He shook his head immediately. “No, I can’t. I’m sending out samples of last year’s vintage to restaurants around the country and I’ve got couriers coming and going all morning. I won’t be able to keep an eye on Ruby, as well.”
It was true, he justified to himself. The risks to Ruby if she was down in the winery with him were untold. A moment’s inattention and she could get into serious mischief and his day was already too busy and structured to accommodate an active baby. Add to that the additional traffic that would be on the lane and the whole exercise would be a nightmare.
Contrition stung at the back of his mind as he saw Alexis accept the news. The frown on her forehead deepened.
“Okay, I’ll just work around her, then,” she said flatly.
“Can you change your appointment? What is it, anyway?”
She looked at him and for a moment he thought she looked scared. The urge to protect her from whatever the problem was filled him but was beaten back by the self-reproach he felt at not being willing to take Ruby for her.
She gave him a shaky smile, one that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “No, don’t worry, it’s nothing important. I’ll work something out. Are you heading down to the winery office now?”
“I’ll be in my study here for a short while, then I’ll go down to the winery.”
She gave a little sigh. “I’ll see you later on today, then.”
“Yeah, sure. I should be all done by three.”
He left the kitchen and started down the hall but his steps slowed before he reached the study. Something wasn’t right. Alexis hadn’t been herself for days now. Possibly even a couple of weeks. At least since the day she’d been to see Catherine with Ruby. He cast his mind back. She’d been worried then about something Catherine had said. Obviously it was still playing on her. He made a mental note to pursue it with her this afternoon.
From his study window he saw Alexis leave the house about a half hour later. She put Ruby in her car seat in the back of the car and buckled her in, just as she always did. Something wasn’t right, though. Alexis moved more slowly than usual, more carefully. He continued watching as she went around the back of the car and put the diaper bag in the trunk before walking around to the driver’s door.
Something definitely wasn’t right. She leaned against the car, her hand to her stomach, then her legs collapsed beneath her.
He was out of his chair and flying toward the front door before he saw her hit the driveway. She was already stirring when he reached her side.
“Are you all right? What happened?” he demanded, his eyes roaming her pale features as her eyelids fluttered open.
“I need to see the doctor, Raoul. Can you take me, please?”
“I’ll call an ambulance.”
He had his cell phone out in his hand, his thumb already poised over the emergency call button. A wave of sick fear swamped him, making his hand shake, along with an awful sense of déjà vu. The last time he’d felt this scared, this totally helpless, was when Bree had gone into labor with Ruby.
Alexis’s hand closed over his. “No, the medical center in town. They’re expecting me—it’s the appointment I told you about. Please, just take me there.”
“Are you sure?”
“Please, let’s just go.”
He helped her up to her feet and shepherded her into the back of the car, with Ruby who was now beginning to fret.
“Not now, Ruby,” he said sternly as he helped Alexis with her safety belt. “I need you to be good for me.”
To his surprise, the baby stopped and popped her thumb in her mouth. Her big blue eyes stared straight at him. A tickle of relief that he wouldn’t have to deal with a crying baby on top of his concern for Alexis flickered on the periphery of his mind.
“That’s a good girl,” he said absently before giving his sole attention to Alexis again. “Are you comfortable?”
“Enough for now,” she answered weakly. “Can we go?”
He closed her door and then got into the driver’s seat, adjusting the rearview mirror so he could keep an eye on her in back. Her face was still pale and her big brown eyes met his in the mirror. She looked frightened and identifying that look on her constantly cheerful and indomitable face terrified him.
The drive to the clinic was short and Alexis was already struggling out of her seat even as he flew out of his to come and assist her. She waved him away.
“Let me go, I’ll be all right getting in there. Just see to Ruby.”