This wolf is biting the bullet of love.
Working in the ER, Maeve has seen some weird stuff, like the guy with numerous gunshot wounds who literally hops off the operating table and walks out. Which isn't as strange as the people who claim they saw a wolf running out the main doors of the hospital. All par for the course on a full-moon shift.
What Maeve doesn't know is she saved the life of the local Alpha.
Griffin is tough, and those who tried to kill him will regret their failure, because he is now out for revenge. The problem is identifying the enemy. Is it the rival wolf gang over the river, or a stranger trying to steal his Pack?
The answer appears to be tangled up with the doctor who operated on him. A woman with a delectable scent—and secrets.
What does Maeve have to do with the violence targeting his Pack?
And what will the sexy doctor say when she realizes he doesn't just howl in bed?
Working during the full moon sucked for those in the emergency department. It wasn’t just a myth that people acted a little crazier. It happened Every. Single. Time.
Unprovoked attacks. Hallucinations. And for some reason, more people came in with dog bites.
Like the others employed by the hospital, Maeve had to take her turn working the night shift on the full moon. She made her rounds, cubicle after cubicle, dealing with folks. One couple, who’d decided to bind their love in blood, needed stitches because they’d cut a little too deep. There was the guy overdosing for the second time that night who refused her offer of drug counseling. She informed three other people she wouldn’t prescribe opioids and got called a few choice names. The usual stuff.READ MORE
She let it all roll off her back. Addiction could be a terrible thing to deal with. Maeve’s was for chocolate. Not the cheap stuff bought at the corner store. She liked her imported Belgian treats. She’d been known to get testy when Aunt Flo visited and she didn’t have a piece of cocoa goodness melting in her mouth.
Around two a.m., with the moon shining super bright outside, the shit really started hitting the fan as the bars shut down, spilling the drunks into the streets. Most would stagger home or find a place to sleep it off. But others just had to cause trouble, leading to a wave of people coming into the ER. Most sported contusions and broken noses, easily triaged and gotten rid of. Those with stab wounds required a closer look.
At almost four, Maeve finally got a break. She was savoring a glorious hot chocolate with little marshmallows on top when the intercom went off.
“Dr. Friedman. Purple in R2.” Purple was code for gunshot wound. Getting all too common these days with the illegal guns coming into the city. The hospital changed the color code often so that people hearing the announcements wouldn’t start whipping out their phones to try to film a traumatic moment.
The macabre bent of today’s society worried Maeve. Made her not regret her choice to skip having kids. Although she’d recently been thinking of getting a cat.
Seemed like a lot of responsibility when all she wanted to do when she got off shift was suck down a glass of wine while slouching on her comfy couch.
“Dr. Friedman. Code purple in R2.”
She sighed at the repeated message. No more delaying. She gave her mug of chocolate, sugar heaven a mournful look and slugged back one more drink before heading at a brisk pace to the operating rooms.
Nurse Herman, also known as her best friend, Brandy, when outside of work, held open a door and gestured. “In here.”
Brandy shook her head. “They switched the operating room because Jarvis is working on the lights.” Jarvis being their maintenance guy.
Maeve stepped into the prep room and held out her arms as Brandy draped a clean protective suit on her. “What do we know?”
“Male. Thirties to forties. Drive-by shooting. Six gunshots, mostly to the torso.”
Maeve listened to the summary as she snapped on gloves and tied a mask over her face. Just last week, she’d had to listen to some interns mocking the thin paper. Ignorant idiots. Nothing worse than sneezing on an open wound or a gusher hitting the face to appreciate the protection it afforded.
One part of Brandy’s recitation caught her attention. “Did you say six gunshots, mostly to the chest?”
Brandy nodded. “It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”
Not for long, most likely. But perhaps he’d be one of the super lucky ones.
“Have they started a transfusion yet?” she asked.
“We will as soon as we figure out his blood type. We must have gotten some faulty test strips, because the darned things keep lighting up like a Christmas tree. We sent some to the lab.”
“We don’t have time to wait. Get him going on O negative.” The universal blood type.
“We would if we had some,” Brandy grumbled. “Apparently, there’s a massive shortage of it in the city.”
Not the most auspicious announcement. With how much blood he’d lost and what he’d continue to lose, it would make her task of saving him darned near impossible.
