His eyebrows snap together. “Where does it hurt, baby?” he says softly, pushing me onto my back.
“My . . . my side,” I gasp, tears of pain starting to roll down my face.
“Here?” he asks, pressing on one side, and I shake my head no.
“Yes!” Somehow he has unerringly found the exact area that’s in agony.
He immediately gets up and starts getting dressed. “Beth!” he yells. “Beth, I need you here right now!”
She runs into the room thirty seconds later, pulling on a bathrobe over her pajamas. “What happened?”
She sounds scared, and I am terrified too. I’ve never seen Julian like this before. He seems almost . . . frightened.
“Get ready,” he says tersely. “I’m taking her to the clinic, and you’re coming with us. It might be her appendix.”
Appendicitis! Now that he said it, I realize it’s the most probable explanation, but it’s beyond scary. I’m no doctor, but I know that if my appendix bursts before they cut it out, I’m pretty much toast. It would be frightening even if I were an hour away from medical attention, but I’m on a private island in the middle of the Pacific. What if I don’t make it to the hospital in time?
Julian must be thinking the same thing because the expression on his face is grim as he wraps me in a robe and picks me up, carrying me out of the room.
“I can walk,” I protest weakly, my stomach roiling as Julian swiftly walks down the stairs.
“Like hell you can.” His tone is unnecessarily harsh, but I don’t take offense. I know he’s worried about me right now, and even with my insides in agony, I feel warmed by the thought.
By the time we reach the hangar, Beth has opened the gates for us and is already waiting in the back of the airplane. Julian straps me into the passenger seat, and I realize that my greatest wish is about to be granted.
I’m getting off the island.
My stomach lurches, and I grab for the brown paper bag that’s lying conveniently in front of me. Sudden hot nausea boils up in my throat, and I vomit into the bag, my entire body sweating and shaking.
I can hear Julian swearing as the plane begins to take off, and I’m so embarrassed I just want to die. “I’m sorry,” I whisper, my eyes burning. I have never been so miserable in my entire life.
“It’s all right,” Julian says curtly. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Here.” Beth hands me a wet wipe from the back. “This should make you feel a little better.”
But it doesn’t. Instead, as the plane climbs higher, I get nauseous again. Moaning, I clutch at my stomach, the pain in my right side intensifying.
“Fuck,” Julian mutters. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” His knuckles are white where he’s clutching the controls.
“How long until we get there?” Beth’s voice is unusually high-pitched.
Those two hours turn out to be the longest ones of my life. By the time the plane begins its descent, I have thrown up five times and am long past the point of embarrassment. The pain in my stomach has long since morphed into agony, and I’m not cognizant of anything but my own bone-deep misery.
Strong hands reach for me, pulling me out of the airplane, and I am vaguely aware that Julian is carrying me somewhere, holding me cradled against his broad chest. There is a babble of voices speaking in a mixture of English and some foreign language, and then I’m placed on a gurney and wheeled through a long hallway into a white, sterile-looking room.
Several people in white coats bustle around me, one man barking out orders in that same strangely mixed language, and I feel a sharp prick in my arm as an IV needle is attached to my wrist. Dazed, I look up to see Julian standing in the corner, his face oddly pale and his eyes glittering . . . and then the darkness swallows me whole again.
When I regain consciousness, I am feeling only a little bit better. My head appears to be stuffed with wool, and the nagging pain in my side remains, though it feels different now, less sharp and more like an ache. For a second, I think that I fell asleep feeling sick and dreamed the whole thing, but the smell convinces me otherwise. It’s that unmistakable antiseptic odor that you only encounter in doctor’s offices and hospitals.
That odor means I’m alive . . . and off the island.
My heart starts racing at the thought.
“She’s awake,” an unfamiliar female voice says in accented English, apparently addressing someone else in the room.
I hear footsteps and feel someone sitting down on the side of my bed. Warm fingers reach out and stroke my cheek. “How are you feeling, baby?”
Opening my eyes with some effort, I gaze at Julian’s beautiful features. “Like I’ve been cut open and sewn back together,” I manage to croak out. My throat is so dry and sore that it actually hurts to talk, and I can feel a dull, throbbing ache in my right side.
“Here.” Julian is holding out a cup with a bent straw in it. “You must be thirsty.”
He brings it toward my face, and I obediently close my lips around the straw, sucking down a little water. My mind is still hazy, and for a moment, the wall between the good and the bad memories crumbles. I remember that first day on the island, when Julian had offered me a bottle of water, and an involuntary shiver runs down my spine. In that moment, Julian is not the man I love; he is again my enemy, the one who stole me, the one who made me his against my will.