Chapter 1: Bleedout
Twenty-Eight Years Ago
BRIIING BRIIIING BRIIIING
The sheets pulled down as I moved an arm towards the phone at my bedside. My glossy black hair, messy with the few hours sleep I had just been roused from, covered my light olive complexion as I reached for it. I saw the clock, 3:28 AM, as I pulled the handset towards my ear. “Doc DelMara,” I said groggily.
“Get downstairs, emergency call. Laura is hemorrhaging.”
Instantly awake, I tossed off the sheets and sat up. “On my way, Alpha.” Hanging up the phone, I tossed my silk pajamas aside and pulled on scrubs. Putting my feet in slip-on shoes, I ran out the door of my bedroom and into the small apartment that was above the Pack clinic.
My werewolf hearing could pick up the screams of the woman being driven to the small building in the one-stop-sign town that was the Pack home. I could hear howls, and the thunder of paws as others ran to help. I just made it to the door and opened it for them. “To the surgery room,” I said as they passed.
The man set Laura down on the bed, she was unconscious and was bleeding heavily from her uterus. Her belly was rounded, she was in her fifth month of pregnancy. “What happened,” I asked as I started an IV line.
“She went to bed not feeling well, and woke up an hour ago with a fever,” he said. “I was trying to cool her off in the bath when the pain came. She started cramping, and then it was like a gusher, she started bleeding from down there, bleeding a LOT,” her mate, a big lumberjack named Conner, said in a worried voice.
“Any falls, impacts with her stomach?” I had the heart monitor hooked up and I was cutting her clothes away.
“Nothing, we were just sleeping.” He was in the way, I needed to get in there and he wasn’t going to like what I was going to do to her.
“Alpha Clark, please take them out, I need to work,” I said. The Alpha had to physically pull Conner out of the room, her parents followed them to the small waiting room. This was pretty normal, when a mate is in trouble the other is instinctively driven to be there with her. The protectiveness can interfere with my work, even get me hurt, so I had to get them out quickly. It was times like these I wished I had a Pack bond, but I wasn’t a Pack member; I was in my second year of a five-year contract to serve as their Doctor. There weren’t many trained Werewolf medical professionals, and if you couldn’t grow your own you had to lease them. Even though a Pack Doctor was normally ranked with the Betas, directly reporting to the Alpha, I didn’t have that authority without going through him.
Jessica Andersen ran in nude, having rushed over here in wolf form. She pulled the scrub top over her head and was pulling the bottoms on when I caught her eye. A bubbly Scandinavian blonde with straight blonde hair and ice blue eyes, she wanted to go to nursing school for college. She got permission from her parents and her Alpha to train under me, and quickly became a valuable assistant. She was a fast learner and had a natural aptitude for working with children. “Jessica, warm up four bags of A positive, and have Alpha Clark send out a call to the Pack members with her blood type to get down here.” She ran into the lab next door.
I did a quick examination; the blood was arterial, and her pulse was weak and thready. The baby was in distress, her pulse rate was dropping. At twenty-one weeks, she wouldn’t survive, and in a few minutes, we would lose the mother too.
I reached for a scalpel.
Making an incision from just below her belly button to just above her vagina, I sliced through the skin. Moving the tissue aside with retractors, I exposed the uterine wall. Making a second incision, I exposed the small baby in the amniotic sac. There was no time for anything fancy here, I pulled the girl out and clamped the umbilical cord. I set her down, she was already blue and not breathing, this early we had no chance to save her.
Her life blood was gushing out from the placenta, which was detaching from the uterine wall already. I found the artery and clamped it, just as the heart monitor alarmed. “JESSICA!” I pulled over the crash cart, observing the flat line on the monitor. She ran in just as I applied the first shock, two blood bags in her hand.
“Start CPR,” I said. She leaned over the table, putting her hands in place over Laura’s sternum. I injected epinephrine into her as she counted to thirty. We were both ignoring the screams and howls of grief from her mate and family in the next room as we tried to bring her back.
“Charging to 200,” I said. She moved her hands up as I said “CLEAR,” then I shocked her again.
“Continue CPR.” I grabbed a bag and hung it, starting another IV line. Squeezing the bag to get it through the large-bore needle faster, I knew we were fighting a losing battle. She’d lost too much blood and was too far gone. We went through another few minutes without success before I called it. “Time of death, 0402.”
Jessica slid to the floor, her sobs breaking through. This was the first patient I’d lost at this Pack, and her first time in a situation like this. It never got easier. I reached my hand down for her. “Come on, we need to make her presentable for her family,” I said.
We spent a few minutes removing the lines and the monitors. Jessica helped me remove the bloodstained sheets and towels and wipe it off her legs. I cleaned their daughter and placed her on her mother’s chest before placing a blanket over her from her stomach down. They didn’t need to see more.
After we had wiped up the floor and tossed the soiled laundry and our scrubs in the bin, Jessica and I pulled on clean scrubs from the locker in the lab. I pulled her to me, her arms wrapped around me as her tears soaked my new top. “You did good, kiddo. Sometimes you just can’t save them.”
“Her children…” She babysat for them occasionally, they had a four-year old son and a two-year-old daughter.
