COLE (Dragon Security Book 1) (5 page)

Chapter 6

 

Amber

The pains in my back were super regular, coming every two to three minutes. And now they were radiating around to my lower belly. I wanted to tell Cole, but then that car showed up and he pulled out that gun and…then my water broke.

Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!

I leaned forward as another pain burst through me. I could see Cole standing over that man, talking to him with the gun pointed at him. It scared the crap out of me to see that gun. Some of my mom’s “boyfriends” liked guns. I tried to stay as far away from them as possible.

The pain passed and I sat up, watching them again in the rearview mirror. But then another pain. They were coming faster and faster. I needed to tell Cole, but I was afraid if I stood up, this baby would just slide right out of me.

How could I be in labor now? The baby wasn’t due for three more weeks. And they told me that a first time labor lasts days and days. How could this be happening?

Another pain and I wasn’t sure I could stand it. I bit my lip, trying to hold back the scream that was building in my chest. This couldn’t be happening. Not now. I just lost my job and I was sitting in a car in the middle of nowhere, waiting for my baby’s uncle to stop harassing some guy with a gun.

What if the guy attacked Cole? What if he got the gun from him? What if they killed each other in this stupid show of masculinity? Who’d get me to a hospital?

Oh, God!
I needed drugs!

I heard the man’s car pull away, but another pain was slicing through me so I didn’t see where it went or who was driving it. This time the pain in my back didn’t relent. And then it intensified, moving around my belly until it felt like I was in some sort of vice. And there was pressure…so much pressure…

I screamed.

Cole was suddenly there, wrenching open the car door.

“What? What’s the matter?”

“The baby’s coming!”

“What do you mean, the baby’s coming? I thought you had a couple more weeks!”

“He’s coming right now. I can feel him.” I looked at him, panic rushing through me like a sudden storm. “What are we going to do? There’s no hospital! No clinic!”

The shock and fear that had been in Cole’s eyes a second ago suddenly vanished. He took my face in his hands and moved so close that I could feel his breath washing over me.

“Take a deep breath and tell me exactly what’s happening.”

“My water broke. And now the contractions are right on top of each other.”

Even as I said the words, another one grasped my lower belly, and that pressure was back. I felt this sudden urge to push down, as if I was constipated and it was finally working its way out. I cried out, grabbing Cole’s wrists and squeezing because it just seemed like the thing to do.

I heard him curse. And then he was pushing me backward so that the gearshift and console were pressing into my back and I was lying across both front seats.

“I can see the head,” Cole announced, quite unceremoniously ripping off my panties. “I thought labor took hours.”

“It’s supposed to.”

Another pain rushed through me, and I bit my lip.

“Don’t fight it. Push.”

It was almost a relief when he said that. I pushed, and the pain was still intense but it was different. Productive, I suppose. I cried out at the end of it, throwing my arm over my eyes as I waited for the next one. I was so tired…I wasn’t sure I could do this.

“One more should do it,” Cole said. “I can clearly see the top of the head.”

“Have you ever done this before?”

“No. But I took health class in high school.”

I groaned, but even in all that pain, I couldn’t resist his charming smile. He took my hand and squeezed it.

“It’s going to be okay.”

I started to nod, but another pain rushed over me. I pushed myself up a little on my hands and pushed with everything I had. “Good,” Cole said, encouraging me. “It’s coming. Just a little more.”

I saw it, the moment my baby slid into the world. I was sitting up enough that I could see over my massive belly and could see the back of his head. Cole gently took him into his hands and twisted him just slightly, and he slithered out like an eel sliding through the water.

I was suddenly gripped with this fear that the baby was dead. I didn’t know where the thought came from, but after everything else that’d happened in my life lately, it wouldn’t have surprised me. I lay back, afraid to look at him, afraid to see his face. This horrible image filled my mind and a sob jumped to my lips. But then…the sweetest sound in the world filled the silent world of the car.

He was crying.

“It’s a boy,” Cole said in a voice I almost didn’t recognize as his.

