?” Sherrie started to move toward her, and Cox blocked her way.
“Brian!” John’s sharp bark made her jump. “Do you want her help or not? You’re the one who insisted we bring her here.”
The man backed up a pace to let Sherrie approach the bed.
“Her temperature’s been hovering around one hundred and two. Only a little high.” A woman’s voice came from the doorway. Sherrie glanced over her shoulder to see the younger woman from the kitchen.
“One hundred and one is normal for us,” Brian explained. “Our metabolism is different from humans.
That’s why we can never check into the emergency room when we’re injured. We tend our own sick and wounded.”
“How long has she been like this?” Sherrie asked, as if it would help her in making some kind of unqualified diagnosis.
“This is the tenth day. There’ve been a dozen other cases in the pack. The first took sick almost a month ago. He died last Saturday.”
Sherrie moved to the edge of the bed and took the girl’s still hand in hers. A jolt of pure energy shot through her, and she gasped. Images flashed in her mind so fast, jumbled and foreign, that she could hardly make sense of them.
Girl face-wolf face. Best friend. Playing dolls. Hunting. Night scents. Hunger. Prey. Pounce and chase. Running, running, running. Gone.
Mother-Father. Warm, safe, home. Brother. Anger-yelling. Bike broken.
Stranger. Black-eyes scary. Danger. Running, running, running.
“Are you all right?” Walker grabbed her arm.
She let go of Liberty’s hand. “Yeah. Yes. She’s really hot is all. It surprised me.” What the hell had just happened? She’d never felt anything like the fragments of thought and memory pelting her like hail, and she knew without a doubt they weren’t her own.
The little girl lying under the flowered quilt moaned and shifted. Her lips moved and her eyes continued to move rapidly beneath her closed lids.