She shifted, trying to sit up but quickly fell back when her body protested.
The sun had sunk in the sky and dusk wasn’t far off. For the first time, fear prickled down her spine. Why hadn’t they found her yet? She had no desire to be here after dark. Damn it, she wanted to go home and spend the night in the arms of the men she loved.
A sound had her turning her head upward. She strained to hear. Had she heard her name?
The harsh shout grew closer.
She struggled to try and free her foot to no avail. Knowing she had no choice but to hope they would hear her, she threw back her head and yelled as loudly as she could.
A few seconds later, dirt and rock rained down on her head.
“Ryan! I’m down here!” she shouted hoarsely.
A few seconds later, Ryan slid down the incline. Before she could utter a sound, he pulled her into his arms. “Oh my God, Holly, are you all right? What happened?”
His hands shook as he stroked over her body, touching her, reassuring himself that she was okay. He reached down and fumbled with the radio clipped to his hip.
“Adam, Ethan, I’ve found her. She fell down the incline behind the barn. Up where she likes to sit.”
He tossed the radio to the side even as the others responded that they were on their way.
“Are you hurt?” he asked anxiously. “What happened?”
“My foot is caught,” she said. “I twisted my ankle. I couldn’t get it free. And I think I pulled my shoulder out, but I can move it so I don’t think it’s bad.”
Ryan bent over her trapped foot and gently pried it loose. He ran his fingers over the tender areas. “I don’t think it’s broken,” he said, relief evident in his voice. “It’s swollen, but it looks to just be a sprain.”
Her breath caught as her belly tightened again, this time much more painful than before. “Oh!”
Ryan yanked his gaze to her, worry creasing his brow. “What’s wrong?”
A sudden gush of wetness surged between her legs. Followed by yet another spasm low in her belly. Oh God, she was so stupid. She was in labor. Wasn’t it supposed to hurt more than this? All she’d felt was a mild discomfort. Minor tightening, but the problem was she’d been feeling it all day. Had she been in labor that long?
“Ryan, I think my water just broke.” She tried to keep the anxiety out of her voice but knew she failed miserably. “And it hurts. I think I’m in labor.”
Ryan paled. “How long?”
“All day, I think.”
He cursed long and hard. “Why didn’t you say anything?” he demanded. “Why did you come out here?”
Tears filled her eyes as another contraction left her breathless. “I didn’t know,” she gasped out as a tear spilled over onto her cheek. “I didn’t realize. I’m sorry.”
He gathered her in his arms and rocked back and forth. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I was just so scared. God, we couldn’t find you anywhere. I was so afraid of losing you.” He raised his head and looked around. “God damn it, where are they?”
She stiffened in his arms again and moaned softly as another contraction struck.
Ryan’s hand shook as he checked his watch. “That wasn’t even two minutes from the last.”
Holly and Ryan both looked upward as Adam shouted down to them.
“Down here! I’ll need help getting her back up,” Ryan called. He looked at Holly and squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry, love. We’ll take care of you.”
She squeezed back. “I know you will.”
Adam slid down a few seconds later and knelt beside Holly, deep concern etched in his face. “Are you okay, baby?”
“She’s in labor, Adam.”
Adam jerked around to Ryan. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Holly said dryly.
“Fuck,” Adam swore. “We’ve got to get her the hell out of her and down the mountain.”
She raised a hand and gently cupped his cheek. “There isn’t time.”
“What do you mean there is
n’t time?” Adam demanded.
“Her contractions are too close together,” Ryan said grimly. “I think she’s close.”
Adam’s face drained of color and panic flared in his eyes. Ethan shouted from the top, and Adam hollered back, “Stay there. We’re bringing her up.”
Adam bent and gently scooped Holly into his arms. He nodded toward Ryan. “Climb up, we’ll have to relay her up. I don’t want to take a chance on falling with her.”
Ryan scrambled up the slope, stopping several feet up. He dug his feet into the soil and reached down for Holly. Adam carefully moved upward until he reached Ryan. Then he eased Holly into his brother’s arms before scrambling ahead of him.
When they reached the top, Ethan reached down for her, hugging her tightly against his chest. His breaths came ragged and his heart pounded against her cheek.
“Thank God you’re all right,” Ethan whispered as he kissed her forehead.
“She’s in labor,” Adam said shortly as he and Ryan climbed up beside Ethan.
Ethan’s grip tightened around her. “Go get her things. I’ll take her to the Rover.”
“There’s no time.”
“What do you mean there’s no time?” Ethan demanded.
“It’ll have to be here,” Adam said quietly. “Her contractions are coming too close. We don’t have time to get her into town.”
Holly moaned as another contraction, this one much stronger than the last, ripped across her belly.
Ethan swore and took off across the ground at a fast pace. Adam and Ryan hurried ahead toward the cabin.
“Ethan, I’m okay,” she gasped out. “You don’t need to worry.”
He pressed another kiss to her forehead as they neared the cabin. “I’ll always worry about you, doll.”
When they entered the house, Adam and Ryan rushed into the bedroom. “Put her here,” Adam directed, motioning toward the bed. “We need to assess the situation. Ryan, you get on the phone and see if we can’t get the midwife up here pronto.”
Ethan set her down on the bed as another contraction gripped her. She closed her eyes, clenching her teeth. For something that hadn’t been painful throughout the day, it sure was making up for lost time now.
Adam smoothed worried hands over her face, pushing her disheveled hair from her eyes. “I’m going to strip you down, baby. I need to see what’s going on.”
She nodded and sucked in another breath as another pain followed closely on the heels of the last.