I opened my eyes. Cole had the baby cradled against his chest, blood and God knew what else smeared over his arms and his hands. He was staring down at the baby with this look of awe on his face that softened the hard lines and made him even more handsome than he’d been before. When he lifted his eyes to mine, I swear there were tears in them.

“He’s beautiful,” he said softly.

“He’s okay?”

“He’s perfect.” Cole lifted a foot. “Ten toes and ten…”—he hesitated a second as he lifted the baby’s right hand—“…fingers.”

He looked at me again, and there was something different in his eyes. Respect, maybe.

“We need to get you to a hospital,” he said. “Can you sit up?”

I nodded.

He helped me up, covering my legs as best as he could. Then he carefully laid the baby in my arms, brushing his finger over the side of the baby’s face. He stood and stripped his t-shirt over his head and wrapped it around the baby, my arms, and whatever else got in the way. Then he slammed the door and rushed around to the driver’s side, putting the car into gear and pulling out so quickly that we left quite a mark on the soft shoulder.

The interstate was only four miles back, but we were still forty miles from Houston. A muscle worked in his jaw as he drove, faster than the already generous speed limit, easing the car around curves and other vehicles with the finesse of a racecar driver. I stared down at my baby, admiring the curves of his face, the shape of his lips. His nose was a little squished, but I thought it would look a lot like Peter’s in a day or two.

I was so tired. The exhaustion that I’d been carrying around for the last three months suddenly descended again. But it was heavier, and it continued to grow heavier until I felt like I couldn’t lift my shoulders, my arms. I was afraid I might drop the baby.

“Cole…”

The world grew dark around the edges. I heard Cole say my name, but I couldn’t answer him. I was floating away into oblivion, and it felt really, really good.

Chapter 7

 

Cole

The car tires screamed as I pulled to a stop outside the emergency room. I had the baby in one arm and was driving with the other, trying to rouse Amber with just the sound of my voice. But she was gone, completely unconscious. I should have stopped; I should have done something more than take the baby from her slack arms. But she needed the hospital and pulling over would have just delayed that moment longer than necessary.

I opened the car door and the dome light suddenly flooded the car with illumination. That’s when I saw it, all the blood. I’d smelled it, but I thought it was because it was on my hands…
oh, God, that was a lot of blood!

I ran inside, screaming for someone, anyone. A nurse rushed up.

“She’s bleeding!”

“The baby? Let me see…”

“No. The mother. She’s out in my car. She’s bleeding.”

The nurse took one look at me and immediately jumped into action. Several other nurses came to her call and they pulled Amber out of the car, setting her on a gurney. I followed as they rushed her into a curtained off room behind the main entrance, but another nurse cut me off before I could go inside.

“Let’s have a look at this one,” she said, her eyes weary as she met mine.

“Will she be okay?”

“We have to let the doctor take a look. Right now, we need to check out the baby, okay?”

I followed her to another room, my ears perked to every sound, every call for more help. The nurse was just beginning to peel my shirt off the baby when I saw them rushing the gurney down the hall, Amber’s lifeless body on it.

“What’s going on? Where are they taking her?”

The nurse went to the door and watched for a second. Then she closed to door to the exam room and came back.

“Your wife is hemorrhaging. It’s not uncommon after giving birth, especially in unusual circumstances.”

“Will she be okay?”

“They’re doing the best they can.”

“But will she—?”

The woman touched my arm lightly. “Let’s take a look at the baby, okay? Clean him up a little?”

I reluctantly allowed her to take the baby from my arms. She carried him to a little plastic bed thing and carefully removed the t-shirt. The baby began to cry quite loudly as she carefully wiped away the blood and mess that was stuck to his tiny body. Once he was clean, she diapered him and pulled a little t-shirt over him, slipping a teeny hat onto his head.

“He looks good. Do you know how far along your wife was?”

“She had like three more weeks till her due date.”

The nurse nodded. “We consider a birth at thirty-eight weeks full term, so this one wasn’t that far off.” She smiled at me as she came toward me with a plastic hospital band. “I’m going to put this on you so that everyone knows that you belong with the baby. Then we’ll walk him upstairs together so that the on-call pediatrician can look at him.”

