The nurse told him to have a seat on the exam table, but Eldon sat in one of the two chairs inside. He felt more comfortable. Doctors gave him anxiety. Maybe it was his lack of exposure to them. He hadn’t been to a clinic a lot throughout the course of his life. He didn’t spend money he didn’t have on anything unnecessary, and that included medical care. He’d gone through life thanking the gods he was a vampire who healed quickly, and praying nothing serious would happen that he couldn’t heal from on his own.
“What seems to be the problem, Mr. Andrews?” He sat on a round stool with Eldon’s chart open. His pen poised to write whatever Eldon was about to tell him.
“I…” He felt stupid. His problem felt like a non-problem. It definitely wasn’t life-threatening, and if the clinic wasn’t free, he wouldn’t have come. If he’d had a job, he also wouldn’t have left it. Money was more important. Wingspan lacked a lot of things, including those who wanted to hire a vampire. But he’d come, so he might as well get the problem taken care of. If he didn’t, it was a waste of everyone’s time, including his own. “My teeth are dropping. At weird times.”
There was a slight chill in the air, and the wind had picked up. Mercury didn’t need more than a long-sleeved shirt, but then he’d always run on the warmer side.
He took in the scene. Sawyer and Aki were in human form. Aki stood between the Havilar boys and a small redheaded male who was the prettiest person Mercury had ever seen. Before he could assess the attraction, his eyes shifted into his dragon’s and an urge to protect overtook him.
The pretty vampire had blue eyes, and they glowed. He also had fangs. But what caught Mercury’s attention the most was the blood dripping down his cheek and the bruise forming along his cheekbone.
Mercury growled and his fangs dropped. He closed the distance and drew his mate to him. A part of him, the logical part, knew he was there because someone had committed a crime. For all he knew, Hannah was incorrect, and his mate had started it, although with the Havilars being involved, he trusted her assessment.
His mate was small, even by human standards. The top of his head came to Mercury’s shoulder. He was slim and probably young, although a paranormal’s age was difficult to assess. Still, he appeared as if he were in his early twenties.
Mercury was much bigger and much older. He’d think about all the things that made them incompatible later when he knew his mate was safe.
Mercury held him close again. “You’re okay now. I’ve got you, mate.”
“What’s your name?” He pressed his cheek to Mercury’s chest.
“Mercury Ingram. Your name is Spitfire, I bet.” Mercury teased.
“Eldon Andrews, but good guess.”
Mercury chuckled. “You’re pretty good at kicking.”
“He deserved it.”
“The Havilars usually do.” Mercury chuffed, hoping it would help Eldon feel better. “Just between you and me, they aren’t the brightest to begin with. Seems like picking on you made them a little stupider.”
“I doubt that’s possible.”
Mercury rubbed Eldon’s back, trying to soothe him. “Tough and witty. The full package.”
Eldon pulled back but averted his gaze when they separated. “I’m kind of a mess.”
“You were a victim of paranormal trafficking?” Mercury reached around Eldon for the box of essentials he always kept on the seat, feeling around for the first aid kit. When he found it, he set it on Eldon’s lap.
Eldon put his hand over it as if holding it in place. “Yeah. But things were rough before that.”
Eldon traced something on the window in the condensation from his breath. Mercury had to drive so he couldn’t see what it was. “I’ve never fit in anywhere. Too much of a vampire for the city. Too much of one for Wingspan. And too much of one for you.”
“That’s not true.” But that was the consensus of the clan meeting the other day. That was the message the Havilar boys sent by attacking Eldon. And that was what had Mercury questioning the mating.
Eldon had received the message and had an appropriate reaction to it.
Mercury could argue the point, but he would be wrong to do so. “The conversation didn’t go the way I wanted it to.”
“I’m sure it didn’t. You expected me to fall at your feet and beg? Or was it gratitude for the scraps of attention you’re willing to give? I might be young compared to you. Compared to a lot of paranormals. But I’ve been on my own my whole life. I know how to survive. Even in Wingspan. And even you.”
As good as Mercury was at reading people, he missed the mark on Eldon. That was the heart of the issue. “I phrased things wrong. That’s what I’m saying.”
Eldon shrugged as if to say Mercury had said what he said. He couldn’t take back the words.