Desert Blade

Desert Blade by Ella Drake Read Free Book Online

Book: Desert Blade by Ella Drake Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ella Drake
pleasure. His throat, forever dry, closed. He coughed and water dribbled down his chin.
    Lidia leaned over him with a towel. He hadn’t seen her move. He froze, didn’t even breathe when she wiped him gently. She had such a soft touch. Arousal slammed through him, unexpected, unfelt for so long that it made him lightheaded. Eager to follow the retreating hand, he shifted in his seat and held himself down.
    Sitting in the chair, he rolled the shoulder above his metal arm. She sat across from him and flicked a professional glance over him.
    “I’m sorry to bring you bad news, but…” She gripped the glass in front of her and stared into the clear liquid. “Dr. Kelso is dead. We ran into some trouble on our way here, stopped by riots. He was in Kansas City when the Great Fires destroyed everything.”
    “Kansas City was wiped out by fire?”
    She nodded.
    “Might’ve been easier than everyone starving to death.”
    Lidia paled and lifted a shaking glass to her pink lips. Her throat worked as she swallowed. The pale column of her throat was so fragile, vulnerable to the strength he carried in his left arm. He skidded back his chair, stood and strode to the window. A line of scrubs hung on a clothesline. No other color in the barren and dusty backyard.
    “He’s who I came here for.” He curled his good fist and closed his eyes to the feel of tension running up his arm.
    “Why?”
    “He was needed over near old St. Louis. There’s an outpost where a few of us from Chicago made it.”
    “What about the Vines? I heard nothing east of the Mississippi is left. Have you seen?”
    “I’ve seen. Nothing left.” He spun and loomed over her, close enough to touch. “It may not be like here, but they’ve made a start of it. Have roofs over their heads, some food crops, and even manage to fight off the drifters.”
    Her eyes flashed with pity or anger, but she didn’t speak, leaving room for him to continue.
    “But one of the kids can’t breathe right. He needs a doctor. I only knew of two, both headed here.”
    He sank into the chair and leaned toward her. Her eyes grew wide and she licked her lips.
    “It took longer than I wanted to get here. I had to stop along the way. There were no other settlements. Only a dustbowl. Hardly anybody left. No doctors…”
    “So many people gone,” she whispered.
    He fisted his good hand on the table. “You’ll have to come with me.”
    There. He’d said it. It had to be. It was right.
    “No.” She lifted her chin as if in challenge. “It’s not like back when we could get in a car or a plane to be anywhere in a few hours. I’m needed here.”
    “You’re needed more there. I’ll keep you safe. On the way east, it’ll be easier. Much easier. Won’t take much time at all, going on the river with the current. We’ll boat most of the way.”
    “I can’t. I’d be gone too long. Maybe never come back.” Her steady response was reasonable, patient.
    He nodded. “You probably won’t make it back. Getting here, the drifters let me be. With a woman, even if there’s only one of them and he doesn’t stand a chance, he’ll go for you. The drifters fight to the death for a female. You have anything you need to come back for?”
    Something about that question bothered the hell out of him. Like, that she might have a man. A useless man since Derek sat here alone with her. He was up out of the chair again, putting distance between him and that clean, salty-vanilla scent of hers that made him a little crazy.
    Her chin hitched. “As much as your people may need me, there are just as many here that do, too. I can’t pick up and leave. I have friends here. A clinic to run. I have to back up the other doctor when he needs a rest. The new interns need my midwifery and herbal remedies classes. If it’s as desolate as you say out there, this hospital school is even more important.”
    “True enough. But I made a promise. I swore to Trudy I’d get a doctor for the kid. I mean

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