By the time he reached the spacious country home of a doctor he kept on retainer, he had turned feverish and the insides of his lungs felt raw.
It was late, and he had to pound on the front door before lights came on downstairs. The doctor himself, a lanky human with receding hair and a nervous expression, answered the door.
“You can’t show up on my doorstep at all hours of the night!” the doctor exclaimed. “My wife doesn’t know anything about our arrangement.”
Morgan’s lip curled in a feral snarl, and he had to restrain his response. His lycanthrope abilities might be dampened for now, but the instincts weren’t.
“You want to end our arrangement, fine,” he snapped. “I’ll stop paying your retainer—after you treat me.”
“Who is it, Giles?” a woman called from above a flight of stairs.
The doctor raised his voice. “No one, darling. Just someone asking for directions. Go back to bed. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”
“All right.” Footsteps receded.
Morgan had locked his knees to keep from falling over. He had used the last of his magical ability when he had cast the sleeping spell on the passageway guards, so he had a Beretta tucked into the waistband of his jeans.
A fine tremor ran through his muscles as he waited to see what the doctor would do. He didn’t have the resources to find medical treatment elsewhere. If he had to, he would use the gun to compel the doctor to treat him.
Giles turned back to him. “No need to stop the retainer,” he muttered, avoiding his gaze. “Next time text me, and I’ll meet you somewhere. Don’t come to my house, for God’s sake.”
Morgan began to unbutton his shirt. “Let’s just get through this. We can discuss details of any future arrangements later.”
Giles led him to a large farmhouse kitchen that had been stylishly updated, and as Morgan sat on a stool at one end of an island, the doctor eyed him much as Isabeau had. “Wounds made with silver?”
“Yes.” Lycanthropes might heal with supernatural speed, but sometimes injuries still needed attention. Broken bones needed to be set correctly—or often rebroken and set—and wounds made with silver needed treatment just like a human’s injuries would. He shrugged his good arm out of the sleeve. “After you clean the wounds, I need stitches, pain medication, and antibiotics.”
“Don’t tell me how to do my job.” Despite his irritated response, Giles proceeded to do just as Morgan had said.
He cleaned both wounds, gave Morgan a shot for the pain and another shot of antibiotics. After he had stitched and bound the injuries, he left the kitchen. Morgan scooped up his lacerated shirt and jacket and followed the doctor into his office, where he watched Giles unlock a cabinet tucked in one corner.
Giles pulled out bottles and turned to him. “I’m giving you two pain medications. One is a narcotic, so use it sparingly. Take the full course of antibiotics until they’re gone.”
“Understood.” He eased his way back into the shirt.
Giles eyed him with a frown. “I don’t like this,” he said abruptly. “That wound in your side is especially concerning. You should be on an IV in hospital.”
Morgan took the bottles and tucked them into the pockets of his jacket without replying. The less Giles knew, the less the doctor could do to betray him.
Whatever else Giles was, he wasn’t a stupid man. The doctor muttered, “The trouble you’re in—it won’t be coming here, will it?”
“I don’t know.” Morgan turned away. If he’d had a drop of Power left, he would have spelled Giles to forget his visit, but he was bone-dry on magic, and he would only get it back with rest and healing. “Most likely not, but anything’s possible. You might use some of that exorbitant retainer I pay you to take your wife on holiday.”
The doctor trailed behind him as he strode for the front door. The last thing Morgan saw of the doctor was his pale, frightened face as Giles stood in the doorway and watched him climb into his Volvo.
So many people had looked at Morgan with that same frightened expression over the centuries that he had grown immune to it a long time ago. Putting the car into gear, he reversed down the long, winding drive.
Then he drove until exhaustion forced him to stop. Finding a quiet, out-of-the-way place to park, he slept in the car, and when morning came, he bought coffee and a hot breakfast and drove until he again couldn’t go any farther.
Morgan had plenty of safe houses, but he didn’t go to any of them. Instead, he kept traveling north until he reached Glasgow. Only then did he search for a place to stay.
He checked into a hotel in the stylish West End area—some place big enough that he could get away with unusual behavior—and used one of his alternative IDs along with a new, unused credit card to pay for a week’s stay.
When he finally carried his bag into the hotel room, he kicked off his boots, shed his clothes, set out a Do Not Disturb sign, and fell into bed, where he slept for thirty-six hours straight.
