Tiger Magic(9)

By: Jennifer Ashley

The road made a sharp turn, and Carly took it fast. The Corvette, made to race, slid around without a waver. “Woo!” She pounded the steering wheel. “I love this car. Way better at getting me excited than Ethan ever was.”

Connor laughed. “I like you, human woman.”

Carly’s anger flashed, sharp. “If Ethan hurt the tiger, I’ll kill him with my bare hands.”

“That’s the spirit,” Connor said. “Tiger will live. He’s tough. But he needs you, I’m thinking.”

“Did he tell you what happened to him?” Carly asked, her anxiety for Tiger cutting through her anger again. “How did you find me?”

“He’s not up to giving out much detail,” Connor said. “But once we pried your name out of him, it didn’t take our Sean long to figure out where you lived. He’s a wizard with computers, is Sean.”

A Shifter computer geek. What a day.

Carly blew out her breath and made herself follow Sean the rest of the way without antics. She needed to get to Tiger and make sure he was all right. The fact that the huge, strong man had been shot, hurt, made her heart race and her mouth dry. He needed to be all right.

* * *

The small hospital outside the city limits to which Sean led Carly served a large portion of the population on the south and east side of town. Carly parked as close to the front door as she could. Connor got around the car faster than she could register and opened the door for her, helping her to her feet. Ethan had never done that.

Sean waited for them outside the front door, on his phone. “We’re coming. Just keep him quiet.”

Carly heard the exclamation on the other end before Sean closed the phone. He said nothing to Carly or Connor but strode in through the front door ahead of them.

Inside it was as crowded as Carly would have guessed from the packed parking lot, with mothers and kids waiting to be seen, nurses hurrying through halls, and the admin desk serving a long line of people. The smell of antiseptic covered the odors of worry and illness.

Sean moved without stopping to a back corridor then continued down it and onto an elevator, pushing the button for the top floor. When they stepped off the elevator at the top, Carly heard the noise.

The roar began at the end of the corridor, a wash of sound that flowed to them past every room and the nurses’ station to the bank of elevators where Carly stood. The nurses’ station was deserted, but a knot of people clustered at the other end of the hall.

Sean said something under his breath as he picked up the pace, but Connor, behind Carly, didn’t keep his voice down.

“He’s going to get himself killed, he is.”

Sean kept walking, his broad back upright, moving swiftly. Carly jogged on her high heels to catch up.

The faces of the nurses and orderlies that turned to them were filled with fear. Three hard-faced men in black uniforms tried to intercept Sean, and another shout rose inside the room.

“You threatened him, didn’t you?” an Irish voice said. “Are you that stupid, then?”

The men looked like private soldiers or security guards in all-black fatigue-looking uniforms, but their hands and thick belts were empty. Carly saw why when she peeked around Sean into the hospital room.

The floor was littered with black detritus that Carly couldn’t place at first, but then she saw they were pieces of automatic rifles, radios, and other things too broken to identify.

The roaring came from inside the room, followed by a repeated clank of something metal. Sean blocked most of her view, but Carly could see enough to make out the giant bulk of Tiger, barely covered by a hospital gown, on his feet, one hand fisted. He was pulling, pulling, pulling at the metal bar on the bed to which he was chained.

Near him were two more Shifters, one with a shaved head and tattoos wherever Carly could see skin, the other a Sean look-alike.

The tattooed man deflected a blow from Tiger’s free fist in a practiced move. Enraged, Tiger struck out again, and the tattooed man blocked, twisting Tiger’s arm behind his back. A spark jumped in the Collar around the tattooed man’s neck.

“What in hell happened?” Sean demanded.

“Fucking guards happened,” the tattooed guy snarled. “Nurse wanted to change his IV, the three boy wonders stuck their guns into him to hold him down while she did it. He broke out of one cuff. Guess the rest.”

“Spike, let him go,” the one who looked like Sean said. “Tiger. Stop.”

The last word reverberated through the room. Everyone stilled—guards, Spike, Sean, Connor, the guards, nurses, and orderlies behind them.

All except Tiger. He kept banging, roaring, his eyes yellow with rage. The Collar on his neck was silent, no matter how much he struck out or tried to rip his wrist from its restraint.

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