Ryan raked a hand through his hair and bent his head in prayer for her life. Panic and fear knotted his gut. Staring at Alice’s pale face, he knew bullet wounds could cause infection when not treated in time. Blood soaked her jacket and blouse. What the hell happened?
“Ryan,” Alice whispered.
She lifted her head. “You need to tell my father where I am so he doesn’t worry.”
He kissed her fingers. “Isabel is telling him now. You must rest.”
Alice closed her eyes. Ryan stared at her while the doctor placed more bandages against her wound.
“Your wife will be fine.”
“She—I know,” Ryan decided to say. This wasn’t the time or the place to correct the doctor. Alice would make a wonderful wife, he mused. The idea of marrying her did appeal to him, but he wasn’t ready for marriage— not yet. Before he thought of marriage again, he wanted to know more about her. Since they met, he’d thought of her often and dreamed of her. Somehow, she’d managed to erase the horrible memories of his last relationship—almost.
“Let’s get her into surgery before she loses more blood,” the doctor said, breaking into Ryan’s daydreaming as they arrived at the hospital.
Ryan kissed Alice’s chilled fingers. “I’ll be here when you wake,” he murmured in her ear before pressing his lips against her cheek.
“Please have a sit, sir. We’ll come for you shortly,” the doctor said with a reassuring tone.
Glancing once more at Alice, he released her small hand and sat on one of the chairs lining the wall. Placing his hands across his face, he prayed in silence. Keep her safe. With all the blood seeping from her wound, he worried. She was too young to die. He rose and walked to the window. Staring outside, he looked at the rainy horizon and hoped to see Alice soon. Thanks to the doctor and nurse caring for her, she was in good hands, but he didn’t like seeing her in such a frail condition.
“Sir?” the doctor spoke behind him.
He turned, holding a breath. “How’s Alice?”
“The bullet went through her shoulder. She will be up and about in a few days. We expect a full recovery.”
Ryan blew out the air in his lungs. “Thank you. May I see her?”
“Of course but only for a while. She lost a lot of blood and is resting now. Follow me please.”
With every step he took down the long white corridor, Ryan felt his gut knot a bit more. Screams from the grand recovery room reached his ears. He thanked the doctor in silence for placing Alice in a private room, away from all the suffering. When they reached the end of the corridor, tall windows on each side of the bed illuminated a small room. Ryan froze and brought a hand against his mouth. Alice’s pale face frightened him to his core. The doctor had reassured him, but until she recovered he feared for her life. He pulled out the chair and placed it beside the bed. Taking her small hand between his, he brought her fingers to his lips.
“You’ll be all right in no time,” he said with confidence.
Painful memories of his mother in a hospital bed resurfaced. He had almost lost her when he was a child and since then thanked the stars above for sparing her life. With the back of his hand, he touched Alice’s cheek, feeling the coolness. Thick bandages covered her shoulder. Her long auburn hair fanned out on the pillow. An angel slept. His angel on Earth. For the longest time, he had dreamed of the same woman. Yet, Ryan had never been able to see her face. All he saw was the Ethereal light around her, shining, guiding him toward her. Was he seeing Alice? Before he met this enchanting woman, he stopped believed in love after his relationship with Ashley. Now, he wondered if a chance at love smiled upon him.
While Ryan watched Alice sleep, a smile formed on his lips. His trousers tightened with thoughts of her sweet lips. Desire for her grew with each passing day. He knew madness played a role in his clouded judgment, but he didn’t care. He had one life to live, and he wanted to know more about Alice. Her courage and strength called out to him. The way she kissed him back the other day told him no other man claimed her heart. But he wanted—needed—certainty before he took a chance. Bringing her fingers against his mouth, he pressed a gentle kiss, feeling the coolness of her skin. Who hurt you, Alice? He wanted to know. Anger rose within him.
Around town, he heard about women marching for voting rights and the police officers watching them, but he never thought someone would use their firearms. Women had their reasons and had as much as rights as men when it came to voting. They had their say. What happened today for the constables to shoot at a peaceful march? No matter. Next time, he would accompany Alice and Isabel. That way, they would have someone to protect them. The need to be there for Alice overtook reason. He knew they barely knew each other, but the times they spent together working and talking, Ryan grew to appreciate her and like her more every day.
For now, they kept their relationship on a professional level. Yet, he couldn’t deny his strong attraction for her.
With great care, he smoothed a strand of hair. Her lips beckoned him. He wanted to taste her again. Not yet, he reasoned. Instead, he kissed her cool brow. “I’m here, Alice. I’ll be here for as long as you need me.”