Authors: Sherri Thomas
Jordan’s vision cleared, and Trent came into view. “Oh, God.” Mortified over all she said, she covered her face with her hands.
“When you keep things bottled up, you’re bound to explode,” he commented in the gentlest, quietest tone, pulling her fingers away.
“You didn’t deserve that.” Ashamed for lashing out and not quite sure what to do or how to back up the last few minutes, she focused on the ground.
“I’m a big boy. I can take it.”
A large man, yes he was, but a boy? No way. She regarded him through drooped lashes and chewed on her lip to keep from chuckling. Her being able to laugh right now proved how screwed up her life had been, at least to her.
A calloused finger lifted her chin. “If I could change anythin’, it’d be the fact I let you leave that morning.” Eyes closing, he ducked his head and nipped her lips.
The horses pranced, throwing her off balance. She grabbed his shirt front to keep from falling.
A low, guttural moan sounded as Trent slipped a hand under the weight of her hair, holding her, ravishing her lips, pulling her up half out of the saddle.
A moment ago, she was close to the breaking point, but now the feel of him grounded her, making her feel out of control for a totally different reason. The man had an uncanny ability of putting her on a roller coaster. He pulled her to sanity when she was on the brink of disaster. She leaned further into him, seeking more, wanting the warmth he offered to ward off the nightmares. Desire spread like liquid fire.
He broke the kiss and rested his forehead on hers.
Realizing she was halfway laying across the back of the horse—her foot still caught up in the stirrups—she righted herself and settled into the hard leather seat.
“Damn,” he muttered, then reached over and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
She closed her eyes as a shiver flirted with her nerve endings.
“Ready to finish this ride?”
In a daze, she nodded and mechanically nudged the animal’s sides then, eager to free her mind, she galloped off toward the barns.
The wind whipped through her hair, caressing her face. No matter how many times she rehashed the past, the events stayed where she wanted them…in the past. Yet, sharing those humiliating teenage years with Trent made her chest lighter.
Seeing the buildings in the near distance, Jordan slowed Champ to a steady walk as Lucifer appeared at her side.
“Thank you,” Trent drawled.
Confused, she glanced his way. The heat of his gaze made a fuzzy feeling start in her head. “For what?” Coming to the front of the barn, she reined in the horse.
“For being honest and clarifying a couple of things.” He gave her one of his sexy grins, then broke eye contact.
Emotions tied in knots, and not wanting to end up falling on the ground, Jordan concentrated on dismounting.
“If you tie him to the hitching post, I’ll untack him when I finish with this guy,” the cowboy informed her.
“I can do it. I’m not a greenhorn.” She loosened the cinch.
“That you definitely aren’t.” He positioned his roan-colored gelding to the other side and smiled. “Have at it, m’lady.”
Chuckling, Jordan set about her chore, all the while admiring the way his muscles bunched under the tight T-shirt. Not once had he favored his shoulder during their afternoon together—
“Mr. Trent! Mr. Trent! I need you,” a high pitched voice cried.
Peter sprang from one foot to the other in the doorway.
“What’s up my man?”
“I need your help. I can’t find my pa, and my ma…the baby’s hurtin’ her real good. You gots to help. I don’t know how to make the baby stop. Please, Mr. Trent.”
Setting the horses loose in the pasture, he lifted the child into his arms. “Jordan, I may need your help.”
Needing no further encouragement, she hurried to keep up with his long gait.
Peter tucked his face in the crook of the cowboy’s neck as the three rushed to the cabin.
“I tried to help, but my ma, she told me to go find someone and bring ’em back,” he cried.
“It’s okay, buddy. You did good. We’ll help your ma. Everything’ll be okay.” Trent glanced back at her with a plea in his eyes.
Jordan sent up a silent prayer. From what Peter told them, Mrs. Parker was most likely having contractions. Giving birth was trying enough, but add an early delivery into the mix and they could be facing a whole plethora of problems.
Going over the scenarios in her mind, she hoped for the simplest answer—the woman was experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. But as they advanced onto the porch and heard a moan from inside, her hopes diminished.