Fully suited, Maeve entered to find the patient already stripped, a sheet over his lower half covering his groin and thighs. Nurse Abbott—a recently graduated young girl who always chirped, “Call me Ginnie”—gently sponged the chest to clean the area around the numerous oozing holes.
The monitor hooked up to him showed his heart was ticking along steadily. The blood pressure cuff on his arm inflated, providing a reading of one hundred over sixty-five. A bit low, but not dangerously so. Surprising, given the blood he must have lost.
Brandy wheeled a cart close by with the surgical tools Maeve would likely need. “Ready when you are.”
“Ditto,” Ginnie chirped, stepping back from the operating table.
“Where’s the anesthesiologist?” Maeve asked, noting the specialist missing from his post.
“They’re looking for one.” Brandy sounded less than impressed as she said, “Freddy called in sick. Again.”
“We have no one to put him under?” The query lifted Maeve’s brows. “How am I supposed to operate?” No one had a reply. She eyed his torso and the holes. “I don’t suppose the bullets went straight through?”
“Nope. Still inside.” Brandy shook her head.
Meaning Maeve would have to dig. No way he’d remain unconscious. “I can’t operate on him. What if he wakes up partway through?”
“He’ll bleed out if you don’t,” Brandy pointed out.
Even if the bleeding from the wounds appeared sluggish, they had to be cleaned and sewn shut. But only after she removed any debris inside. It would involve poking and possibly some slicing. Either would likely rouse him. If he thrashed while she wielded the scalpel on his flesh, she could seriously damage something. If she did nothing, he’d probably die.
Rock, meet hard place. Rather than sigh, she took action.
“Ginnie, fetch me some lidocaine, both the swab and injection.”
“Yes, Doctor.” The younger nurse ran.
Maeve eyed the man. One of the wounds was shallow enough she could see the bullet. Easy to pluck. She grabbed some tweezers. “Brandy, keep an eye on him and let me know if he shows signs of waking. I’m going to start removing the foreign objects.” The best she could do. If lucky, he’d remain unconscious. If not, then hopefully Ginnie would return soon with the numbing agent.
With a steady hand, she gripped the protruding missile and pulled it free, causing the blood dammed behind it to well and roll out. A good thing, as it would help clean the wound. She poured a cleaning solution to rinse it out. “Pressure,” she ordered Brandy and moved on.
Which one next? Five holes in his upper body, with a sixth missile having grazed his ribs, leaving a deep furrow.
She went after a slug wedged between the ribs, spotting it when she squirted a clear solution to dilute the blood. Amazing that it hadn’t gone deeper. It clanged as she dropped it into a metal dish. The next had lodged into the muscle of his abdomen—rock-solid, she noticed, a male who kept in shape. As she wiggled the bullet from its tight hole, Brandy exclaimed, “Oh shit, he’s awake.”
Indeed, eyes of pale gold were open. He was aware and watching.
Like a deer caught in headlights, Maeve froze, scalpel poised over the sluggishly oozing hole.
“Don’t pause on my account.” He spoke in a low, smooth tone, showing no hint of pain or panic. Surprising, given the situation.
“You’re awake.” A dumb and obvious thing to say.
“How observant of you,” he drawled.
“I’m sorry. That doesn’t usually happen, but I’m afraid we don’t have an anesthesiologist at the moment to knock you out, and your situation is rather urgent.”
“How many bullets?”
Brandy replied, “Six. Five inside of you. Well, two now. Three are already out.”
“That would explain my discomfort.” He winced and went to sit up.
Maeve immediately put her hands on him to push him down. “You can’t move. We’re not done extracting the bullets.”
“Then, by all means, finish.” He relaxed on the table and waited.
It took her a moment to sputter, “I can’t. You’re awake.”
“Afraid you’ll get stage fright?” he teased.
“No. I’m waiting for Nurse Abbott to return with lidocaine.”
“I don’t need any drugs. I can handle it.” A big boast to make.
“You might think you can, but even the slightest flinch might cause me to slip. I can’t take that chance.” Maeve shook her head in refusal.
“Do it,” was his soft reply.
Instead, she glanced at Brandy. “Go see where Ginnie is with that lidocaine. She should have been back by now.”
