Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(13)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(13)
Author: Melissa F. Olson


I woke up to an insistent rapping on the front door. “Noooo . . . ,” I mumbled, but it didn’t help stop the knocking, so I forced my eyelids open. There were stripes of weak morning sunlight on the floor, filtering through the venetian blinds. I squinted to see the clock that Molly has hanging above the television. It was eight o’clock.

“Scarlett and Molly aren’t home right now,” I yelled at the door. There wasn’t even a pause in the knocking, so I finally dragged myself out of the couch nest and grabbed my cane.

My personal physician barely waited for me to pull it open before she walked in. “About time,” she snapped.

“Please, come in,” I muttered, closing the door behind her.

Dr. Stephanie Noring was an East Indian woman who usually worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She had one of those short, plump figures that looks sultry on a few lucky women. I wasn’t sure how old she was, maybe a well-preserved fifty-five, but she had a lyrical British accent that I might have enjoyed listening to if she weren’t perpetually annoyed with me. Today she wore a rose-pink blouse and khaki pants, and her hair, a gorgeous black with elegant streaks of gray, was pulled into a loose bun at her collar. Gold bangles clinked pleasantly on her wrist as she stormed past me into the house.

“Did you bring doughnuts?” I grumbled, closing the door behind her. “Anyone who shows up anywhere before nine should bring doughnuts.”

“No, but I brought antipsychotics,” she said tartly, her British accent making her sound more crisp than sarcastic. Must be hard, having your accent ruin your demonstrations of attitude. “I heard you were in a werewolf fight and dragged around an eighty-pound bag of trash. I could only assume that you’d lost your bloody mind.” She followed me back to the couch, where I held up my hand to cover another yawn.

“First of all, you said ‘bloody,’” I pointed out cheerfully. “I’ve never heard anyone actually say ‘bloody’ in real life. That’s adorable. And secondly, the bag wasn’t more than seventy pounds, tops. How did you even find out?”

“Carling called me,” she said with distaste. The good doctor and Will had some kind of weird hostile relationship I didn’t understand, but she’d taken a couple of weeks off to come help me when he’d asked. He probably knew doctors who lived a little closer, but Noring was an oncologist, and she was familiar with the medication that Olivia had forced on me. Noring was also familiar with the Old World—she was a witch.

In lieu of a doctor’s bag, she carried the biggest purse I’ve ever seen in my life, a black faux-crocodile hobo that was massive enough to make Mary Poppins salivate. She pulled out a blood pressure cuff and strapped it around my upper arm, squeezing the little hand pump thingy without mercy.

“How’s the vertigo?” she asked accusingly, over the hiss off the cuff.

I winced. “Mostly gone.”

“And the edges of your aura?” She meant my radius, the sphere of nothingness that surrounded me. I hated the word “aura,” which was Olivia’s favorite term for what we could do. I didn’t correct Noring, though, because she was a teensy bit scary.

“Still fuzzy,” I admitted. When I’d changed Eli, it had been because I’d developed a sudden understanding of my own abilities—I had figured out how to sense the borders of my own power, and how to channel the magic I cancelled out into myself, taking the magic from Eli. But afterward, I hadn’t been able to sense the borders of my power like that again. The problem was that I had no idea if losing that ability was due to the concussion, or the coma, or the Domincydactl, or the seizure. And Noring knew even less than I did about nulls.

She nodded as if I’d confirmed her worst fears and resumed checking my vital signs, which were fine. Then she began running me through tests to see if I’d exacerbated the concussion. I nailed the vision, hearing, and memory portion, but failed the balance and coordination section. “That’s worse than it was two days ago,” Noring said disapprovingly. “Let’s see the leg.”

I pulled up my pants leg so she could check on my knee. It was so swollen than she had a hard time sliding the brace off, and I held my breath to keep from gasping at the pain. Noring ignored me, either because she has a shitty bedside manner or to punish me for running around on my bad leg.

I’m sorry; that was ungracious. It could also have been both.

When the brace finally surrendered, I had the knee equivalent of cankles. I sucked in air through my teeth as Noring frowned down at it, testing the joint very gently with her fingers. I held my breath so I wouldn’t cry out.

“This isn’t healing like we hoped,” she told me. For the first time since she’d arrived, her tone was mild, and possibly even sympathetic. Let’s call it sympathetic-adjacent. “There are physical therapies you can try, but nothing’s very effective until the swelling goes down. Meanwhile, I’ve got some med school friends in the city, so I’ll make some calls and get you an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.”

I winced. “Uh . . . I can’t really afford that.” I make okay money working for the Old World in LA, but I’d had to blow most of my savings to send Jack on a last-minute trip to Europe over Christmas.

“Your insurance should cover most of it,” Noring said. When I didn’t respond, her lips compressed back into a line. “Let me guess. You don’t have insurance.”

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