Winning Back His Wife(9)

By: Melissa McClone

A corner of her mouth rose into a more certain smile. “Guess that’s why I feel like I’ve gone nine rounds in a boxing match.”

“Mixed Martial Arts seems more your style.”

“Yeah, now that you mention it, this does feel more like MMA than a few punches, hooks and jabs.”

She hadn’t lost her sense of humor. That and her intelligence had been two of Sarah’s most appealing traits. She’d had a hot body, too. The hospital gown and blanket covered much of her, but she’d lost weight. Her cheekbones appeared more prominent and she looked smaller, almost fragile, a word he would never have associated with her before.

He pushed the straw toward her lips again. “Drink more.”

Sarah took another sip. “I’ve had enough. Thanks.”

“Ice chips will soothe your throat. It has to be sore from the tube.” He placed the cup on the bed tray. “Hungry?”

“No.” A question formed in her eyes. “Should I be?”

She sounded nothing like the strong, independent woman he’d married. The vulnerability in her gaze and voice tugged at his heart, twisting him inside out. He wanted to hold her until she felt better and her uncertainty disappeared. But touching her, even out of compassion, wasn’t a smart idea. “Your appetite will return soon enough.”

“Maybe my appetite doesn’t want hospital food.”

That was more like his Sarah. Not his, he corrected. “Then your appetite is one smart cookie.”

She smiled.

He smiled back.

This conversation was going better than he’d imagined. Maybe the bump on her head had shaken some sense into Sarah. Not that it changed anything between them. “I’ll sneak in some decent food.”

“I should eat even if I don’t feel like it. I need to get back to the institute to look at data.”

Her words made him bristle. Sarah was a scientist, first and foremost. Studying volcanoes wasn’t a job for her, but a passion. The need to be where the action was happening was as natural an instinct as breathing to Sarah. Her work was for the greater good of science and mankind. If only she cared to put as much effort into her personal relationships.

Into him.

“Other scientists can analyze the data,” he said. “You need to recover first.”

“I’m the institute’s specialist. They need me. Those are my seismometers up there.”


Her lips pursed, but not in the kiss-me-now way she had perfected. “A grant paid for them, but the data... Was the equipment damaged?”

“Tucker said the equipment was recovered. The data from the laptop is being analyzed.”

“Thank goodness.” She glanced around the room until her gaze landed on the door. “How soon until I can get out of here?”

He held up his hands, palms facing her. “Not so fast.”

“We may be able to use the data to figure out what’s going to happen on Baker. If we predict an eruption successfully, we can use the same process with other volcanoes and save lives.”

Her passion cascaded out. Cullen understood why she was so adamant about her work. He felt the same about his. But he had to play devil’s advocate, even if he wanted nothing more than to send her on her merry way to Bellingham. “A concussion is only one of your injuries.”

Sarah looked down at herself, as if finally realizing she was more than a talking head. Her eyes narrowed at the cast on her arm. “I can slog up Baker with a sling.”

As ridiculous as the image of her doing that was, he could see her attempting it. She would hurt herself more, given the pain medication she was on, if she even survived another fall. “How will you self-arrest if you slip? It’s hard enough to dig in an ice ax to stop yourself with two usable hands and arms.”

She moistened her lips and lifted her chin with a look of defiance. “I won’t need to stop myself if I don’t slip.”

A smile threatened to appear at her bravado. He pressed his lips together. The last thing he wanted to do was encourage her. “You suffered internal injuries, a collapsed lung, broken ribs and an arm fracture. Not to mention you’ve had two surgeries.”

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