She decided to let that remark pass without comment while she checked the blood flow as best she could. "I really need to take him to a hospital, but having worked in the ER for four years, I know the questions they’ll ask that we can’t answer."
"Hang on, I’ll take you to one." She opened her mouth to protest.
Julian held his hand up to silence her before she could even start. "It’s a safe place, called Sanctuary. The hospital ward was set up just for situations like this. It’s a place where those who aren’t quite human can go to for help. It’ll have everything you need, and there won’t be any questions about where either one of you came from."
That made her feel much better. "Good. ‘Cause unless he starts healing by himself immediately, he needs surgery . . . quickly. Or he will die."
Death was a possibility she’d like to avoid.
Julian looked down at the blood-soaked bed and winced. "I should have taken you there before I messed up the comforter. It’s what I get for trying to pass as a human all the time. Sometimes I forget my own powers."
The next thing she knew, they were in what appeared to be a doctor’s office. The entire interior was made of steel, except for the white-tiled floors and white walls that were lined with glass-covered shelves of medicine. There was also a padded steel examining bed next to three trays covered with surgical and examination tools. As promised, it held everything needed to tend to Xypher.
Julian stood beside her, holding Xypher in his arms. No small feat since the man was a couple of inches taller than him.
"I’m so disoriented," Simone breathed as a wave of dizziness hit her. She put her arm out against the case closest to her to get her bearings.
Ignoring her, Julian bellowed, "Carson?"
A door on her left opened to reveal a tall. Native American man who glared at them. His long black hair was pulled back into a severe ponytail and his features were sharp, reminding her of a bird of prey. "Don’t yell. I have extremely sensitive hearing."
"Sorry," Julian said quickly. "But we have a situation. Carson, meet Simone. Simone, meet Carson. He’s a surgeon."
"Oh, thank God," she said, grate fill there was another doctor here. "I only operate on the dead."
Carson didn’t comment on that. Instead, his dark gaze went to Xypher. "And the guy bleeding would be . . . ?"
Carson’s jaw dropped at Julian’s answer, "They bleed on the human plane?"
"Apparently so and rather badly."
Carson gave a curt nod before he crossed the room to open a door behind them. "Bring him in here and put him on the table."
Julian didn’t hesitate to obey.
Simone followed Julian into a bare operating room. Like the outer room, it was clean and sterile with steel furniture and large lamps over the surgical table. It looked like any operating room she’d ever seen and she was impressed with the quality of the state-of-the-art tools and monitors. In fact, she knew several hospitals that would kill to be this up-to-date.
While Julian placed Xypher on the table, she headed to the small room on her right where a prep sink waited so that she could scrub down.
Carson entered right behind her. "You look like you know what you’re doing."
"I’m an ME and I thought you might need an assistant for surgery." She dried her hands on one of the green towels that were stacked on a table beside the sink.
He inclined his head before he began scrubbing his hands, too. "Good woman. My usual assistant is off today."
Julian came to the doorway. His clothes were covered in blood. "If neither of you needs me, I’m heading back to my house to do damage control on the bed . . . and pray none of my neighbors saw the major battle we had in the street with our friendly neighborhood demon."
Carson snorted. "Please, no more getting caught on videotape and God save us from Webcams. I swear I hate this modem age."
Simone ignored his caustic comment as she met Julian’s gaze. "Good luck and thank you for all your help."
Julian smiled at her, then vanished while Carson wheeled a table of instruments back toward the other room.
"Don’t we need a mask and scrubs?" Simone asked him.
He shook his head. "I wash my hands out of habit. Basically your friend here should be immune to the typical genus that can kill a human. What will infect him would be things we couldn’t protect against anyway."
"Oh." Simone moved to the opposite side of the table and helped to remove her temporary pressure bandage from Xypher’s side. She was a bit surprised that Carson didn’t remove Xypher’s jeans, but he seemed content to leave him partially dressed.
Since she’d never operated on anyone, never mind someone who wasn’t exactly human, she kept her backseat surgeon under wraps. Obviously the man knew what he was doing or Julian wouldn’t have brought them here. Not to mention, no one would have paid for all this equipment unless they knew how to use it.
She hoped so. Stepping back, she watched as Carson opened him up and started working on the wound. She cringed at the damage done. His arteries and tissue were a nightmare.
Poor man … or whatever he was.
A twinge of guilt went through her as she considered the way he’d put himself between the demon and her. He’d taken the brunt of the fight-just like he’d done in the alley so that she wouldn’t be harmed.
In spite of all his gruff bluster, he had heart and at least a basic code of decency. That realization softened her toward him. He actually wasn’t that bad. And as she stared at him, a part of her was warmed by his consideration.
Carson reached for a clamp on the stainless steel tray. "What was he cut with?"
"A short sword."
He shook his head. "It looks more like a chain saw got him. Look at the damage here." He held the skin back so that she could get a full view.
Simone reached for another clamp to hand him since Xypher was bleeding so badly. Carson was right. It was awful. "I don’t know if this helps or matters, but the man wielding the sword was some kind of demon."
"Do you know from what pantheon?"
This had to be the most screwed-up conversation she’d ever had. There weren’t many people you could tell about a demon appealing in the street and then attacking you who would accept it with such a simple question. It should be interrupted with laughter.
And lots of alcohol.
"Uh, no. But Xypher called him Kaiaphas."
Simone looked up at the unexpected anger the name caused. "You know him?"
"Part Greek, part Sumerian, all pissed off. It’s a wonder any of you survived. But the real question is, why did he attack you guys? It’s not his normal style."
"What do you mean?"
"Kaiaphas is a doleodai. A bound demon. He can’t act on his own, he has to be commanded by someone."
