“Patrick, I can’t seem to raise anyone at the house,” said Ginny.
“Maybe no one is home,” he said.
“No answering machine either,” said Ginny.
“They probably have it disconnected in order to paint or clean,” said Patrick. “Just stop worrying. If something had gone wrong, they would have called us.”
“Or, maybe not figuring that I’d head home,” said Ginny. She felt something was wrong and couldn’t get a handle on what it was. Maybe the run tonight would make her feel better. They’d had two long days where they’d fallen asleep before they could go out for a bit. Their vacation was half over and while they hadn’t exactly kept to the schedule, they had gotten a lot done. Patrick had opted for a mellow day so they wouldn’t be so tired. After breakfast they took a short drive and came back to have lunch at the Dog Bar. It had been great to see all the people there and the dogs. Most of them stayed out on the patio, but a few of the dogs knew just how to sneak into the main dining room. She and Patrick figured that they must be regulars, as they knew right where the kitchen was and how close they could get before being hustled out of the area. Pizza and beer for lunch had been good.
Ginny tried the house once more. Still no answer. She changed her tack and called Meg. Meg picked up on the first ring. “I was beginning to wonder where you were,” Ginny said into the phone. “No, we’re okay. Just hadn’t heard from George in a few days and was a little worried.” Ginny paused for a few minutes listening to Meg. “Okay, Glad to hear things are going well. Talk to you later. Love you,” Ginny finished.
“So, do you feel better?” Patrick asked.
“Sorta. Apparently George and Angie really hit it off. Plus, Cal and Peter have been called in to do some of the work since George has been ‘busy’,” Ginny said with a smile.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” said Patrick. Angie is a sweet little armful and I bet George is keeping her close.”
“I just hope we don’t have to get another receptionist,” joked Ginny. That made them both laugh.
Four hours later, the two wolves slipped over the railing and down into the forest. There was plenty of game out tonight. The smaller of the two caught the first rabbit. The next rabbit was almost gone when it began to snow. The flakes were fat and heavy as they drifted to the ground. By the time the third rabbit was eaten, there was a good inch on the ground and the going was getting sloppy.
The larger of the two wolves nipped at the smaller one and then headed back to the village. They raced long and hard as they headed back. Once when going through a small meadow, they spooked a herd of elk. Neither wolf wanted to tackle such large prey tonight, so they plowed through the startled animals and burst out the other side of the meadow before the initial bugling had even died down. They were running hard now with snow and mud flying behind them.
The two wolves slowed as they passed behind the outer buildings. The big male jumped over the balcony railing first. He shook snow and mud from his coat. Mud and slush went everywhere. Nosing the handle, he entered the room and waited for the female before shifting.
She jumped with one paw landing on the rail. She hadn’t gotten enough of a push off and had to compensate. The mud on her paws greased the rail and instead of landing on all four paws, her back foot slipped and she came crashing down on her nose and head. She was out cold.
Patrick watched the whole thing happen in slow motion and while he moved as fast as he could from wolf to man, he wasn’t in time to catch her. He checked for a pulse, and after finding that, lifted her gently and put her on the bed. He’d figure out how to explain the muddy sheets later. Once he’d closed the door and drawn the curtains, he went to the bathroom and grabbed a towel and washcloth. The wolf had blood running from her nose. It didn’t look broken, but he wasn’t sure. There is a lot of bone there and he wasn’t sure how it translated when she shifted. He put the washcloth under her nose and started trying to dry off her fur.
“Ginny, Can you hear me? Ginny, Can you shift back? Come on girl,” he said close to her ear. He shook her gently and then went back to drying her off. He didn’t feel any broken bones under the fur, but her coat was so thick it was difficult to tell. “Ginny, wake up. Ginny, come back to me,” he said again. When she didn’t respond, he checked her skull and found a bit of swelling next to her eye. “Oh Ginny, you are going to have one hell of a concussion,” he said to himself.
Looking around, Patrick decided that he’d get cleaned up. He was still spattered with mud and blood. He grabbed some clothes and headed to the bathroom for a quick shower. He had barely turned off the water when he heard Ginny moan. He grabbed a towel and headed for the bedroom. Ginny had shifted back and was sitting up in bed holding her head between her hands.
“My head hurts,” she whimpered.
“You knocked yourself out,” Patrick said. He took her head in his hands and did a quick assessment. “How does your nose feel?” he asked.
“Like I used it to stop a train,” said Ginny.
