The next morning, after checking into the Victoria Hotel, northeast of Cork City, and reaching our room, Erik insisted on finding a local doctor immediately. He called down to the desk, and spent a few minutes talking to the concierge, Mr. Casey, an unctuous, weaselly little man who made me want to bathe after talking to him. When he was finished, he turned to me.
“There’s a Doctor O’Brien not far from here.” He picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Hello, my name is Erik Desmond. My wife and I are in the area temporarily, and I would like to know if the doctor could see her today. Yes. About five months. No, we’ve been on the sea for quite a while. Yes, when it was possible. Fantastic! Thank you. We’re at the Victoria Hotel. How long should it take to get there? Okay. Thank you. We’ll see you in an hour.” He hung up and dialed the front desk again. “Yes, I will need a car and driver out front in half an hour. Thank you.”
“Erik,” I said softly, “I’m fine. You don’t need to worry about me.”
He came to where I was sitting on the bed and knelt down. He put one hand on my abdomen and looked up at me. “Sarah, you were bleeding. I don’t know much about pregnant women, but I do know that’s not a good thing. And don’t you dare tell me not to worry about you. That’s like telling me not to breathe.”
I nodded, choosing not to say anything when I saw true fear in his eyes. He stayed where he was for a long time, rubbing my belly and whispering. I still had no idea what he was saying to our baby, but it was calming, and I was content to just watch him. After a while, he kissed my belly and stood up. He moved to our luggage and started unpacking. I started to get up to help him, but he held up a finger.
“Stay there, Sarah. You are not going to do anything until the doctor says you can.”
He frowned at me. “No! I will not risk losing you or the baby.” He turned away and muttered something under his breath as he continued unpacking.
“What did you just say?”
He hung his head and gripped the edge of the bureau. “Fine, I said that if anything happens to you, I’ll die.”
I stood up and moved to him. He turned an angry look at me, but I simply took one of his hands and kissed it softly. “Erik, nothing is going to happen to me. It was just a little bit of blood. I’m sure everything is just fine.”
He caught his breath, and when I looked up at him, the fear had returned to his expression. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Sarah, I can’t lose you. I won’t survive it.” I wrapped my arms around his waist, and he held me tightly. “I love you so much,” he said, fisting his hands in my dress. “I can’t lose you.”
“Erik, you’re not going to lose me or the baby. We’re both going to be okay.”
“But how do you know that?”
I smiled up at him and then rose up on my toes to kiss him. “Call it woman’s intuition. I just know.”
“Even so, I’ll feel much better when the doctor tells me that.” He pulled his watch from his pocket and clicked it open. “Come on, the car will be here soon.” He took my hand, and we walked out the door. When we reached the street, there was a black car parked there with a liveried driver standing by the door.
“Mr. and Mrs. Desmond?”
“Yes,” Erik said shortly.
The driver tipped his hat. “William MacCarthy at your service, sir, ma’am. Where can I take you?” He had the same Irish brogue I had heard from everyone since arriving in Cork.
“Doctor Edward O’Brien’s office, please. Do you know where it is?”
“Oh, yes, sir.” The driver looked at me and smiled. “Just about everyone in Cork knows Doc O’Brien. He probably delivered every person in the county under the age of thirty.” He opened the back door, and Erik helped me in before sliding in next to me. Mr. MacCarthy shut the door and got in behind the wheel. “I’ll have you there in about twenty minutes, sir.”
Erik’s tone was clipped, and I took his hand. He looked down at me, and I smiled at him, but he didn’t return it. Instead, he started tracing circles on the back of my hand with his thumb as he stared out the window at the buildings passing by.
“Not now, Sarah. Please.”
An uncomfortable silence filled the car for a few minutes until the driver cleared his throat. “May I ask you a question, sir?”
“I don’t mean to pry, sir, but are you the artist, Erik Desmond?”
Erik’s eyes shifted to the front seat of the car, and he frowned slightly. “I am.”
I was watching my husband. I knew he was worried about me, but I didn’t understand why he was being so curt with a man he didn’t even know.
“I thought so. I was in Dublin about three months ago, and I read a newspaper article about your wedding.”
My eyebrows went up, and I said, “We were in an Irish newspaper?”
“Of course, ma’am,” the driver chuckled. “Rich Americans and their marriages are practically a national pastime for some people here. They want to know who married who, how much the new couple is worth, that sort of thing. My sister happens to be one of those people.” He glanced over his shoulder at me with a grin. “You two are almost like American royalty to her, ma’am.”
Erik scoffed and returned his attention to the window. I dropped my gaze to our hands, wondering what was wrong with him. I gently squeezed his hand, and he did return that, but he kept his face turned away.
Soon, we pulled up in front of a small, detached building in what looked like a commercial part of the city.
“Would you like me to wait for you, Mr. Desmond?” Mr. MacCarthy asked as he opened the door.
