Shadows of Yesterday(6)

By: Sandra Brown



She saw in his admiring gaze that even in her current state of dishevelment he found her lovely. His words confirmed it.

“Maternity becomes you, Leigh,” Chad said softly. “With those long chestnut curls, those gray-blue eyes the color of thunderstorm clouds, that mouth as soft and pink as your baby’s—and most of all your expression when you look at your child—you remind me of one of those fifteenth-century Italian paintings of the Madonna. Only you’re not a painting.” He continued to look at her appreciatively.

Leigh studied him with the same thoroughness. How could she ever have thought this sensitive man posed a threat to her? She had seen only his dirty clothes, his sweat-streaked, beard-stubbled face. Now she saw the gentleness in his eyes. His hands, though callused, seemed sure and strong and capable of tenderness. When she remembered the intimacy with which he had seen her, had touched her, she lowered her dark lashes to shutter her eyes from his.

Looking down at her daughter, she saw Chad’s hand extending toward the baby. Closer. She held her breath. His long, well-shaped index finger touched her daughter’s cheek. Stroked. Leigh could feel that caress against her breast.

“What are you going to name her?”

“Sarah,” she said without hesitation.

“I like that.”

“Do you?” she asked, looking at him again. “It was my mother-in-law’s name.”

He yanked his hand back as though he had been burned. “I thought you said you weren’t married.”

“I’m not. Not now. My husband was killed.”

A full minute ticked by as he gazed out at the setting sun, a huge red ball at the end of the highway. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “How long ago?”

“Eight months. He didn’t even know I was pregnant. He was a narcotics agent. He was shot during a raid.”

A whispered expletive sizzled through a short silence. Chad looked down at the baby again. She was sleeping, her only movement an occasional sucking motion of her rosebud mouth. “I think you’re both very special ladies,” he murmured before shifting the car into gear again.

Leigh must have dozed after that. The next thing she knew, Chad was wheeling up to the emergency entrance of the hospital. He honked the horn of her small car long and loud as he braked to a stop and cut the motor. Turning toward Leigh, he lifted the infant away from her breast. “Better fix your dress,” he instructed brusquely. With clumsy haste, she tied the shoulder strap. Sarah started fussing again. Chad handed the baby back to Leigh. “Wait right here,” he told her.

This was another Chad, issuing orders like a general to orderlies and nurses who had rushed out to see what the commotion was about. The car door was pulled open and eager hands relieved Leigh of her baby. Then she was hauled out and lifted onto a stretcher. The journey from her car to the examination room made her dizzy and slightly nauseated. She was moved to an examination table and her feet were shoved into cold metal stirrups.

Where was her baby? She hurt. Was that blood she felt running down her thighs? How did they know her name? It hurt when they touched and probed. Who was this doctor who kept telling her not to worry about anything? Were they giving her a shot?

Where was Chad?

Chad…

* * *

“Leigh?”

She was very sleepy. Her eyelids could barely be coaxed open. The room was dark. There was a tight, pinching sensation between her thighs when she tried to move her legs, and her face felt hot and prickly. Gradually Leigh realized that her hair was being smoothed back by a gentle hand. Everywhere else she felt battered. Her eyes opened wider and she saw Chad Dillon’s handsome, concerned face bending over her.

“Leigh, I’m leaving now. I hated to wake you, but I wanted to say good-bye.”

“Sarah?”

He smiled. “She’s fine. I just looked in on her in the nursery. She’s in an incubator, but they assured me she’s strong and healthy. No problems with the lungs. Perfect.”

Leigh closed her eyes again to offer up a quick prayer of thanksgiving. “When can I see her?”

“When you’re rested. You went through quite an ordeal, remember?” His palm settled lightly and briefly on her cheek before he withdrew it.

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