The cramp in his leg twinged. Slowly he started pulling it away to relieve it. Randi murmured something too softly to hear. She was warm. Too warm, Collin realized, becoming alarmed. He tried to look down at her but the darkness was prohibitive.
"House. Ambient light."
A moment passed for his eyes to adjust before he could examine her more closely. She was radiating more heat with each passing second. Now he could see a fine sheen of perspiration coating her skin. Her face had turned a bright pink. She was flushed, and her body was literally throwing off heat in waves.
Alarmed, Collin hoisted himself up on one elbow. He reached over to wake her when a thin moan of pain escaped her. Suddenly she gasped and cried out.
"Randi! Randi, what’s the matter?" He frantically shook her arm.
Her lashes fluttered open. The dazed sleepiness in her eyes was rapidly being replaced with pain as the fire raging through her body. The burning sensation was uncontrollable and growing hotter, and spreading with each breath. She gasped again as sweat beaded and rolled off of her body.
"What, Randi? I’m here! Tell me what to do!" He felt totally helpless. Her agony was killing him. "Randi!"
"I…oh, God! Stop it! Stop the hurt!" She began to sob; her shoulders jerked in his hands. "Help me, Collin!"
"How? Tell me what to do, Randi!" Panic was setting in, no matter how hard he fought it. His one was being racked with pain he couldn’t fight, couldn’t defend her against. She was curling into herself now as her body burned incessantly. She was dying, he realized. She was dying in front of his eyes, and there was nothing he could do to help—
She drank the IDA?
She drank quite a bit of IDA. That’s all I can tell.
Collin nearly fell off of the bed when his father’s words rang in his ears.
Get her the IDA!
She’s dying, Collin!
Like a madman, he hurried out of the bedroom, ignoring the nearby animal that raised its head in alarm. Rushing into the kitchen, he grabbed the jug from the cold box. A mug sat near the sink. Without thinking he snatched it and ran back into the bedroom.
"House! Full light!"
Randi was still curled into herself. Her skin looked as if she had been baked, reddened to the point of second-degree burns. She had stopped weeping and was lying there nearly comatose.
"Randi! Drink this, my one. Randi! Wake up!" He poured the tonic into the mug, dropping the jug on the floor by the bed as he reached for her. "RANDI! Please…please! Drink this!"
Sliding his arm underneath her shoulders, he lifted her head enough to bring the mug to her lips. Her lashes fluttered as the cold liquid touched her lips.
"Drink, Randi! Drink!"
Some of the reddish IDA went into her mouth. More trickled down her chin and out of one corner of her lips. But she reacted to its taste and to its effects. She gasped, and immediately began choking as the tonic slid down her airway.
He waited for her to stop coughing before forcing more into her mouth. All the while he continued to talk to her, urging her to drink, nearly shouting at her to take more.
Nearly a minute went by before he started to notice the change in her. She was cooling down, and her skin was losing its burnt red color. Massive waves of heat no longer poured from her. But he continued to give her the IDA until the mug was empty. Then he gently laid her back down on the sweat-soaked sheets.
The house rustled.
"House. No emergency."
He couldn’t have the house call for assistance, or allow anyone to know she was rejecting this world. Not this soon. Not when there was still so much he wanted to show her, and share with her, and love with her.
Collin tried to slow his heart rate, taking calmer breaths as the crisis passed. Realizing he still was clutching the empty mug, he placed it on the floor and crawled over the mussed covers to pull Randi into his arms.
Her skin color was almost back to normal. Her breathing was regular, and her temperature felt the way it should be. The IDA had worked again. By whatever miracle was contained in its mixture, it had kept her from going into shock and dying. Holding her tightly, he kissed her moist forehead. He was trembling from knowing how close he had come to losing her.
"Collin?" Her voice was soft, weak, but clear.
"Randi, that was too close. Too close. I nearly lost you." His throat constricted with unshed tears. Pressing another kiss to her forehead, Collin looked down to see her staring up at him. Her eyes were bright; her mind was lucid.
"Don’t tell anyone. Please? Don’t let them know I’m already having rejection fits."
He shook his head. "I won’t, my one. Not until we have no choice. I promise."
He pulled her more tightly into his arms and cradled her face beneath his chin. Near the open door he could hear Bud padding into the room. The beast slowly eased over to the bed and propped its huge head on the foot of the mattress. Huge, white eyes watched them attentively. It seemed to sense something had happened, but that all was well again, back to where it should be.
Her unspoken request made him chuckle. It had been a while since breakfast. It had been a full morning…and then some.
"I had planned on taking you shopping for some new clothes first," he confessed. "But you’re right. Food, then clothes. Anything else you need?"
"Yeah." Soft lips brushed his throat. "A quick spit bath before we go. I feel sticky, and I probably smell just as bad."
"You got it. One spit bath, followed by some good food. On one condition, my one," he emphasized, holding up a finger.
She grinned. "Like I have a choice? What is it?"
"I get to bathe you."
Her grin widened. "That sounds like fun!"
Getting up from the bed, Collin went around to the other side to pick her up. "Trust me, Randi. I’ll make sure I do a thorough job."