Doctor Hope shifted in her seat and crossed her legs as she looked at the young woman sitting across from her in a chair instead of on one of the beds. The young woman’s dark brown hair had been recently salon styled. The dress she wore was classic and expensive enough to be about the same price as the diamond jewelry she was wearing with it. She had her legs crossed and was tapping her nails, painted in a pattern achieved by a manicurist, on the chair arm.
To stall for time, Hope looked down and brought up the last scan again while she furiously thought about what to say. Hope was the doctor for the club. The club had paid for medical school and thrown money at the local hospital to help pay for the new wing they wanted. This wing was conditional upon Hope practicing there.
The hospital, the club, and Hope had an understanding. Whenever someone from the club came to the hospital to be treated, they came to her. The same went for those closely affiliated with the club—this meant children, spouses, significant others, and anyone the club deemed important to them, like Violet.
Hope pressed her lips together. Unfortunately, sometimes this meant dealing with people she didn’t want to deal with. This included rich young women wearing enough to pay for small but vital, and expensive, pieces of equipment. Hope glanced at the name at the top of the scan, Lindsey Henderson. Lindsey was one of those people. However, she was Quinn’s girlfriend and Quinn loved her. Thus, she was one of Hope’s to care for. Even if neither of them liked it very much.
Quinn, right now, Quinn was the problem. The rumor around the club was Quinn was acting quite out of character. He was happy, and he in the last few weeks he hadn’t been drinking or partying as much. And he wasn’t willing to say why he was cheerful. Hope had verified this for herself. Normally, being cheerful shouldn’t be a problem but a welcome change. Hope fiddled with the scan again.
Now she knew why Quinn was cheerful.
Lindsey was pregnant. The very early stage of pregnancy, and it was her first pregnancy. Among humans this would mean at least a fifty-fifty chance of miscarrying. Quinn wasn’t entirely human anymore. He was a werewolf, and the werewolf virus was exceptionally sturdy. This dropped a chance of a miscarriage from one in two to one in ten, if not one in twenty. Hope made a mental note to see if she could find statistics.
However, given Lindsey’s reaction? Quinn’s cheerfulness was definitely going to be a problem. Hope paused that thought, a problem for Lindsey. She mentally sighed and admitted it was going to be something of a problem for Quinn.
“Well,” Lindsey said and crossed her arms.
Hope looked up and forced a smile. “Congratulations, you’re pregnant.”
Lindsey recoiled and her arm wrapped around her stomach. Her face screwed up into a grimace. “I want an abortion.”
Hope’s hand tightened on her stylus. This was why she didn’t like Lindsey very much. “You’re barely a month along, you need—”
“I want an abortion, Doctor. That’s what I came for. That’s what I want. Right now, it is a small clump of cells and I don’t want it inside me like a parasite.”
Hope restrained her temper from years of long practice. A baby was not a parasite. She gritted her back teeth and tried to remain pleasant. “Have you talked to Quinn about this?”
“No. It’s my body.”
Hope shut the scan and let her glasses return to her ear computer. She uncrossed her legs. “I believe you need to talk to Quinn about this,” she said, her stomach tightened. Quinn was ecstatic over this baby and Lindsey wanted to kill the baby before the baby had a chance to survive. “In fact, I cannot do anything until you’ve talked to Quinn,” she added.
Lindsey pursed her lips together and glowered at Hope. She reached for her computer. “He better pick up his phone,” she snapped. “Or else, I’m doing this without his input.”
Hope’s nostrils flared and she wanted to slap the girl.
Lindsey tossed her hair and dialed the number.
The sun beat down on the top of Quinn’s head and along his back as he nailed down roofing with a compression power tool that was supposed to save labor. In reality, if there weren’t enough available all they did was cause fights over who was going to have the fun and use the power tool. His computer buzzed and he used his shoulder to answer it. “Quinn.”
