I stopped by the clinic Friday morning, hoping Alexis wouldn’t be busy. I wanted to talk to her about Bill’s plans to send me out of town, and Devon’s wanting to go with me. Alexis had quickly become one of my best friends, and I valued her opinion and experience.
I parked in the rear lot, went through the back gate, and headed for the converted guest house that served as the pack’s clinic. I hadn’t even made it halfway down the path, when a man stepped out of the shadows, and approached me.
He wasn’t a big man, but there was something menacing about him. He looked nice enough, wearing a clean pair of jeans and his pressed button down shirt, maybe it was the look in his eye, or the way he walked, like a predator stalking prey. I felt the wave of power emanating from him that told me he was Kitsune, but that wasn’t all of it. I watched him warily as he got closer, sure he was up to something, but not sure what.
“My, my, what do we have here?” He leered.
I didn’t have a response, so I ignored him and continued for the door.
“Don’t ignore me!” He snarled. “In case you haven’t learned yet, newbie, unless you best me, or I submit to you, I out-rank you.” He sneered as he continued. “That means you do what I say. If I say jump, you ask how high.”
Not really wanting trouble, I tried to talk him out of it. “But if I do what you say, isn’t that basically admitting that you’re dominant to me?”
He stopped for a moment, thinking. “Well, yeah. That’s the point.”
“Well then, we may have a problem.”
“What problem?” He seemed confused. “I say jump, you do it.”
“You see, that’s the problem.”
“What problem?” He repeated.
I braced myself, preparing for the fight I knew was coming. “I don’t take orders, and I don’t submit.”
“Then I guess I’ll just have to make you.” He snarled, reaching for my arm, but I side stepped and used one leg to sweep his foot out from under him. Landing on his ass only seemed to make him madder. He immediately stood up, this time determined to put me in my place. The problem with that was, that I didn’t see my place as submissive to him, or pretty much anyone else.
Sure, I’d do what Bill said, but that wasn’t out of fear or even because he out ranked me. I’d do it because I respected him, as an elder and a friend. While Hank and Alexis might out rank me, they didn’t issue orders. They would advise me, or ask me to do something, but it generally made sense, and I respected them for that. Issuing orders simple because you could, is something bullies do, and this guy certainly seemed to qualify.
As he made it to his feet he snarled again. “You’re gonna pay for that.”
I didn’t bother replying, I simply stepped closer and slammed the front edge of my folded elbow into his nose. I heard the crunch as it broke, and the momentum of the blow knocked him off his feet again. I quickly stepped back, out of his reach.
“You broke my nose!” He screamed, enraged.
“Keep trying to get up and force me to do anything, and that’s not all I’ll break.”
He floundered on the ground a moment. He tried to reach me, to grab my leg or kick me and knock me to the ground beside him.
“You little bitch!”
“My name’s Nickie, and you’d best remember that I don’t take orders.”
“Just wait till the Anikitos gets a hold of you.”
“I’m not worried about Bill,” I said calmly. “he doesn’t give me orders. He knows he doesn’t have to.”
He stilled, looking up at me. “Who are you, to call our Anikitos by his given name?” His voice full of derision.
I smiled. I knew it wasn’t a friendly smile. “Someone who has permission.” I turned, and went into the clinic, leaving him sprawled on the ground, blood covering his face. Though it looked like his nose had already stopped bleeding. “You better have that set, ” I called over my shoulder. “or it’ll heal crooked.”
Inside the clinic, I found Alexis easily. She was treating a woman who had what appeared to be a broken arm. Caden, Alexis’ enforcer, stood outside the exam room as if he expected trouble.
“Hey, Caden.” I greeted. “You know there’s some thug lurking around outside?”
“Yeah, I made him stay out there, while Alexis treated her.” He nodded toward the exam room. “He was being an ass, and I didn’t want him around.”
“After what he tried on me, I don’t blame you.”
“What did he try on you?” Caden asked, bristling.
“Oh, he thought he was dominant to me. He tried to bully me in to doing whatever he wanted.” I said dismissively.
“I take it that didn’t work out for him?”
“Not nearly as well as he’d hoped.” I grinned, this time the smile reached my eyes. “Either he’ll be in soon to have his nose set, or he’ll have a crooked nose from now on.”
Caden grinned, enjoying the idea. “He tried to order you around, so you broke his nose?”
“No, he tried to order me around, so I knocked him on his ass. I didn’t break his nose until he tried to make me pay for knocking him down.”
“And how did he respond to that?”
I rolled my eyes. “He threatened me with Bill. He basically said I’ll have to follow the Anikitos’ orders. Kinda shocked him when I told him I’m not worried about Bill, and that Bill doesn’t order me around. Then I left him lying in the grass, covered in his own blood.”
Caden shook his head, still grinning. “You sure know how to make an impression, don’t you?”
“His fault. I would have left him alone, if he’d left me alone. I didn’t pick the fight, I just ended it.”
“Sounds like you did.” He chuckled.
“Is she gonna be a while?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Probably. She’s trying to get the woman to tell her what really happened. She says she tripped and fell down the stairs, but given what brought her in,” He nodded in the direction of the man I’d left outside. “I suspect something less innocent.”
“You think he did it?” I made it a question.
“I suspect it, but I have no proof. Unless she admits it, there’s nothing we can do.”
I shook my head. “I guess even shape-shifters can’t avoid human nature.”
“All right.” I sighed, realizing I didn’t have time to wait for her to get done. “Will you let her know I came by?”
“Do you really think I wouldn’t? You taking out that asshole is going to be too good not to tell.”
I laughed. “I’m sure, tell her I’ll call her later then.” I turned and left.
I watched as I walked across the yard, and out the gate, but there was no sign of the man I’d encountered earlier. I was careful getting into my car and leaving, in case he’d decided to attack me there, and get even for what I’d done. But nothing happened. Maybe he’d decided I wasn’t worth the trouble, but I wasn’t counting on it. I thought it was more likely that he’d try to take me by surprise, to get the best of me.