“Well, it isn’t too swollen. Not sure if you broke it, but it isn’t crooked. You have a hell of a bump on your head too,” Patrick added as he just barely touched the swollen skin.
“Ah… oh, don’t,” Ginny winced. “Would you help me into the shower? I want to get all of this off of me.” There were mud and blood spatters everywhere.
“Of course. I just got out of the shower. Let’s just take it easy,” he said as they stood up and headed towards the bathroom. They didn’t get two steps before Ginny crumpled. Patrick picked her up and saw that her right foot was swelling at the ankle.
“I didn’t even feel the ankle,” Ginny said.
“I’m not surprised. Between the nose and the head I’d be amazed if you felt a train hit you,” Patrick said.
“Gee, thanks,” said Ginny.
“Hon, you got hurt. Some of them are going to fade in comparison to others. Let’s get you cleaned up and then I’m going to see Sam,” he said.
“Oh, no, don’t bother her,” Ginny tried to protest.
“Ginny, you’re hurt. I can’t fix this with a kiss and a bit of water. So just shut up and deal with the fact that you aren’t in charge at the moment,” Patrick said as they stepped into the shower. He held her up as she rinsed off. It only took a minute and then he had her back out and sitting on the edge of the tube.
“I can dry myself,” Ginny said.
“No. I will do this. I don’t want you bending over and making your head pound,” said Patrick in a voice filled with sub-vocals. She was hurt and there was no way she was going to make matters worse by being proud.
“Okay,” said Ginny.
When she was fairly dry, Patrick carried her to a chair and grabbed a teeshirt and panties for her. He helped her dress and then stripped the top blanket off the bed. He tossed it on the floor and then put Ginny in bed. Then he got dressed.
“Stay put, or you will not like the consequences,” he said as he left the room.
“Okay,” said Ginny. He was still using sub-vocals and the rumble made her wince. She tried to get comfortable on the bed.
Patrick headed downstairs to Sam’s room. He knew it was nearly 5am, but Ginny needed aspirin and ice for her head and ankle. He knocked on the door and waited. He knocked again and finally heard someone moving on the other side of the door.
“You better have a damn good reason to wake me up twenty minutes before my alarm is gonna to go off,” said a rather grumpy and sleepy Sam through a partially opened door.
“Sam, I’m sorry to wake you up, but Ginny had an accident. She slipped on the balcony and hurt herself. She has a bump on her head and sprained her ankle. I would have waited…” was as far as he got.
“Just shut up a second. Let me get dressed. Do you need a doctor or a vet?” Sam asked.
Sam’s question brought Patrick to an abrupt halt. He blinked and then his brain kicked back in.
“A… a doctor would be just fine. Thanks Sam,” he said.
“There are extra blankets in the hall closet. Grab a few and toss the dirty stuff down the chute next to the laundry bin. I’ll take care of that stuff later. Meanwhile, get back to Ginny. I’ll be up in a few minutes,” she said.
Patrick nodded and headed back upstairs at a run. He grabbed two blankets and was back in the room in under a minute.
“Sam’s calling a doctor and I brought up some blankets,” said Patrick
“Okay,” said Ginny. “I’m sorta cold.”
Patrick wrapped Ginny up in the blankets and waited for Sam to arrive.
Sam called Doc Rogers. Then she headed up to their room with a hot water bottle, ice in a bag and some water. She knew Doc would have a fit if she gave Ginny anything else before he’d looked her over. The door was open when she got to the room, but she still stopped and knocked on the door frame.
“It’s me, Sam. Can I come in?” she asked.
“Sure Sam. I have Ginny in here on the bed,” called Patrick.
Sam walked in and stopped. Ginny had a knot the size of an orange on her head and her eyes were showing bruises. “Oh my. What on earth happen? You get in a fight with an elk?” Sam asked.
“No, her paw slipped on the railing and she face planted on the deck,” said Patrick.
“Oh damn. Which paw?” Sam asked.
“My right one,” Ginny said softly. She pulled the blanket away from her foot.
Sam gently poked at it and checked it out as gently as she could. “Yeah, you twisted that a good one,” Sam said. “Now, did you bust your nose too?”
“I don’t think so,” Ginny said. “My head hurts though.”
“Well Doc Rogers will be here in a few minutes,” Sam said. “And before you panic, he’s treated shifters plenty of times. I swear that damn bar across the street attracts them like flies.” Sam put the ice on Ginny’s ankle and gave her the hot water bottle to snuggle.