“I swear if she’s flirting with that new doc in oncology, I will kick her ass,” Brandy threatened as she stomped off, leaving Maeve alone with the patient.
He still stared. Discomfited, Maeve looked away, asking, “How did you get shot?”
“By a gun. And just an FYI, it hurts. So fuck the waiting. Get those silver nuggets of torture out of me.”
“It will just be a minute—”
“Either you do it now or I’m leaving.” A baseless threat.
She snorted. “Don’t be melodramatic. We both know you can’t.”
“I’d like to see you stop me.”
She wanted to retort he was in no condition to fight off anyone. At the same time, she didn’t want him exerting himself, because who knew what kind of damage he’d do? “If you’ll just give my nurse a few more minutes, I’m sure she’s on the way back with the freezing agent.”
“And if she’s not? Let’s just get this done. I won’t flinch. Promise.” He even managed a charming smile.
Maeve poked at his wound to prove a point.
He didn’t budge, but his lip lifted higher at the corner as he drawled, “You’ll have to do better than that, Doc.”
“If you insist…” she mumbled. She ignored his stare to lean in close. She carefully sliced before using tweezers to pluck out the bullet that nicked his collarbone. A miracle it hadn’t shattered.
He didn’t even so much as gasp in pain. She eyed him after the slug plunked into the dish.
The monitors agreed with him. His heart rate appeared to be slowing. He remained calm. Probably high as a newt. Most people who came in at this time of night were under the influence of something.
She went after the last bullet. The deepest. It had practically gone right through his shoulder. “This one would be better removed from the back. We’ll flip you once my nurses get back.”
“Fuck waiting. I’ll roll myself over.” He proceeded to remove the sensors monitoring his vitals. When he would have removed the IVs giving him fluids, she put her hand over his.
“Stop. You’re being irrational. You lost a lot of blood.”
“I’m fine. I don’t need any of this shit.” He went to yank, and once more, she grabbed at his hand.
“Wait. You’ll make a mess if you pull it out like that. Let me do it.” Against her better judgment, but with little choice, given his obstinate insistence, she turned off the IV before sliding the needle out of his flesh.
The moment he was freed of all the medical equipment, he rolled to his stomach, losing the sheet in the process and baring his ass.
She must have stared a tad too long, because he snapped, “You gonna finish the job or what?”
She created an incision over the poking lump with the scalpel, and the final bullet emerged, which led to him sighing. “That’s better.”
“Time to sew you up.” She turned to the tray to hunt for what she needed, but by the time she faced him again, he’d sat up.
“What are you doing? Lie down.”
“Because I haven’t sewn your wounds closed yet. If you strain too much, you’ll lose even more blood and possibly bleed out.”
He glanced down at the holes riddling his body, all of them barely leaking any blood. “I’m fine.”
“You are not fine. You have five bullet holes! You’ve lost a lot of blood.” It surprised her that he sounded so coherent.
“I appreciate the concern, Doc, but I need to get out of here. Trust me when I say that would be best for everyone.”
“You’re in trouble.” Stated, not asked, since it seemed quite obvious.
“What gave it away?” was his sarcastic retort.
“If someone’s trying to kill you, then you should talk to the cops.”
He snorted. “No, thanks.”
The reply indicated a lack of trust, or perhaps a fear of the police arresting him. “If you’re worried about going to jail, you could probably get a reduction in your sentence if you testify about whatever’s got people using you for target practice.”
That brought an incredulous look. “Snitch?”
“Because that’s way worse than getting gunned down in the street.”
“I’m not your honey. You can call me Dr. Fri—”
“Whatever. My business ain’t none of yours, Doc.”
“It is, given you’re on my operating table.”
“Then I’ll remove myself.” He swung his legs over the table.
She took a step back before stating, “It is my professional opinion that you require proper bandaging and monitoring for the next twenty-four hours at least.”
“Think whatever you like, Doc. We’re done.” He hopped off the operating table and stood.
Given his nakedness, she kept her eyes on his face. “You’re being a stubborn idiot. You have holes in your body. Even if you don’t want stitches, then at least let me cover them. You don’t want them to get infected.”
“I’m pretty sturdy.” He took a step in her direction, most likely because she stood in front of the door.