“Yes.” Erik helped me out, and without another word for the driver, guided me into the doctor’s office with a hand on my lower back.
“Erik, what is the matter with you?” I said quietly. “You were very rude to our driver.”
A muscle twitched in his jaw. “I didn’t like the way he was looking at you.”
“What are you talking about?” I hissed, but he shook his head as we came to the receptionist’s desk.
“Mr. and Mrs. Erik Desmond to see Doctor O’Brien, please.” I was happy to hear that he could moderate his tone when he tried, but I was still confused.
“Of course, sir,” the plump woman in white said with a smile. “Please have a seat, and the doctor will be out in a moment.” She gestured at a row of chairs by the door, and we sat.
“Now,” I said, turning to Erik, “tell me what’s wrong.”
“You really didn’t notice?”
“Notice what?” I sounded exasperated, which was perfect since that was how I felt.
“He was ogling you, Sarah. From the moment we stepped out of the hotel, he could barely keep his eyes off you. Always when you couldn’t see, apparently, but I could.”
I sighed, leaned back in the chair, and closed my eyes. “Erik, I think you were imagining things.”
“Do you? Well, pay attention when we leave and see if you still think that.”
I rested my head against his shoulder. “Even if he was, my darling husband, you know you have nothing to be jealous about, right?”
“I’m not jealous, Sarah. I’m mad that he would have so little regard for the fact that you are a married woman, and a pregnant one at that! I’m mad that he would stare at you like that right in front of me!”
Nodding, I took his hand. “I understand, Erik, but promise me that you’ll simply report him to the hotel and not take matters into your own hands.”
“I won’t hurt him if that’s what you mean. Although I would really like to.”
“But you won’t, right?”
“No,” he said, raising my hand to his lips, “I won’t, I promise. Not unless he crosses the line and does something really stupid.”
I was about to answer when the door next to the receptionist opened and an elderly man in a white coat came out. His hair was pure white, and he had a face that reminded me of my grandfather. His smile was kind, and he walked over to us. We both stood as he held out his hand.
“Mr. Desmond, it’s very nice to meet you. Doctor O’Brien.”
Erik shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you, sir.”
The doctor looked me over briefly and also shook my hand. “Mrs. Desmond, shall we go in the back?”
I nodded and looked up at Erik, but his face was stony. I kissed his cheek and said, “Don’t worry.”
He just looked at me, squeezed my hand, and sat back down.
I followed Doctor O’Brien through the door into an examination room. He sat me down on the bed and pulled up a wheeled stool and sat.
“Now, what can I do for you?”
“Well, we were traveling here, and I noticed a little blood yesterday when I was getting dressed in the morning.”
“Yes, we’ve been sailing around the world.”
“I see.” Doctor O’Brien had a clipboard in his hand, and he made some notes. “How long have you been sailing?”
“About three and a half months.”
“And no other problems?”
“No, sir. I had some nausea early on, but that’s gone now.”
He waved his hand dismissively. “Absolutely nothing abnormal about that. Take off your shoes and lie down for me, please.”
“You don’t want me to put on a gown?”
“No, that’s not necessary. I can do everything I need to with you dressed just like that.”
I kicked off my shoes and lay back on the bed, and the doctor draped a lightweight blanket over my lower half before sticking his head out of the door. “Nurse Kavanagh, can I get some assistance, please?”
He smiled at me. “I find that ladies usually appreciate another woman in the room during these exams.”
Moments later, a young woman with fiery red hair and the most gorgeous green eyes I had ever seen entered the room.
“Can you please take Mrs. Desmond’s vitals for me?”
“Of course, Doctor.”
The nurse busied herself with taking my temperature, pulse, and blood pressure while the doctor raised my dress so that my belly was bare. He pulled a tape measure from his pocket and took some measurements, making more notes on his clipboard.
“Temperature 37.2 degrees, blood pressure 115 over 75, pulse 73,” the nurse said, and the doctor wrote some more.
“Thank you,” he said as he lightly pressed his fingers on my belly. “Any pain, Mrs. Desmond?”
“Good, good. Now, tell me about this blood. How much was there?”
“Not much. There were only a few small spots.”
“Was that the only bleeding you’ve had?”
He pulled his stethoscope from around his neck and listened to my belly for a moment.
“All right. I’m going to examine you now. I need you to put your feet on the bed and just relax.”
I did as he asked, and I tried to relax as the exam started, but I wasn’t having much luck.
“Can I ask you a question, Mrs. Desmond?” Nurse Kavanagh pulled up another wheeled stool and sat by my head. I knew she was trying to distract me, and I was grateful.
“Of course. What do you want to know?”
“What is it like being married to such a fabulous artist like Mr. Desmond?”
My eyebrows rose. “You know who we are?”
“Oh, yes,” she sighed. “Your wedding was reported on over here, and I just think you’re the luckiest girl in the world.”
