Home > Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(8)

Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(8)
Author: Kendra Elliot

Cate shrugged her good shoulder, and Jane’s eyes narrowed. “You taking your pain medication?”

“When I need it.”

“Stay ahead of the pain,” Jane said sternly, but her expression softened. “In a way I’m glad this case landed in your lap. It will distract you . . .”

Distract me from Stephen’s death.

Cate closed her eyes. The door. The shots. The blood. A dark void swirled in her brain and sucked the air out of her lungs.


Panic shot up her throat, and her lids flew open. Jane had stood and was leaning across the table, worry etched across her forehead. “I thought you were going to pass out.”

“I’m fine,” Cate said automatically as her heart pounded out of control.

“Mmph.” Jane slowly sat, her attention never leaving her granddaughter. “No one who has been shot is fine. It takes work to heal emotionally from that.”

“I already talked to the psychiatrist.”

“I know. But two sessions aren’t enough.”

“It wasn’t helping. I just need some time alone.” Cate’s brain walled off the past, protecting her thoughts. If three weeks ago is considered the past.

Jane reached across the table and took Cate’s hand with a gentle smile. “I’m glad you’re home. You’ll heal here on the island. Give it time to work its magic.”

“That’s why I’m here.” She gave a flat laugh. “But I hadn’t planned on working.”

“I think it will be a good part of your healing process. You aren’t the type of person to sit around and relax all day.”


“What are your plans for today?”

“Shower, make some calls, and read up on Becca’s case.”

“Why don’t you get some air first?”

Fresh island air and some movement greatly appealed to Cate. “Good idea. Then I’ll get to work.”

Or am I nervous to identify those bones?


Through the glass front door, Henry watched a young man in jeans and a heavy coat stride up the walkway to his clinic.

His nurse, Julie, who was also his office manager and person-who-does-everything-else, was out on a coffee run, so Henry sat behind the reception desk, propping his head up with his hands. It’d been a quiet morning, and Henry couldn’t keep his eyes open. He’d managed two hours of sleep after the late night on Ruby’s Island. He’d lain in bed for hours, thinking about the young girl’s bones, Rex Conan’s sorrow, and Cate Wilde. If he was being honest, most of the thoughts had been about Cate. Her blue eyes had revealed she was in physical pain, but she hadn’t let it affect her work. She’d considerately handled Rex, respecting his sorrow.

She has a story.

A deeper story than her and Deputy Black losing a teenage friend years ago.

The clinic door opened, and Henry pushed to his feet. The man looked to be in his early twenties and had a serious case of bed head. Henry ran a hand over his own short hair in reflex.

“Are you the doctor?” Mr. Bed Head looked confused. Now that he was closer, Henry noticed both the coat and jeans were heavily worn and dirty. A large part of the island population was poor. The primary industry was tourism, and during the winter, the industry was nearly nonexistent. People scraped by. Others gave up and moved to the mainland.

“I am. What can I do for you?”

“I slipped on the ice yesterday, and today I can barely walk. Everything hurts.”

“Mmmm,” Henry answered noncommittally. “Let’s get your paperwork done, and then I’ll take a look.” He handed over a clipboard with several forms. “You been in before?”

Bed Head took the clipboard. “Nah. Just visiting the island.” He scowled at the form. “I don’t have any of these diseases, and I’ll pay cash today. My insurance isn’t worth squat.”

“Then check the No box on each condition.” Subtle alarms were going off in Henry’s head. The patient looked as tired as Henry felt.

He scribbled on the forms for a moment and handed back the clipboard. “Thought there was a pretty nurse working here.”

“Sometimes. Usually it’s me.” Henry hoped Julie wouldn’t return within the next five minutes. The patient’s sleepy gaze darted around the clinic from the chairs to the art and to the door. For someone so tired, he couldn’t seem to focus.

Henry read the name on the form. Blake Shelton. Yeah, right. The address was on Fifth Street in Seattle. I’d bet good money that he’s never been there.

He sighed and sat down at the computer. “Give me a minute.”

“Blake” nodded and started to pace around the room, unable to stay still. Several nervous looks were shot at Henry as he used the computer. When Blake had handed him the clipboard, he’d seen the dilated pupils. Drowsy, short attention span, dilated pupils, a claim of lots of invisible pain.

It added up to drug seeker.

He’d seen too many in Los Angeles. And in his own home.

His older sister had died from an Oxy overdose after a year of drug abuse, family fights, and failed attempts at rehab. At the end she’d been taking nearly forty pills a day. She had been arrested three times for shoplifting to support her habit before she’d decided to steal from home. She had then sold their father’s lawn mower, Weedwacker, and revolver. Henry had been a senior in high school, and watching his sister’s rapid decline into addiction had made him decide to study medicine instead of engineering. Somehow he’d wanted to make a difference. He couldn’t save his sister, but maybe he could save someone else. The constant flow of addicted patients in Los Angeles had curbed his optimism. There wasn’t one answer or path to healing.

“Where’s the pain, Blake?”

“Oh man. Everywhere. Especially my back.” Blake arched his back and touched his right kidney, avoiding eye contact with Henry.

“Where’d you land when you slipped?”

“On my ass. Stairs were icy.”

“You must have hit your back several times on the steps, then.”

“Yeah . . . a lot of times. They were steep and concrete. I was at the top when I slipped.” He winced. “I think I need to sit down.”

Henry pointed at a chair in the waiting room. No way I’ll let him into the back of the clinic. Henry didn’t have opioids on hand, and he’d seen angry drug seekers destroy expensive medical equipment when they were denied their fix.

Blake sat and moaned, appearing quite crippled, no longer the young man who’d confidently stridden to Henry’s door.

A blood pressure cuff in his hand, Henry entered the waiting room as his ire battled with his sympathy. I don’t have time for this today. Or the patience. He had forgotten how each drug-seeker encounter wrenched his bruised heart, which had never healed from his sister’s death.

“Take your coat off so I can take your blood pressure.”

“Out here?”

“I don’t want to make you walk any farther than you have to.”

Blake slipped off his coat, and his strong body odor filled the room.

“Turn so I can look at your back.”

Blake froze, and his eyes widened.

Oops. Someone realized his back should be bruised and battered.


“Don’t want to show me your back?”

“It hurts inside. There’s nothing really to see.” Blake squirmed in his seat, not knowing what to do with his hands.

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