Home > Diamond Bay (Rescues #2)(13)

Diamond Bay (Rescues #2)(13)
Author: Linda Howard

There was still another possibility, one that Rachel had thought of but had no intention of mentioning to Honey. What if he was an agent...for someone else? A drug runner, an agentneither of those was very savory, considering what she had learned about both occupations while she'd been a reporter. Rachel had been a very good reporter, an ace, digging for the facts even in the face of danger. She knew, far more than Honey did, just how dangerous it was to hide this man, but there was something in her that was incapable of simply washing her hands of responsibility and turning him over to the sheriff, then letting events take their course. She had become responsible for him the second she had seen him feebly swimming in the Gulf, and turning him over to someone else wouldn't change that fact. As long as there was a possibility, however remote, that he was deserving of her protection, she had to offer it. It was a risk she had to take.

"How much longer will it be before he wakes up?" she murmured.

Honey hesitated. "I don't know. I'm a veterinarian, remember? With the fever, the loss of blood, the knock on his head...I just don't know. He should be hooked up to an IV, getting fluids. His pulse is weak and fast, he probably needs some blood and he's shocky, but he's coming out of it. He may wake up at any time, or it may be tomorrow. When he does wake up he may be disoriented, which isn't surprising. Don't let him get excited, and whatever you do, don't let him get up."

Rachel looked at him, at his powerfully muscled torso, and wondered if there was any way on earth she could prevent him from doing anything he set his mind on doing. Honey was taking gauze and tape out of her bag, "Change his bandages tomorrow morning. I won't be back until tomorrow night, unless you think he's getting worse and call me, and in that case you'd be better off calling a doctor."

Rachel managed a taut smile. "Thanks. I know this hasn't been easy for you to handle."

"At least you brought some excitement into the summer. I've got to go now, or Rafferty will tear a strip off me for keeping him waiting."

"Tell John I said hello," Rachel said as they stepped onto the porch.

"Depends on his mood." Honey grinned, her eyes lighting with the pleasurable prospect of battle. She and John Rafferty had been warring ever since Honey had set up practice in the area; Rafferty had made plain his opinion that a woman wasn't strong enough to handle the job, and Honey had set out to prove him wrong. Their relationship had long since evolved into mutual respect and a continuous wrangle that they both enjoyed. Since Honey had a long-standing engagement to an overseas engineer, with plans to marry during the winter when he returned to the States, she was also safe from Rafferty's legendary torn-catting, because one thing Rafferty didn't do was poach.

Joe stood just at the corner of the house, muscles tight as he warily watched Honey get in her car and drive off. Ordinarily Rachel would have spoken soothingly to him, but today she, too, was tense and wary. "Guard," she said softly, not knowing if he would understand the command. "That's a good boy. Guard the house."

She managed to work for a couple of hours on her manuscript, but she couldn't really concentrate on what she was doing when she kept listening for any sound from the bedroom. Every few minutes she went in to check on him, but each time he was lying just as he had been the time before. She tried several times to get him to drink something, but his head would loll against her shoulder whenever she lifted him, and he didn't respond at all. Late in the afternoon his fever began to rise again, and Rachel abandoned all attempts to write. Somehow she had to rouse him enough to give him more aspirin.

The fever seemed worse this time. His skin burned to the touch, and his face was flushed with hectic color. Rachel talked to him as she lifted his head, crooning and cajoling. With her free hand she stroked his chest and arms, trying to rouse him, and her efforts were rewarded when he suddenly groaned sharply and turned his face against her neck.

The sound and motion, from someone who had been still and silent, startled her. Her heart jumped wildly, and she was unable to move for a moment, simply holding him and feeling the scrape of his growing beard against her neck. It was an oddly erotic sensation, and her body quickened in remembrance. A hot flush colored her cheeks; what was she doing, reacting like that to the unconscious touch of a sick man? Granted, it had been a long time for her, but she'd never considered herself love starved, so hungry for the touch of a man that the most inadvertent contact could turn her on.

She reached for the teaspoon with the dissolved aspirin in it and held it to his mouth, touching his lips with the spoon as she had before. Restlessly he turned his head away, and Rachel followed the movement with the spoon. "No you don't," she crooned. "You aren't getting away. Open your mouth and take this. It'll make you feel better."

A frown puckered his straight black brows and he fretted, evading the spoon once more. Persistently Rachel tried again, and this time she got the bitter aspirin into his mouth. He swallowed, and while he was cooperating she spoonfed him several ounces of iced tea before he began to sink back into a stupor. Following the routine she had begun that morning, she patiently sponged him down with cool water until the aspirin began to work and the fever subsided again, allowing him to rest.

His response, fretful as it had been, gave her hope that he would soon be waking up, but that hope died during the long night. His fever soared at intervals until she could give him more aspirin and bring it under control again. What rest she got that night came in brief snatches, because she spent most of the time bending over him, patiently wiping him with a cold wet cloth to keep him as cool as she could, and doing all of the other things that were necessary for a bedridden patient.

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