Read Nightfall Online

Authors: Evelyn Glass

Tags: #Romance, #Adult


BOOK: Nightfall
11.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, events, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.


Nightfall copyright @ 2014 by Evelyn Glass. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.


He ran through the woods, blood gushing from a plethora of wounds. The others were behind him, closing in, and he didn’t know how much farther he could go. He had run out of the mountains, out of the desert, out of the prairie, and into these pine woods. He’d never had more than a few moments of rest; they were always on him. Even if he wasn’t bleeding from a dozen wounds, he would be exhausted.


The woods should have been a relief, but instead, they were a torment. He didn’t know this territory, not any more. It had been decades since he’d been here, and he’d been another man then. He couldn’t just run—he had to be constantly on alert, watching out for cliffs, brambles, tangles, or thickets that would trap him. They were close on his heels. If they trapped him, all was lost. 


Still, running farther was impossible. There was a hollow just ahead, where two trees had grown together, tangling their roots. He huddled in the shade of those trees for a moment and tried to catch his breath. His paws felt more real to him than his hands. The part of him that was a man knew why; he’d drawn too heavily on the powers of the wolf in recent days. It was possible to pull on it so hard that the man within was destroyed, leaving behind a monster, an abomination that was neither man nor wolf, shifting constantly between the two but never able to live in either world again.


He let go of the wolf shape for a moment, and his form blurred back into that of a man. Pale, thin skinned, and weak in ways that always seemed so shocking when he transitioned one from the other. The shift aided his healing, though, and let him
in a way he couldn’t when he had four feet and fur.


Grief that had been a minor thought in his wolf form overwhelmed him, and he curled up around the new ache in the center of his body, trying to swallow past the horror. Dead, his entire pack. All of them. Torn to pieces. He’d fought with them, but they’d been outnumbered and outmaneuvered, and at the end, it was only himself, Jenna, and Richard left alive. Richard had been his second for a decade, fighting with him to bring their family back from the edge of madness, and Jenna had been his lover, his mate in both his man and wolf forms.


He’d known his responsibility. He called to his friends, signaling them to yield. He’d shifted, blurring his form into that of the man, standing naked in the clearing of dead and dying wolves. Those of the other pack had snarled and howled their rage.


He’d gone to the Alpha, and he’d knelt down, and he’d bared his throat.


It was protocol, all of it. There were twenty of the other pack left, and although Jenna and Richard would have fought for him with their last breaths, he didn’t want them to. He didn’t want to be the cause of any more death. The Alpha had two choices; to tear out his throat, or to accept his surrender. Either way, Jenna and Richard would be accepted into the new pack, and in many turns of the moon, a new Alpha would arise from a pup born to the pack, reborn in his own line through a sort of magic that he didn’t entirely understand. The pup would split off, grow into an Alpha with his own pack in his own right, and the song of his pack, his line, would still be sung to the moon.


For himself, the Alpha would kill him there, or drive him off to live alone, which was the same thing.


But in that mountain pass where his family had curled up to pass the night, the Alpha did neither one of those things, the things that were the laws of their kind. The Alpha snarled at him, then turned and walked away.


The man had watched in horror, suspecting what was to come, but unable to comprehend what it would mean. Jenna and Richard had no such fears; they’d charged in, snarling, thrashing into the wave of beta wolves that fell on them. Giving him time to pull himself together and find his wolf self again. Time to shift.


Time to run.


He told himself over and over that it was the only way. He heard them behind him, screaming as they died, and he ran. Because if the betas killed him, if his life was ended in that disgraceful manner, then there would be no joining of the packs, no future pup to carry on his legacy. It would all end. Jenna and Richard, without discussion, sacrificed themselves to keep that from happening.


So he ran. And he kept running, even when the pads on his paws bled, when his lungs ached, when he wanted to lay down and die. He ran. The pack followed.


He was hungry, both spiritually and physically. He needed rest, and food, and a chance to heal. But there were howls behind him, and they were coming. They would always be coming.


