Pregnancy of Revenge(62)By: Jacqueline Baird
'But I want my kite,' Aldo objected. 'The string broke,' he said with the simplicity of youth and she had to smile at the irony of it as the kite did a graceful dive off the ledge.
Still smiling, she commanded the man in the cradle, 'Take Aldo first,' slipping into the role of rescuer as she had done countless times before, and easing the little boy up into the officer's waiting arms. Then with Aldo clinging safely to the officer's leg, Charlie was hoisted on board.
The descent to the ground was accomplished in seconds, and as the cradle locked back onto the appliance a mighty cheer went up— 'Brava Charlotta ,' and much in the same vein she did not understand as she stepped back onto firm ground.
The first person she saw was Jake dressed in his usual garb of elegant suit, but with his tie loosened, and she thought she was hallucinating. 'Jake! What are you doing here?' And she smiled, more from relief at the successful completion of the rescue than any great desire to see her husband.
Fury roared through Jake. She was wearing shorts and a skimpy top, her hair was falling around her shoulders, her arms were scratched and her knee was bleeding, and she was smiling. She was actually smiling as if she had been for a damned walk in the park, and she had calmly asked him what he was doing here. He was damn near dying with fright for her and she... 'Shut up, Charlotte, just shut up!' he growled and took her in his arms and held her close to his chest, a great shudder coursing through him.
Shocked, Charlie looked at him. She had been trained to remain cool in a crisis, but obviously Jake was not. His eyes were cold and angry, exactly as they had been the last time she had seen him. No change there, then. His arms tightened in a deathlike grip around her and she yelped and pushed back. 'Please, you're hurting me. I think I've scraped my back.'
'Scraped your back?' Jake's arms eased slightly, and he stared down at her, his black eyes leaping with violence. 'My God, woman, you're lucky you didn't break your neck! Are you stark staring mad?' His anger washed over her in ever-rising waves. 'What possessed you? You're pregnant, for God's sake. Have you got a death wish or something?*
'Or something,' Charlie snapped back. 'Common human decency, something you know nothing about.' He could not have made it plainer it was only the baby he was worried about.
Jake reeled as if he had been struck, all the anger draining out of him. His passionate, beautiful Charlotte was looking at him with contempt in her magnificent blue eyes, and he deserved it. He had been yelling at her like a madman when what he should be doing was comforting her—loving her. Finally he recognised what in his arrogance and conceit he had tried to deny. He loved Charlotte. He opened his mouth to tell her so, but the moment was lost as chaos reigned.
Marta swept Aldo into her arms, crying her eyes out, and berating him at the same time, then, grabbing Charlie's hand, she kissed it and thanked her over and over again.
Charlie murmured something appropriate, embarrassed by all the fuss. Police and firemen crowded around her with congratulations coming from all sides, and all the time Jake was at her back, his hand resting lightly on her waist, his dark presence towering over her.
All the people, the heat, the noise were making her head spin. A camera flashed right in her face and Jake dived past her to grip the hapless photographer and tear the camera from his hands.
Charlie's legs wobbled and for the first time in her life she fainted.
SLOWLY Charlie opened her eyes, and realised she was lying on the bed in the master bedroom. Jake was leaning over her, his handsome face grey and drawn, his eyes burning like black coals beneath hooded lids.
'You're awake, thank God. How do you feel? Where does it hurt?' he demanded in a voice that was not quite steady, and grasped her hand as if his life depended on it. 'Are you all right?'
'Oh, please,' she sighed, trying to sit up, but Jake gently pushed her back down. 'I'm fine.' And surprisingly, she realised she was.
The fog that seemed to have numbed her brain for the past few days was gone. Climbing the cliff, doing what she knew she was good at, while taking all her energy and skill had paradoxically restored her strength—her belief in herself. She didn't need Jake's concern—she didn't need him— and she glanced up at him, for once unmoved. 'How is Aldo? Is he all right?'