Everything inside Isla froze except her heart. An explosion of heat detonated inside her chest, shooting out in sharp-edged pins instead of sparkling fireworks. The thump of her heart pounded with such force against her ribcage she could hardly breathe.
Until this very moment she hadn’t been entirely sure if she’d fallen in love with Zach over those three perfect days and now she knew it in her very core.
Of course she had.
Why else would she be carrying these two perfect babies and vowing every single day to protect them against everything that had hurt her in her own childhood? Abandonment. Neglect. Disinterest.
Frozen, she watched as he scanned the map just outside the ambulance bay.
His hair was longer. It had been a clean-cut number two when she’d seen him last. Now it curled over the top of his shirt collar, covered his forehead. The kind of length his hair would’ve been if he’d come back from his tour at Christmas like he’d said.
A sour twist swept up her throat and it was all she could do not to gag.
He hadn’t been redeployed.
He’d been home all these months.
‘…all in white and wearing a veil…’
Isla swallowed hard, but the feeling of nausea was getting harder to fight.
A moment later Zach lowered the bouquet and turned to look at the group assembled around the gurney. His gaze glanced off hers then doubled back and cinched.
The only sound Isla could hear was the rush of blood.
He had a beard now. Not a long one. It looked nice. The short, dark facial hair accented the sharp lines of his cheekbones. More pronounced than when she’d seen him last. The straight line of his nose. The fullness of his lips. More spy than surgeon. Enigmatically mysterious.
Quite a change from the smiling, warm, cuddly bear of a man who’d swept her off her feet.
Thick lashes outlined the perfect pair of blue eyes that were all but branded onto her memory banks. They widened before he turned away.
Isla’s hands flew to her lips, hoping to mask the gasp of disbelief burning in her chest, then just as quickly she pressed them to her back as another cramp hit the base of her spine and spiderwebbed out to her belly.
He’d seen her.
Of course he had seen her.
And he’d turned away.
He was bringing flowers to another woman. It was the only explanation she could think of. They certainly weren’t for a child. She knew her bouquets and there wasn’t a man on earth who brought a dozen red roses to a child.
For a moment Isla thought she could hear her colleagues exchanging information with the patient’s parents who had arrived in their own vehicle. Across the bay she saw Dr. Matthew McGrory heading out of the wide double doors Zach was heading for.
Dr. McGrory was Irish. But from south of the border unlike Zach who had grown up in Belfast. Almost idly, she wondered if they would get along. Even if they were both beginning to look fuzzy round the edges.
An acute, almost unbearable pain seized Isla’s midsection followed by a burst of liquid from just below her arc of baby belly.
Everything was blurry now. The nausea she had been trying to fight was winning.
Isla knew she was going to fall before she actually hit the hard cobbles but could do nothing to stop it.
Part of her was aware of her lips parting to tell someone, of her hands reaching out to grab the gurney, though she could see the team had already moved past her towards the hospital entrance, unaware that she’d been overcome. She tried her best to scream, whisper, anything…and then there was darkness.
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