Trent set the boy on the porch. “You stay here and keep watch for your dad, okay?”
The kid’s eyes were huge as saucers and his face pale. If it wasn’t for her nurse’s training, she’d send the cowboy in to see to Mrs. Parker alone, and she’d stay right here to console the child.
“Mrs. Parker, you okay?” Trent asked as he neared the spot where she slumped on the floor.
“I seem to be in labor. I honestly…oh…” She clutched a towel in her hand and inhaled several breaths before finishing. “This one’s early.”
The fear on both faces impelled Jordan to step into gear. “How far apart are your contractions?”
“Couple of minutes.”
“We have some time,” she assured the woman, then turned to Trent, widening her eyes, hoping he’d understand the urgency. “Call for an ambulance.”
His gaze flew over the patient, then back to Jordan. He blinked several times as if he couldn’t believe what was going on. “And if they don’t get here on time?”
“Then we’ll have to deliver this baby.”
Please, God, don’t ask this of me.
The cowboy’s face lost all expression, and under other circumstances, she may have found the situation comical, but right now, right here, having to deal with her own demons, a wave of nervousness churned her stomach.
Swallowing the bile rising, she knelt and wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans. “How far along are you?”
Okay, not too horribly early, but still—
” the woman groaned.
Trying to keep track on her watch, Jordan waited out the contraction and calmed her own skittering nerves by listening to the deepness of Trent’s voice as he explained the situation to the operator on the phone.
“Contractions are three minutes apart,” she told him, hoping to light a fire under someone’s backside at the emergency department.
He relayed the message, then swore. “I lost signal.”
Please let me have heard him wrong.
“Happens around here sometimes. They have the address anyway.”
She glanced to the patient and noted wetness on the floor. “Get some clean towels, her water broke.”
While he gathered the cloths, she struggled to help Mrs. Parker stand and strip off her pants. “Let’s get you on the couch.”
“Here.” Trent dropped an armload of towels on the end of the cushion, glancing from the patient to Jordan.
“They’re getting closer.” The woman shut her eyes and squeezed the back of the sofa.
“What would you like me to do?”
Make the ambulance appear outside.
“You ever deliver a baby?” She strode to the sink to scrub her hands.
“Livestock, yes, ma’am. A human, nope, can’t say I have.”
“Go check on Peter. Try to call one of your brothers. Maybe they know where Mr. Parker is.”
As he left, she positioned herself back at the guest’s feet. “Breathe, Mrs. Parker. Try to relax your body.”
In all her years of nursing, Jordan had never delivered a baby other than her own, and for that reason, she relied more on memory from her own pregnancy than her training. She turned the mother-to-be on her side and rubbed the bottom of her back through another contraction.
“You’re doing great.” When the pain subsided, she rolled her back over. “I’m a registered nurse,” she shared with as much confidence as she could muster. “I want you to bend your knees. I need to check your dilati—ah, Trent, I need you.
“Something wrong?” the patient asked in an alarmed voice.
“No, ma’am. This baby’s just in a hurry.” She smiled, trying to ease the woman’s fears.
Her knight in shining armor appeared, losing color when he took in the sight of the baby’s head crowning. He shook his head and stared in Jordan’s direction. “Chris doesn’t know where Mr. Parker is, but he’s going to look around. What do you need?”
“Please call me Martha,” she panted. “Seems silly…to keep with the formal…
“Breathe, Martha. One, two, three. Trent, support Mrs. P—Martha’s—back, and let her rest against you.”
The brave cowboy scooted into position.
“Give her your hand.”
He moved without a word, his gaze fixated on Jordan’s face. The respect and trust shown in his eyes gave her the boost in confidence she needed to see this to the finish.
“Martha, do you have a bulb syringe I can use to suction the mucus from the baby’s mouth and nasal passages?” she asked, waiting for her patient to take a cleansing breath.
“In my bag. It’s by the door. I like to be prepared,” she spat out. “Oh, God, where’s Roger?”
