Etienne Argeneau's three hundred years of bachelorhood were at an end. Either
that, or he'd be forever alone. He could only "turn" one human in his
lifetime, and most of his kind reserved that power for creating a life mate. If
he turned the wrong woman . . . But what choice did he have? He had to save Rachel
Garrett. He didn't know her very well, but the beautiful coroner had saved his
life. To save hers he would make her immortal.
"Yo, Rach. I'm going to grab a java. You want anything?"
Rachel Garrett straightened at Tony's question and wiped the back of her gloved
hand across her forehead. She had been bouncing between the chills and fever since
arriving at work two hours ago. At the moment, she was in a hot phase. Sweat was
gathering across her back and along her scalp as if she'd been running a marathon.
She was obviously coming down with something nasty.
Her gaze slid to the clock on the wall. It was almost one. Two hours down,
six to go. Rachel almost groaned. Six more hours. The way this flu bug was coming
on, it was doubtful she'd last half of that.
"Hey! You feeling all right, Rach? You look like hell."
Rachel grimaced at her assistant's choice of words as he moved to her side
and felt her forehead. Men could be so tactful.
"Cold. Clammy." He frowned and asked, "Fever and chills?"
"I'm fine." Rachel pushed his hand away with embarrassed irritation,
then reached into her pocket for some change as she answered his first question,
"Maybe you could get me some juice or something, please."
"Oh, yeah. You're fine."
Rachel stilled at his dry words, suddenly realizing that she had pushed her
smock aside and shoved her hand into her pants pocket. She'd done so without removing
her bloody rubber glove first. Great.
"Maybe you should-"
"I'm fine," she interrupted his concerned words. "I'll be fine.
Just go on."
Tony hesitated, then shrugged. "Okay. But you might want to maybe sit
down or something till I get back."
Rachel ignored the suggestion and turned back to her cadaver as he left the
room. Tony was a nice guy. A little weird maybe. For instance, he insisted on
talking like a Goodfellow from the Bronx when he had been born, raised, and never
left Toronto. He also wasn't Italian. Tony wasn't even really his name. The name
he'd been given at birth was Teodozjusz Schweinberger. Rachel had complete sympathy
with the name change to Tony, but didn't understand how the bad Italian Bronx
accent came with it.
Straightening again, Rachel glanced toward the open door to the main room of
the morgue, then set down her scalpel and stripped the rubber glove from her right
hand as she walked out to meet the men propelling a gurney into the main room.
Dale and Fred. Nice guys. A couple of EMTs whom she rarely saw. They generally
delivered their clientele to the hospital alive. Of course some died after arriving,
but it was usually after these two had already been and gone, which left the chore
of bringing down the patient to someone else. This one must have died in transit
for them to be delivering him.
"Hey, Rachel! You're looking...good."
She crossed the room to join them, politely ignoring Dale's hesitation before
the word good. Tony had made it more than plain that she was starting to look
as unwell as she felt. "What have we here?"
Dale handed her a clipboard with various sheets of paper on it. "Gunshot
wound. Thought we got a beat before transporting from the scene, but might have
been wrong. For the record, he died in transit. Doc Westin pronounced him when
we got here and asked us to bring him down. They'll want an autopsy, bullet retrieval,
and so on."
"Hmm." Rachel let the pages fall back into place, then moved to the
end of the room to grab one of the special stainless steel gurneys they used for
autopsies. She rolled it back to rest next to the EMTs padded gurney. "Can
you switch him over onto this while I sign for him?"
"Thanks." Leaving them to it, she moved to the desk in the corner
of the examining room in search of a pen. Rachel signed the necessary papers,
then walked back as the men finished shifting the body to the table. The sheet
that had covered him for his trip through the hospital was now missing. She paused
and stared at the latest addition to the morgue.
He was a handsome man, no more than thirty, with dirty blond hair. She stared
at his pale chiselled features, wishing she'd seen him while alive and knew what
he looked like with his eyes open. Rachel rarely thought of her clients as having
at one time been living, breathing beings. It would make her job impossible to
do if she considered that the bodies she worked with were mothers, brothers, sisters,
grandfathers, etc. But this one she couldn't seem not to see as a person. She
could imagine him smiling and laughing and in her mind he had silver eyes the
likes of which she'd never seen.
She blinked in confusion and stared up at Dale. The fact that she was now sitting
was a bit startling and made her glance around. The men had obviously rolled the
wheeled desk chair over and urged her into it. Both EMTs were now hovering over
her, worry on their faces.
"You nearly fainted, I think," Dale told her. "You were swaying
and all white-faced. How are you feeling?"
"Oh." She gave an embarrassed laugh and a wave of her hand. "I'm
fine. Really. I think I'm coming down with something though. Chills, then fever."
