Read an Extract
He eased around the splintered jamb of the inner door to scan the single living room. It was shadowed and empty, a glance showed a broken chair, a scattered pile of mouldy straw, an overturned table, cobwebs and shadows. There was that soft, desperate sound again and the scent of fear was stronger here. Caution discarded, he took three strides across the earth floor and pulled away the table, the only hiding place.
It did not take several years of medical training to tell him that he was looking at a woman in labour, and a desperate one at that. Of all the medical emergencies he might have confronted, this was the one from his nightmares. Literally. Her gaze flickered from his face to the knife in his hand as she scrabbled back into the straw.
‘Go away.’ Her voice was thready, defiant, there was blood around her mouth and on the back of the hand resting protectively on the mound of her belly. She had bitten her fist in an attempt to muffle her cries. His stomach lurched at the sight. ‘One step more and I’ll –’
‘Deposit a baby on my boots?’ He slid the knife back into its sheath, made himself smile and saw her relax infinitesimally at his light tone. When he tossed his low-crowned hat onto the chair, exposing the rakish bandage across his forehead, she tensed again.
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ Her voice was English, educated, out of place in this hovel. She closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them again the effort to stay focused and alert was palpable. ‘This baby is never coming out.’
‘First one?’ Grant knelt beside her. ‘I’m a doctor, it is going to be all right, trust me.’ There’s two lies to begin with – how many more will I need? I’m not qualified, I’ve never delivered a baby, and I have no idea whether anything is going to be all right. He had, however, delivered any number of foals. Between theoretical knowledge, practical experience of female anatomy and years of managing a breeding stables, he would be better than nothing. But this child had better hurry up and get born because he was trapped here until it was.