I followed her, feeling like I was in some sort of daze. I kept going over it all, the birth and the moments afterward. Had I forgotten to do something? Had I done something to cause Amber to bleed like that? I had no idea. I didn’t know what I was doing. The baby came out, I caught him. I thought that was all there was to it. But there was so much blood.

If she died…

I wouldn’t let myself go there. Instead, I watched the doctor examine the baby. I was seeing him in full light for the first time. It was a little overwhelming. He had blond hair that was so thin that it might as well not have been there. And his features…all babies look basically the same to me. But his hands. I knew it earlier and I knew it now. The baby had the same funny turn to his right pinky finger that all the Bradford men had.

This baby was Peter’s. There was no doubt in my mind.

“The baby’s fine, Mr.…?”

The doctor looked at me with questions clearly radiating from her eyes.

“Bradford.”

“Mr. Bradford. The baby is in perfect health.” She looked me over a second. “Can I ask what you cut the cord with?”

“Pocket knife.” I reached into my pocket and held it up. “It was all I had at the moment.”

She nodded. “We’ll want to give the baby some antibiotics, just to be on the safe side. But he’ll be ready to leave the hospital in a day or so.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know what was going on with Amber. If she died, what were we supposed to do with the baby? Neither Megan nor I were prepared to raise a newborn. And Mom and Dad were so close to retirement that taking on a baby would be like moving backward. I’m sure it was the last thing they’d want. But it was Peter’s baby. His son. He’d want us to take care of him.

The nurse showed me to a bathroom, and I cleaned up, scrubbing my hands so many times that they glowed red under the florescent lights. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fear in Amber’s eyes that slowly disappeared when I told her it would be okay. But now she was in surgery, fighting for her life. Was it really going to be okay?

I slid on the scrub top the nurse found for me and wandered down the hall to the windows outside the nursery. I could see the baby. He was sleeping now, clearly exhausted from his ordeal. He was on his back, one fist curled up against his cheek. He was a fighter. I could see it already. He was a Bradford.

I turned away, leaning against a far wall, and called Megan.

“What’s going on, Cole?” she asked without bothering with a greeting.

“Did I wake you?”

“It’s three in morning. What do you think?”

I slipped a hand into the front pocket of my jeans and closed my eyes. The story spilled out, the words falling all over each other. Megan listened without interruption, so quiet that once or twice I thought maybe we’d been disconnected. But she was still there, her soft breathing almost reassuring.

“How long has she been in surgery?”

“I don’t know. An hour?”

“And you’re sure about the baby? About the finger?”

“I’m positive.”

She was quiet for a heartbeat. “Okay. I’ll go tell Mom and Dad. We’ll be there in less than an hour.”

“Thanks, Meg.”

“Are you okay, Cole?”

I almost laughed. I hadn’t thought about myself all this time. That had to be some sort of record.

“My car is sitting outside the emergency room doors. It probably ought to be moved and cleaned.”

“I’ll get one of my guys on it.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“You did good, Cole.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I wasn’t quite ready to pat myself on the back.

I went back to the nursery window and studied the baby’s features, trying to see Peter there. The more I looked, though, the more I saw Amber, not Peter.

“Mr. Bradford?”

I turned as a couple of doctors walked toward me in green scrubs. One held out his hand.

“I’m Dr. Simons. I’m the on-call obstetrician here tonight.”

“Cole Bradford.”

“Your wife is Amber?”

I nodded, not bothering to correct his assumption. It just seemed too complicated for the situation.

“She had a small tear in her uterus, and that’s what caused all the bleeding. But we were able to repair it.”

“She’s okay?”

“She’ll be fairly weak for a few days since she lost so much blood. But, yes, she should be fine.”

Relief rushed through me so quickly that my knees knocked together. I shook his hand enthusiastically.

“Thank you.”

The doctor smiled. “Next time, let the real doctors do the job, okay?”

“Definitely.”

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