Lindsey’s voice snapped in his ear. “Quinn, I’m at the hospital.”
Quinn almost dropped the nail gun. “What?” he said. “Are you okay?”
Quinn didn’t believe her. His heart started pounding and if his palms weren’t already sweaty from the heat, they would have gotten worse. “What happened? No. Wait there. I’ll come get you.”
“I’m coming, hang on,” Quinn said into the phone.
Quinn hung up on her. He picked up the tool and stepped across the roof. Ted looked up. Quinn didn’t wait. “Lin’s at the hospital. I have to go over there,” he said. He handed the tool to Ted and without waiting for permission headed for the nearest ladder.
Ted looked after him and nodded slowly. “Understood,” he said. And after a moment, dialed up Josiah to tell him to spread the word not to pull Quinn over.
Quinn didn’t hear. He mounted his motorcycle and peeled out of the drive as fast as he could shift gears. All the way to St. Nicholas, he worried. What had happened? Was she okay? Was there an accident? What about the baby? He parked the bike and ran into the atrium. “Lin?”
“With Doctor Hope, examining room 3,” the receptionist said.
Quinn pivoted. “Thanks!” he shouted and dashed down the hall.
She half stood up and peered after him and shook her head. “It is a voluntary visit,” she murmured.
Quinn counted doors and stopped in front of three. He took a deep breath and knocked once before pushing the door open. “Lindsey?” he asked.
Hope stood up. “She’s here. She’s fine.”
Quinn opened the door the rest of the way and crossed the room to where Lindsey was sitting. He knelt down beside her. He wasn’t paying the least bit attention to Hope. He took Lindsey’s hand, peering into her face trying to determine what was wrong.
Hope looked between them. “I’ll leave you two alone for a minute,” she said. She left the room and shut the door behind her. Hope leaned against the wall and clutched her stomach.
Quinn reached up and tucked Lindsey’s medium length hair behind her ears. She didn’t seem to be upset or in shock from an accident or anything. In fact, if anything she seemed angry. That was a common reaction to stress too. “Are you all right? Is the baby all right?”
Lindsey jerked her hand out of his. “You knew! You knew and didn’t tell me!”
Quinn blinked and inwardly swore. He hadn’t meant to let it slip that she was pregnant. “I wasn’t sure.”
“Don’t you think that.” Lindsey chewed her tongue, she couldn’t say the words, “That, it is rather important that I should know!”
“I told you, I wasn’t sure. If I was certain, I would have told you.”
She glared at him. “I want an abortion.”
Quinn recoiled. His entire body felt like he’d been slapped. “No.” No. No. No. No! Not his baby! Not his little bundle of joy. She couldn’t kill his baby.
“It’s my body!”
“It’s my baby too!”
“I want an abortion!” Lindsey screamed at him. “And you can’t stop me!”
“Our baby! Lindsey! Ours!” Quinn shouted back. “I want the baby!”
Down the hall, Padre sat next to a bed. Doctor Brown lay in it, wearing a fine button down shirt and his legs covered with a blanket. On his lap he had an open book filled with crosswords.
Both tables on either side of the bed were covered in a variety of things: a fruit basket, a small pile of activity books under a few novels from the library, a box of crayons, cut flowers on one side, a leafy Hosta in a planter on the other. There was a white paper bag that read Lollytarts and greeting cards. And tied to the corner of the headstand were a big bunch of get well soon balloons.
Padre kept his face bland. “I don’t know how much longer Hope will be able to look the other way at all your offerings,” he said.
He deduced who brought what offering by what they were. Savannah had to be the plant, while the flowers were too domesticated for her they must have come from Beda’s gardens. The candy was probably from Dana. And Padre had run into Blake and Poppet on one of his visits, he assumed the activity books were from them. The book of mazes was the give away. Mazes were Poppet’s prized activity.
