I stood on the porch of Dr. Aiden Joss’s luxurious home irate as hell. Someone was supposed to meet me at the airport in Philadelphia. I ended up having to take a cab because all of the rentals were booked from the only airport about twenty-five miles from the small town of McCormick, Pennsylvania. The taxi driver must have mistaken me for an oil baron with the fare he charged. He ended up having to leave me at the front gate because the intercom was busted. Thankfully, being a human hybrid had its advantages. After tossing my duffle over the ten-foot wall, I followed by leaping over. Some security. The downpour turned my black, wavy hair into thick tresses snaking down my neck and upper back. Sadly, my duffle bag was just as pitiful as I looked, since it wasn’t waterproof. I’d exercised more care when picking out my purse and laptop bag.
The front door opened. A tall, bulky man who looked like he missed his calling as an NFL linebacker stood against the golden glow of the interior. His face was criminal-hard, though something in his dark eyes said otherwise. He wore a white shirt and jeans with a brace around his left knee. He blinked.
“Oh, boy.” He hurried to unlock the storm door and let me inside. “You must be Ms. Alexa York.”
I struggled getting past him with my wet duffle, carry-on and my drenched clothes clinging to my cold body. “I am. I take it the phones don’t work around here.”
He took my stuff and set it aside. “The power has been flickering all night. They just got the lights back on about three minutes ago. The phone is Internet, so when the power goes out, everything goes out.” I unzipped my sodden jacket. “I get it. No phone, no phone calls. Which is why I was stuck at the airport.”
He sighed. “Again, my apologies, ma’am. With so much going on, I only had a chance to worry about one thing at a time.” I glanced at him before answering. So much going on? The house was quiet and not a soul in sight. What could’ve possibly had him too busy to pick me up when he knew I was coming? Heck, I was here to be his replacement while he was on the mend. If he didn’t want me here, forgetting me at the airport or not sending a car to pick me up worked in his favor. He offered his hand to me. “My name’s Sammy. I’m Dr. Joss’s med tech and assistant.”
“Med tech?” I looked him up and down. “But I thought you were his—” He chuckled. “I’m really his assistant. I’m only his bodyguard when I have to be. And given the kind of world that lies beyond those gates, I find myself playing the latter more often.” I closed my eyes and sighed. “I’m sorry if I sounded a little crotchety, but—” Sammy waved a large hand. “No need to apologize. I’d be a lot more than pissed had I been in your shoes. Speaking of which, let me show you to your room so you can get some dry clothes on.” Snorting, I glanced at the puddle forming around my duffle. “Dry clothes, huh. That would be nice.”
“No worries, Ms. York. I’ll find you something.”
“It’s Alexa, by the way.” Those close to me called me Lex. We weren’t there yet.
My room was upstairs on the second floor along with five other bedrooms. Every piece of furniture was stained pine and sitting against light blue walls. Thankfully, I had my own private bathroom. When I looked out the bathroom window, light was coming from the woods somewhere behind the trees where it shouldn’t be.
I sure hoped Dane had told me everything I needed to know about this so-called mission. I would hate to learn something the hard—painful—way. Though that would never be his intention, I also knew his idea of what information was important to know was different from mine.
Had it not been for Wesley Dane, a full-blooded werewolf friend of my family, I wouldn’t be here to play bodyguard for one of his closest friends. It wasn’t the thousand dollars a day, tax-free money for my services that had brought me here. I needed the distraction more than anything.
“So, how much do you know about me?” After snuggling into a thick, warm robe I found hanging on a hook, I dried off my hair with a towel and opened the bathroom door.
Sammy was still there, though keeping his distance by waiting in the hall. I thought it was weird, but whatever, seeing as this was more his house than mine. “Enough,” he replied. “You’re half-werewolf, which is extremely rare. You’re also married, which means either your husband, who’s a full-blood, or Dane is going to tear Dr. Joss apart if anything bad happens to you. Although, that sort of defeats the purpose of you being the doctor’s bodyguard.” He half-smiled.
“Are you expecting me to be torn apart?”
“No.” He chuckled. “But I expect you’ll be put through the wringer.” He pointed at the fresh clothes on my bed. “The best I could come up with are some sweats, an oversized tee-shirt, and some thick socks we typically give the patients. I promise I’ll have your clothes cleaned and dried by the time you wake up tomorrow. That is, I hope you can stand the smell. I bought some unscented detergent when I found out you were coming, but I didn’t have a chance to wash those particular clothes in them.”