Dale placed the back of a hand to her forehead and frowned. "You're burning
up. Maybe you should go home."
Rachel felt her face and was alarmed to note that she was indeed burning up.
It crossed her mind to hope that the speed and strength with which this bug had
hit her wasn't an omen of how bad it was going to be. And if it was bad, she hoped
that it would burn out as quickly as it had hit. Rachel hated being sick.
"Huh?" She glanced at the concerned faces of the EMTs and forced
herself to sit up. "Oh, yeah. Sorry. Yes, I might go home early when Tony
gets back. In the meantime, I signed for the body and everything." Rachel
retrieved the paperwork that would stay with her and handed back the clipboard
with the rest of the paperwork. Dale accepted the clipboard, then exchanged an
uncertain glance with Fred. Both of them appeared reluctant to leave her alone.
"I'm fine, really," she assured them. "And Tony just went out
to grab us some drinks. He'll be back shortly. You two go on."
"Okay." Dale still sounded reluctant. "Just do us a favor and
keep your butt in that chair till Tony gets back, huh? If you faint and hit your
nodded. "Sure. You two go on. I'll just rest till Tony gets back."
Dale didn't look like he believed she would do as she said, but he had little
choice but to follow Fred to the door. "Okay. Well, we're out of here then."
"See you later," Fred added.
Rachel watched them leave, then sat still for a moment as she had promised.
It wasn't long before she became impatient with just sitting there, though. She
wasn't used to being inactive. Her gaze slid to the body on the gurney. A shooting
vic. Those were rare enough. It meant there was a shooter out there running around.
It also meant that this man had become her most important customer. The police
would want the bullet for forensics testing to help them track the gun, and hopefully,
the killer if they didn't already have him. If they did have him, they'd want
it to prove they had the right guy. Which meant she wasn't going home after Tony
came back. At least, not until she had removed the bullet from this guy for forensics.
The actual autopsy wouldn't be done until morning, but retrieving the bullet was
her job. She was the head coroner at night; it was her responsibility.
Straightening her shoulders, she stood and moved to the table to peer down
at her newest customer. "You picked a heck of a night to get shot, my friend."
Rachel's gaze slid over his face. He really had been a looker. It seemed a
shame that he was dead. But then it always seemed to be a shame when people died.
Shrugging such thoughts aside, Rachel grabbed the rolling tray of equipment she
would need and pushed it next to the steel table where her newest client lay.
She looked him over once more before setting to work. The EMTs had ripped his
shirt open, then laid it back across his chest. He was still fully clothed and
in a rather sharp- not to mention expensive- designer suit.
"Nice duds. Obviously a man of taste and means," she commented, admiring
the cut of his clothes and the body beneath it. "Unfortunately, the suit
has to go."
Rachel picked up the shears from the equipment table and quickly and efficiently
cut away at the suit coat and shirt to remove them. Once the fabric fell away,
she paused to take in what was revealed. Normally, Rachel would have simply moved
on to remove his pants and underwear if there were any, but the fever was affecting
her strength. Her arms felt all rubbery and her fingers were limp and awkward.
She decided a change in routine wouldn't hurt at that point and would start recording
her findings of his upper body before she moved on to try to remove the clothing
from his lower body. With any luck, by then Tony might be back to help.
Setting the shears aside, she reached up to swing both the overhead light and
the microphone directly over his chest, then switched the microphone on.
"The subject is- Oh shoot!" Rachel flicked the microphone off and
quickly retrieved the paperwork Dale and Fred had left behind. Her gaze scanned
the information in search of a name. A frown marred her face when she saw that
there wasn't one. He was a John Doe. Well dressed, but without identification.
It made her wonder if that had been the reason behind the shooting. Perhaps he'd
been shot and robbed of his wallet.
Her gaze flickered back to the man. It seemed a real shame to kill a man for
nothing more than a couple of bucks. It was a crazy world. Rachel set the paperwork
back and returned to flick the microphone back on. "Doctor Garrett examining
shooting victim John Doe. John Doe is a Caucasian male, approximately 6'4,"
she guessed, leaving actual measurements for later. "He is a very healthy
She turned off the microphone again and took her time looking him over. Very
healthy was an understatement, Rachel decided as she searched for identifying
features. John Doe was built like an athlete. He had a flat stomach, a wide chest,
and muscular arms to go with his handsome face. After checking him out again,
then a third time, she moved closer to examine him more minutely. Rachel picked
up one arm, then the other and lifted them to examine the underside of each before
stepping back with a frown. There wasn't a single identifying mark. No scars or
birthmarks. There was nothing that could be considered an identifying feature
on the man. Other than the gunshot wound over his heart, the man was completely
flaw free. Even his fingers were unmarred.
