House of Royale Page 1

Author: Jaymin Eve

Series: Secret Keepers #4

Genres: Fantasy


“Avalon! Are you okay?”

I could have cried at the sound of Dr. Spinner’s concerned voice. It was such a welcome relief after walking almost ten miles to get across the island. Doc was seventy-eight years old, retired, and living alone on the edge of Lanai. He was also one of the only friends I had, and I really needed a friend right now. And a medical practitioner, apparently.

Pulling himself up from the rocker he sat in for most of the day, he waited for me to hobble up the three front steps to the small porch. “I had a bit of a run-in with some … rocks,” I told him. The bleeding had mostly stopped at this point, but red lines still trailed along my skin.

He squinted at where I was holding my arm, his expression giving away nothing. I couldn’t tell if he believed my story or not, but I was really hoping it wouldn’t be obvious that it was actually a stream of bullets that had cut me up. “Could you have a look and stitch me if needed?”

Doc didn’t ask any more questions. He was very good at minding his own business, and somehow still getting all the information from me. Psychology—or more accurately, reverse psychology—would have been a good career option for him if he hadn’t gone into medicine.

I followed him into his home, which looked exactly the same as the last time I was there. It was an old plantation house that had seen better days, simply furnished, but had an amazing view—ocean as far as the eye could see from every room. Doc never spoke much about his past, but I knew he’d lost his wife and daughter in a boating accident and now he just sought peace and quiet, waiting out his days until he’d be reunited with them.

I wasn’t sure why he’d taken a liking to me, but he’d patched up my hand years ago when a shark had mistaken me for the fish dinner it had been aiming for, and ever since then it’d felt like he was looking out for me.

“Come into the back room, that’s where my kit is,” he told me, shuffling forward.

The worn wood floors creaked as we crossed them. Doc waited until I was seated before he started to prod at my left bicep. I was almost certain the bullets had just grazed me, but I was already trying to think of what I was going to say if he discovered one buried in there. “This doesn’t look like rocks,” he murmured.

“I was in the water,” I explained. “Figured it was rocks, but it could have been anything.”

Like a stream of bullets.

“Right,” he murmured again, still prodding me.

It hurt like a bitch, but I didn’t complain. I was used to pain, always getting scraped up and knocked around by the ocean. That’s the price I paid for getting to ride the tides and waves of the beautiful sea. I would literally rather be dead than not glide with the ocean creatures. Of course, this injury could not be attributed to anything except wrong place, wrong time. They’d been shooting at that girl I’d found hiding under the rock ledge, and I’d gotten hit in the process.

No regrets in saving her though. I had special abilities in the water, far beyond anyone else I’d ever seen; it was my duty to help when I could. I’d saved more people from the ocean than I could count.

“You will need some stitches,” he finally said after prodding, cleaning, and muttering over my injury some more. “Hold still, I’ll give you a shot to numb it.”

I shook my head. “No. No drugs. You know I react badly to man-made pharmaceuticals. I’m just going to have to tough it out.”

His brow furrowed, just slightly, which was the only indication that he was unhappy. The thing I loved the most about this old guy was the way he took everything in his stride. All the weird, fucked-up happenings in the world … he just kept on trucking.

I closed my eyes as he inserted the small curved needle, mentally going to the ocean. It helped keep the pain at bay, and by the time he’d made the four or five precise stitches, rubbed some cream over the top, and bandaged me up, I was feeling much better.

“So…” Doc leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his slightly rounded belly. “How have you been, Ava? Do you need a place to stay?”

The answers to those questions were always the same: I’ve been existing, and Yes, I need a place to stay. But I was afraid to be a burden, so I would never force my company on him.

“I’ve been fine,” I said. “Working at the sanctuary, and lifeguard duties. You know how it is.”

Deflection and avoidance often worked, but not this time. Apparently my “rock” graze had worried him. “I’d really like you to stay here for a few nights … just so I can keep an eye on you. There is always a possibility of infection.”

Swallowing hard, I tried not to let my relief reach my face. If he knew how badly I wanted to stay, he’d feel obligated to make it happen—as a permanent arrangement. But I knew Doc liked his privacy, his alone time. I would never want to take that small peace away from him. A few nights was okay, though, especially if he insisted.

“I guess that’s a good idea,” I conceded. “Just until we know there won’t be any complications.” We were acting like I’d just had open heart surgery rather than a small cut, but I was too worn-out right now to put my big girl pants on and walk out the door.