“You can’t leave. The police will want to talk to you.” The hospital had to report all gunshot wounds.
He grimaced. “Yeah, well, I ain’t interested in gabbing with them.”
She wanted to argue, and yet, it suddenly occurred to her how large this man was. Determined too. He towered over her, him and his many, many muscles.
She retreated a step and hit the tray of instruments, which clattered and almost tilted over. As she grabbed at it, she partially turned.
By the time she recovered, the door to the operating room was swinging shut on a bare, but very nice, ass.
Minutes later, still gaping in a room empty but for equipment and bloody sheets, Maeve blinked as Brandy returned with the long-awaited syringes.
“Took you long enough. What happened to Ginnie?”
“No idea. I didn’t see her on the way to grab the lidocaine.” Brandy glanced past her. “Where’d the patient go?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. He wanted out, and I wasn’t about to stop him.” Although she did wonder how Brandy had missed seeing the oversized naked man in the hall.
“Hold on, you’re saying he got up and walked out? With six bullet holes?”
“Five,” she corrected. The furrow didn’t count.
“Probably high on something. Wonder how long before he collapses and ends up back on the table,” Brandy said.
“No table needed. The bullets are out, and in some stroke of luck, nothing vital got hit. He just needs some stitching.” Which could be done by someone else. She was done for the day.
It was then that Ginnie finally returned, hands empty, brimming with excitement.
“Where have you been?” Brandy scolded.
“Sorry, had to deal with a stomach cramp.”
“During an emergency?” Maeve snapped.
“It was urgent.”
“You should have still contacted us. We were in the middle of surgery,” Brandy said.
“By the time I was done, I got distracted by the commotion in the emergency waiting room.”
Brandy muttered, “Squirrel.” And it was all Maeve could do to not laugh.
Instead, she asked, “What happened?” before heading for the next room, where she could strip out of her dirty gown.
“A massive dog went bolting through the ER and out the doors.”
“Someone lost their service dog?” Not a common sight to see one fleeing, given their training.
“Don’t know if it was service. Doubtful, though, since I didn’t see it wearing a vest.”
“If it wasn’t service, then how did it get inside?” The hospital didn’t allow pets.
“No one knows yet. But Peabody is freaking.” Peabody being one of the hospital admins.
“He should worry less about a single random dog and more about hiring another anesthesiologist. This is the second time in the last week Freddy has bailed without warning.”
Freddy wouldn’t be the only one she’d ask to replace. Maeve wasn’t impressed that Ginnie had dallied during an emergency surgery. It could have cost the patient his life.
A patient who had disappeared. Despite his naked ass hightailing it out of the operating room, no one had seen him apparently, but everyone had heard of the dog.
After the security footage circulated, many called the dog a wolf, and no one questioned the illogic of a giant wolf running loose in the city. Par for the course on a full moon.
On four legs and hurting, Griffin bolted from the hospital and didn’t stop running until he’d reached an alley with no prying eyes. Only then did he dare shift from his wolf to his man shape, wincing the entire time. Blame a torso riddled with bullets.
A miracle he didn’t die. He would have bled out if not for the Good Samaritan who’d dragged him into his bakery, foiling the drive-by shooters. He was the one who must have called an ambulance, because a hospital was the last place Griffin would have gone. He’d have taken his chances with Ulric, who’d done a stint in the military as a field medic.
Waking during surgery? Very unexpected, as was the doctor, masked and gowned, working over him. The antiseptic smells, clashing with that of his own coppery blood, had left him disoriented. He couldn’t scent the doctor, and that bothered him, since he could tell a lot by smell.
At least he’d been able to observe her calm competence as she’d leaned in and carefully plucked out the bullets. Lying still as she’d extracted them had taken all kinds of steady strength, because it had motherfucking hurt. As if he’d ever admit it. Never show weakness.
Also, never wait for the cops.
He had no doubt if he’d stuck around waiting for her to stitch him up, they’d have appeared and asked questions he’d rather not answer.
Who shot you?
Who are you?
None of your fucking business.
Griffin preferred to live under the radar. No arrests. Not even a speeding ticket. A man in his position couldn’t be too careful. He just hoped that when he’d fled, no one caught the fact that a man entered into a closet and a wolf emerged. He’d have to ask Dorian to check the hospital footage.
