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Dr Walter Balaze watched Duke Hellbur sleep. The dukeâ€™s stillness worried him more than anything. Thresls were difficult to kill, but not impossible. Hellbur had lost a lot of blood through the gash in his head, but no other symptoms of trauma were evident despite repeated scans. Head wounds tended to bleed more than other wounds, but the lack of movement and the dukeâ€™s faint pulse had Balaze more than a little worried.
The duke shouldâ€™ve healed by now. The fact that it was taking Hellburâ€™s body so long to close a simple wound indicated a deeper issue not detected by the scanner. If Hellbur died on Balazeâ€™s watch, heâ€™d never forgive himself. It would break Balazeâ€™s heart if he couldnâ€™t save him.
â€œFind out if the duke has any known illnesses,â€ Balaze ordered the nurse hovering beside him. Information on the duke should be in the medical database. Balaze had studied most of the files on the royals but didnâ€™t remember anything standing out about Hellbur. No warnings had popped up when theyâ€™d punched in his patient information.
The nurse grabbed an electronic research pad and typed in the dukeâ€™s name. It took a few minutes before she spoke again.
She shook her head. â€œNo. Nothing.â€
He looked over her shoulder at the screen. â€œHmm. If he doesnâ€™t bounce back Iâ€™ll have to look into a transfusion.â€
He didnâ€™t like the dukeâ€™s colourâ€”too pale to be healthy.
The nurse exchanged a look with Balaze, acknowledging the strangeness of the situation without saying a word.
King-Mate Kreslan entered the room and dismissed the nurse with a tilt of his head. Balaze admired the speed with which the nurse departed, wishing he could go with her. Kreslan made him nervous. The King-Mate sent out vibes more feral than any wild Thresl heâ€™d ever met.
Kreslan waited until the nurse had left before closing the door behind her.
â€œWhat can I help you with, Your Majesty?â€
He tried to stay still beneath Kreslanâ€™s intense gaze, but the urge to fidget had his feet moving back and forth in an uneven rhythm as he waited for the King-Mate to speak.
â€œWe suspect the duke might have been taking medication to suppress his Thresl half. Unregistered medication. Weâ€™re looking for a sample to bring you, but we havenâ€™t been able to dig any up. Iâ€™m sure I donâ€™t need to tell you to keep this information to yourself.â€
â€œWhy would he do that?â€ Horror twisted Balazeâ€™s stomach. He couldnâ€™t even imagine how toxic the chemicals had to be to sustain Hellburâ€™s human form for a prolonged time.
â€œBecause heâ€™s the backbone of the kingdom. Only his contacts and research kept the problems from escalating while Vohne was missing. If he hadnâ€™t helped combat the Purgers, we might still be fighting them.â€ Kreslanâ€™s swept a cold gaze across the duke. â€œHe might not be my favourite person, but we still need him alive.â€
Balaze held back his smirk. Everyone knew Kreslan resented the Dukeâ€™s attraction to the king. He wouldnâ€™t have been the least bit surprised if the King-Mate had accidentally forgotten to get the duke help. No one stood between Kreslan and his mate.
â€œHow long has he been suppressing?â€ Balaze checked the dukeâ€™s vitals again. Hellburâ€™s low heart rate concerned Balaze more than anything. Almost as if the dukeâ€™s body had decided to shut down without the stimulus of whatever medication heâ€™d been on. Now that he knew Hellbur had been taking suppressors it changed things.
Kres shrugged. â€œPossibly decades.â€
A chill ran down Balazeâ€™s back. With the death of his mate, the duke shouldâ€™ve either gone into shock or turned back to his cat form. If whatever drug heâ€™d been taking kept him human and on his feet, it had to be pretty strong. The immense shock to the dukeâ€™s system probably had his Thresl nature fighting to take control back. Balaze didnâ€™t reveal to the King-Mate that he doubted the duke would make it through the night. Sudden withdrawal from such a long addiction could easily be fatal.
â€œIâ€™ll do everything I can to take care of him.â€ Balaze didnâ€™t know what he could do other than keep watch and try to prevent the duke from dying owing to the stress on his system.
â€œGood. Heâ€™s a pain in the ass, but necessary.â€ With that blunt statement, Kres turned on his heel and walked out of the room.
Balaze pulled up a stool to sit beside the duke. Whoever had been the Hellburâ€™s old mate had had an eye for beauty. Balaze ran one finger along the dukeâ€™s cheek then quickly jerked his hand back when he realised what he was doing. â€œI hope you pull through this, Your Grace. Kreslan wonâ€™t take it well if you donâ€™t recover.â€
Hellbur took in a deep breath. Balaze inhaled with him before he realised what he was doing. He let out his breath and waited a moment, but the duke didnâ€™t do anything more.
â€œI guess itâ€™s too much to hope youâ€™ll wake up all better, isnâ€™t it? Iâ€™d best leave the planet if you donâ€™t make it, huh?â€
The duke didnâ€™t open his eyes and answer Balazeâ€™s questions. Balaze ruthlessly squelched his disappointment. Until today heâ€™d only caught glimpses of the duke a dozen times or so, but that didnâ€™t stop his heart from beating a little faster whenever he spotted the familiar blond head. In general, Thresls didnâ€™t have a lot to do with medics unless their human mates were injured, so heâ€™d never exchanged any words with the gorgeous duke.
He knew he shouldnâ€™t be drooling over an injured unconscious royal, but the duke pulled at himâ€”a tug of attraction Balaze hadnâ€™t felt since the death of his own mate. Ten years ago heâ€™d bonded with a Thresl and lost Mills after only three years together. Mills had died in a senseless skirmish during a routine guard duty. The attacker had shoved a sword through the soldierâ€™s heart. Even a Thresl couldnâ€™t survive that.