I smiled at her. “I happen to agree with that. Erik is a wonderful person, and I love him very much. He’s dedicated to his work, and sometimes that means he’s a little distracted, but it’s worth it.”
She leaned close to me. “And he’s so handsome,” she whispered as if telling me a secret. “I dared a peek while he was waiting out there, and his eyes are stunning.”
My smile grew. “Yes, they are. I am very lucky to have him.”
“Are the rumors about his childhood true?”
“That depends. What are the rumors?”
“Well, I’ve heard that his parents were very cruel and that he had to run away from them. That’s why he ended up in New York.”
I frowned deeply. “No, that is not true. His mother was a very loving person, and she died when he was sixteen. He went to New York after his foster father died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t say I believed it; it’s just what I heard.”
“Enough gossip, Nurse,” the doctor said stiffly.
“Yes, Doctor,” she said sheepishly.
“Well, Mrs. Desmond, based on my measurements, I’d say you are about three months along, which means your baby should be born sometime in late January or early February. I don’t see anything that is cause for concern right now, but I’d like to see you again in another week if that would work for you. I’d like to make sure everything is still going well.”
“Our plan was to stay here until the beginning of November, Doctor. We’re at the Victoria Hotel right now, but my husband is thinking of looking for a house to rent for a couple of months. He said he’s tired of hotels.”
He smiled and held out his hand to help me sit up. Nurse Kavanagh helped me put my shoes back on, and I stood up.
“I’d like to see you each month until you leave, Mrs. Desmond. Before you leave Ireland, if you’d like to, you should be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat.”
“That would be amazing. Thank you, Doctor.”
“You are welcome, Mrs. Desmond.” We got back to the front room, and Erik immediately stood up. His face was calm but his eyes were worried.
“Doctor?” he asked.
“Everything seems just fine, Mr. Desmond. The bleeding concerns me a little bit, and I’d like to see your wife again next week just to make sure nothing is wrong. Now, just take it easy until then, and I think everything will be just fine.”
Erik breathed a sigh of relief, and he put his arm around my shoulder as he shook the doctor’s hand. “Thank you, Doctor,” he said. “You have really made me feel better.”
“I’m glad for that,” the doctor said. “An anxious father means an anxious mother, and that’s not good for her or the baby. Will the same time next week work for you?”
“Yes, sir, that will be good,” Erik said, and we left the office.
Mr. MacCarthy jumped out of the driver’s seat when he saw us exit, and I watched him closely. Sure enough, his eyes stayed on me longer than they should have, even traveling down to my legs, and I frowned as Erik’s hand tightened around my shoulder. When we were in the car and on our way back to the hotel, I snuggled up to Erik, and he held me close, even as he clenched his teeth and once again stared out the window.
“Remember, you promised, Erik,” I said, knowing what he was thinking.
“I know I did,” he said tightly.
Nothing more was said until we pulled up in front of the hotel, and when we walked inside, Mr. MacCarthy’s eyes on me the entire way, Erik looked at me and said, “Will you go up to the room if I ask you to?”
“No, but I’ll wait here for you while you talk to Mr. Casey.”
He frowned. “I guess that’s the best I’ll get, isn’t it?”
I reached up and brushed my fingers over his forehead. “Yes, it is. Now go.”
He spun toward the concierge’s desk, and I made my way to a chair by a fireplace. The flames heated the air nicely, and I sat in such a position that I could still see Erik. He was standing straight and stiff, and, although I couldn’t see his face, the expression on Mr. Casey’s told me that it was not good. The little man barely came to Erik’s shoulder, and he bobbed his head up and down at whatever Erik was saying. His watery eyes went wide, he glanced at me with a frown, and he nodded again. Erik stalked back to me and pulled me to my feet.
“Let’s go,” he said, and I knew he was furious.
When we got to the room, he slammed the door and fisted his hands on it. I went to him and tried to calm him down, but he was as rigid as steel. Eventually, I got him to sit down on the bed, and I climbed on behind him. I started to massage his neck, and his muscles were so tight that I thought they must hurt.
“It’s all right, Erik. The hotel will deal with Mr. MacCarthy, I’m fine, and the baby is fine. Relax.”
I could tell he was trying to, but every once in a while, he would tense up again. I stopped the massage and moved around him until I was sitting on his lap. I picked up his hand and placed it on my belly.
“I have some good news,” I said, rubbing his hand over me and gazing into his eyes.
“What is it?” He was still frowning slightly, and I kissed him.
“Doctor O’Brien said that we can hear the baby’s heartbeat before we leave Ireland.”
At that, Erik’s face finally lost its frown, and he grinned, the first smile I’d seen from him since Spain; my heart skipped a beat.
I nodded. “He also said the baby should be born in late January or early February.”
“Well, we should be back in New York long before then.” He kissed me and then set me on my feet. “Come on,” he said, standing up and taking my hand. “Let’s see what’s within walking distance around here.”