A pain so sharp she could hardly see took hold of Isla, but she forced herself to maintain eye contact.
‘Noooooooo!’ She glued her eyes to Zach’s, trying her best to feel as though monsters hadn’t invaded her belly and weren’t trying to rip her hips apart. But it was tough. ‘I! Want! Them! Out!’
Isla could barely recognise her own voice. It sounded raw. Primitive.
‘Major Keating, I’m really going to need you to leave now.’
She heard Robyn but couldn’t see her.
‘I’m staying whether you like it or not.’ Zach spoke directly to Isla, not even bothering to glance at Robyn.
‘Let him stay,’ Isla managed through deep, fully charged exhales from the very base of her lungs. ‘He may as well see what he’s going to be missing.’
Isla’s words struck Zach like a flick knife. Sharp and decisive. Just as he imagined she’d intended. The words were in direct conflict with her ring-free hand, which was holding on to his as if her life depended on it, but pain did strange things to a person. So did love.
He didn’t deserve the latter and heaven knew he’d endured his fair share of the former. Either way, he owed it to Isla to be here if that was what she wanted.
He’d see it through. And then he’d walk away.
‘You’re going to have to gown up.’ Robyn’s tone had changed. The look in her eyes told him all he needed to know. Don’t mess with our girl. She’s got a team behind her. And you’re on your own, pal.
As if they’d planned it, the handful of doctors who’d help usher Isla up to the operating theatre turned to him as one and gave him nods of agreement. They’d let him stay. But one false move…
His instinct was to bridle. Fight back. They didn’t know Isla was the first person he thought of when he woke up in the morning and the last spun-gold-haloed woman he pictured at night. The reason he fought for his life. The reason he’d decided to stay away so she could have more. If he’d known she was pregnant—
If. Could’ve. Would’ve. Should’ve. None of those mattered now. The love of his life was having his children and if he had been trained to do anything in the military it was to step up regardless of how it made him feel. Torn in two came close. Devastated near enough hit the target.
Isla’s grip tightened on his hand and it was all he could do not to reach out and stroke that beautiful, full belly of hers…
‘She’s crowning!’ Alistair twirled his index finger in a let’s-get-this-show-on-the-road move and as one they moved into the operating theatre.
Gowns were donned. Surgical caps. A couple of raised eyebrows at his ease with the room and accompanying ‘medical speak’ compelled him to explain, ‘Royal Army Medical Corps.’
Alistair, the protective one, gave him a solid nod—as if a light bulb had just gone on.
A moment’s hush filled the room as Isla placed her legs in the stirrups and all of the appropriate cloths and tables were wheeled into place around the makeshift delivery table. When Isla nodded that she was ready, Zach was by her side in an instant, wordlessly lifting her up and onto the table.
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