The next several days passed in a blur. He slept, waking only to take the medications, order room service, and wolf down food.
The fever broke after the third day. By the fourth, he felt a trickle of magic return, the flow of Power steadily increasing. On the morning of the fifth day, he appeared downstairs in the dining area for breakfast, clean and freshly shaven, albeit moving somewhat stiffly.
The fever and his own inhuman metabolism had worked to hone his features. He knew he was leaner and harder-looking, not quite so pleasant and therefore not nearly as forgettable, so he went out of his way to be agreeable to the waitstaff.
After breakfast, he stopped at the hotel office to tell a brief story of recovering from a bout of flu, to request his room be serviced, and to pay in advance for another week.
The manager was more than happy to oblige, and oh dear, the flu! She was sorry to hear Morgan’s visit to Glasgow had gotten off to such a poor start, and was there anything else she could do for him?
He told her mildly no, he didn’t want for anything, and everything in the hotel was perfectly lovely, thanks. To keep up the appearance of a man on holiday, he paused in the front hall to collect all the pamphlets on sightseeing tours and local attractions, then left to walk to the nearest café, where he ordered a coffee and settled at a corner table to pass the time while his room was cleaned.
He could sense a few of Isabeau’s Hounds searching for him. They were trapped in the same immortal geas he was, like monsters captured in amber, their lives frozen in the moment they had been taken.
In the usual course of things, Morgan was their captain. The Hounds were his to command in her majesty’s service. Now they were hunting him, to fetch the Queen’s wayward captain back to her.
Mentally he ran through his actions since he had left Avalon. The rain had been on his side. Any trace of his scent would have been washed clean. They would check with Giles, along with every other physician and safe house they had a record of him using.
But he had told Giles nothing, and in any case, the doctor had probably taken Morgan’s advice and gone on holiday with his wife. And Morgan had driven much too far for the Hounds to have any chance of picking up his scent trail anywhere.
He was unaware he had settled into complete stillness until he caught a few sidelong glances from a young couple sitting at the neighboring table. In an attempt to appear more normal, he riffled through the pamphlets he had set beside his coffee cup.
One caught his attention. Indifferently, he ran his gaze down the page.
The title Wildfire sprawled across the top. Underneath, there was a large glossy photo of a woman’s silhouette on a stage. She had been captured playing a violin in front of a crowd, her body as taut as the bow she gripped in slender fingers. Various quotes of praise followed the photo.
The Standard: “Genre-bending.”
Rolling Stone magazine: “Simply transcendent.”
The Telegraph: “Sidonie Martel took my breath away!”
A sliver of Morgan’s attention engaged.
But mostly it did not. Once he had been a famous bard in his own right and an advisor to kings, but it had been many, many years since he had played any kind of music.
The desire to play had been burned out of him by the geas, and as the desire to play had faded, so too had his desire to listen to music for pleasure. He had never heard of many modern singers and musicians. Sidonie Martel’s name meant nothing to him.
Still, there was something about the photo that held his gaze. The woman’s stance, her tension, vibrated off the glossy page. She was so full of passion. His mouth twisted in a self-deprecating smile. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt such bright, creative joy.
A young woman at the neighboring table leaned toward him. “Can’t help but notice the pamphlet you’re holding,” she said in a friendly tone.
Morgan’s gaze lifted. “Indeed.”
The woman grinned at him. “If you’re thinking of going, you should try to get a ticket. We went last night, and it was amazing.”
“True, mate,” said her companion. “We’d go again if we ’ad the quid.”
“Thank you for telling me.” The hotel staff had to be done with his room by now. Taking a last sip of his coffee, he gave the couple a pleasant smile, and as he exited the café he set the stack of pamphlets on a table by the door.
Walking back to the hotel, he assessed his injuries. The wound in his biceps was lighter and would heal faster, but the arrow he had taken in the abdomen had gone deep and would take longer. It lay burning in his side, the nagging pain a constant reminder of its presence.
How long would it be before it healed enough for the geas to kick in? Two more weeks? Three? He needed to try to find someone willing to stick a silver knife into him before then, or he would be forced to return to Isabeau’s side.
He already had silver weapons, so that wasn’t a barrier, but he couldn’t approach any of his usual contacts, not with the Hounds searching for him. He had to recruit someone new.