A few heavy, staggering sounds reverberated on the ceiling above him before a great, thunderous crash drove him to his feet.
The master bedroom. His wife!
Feeling as though he’d been kicked in the chest by an unruly horse, he took the stairs three at a time, sprinting down the hall until he exploded through the door, shearing the latch.
His very shaken, very nude wife was attempting to pull herself into a sitting position from where she’d sprawled on her back, using a toppled marble table to stabilize her.
He lunged forward. “Don’t move,” he barked in the same commanding voice he’d used on countless criminals.
She’d already frozen when he’d burst in, but his words had the opposite effect, sending her scrambling to find something with which to cover herself. “Oh, bother,” she groaned. “I-I don’t… I’m all right. I just need—need a towel. Please. Please go.”
“Don’t be foolish,” he admonished as he hit his knees next to her, his hands hovering over the slick, lithe lines of her prone form, searching for injuries. “What the bloody hell happened?” he demanded. “Did you hit your head? Is anything broken? Can you move all your limbs? No, never mind, don’t try to move. I’m calling for a doctor. Bart?” he bellowed. “Where the bloody hell is he? Did no one hear you fall hard enough to shake the house? Bart!”
“No!” She seized his shirt when he would have risen with one desperate claw, keeping the other arm ineffectually over her breasts. “I don’t want anyone to see me!”
“If he sees you, I’ll replace his eyes with hot coals. I’m calling him to send him for the doctor.”
“I don’t need a doctor. I am perfectly well, I simply—”
“You don’t get to make that decision, a slip like this is serious, especially in your condition! Must you fall so bloody often? I order you to take more care with your footing!”
He put his hands on both her shoulders to keep her still as she tried again to sit up. His grip slid as her still-slippery limbs flailed in a wild attempt to fight him off.
After a few slick and ineffectual endeavors, he succeeded in pinning her arms at her sides, leaving her gleaming body completely bared to him.
He resolutely examined only her eyes, as he leaned above her. They held no indication of the clouds one noted with a head wound. In fact, they sparked with dark azure tempests that would make Calypso proud.
“I didn’t slip, exactly,” she protested with a mulish expression.
“No? Then tell me how, exactly, you came to be on the floor.”
Long, dark lashes swept down over damp cheeks flushed with heat. “I… finished my bath, stood, and stepped out of the tub to reach for the towel. By the time I had one foot on the ground I was overwhelmed by extreme vertigo and thought to steady myself on the table.” A confused frown pinched between her brow as she looked over at the fallen furniture . “I must have fainted, because the next thing I knew I was on my back staring up at the ceiling.”
“I suspect you’re truly addled if you think anything you just imparted to me makes me feel a modicum of comfort,” he gritted through his teeth. “You and the child must be all right; do you understand me? You lie here. I will get a doctor. And he will examine you thoroughly. That is the end of this ridiculous discussion.”
He would have said more, but all the words had compressed the air out of his lungs, and he couldn’t seem to fill them. His hands trembled where they shackled her arms and the legs he knelt on felt too unsteady to hold their position for long.
It had been years since his body showed such obvious signs of terror. Maybe since his very first battle when bullets missed him so narrowly, he could hear them sing by his ear.
Lord, but she was a weakness.
Kerrigan Byrne is the USA Today Bestselling and award winning author of several novels in both the romance and mystery genre. Her 2020 releases include A Dark and Stormy Knight in June, All Scot and Bothered in September, and A Treacherous Trade in December. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington with her wonderful husband and Willow the Writer Dog. When she’s not writing and researching, you’ll find her on the beach, kayaking, or on land eating, drinking, shopping, and attending live comedy, ballet, or too many movies.