Shadows of Yesterday(3)

By: Sandra Brown



She stared at the watch he wore on his left wrist as she panted. It was stainless steel with all sorts of dials and gadgets, and ticked loudly. The intricate, expensive instrument was incongruous with the mud-caked cowboy boots and dirty clothes. Leigh’s gaze slid from the watch to the stranger’s long, tapering fingers, and she noted the absence of a wedding band. Was her baby to be delivered by a man who was not only not a doctor but not even a father?

“Are you married?” she asked as the lingering pain slowly ebbed.

“No.” He took off the cowboy hat and tossed it against the cab of the pickup. His hair was long, and dark brown.

“This must be terrible for you. I’m sorry.”

He smiled as he reached into his back jeans pocket and took out a bandanna handkerchief, which he tied around his forehead like a sweatband. Leigh was startled into an awareness of how handsome the man was. His shirt front hung open where he had unbuttoned it for coolness. Over the dark skin, his chest hair was spread like a finely spun web. “Aw, hell, this isn’t so bad. I’ve done worse.” His teeth gleamed behind his wide, sensual lips.

He popped a tissue out of the box and with gentle fingers dabbed at the perspiration beading her forehead and upper lip. “Only next time, you might pick a cooler day,” he teased, coaxing her to smile.

“It was Doris Day,” she said.

“Pardon?”

“It was a Doris Day movie. James Garner was her husband. He was an obstetrician. Arlene Francis went into labor in a Rolls-Royce and Doris Day helped him deliver the baby.”

“Is that the one where he drives his car into the swimming pool?”

She laughed. “I think so.”

“Who would have thought that a movie like that could be educational?” He ran the Kleenex around her neck.

“What is your name?”

“Chad Dillon, ma’am.”

“I’m Leigh Bransom.”

“It’s a pleasure, Mrs. Bransom.”

When the next pain came, it wasn’t so bad, because Chad’s capable hands stroked the hard, torturous ball her abdomen had become. As the contraction subsided, he said, “You’re close, I think. Luckily I have a thermos of water in the cab of the truck. I’m going to wash my hands with it.”

He got the large jug of water and, hanging his hands over the side of the truck, washed them as well as he could.

“What were you doing this afternoon?” Leigh asked tactfully, wondering how his clothes could get so dirty.

“I was tinkering on an airplane engine.”

So he was a mechanic. Funny, he didn’t seem…

“You’d better take off any underwear you have on,” he said softly.

Leigh closed her eyes, too humiliated to meet his gaze. If only Chad weren’t such an attractive man…

“Don’t go shy on me now. We’ve got to get that baby here.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmured. She raised her dress. Having worn no slip or bra because of the heat, she had only panties to take off. With Chad’s assistance, she peeled them down her legs and pulled her sandaled feet through them.

“Would you feel better without the shoes?” he asked.

“No. They’re fine… Chad,” she cried on another pain.

He quickly knelt between her raised knees. “I can see the head,” he said with a relieved half-chuckle. “Are you supposed to push or… or something? What?”

Panting, she pushed with all her might. “That’s the way,” he encouraged her. “You’re doing fine, ma’am.” His low, steady voice was like a balm over her twisted insides.

“We’re almost there, Leigh,” he said, leaning forward to blot up her perspiration with another tissue. The bandanna he had tied around his forehead was wet with his own sweat. He swiped across his thick brows with the back of his hand. The hair on his chest was damply curled.

Quickly he took a pocket knife out of his jeans pocket, straightening his leg to work his hand down between the tight fabric. He poured water from the thermos over the knife, then cut a shoulder strap off her nightgown. “You’re something, you know that?” he said. “Most women would be crying and carrying on. You’re the bravest woman I’ve ever met.”

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