“They will need your help, Conner will too. The whole Pack needs to help, that’s why we are here together. Now dry your eyes, there is still work to do. Take the bin out and put it in the soak barrel, then give the floor a quick mop with bleach. I’m going to move her into the other room, so the blood smell isn’t so strong when they see her.” They would still smell it, werewolves could easily scent even a drop of blood, but it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.
She nodded, and I led her back in. I unlocked the brakes on the bed and rolled it across the hall into the examination room. Taking a few deep breaths, I walked to the front of the clinic where the waiting room was.
Every eye moved to mine as I opened the door. I didn’t have to tell them she didn’t make it, they had all felt the bond break when she passed. I looked at Conner, who was on the floor, her parents on each side of him as they clung to each other for support. “I’m sorry, she lost too much blood too quickly,” I said.
“The baby?” He looked at me, hoping against hope.
“She didn’t make it, it was too early for her to survive.” A fresh round of sobs hit the room with the news. “When you are ready, I can take you to them.”
Alpha Mitch came over to me, placing his hand on my shoulder. “Thank you, I know you did all you could.”
“Thank you, Alpha Clark. Jessica did well, she is going to be a fine nurse someday.”
She came in behind me and was pulled into a hug by her Alpha. Her tears had restarted as she saw the devastation of the family. “Shhh, we can only trust Luna is going to work this for good,” he said as she cried.
She looked up at him. “Their children? Do I need to get them?”
“Luna Connie is bringing them now,” he said. I could hear a car approaching, and a minute later two young ones were running in, clinging to their father.
When they were ready, I let Conner and the children in first. I stood by in the background, silently praying to Luna for them to have strength to get past this, especially for him. The loss of a mate often left the remaining in deep depression, usually ending in suicide. This was almost always the case for the true mates, of which Conner and Laura were.
All adult Werewolves had a true mate given them at birth, we were taught. A person created just for you, the perfect match, the type of love little girls dreamed about.
Few ever found them.
The Packs didn’t trust each other, there were turf wars, vendettas, and hostile takeovers. Females were a resource that left when they found their mates, so Packs had little incentive to let them find them. The Boundary Waters Pack was better than most, it was surrounded by four allied Packs in Winnepeg, Duluth, Two Harbors and Grand Marais. If you found your true mate there, you were lucky.
As a result, almost all matings were Choice Mates. This was more like human dating, finding a partner and agreeing to forego your Fated. Once the mating occurred, it was almost as strong and lasted for life. If your Fated mate found you after you Choice Mated, you’d never know, it would be as if that bond never existed. If your Fated died, you never knew.
The last kind of mate was a Forced Mate. These were frowned upon, but still occurred in some Packs. A male would forcibly mate with the female, biting her at the time of his release in her, and that bound her to him until death. The wolf in you would bind with his, and she would prevent you from hurting him in revenge. Unless you killed yourself or someone else killed him, he was yours.
The only protection from forced matings was through your family, Pack and Alpha. That is why females didn’t travel to other territories without escorts, and part of why there were so many vendettas and wars fought between Packs. I fingered the necklace I wore, with the Pack’s emblem and the letters “AP” for “Alpha Protected.” As part of my contract to come here, the necklace signified his vow to kill any man who tried or succeeded in force mating me. By killing him, I could be free again.
You never got over the rape, though. I had treated several women who this had happened to, they never looked at mates the same way. Experiencing the power of the bond to a man you hated, it changed them.
There were no human mates, our DNA was not compatible. You can’t turn a human, a bite would sentence the person to a painful death. You can’t father a child, or have his baby if one is human. There were some who fell in love, but they had to give up their wolves and live as humans, never to have children of their own, never to be part of a Pack again. It was a life few ever chose.
Conner was kneeling next to his dead mate, his children in his arms as they kissed her goodbye. When they were done, her parents came in. I stood my lonely vigil for two more hours as the rest of the Pack members, all one hundred and fifty-two of them, filed through to pay their respects.
When the last one, a Pack Elder, left she stopped by me. “We are preparing the funeral for moonrise.”
“That is fine, I need to perform an autopsy, but I will be done by noon,” I said. “I will call you when you can take the bodies.” She left, and I brought the deceased back into the operating theater. Our clinic wasn’t big enough for a morgue.
Jessica had finished cleaning up and had gone to help care for the children, so I locked up and went back into the room.
I checked the baby girl first. She was normal size and weight, nothing abnormal physically. She died quickly, her heart not receiving oxygen from the mother’s placenta. I took a blood sample, but I didn’t expect to find anything.
The mother had been healthy until now; it wasn’t her first pregnancy, and she’d never had complications before. The fever was a clue, I took a blood sample and extracted some urine from her bladder for culture.
It was in her uterus that the bleeding started, and that was the focus of my autopsy. The placenta didn’t look normal; it was the right size, but it smelled off. I cut off a few samples for examination. It was almost completely detached from the uterine wall, but it wasn’t the kind of detachment you would expect from a tear or impact. It looked like the placenta started to detach on its own, like it would after birth, but there was no birth to be had. The fever, the cramping, it all pointed to something going terribly wrong.
Two hours later, I had no answers and dozens of questions. I filled out the death certificates, cause of death was ‘placental detachment.’ I walked back upstairs to take a nap after the Elders took them away, my mind still spinning over what I had seen. Why would a healthy mother and baby see a change like this for no apparent reason?