The young researcher fidgeted, as he always did before delivering news he felt important. He was rarely right. “I was looking through the observation window.”
“That’s what you’re paid to do.” Reginald slid the file to one side of the mahogany desk.
Arthur twisted his bony hands. “She’s pacing a lot.”
“If you were put under observation by your spouse, you’d be agitated, too.” Reginald folded his hands across his belly. He ought to get to the gym more often. “What is concerning you?”
“It’s her movement. It seems… wrong. Animal.”
“As are we all.”
Arthur drew himself up. “Her movement mimics that of a predator. She doesn’t cover the same ground repeatedly, as most people do when pacing. I think you ought to take a look at her.”
Reginald decided to ease up on the boy. He’d only been there for three months, had not yet been allowed into the secure areas. Reginald had found it prudent to give the new scientists time to adjust before exposing them to the more unusual cases. It cut down on turnover.
“I trust you. Continue to monitor her actions. She hasn’t shown any signs of the violent outbursts that brought her to us. If there’s no change in her personality within the next few days, we’ll release her to her family and tell them to seek less extreme treatment.”
“So far, all we’ve done is change her diet,” Arthur grumbled. “I see no reason to keep her locked up. There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with her that cannot be explained away by boredom.”
“Yet you came to me with concerns,” Reginald pointed out.
Arthur looked down. “Perhaps I overreacted. She’s spent so much time moping I thought her behavior was worth review.”
“Write down your observations, and we will discuss them tomorrow.”
Arthur withdrew, looking a bit like a kicked puppy.
Reginald sighed. He agreed with Arthur’s assessment of the woman. She was forty, bored, and likely contemplating divorce. She’d shown no signs of aberrant behavior. Her husband was probably distressed because his still vibrant trophy wife no longer doted on him. She had almost certainly agreed to check into the facility so they could confirm her sanity. Neither of them realized the researchers cared not a whit about her emotional stability, though they’d happily attest to it in court as part of the package.
Reginald picked up the phone and punched speed dial. “Send me the blood work on the Ridgeway woman. Tomorrow morning is fine.” He’d rather have had it that night, so they could free her in the morning, but the lab was always backed up.
He dropped the stack of files in his drawer. They could wait until morning, too.
Nigela continued her circuit of the room, changing direction as she encountered the spare furniture. It never occurred to her to turn on the TV. The images hurt her head, and she couldn’t bear the noise. She vaguely remembered liking it, once. If nothing else, her time in this cage had granted her some measure of peace. The only real drawback was the sterile smell of the place. Requests for flowers had been ignored. The scent of barbeque on the last orderly to visit had damned near driven her as mad as Cory believed her to be.
She was ravenous. That was part of what had landed her here. Cory had noticed her increase in appetite. Knowing she was not pregnant – could not be – he had worried when she’d put on weight. It mattered little that it took the form of muscle. Their home gym had been used more in the two weeks before his tantrum than it had in years. Nine days without access to any real exercise had increased her irritation with him. This was a ploy to get rid of her so he could carry on with his tramp in a more public way. She’d be damned if he railroaded her into breaking the terms of their prenuptial agreement. He’d never been a proper mate, but he’d been tolerable. No longer. Better to be a lab rat and skewer the rat where he lived than walk away from their farce of a marriage with nothing. She licked her lips. They could serve her a rat right now and she’d ask only for a decent sauce. The hunger ate at her.
As if hearing her desire, a scrawny man wearing a lab coat entered holding a covered dish. She managed not to lunge for it. He asked her inane questions while her brain spun with a mad desire to eat. She growled at him. Fear tickled her nostrils. She didn’t question how she knew the scent. His eyes grew wide as he backed toward the door.
In a second, she was on him. The lock engaged as she pushed his back against the door, every possible inch of her pressed against him. He smelled divine. Fresh. She nuzzled his neck, her heart racing as his vein pulsed under her probing tongue. She purred and rubbed against him. He reacted as a man should. But he was not her mate, either. He was something much more important. She barely heard his scream as she began changing.
She left her clothes in the shredded mess by the door. She donned the nightdress they’d allowed her to keep and gathered up her small make up bag, another concession from her captors. She searched the pockets of the relatively whole lab coat, until she found the key card. Closing the door behind her, she made her way to the observation room. While the record of her stay was erased, she calmly applied fresh lipstick. The young man had thoughtfully left her a raincoat. She turned off the lights and stalked out of the building unhindered. After a quick stop at home, she could fully explore her new life as a cougar.