A wolf in the city wasn’t an ideal disguise, but since dawn hadn’t crested yet, few people had been around to see him, and those who’d briefly seen his furry, sleek shape would have assumed he was a dog. Insulting, but it worked in his favor.
Now, he ran when he could, his body weak from loss of blood and hurting too. Perhaps he should have let her stitch up the bigger wounds. He made it home without further trouble. The door on the alley, unmarked and partially rusted, the black paint peeling, opened before he could knock. The camera watching the alley would have shown his arrival.
The moment he entered, Griffin shifted, hearing the slam of the door and appreciating the blanket tossed over his shoulders.
“What the fuck happened to you?” exclaimed Quinn, who was doing nighttime security for the shop.
“I thought I’d see what target practice felt like,” was Griffin’s sarcastic retort. He winced as he straightened, wrapping the blanket around his waist.
He entered the main floor of the building, owned by Lanark Leaf Inc. His company. His building. His operation. All legal. Now at least. A few years ago, before the legalization of marijuana, he’d sold most of his stuff from the trunk of his car. Now he operated a few stores in the city, supplied by his country cousins who were part of the North Bay Pack. The Lanarks were now wealthy and legit. So fuck everyone who said they’d never amount to anything.
“Geezus fucking Christ, what happened to you?” The exclamation spurted from Wendell, who stood up from the table where he’d been working on the computer, running numbers. Cooking them a bit too.
Years of illegal selling had left them with some cash to launder, which they’d been doing slowly, building their bank accounts, making them healthy without doing anything crazy to draw attention. Math not being his strong suit, Griffin left the finer points of it to Wendell.
“Give me a second. I need some pants.” He went for the box they kept by the back door for the times someone showed up and needed clothes. Most of the time, they didn’t shift in the city. Wolves tended to draw notice. But sometimes shit happened, and when it did, they liked to be ready. Hence the box of tracksuits, all in extra large, which worked for most of the boys, except Travis, who was a foot taller than all of them, and Lonnie, who was a foot shorter. For shoes, they had garden clogs in extra large. Ugly fucking things, but cheap, and with the heel straps torn off, they fit everyone well enough until they could get home and dress properly.
The boys held off asking questions until he had some pants on. As Griffin pulled on a T-shirt that said “Don’t worry, have a smoke and be happy,” Wendell started.
“Who shot you?”
“Dunno.” He popped his head and arms through before facing his crew, only the pair for the moment, but he had no doubt they’d already texted the others.
“What do you mean you don’t fucking know? What the shit happened?”
Any other time, Griffin might have called Wendell to task for taking that tone and making that demand. But he cut the guy some slack—after all, it wasn’t every day your Alpha walked in looking like a pincushion. Not to mention, Wendell had almost twenty years on him. He’d earned the right to ask questions.
“I was heading home after watching the hockey game with Phil.” Phil being an old high school friend. They didn’t hang out often since his wife had popped out a baby. “It finished late because of triple overtime. I was passing by Juniper’s Cupcakes”—which made the best buttercream icing—“when some car slowed down and at least two people opened fire.” Luckily, they were shit shots and had missed his head, or he’d not be living to tell the tale.
“Hold on, are you saying someone tried to off you?” Quinn sputtered.
“Maybe,” Griffin said.
“Maybe? You’re riddled with bullet holes,” was Wendell’s dry riposte.
“We’re assuming the bullets were meant for me.”
“Who the fucking else?” Wendell almost roared.
Griffin allowed it. After all, Wendell had lost his son in a shooting a few years back. A farmer had seen a wolf near his land and opened fire. They now owned that farm. As for the farmer… People called it ironic that he ended up dying in one of his own bear traps after being told by conservation authorities to get rid of them.
“You can stuff the yelling, because I don’t know fuck all. I didn’t recognize the car, and the folks inside it were wearing those stupid medical masks and beanies.” The face coverings were left over from the COVID-19 pandemic. Not everyone had ditched them when the mandates got tossed. The police were grumbling because they enabled thieves and other lawbreakers to act with impunity since no one could identify them.
Wendell whirled back to his computer. “You said this happened by Juniper’s Cupcakes?”
