Waking up in the clinic was nothing new to June. Over the span of her life, she couldn’t count the number of time Bran or another hunter kid sent her there with injuries ranging from bruises to a broken rib.
A groan left June as her eyes peeled open, blinded by the fluorescent lights above. Her head pounded as she took in the room with nothing but white while, a single armchair, and medical equipment. She wondered if the nurse had placed her in her usual room at the end of the hall or someplace else which didn’t really matter since they were all the rooms were the exact same.
Not really in the mood to wait and see, June sat up, pushing away the thin white sheet. With nimble fingers, she took the IV inserted in the crease of her elbow out with a hiss before scooting to the edge of the bed. Her bare feet had barely touched the cold tile when the door to her room was practically thrown open. Déjà vu hit June at the sight of Dale in the threshold.
“I’m fine, Dad,” June said as he all but ran into the room. Her breath was stolen from her as he pulled her into a tight hug.
When he finally let her go, he kept his hands on her shoulder, looking over her bruised body with narrow eyes. Once he was satisfied she wasn’t going fall over dead, he dropped his grip, saying, “This is the last time you scare me like that.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” June countered and stopped when she remembered the reason she was in the hospital. Her stomach fell to the floor, “Is Dani-“
“A doctor already examed her,” Dale said, exhaling heavily as he shook his head, adding, “It doesn’t look good. The bite is over twenty hours old.”
June looked away as her eyes welled with tears that she refused to let fall. Dani had made a mistake, a very big one. If the bite was dealt with fast, under six or so hours, there was a slim chance of avoiding the change. It varied from case to case but there were some in the complex who had been bitten and saved, of course, they were missing a limb but it was a small price to pay for their lives.
“And me?” June questioned, biting down on her lower lip. She twisted her hands together, not realizing how nervous she was for a reply. Something flashed over her father’s face that was gone as soon as it came making June sure she had was imagining things.
“Besides the bruises, you’re in perfect condition,” Dale answered and took a seat in the armchair next to the bed, “Everything is okay.”
June wanted to scream that nothing was okay. With every minute, she was losing Dani to the change. Her cousin was going from human to beast and soon, neither were going to exist.
Instead, she asked, “Does that mean I can go home?”
“Not yet,” Dale replied, leaning back in the chair, saying, “Since you’re here, Dr. Kelly wants to go ahead and give you your heart medication. She should be here any minute now.”
The image of a large needle popped into June’s head and she shuddered, feeling goosebumps rise on her skin. For as long as she could remember, her dad had taken her to the clinic once a month to see Dr. Kelly. Once a month, June was injected with her own personal type of heart medication that left her groggy for a week after.
Apparently, when she was born, her heart was defective. The only thing that kept it in top shape was the injections. While June had never experienced what Dr. Kelly would describe as a minor heartache if she didn’t take the shot, June still complied. She figured it wasn’t hurting anything and after all, it made her dad less stressed. June had noticed that every month, near the time she was due for another injection, he watched her a little too closely.
The door to the room opened again and June tensed. However, instead of it being Dr. Kelly, it was Jace. He stepped into the room slowly, his eyes flickering from June to Dale who was no sitting straight up in his seat. June huffed at the sudden tension in the air. She broke their staring contest, turning to Dale, “Dad, can Jace and I have a few minutes alone, please?”
“No,” Dale answered without hesitating.
June’s brows pulled together, and she crossed her arms over her chest, telling him, “Either you leave, or I do.”
Dale cast a glare that would make most men wither her way, but June didn’t crumble, she sent he look right back. After a solid ten seconds, her dad stood up from the chair, “Five minutes and June, when I come back, Dr. Kelly will be with me. Use your time wisely.”
Jace stepped aside as Dale brushed past him, their shoulders knocking together. Over his shoulder, before he left the room, Dale pushed the door open all the way, saying, “This stays like it is.”
June let out a breath once her dad was gone. She dragged herself off the bed and took slow steps towards Jace. He met her halfway, his arms locking around her waist as he pulled her into his body. June rested her chin on his chest, tilting her head up, “I told you she didn’t bite me.”
“You did,” Jace sighed. They both knew that if Dani had sunk her teeth into June, she would either be missing a limb or, be down in the tunnels the place where they kept the beasts. Jace continued, “But you did have minor brain swelling. They kept you under for a couple of days.”
“Days?” June repeated, aghast. Her heart started leaping in her chest as she asked, “Is Dani-“
“Alive,” He answered, keeping his eyes locked on her like a real hunter would do as they delivered bad news, “Dani’s time is limited, June. They want her gone by the full moon.”
