Winning Back His Wife(3)

By: Melissa McClone



“Hey, Doc.” Will tipped his deputy’s hat. “Cell phone turned off?”

“Battery died.” Cullen wondered what his cell phone had to do with anything. He placed his cup on the table. “Not a lot of places to recharge up there.”

Will’s eyes darkened. “We’ve been trying to reach you.”

The deputy’s words tightened Cullen’s throat. He recognized the serious tone and steady cadence. He’d used both when delivering bad news at the hospital. “What’s going on?”

“You’re listed as Sarah Purcell’s emergency contact.”

Hearing the name startled Cullen. His coffee spilled, spreading across the table. “Damn.”

Paulson grabbed napkins. “No worries, Doc. I’ve got it.”

Cullen stood and faced the deputy. “What about Sarah?”

The deputy’s prominent Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “There was an accident on Mount Baker.”

“Accident?” Cullen asked.

A muscle twitched at Will’s jaw. “The details are sketchy, but it appears Sarah was at the crater rim when a steam blast occurred. She was hit by rock and fell a significant distance.”

Shock reverberated through Cullen’s body. His vision blurred. The world tilted sideways.

A hand tightened around his arm. “Steady, Doc.”

Hughes.

“Deep breaths,” another voice said.

Paulson.

Cullen felt himself being seated.

Sarah. Please, God, not her.

His emotions swirled like a whirlpool. Fear and dread spiraled, one on top of the other. Nightmares from another time joined in. Images of his twin brother, Blaine, flashed with strobe-light intensity until Cullen thought his head would explode. He forced himself to breathe. “Is she...?”

What was happening? He was a doctor. Death was something he saw almost every time he worked a shift at the hospital. But he couldn’t bring himself to say the word.

Will leaned forward. “Sarah’s at a hospital in Seattle.”

Not dead. A hundred pounds of anxiety melted away from each of Cullen’s bone-weary shoulders. Tears of relief pricked his eyes. He hadn’t seen Sarah in months. Cullen had wanted her out of his life, but he hadn’t wanted anything bad to happen to her.

Will named one of the top trauma centers in the Pacific Northwest.

Cullen blinked, gaining control in an instant. He’d done his residency there. Sarah would receive top-notch treatment, but he needed to make sure it was the right care. A good thing Seattle was only a four-hour drive away.

He stood, nearly toppling over before he could catch his balance. Tired. He was tired from the mission. “I’ve got to go.”

Hughes steadied him. “Not so fast.”

“We’ve been getting updates,” Will explained. “Sarah is in surgery again.”

Again. Not good. Cullen’s hands fisted. Surgery could mean anything from pinning a fracture to relieving pressure on the brain. Volcanoes weren’t safe places. Being a volcanologist had put Sarah in danger, but no serious injuries had resulted. Bumps, bruises, a few stitches. But this...

Cullen dragged his hand through his hair. He was a doctor. He could handle this. “Any prognosis yet?”

Hughes touched Cullen’s shoulder with the strength of a rescue leader and the compassion of a friend. “She’s in critical condition.”

A snowball-size lump burned in his throat. While he’d been on the mountain saving a life, Sarah had been fighting for hers. Bitter-tasting regret coated his mouth. Oh-so-familiar guilt, too. He hadn’t been able to help Blaine. Cullen had to help Sarah.

He couldn’t waste any more time. Sarah needed someone with her, and he was all she had.

Cullen grabbed his pack. “I’ve got to get to Seattle.”

Hughes touched his shoulder again. “Johnny Gearhart has a plane. Porter’s making arrangements. I’m going to drive you home in your truck so you can change and pack a bag, then we’ll get you there. ASAP. I promise.”

A protest sat on the tip of Cullen’s tongue. He hadn’t lived in Hood Hamlet long, unlike several of these guys who’d grown up on the mountain. He’d climbed and drunk beer and watched sports on television with them, but he relied on himself and didn’t ask for help. He didn’t need help. But Sarah did. He swallowed the words he normally would have said and tried a new one instead. “Thanks.”

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