Hayden watched the ER doc push a needle into her arm. Because his beast recognized her as his, her pain was his own, and he wished he could take it all away from her. And that one thought pissed him off. She lay quietly, but her pain still screamed at him, raked claws through his soul.
He rested with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He didn’t want this woman--not her or any other woman. He liked his women with no strings attached, and the woman lying in the hospital bed had an entire ball of yarn threaded around his soul. And how had she entwined him so fast? Fuck ’em and leave ’em, that was his motto, and he’d be damned if he’d change because his animal said so.
Why? Why was “the one” for him and him alone a possible felon? He had to talk to his captain and ask--no, demand--removal from this case for personal reasons. Then he’d take all that vacation that he’d saved for some unknown reason and head to some island somewhere far away from her and let his body go through withdrawal. Hell. He silently laughed and cursed his beast. He didn’t even know her name.
He’d heard about the mating heat from some friends, but he’d vowed to avoid it at all cost. And then in a blink of an eye, she’d
snared his wolf. The wolf didn’t always take the rational path; it prowled on a primitive level. Damn. Sometimes being a werewolf was a bitch.
An hour later, her pain was gone, but his mind was stuck in a swirling pool of shit. She slept peacefully, and he almost laughed. Peaceful was not what he’d use to describe her. No. She was restrained outwardly, at least when she was awake, but even in her sleep, he sensed that her inner being was not at peace.
He didn’t think she was stupid, but inviting the ire of a drug-cartel leader such as Manuel Corvas wasn’t a smart move. She acted like she didn’t give a shit, and that bothered him. Her life was in danger, and she didn’t give a rat’s ass. The DEA would have a hard time keeping her alive if she didn’t want to cooperate. Hayden sighed. He’d worry about that while he was on that sunny beach on that faraway island. Yeah, right.
The chatter on his comm and the sound of gunfire pulled him from his thoughts. He’d bet his life that Julio was here to take her out. He jumped up and snatched the curtain aside, cursing as he did so. He’d asked for a private room, and the head nurse informed him that the ER didn’t have private rooms, only rooms with wall curtains. Kevin stood outside the curtain, his own gun drawn.
Hayden motioned with his head toward the bed behind him. “Stay with her,” he commanded, before he snapped the curtain closed behind him.
He hesitated; leaving her with Kevin made his wolf antsy. Too fucking bad. He had a job to do. He raced down the corridor, and for the first time in his life, he knew fear.
* * * * *
The sound of gunfire had her rolling off the bed and flattening herself against the floor. Victoria reached for her gun. “What the hell?”
She had on a fucking hospital gown. That explained the draft up her backside. She noticed black cargo pants and booted feet outside her room curtain, and somehow, she knew it wasn’t him
,and that was a good thing. She quickly searched the room for her clothes, but they were gone too. What in the hell did he do with her clothes? If he thought she wouldn’t escape because she was bare-assed, he was in for a big surprise.
She dropped to the floor and looked to her right. Only two beds that way. She looked to her left. Many beds that way. Going left.
She crawled under the curtains and around the end of the beds, searching for clothes as she went. Several patients and their families gave her the evil eye, but she smiled and kept crawling. She was mooning them, but she couldn’t do anything about it. She’d been trained to make the most of every opportunity she had, and if that meant flashing her ass, it meant flashing her ass.
She finally snatched an ugly green jogging suit that smelled like her grandmother, and managed to put it on as she crawled. When she reached the last cubicle, she came face-to-face with an elderly patient and two of her elderly friends.
“Sorry, but my ex is here,” she said.
“Oh, I understand perfectly, dear. James was a mean SOB after I left him. He couldn’t take no for an answer,” said one of the blue-haired ladies.
Victoria grinned. “Exactly. You won’t tell on me, will you?”
“Of course not, dear. Your secret is safe with us, isn’t that right, ladies?”
The other lady nodded, and the patient grunted, which Victoria took for a yes. Victoria dropped back down and scanned the hallway. All clear.
Victoria stood. “Thanks, ladies,” she said before she slipped out the door. She followed the signs that led into the hospital and away from the ER doors. She grinned. She could visit anybody on any floor, and no one would be the wiser.
* * * * *
When Hayden returned, Kevin was right where he left him, but Hayden knew she was gone; his nose told him so. But just for good measure, he jerked back the curtain, glanced at the empty bed, gave Kevin some shit about losing her, and then sent Kevin the wrong way to search. He headed the other way.
His beast raged within him, raged at him for letting her get away.
Everybody had seen her, crawling like an animal on the floor, they said. The vision of her on all fours sent his wolf pacing. One man even commented on her fine ass
, and Hayden resisted killing the man right there.
Her scent was strongest in the last exam room.
“Excuse me, ladies. Did you happen to see a young lady come through here?”
All three glared at him like he’d committed a crime. One of the ladies replied, “No. We haven’t seen anybody.”
Hayden’s nostrils flared at her lie. “Are you positive about that?”
All three nodded.
“It’s important that we find her. She’s…in danger.”
“I just bet she is,” said one lady.
He gave the ladies his meanest stare, but they ignored him. “You really need to tell me what you know. I have to find her.”
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be found. You’d just abuse her again.”
“Abuse her. Oh, I’m going to abuse her all right. I’m going to paddle her ass.”
The three ladies gasped. “My word,” one of them said. “No wonder she’s running from you.”
Hayden knew when he was out of good options. He could haul all their decrepit asses to jail and question them, or he could find his fugitive himself. “Good day, ladies. And…thanks for…everything.” Or nothing.
Hayden followed his nose and her scent through the hospital, into the elevator, and up to the second floor, where she’d visited a man who was in la-la land because he’d just gotten out of surgery three hours earlier. Then she’d taken the stairs up two floors and the elevator back down to the main lobby.
Hayden pulled the hospital video, got the name of the cab company whose cab she’d climbed into, and gave them a call. He found out that the cab had dropped her off at the damn mall. He about snapped the pencil he was holding. Hell, she could be anywhere.
He should be relieved. She was no longer his problem. If she wanted to run loose and get herself killed, that was her business.
Instead, his beast snarled.