He didn’t want to change again. He wasn’t strong enough to keep running. The man in him wanted to curl up, lie down, give up. Let them tear him to pieces. His friends were already dead. Nothing he did now would change that. They’d given their lives for him, and it had been a waste, so he could lie down, he could sleep, he could give up—


But the wolf wouldn’t allow it. The wolf forced itself up and out, and the change hurt this time, took a piece of his soul for energy and turned it inside out in utter agony. His shape blurred, reduced, and his man-mind screamed as it was crushed out of the way to make room for the need to tear and shred and run.


The wolf put paws to the ground and ran. It could smell civilization; those chasing him wouldn’t follow him there. There was too much danger, too much risk of being discovered. Silver was far from the only threat their kind needed to face. Of all the things the pack on his heels had been, so far they were not stupid. If he could just get close enough, they’d peel off, head back to whatever hell they’d emerged from. They’d come for him again eventually—that was almost certain—but the man would have time to heal. Time to prepare, to understand what they wanted. To rebuild. The wolf was pragmatic, in the end. Saving the man was what mattered. The wolf had been unable to defeat the other Alpha, overcome as the pack was by the others, and needing to fight through so many bodies in order to reach his ultimate enemy. But the man could plan, could devise some sort of strategy to defeat him.


So the wolf would get the man to safety.


And he ran.



“Roxie, are you still here? I thought you were only working eights today?”


Roxanne twisted her dark hair up and off her neck, wrapping it into a bun and fixing the bun in place with a simple elastic. “I was supposed to,” she told her friend Izzy, “But Adrianne called out, and I said I could pick up the first half of her shift. Charge said she’d get someone else in for 7.”


Izzy snorted, leaning up against the counter of the nurse’s station. Roxanne’s own hair was a dark brown and had a lot of wave to it, but Izzy’s was black, and curled in corkscrews at its ends. “You think she’ll manage it?”


Roxanne sighed, and tried not to think about how much her feet ached already. “I sincerely hope so. I’m on twelves for the next two days, and I’m already dead on my feet.”


, I hear that,” Izzy replied. “At least it’s quiet, huh?”


Roxanne narrowed her eyes. “Are you still that much of an ER noob? You never say it’s quiet. It guarantees that—”


She didn’t even have time to finish the sentence. Caroline Walker, the charge nurse, rushed down the hallway towards the nurses’ station. It was another rule; you didn’t run in the ER unless someone was dying. At the pace Caroline was making, Roxanne was pretty sure that someone was at least in critical condition. “Roxie,” she said, her tone brisk and professional. “There’s an ambulance coming to take your patient in 21 to Mercy. I’ll pack him up. I need you ready to receive a multiple stab wound, male, blood loss. ETA is five minutes. We’re going to put him in 24. Izzy, I’d like you to pick up 22, she’s just waiting for the crisis clinic to come by and see what they can do to help.  I’m worried that 24 will get intensive. That work for you two?”


“Sure, Carolina,” Izzy said. Roxanne nodded.


Caroline rolled her eyes at Izzy playing with her name, but she was smiling. Izzy had a bubbly, easy-going personality, and was everyone’s friend.  The three of them had grown up together, although Roxie was a couple years older than Izzy, and Caroline had about five years on Roxanne. They’d all gone to nursing school, and all ended up in the ER at Sweetwater General. The hospital was really nothing more than a glorified urgent care clinic, but it was important to the population. As tiny as it was, Sweetwater was the largest town in thirty miles, and Mercy Medical in Houston was hours away.


“Busy night,” Roxanne remarked, and Caroline nodded. Three whole patients was a pretty busy night as far as these things went for them.


“Full moon,” she said as she hurried down the hall, her clogs slapping against the lino floors.


“Is that a real thing?” Izzy asked as she pushed off the counter. “People go all
because the moon is big?”


Roxanne nodded, smiling to herself. Izzy had been born in Texas, and was completely fluent in both Spanish and English, but she regularly chose the words she liked best from each language—at least when she and Roxie talked. So Roxie was
instead of babe, and people were always
instead of crazy. It was an impressive thing, to see her switch back and forth between the worlds she inhabited when there was a Mexican patient in the hospital. She could switch into perfect Spanish and put a nervous, sick person at ease, and then turn back to the doctors and speak their language just as flawlessly. It was a graceful and amazing thing to watch, though it sometimes hurt Roxanne’s heart to see how much it took out of her friend to have to remember which world she was in every time she started to speak.


