“Rose,” Bella said, emotion tightening her voice. “Rose, isn’t that your son?” she asked, urging the woman to lift her head from her shoulder.
Rose glanced up and looked around. Spotting her son, she lifted her hand to her throat. “My baby. My baby,” she said and ran toward him and the medic.
Filled with a range of emotions she couldn’t begin to name, Bella watched Michael as he brushed off a medic. He glanced around the area and the second his gaze landed on her, she felt as if she’d been hit by a thunderbolt.
He moved toward her and she automatically did the same. She looked him over, taking in scrapes and burn marks. He covered a cough. “Come on. I don’t want you around this.”
“Me?” she said. “I’ve been outside just watching. You’re the one who stayed in there too long.”
“I heard that boy calling and couldn’t figure out where he was. I went in every room. I finally tried the closets. There he was. Everyone accounted for?”
“I hope so,” she said and looked around. The crowd around the center was growing. “There’s the volunteer coordinator. Looks like she’s checking off a list.” The woman glanced at her and gave a quick wave.
Michael took her hand. “Let’s make sure everyone is accounted for.” After Michael double-checked everyone’s safety, he answered questions from the police and fire department.
“We can go now,” he said.
“Don’t you think you should let the medic take a look at you?”
“No,” he said. “The press will be here any minute.”
“Are you afraid of the press?” she asked.
“No,” he said with a scowl. “But I like my privacy.”
She studied him for a long moment, taking in his discomfort and realization hit her. “You don’t want them to know you were a hero.”
He scoffed. “I wasn’t a hero. I just heard a screaming kid and dragged him out of the place.”
“A burning building,” she corrected. “And you really should see a medic.”
“Enough,” he said, tugging her with him. “Since you’re so concerned about my injuries, you can take care of them when we get home.”
“What about my car?” she asked as he led her to his SUV.
“I’ll send one of my drivers to collect it,” he said and stuffed her inside.
An hour later, after Michael had taken a shower, wincing as the water sluiced over his scrapes and burns, he wrapped a towel around his waist and walked into his bedroom to the sight of Bella standing beside his bed. She must have showered also because her hair was damp and she’d changed clothes.
She gestured toward the bed and he noticed she’d placed a sheet on top of his bedspread.
“You have plans for me?” he asked, his body quickening despite his soreness.
She lifted a tube and a small bottle. “Antibiotic ointment for your boo-boos and eucalyptus oil for your massage.” She turned on a CD that played soothing sounds of nature and gentle tones.
“Massage,” he said in approval.
“I’m not licensed, but I’ve learned a little on my own.” She waved her hand briskly. “On the bed,” she commanded.
“Sounds like an order,” he said reclining.
“It was,” she said, a smile playing over her lips as she studied his face and began to dab ointment on his scrapes. She slid her hands over his shoulders, arms and hands, making hmm sounds.
Michael was accustomed to having a woman’s sexual attention, but Bella’s tender touch seemed to reach deeper than his skin. When was the last time someone besides himself had taken care of his scrapes? He couldn’t remember. Why did it matter? As she began to rub the fragrant oil into his shoulders, he felt as if a stream of water was trickling through parts of him left dry and abandoned for ages. He wasn’t sure he liked the sensation.
He watched her brow furrow as she worked his right shoulder from the front. “Are you always this tense?”
He winced when she hit a sore spot. “I had to pull off the door to the closet. It was stuck.”
She pursed her lips in disapproval. “You didn’t mention that. Anything else I should know?”
“No. Why are you doing this?” he asked, studying the intent expression on her face.
“Because it needs to be done and you wouldn’t take the time for it.” He was a complex man, she thought. Far more complicated than she’d suspected. Full of layers that made her curious. She wondered about his secrets as she rubbed his shoulders.
“There’s a difference between need and want.”