“That your husband?”
“Yesss,” the woman hissed through her teeth.
“I’m sure he’ll be here soon,” Trent’s quiet, calm voice assured her.
Despite the raised brow and slight frowns he cast Jordan’s way, he gained control of himself, while her own nerves increased toward the panic mark, and she fought to stay in control.
“Not soon enough…
Oh…I need to push…
Hurrying, she located the needed items. “Okay, you ready to have this baby?”
Please, let everything be okay. Please, let this miracle come into this world without any problems,
she chanted over and over in her mind as she guided the infant out of the birth cannel, stopping the mom a time or two in order to clean the mucous from the mouth and tiny nostrils.
“It’s a girl!” She laid the baby on the mother’s stomach and waited for the small person to take her first breath. The stillness of the night rang loud in her ears as she made another feeble attempt at cleaning the airways.
“We’ll take over, ma’am.”
A palm touched her shoulder. Realizing the paramedics arrived, she rose to her feet. Anxiousness filled her chest as she crossed to the sink and washed her hands. She barely finished drying when the shrill cry of a newborn split through the room.
“Thank you,” she whispered and went out the door to check on Peter. Her foot barely swept across the bottom step when she spotted him a couple of feet from the cabin.
“Congratulations, you have a baby sister.”
He glanced up with crocodile-size tears in his eyes. “I want my dad.”
Kneeling down to the boy’s level, she pushed aside her own turmoil and reached out. These things had to be scary to a young child. “I’m sure he’ll be here any minute.” She grasped his hand in hers. “Come on, I’ll wait with you.”
Together, they went to wait on the porch as the door opened. The paramedics pushed Martha and the new baby on a gurney toward the ambulance. The whole scene was surreal. This was the first time she’d participated in a delivery since her own baby had been born. The feel of the small, warm, slippery body in her hands caused them to shake now in the aftermath of the ordeal.
She took a deep breath, her chest heavy and tight, leaving her to wonder if the ache would ever go away.
Peter let go of her hand and ran toward a tall man and young boy approaching from the right.
Mr. Parker stopped in his tracks, lifted the child, his head swinging from one person to another. The poor man appeared scared out of his mind when he spotted his wife being loaded into the vehicle. Giving his son a hug, he set him next to his brother and hurried toward the ambulance. He kissed his spouse, and then the bundle lying on her chest.
Jordan heard Trent offer to keep the boys for the night in order for the couple to spend time at the hospital, but the man refused, piling the two kids and various items into his vehicle.
Not ready to talk about the events, she hurried to her own bungalow, anticipating a long, hot shower before having to face her cowboy again. Despite the warm night air, her hands and feet felt like ice cubes.
Opening the door, she kicked off her boots and stripped down on the way to the bathroom. Turning on the water, she stood under the hot spray, willing the images of her own lost daughter to recede. This wasn’t the first time she dealt with an infant, but it was her first birth.
Working at the hospital, being around babies had always been hard, but she managed to brush aside her feelings and do the best job possible, waiting until she arrived home after her shift to breakdown. She had seen heartache, and some fates much worse than hers. People triumphed every day over their misery and fears. Why couldn’t she do the same?
The strange part was, being here on this ranch, around Trent, gave her an inner peace she’d been lacking. The concern, for her, in his eyes every time she glanced up from delivering the Parker baby had moved her. He’d given her the strength to see Martha through the ordeal.
She often wondered what her life may have been like if her parents hadn’t died. Would she have continued her wild ways, or would she have grown up? Would her baby have made it? Would she have found Trent? Would her life be happy, fulfilled?
Didn’t matter much now. The facts remained. They did pass away. She did lose her baby. She had found Trent. And she was a twenty-four-year-old with no plan.
She realized her misconceptions over how she dressed or who she kept company with had little to do with letting her parents down and more with her own guilt over enjoying life, while they had lost theirs.
Six years was long enough to wallow in self pity. Her mom and dad
wanted her to be happy. Maybe it was time she stopped punishing herself, because frankly, she was tired of it.