Doctor Brown grinned. “Orange, Padre,” he said and offered him one. Savannah had brought the basket by Monday, with the explanation that Monday was food pantry day and she’d seen this and thought he’d enjoy it. He’d already gotten through the candied pineapple and made generous inwards on the grapes, crackers, and cheese.
“I wouldn’t say no,” Padre replied. “Thank you,” he said and took it. He dug his nail into one end and began to peel it in one long curled rind.
“If you’re hungry for something a little more substantial, Hope has small cakes and tarts hidden away for me that Savannah brought Wednesday. Savannah was very insistent that I share those I didn’t favor.” Doctor Brown picked up the bag of candy and rustled around in it before picking out gummy bears and chewing on them thoughtfully.
“Who brought the library books?”
“Jordan, he thought I might prefer something more adult.” Doctor Brown’s eyes crinkled up at the edges. “Apparently, he got word that Poppet was bringing story books. She likes my reading voice. Perhaps I shall take up a new occupation and start audio books.”
Padre laughed. He knew that Esme was bringing Doctor Brown homemade meals and Brand was coming by to visit when she did. Hope looked at the ceiling and made little tutting noises about how the hospital had a perfectly fine kitchen but never stopped them. Padre ate his orange one section at a time. He also knew Esme enough to know that she would want to be sure that Doctor Brown had enough blankets, that he liked his pillow, and if he needed someone to help him shave.
Doctor Brown shifted. “That young man with Savannah?”
“A new member, she’s teaching him the ropes. It’s kept her busier than usual.” Padre said.
“I was wondering since I never see one without the other.” Doctor Brown shook his head. He had been out of things for a while there due to the massive amounts of tranquilizers that Hope had put him on, he might not be remembering clearly.
Padre wrinkled his nose. “Savannah needs someone to help her with the errands and as Gideon is new, he’s been volunteered to be tortured. Much to the relief of our other male members.”
“Tormented, suffering, agonized, beleaguered, beset, plagued, miserable, afflicted, harassed, under duress, hassled,” Padre rattled off. “From the Latin, torquere, meaning to twist.”
“I might need to borrow your mind to help with these crosswords.”
“I wish it were me. I’ll have Ted come by. It’s his list and every Wednesday he enjoyed going over it with great relish while the boys groaned.” Padre grinned. “And Savannah made teakettle noises. ‘I’m not that bad! They have no fortitude!’” he mimicked.
“A ritual.” Doctor Brown nodded.
“Played out to the end with great pleasure by both parties,” Padre said. He finished his orange and put the rind in the trashcan next to the bed.
“It sounds like you are all one big family.” Doctor Brown sounded a little sad. Their efforts to make him feel included were very much appreciated. He missed his own family.
Padre patted Doctor Brown’s hand. “It is a great comfort to both of us I believe that your family comes tomorrow,” he said. His head turned slightly. He heard a ruckus down the hall. It wasn’t much but he thought he heard Quinn. He turned his attention back to Doctor Brown with a slight frown.
“Yes, the Lord is gracious, as is Brand. I have had many visitors and haven’t had a chance to feel lonely.” Doctor Brown shifted in his bed. “Now, what is the matter, you seemed distracted for a moment there.”
“Two of my flock are arguing down the hall, or at least I think it is two of my flock.” Padre tilted his head and listened harder. He heard the word baby and winced.
Doctor Brown reached over and squeezed his hand. “Then you best go take care of them. You’ve spent more than enough time with an old fool today. Though I enjoy our visits.”
“Naïve, perhaps Doctor, but not a fool.” Padre squeezed his hand and stood up. “With your kind permission, I shall go intercede on another type of battlefield.”
Doctor Brown grinned. “I’ll pray for you Padre.”
“My hearty thanks, and I for you.” Padre let Doctor Brown’s hand go and left his room, heading down the hall. He saw Hope in the corridor. He stopped by her. “I hear a couple in need of counseling.”
Hope grimaced. “In need of something, Padre.”
“May I?” He gestured at the door.