“Yeah. The baker’s the one who actually ran outside and dragged me in to safety. Got me to the hospital where some chick doctor saved my life.”
It was Quinn who offered a doubtful, “Shot six times and they let you loose already?”
“Doc didn’t want to. I kind of insisted.”
Wendell shook his head. “Idiot. You should have let her stitch you up.”
“I wanted to leave before the cops came asking questions.”
“And so what if they did? You were the one shot. You wouldn’t have been in trouble.”
“Better to not draw attention in the first place. Besides, the bleeding had already stopped. Once she got the silver out, they started healing.”
The word silver had them all freezing before Wendell asked in a low voice, “They shot you with silver bullets?”
“Seems like. Sure burned like they were.” In retrospect, he wished he’d grabbed the dish with the bullets, but then again, how would he have gotten it home?
“Shot with silver, and you question if you were targeted?” Wendell’s tone pitched with incredulity.
“Does seem kind of coincidental.” Griffin downplayed it. He knew better than to have his boys get all riled up and go out looking for trouble. Better to be sure who was causing trouble before they sought revenge.
“I’ll bet it’s those fuckers over the river.” Quinn referenced the nearest wolf pack, on the Quebec side.
“We don’t know that. Why would they start shit now, given things have been working smoothly?” One of the things Griffin had done when he took over the Pack from its previous Alpha was sort shit out. Ottawa and the valley belonged to Griffin, who ran the Byward Pack, whereas the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, the Outaouais, belonged to the Sauveur Pack, run by Felix.
“I’ll bet you it’s those fuckers trying to encroach, because they know we’ve got the bigger market.” Quinn shook a fist.
“Maybe. Or could be someone just wants us to think that,” Griffin cautioned.
“So what are we gonna do?” Quinn cracked his knuckles, ready to lay down a beating.
“Be more careful, for starters. Until we know for sure what’s going on, we should all pay more attention when we go out. That means not keeping to regular schedules. Let’s make it hard for anyone to track us,” Griffin suggested.
A skeptical Quinn blurted out, “How’s that help us find out who shot your ass?”
“You leave that to me.” He had a friend on the force, part of the Pack and yet not, given he wore the uniform. But Billy would help Griffin if he asked. “We’re going to want to increase security around the shop too.”
“Want me to add those cameras we were discussing on the roof?” Wendell asked. Dorian, their tech guy, had been talking about them for weeks. Currently, cameras pointed only at the front and back doors.
“Yeah. Let’s do that, and make sure it catches the plates of the cars that drive by. I’ll talk to Dorian about running them through a program to see if we spot repeats. He’ll also be able to tell if the plates ping in the system.” They had access to the licensing database for Ontario, courtesy of Dorian’s cousin, who worked at the agency.
“We should also have him look to see if there’s any footage of you getting shot,” Wendell added.
“Excellent idea. Now that we’ve got a plan, I am going for a shower.”
“Is that wise, given you have holes in your body?” Wendell pointed out.
Griffin rolled his eyes. “For fuck’s sake, you’re not my mother. I’m fine.”
Only a partial lie. He left them to go up the stairs to the second floor, it and the third being his home. When he’d bought the building, right after he’d combined the three main-floor shops into one massive one for his pot business, he’d then converted the many apartments above into a single luxury home. Two floors. The first floor boasted a massive kitchen that opened onto a living room with four couches and a few chairs. He needed the space for the Pack meetings. Storage, laundry, and a bathroom rounded out the space. On the upper floor, the entire room was open, with a gym in the back corner, a lavish bathroom with no interior walls, a massive bed, another seating area, and a desk for his computer.
Stripping, he grimaced at the damage to his flesh. He’d heal, but he’d sport new scars. Not that he cared, but they would lead to questions from his bedmates he’d rather not answer. He hated them getting distracted when all he wanted to do was fuck.
Being alone, he allowed himself a hiss as the hot water hit his tender flesh. He could handle a lot of pain, more than most people. And as Alpha, even during the excruciating shift, he didn’t let it show. Showing pain equaled weakness.
But he let himself feel it now, slumping under the hot spray, reliving the rapid and frightening seconds that had almost ended his life.
He should have died.
But didn’t. The second mistake his attackers made.
The first? Coming after him in the first place.COLLAPSE