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“You know that saying about lightning never strikes twice in the same place? Well, I’m the living proof that it’s totally false.”
“The lightning is false, or the saying? Aaaa . . . aaaa—”
“—choo,” I finished for the man sitting across from me in the small reception area. I flinched in sympathy when he wiped an already red nose, his eyes just as angry-looking, and swollen to boot. But it was the really magnificent array of hives all over his face and what I could see of his chest through the neck of his shirt that had me adding, “Don’t worry, I’ve heard from my friend Lily that the doctors here are awesome. I’m sure you’ll be de-hived and de-puffied in no time.”
“I truly hope so,” the man said wearily, closing his eyes and leaning back in the waiting room chair, dabbing at both his streaming eyes and nose. “I’m used to pollen allergies, but the hives are new.”
“I didn’t know that you can get hives from anything but drug allergies,” I said, absently mimicking his movement when he reached for his neck before he forcibly stopped himself. Just seeing all those angry red welts made me itchy all over.
“Evidently if you are hypersensitive to some plants, you can. As I found out this morning when I ran into a large sagebrush next to the road.”
I scratched my arm. “Huh. I see mountain sagebrush all the time. They’ve never bothered me.”
“Stranger things, Horatio,” he murmured, his hands fisted as they rested on his legs. Poor guy must be miserable with all those hives. He looked nice enough, too, probably in his late fifties, with brown hair and eyes, and round little 1930s-style wire-rimmed glasses.
“You got that right.”
His eyes popped open suddenly. “My apologies, Miss . . . Miss—”
“Mortenson. Kiya Mortenson.”
“Yeah. It’s kind of odd, huh?” I scratched my shoulder. “Mom and Dad were hippies. Smart hippies. They thought it would be fun to name me after some ancient Egyptian who people used to think was King Tut’s mom, but I heard recently that she’s not. So now I’m named after someone who isn’t related to King Tut.”
“There are worse people to be named after.”
“True that. I could be Hitlerina.” I smiled when he gave a rusty chuckle, then grimaced in itchiness, his fingers twitching with the need to scratch. I scratched my wrist for him.
“I am Dalton.”
“Just Dalton? Like a movie star one-name Dalton, or you’re afraid to tell me your last name in case I covertly take a picture of you all puffy and hivish, and post it on Facebook, where it’ll embarrass you in front of all your friends and family?”
He opened his red, swollen eyes as wide as they could go. “Are you likely to take covert pictures of me?”
“No, but mostly because my cell phone is a dinosaur, technologically speaking, and doesn’t take photos.”
He chuckled again, more carefully this time. “Since my friends and family are safe from my gruesome visage at the moment, I shall risk you suddenly blooming into stalkerhood, and will tell you my surname. It’s McKay.”
“Hi, Dalton McKay.”
“Hello, Kiya. I’m sorry I interrupted you when you were telling me something about lightning. You said you were struck by it? That sounds like a major life event. I would think you would have gone to the emergency room rather than a walk-in clinic.”
I shrugged. “I wasn’t really hurt. Just kind of a bit woozy for a few seconds, but then that cleared up and I was fine. Though I figured I’d better check in and make sure that my heart was OK, or that the lightning didn’t screw up something in my head. That sort of thing. So here I am.”
“Indeed you are.” He blinked owlishly behind round lenses. “I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone who has been struck by lightning.”
“Twice. This was my second time. Hence the comment about the saying being false.”
He blinked a few more times, dabbed at his eyes and nose again, and said with a little frown, “What were you doing when you were struck?”
“Helping a chipmunk.” I gave a wry little smile. “Well, gasping and heaving and swearing that I was going to get back to jogging regularly is more accurate, but the reason I was doing all that is because I was trying to help a chipmunk that had his head stuck in a plastic milk container. Little bugger could sure run despite that handicap. I had to chase him all over a mountaintop before I caught up with him. I forgot that you’re not supposed to hide under tall cedar trees when there’s a storm. One minute I was fine, and the next, crack, zap, and sizzle.”
“Sizzle?” Dalton looked appalled. “You actually sizzled?”