Adam peeled away her clothing, taking care with her injuries. Ethan hovered by the bed, his face a study in panic.
“Oh God, Adam, I feel like I need to push!”
Adam tossed her pants aside and took stock of the wide, panicked eyes that stared up at him. His own gut was clenched with so much anxiety he couldn’t even think straight. But he knew he had to be calm for Holly and try to make her as much at ease as possible.
“Listen to me, baby. I need you to try and calm down and breathe deep. Don’t push yet if you can keep from it.”
Ryan strode back in. “She’s on her way, but it’s going to be a while.”
“We don’t have a while,” Adam muttered.
“What are we going to do?” Ethan asked as he walked over to join his brothers. “I don’t have a clue about delivering babies!”
Adam shrugged, working to keep the clawing panic from his voice. “We’ve delivered foals. It can’t be that different.”
Holly raised her head from the bed and leveled a disgruntled look at him. “You did not just compare me to a horse.”
He grinned, feeling the tightness recede from his chest just a bit. They could do this. They would do this. Holly was depending on them.
“Ryan, you go get behind her and do your best to keep her calm,” he said in a low voice. Ethan you and I need to wash up then you have to find me some supplies. I need something to clamp the umbilical cord, and I need one of those bulb syringes we have in the medical box outside. Get whatever else you think we need because I can’t think straight to save my life. And hurry the hell up.”
Ryan sat behind Holly, his arms around her, hands resting on her belly. She leaned back into his chest, her back cradled in his pelvis. He moved one hand up to push her hair from her face as another contraction seized her body.
She trembled in his arms, and it was all he could do not allow his fear to override all else.
When he’d returned to the house after exercising the horses, he hadn’t been able to find her anywhere. In that moment, a whole host of terrifying scenarios ran through his mind. Crazy, insane ideas, but they’d scared him nonetheless.
Her ex-husband had escaped from jail. Or maybe he’d hired someone else to kill her.
It brought back the memories of the night he’d lain helpless on the floor while Holly had been taken from him. His inability to save her, the fact that he’d failed her when she needed him most.
He closed his eyes and buried his lips in her hair. The sting of tears burned his eyelids, and he took deep steadying breaths to try and remain in control of his emotions. He wouldn’t fall apart. Not now. Not when she needed him to be strong. He wouldn’t fail her again.
“Breathe, baby. Deep breaths. That’s it,” Adam encouraged.
Adam was positioned between her legs while Ethan hovered over his shoulder.
“Oh God, it hurts!” she cried.
Her back arched and Ryan could feel the tension in her body, like a rubber band at full stretch.
“You’re crowning, baby. We’re almost there. Close your mouth. Breathe in through your nose then hold it and push. One long push. Let’s see our baby.”
At Adam’s calm direction, she quieted. Ryan could feel her suck in a deep breath and then she bore down.
“That’s it, love,” Ryan whispered in her ear.
Ryan’s hands cupped her belly, trying to infuse his strength into her.
“That’s it!” Adam said in an excited voice. “Come on, baby, one more good push. You can do it.”
An agonized rasp tore from Holly’s throat and Ryan hurt for her. He ached. Felt her effort. Lived it with her. God, he wished he could take her pain. He’d do anything for her not to suffer like this.
“Okay, rest a minute,” Adam urged. “The head is out. That’s the hard part. Let me suction and then we’ll work on getting our baby the rest of the way here.”
Ryan looked down to see a wide grin splitting his older brother’s face. Behind him, Ethan stood, his face alight with amazement, with awe.
“I need to push again, Adam.”
There was panic in her voice as if she wasn’t quite sure what she should be doing. Ryan kissed her hair and rubbed her belly with his hands, wanting to do something to offer her comfort.
Adam reached up and squeezed one of her hands. “Go on and push, baby. One more good push and we’ll be done.”
Holly’s back arched once more and every muscle in her body tensed. Then she relaxed, much like a wilted balloon. She fell back into his arms, like a limp noodle. She breathed raggedly, her chest rising and falling with exertion.
Ryan looked down once more and met his brother’s eyes.
“It’s a boy,” Adam whispered. “We have a son!”
A tear rolled down Ryan’s cheek and he hastened to shrug it away with his shoulder.
Ethan crowded in and Adam held the squirming, slippery bundle up for Ethan to take.
“Can you take care of the cord?” Adam asked. “I’ll need to make sure she delivers the placenta.”