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An Aria For The Vampire Book 1: Growing Fangs

What do you do when you find out you only have months to live?


Growing Fangs snippet – 


“I’m so sorry, Ms. Roede. The biopsy came back. It’s positive.”

Cora felt the last tattered scraps of hope float away in the wind, leaving her a hollow shell of a woman sitting in the doctor’s office. 

She was dying. Dead woman walking, really.

“Stage IV,” the doctor continued, his tone kind but clinical. She couldn’t imagine being in his shoes, having to give this information. How often did he have to do so? He was an oncologist. She couldn’t even remember his name. She could barely remember her own, at this point.

“Can you hear me, Ms. Roede?”

Cora shook herself slightly and forced herself to meet his eyes. “Yes. Yes, I can hear you. Sorry.”

His smile was gentle and warm, the corners of his mouth crinkling his cheeks. He was probably in his late fifties. White hairs were just starting to turn his thick head of hair into salt and pepper. He was ruddy-faced and thin, and looked like the kind of guy who spent his weekends out at the lake, probably building his own cabin. The kind of guy who never had to deal with stuff like this himself. Or had, and had come through it the other side. It was hard to tell. “No apologies necessary. I know this must be hard to take. Your file says you’ve been to a few doctors. Trying to figure this out, I assume.”

She nodded mutely. Migraines ran in her family. It was a pretty common side effect when you had a family of telekinetics. Overuse and mental stress caused headaches no matter what, but telekinetic magic really did seem to put extra pressure on the brain. She hadn’t thought much of it for a long time. Her mom had gotten migraines, and her grandma. Nothing new there. When she’d talked to her mom about it, she’d told Cora she wasn’t surprised. She’d had an uptick in the headaches when she’d turned thirty, too. These things happen, her mom had said. Ride it out. Don’t use your magic. Be gentle with yourself.

But the migraines hadn’t stopped. They had kept getting worse, even when she wasn’t using her magic. When she’d started noticing her vision being affected without an accompanying headache, she’d gone to her doctor. Again.

Of course, old Doctor Cawthorn in Joseph’s Landing was…old. Old-school. Old-fashioned. Prone to declaring things ‘female hysteria.’ She’d only started going to him out of necessity, and she’d dealt as much as possible with his young intern, Alix. They’d been able to prescribe everything Cora needed on a regular basis, like birth control. The things she didn’t want to talk to George Cawthorn about.

But this, Alix had said ruefully when Cora had come to them, was beyond their skill level. This, they had to kick up the chain.

Cora had submitted to Doctor Cawthorn’s antique methods of magical medical diagnosis and been firmly told that she was suffering from an overuse of magic. “Women your age should be limiting their intense magical use,” Cawthorn had informed her primly.

Making sandwiches and having babies, no doubt, Cora had thought grumpily.

She’d tried Saint Damian’s intern program next. She’d gotten a dreamboat on her first visit, an absolute gentleman of a grad student, just starting his Doctor of Magical Medicine. She’d doubted sincerely that what’s-his-name had the experience to diagnose something like this, but even just being in the same room as him had been calming. He was the one who’d suggested she talk to an amagical doctor. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he highly recommended an MRI. “Enough guesswork,” he’d told her kindly. “You need the big guns. I can ask my supervisor to refer you to Doctor Moore in Thunder Bay. He’s great. Can you get there?”

Cora had promised him she could, and that was that. The intern—Cole, that was his name—had said he couldn’t guarantee when she would get in, but he’d promised to put the request in as urgent.

She’d had to go back to Saint Damian’s three more times before she’d finally gotten the notice that the referral had gone through and that she had an appointment at the Thunder Bay Health Sciences Center. She hadn’t gotten Cole again, which had rather disappointed her, but the interns she had gotten had all been quite competent and had helped her with the pain, so she couldn’t complain.

And now she was here. In Doctor Moore’s office. After three nights in an Airbnb that she could barely afford. Finding out, six months after she’d first started to suspect it was more than migraines, that she was dying.

Doctor Moore—she was so glad she’d remembered his name, but why that was the point of joy in her head right now, she couldn’t understand—was looking at her, not saying anything. Probably expecting her to burst into tears or wail in misery or something. How did terminal cancer patients usually handle this news? She had no idea.

“Is there anything you can do?” she finally asked, and her voice sounded like it was coming from at least two provinces over.

His lips twitched downward, and he blinked once, a little slower than a normal blink. Carefully practiced relaxations of the natural human impulse to wince when they had to deliver unfortunate news. That meant, of course, that the answer was going to be no.

“I’m sorry,” he began. “It’s not likely. If we’d caught it a little earlier, we might have been able to operate, but the tumor has metastasized beyond what we can remove without causing even more damage to your brain. You might live, but your quality of life would be…not great. Based on where the tumor is located, you’d likely lose a lot of mobility, and very possibly your ability to speak.”

