Second Chance with the Single Mom(7)

By: Annie Claydon

‘Thank you, Doctor.’ Jamie’s mother held his hand while Raina wrapped blankets around him that the pleasure boat’s crew had brought. She could hear the sound of a siren, and it seemed that they were in luck and the ambulance would be here soon.

As soon as she’d handed over to the ambulance crew, Raina looked for Alistair. She found him, sitting further along the deck, his arms resting on his knees and his head bowed. Someone had brought him a blanket and it lay draped across his shoulders. As Raina reached to pull it around him, he looked up.

There had been a time when she’d lived for the smile that flickered across his face and the golden heat of his eyes. Right now that time seemed much closer than she’d thought it would ever be again.

‘Hi, there. Are you all right?’

‘I’m okay. How’s the boy?’

Raina glanced across, and saw Jamie clinging to his mother, responding to the ambulance crew’s questions. ‘He doesn’t seem too much the worse for wear. But he needs to be seen at the hospital.’

Alistair nodded. He knew that Jamie was at risk from all kinds of infections from the dirty water, and that dry drowning could occur hours after a child was pulled from the water and seemed fully recovered from the experience. Not to mention the possibility of a concussion.

‘The ambulance crew are dealing with it?’ He was cupping his hand over his ear as if checking exactly how much he could hear.

‘Yes, they’ve got everything under control. They know exactly what the situation is and what the doctors need to look for. Is there something wrong with your ears?’

He shook his head. Something was wrong and it was more than just being wet through and covered in grime from the river. Raina wanted to reach out and hug him for his bravery, and then find out what the matter was and make it right. Instead, she pulled a paper handkerchief from her bag, dabbing at a small cut beside his left eye.

‘Don’t, Raina.’ His tone wasn’t unkind but he shied away from her impatiently. ‘It’s all right...’

‘So Jamie’s at risk of infection from the dirty water but you’re not. What are you, Dr Invincible?’

Raina bit her lip. That joke belonged to a time when they had been married. It didn’t sound half as apt now they were divorced. But seeing him like this... It awakened every protective instinct she had and it was killing her that Alistair wouldn’t take any help from her.

It was Alistair all over, though. When things had got tough when she’d become pregnant and then lost the baby, he’d shut down. When all Raina had wanted him to do was to share his feelings, when she’d wanted him to feel the same wild grief as she had, he’d pushed her away.

She swallowed hard. That had been then, and this was now. She was a doctor, and she had someone who might be hurt sitting right in front of her. That justified her professional concern.

Suddenly she could think clearly again. Put all the little pieces of the puzzle together to make a place to start. She turned her head away from him, speaking clearly.

‘You can’t hear, can you?’

‘What was that?’ Alistair frowned impatiently.

‘I said...’ She faced him squarely. ‘You can’t hear. Can you, Alistair?’

* * *

So much for thinking that he’d been doing a pretty good job in covering up. If he hadn’t been wet through and shivering from the shock of seeing young Jamie plunge into the water when he’d just been a hair’s breadth away from reaching him, Alistair might have been able to brush the question off. But right now he wanted someone to know.

Not just someone. He could have told the man who’d helped him out of the water and gone to fetch the blanket, but he’d had no inclination to do so. He wanted Raina to know. He wanted that sweet, dark-eyed concern that made his heart lurch.

‘It’’s not a result of being in the water. It’s a pre-existing condition.’ Maybe if he kept this professional, he could ignore the tingle in his fingertips. The urge to have Raina kiss away all of his aches and pains, and all of the fears for a future that was anything but silent but which contained too much white noise to make any sense of what he did hear.

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