He was still here. Sofie MacKenzie’s heart thumped hard as her feet took her over the threshold into the small private room, before she’d even consciously decided to come in. She knew she shouldn’t be here. She wasn’t a nurse. Or a doctor. She was a cleaner and tea – lady.
And this man was in no position to have tea. He was unconscious and he’d been unconscious since he’d been brought into the small island community hospital a few days ago. He’d been found on a rocky ledge on Galinvach’s famous mountain that people came from all over the world to climb: Ben Kincraig.
He wasn’t a local and he’d had no identifying documents with him or on his person. The climbers who’d found him assumed his bag had disappeared into a crevass.
Apart from a small bump to his head, he had not sustained any other injuries. He just wasn’t waking up.
Sofie was standing at the bottom of the bed now. The man was bare – chested with a tube extending from his hand to a drip nearby. The steady beep beep of the heart monitor was surprisingly comforting. Which was ridiculous because he was a complete stranger.
But, he was all alone – he had no – one here who loved him or knew him, and that struck at Sofie’s heart. She felt an affinity. Even though she’d been born on this island, and lived here all her life, as the only child of parents who had both died within recent years and with no other family to call her own, Sofie had always felt a sense of loneliness and isolation.
It was something that not even good friends could penetrate. It went so deep. And so, she’d found herself gravitating back to this man with no name, pulled by something too strong to resist.
She’d even, over the past couple of days when her shift was over, had found herself sitting with him in the silence, as if to reassure him that someone did care about him.
But then her conscience pricked and she had to acknowledge that her interest wasn’t entirely altruistic.
He was also the most beautiful man she’d ever laid eyes on and his impressive physicality had impacted her like a punch to the gut, in a way no other man had ever affected her.
It was as if she’d been encased in ice all her life and suddenly she was feeling things – sensations, aches and needs, that she’d never experienced before. Her sexuality was finally stirring. At the age of twenty – three.
She knew people on the island jokingly and affectionately referred to her as Sister Sofie, because she’d led such a sheltered existence. Living with two parents who had suffered with various health issues all their lives, had curtailed her movements. They had always favoured being close to home, due to their ill health but also because of a mutual fear of air travel that Sofie had never shared.
So, she’d never really traveled further afield than places one could go via train, or boat. They’d taken a trip to Northern France one summer, when she’d been a teenager. That’s about as exotic as it had got.
When Sofie’s friends had been taking the ubiquitous trip to a holiday island in the sun after graduating from secondary school, her father had been dying, so she couldn’t go. She hadn’t resented it though. She was all her parents had, and she’d felt that responsibility keenly.
Most people her age left the island as soon as it was possible or else they settled down and started a family. She hadn’t done either. She’d been consumed with caring for her dying mother until recently and had only just started to re – emerge from that cocoon of pain.
Maybe, Sofie told herself, that was why she was so transfixed by the figure on the bed. She wasn’t so distracted or full of grief for the first time in a long time. But she knew, if she was being honest, that it was more than that.
Even lying down it was clear that he stood well over six feet and that he had the body of an athlete. There was not an ounce of excess flesh over hard and well – developed muscles.
He had thick dark hair that looked as if it hadn’t been cut lately. Dark eyebrows over deep set eyes. Closed. She wondered what colour they were? Dark, like the rest of him, she imagined, feeling a tiny thrill at the thought of them opening right now, seeking her out. Ridiculous.
He had a strong noble nose. Aquiline.
A growth of heavy stubble covered the lower half of his face but it couldn’t hide the very masculine jaw – line. Or his lips. Sofie’s heart thumped again.
His lips were full and sensual. Almost too pretty to belong to a man. But on a man such as this they were pure provocation. Sinful. Tempting.
Sofie’s gaze skittered away from his mouth, snagging on a tattoo high on his left arm. She didn’t dare look too closely but it resembled some kind of howling animal – a wolf? – within a circle shape.
Unable to help herself, her gaze continued down over his broad chest, covered with a light smattering of dark hair. And down further, over the ridged muscles of his abdomen.
The sheet was pulled up neatly over his hips stopping Sofie’s far too curious gaze from seeing any more.
She turned away in sudden agitation, aghast at her own uncharacteristic behaviour. She went over to the locker and rearranged some items; a glass of water, a box of tissues. As if to justify her reason for being here.
But the fact was that since this man had appeared in the hospital all sense and reason seemed to have left her head, turning her into some kind of a hormonal mess. It wasn’t just her, she knew many of the female staff and some of the men were as fascinated by this dark fallen angel as she was.
Except, dangerously, she felt as if she had some sort of propriety over him. As if only she could understand how lonely he must be. Which was crazy, because being unconscious he was obviously unaware of his state of loneliness. And when he woke up he would immediately call those nearest and dearest to him, making a total mockery of Sofie’s fantastical imaginings.
His dark skin looked even darker against the pristine white sheets. Perhaps it was also the fact that he so obviously wasn’t from here that connected with her. As if he’d appeared from some parallel dimension to lure her away…
Sofie rolled her eyes at herself. The man was unconscious. He was in no position to lure anyone anywhere. She was in danger of losing the plot altogether.
She knew she should leave, but she hesitated for a moment by the bed again. He looked peaceful but she had an impression of a sleeping Panther, full of coiled energy. Just waiting to be unleashed. Her skin prickled with awareness and her gaze fell on his mouth again. The most perfect mouth. She wondered how it would feel to touch? Warm? Firm?
Never in a million years would a woman like her – the epitome of average – get close to a man like this.
A dangerous sense of recklessness pulsed through her, from the core of her body outwards. She’d never felt anything like it. She was overcome with an urgent desire to know what his mouth felt like under hers. Too strong to ignore.
Before reason and sanity could stop her, she bent down and hovered a couple of inches away from the man’s mouth, looking into his face. And then, she closed her eyes and pressed her mouth to his.
It was exactly as she’d imagined, but more. Firmer. But soft. And warm. Lifeblood was in this man, just under the surface. Waiting to be woken. Sofie stayed for a long moment, eyes shut tight, mouth pressed against his, almost willing him to wake so that she could feel him moving under her. Take the kiss from her and turn it into something that she’d never experienced before…
But of course he wasn’t moving and she suddenly realised she had overstepped about a million boundaries, professional and personal. Sofie sprang back, face flaming.
As if coming out of a trance she looked around. The room was still empty. She let out a shuddery breath. She needed to leave now and put this enigmatic stranger out of her addled mind. Good thing that she had two days off coming up, she clearly needed to clear her head.
She was turning away from the bed when suddenly her wrist was grabbed, stopping her. She let out a squeal and looked back at the man on the bed. She might have fallen to the floor in a dead faint if he hadn’t been holding onto her with such a strong grip, keeping her standing there. Captive.
Her first thought was: His eyes aren’t dark, they’re green. And then, his mouth opened. The mouth that she’d just been willing to open under hers. It was too much to take in. Sofie’s head buzzed. Was she dreaming? Hallucinating?
He was frowning. When he spoke it was with deep rough voice, saying something in a guttural language she’d never heard. She wasn’t hallucinating.
She forced herself to suck in air. To focus. ‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’
The man frowned deeper. Awake, he was even more spectacular. His eyes narrowed on her face, focused, and then he said very clearly in English, ‘Where the hell am I?’