“Not surprised. The food’s good and the name is a tease,” said Patrick. “So, what gave us away if you don’t mind me asking, because you certainly weren’t surprised.”
“Hon, I been running this place for nearly thirty-five years. Ain’t a lot that I haven’t seen to be honest, and I’m not the kind to get my feathers ruffled. This has always been a real remote spot, and I think I’d been open a whole week afore I saw my first couple sneak out and shift inta wolves. A real nice newly wed couple from back east. Next morning at breakfast, I asked him to come into the office for a minute. Scared as hell I was, but figured I better see if I was crazy. I wasn’t. We had a nice long talk. He’s the one that helped me fix up the rooms to be more shifter friendly,” she said. “As to what gave you away? Just the way you handle yourselves, and after a while, you just sorta know. Plus, ol’ Buster sorta whined when you came in.”
“Buster?” asked Patrick.
“Yeah. He’s an old wolf. Lives here and he hangs out near the kitchen. He came here four or five years ago. Decided he was gonna kick off out in the woods. Even left me a note telling me what to do with his stuff. Three days later, this big ol’ mangy looking husky thing scratched at the back door. I didn’t know what to think, so I gave it some water and a blanket to lay on. Ten minutes later, there was Buster, sitting on a chair wrapped in a blanket,” said Sam.
Patrick took this information in and just blinked. “What happened then?” he asked.
“We talked. He was old, tired and wasn’t coping well in human form. Had trouble changing. His ears and whiskers don’t always go back. So, we came to an agreement. Buster can live here and acts as sort of a guardian. ‘Specially at night. He gets room and board. I made him up a real fine place to stay outside when he wants and he has a room too. Most days, he stays on four legs,” said Sam.
“When this is all over, I’d like to meet Buster,” said Patrick.
“Fine. I’ll bring him up. Now I’m wonderin’ where Doc Rogers is,” said Sam. She walked over to the door and out into the hall. “Doc, I said we’d be up here,” she shouted over the railing.
There was some mumbling out in the hall and then footsteps on the stairs. A moment later, a rather sleep older gentleman in jeans and a flannel shirt walked into the room.
“Howdy, I’m Doc Rogers,” he said holding out his hand to Patrick.
“Hi. I’m Patrick and this is Ginny,” he said and pointed to Ginny on the bed.
“Well, let’s get a look see at you,” said Doc. He put his bag down on the bed next to Ginny and began to check her out. Patrick and Sam watched as Doc checked her eyes, examined her nose, ankle and the bump on her head. He also checked her ribs and other leg.
“You sure made a fine mess of yourself,” Doc said.
“Yeah. Is my nose broken?” Ginny asked.
“Cracked, but not broken. You’re gonna have a nice bruise on your face, but you shouldn’t have too black of an eye. There’s a bit of concussion which will make you feel like hell, but the worst is the ankle. Not one hundred percent sure, but I think you tore a tendon and maybe cracked a toe or two when you slipped,” Doc said. “You’re gonna have to stay in bed today and maybe tomorrow. At least until your head stops hurting. Don’t fuss, otherwise I’ll have Patrick there growl at you,” he finished with a smile.
Ginny just shook her head. “Tag teaming me eh?” she said.
“Sure will ma’am,” said Doc. “Do you have a primary doctor I can call?”
“Yes, his name is Jeff Hayes. Here’s his number,” said Patrick handing Doc a business card.
“Oh yeah. Had to call him a few years back about another patient,” said Doc. He stuck the card in his pocket. “Now, I’m going to wrap your ankle and give you some pain killers. Stay in bed as best you can and don’t go getting all antsy. Sam here will get Patrick to bring food up and we’ll get this taken care of now.”
“Okay. It isn’t like I’m going to go anywhere. I just feel so damned stupid for slipping and bashing my face,” said Ginny. “Oh, and I do better with just aspirin. The rest of the stuff just makes my stomach ache.”
“Okay, Aspirin it is,” said Doc as he wrapped her ankle and put the icepack back on it. “Try not to blow your nose if you can avoid it. We don’t want that crack to become a break.”
Ginny nodded. She took the aspirin that Sam brought to her with some water.
“I’ll let you know what Dr. Jeff has to say,” said Doc.
“Would you do us a favor and ask him not to tell the family?” asked Patrick.
“Afraid they’ll laugh or come get you?” asked Doc as he smiled.
