Michael, his head bent in concentration over the most recent batch of blood tests, jerked upright as a scream tore through the camp. As his brain registered the sound came from the nearby blood-supply tent, where Shahdi was working, icy panic lanced through him.

 

He lunged for the lab's entrance, and dashed out into the bright light of day with barely an acknowledgement of moving as he tore into the canvas of the collapsed tent next door.

 

"Shahdi!"

 

"Michael," her faint voice, even muffled by the heavy canvas, sent an electric charge of relief through his veins. Shoving aside canvas as he went, Michael waded through the collapsed tent, until he uncovered a sight that made his blood run cold.

 

Shahdi lay pinned beneath a large chunk of the main support pole, with the heavy beam wedged sideways across her body from left shoulder to right hip. That thing had to be crushing her!

 

Scrambling to her side, Michael grasped the pole, muscles straining as he lifted the beam away. It wasn't as heavy as it was awkward to lift, but it was still heavy enough to do damage when dropped from nearly fifteen feet above. Discarding the pole, he dropped to the ground at Shahdi's side as she tried to sit up.

 

"Don't move!"

 

She gave him an odd look -- probably questioning the sharp fear in his voice -- but subsided with nothing more than a sigh and a wince. Michael ran his hands quickly over her body, checking for cracked or broken bones and warmer than normal spots that would indicate internal bleeding. Relief poured through him when he found nothing.

 

"This is not how I planned to have your hands on me." The humorous lilt of Shahdi's voice snapped his gaze to her face, and he scowled as his fear boiled over into anger.

 

"You could have been killed, and you're cracking jokes?"

 

She rolled her eyes as she sat up, his hands steadying her in spite of her apparent strength.

 

"You must learn to not fret so, Michael," she murmured. "The point is that I was not harmed. Therefore, a little humor puts the situation into its proper place."

 

"You're going to have nasty bruises by tomorrow--"

 

"But they will heal with time."

 

"You'll be stiff and hurting--"

 

"But I am alive."

 

He eyed her testily, his nerves drawn to breaking point. Damn it, she was hurt; couldn't she see how much the idea scared him? "You have an answer for everything, don't you?"

 

"No." Her good humor fled, and her somber blue gaze met his. "I do not know how to make you love me."

Contact Esther Mitchell at:

esthermitchell@esthermitchell.com

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