“Someone studied it, a while back. During full moons hospital admissions go up in places that have psych wards, the patients are more likely to act out—it definitely has some sort of influence on people.” Izzy had been working at the hospital during the last full moon, but she’d been assigned to one of the general floors; she’d never worked in the ER before. “Things can get a little crazy.”


Izzy went into 22 to check on her new patient, and Roxanne checked out room 24 to make sure that all the common supplies the doctor would need to handle a patient with severe cuts were in place. She knew tonight’s attending doctor, Dr. Clark Alexander, and she tried to set the supplies up in the way he tended to prefer them. It was a small detail, but it was one of the things that had her gunning for the role of charge nurse in the near future. Caroline had said more than once to their manager that she’d love not having to run the floor every time she was on shift, and she’d be more than happy to share the duties with someone else, even if it meant splitting the bonus.


Dr. Alexander found her setting up the room and nodded. “Thanks, Howell,” he said. “Can you call up to the blood bank, let them know to have O-neg on hand for us?”


“I’m on it,” she replied, and he left her to take care of it. It had taken a while for her to come to terms with the idea that his walking out of the room and leaving her to do her job was actually his way of thanking her for being competent. He’d been a medic in Iraq—two tours—before he’d come home to work in their little hospital. Some of the nurses didn’t like him because he was bad at saying “thank you” and had a very intense personality, but she’d always appreciated that he didn’t mince words or waste time. And he was good to the patients. She’d worked with too many doctors over the years who assumed that because Sweetwater was a very rural community, it was full of racist ranchers who deserved what came to them. They stayed long enough to check off the box on their loan forgiveness programs, and then they were off to make millions clipping old lady toenails or something. Dr. Alexander had stuck with the community for years now, and swore that he was there for good. It was something important to her.


When the ambulance pulled into the bay she stood back, letting Dr. Alexander speak to the EMTs but listening carefully to what they said. She knew from experience that she’d pick up different things than the doctor did, and that the small details sometimes made all the difference, but she also didn’t get in the way. This part of the handoff was from the EMTs to the doctors; she stayed in the background until that was complete.


The man was tall; she could see that even though he was lying down. His hair was the color of wet sand, and his skin was very pale. What Caroline had said about stab wounds—that didn’t come close to what seemed to have happened to his body. He was rent open. That was the only phrase she could think of to describe what she saw in front of her. His legs, his arms, his chest. There were wounds on his belly and his neck. It was a miracle that he was alive at all, given the number and the depths of the cuts she was seeing. If any one of them had hit a major blood vessel, the ambulance would have been delivering him to the morgue instead of the emergency room.


There was an eerie sense as she stared at his torn body that something should have hit a major blood supply, that he should be dead right now. The placement of the cuts, the number of them, how deep they went—there was no reason for his chest to continue to rise and fall, even as slowly and feebly as it was. The EMTs were describing the man—John Doe, apparently, since he’d been found naked along the edge of the woods just north of town—as stable in transit, his bleeding responding to pressure bandages and his respiration slow but stable.


The gurney was pushed into the patient room, and that was when Roxanne moved forward, to help transition Doe from the gurney to the hospital bed. The EMTs had her sign something on a chart and handed her their paperwork. Then they were gone. They’d have a busy night, too, and she said a quick prayer that this was as exciting as things got for them tonight.


Dr. Alexander was pale as he surveyed the Doe. What did he see as he looked over this man’s body, she wondered? His friends and comrades in the war, shattered by IEDs and torn by bullets? Was he, too, wondering how this man had already survived so much?


As she watched, he shook himself and gave her a rare smile. “Sorry,” he said.


She had the sense that acknowledging his moment of—upset, disorientation, whatever it was—would only hurt him further. She gave him the same, simple nod that he’d passed her so often. And they set to work.