June counted the days in her head, saying, “That’s in a week. Why are they waiting so long?”
Usually, when someone is bitten and can’t be saved, the problem is over within hours, maybe minutes, not days. Keeping a hybrid around, even a fresh one, was dangerous. It was rare, but on occasion, they managed to escape the tunnels. Of course, they were caught minutes later but it was enough to do damage. When a hybrid was tapped into their animal side, body counts rose.
Jace’s voice was barely above a whisper as he answered, “You know why, June. Out of everyone in the complex, who is Dani closest to?”
Her head snapped up from the floor as she realized what Jace was getting at. June’s felt her throat constrict and she shook her head in denial, “No. No. They can’t make me. It has to be someone else.”
“The council has already made the announcement,” Jace explained, his voice tight, “Everything is already in motion.”
“My dad will get me out of it,” She told him but by the look in his eyes, she knew she was wrong.
“June, I don’t know how to tell you, so I’ll just spit it out. They put Dale on probation. I don’t know who, but someone told the other council members he’s been letting you slip by. They know about you coming in late all the time and no one is happy about it.”
“They’re just going to take it out on him?” June questioned, feeling sick. Her dad loved being on the council for obvious reasons. After their mom died, he stopped hunting. Being one of the community leaders made him an asset. It stopped him from having to go outside the complex walls. His sanity was already frail as it is, if he went outside, it would be blown to bits.
“If he can’t control his own daughter, how is he supposed to control an entire community?” Jace asked, not to be harsh but to point out the obvious that stared June in the face. “It has to be you. Taking out Dani is the only way Dale will be redeemed to the council. You have to show them that he raised you properly under the code. Understand?”
June was numb as she nodded, weakly saying, “I understand.”
One of Jace’s hands cupped her cheek and the other brushed her messy hair back behind her ear. Softly, he promised, “I’ll be there, in the crowd. Just look to me if you need strength. You can do this, June, I know you can.”
His words, meant to be reassuring, did nothing for her. She forced herself to ask, “What was it like? When you killed your father?”
“Took him out,” Jace corrected, the fluffy moment they had just shared long over as his voice went sharp, “It wasn’t easy. I still see his face when I close my eyes but once you realize it’s for the better, the guilt fades.”
June’s mind went back to the other night. She was tempted to tell Jace that she saw the hybrid’s face before she went to bed but stopped herself. What would he think of her if he knew she felt guilty over killing the beast? And if she already felt terrible from that, how was she going to feel when Dani was lying dead at her feet?
Thankfully, she didn’t have to say anything back to Jace as two figures appeared in the doorway. Beside her father was an aged doctor, her hair more grey than black. Around her green eyes were wrinkles, not from age but stress. Dr. Kelly had been the head doctor of the complex for twenty years and it showed. Her slouched shoulders reflected the heavy burden of seeing person after person succumb to either death or the bite. On occasion, she did things like this. She had been giving June her injection since birth and for some reason, her father wanted it to stay that way, even when Dr. Kelly moved into a higher position.
Jace’s arms dropped like dead weight as Dale and Dr. Kelly came into the room. Not looking at anyone other than June, he said, “I’ll see you later.”
“Doubtful,” Dale responded. He held the door handle and waved Jace through. June barely had time to send him a small smile before the door was slammed shut.
Dr. Kelly didn’t waste any time as she commanded, “June, you know what to do.”
June nodded went to the bed, laying on her left side. Her dad came around to face her, grabbing one of her hands in his. Behind her, June felt Dr. Kelly lift the hospital gown so that her side was exposed. She shivered at the doctor’s cold fingers ran over her ribs, stopping the middle. The needle had barely touched June’s skin when she jumped.
“Remember to breathe,” Dale prompted, “Squeeze my hands, Junie.”
June did as she was told, and Dale nodded, giving Dr. Kelly her queue. As always, there was no way for June to prepare herself for the pain. The needle broke through her skin until it hits its target spot, her pancreas. June squeezed her eyes shut and counted backward from one hundred in her head as Dr. Kelly pushed down on the stopper. Right away, it was like liquid fire had entered her body. Blood filled June’s mouth as she accidentlly bit down on her tongue.
It felt like an eternity had passed when the needle was slowly pulled out of her body. June sagged into the bed but couldn’t force her eyes to open. A heavy hand fell on the top of her head as she heard her father say, “It’s over. It’s over.”