Protective Secrets

Here is a sneak peek into the third installment of my Faith in the Valley series for your enjoyment.

PROTECTIVE SECRETS

PS COVER_eBOOK

It’s going to be okay, Sierra. Hang in there. Just keep breathing.” Where are those paramedics? And where’s Chance? Chance Timmons—her supervisor—assured her he was on his way. Sweat beading her brow, she looked around the smoke filled woods, her eyes burning from the wildfire’s hazy evidence. Hopefully, the fire department had the fire under control now.

A moan of agony assaulted her ears, drawing her attention back to her high school best friend as another contraction started. “That’s it, breathe. You’re doing great, Sierra.”

With contractions hitting one right on another like this, it was clear this baby wasn’t going to wait for the paramedics. Think, Hannah, Think. How did the other women she’d assisted handle unexpected deliveries? Was she doing everything right? She’d managed to get Sierra onto an emergency blanket, donned a pair of rubber gloves, had extra towels handy, water… she mentally checked off her list.

I can’t do this!” Sierra’s weak voice sounded during the brief moment between contractions, sending Hannah’s heart rate off the charts.

Yes, you can. Trust me, you and your baby are going to be just fine.” She tried to reassure the young mother-to-be. But even as the words left her mouth she wondered at their truth.

She was so unnaturally thin, especially for someone with child. How long had Sierra been alone in that cabin before Hannah found her? Why hadn’t Sierra reached out for help sooner? The sight of her bruised and battered body twisted Hannah’s stomach in knots. Someone had beaten her severely. But why? Then there was the bigger question—who? Sierra’s poor condition wasn’t in her favor.

Wiping the moisture from Sierra’s brow, Hannah checked Sierra’s vitals again. Sierra’s thready pulse and cool, clammy skin caused worry’s ship to cast anchor into the pit of her stomach. Palms slick with perspiration, Hannah tamped down the fear fogging her thoughts. She guided Sierra through another round of contractions that had Hannah panting along.

A quick peek at Sierra’s gunshot wound showed that the dressing was just as heavily soaked as the first. Hannah didn’t have time to redress the wound, so she just applied more sterile gauzes to pile up the pressure. Who had done this to Sierra?

Lord, what do I do? Show me what I need to do to help them. Keep them safe in Your arms. Guide my hands and actions in a way to help them. Don’t let me make things worse. Amen. She squeezed Sierra’s hand, offering her best attempt at an assuring smile after closing the prayer. She as­sisted when necessary through ten to fifteen minutes of intense labor that seemed to stretch out for two hours.

A hearty scream pierced the air as soon as the baby made an appearance. Red-faced and energetic, he continued howling. Great APGAR score.

Clipping the cord, Hannah held the baby close. Retrieving a clean towel, she wrapped the baby in one and placed him in his mother’s arms. Awe consumed her at not only what she’d witnessed, but that she had played a role in bringing a new life into the world. “Congratulations, Sierra. You have a beautiful son.”

Hannah massaged Sierra’s stomach to encourage contractions in order to deliver the placenta but a large dollop of blood gushed out. Hannah frowned. Sierra’s pale face still beaded with sweat was a pointer that something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Lord, What do I do? Hannah settled the baby somewhere fairly clean. At least, he was content to sleep now. They needed help. Fast! In all the times she’d assisted in deliveries, she hadn’t seen anything like this.

After delivering the placenta, the bleeding continued in a steady state. Hannah checked Sierra’s pulse once again—faint. Not a good sign.

Hannah wiped the moisture from Sierra’s face with a clean towel and unclipped her walkie-talkie. “Sawyer to base. I need medical help—now! My victim can’t wait.” Fear and worry found its way into her voice with desperate urgency. Lord, let them get here in time.

Timmon’s to Sawyer. The paramedics are on their way. ETA fifteen minutes. I’m on my way also. ETA ten minutes,” her supervisor answered.

Please, hurry!”

Upon returning the two-way radio to her belt, she turned her attention to Sierra, who seemed to be fading fast. When Sierra met her gaze she opened her mouth to speak; her voice was barely a whisper, a quiet display of how weak she was. “Hannah, will you do something for me?”

Hannah nodded and tried to smile while holding back the tears, which were threatening to escape. “Sure thing, Sierra.”

There’s a small pamphlet in my backpack. Get it out for me and bring my baby.”

Hannah placed the baby at Sierra’s side and hurried and retrieved the pamphlet. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open when she saw what the sheaf of papers was. “These are adoption papers,” she said, her voice filled with shock.

Smiling weakly, Sierra nodded, wrapped a weak arm around her little son, and kissed him. “I know. I want you to sign them and be my little boy’s mom. God is calling me home to be with Him, so I’m not going to be able to take care of him.”

No, you’re going to be alright, Sierra. Help is on the way.” The tears she’d tried so hard to hold back, now slipped freely down her cheeks.

They won’t be here in time. Please, take care of little Kenneth for me. Keep him safe. I’ve already signed everything I needed to sign. You just have to sign your part and Kenneth will be your son. Hurry, we haven’t got much time,” Sierra pleaded.

Hannah knew she was right. Sierra was slipping fast and she didn’t have the heart to deny the young woman her dying wish. “Okay, I’ll do it.” She quickly signed the necessary spots before turning back to Sierra. “It’s done. Just like you wanted.”

Sierra tried to smile but couldn’t quite pull it off. When she spoke up again, her voice was even softer than before. So soft Hannah had to lean down in order to hear her. Sierra’s words caused the blood to freeze in her veins. Surely she hadn’t heard Sierra correctly, but Sierra’s next words told her that she had, “Promise me that you’ll keep Kenneth safe. Protect him as if he’s your own son because he is your son.”

She swallowed past the lump clogging her throat. “I promise, Sierra.”

Sierra whispered in Kenneth’s ear, “I love you, my precious boy.” With her final breath, she planted a gentle kiss on his cheek.

Hannah couldn’t quench the sobs shaking her body. Taking Kenneth from Sierra’s lifeless arms, she cradled him in her own. She folded the adoption papers and tucked them safely into Ace’s saddle-pack. Staring down at the baby in her arms, she couldn’t quite grasp the fact that she was now a mom. How had her life changed so dramatically only a few hours after getting out of bed this morning?

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