A lump grew in her throat. Not being able to speak meant not being able to sing. And for some reason, that was what finally kicked her emotions into gear.

“I see.” Her voice cracked at the end of the word, and she didn’t bother trying to say anything more. What was there to say, anyway?

“Ms. Roede… Is there anyone you can talk to about this?”

She was watching the kind, avuncular man through a film of tears. Or was that another migraine coming on? She couldn’t tell. She was so disconnected from her body right now, it was anyone’s guess. “No?” There was, of course. There was her mother. But Cora didn’t want to call her mother.

“No friends or family? No partner?”

The image of Matt flashed into her mind, tall and powerfully built, running his hand through his thick dirty blond hair before sliding into his wolf form.

She shook her head. “No. I didn’t tell him about the biopsy. I can’t—”

Her voice gave out again. She swallowed hard and reached across the desk, plucking the brochures on palliative care from the little stand. May as well. If she was going to die, maybe she should be comfortable. Wasn’t that what people did? That, or they went off on one last great adventure, knocking as many things off their bucket lists as they possibly could before kicking said bucket.

Of course, if she couldn’t see straight, that put a damper on things.

Doctor Moore let her take them before saying, “I’d like to schedule a follow-up scan for you in two weeks. That should help us make a more exact prognosis, and we can discuss care options—”

“No, thank you,” she interrupted him. “No…thank you. I’ll… I’ll call whoever I need to call.”

“Are you sure?” He leaned forward, frowning slightly. “It can be difficult to get into these things if you don’t have the right connections. It’s a sad but true fact about the Canadian health care system. You’re in now, Ms. Roede. You can take advantage of that.”

Cora stared at him blankly for a long moment before finally asking, “How long do I have?”

The doctor gazed back at her for an equally long moment before replying, “I don’t want to sound like I’m harping on the follow-up scan, but without it, it’s hard for me to say for sure.”

Cora waved her hand dismissively. “Give me a ballpark.”

He pursed his lips briefly. “A conservative estimate would be three to six months.”

She closed her eyes, the words hitting her like punches to the gut. “And a…less conservative estimate?”

“I might say as long as a year. But I’d only see that happening if you were in inpatient care for most of that time, and again, quality of life…”

“That’s chemo, radiation, and all that. Right?” She opened her eyes again. She had no doubt there was absolutely no emotion showing in them right now, because she was back to feeling nothing at all.

“Yes,” he confirmed simply, nodding. “But if you needed that extra time to get everything in order…”

He reached across and tapped the brochures in her hand. “Those include plenty of information and numbers, lots of good resources. People who can help you get everything in order without costing you a fortune, and without making everything worse.”

He then pulled a business card from a smaller stand next to the one with the brochures and slid it across the desktop to her. “This is my card. Take the night, take a couple nights, and leave me a message if you change your mind about the follow-up scan. I know this is a shock, and I know how awful it is to try to get what you need after the fact. I try to keep the door open for my patients as long as possible. I’ll do whatever I can to help you, okay? I’m here for you, Ms. Roede.”

She nodded, her voice once again deserting her, and she added the business card to her little pile of paper.

She got up from the chair and numbly took her jacket from the hook on the wall. It felt like she’d hung it up hours ago. Days ago. But she knew her appointment had been for ten-thirty, and the clock on the wall only said ten-forty-seven.

Time had stopped making sense a long time ago, granted. Another symptom that she’d suspected meant “this isn’t just a magical migraine.”

She put her coat on and, with a silent nod to Doctor Moore, walked out of the office. She went through the sterile hallways of the health center without a word, her environment blurring in her peripheral vision. She kept her gaze straight ahead, neatly avoiding orderlies and techs and nurses as they hurried along to do their work.

She managed well enough until she almost ran into a fellow in a wheelchair turning down the hallway to the elevators. “Oh, I—I’m so sorry, sir,” she stammered, catching herself just shy of falling on top of him.

The older gentleman grinned up at her. “No problem, miss.” His grin showed a few missing teeth. “You look like you’re on a mission.”

She laughed through the blur, which she knew was tears because she felt them on her face. “I guess so.” Both the laugh and her voice sounded false.

He looked past her and his grin fell. ”Oncology. Ah.”

He reached over and took her hand. His skin was papery, but his hand was warm, and when he ran his thumb over the back of her hand, she couldn’t help but remember her grandfather, who’d passed away almost ten years ago, also from cancer. “I’m so sorry, miss.”

That was all anyone was going to say to her now, wasn’t it?



It doesn’t look good for Cora. What will her next move be? A bucket list trip as she mentioned? Reconnecting with loved ones? Find out on June 1st when Growing Fangs: An Aria for The Vampire Book 1. 


Growing Fangs e-book cover