“You’re sure you’re alright?” Asher asked for the second time, the only sign of his worry was the crease between his eyebrows and how his attention kept drifting from the road to where I sat in the passenger seat.
Cordelia had taken a couple of photos of the sigil on my chest, the one now hidden by the oversized t-shirt I wore, to investigate herself. An ‘x’ with frayed ends like fletching of an arrow, with a long slash that went vertically through the center.
I tried not to worry too much that this one had left her stumped, and instead tried to stay optimistic. Breyona had sent the pictures to her parents, who would now be on the lookout for any texts or relics that matched.
“It doesn’t hurt anymore, but it is strange …now that I can see this thing, it feels kind of familiar. I’m positive I don’t have any memory of it though.” I wished I could fully reassure him, but the strange feeling bubbling in my stomach had surfaced along with the sigil.
I knew that the pain I had experienced wasn’t the only reason Asher was asking if I were alright. He’d always have a healthy dose of suspicion towards the witches, but he also trusted the gut feelings I had around them. The ones that told me both could be a threat if they wanted, but not to myself or anyone I held close.
‘Alpha, Luna…’ Asher’s Beta’s voice filled our heads without warning. ‘Just got a phone call from a doctor up at Grove Hospital.
There’s a woman there who’s just woken up from an eighteen-year coma. The picture of the symbol on that witch’s hand, this woman has one that matches.’
Asher and I locked eyes, undoubtedly thinking the same thing. Somehow, this woman is tied to the witch that had tried to k**l me. So far, she was our only connection.
“Let’s go.”‘ I told Asher with a firm nod, ” I’ll let my dad know we’re stopping by afterwards.”
We had been just a few minutes away from Asher’s parents house, where dad, grandma, and Sean were still staying. I was dreading having this conversation with him, because he already looked years younger since moving into town, but I had to ask about mom.
There was every chance that she had something to do with this binding spell, and even though the though I hoped she wasn’t involved, I had long ago realized there was a lot I didn’t know about the woman.
The drive was a long three hours, but the views made the trip worthwhile. We were on a long highway that curved and winded through the mountains, past streams and over a long bridge.
Halfway through, the exhaustion from the ritual Rowena had done weighed my eyelids down. The gentle hum of the highway faded in my ears as darkness swallowed me whole.
I woke startled, my heart thudding beneath the sigil on my chest. A dream I couldn’t remember floated just out of reach, the details becoming hazier as more and more awareness seeped into my veins.
“Did we just get here?” I mumbled to Asher, who sat in the driver’s seat tapping on the screen of his phone.
As I sat up, I realized he had covered me up with his sweatshirt. Rather than giving it back to him, I slipped it on.
“Got here half an hour ago.” He set his phone down and smirked, eyes trailing down my face to his sweatshirt. The remnants of his warmth still clung to the fabric.
Not only was I drowning in the fabric, but also his masculine scent. “You looked like you were getting good sleep for a change.”
The halls smelled of bitter antiseptic, with undertones of artificial fragrance within the soaps and cleaners used. Seeping through the veil was undertones of blood and pus, mixed with stale cafeteria food.
I’d never been to a hospital myself, but I hadn’t imagined it this busy. Werewolves weren’t sick nearly as often as humans, so most of the wolves were here for some wound or another.
There were a few humans in the mix, being treated first since their healing was much slower than ours.
“Oh!” The young receptionist’s cherry- colored lips popped open. The middle- aged RN in baby pink scrubs, who looked like she spent more time here than at home, was unfazed and even snorted at the receptionist as she tittered, “Alpha, what an honor.”
“Dr. Anderson told me you two were coming.” The RN gave the receptionist a side-eyed look and shook her head disparagingly, motioning for us to follow her down a wide hall. “Nice to meet you Alpha, and Luna. Saw that speech of yours live. You didn’t disappoint.”
“Good to know I didn’t scare everyone off.”‘ I replied with an awkward chuckle, ” It was a risky plan.”
“Risky, but us werewolves don’t scare easy.” She nodded in agreement; her strong chin held high. “My grandson was there in the crowd, saw the whole thing.
Wouldn’t stop talking about it for days, mind you. I reckon it was hard on you, Alpha. Seeing your mate get shot like that.”
“I contemplated hiding in the crowd myself.” Asher’s smile was polite, but myself.” Asher’s smile was polite, but anyone could see the truth in his eyes.
“Now that would’ve been a sight to see.” She replied with a small chuckle. We turned down three separate hallways, each one bustling with nurses and patients. The RN stopped at one of the many doors and placed her badge against a small scanner.
“Might’ve taken a day off for a change to see that. Anyhow, the doctors right inside. It was a pleasure meeting you both.”
“You as well.” I replied with a smile, following Asher into the hospital room.
Two beds sat across from one another, separated by a sea-foam colored curtain. Both were surrounded by heart monitors and those wire hangers that hold bags of fluid.
While one of the beds was empty, another held a woman just a few years younger than my dad.
Her wheat-blonde hair was short, curling at the ends where the strands reached her shoulders. The heart monitor at her side beeped slowly, because the woman on the bed was fast asleep.
“Alpha Asher, and you must be Luna Lola. Glad you two could make it on such short notice. If you wanted to speak with her, I’m afraid she’s been out for a while now.”
Dr. Anderson stood beside the woman’s bed, a clipboard in his hand as he scribbled some notes and flipped to the next page.
“We had to sedate her shortly after she woke up. She has no idea where she is, and the last thing she remembers was from eighteen years ago.”
I glanced at the woman in the bed, at her pale skin and angular nose. I tried and failed to imagine what it would’ve been like for her–to wake up in a body eighteen years older than what you had.
Dr. Anderson caught my eye as they fell to the mark on her hand, identical to that of the witch that tried to k**l me.
He nodded impassively; his eyes curious as they remained steady on my face.
“When we pointed out this mark to her, to ask if she knew anything about it-it sent her into psychosis. Also, she’s a full- blood werewolf. Found that out when she grew claws and tried to carve the mark off herself.” I could see the questions bubbling in his eyes.
“I’ve worked at quite a few hospitals, and I’ve never seen a case like Flora’s. Eighteen years. No brain damage, nothing on her MRI’s. Perfectly healthy, and yet she wouldn’t wake up.
The mark on her hand, something like that looks an awful lot like magic. Don’t know much about the subject, but m parents told me plenty of stories about forest witches as a kid.”
“Is there a question in there somewhere, Dr. Anderson?” I took a step forward as I spoke, mostly to keep Asher from snapping at the man. A hard-headed Alpha through and through, but that’s exactly why he needs me by his side.
He tilted his head and studied my face, “guess I’m just curious if there are any vengeful forest witches I need to worry about.”
“Not at the moment, but if that changes, we’ll mind-link you.” My smile was playful, but still held the authority of a Luna. I continued before he had the chance to ask another question, “Have someone contact us when she wakes up again and if there’s a psychologist in the building, send them here as well.
Provide all resources needed for her to sort through the changes she’s going through. When she’s ready, we’ll speak with her. For the time being, does she have any relatives nearby?”
“I’m afraid not.” I wondered if all doctors had the same sense of reserved sympathy, and if it was the things they witnessed in a day that taught them to hold it together so well. “A couple in this pack adopted her as a child when her mother died. Her adoptive parents died in a house fire just a couple weeks after Flora slipped into a coma.
There are a few distant cousins of her adoptive family a few states away. Are you thinking we should give them a call? It’s been eighteen years and not one family member has been to visit.”
I smiled sweetly, “we’ll let her decide if she wants to contact any family members, but I would like the name of the adoption agency that handled her case.”