I pursed my lips together in a grin to keep from laughing. “Relax. My senses might be heightened, but not that much. I actually like the smell of laundry detergent. Flowers are preferable to anything else.”
“So, those will be okay?”
I nodded. “They’re fine. And thank you. For the robe and clothes and stuff.”
“Not a problem.” He thumbed over his shoulder. “I don’t know if you’re hungry or anything, but I have some chili on the stove, too. Your appetite is…?”
“Human. It’s one of the things I actually like about being half-werewolf.” Compared to others. I caught myself before saying more.
Over the last three weeks, I had wished I was more human than some freak living in the middle of that world and the werewolf one. Perhaps things might have turned out better between my husband and me.
I forced a smile to my face. “So, what kind of supernatural is Dr. Joss?” Sammy sighed. “I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Really? You know what I am, so why can’t I know about him?”
“You didn’t ask Dane?”
My smile faded, and I crossed my arms. “I did, but he sealed his lips on that one, too. Said I’d find out on my own.” The conversation took a nosedive after that. I had to remind him that both Matt and my father would break him in half if he sent me to a maniac’s house. Of course, I knew Dane well enough to know he’d never do that either.
Chuckling, Sammy turned and started down the hall. “I can’t say my chili is award winning, but it did get an honorable mention at the state fair.” So, that was how he wanted to play it. Good.
Following after him while he spoke about the rules of the house and how I needed to be ready in case emergencies happened in the middle of the night, I focused on my sense of smell. The only thing that stung my nose was the scent of alcohol. Not the rubbing kind either.
Once in the kitchen, Sammy prepared me a small bowl of chili with enough spices to burn a hole in my sinuses. I hardly touched it. While my appetite might have been human, my tastes were more sensitive than normal when it came to spicy stuff. Thank goodness there were plenty of delicious corn muffins to go around.
My duties were simple. I wasn’t expected to participate in any life-saving measures but rather watch Dr. Joss’s back, since most of his clients were supernaturals. The rest couldn’t risk a report being filed with the police department. It also meant I might have to fly out in the middle of the night or take a drive with him, since he still believed in house calls. Sammy would hold down the house and make arrangements, schedules, and contacts as they were needed. The only thing he asked I do that wasn’t on the list was keep an open mind. I had no idea what that meant…
…until a thump sounded from down the hall.
Sammy hobbled in front of me, hurrying faster than I would’ve thought for a guy who had recently twisted his knee. When he entered through the French doors, he muttered a curse before limping into the room.
“A little help, please?” A female shouted.
A man lay on the floor with a whiskey bottle a few inches away from his fingers and alcohol leaking into the carpet. The disheveled guy looked like he had missed a few days of shaving and couldn’t afford a comb. His clothes stank of booze and enough mustiness to imply he had missed a couple of showers, too. He had black, medium-length hair that seemed greasy to the touch and was probably just as neglected as the rest of him.
Next to him was a woman with dark blonde tresses barely held together with a messy ponytail and plump lips that didn’t need lipstick to stand out. There was something in those dark eyes that pleaded for help, but at the same time they reflected how much this situation was commonplace and getting old. She wore a pair of white pants with matching shoes and a black sweater clad her average frame. I would have bet anything she was a nurse. Sadly, the man on the floor didn’t need any medical care.
“Ms. York,” Sammy said, leaning to pick up the empty bottle. “This is Macy Innick, our nurse, and the impeccable Dr. Aiden Joss.” Macy huffed at the two of us. “A little help here, please?”
I pointed, unable to take my gaze off my new employer. “This is the genius supernaturals trust with their patient confidentiality?” Heaven help us if all doctors were like this. He’d spew your entire medical history with the promise of a shot of bourbon.
Macy managed to get him into a sitting position before glaring bullets into me. “While he might not be perfect, he’s still brilliant and your employer.” I held up my hands and stepped back. If she wanted to defend him, then more power to her. If he were my boss, he had better be paying me in spades, gold doubloons, and diamonds to clean up after his drunken foolishness. That wasn’t a part of the job description.
Sammy managed to loop a hand under Joss’s arm. “Believe it or not, his medical expertise is one area where he’s quite sober, even if the rest of him isn’t.”
“And if he should have an emergency tonight, am I supposed to drive him there in that smashed state?”
He paused. “I hate to say it, but yeah.”
A grin splayed my face. “You’re funny.”
I turned and walked back down the hall, knowing full-well he was serious. When I reached the kitchen, I grabbed an extra muffin and my cup of warm cocoa, and headed upstairs to my room. No way was I driving that man to his next medical-malpractice suit…assuming he even made it that far.