Fated Magic (Claimed by Wolves #1) - Callie Rose
The fluorescent lights in the ceiling emit a faint, incessant buzzing that hurts my battered head almost as much as the harsh illumination does. I stare down at Doctor Patil’s shiny black hair as his capable fingers, clad in sapphire blue surgical gloves, prod at my ankle.
He’s already x-rayed my arm and shined his light in my eyes to check my pupils for signs of concussion. He declared me safe from brain damage, but he let out a long, low whistle at the other parts of me that weren’t so lucky.
The doctor presses on a particularly sore spot, and I hiss through my teeth, gripping the paper-covered table beneath me.
“This area hurts?” Doctor Patil asks, pressing the nodule again like a damn sadist.
My jaw tightens as I try to restrain the impulse to yank my leg out of his grasp. “Yes. That area hurts.”
I notice his gaze pause over the crescent-shaped scars above my knee, but he doesn’t say anything. The same suspicious look crossed his face when he saw the scars on my arms. And again when he lifted my shirt to press on my stomach to check for any internal abnormalities, only to find more scars—some of them old and faded, some a fresh, shiny pink.
Doctor Patil steps back and settles onto his little rolling stool. Scooting away from me a little, he dips his head to catch my gaze, his words measured and careful. “Tell me again how it happened. Can you do that, Sable?”
Uncle Clint shifts, the movement so minute that I bet the doctor doesn’t even notice. My uncle is standing against the wall by the door with his blue flannel shirt tucked into his Wranglers, the sleeves rolled to his elbows. He has the darkly tanned skin of a man who’s spent his life beneath the Montana sun—and that particular planetary body has done little to preserve any of the good looks he might have once had. Now, north of fifty with a balding head, he looks like a dried, wrinkled potato with a beer belly.
He glares at me over Doctor Patil’s head, dark eyes promising retribution if I so much as put a toe out of line.
My stomach seems to turn in on itself, an all-too-familiar heaviness settling over me as I look back at the doctor.
“I fell,” I say around the lump in my throat. “Down the stairs. Carrying the laundry to the basement.”
“Are you often clumsy?” Doctor Patil glances down at my chart then back up at me. He has startling gray eyes that seem to be at odds with his dark skin and hair. They also seem to see a lot more than my usual doctor.
I shrug, goosebumps breaking out on my skin as my nerves prickle. The ruthless fluorescents shine too much light on the scars that cover my body. Each thin line of knotted white skin tells a story that my uncle doesn’t want told. After years of visits, years of injuries and bruises and strange ailments, Doctor Jones only sees the dollar signs each of those things ticks off on his final bill. He doesn’t ask questions. But Doctor Jones is out this week, so we got Doctor Patil instead.
Uncle Clint doesn’t bring me to the hospital for every little injury. Only the bad ones, the ones that clearly need extra care. Unfortunately for him, he pushed me too hard tonight.
And unfortunately for us both, Doctor Patil asks questions.
“I have an inner ear abnormality,” I say, parroting the same excuse I’ve used for years. “My balance is awful. Uncle Clint tells me to use the laundry chute, but I’m stubborn.”
I smile, trying to add a bit of warmth behind my last statement, but I’m absolutely certain it looks more pained than affectionate.
Doctor Patil narrows his eyes, then swivels on his stool. “Mr. Maddock? Could you give me and Sable a moment alone?”
Uncle Clint straightens up from the wall but leaves his arms crossed over his barrel chest. “No, sir. You ain’t our usual doctor. I won’t be leaving my precious girl alone with no stranger.”
God, Doctor Patil would have to be a moron to not hear the syrupy false note in my uncle’s voice.
Precious girl. Right. More like punching bag.
Doctor Patil, to his credit, doesn’t seem the least bit intimidated by Clint’s brutish warning. “You understand that at eighteen years old, she’s a grown adult, and she would be well within her right to ask you to leave the room.”
My skin goes cold as I understand what he’s