His bid for a bride(7)

By: Carole Mortimer

‘But I saw you,’ he assured her quietly.

Her eyes widened incredulously. ‘When? Where?’

He shook his head. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he dismissed. ‘What matters right now is that I get you out of here with the minimum amount of fuss. There are still reporters hanging around at the front of the hospital, so I suggest—’

‘Falkner, I believe I’ve made my feelings more than clear on this subject, but just in case I haven’t—’

‘You have,’ he assured her dryly. ‘But that doesn’t change the fact that you are well enough to be discharged—more than well enough, if the specialist is to be believed,’ he added derisively. ‘Skye, they need the bed—you don’t,’ he added impatiently as she would have argued with him once again. ‘So let’s get you dressed—’

‘I don’t have any clothes,’ she cut in flatly. ‘What I was wearing—’ She swallowed hard. ‘What I was wearing was in such a mess once they had cut if off me that I told them to incinerate it.’

‘It doesn’t matter; I have the things with me that you left at the hotel,’ Falkner dismissed easily, turning to pick up the suitcase Skye hadn’t noticed him place just inside the door when he’d come in, swinging it up awkwardly onto the bottom of the bed to open up the lid.

Skye gasped as she easily recognized her own clothes neatly folded inside. And just as easily guessed who must have taken them out of the drawers and wardrobe at the hotel before folding them so neatly and putting them inside the suitcase.

She shook her head dazedly. ‘Falkner, don’t you think you’ve taken rather a lot on yourself by getting involved in this way? I take it it was you who—who organized the funeral, too?’ she accused.

His head snapped up challengingly. ‘Who else was going to do it?’ he rasped. ‘You? Somehow I don’t think so. Your uncle Seamus?’

He shook his head grimly. ‘Skye, last weekend, after your uncle Seamus was informed of the accident, he went on the bender to end all benders. Your father’s housekeeper found him at the bottom of the stairs the next morning, still blind drunk. Which was perhaps as well, because it turned out he had broken his leg when he fell down the stairs!’ he concluded disgustedly.

Skye stared at him. She had been expecting her uncle Seamus to arrive all week. Although part of her was relieved when he hadn’t, knowing she would have found it hard to cope with his grief as well as her own. But listening to Falkner’s explanation of exactly why her uncle hadn’t come to England following the accident…

‘I know.’ Falkner sighed ruefully at her slightly dazed expression. ‘If it wasn’t so damned tragic, it would be laughable!’

He was right, it would. In fact, Skye was having trouble not laughing, hysterically, anyway.

Falkner shook his head before turning his attention back to the contents of her suitcase. ‘They should be letting him out of hospital too by the end of the week,’ he informed her distractedly.

But not time enough for him to attend her father’s funeral in England, Skye realized…

‘Here, let me do that.’ She dismissed Falkner’s attempts to choose something for her to wear from the contents of the suitcase; he might, through necessity, have packed these things for her at the hotel, but there was something not quite right about watching him handle her silky underwear. ‘Perhaps if you would like to wait outside…?’ she suggested huskily as she moved gingerly to sit up on the side of the bed, not quite able to look at Falkner as she was struck by a sudden—unaccustomed—shyness.

She was twenty-four years old, had spent all of her childhood and most of her adult life, too, surrounded by men; her father, her grandfather, Uncle Seamus, the grooms at the stable, the majority of workers at O’Hara Whiskey having been men too. But because she had accompanied her father since she was a very young child, she had always been treated by them all as ‘one of the boys’; certainly none of them had ever made her completely aware of her own femininity. In the way that Falkner had six years ago. And, amazingly, still did…

Falkner gave the ghost of a smile. ‘If you think you can manage…?’

No doubt it would take her some time; she knew she must look a mess, wanted to shower and wash her hair in the adjoining bathroom before putting on clean clothes. Which wouldn’t be easy when her head still felt as if it didn’t quite belong on her shoulders, her broken ribs making any movement painful. But slow was certainly preferable to having Falkner offer to help dress her.