Shadows of Yesterday(7)

By: Sandra Brown

Embarrassed, confused, and disoriented, Leigh looked around the room, spotting an enormous bouquet of yellow roses on the portable tray at the foot of her bed. “Flowers?” She looked at him questioningly.

“No new mother should be without them.”

Inexplicably tears came into her eyes. The roses must have cost a fortune and he couldn’t afford new boots. “Thank you. That was sweet of you, Chad.”

He ducked his head boyishly, shyly. “The doctor who treated you called your parents in Big Spring. I found their address and phone number in your wallet, on one of those notify-in-case-of-emergency cards. They’re on their way. I told the doctor where your car is parked. The keys are with the head nurse. Your insurance card got you and Sarah into the hospital without any hassles. Your own doctor will check you over in the morning, but they told me you only needed to rest. I don’t think I did you much damage. How do you feel?”

“Like I’ve had a baby in the back of a pickup,” she said, hazarding a grin. “My face stings.”

He chuckled softly. “You’re sunburned.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. Do you want some lotion on it? The nurse left some.”

“Do you mind?” It was a ludicrous question considering everything he’d done for her and his expression told her so.

He poured some of the lotion into his palm, and then, with the fingers of his other hand, applied it to the burning skin on her forehead, nose, and cheeks. His touch was light as his fingers glided over her face, spreading the emulsion evenly. He tracked the path of his fingers with his eyes. Brow, cheekbone, nose, chin, all came under his gaze as he smoothed it with his finger. Once he accidentally touched the corner of her lips. His hand stilled and his eyes lifted to hers. Her heart stopped and didn’t start up again until he continued his ministration. After that he finished quickly.

“That feels better,” she said unevenly when he was done and recapping the bottle of lotion. Why was she so emotional? Were all new mothers this sensitive? She was battling a compelling urge to weep and she didn’t know why.

“Glad to have been of service, ma’am.” He grinned, but his words were strangely solemn. Leigh wondered if she imagined the slight tremor of his mouth.

“You were…” She swallowed the hard lump in her throat. “I don’t know what I would have done without you. Thank you, Chad.”

“Thank you, Leigh, for trusting me. I wish you and Sarah all the best.” He straightened from his bending position and turned away, taking two steps before coming to a stop. His head dropped forward as though it were hinged at his neck, and he stared at the tile floor beneath his booted feet as though the answer to a great dilemma were written there. Quickly he turned around. What had taken him two steps before, he now covered in one.

His sinewy arms supported him as he leaned over her again. “Leigh.” His lips closed over hers, moving slowly, parting gently. Softly, with no urgency, he kissed her. Then he was gone, his tall, muscular form absorbed by the deep shadows of the room. The door clicked shut behind him.

Leigh wondered at the tears that trekked from the corners of her eyes to be absorbed by the hard hospital pillow.

Chapter Two

“Are you sure, Dad? Chad Dillon. What about initials? Did you check for a listing with the initial C?”

“Yes, Leigh. I told the operator to check for anything like that, but she swore there was no such listing.”

Propped up on the pillows of her bed at home, Leigh’s brow wrinkled in vexation. “I wanted to pay him back some way. It never occurred to me to get his address or telephone number.”

“Are you sure he lived in Midland?” Lois Jackson asked, visibly perplexed by her daughter’s determination to contact the man who had delivered her baby four weeks ago and then rudely disappeared.

Leigh’s eyes narrowed as she concentrated. “Now that you mention it, no, I’m not. He only said he was on his way to Midland. He never said he lived here.”

“Well, it’s probably just as well you can’t find him.” Lois drew herself up and took a huffy breath. “I’ll be forever grateful to the man for helping you and Sarah,” she cast a glowing look toward the sleeping baby in the crib across the room, “but he doesn’t sound like the sort of person you’d want to mix with.”

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