Shadows of Yesterday(4)By: Sandra Brown
No, no, I’m not! her mind screamed. She couldn’t let him think that. She must tell him what a coward she really was. But before she could form the words, he went on, “Your husband’s going to be proud of you.”
“I… I don’t have a husband,” she said through gritted teeth as another labor pain bore down on her.
Stunned, Chad stared at her for a moment before her contorted features alerted him. His eyes dropped to the birth area, then opened wide in delight. “Oh, this is beautiful. That’s it. A little harder. The head’s out,” he cried, laughing.
The baby choked, spat, then began to wail.
“Come on, Leigh, you’re doing great. All we need is to get the shoulders out. There, there, that’s it. Now! Oh, God!” he said, catching the slippery new baby in his capable hands. “Look what you’ve got. A beautiful baby girl.”
Tears of relief were rolling down Leigh’s cheeks as she looked at the man beaming down at her. “Let me see her,” she breathed weakly. “Is she all right?”
“She… she’s perfect,” he said gruffly. “Just a minute. Let me take care of this cord.” She felt the beating of fists and feet against her as he laid the baby between her thighs. “How are you doing?” he asked anxiously after a moment. He didn’t look up. He was concentrating on what he was doing. A bead of sweat clung precariously to the tip of his chiseled nose.
“I’m wonderful,” she said drowsily.
“I’ll say you are. You’re terrific.”
Crouched between her legs, he worked. He raised his arm so his sleeve could absorb the perspiration on his face. Then he was lifting up the red, wet, wrinkled, squirming, squalling infant and laying her tenderly on Leigh’s breast.
“Oh, Chad, thank you. Look at her. Isn’t she a miracle?”
“Yes.” His voice was rough.
The mellow look in her eyes changed to one of pain again.
She felt a gentle tugging, then relief.
“There. Is that better?” Chad wrapped the newspaper around the afterbirth.
The knife sliced deftly through the cotton of the nightgown. The baby mewed against her mother. Leigh was no longer aware of the heat, only of the wiggling flesh that she held in her arms. Her hands examined the baby’s damp body. She counted toes and fingers. She kissed the beating soft spot on her daughter’s head. Her daughter! Leigh was awed to think that this tiny, perfectly formed little girl had come from her body.
Chad was pressing the pad he had made of the nightgown between her thighs. He secured it with a makeshift belt around her waist.
“It feels strange to have a flat stomach again.” She sighed.
He chuckled. “I’ll bet it does. Are you too uncomfortable?”
Only now was she beginning to realize the throbbing ache. “No,” she answered, but she knew hesitancy told him that she was.
“We’ve got to get you two to a hospital.” Chad spoke almost to himself.
He pulled her dress down over her legs and awkwardly handed her the discarded panties. “If you’ll get baby, I’ll get you,” he said. Easing her down to the tailgate, he caught her behind the knees and around her neck and lifted her off the truck’s bed.
His long stride had them to the passenger side of the car within seconds. When he opened the door, the heat of the enclosed car struck her in the face. After seating Leigh, Chad ran to the driver’s side and started the motor. “The air conditioner will cool this off in a minute. I’d take you in my truck, but the ride wouldn’t be as smooth and it’s cluttered with junk.”
“This is fine, but how’ll you get your truck back?”
“I’m not worried about that, but hold on while I secure it.”
He was back within a minute. He slid the driver’s seat back as far as it would go to accommodate his long legs. “Doesn’t that seat recline?” he asked.
“I think you’d be more comfortable that way.”
He adjusted the seat and aided her as she resettled into it, holding the baby. When he was sure they were as comfortable as possible, he put on the sunglasses again. The cowboy hat had been left in the back of the truck, but he was still wearing the bandanna around his forehead, and he had rebuttoned most of the buttons on his shirt.