Synjon's mind squeezed.
What . . . ? What was he saying? What stood beside the doctor?
A rush of heat surged into his veins.
"All right, Pets," the doctor said with a reluctant chuckle. "You fight for him, I fight for him. I just wish I knew what to use as a weapon."
His blood pumped fast and thick. What was wrong with him now? The female . . . her scent was pushing into his nostrils. No, not female.
A tsunami of pain and hunger and desire unlike anything he had ever known slammed into Synjon. He had no breath, no ability to reason or remain still and silent. With a gasp, his eyes slammed open, and when he saw the veana above him, he roared.
"Oh my gods," the female cried out and grabbed his hand.
But Synjon saw only sustenance before him.
"You!" he cried out, his gaze raking down her neck to her arm. "Your blood, Veana! I need your blood."
He yanked her hand to his mouth and twisted, his fangs striking the inside of her wrist with shocking force.
With a scream of pain, Petra yanked her arm away from the male and stumbled back. Clutching her stinging wrist in her hand, she watched with wide, horror-filled eyes as Brodan rushed toward the male and plunged a long needle into his neck.
What the hell had just happened here?
Her gaze cut to the male's face, looking for answers, for some kind of reaction. But apart from his eyes, he was deadly silent and still now. Fire-ravaged face and dark eyes strained with pain, his gaze locked onto hers. Petra felt her breath catch in her throat at the confusion and feral hunger that registered there. But it was his lips, stained red with her blood, that truly stalled her breath, and had her backing up another foot.
With a quiet whimper, she pressed her palm harder against the wound on her wrist, making sure she was stopping the flow. What had he done? And why? Was he angry with her-shit, she'd saved his life!
But she would get no answer from him. Not today. On the raised pallet before her, the male's body went limp and his eyes fell closed.
"He's out." Brodan was at her side in seconds, immediately reaching for her wrist. "He bit you, broke the fucking skin." His gaze lifted to her face and he looked furious, looked near to shifting into his bear. "I should kill him right now."
Her wrist stinging, Petra shook her head. "No. No. He didn't know what he was doing." Why was she protecting him still, after what he'd just done?
"I don't give a shit, Pets. Whatever he is, he's rabid." He hesitated, exhaled heavily, seemed to be trying to get control over himself. "Thank the gods you won't suffer further for that bite. With all the testing I've done on this male, there's been no sign of disease, so at least we're covered there. Are you all right?"
"Yes," she said honestly, finding that the pain and stinging were easing. It was only the fear and confusion that remained. Well, that and this insane drive she had to keep the male alive, find a way to heal him.
"He has incredible strength," Brodan remarked, grabbing a chunk of cotton and wetting it with soap and warm water. "And a powerful bite. Perhaps even quicker and more powerful than our Shifter males."
"I wouldn't know," Petra said with a forced and nervous smile. "No Shifter has ever bitten me before."
"Not yet." Brodan cleaned the wound and bandaged it, then offered her a gentle smile. "Only mated couples bite one another, from the canine and the feline breeds. And we know he's not any Shifter breed."
She caught Brodan's gaze. "Please don't report him."
"Dammit, Pets." He sighed, searched her eyes, then shook his head. "Fine. Maybe you're right, maybe he didn't know what he was doing. The drugs, the pain."
Relief poured through her.
"But," he continued. "I can't have you near him again."
"You're giving me an order, Brodan?"
"No. I know better than to tell you what to do. What I'm giving you is a choice." His chin dropped and his voice grew deadly serious. "You want me to heal him, keep him hidden? I will. I'll do that because you asked me to. But only if you're somewhere else, somewhere this male can't get to you."
His words made absolute sense, and yet Petra couldn't stop the struggle within her. The male had just bitten her. He'd looked at her like fresh kill, and yet she didn't want to leave him. There was so much she wanted to know. What if she never saw him again? Who was he? Who was the female that had turned to dust in the sun?
And the most dire and secretive reason of all. He shared a trait with her, something she'd never encountered before in the rainforest.
A lack of heartbeat.
Realizing Brodan had the upper hand, and that if she put up any amount of fight she was jeopardizing her chance to find out the truth, she nodded. "Fine. I'm going home. I promised to have main meal with my family anyway."
"Tell them I send my good wishes."
She pointed at him. "You can tell them when you stop by to give me an update later. I won't come near him, but I want to know how he's doing."
Brodan's mouth formed a grim line. "Your keen interest in this male's recovery, though admirable, is starting to concern me."
Join the club, she thought. "I saved his life, Brodan."
"Are you sure that's all it is?"
Her skin prickled. Brodan, like everyone else in the Shifter community, knew nothing about her lack of heartbeat. She gave him a confused shrug. "What else could it be?"