That was an interesting tidbit. Simone wanted to laugh at the absurdity of everything that had happened to her since lunch. "How on earth did I get caught up in this? All I wanted to do was check out a simple crime scene and go home. No … I take that back. All I wanted was to have a ham and cheese sandwich with an old friend. Now I’ve been dragged into the middle of some Greek-god conflict and it’s not even, dinnertime yet. I can’t wait to see what happens next."
Carson smiled, "I’ve had those days." "Sure you have."
"No, really. You should follow me around and document all the weirdness I get dragged into."
He took the clamp from her hand. "Well, there was the time Marvin, our former mascot monkey, ran from his owner. Wren-he’s a tiger that can take human form-and went upstairs to sleep with the dragon. Turns out our resident dragon is allergic to monkeys-who knew or could imagine that? Max broke out with a rash in areas I still cringe over, and if you mention the word ‘monkey’ to him to this day, he shoots fire at you. Then there was the time when . . . oh, I better not tell that. If Dev catches wind of it, he’ll rip my heart out and eat it."
Simone stepped back at everything he was telling her. No … it couldn’t be.
"You have lycanthropes here?"
Pausing, he glanced up at her. "Aren’t you a Squire?"
He sucked his breath in sharply and twisted his face up into a mask of aggravation. Growling, he reached for sutures. "You didn’t know about any of what I just said until it came pouring out of my mouth, did you?"
He cursed again. "I can’t believe I just did that. I assumed since you knew about Xypher and the demon, and Julian manifested you in here, that you knew everything about our world."
No, but she was getting a quick introduction that was becoming scarier by the minute. In all her conversations with Tate, he’d never once mentioned lycanthropes.
"Appears I do now," she said, trying to make Carson feel better about his slipup, "Daily Inquisitor, here I come . . . better yet, the local nut farm."
"Yeah, and I just broke nine hundred rules. What say we keep all of this between us?"
"Believe me, baby, I ain’t talking. I value what little sanity1 have left, and the last thing I want is to be in the middle of what I’m in the middle of. Point me to the exit and Alice is out of the rabbit hole, back on earth, and happy to develop Alzheimer’s over this entire incident. In fact, I’m not even sure I’m here. I’m thinking a Daimon konked me on the head and this is all one big hallucination brought on by severe blood loss."
"You ramble like that a lot?"
"Yes. I find it grounds me."
He laughed as he worked on Xypher.
Simone paused as she realized something. "We didn’t give him anything to keep him knocked out. Shouldn’t we do that?"
"Nah. It wouldn’t do any good. Dream-Hunters are immune to those lands of drugs."
He nodded, leaning closer for a better look at what he was doing. "They’re gods. Normal human medicine doesn’t work on them."
"Then why are we operating?"
"Because he’s bleeding and unconscious . . . I’ve never seen a Dream-Hunter bleed before, especially not like this. But I figure if he bleeds, he could bleed out and die."
On one hand that made sense, but on another . . . "Gods can’t die, right?"
"Sure they can. It just takes a lot and usually an immortal weapon of some land, which I’m going to lay odds was in the hands of Kaiaphas when he attacked." He glanced up at her with a pointed stare. "Demons don’t usually attack a god or anyone else unless they think they’re going to kill them. It tends to piss off the target who then looks up ways to torture and kill the demon. Then it just gets messy as they go at each other. As a rule, the demon usually loses, especially when it’s a god who’s been angered, so demons tend to be a bit more circumspect than the usual predator. When they strike it’s usually quick and fatal."
Simone let out a tiled breath at the simple truth of that statement. She looked down at Xypher as he lay in a deceptively peaceful repose. His body was honed and lethal A perfect specimen of male beauty.
Asleep like this, he looked like an angel, but then given his acerbic personality she could just imagine the list of people who might want him dead.
But to the point of calling out a demon to destroy him? That was harsh.
She didn’t speak any more while Carson cleaned, cauterized, and then stitched Xypher closed. By the time they were finished, Xypher was still unconscious, but sweating profusely. She put her hand to his whiskered cheek that was firm and, just as she suspected, feverish.
Feeling for him, she went to the sink to wash up and then wet a cloth with cold water. Hope-fully this would help. She took the cloth to him and laid it across his brow and was struck again by his good looks. He really was an incredibly handsome man. But since he was a god, that was probably to be expected.
All she really knew about him was that he was a jerk . . . and that he’d twice saved her life.
She looked up at Carson who was in the washroom as she remembered the term Xypher had used to describe himself. "What exactly are Skotos?"
Carson dried his hands on a small hand towel before he walked back over to her. "Where did you hear that term?"
She held her hand out to Xypher. "He told me that’s what he was."
Carson nodded. "In ancient Greece, they had sleep gods. Centuries ago, one of them thought it would be funny to play in the dreams of Zeus The big guy didn’t have a sense of humor about it so he ordered everyone possessing even a drop of their blood to either be killed or stripped of all emotions."
She remembered Julian pointing out that he was surprised that Xypher still had his emotions. "That was harsh."
"Yeah, well, Zeus isn’t exactly known for his compassion." There was a note in his voice that said he had his own axe to grind with the god long.
Carson indicated Xypher with a tilt of his head. "After Zeus’s curse, the Oneroi, or dream gods, were relegated to monitoring human sleep, and it was quickly discovered that while they were in a dream state, Zeus’s ban didn’t work. They could feel again. Terrified of being punished, the dream gods started policing themselves and making sure that they kept a check on their brethren, Even so, some of them started craving to emotions to the extent that they lost control of their appetite for it. Before long, they became dangerous to themselves and others."