“The latter,” said Ginny. “Laughter I can cope with. Last thing I want is Sara, Ivan and Joe sing-songing ‘Aunty Ginny fell dowwwwwwn!” as they bounce on the bed.”
That made everyone laugh.
Doc finished up and then he and Patrick headed downstairs.
“Is there anything you need?” asked Sam.
“No, I just want to curl up and hope my head feels better. I’m so sorry about this mess,” said Ginny trying to apologize.
“Don’t worry. Things happen. You need anything, just holler,” said Sam as she headed out the door and downstairs.
Doc was just finishing up a phone call as Sam came into the lobby of the bed and breakfast. He had a smile on his face.
“Doc, what’s so funny,” asked Sam.
“Patrick, don’t listen okay,” said Doc with a wink.
“Okay,” Patrick answered puzzled.
“I just talked to this Dr. Jeff. He said good luck and that it must be one of them weeks for accidents. Said he was just on his way to see a fella named George who fell through a floor who didn’t want his cousin and her beau to know that he got hurt,” said Doc Rogers.
Patrick tried not to laugh. The smile was the first crack, and then the giggles started. “So that’s what Ginny was feeling!” he thought.
“What’s so funny about a guy falling through a floor?” asked Sam.
“Well, George is a big man. Over six feet and probably 250 pounds if not more. As a wolf, he tips the scales at probably 1000 pounds or more. I’m guessing he shifted at his girlfriend’s house and the floor was rotten in a spot and he went through it,” said Patrick.
“Oh god!” said Sam. “That was the George that upgraded your room?”
“Yes. Now two of them are confined to bed. What a riot!” said Patrick. “And don’t worry. I won’t tell Ginny. She’d do her best to pressure me into going home and I’m not doing that.”
“Good. Glad to know you have a good head on your shoulders,” said Sam. “You done here Doc?”
“Yes Sam. I’m going to go back and have breakfast before I head into the office. If Ginny needs anything, just holler,” Doc said as he headed out the door.
“That reminds me, I promised you something,” said Sam. “Follow me.”
Patrick followed her down the hall and past the kitchen. They went out a door onto a private patio. Sam stopped right as they got out the door and put her hand up to stop Patrick from walking any farther as well. Patrick saw what looked like a split level dog house big enough for a small pony in one corner of the yard. As they stood there, a nose peaked out and then withdrew.
“I don’t know if Buster will shift back to human or not,” whispered Sam. “He’s getting real stiff and it don’t go well for him.”
“I can understand that. Some days it doesn’t go well for me and I’m not that old,” Patrick said softly.
A moment later, a large wolf walked down the ramp and across to the patio where Sam and Patrick stood. He sniffed, walked around the two and then rubbed up against Sam. Then he just sat there and looked at Patrick.
“Sam, do you know how much he likes you?” Patrick asked quietly.
“No, I just figured he liked it cause I take care of him. Nothing special,” said Sam.
“No, he likes you a bit more than that. I think if he was twenty years younger, you’d have yourself a lover,” he said.
“Oh your just teasing me,” Sam said exasperatedly.
“No, ask him yourself next time he shifts,” Patrick said. He got down to eye level with the old wolf. “You really should tell her you know,” he said and stood up.
Buster just looked at Patrick and then sneezed.
“I better get back to Ginny,” said Patrick. With that, he turned and headed back inside.
“You should see the old man,” said Patrick to Ginny. He’s got an apartment from heaven for an old wolf. Plus he almost drooled on Sam when he came out.”
“Drooling? Maybe he’s just lost too many teeth,” said Ginny.
“No, this was devotion. You’ll see,” he said. He was cuddled around Ginny. She was wrapped up in blankets and was doing her best to go to sleep for a bit. It had been a long and painful night.
It was nearly noon when the phone rang. Luc picked it up on the third ring. “Hello, Alpha Wolf Tech, how can I help you?” he said. Having Ginny and Angie gone was driving him nuts. He and Kevin took turns answering. “Oh! Hi Patrick, how’s the trip going? Good. We’re a little busy, but doing okay. Yes, it is. Oh, you heard about George? Well, don’t tell Ginny. Oh good. What?!” exclaimed Luc as Patrick proceeded to tell Luc what had happened. Ten minutes later, Luc hung up the phone with a smile playing across his face.
“Meg!” he called out. “You aren’t going to believe this!” he shouted as he headed down the hall to tell her what Patrick had told him. That one call had made his day.