She nodded, looking so helpless that he wanted to curse and scream. However, he did none of that. Instead, he carefully scooped her up in his arms.

Kelly, his valet of five years, burst through the door, took one look at them, and immediately pulled out his mobile.

“Is there blood?” his wife whispered.

He sliced his gaze to the bed, finding the sheets pristine. “No.”

“Put her back in bed,” Kelly instructed, “Dr. Grahame is nearby.”

“How bloody nearby?” Really, didn’t they need to go to a hospital?

“She’s coming up the drive as we speak,” Kelly said. “The duchess isn’t bleeding.”

“Show Dr. Grahame up immediately,” Liam ordered as he sat down on the bed with his wife. There was no way in hell he would relinquish his hold on her.

Her fingers tightened on his arm, turning into a death grip that had him wincing.

“It’ll be okay, lass. Everything will be alright,” he murmured to her in Gaelic. “The baby will be a strapping boy. Stubborn like his mother.”

Bella smiled wanly, though he knew she didn’t speak the language, and then grimaced. “Hurry.”

“She’s here. I’ll get her.” Kelly dashed off.

“Just a few minutes more, love,” Liam said. “One time, when I was a boy, I wanted to go swimming in Loch Nairn.”

Bella let out another whimper, and his heart slammed against his chest in fear, but he continued on with his story. It was all he could do.

“But my mother forbid it. It was March, after all, far too cold for a lad of ten. Wouldn’t you know it, but as soon as her back was turned, I set off for that very loch, running the entire way. By the time I got there, I was sweating and the water looked like paradise. I stripped to my bare arse, stuck in a toe, and screamed bloody murder. Then, I slipped on the wet grass and fell in,” He chuckled, despite remembering the millions of pricks of cold along his skin and how it felt as though he was being burned. “My mother yanked me out of the water by the hair, and asked if I enjoyed my swim. I was too stubborn to admit I hadn’t, so I stood there, blue-lipped and shivering so hard that my knees were knocking.”

“Then your mother took you to me, and I fixed you up with a nice hot toddy,” Dr. Grahame said as she joined them by the bed.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” he said, but then Dr. Grahame had always been like that, stealthy and silent. She’d also always had kind, intelligent eyes.

The doctor laid a hand on Bella’s forehead. “You look a bit peaked, dear. How long have the cramps been bothering you?”

“Since I woke up,” Bella said. “Maybe forty minutes.”

Jesus. Liam hugged her, pressing a kiss to her head. “My brave lass.”

“If you’ll allow me to examine your wife, Your Grace, I can better ascertain what’s the matter with her.”

He eyed the doctor for a moment and then let Bella go, settling her on the bed for the doctor to do her work. Since he had nothing to do but worry, he paced and kept his eyes averted while Dr. Grahame examined Bella.

God, he longed for a strong drink.

Bella whimpered again.

Make that several strong drinks.

“The baby’s fine. Your uterus is nice and closed, everything feels as it should,” he heard Dr. Grahame say as she pulled off her gloves and threw them away. “I think you haven’t been drinking as much fluids as you need, and you’re a bit stressed. Would that be a good assessment?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t look so ashamed, dearie. It’s your first pregnancy. You can’t know everything.”

Bella got a funny look on her face, and he stopped pacing. His heart sped up as their eyes met. Her face flushed crimson. “It’s not my first.”

Dr. Grahame glanced at him, and then back at his wife. “Oh. Shall I ask Liam to leave us for a bit while I ask you a few more questions?”

“No.” Her voice was weak, but her gaze on him remained steady. “My husband can stay.”

“How long ago?”

“Eight years, when I was sixteen.”

I haven’t had sex since I was sixteen. That was her damn good reason.

“Did you carry the child to term?”

Tears flooded her eyes. “No, I had a miscarriage when I was four months along.”

Oh, holy hell. She was that far along right now. No damn wonder she was so terrified and particular about everything.

“I’m guessing you’ve been extra careful with this one.”

“Yes. I don’t want to do anything to hurt this one. Not dye my hair, drink the wrong thing… nothing.” Bella swiped away the tears that had fallen on her cheeks while he stood there in complete and utter shock. “The first time… I was stupid. I fell off a four-wheeler and hit the ground pretty hard.” She knocked on her head. “I wore a helmet but that didn’t help.” She ended the word with a gulp.

He watched as the doctor took Bella’s hand in hers. “It’s not your fault.”

Bella cried harder, great sobs that made her nose run and her face turn splotchy. He didn’t think his heart had ever ached so much for another’s pain. “Yes, it is. Heath yelled at me, because he was so mad and scared… and… I should have known better.”

The bastard had yelled at her? If he ever saw him again, he’d give him a reason to yell. They’d been kids for God’s sake. Why in the bloody hell had he blamed her?

Because he’d been a kid, too.

“It’s not your fault,” Dr. Grahame repeated, handing Bella a tissue from her doctor’s bag.

“I can’t forgive myself.” Bella leaned back against the headboard and closed her eyes. “I know I need to, but I can’t.”

“Dr. Grahame, if everything is medically sound with Bella and the baby,” he began, wanting his wife to hear her name first, “then I’d like to let her rest.” While he did care for the child, it wasn’t here yet, and she was. And as soon as the good doctor left, he intended to take Bella into his arms.

Dr. Grahame smiled, as if she could hear his thoughts. “Please come by my office first thing Monday morning. In the meantime, drink lots of fluids and rest, but if you feel worse tomorrow, call me.”

“Thank you,” he said as she left. Immediately, he crossed the room and got in bed with Bella.

Her eyes opened, raw pain fully on display. He held out his arms, and she went into them willingly. He stroked her hair, whispered nonsense, and told her every story he could think of, until he ran out of words. Then he simply held her, until she relaxed against him.

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