RELEASE DATE: JULY 25
I was halfway through grocery shopping when I came to a stack of canned diced tomatoes. Aegis had asked for three cans so he could make a spaghetti sauce. As I reached for the top can, someone pushing their cart down the aisle accidentally bumped into me and, instinctively, I jerked to get out of their way, stumbling into the stack of cans. Like a teetering pile of dominos, they came down, scattering across the aisle in a thunderous clatter of metal on linoleum. I groaned, trying to back away, when I accidentally stepped on one and ended up on my butt, in the middle of the floor.
“Fucking hell!” I didn’t swear all that much, but when I did, I went for it. “What the hell?” As I struggled to sit up, cans rolled every which way. The other shopper—I recognized her as belonging to one of the local weretiger packs—let out a snarl of surprise, but then instantly was on her knees beside me.
“Are you okay? Do you need help?” She helped me sit up, a look of concern on her face. “I’m so sorry—that was my fault! I didn’t think I was that close to you. I knew I should have worn my glasses. Stupid me.”
She sounded so concerned that I felt bad for my outburst.
“I’m…It’s all right. Accidents happen.” I tried to stand up, but as I put pressure on my wrists to brace myself, my right thumb sent a jolt of pain through my hand and I let out a cry.
“My thumb!” I held up my hand, staring at it. My thumb looked bent in a way it shouldn’t bend, and it was rapidly swelling and turning color. “I think…” I tried to move it. As I shifted it backward, it flared, throbbing, but it didn’t hurt the same way that it had when I tried to put weight on it. “I think it’s sprained.”
The Muzak playing in the background was annoyingly cheerful. Right about then, one of the stockers came running over, skidding to a halt when he saw the cans filling the aisle.
The moment he saw me, I saw the glassy hint of terror in his face. Lawsuit city, he was probably thinking. He quickly knelt down. “Are you all right? Hold on, please. Let me get the manager.” Before I could answer, he was gone.
“Afraid of a lawsuit,” my weretiger companion said. She winked at me. “You could make out like a bandit, you know.”
“I’ve had enough of bandits,” I said, feeling grumpy. “Can you help me stand up?”
She was athletic, and had no trouble bracing herself as she leveraged me to my feet. As I cautiously checked myself out, holding my thumb as still as I could, one knee began to twinge, and I tasted blood.
“You cut your lip,” she said. “I’m Rhonda, by the way. Rhonda Castille.”
“Hi. I’m Maddy Gallowglass.” I licked my lip and sure enough, that’s where the blood was coming from. At least I hadn’t broken a tooth.
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