She passed him supplies while he stitched and stitched and stitched. Hundreds of small, carefully-placed threads to piece the Doe’s body back together. He worked from the deepest to the most minor, hunched over his work, stopping only occasionally to stretch and breathe before diving back in. After he’d completed the wound care in a particular spot, Roxanne would move in and bandage each wound in gauze and adhesive.


She had no sense of what time it was when the work was complete. Dr. Alexander stretched one last time, tossed his needle into the metal tray with the ends of sutures and the bloody pads. He rattled off a list of instructions to her as he noted them in the Doe’s chart—antibiotics to prevent infection, saline drip to boost his fluids, blood tests to look for potential infections as well as check his blood counts. Pain meds as needed. The wound care regimen that he wanted the patient to receive, and orders for meals, if the patient should regain consciousness. And then he was gone, summoned by his pager to another area of the hospital.


Relieved of her other patient, Roxanne drew bloods and sent them to the lab, then set up the IV drip and meds. She decided to stay in 24 and do her charting for him, as well as his admissions paperwork. Since his heart was strong and his blood pressure was okay, transfusing him probably carried more risk than it was worth, but if he’d lost as much blood as she thought, that might turn on a dime, and she wanted to be able to page Dr. Alexander immediately if necessary.


There was something more than that, though—something deeper happening. She kept finding her eyes drawn to the man as he lay there, pale and still, in the bed. Even unconscious, she’d expect to see signs of stress on his face, in his hands, even in his vital signs. It was weird that he seemed so collected and peaceful. Some of those cuts had been deep, and in areas where there were tons of nerves. Just breathing would be pulling at them, making them ache. It was strange that he didn’t seem affected.


It didn’t hurt that he was incredibly handsome, either. With her charting caught up, and his eyes still closed and unconscious, washing him up seemed the next logical step. He was filthy, covered in muck and mud. She gathered warm water and cloths and cleaned his legs, his feet, his hands. She washed his face and hair as best as she could, and then finally returned to his groin.


She found herself wondering if nurses in larger, busier hospitals got used to seeing patients all stretched out and unconscious like this, and needing to wash their genitals. It seemed incredibly awkward to her. She wanted to have a detached clinician’s eye, but she couldn’t help raising an eyebrow as she pulled back the sheets to wash him. He was an impressively-sized man, and she hoped for the sake of her partners that he was a shower, not a grower.


He was also filthy, even there, and she forced herself to close her eyes, take a deep breath, and pretend that he was just a cadaver, and she was just doing her practicals. He was certainly nicer to look at than the old men in the nursing home where she’d been an LNA when she was in school. There had been few things worse than old men who could no longer wash themselves perving on the pretty nurse who had to scrub their johnsons.


She lowered the cloth towards his flesh. A hand clamped down on her wrist, and she almost screamed. She looked up, into wide eyes the color of grass on the first day of spring. “Where am I?” he said, his voice rasping through his throat. He tried to clear it, but set off a bout of coughing that seemed to tear him up.


She pulled her wrist free—it was harder than she’d expected, given his condition—and snatched up a glass of water and a pitcher from the table next to his bed. She poured out the liquid, stuck in a straw, and held it towards his lips. He gave her one hell of a glare before he took the cup in his hands and put the straw in his mouth. His hands shook so bad that he spilled all over her chest, and she had an intense, agonizing second where she dreamed of licking the water off his heated skin.


Down girl. Breathe
. “You’re at Sweetwater General Care,” she said, and when that didn’t spark a flicker of recognition in his eyes, she added, “In Sweetwater, Texas.”


He nodded slowly. “Yes. Yes, I remember now.” His voice was clearing up, and he brought the straw to his lips again. It was funny; she heard him say the words, but she knew without a doubt that he was lying through his teeth.


“You were injured. All torn up, from head to toe. Honestly, you looked a bit like you’d been run over with a plow.” She never been one of those girls who tried to sound more northern, more standard than she was, but now, she let the Texas run through her voice like syrup. “We’re all a bit surprised you’re alive. I’m mystified that you’re talking to me now. Do you remember what happened to you?”

BOOK: Nightfall
11.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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