"Strange," Rachel muttered to herself. Usually there were at least
a couple of scars; an appendicitis scar, or small ones on the hands from past
wounds. Something. But this man was completely flawless everywhere that she could
see. Even his hands and fingers were callous free. Idle rich? She wondered and
peered at his face again. Classically handsome. No tan though. Jet setters usually
had tans from the sunny spots they had just flown back from. Or from the tanning
Deciding she was wasting time on these suppositions, Rachel gave her head a
shake and turned the microphone back on. "Subject has no identifying features
or scars on the front upper body except for the fresh gunshot wound. Death, on
first glance, appears to be due to exsanguation caused by gunshot wound."
This time she left the microphone on as she reached for the forceps she would
need to remove the bullet. The recorder was sound activated so would only record
what she said anyway. Later she would use the tape to write up her report, leaving
out any muttered comments it caught that were not pertinent to the case.
Rachel measured and described the size of the gunshot wound, as well as it's
placement on the body, then set to work cautiously easing the bullet forceps into
the wound, moving slowly and carefully to be sure she was following the path of
the bullet and not pushing through undamaged tissue. A moment later she had reached
and grasped the missile and was drawing it carefully back out of his body.
She murmured a triumphant "Ah ha!" as she straightened with the bullet
caught in the spoon of the forceps. Rachel turned toward the tray, then paused
with irritation when she realized there was no container for the bullet on her
equipment tray. Such things weren't normally needed and she hadn't thought to
grab one. Shootings weren't that common an occurrence in Toronto, so bullet holders
weren't standard fare on her work tray. Muttering under her breath at her own
lack of forethought, Rachel moved away from the table to the row of cupboards
and drawers to search for one.
While looking, she pondered where Tony could have gone. His five-minute trip
in search of beverages was becoming a rather lengthy absence. Rachel suspected
it was a certain little nurse who worked on the fifth floor that was holding him
up. Not that Rachel minded. If she did go home when he returned, he would have
no one to relieve him for the rest of the night, so supposed it was good he was
taking extra time now.
Finding what she'd been looking for, Rachel packaged the bullet, then carried
it to her desk to make out an identifying tag. It wouldn't do for the bullet to
get misplaced or to be left lying around without a label. Of course, she couldn't
find the labels right away and wasted several minutes looking for them. Then she
messed up three of them before getting it right. This was a good sign that she
wasn't on the ball tonight and that going home was a good idea. She was a perfectionist
and these little mistakes were frustrating, even embarrassing, to her.
Exasperated with herself and her weakened state, Rachel smoothed the label
onto the container, then paused as she caught movement out of the corner of her
Turning the chair to fully face the room, she glanced around, expecting Tony
to have returned, but the room was empty. There was just herself and her John
Doe on the gurney. Deciding her feverish mind was beginning to play tricks on
her, Rachel shook her head and stood. Alarm shot through her as she noted that
her legs were a touch shaky. Her fever was skyrocketing. It was as if a furnace
switch had been flicked on, taking her from cold and clammy to burning up in a
A rustle drew her attention back to the gurney. Was his right hand where it
had been the last time she'd looked? Rachel could have sworn she'd laid his hand
back palm down after examining it for identifying scars, yet now it was palm up,
the fingers in a relaxed pose.
Her gaze traveled up his arm to his face and Rachel frowned at his expression.
The man had died with a blank expression on his face, an almost stunned look,
and that expression had remained frozen in death. But now he had more of a pained
grimace on his face. Didn't he? Maybe she was imagining things. She must be imagining
things. The man was dead. He hadn't moved his hand or changed his expression.
"You've been working the night shift too long," Rachel muttered to
herself and moved slowly back to the gurney to glance over the body. The actual
autopsy wouldn't take place until the morning. Her job tonight was just to remove
the bullet to be sent to forensics, examine the body for identifying features,
be sure there were no other wounds, then tag and refrigerate him. That meant she
had to remove the rest of his clothes to examine his lower front body, but she
would need help from Tony in turning the man to examine his back.
Rachel considered leaving his lower front until Tony returned too, but then
decided against it. The sooner she got out of there and went home to bed to nurse
her cold, the better. It was smarter to get as much done as possible before her
assistant returned. That meant cutting away his pants. To that end, Rachel was
about to reach for the shears when she realized that she hadn't checked his head
It was doubtful that he'd been shot in the head. At least she hadn't seen any
evidence of it and was sure Fred and Dale would have mentioned it had that been
the case. And despite their claims of thinking they had a heartbeat, then losing
it, the man would have died instantly when the bullet had hit his heart. Still,
he might have hit his head when he fell and there might be a wound there or elsewhere
that simply hadn't bled.