“Since half the hall now knows their business.” Hope waved a hand. “I don’t see why you shouldn’t. If you could save a life, I’d—”
“Ahh, is that what has gotten our young man exuberant?”
Hope smiled. “You sound like Uncle.”
“Ted does not have the sole proprietorship of long words. Children are a gift from God and Quinn’s reaction is appropriate. I shall do my best.” Padre leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Bless you for your work,” he said and entered the room.
Lindsey stood in front of a chair facing off with Quinn who wasn’t letting her move.
“This is our baby!” he shouted. “I know you’re in shock.”
“And you aren’t. You knew!” She shoved her hand at him, but didn’t end up pushing him.
“I wasn’t positive. Please, Lins, give it time,” Quinn pleaded.
Lindsey leaned back. “Time, time for what, for it to grow?”
“Our baby is not an it!” Quinn shouted.
The two glared at each other. Padre cleared his throat.
Quinn spun and flushed. “Padre.”
“May I mediate? Space looks like it is in order,” he said.
Quinn looked at Lindsey for permission. Lindsey wasn’t paying attention to Padre. Her mouth pressed thin together and her foot tapping. She jerked her head and reached up and poked him with a manicured nail. “You’re a construction worker, Quinn. You’re nothing. You’re a nobody.”
Quinn’s eyes widened and he took a step back. “Lins?” he whispered. His body recoiled, nothing, nobody. Where was this coming from?
She tossed her hair. “Oh, you’re hot. You’ve always been hot. But you’re nothing to me. No money. No prospects. You’re a stepping stone to something better. You fill my time. That’s it. Your job, it sucks. It’s not full-time. The part-time you don’t spend at your job earning money that can support me, you’re off doing work for your club. Are you being paid to roof Clara Clark’s house? I don’t think so. God, you thought I’d stay with someone who had no ambition.”
Quinn felt his heart break in two. “I love you,” he whispered. He thought that had always been enough.
She laughed at him and it was cold and cruel. “Love me! I wanted you Quinn, and I took you.”
Quinn grabbed at her hand. “I want to marry you. I want a family. I want us to be happy. I’m looking at houses. I bought you a ring. Please, give it a few days to think it over.”
Lindsey jerked her hand away. “I don’t want whatever little hovel you can afford. I’m not marrying you Quinn. And I don’t want this—”
“Baby. Say it, baby,” Quinn growled.
“Baby,” Lindsey spat.
Quinn inhaled and his spine straightened. “I do,” he said. “You aren’t having an abortion. I’m taking you home.”
“Taking me—am I a child now?”
“You’re acting like it.” Quinn took a step forward. “This is my baby. I fathered her. We brought this child into being and by God, I’m going to keep her.”
Lindsey sneered. “We’ll see.”
“There is no we’ll see, Lindsey. Padre witnessed this.”
“Padre is a man of God.” Lindsey filled her voice with scorn, quite sure that Padre wouldn’t be able to do anything.
“That’s right,” Quinn said. “Get your things, we’re leaving.” He held out his hands. “Give me the keys.”
“You aren’t driving my auto,” Lindsey retorted.
Quinn reached over, grabbed her keys from where they were sitting on the top of her purse. “Watch me.” He turned to Padre. “Sorry, Padre, apparently, we don’t need mediation.”
“No.” Padre had an odd look on his face. “I guess not.”
Lindsey grabbed her purse and stalked out of the room. Quinn followed her. He stopped by Hope. He lowered his voice. “I want this baby, Doc. She can’t have an abortion no matter how much she pleads, rages, or cries.”
Hope put a hand on his arm. “She won’t have one, not in Jasper,” she said.
Lindsey turned around. “You were the one who wanted to go,” she shouted.
Quinn leaned forward and kissed Hope’s cheek. “Thank you, Doc,” he whispered. His face hardened and he went after Lindsey. He was going to take her home and then he had a short list of stops to make.