Another searing shot of pain gripped Isla so hard she thought if she bore down she would have the babies right here and now.
‘I need an epidural!’ She finally cried out. ‘Now!’
‘Who’s making all that racket?’ Isla recognised the Southern Irish brogue before she opened her eyes. Matthew McGrory.
‘You’re going to have to do some reconstructive surgery on someone if I don’t get an epidural in me fast!’
‘Easy there, Isla. I’m just the messenger. Victoria’s demanding updates on how Paddington’s most expectant mother is getting along. She says everyone’s afraid to sit in your chair now in case they get pregnant.’
Isla tried her best to smile, but could only manage to roll out a stream ofowowowowoweeeeees as she clamped her eyes tight against the pain. Too bad there wasn’t a wedding chair. Or even a boyfriend chair. Now that the babies were well and truly on their way, fear began to replace all of the soft-focus hopes and dreams she’d had.
Zach’s arrival may seem heaven-sent, but it was more like a stark reminder that he was just like her mother. Dropping in and out of her life as it suited him. The full bouquet of roses filled up her mind’s eye. Proof he had moved on. The fact he was here acting all gentle and gallant was just a fluke. He’d leave. It was only a matter of time.
Maybe if she just kept her eyes closed he would go away.
‘Is there anything you can give her?’
His fingertips. His scent. She’d know that scent anywhere. Fresh apples and newly cut grass with the tiniest hit of toast.
Against everything she’d trained herself to believe, Isla could feel her heart begin to melt.
If Zach really didn’t want to be with her, he’d be gone now. She tuned in, listening to him talk through the options, the rose petals fading behind her eyelids and being replaced by her big, tall, strong soldier and doctor who from the sounds of things was going to battle for her. He’d said he’d come back for her. Months and months ago. And not a peep.
Her heart cinched, then tightened as another round of pain took hold.
‘We’re going to get you to an operating theatre, love.’
‘Wouldn’t she be better off in Maternity?’
An accented voice. Was that the Italian duke Robyn had been promising to interview? The paediatrician?
‘We’re waiting on budgets’ came the tight answer.
Someone was making clicking jabs at the aging lift buttons.
Easy! You had to treat those things with care. This was an old hospital.
‘If it’s all right, I’m just going to take a look to see how far along you are, Isla.’
‘No.’ She slammed her knees tight, a sudden rush of fear taking hold of her weakened will.
She hadn’t seen or heard from the man in months. A formidable maternal need to protect what she and she alone had cared for took hold. She knew first-hand what it was like to have someone say they loved her and then all but leave her for the wolves when the idea of eighteen years of childcare wore thin. That…and the whole turning up at Paddington’s with roses for someone else.
Another contraction took hold of all her senses until she could just make out the ping of the lift, the rolling of the wheels of her gurney, Zach’s hand stroking her forehead again and again as he whispered things he didn’t have the right to whisper… ’You’ll be okay, darlin’. Everything’s going to be all right.’
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