Leaving the shears where they were, Rachel moved to stand at the top of the
gurney and did a quick examination of his head. The man had lovely blond hair,
the healthiest she had ever seen. Rachel wished her own red locks were half as
healthy. Finding nothing on his head, not even a small abrasion, she gently set
his head back down and moved back around to the side of the gurney to stand next
to his waist. Rachel retrieved the shears, opened and closed them as she eyed
the waist of his suit pants, but didn't immediately start cutting. Oddly enough,
she was rather hesitant. Rachel hadn't felt shy about cutting off a guy's pants
since medical school and had no idea why she was now reluctant. Her gaze slid
up over his chest again.
Jeez, he was really built. His legs were probably just as muscular, Rachel
supposed and was embarrassed to note that she was more than a little curious to
check him out. Which was probably the reason for the hesitation, she decided.
Rachel wasn't use to feeling anything like this while examining a subject, and
yes she generally thought of them as subjects rather than people. But she was
thinking of this guy as a person....as if he still lived. This fever was really
playing havoc with her thinking.
Despite herself, Rachel's gaze slid up over his chest again, then paused abruptly
on the gunshot wound. Had the opening of the wound gone smaller? She stared at
it silently, then blinked when the chest appeared to slowly rise and fall.
"Eyes playing tricks," Rachel muttered, forcing herself to look away.
She'd pulled a bullet out of the guy's heart. He was definitely dead. Dead guys
didn't breathe. Determined to get this over with quickly so that she could refrigerate
him and stop imagining things, she turned back to his pants and slid one blade
of the shears under the material.
"Sorry about this. I hate to ruin a perfectly good pair of pants, but-
" She shrugged and started to slice through the material.
Rachel froze at those words, her head jerking toward the face of her newest
guest in the morgue. The sight of the man's eyes- open and focussed on her- made
her shriek and leap back almost tumbling to the ground on shaky legs. Managing
to maintain her balance, she gaped in horror. The corpse stared back.
closed her eyes and re-opened them, but the guy was still laying there looking
at her. "This isn't good."
"What isn't good?" he asked with interest.
His voice sounded weak to Rachel. But hey! For a dead guy even a weak voice
was a neat trick, she thought then shook her head.
"What isn't good?" he repeated, sounding a little stronger this time.
"I'm hallucinating," She explained politely, then noticed his eyes
and paused to stare at them. Rachel had never seen such gorgeous eyes. Like her
earlier imaginings they were an unusual silver-blue. She had never seen eyes that
unusual shade before, in fact, had she been asked, she would have said they were
a scientific impossibility.
That thought made Rachel relax and the fear and tension suddenly slipped out of
her. She had never seen silver eyes before. They didn't exist. Earlier, she'd
imagined that his eyes might be silver-blue and she was obviously imagining now
that they were open and silver-blue, she reasoned. There was suddenly no doubt
in her mind that she was hallucinating and that it was all do to her sky rocketing
temperature. Gees, it must have hit dangerous levels to affect her this way, she
thought with vague concern.
Her corpse sat up, drawing Rachel's attention and gaze back to him. She had to
actually remind herself, "It's an hallucination. The fever."
John Doe's eyes narrowed on her. "You have a fever? That explains it."
"Explains what?" Rachel asked, then grimaced as she realized that
she was talking to a hallucination. Which, maybe wasn't much worse than talking
to dead people, she reasoned, and she did that all the time. Besides, he had a
really nice voice, kind of warm and whiskey smooth. She wouldn't mind some whiskey,
Rachel thought suddenly. Tea, lemon, honey and whiskey. Yes, hot toddies would
fix her right up and nip these hallucinations in the bud. Or simply make it so
she didn't care about them. Either way would be fine.
"Why you won't come to me."
Rachel glanced back at her corpse. He wasn't making much sense, but then who
said hallucinations had to make sense? Still, she tried to reason with him. "Why
would I come to you? You aren't real. You aren't even sitting up."
"No, I just think you are. In reality, you're still really laying there
dead. I'm just imagining you sitting up and talking."
"Hmm." He grinned suddenly. It was a nice grin. "How do you
"Because dead men don't sit up and talk," she explained patiently.
"Please lay back down now. My head is starting to spin."
"But what if I'm not dead?"
That stumped her for a minute, but then Rachel recalled that she was feverish
and he wasn't really sitting up at all. She decided to prove her point to herself
and suddenly stepped forward and swung out, expecting her hand to sail through
thin air. Instead, it slammed into hard chin. Her corpse cried out in surprised
pain, but Rachel hardly noticed, she was busy crying out and leaping away again.
Her hand stung from the blow, but she was too busy shrieking to care much. Her
dead man was sitting up.
The room that had been spinning moments ago suddenly stopped. Now it began
to darken. "Darn. I'm going to faint," she realized with horror, then
told her corpse almost apologetically, "I never faint. Really."
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