The truce they’d come to was fragile and hung heavily in the air.
After Shelby did the dinner dishes, she rounded a corner in the hallway and bumped into Gage coming out of the bathroom in only a towel.
Apologies were quickly exchanged and they gave each other a wide berth.
With a hand on her bedroom doorknob, Shelby glanced over her shoulder at a retreating Gage, and gasped. “What happened to you?”
The lower half of his back was like an impressionistic painting in purplish red and black. It wasn’t normal. She’d seen Gage’s bare torso many times before. Their raft had drifted into brambles once. Gage got the worst of it. Shelby had removed the thorns and cleaned out his wounds.
Shelby rushed toward him. “Why didn’t you tell me you’d been injured? You shouldn’t have been harvesting last night.”
Gage put his discolored back to the wall. Clutching the towel with one hand, he held her off with the other. “It’s nothing. I got a little love tap from a mare.”
“Let me see.” She reached out.
He drew back. “Don’t worry, Shelby. It happened days ago. It’s just a hazard of the job.”
Disaster seemed to be lurking everywhere. “This isn’t like a mosquito biting a gardener.” Shelby’s voice was near hysteria. And yet, she felt as if the world was spinning downward. “A kick like that could paralyze you.” Fear gripped her throat, making further speech impossible.
What if she lost Gage, too?
Her vision blurred around the edges, tunneling to Gage’s bare, muscular chest.
“Shelby!” Gage’s voice sounded far away.
And in that faraway place, Shelby dreamed of Gage’s lips pressed to her forehead, of him tenderly whispering her name.