Guardian Wolf - By Linda O. Johnston
No way. It can’t be her.
That was Dr. Simon Parran’s first reaction as he moved uncomfortably in his seat in the medical center’s small, crowded auditorium.
His second was to visualize Grace Andreas in his mind. That gorgeous face with her high cheekbones, full, inviting lips—and soft brown eyes that flashed each time she asked a question. Too many incisive questions, nearly all about him. Questions he wouldn’t answer. That had been the problem, back then.
“Lt. Andreas is a physician,” continued Colonel Nelson Otis, M.D., the commanding officer at the renowned and well-regarded military hospital where Simon worked. Speaking into a microphone, he stood at the podium at the front of the room, clad in a lab jacket like most of the staff here, including Simon. “Her specialty is infectious diseases.”
Simon wouldn’t have guessed the Grace he’d known would go into the military—if this was her. But her specialty made sense. Not only because Grace gave a damn about people—or at least she used to—but she was also prone to take on any cause and fight till she won, no matter how badly the odds were stacked against her.
Almost any cause.
Okay, what if this was the Grace Andreas he had known for a short, intense while, during their early pre-med studies in Michigan? He didn’t need to do more than be civil to her. No chance of avoiding her, though. He was an infectious diseases specialist, too.
“With Dr. Andreas will be a nurse, Sgt. Kristine Norwood,” the commander continued.
Most doctors and other medical staff had gathered in the lecture hall at Charles Carder Medical Center near Phoenix, Arizona, for the short, monthly update about pending matters at the facility. One item always covered was the frequent comings and goings of staff members.
Because the hospital was a military facility, the fluidity of personnel was a fact of life. Most of the time, Simon didn’t care one way or the other.
This time was different.
Well, even if he couldn’t help seeing Grace during her tour of duty here, it wasn’t like he didn’t think of her a lot anyway, despite the passage of so many years since they’d last been together.
But what if she was still as inquisitive as she’d been back then? His primary reason for being here, his secret experiments, were finally beginning to pay off. They were the direct result of who and what he was—and the information he had refused to admit to Grace, no matter how hard she had pressed him. She had hinted more than once that she was like him, making it look as if it shouldn’t matter if he disclosed everything.
So had those SOBs who’d feigned unity and friendliness with his family—till they had run amok and killed two close relatives.
If it was his Grace, she might try to repeat the past. It wouldn’t matter. He was older. Things didn’t bother him as much as they had back then. He had learned many ways of protecting himself, his family, their friends.
Now, if she dug in, demanding answers in her sweet but unyielding way, he could laugh it off more easily. Better yet, turn it on her, since she had hinted of her own secrets. Threaten to harm her and her career by reporting her harassment via official military channels. Not that he’d carry through, of course, unless he could do it in a way that wouldn’t invite more questions.
Yet…hell. It came to Simon suddenly, in a surge of awareness that nearly made him stand despite being in the middle of a crowded row.
Her timing could hardly be worse. It would be one thing to deal with her almost any day of the month.
But tomorrow night—the night of the day she was arriving?
There would be a full moon. And he had plans.
Yet potential danger, too. Her control was less this night than most times while shifted.
She reveled in it.
Now, with unleashed pleasure, she ran beneath the full moon in territory unknown and vast. She inhaled unfamiliar, tantalizing scents of the desert, where military aircraft landed in the distance, and buildings filled with people squatted nearby.
Around her were yuccas and cacti and gritty sand beneath her paws. Coolness, because it was night.
All illuminated by the round, gleaming moon.
She had been in this area for hours, alone and out of the way. Pacing in her cherished wildness, yet not going far. It was long into the night now. The risk of being seen by people, even on hospital property, was smaller. She ached to release even more pent-up energy.