Title: Finding Lyla
Author: Cate Beauman
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Author: Cate Beauman
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Principal Dancer Lyla Markovik-Avery is always on the go. Grueling practices and endless performances rule her busy days—and things are about to get more hectic. Russia is rolling out the red carpet for their beloved star, despite the string of violent terrorist attacks that have rocked the nation.
Bodyguard Collin Michaels’ life is falling apart. His long-time relationship recently ended. He’s trying to start over, but that’s easier said than done. Luckily, Collin has a new assignment on the horizon: keeping a beautiful ballerina safe for the next three weeks.
Collin finds comfort in Lyla’s easy friendship, but that all changes after a night out on the town. Simple feelings become complicated—something Collin can’t afford, especially when tragedy strikes and Collin realizes Lyla’s caught in the middle of a dangerous plot for revenge.
Collin and Lyla are forced to flee. They need to reach the border before it’s too late, but the odds are stacked against them in a country that wants them dead. With time running out, Collin formulates a risky plan that might be their only chance of making it out alive.
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Jonathan’s heart raced as the steady rhythm of the machines tracking his wife’s vitals filled the operating suite.
“Hold me tighter,” Mina whispered as she stared up at him and nervously licked her dry lips.
“You’re doing great. He or she will be here before we know it,” he reassured her, sliding his fingers down Mina’s smooth neck and shoulder, one of the few places he could touch on their side of the bluish-green curtain.
“I can’t stop shaking.”
He glanced at Mina’s delicate, trembling arms strapped into place on the table, as if she were affixed to a cross, and he felt his pulse kick up another notch with his sense of helplessness. “It’s cold in here.” He smiled, kissing Mina’s nose and brushing at the silky blond wisps of hair escaping her surgical cap. “Soon this will be over and we’ll finally get to meet the little one who’s been kicking you for months.” He smiled again as Mina did, doing his best to reassure her while his stomach continued its greasy roil.
For hours, they’d waited for their new son or daughter. For hours, Mina had endured the excruciating pain of labor and the frustrations of endlessly attempting to push their child into the world, until the baby’s heart rate took a dangerous dip that had yet to recover. Only minutes had passed since the doctors and nurses rushed them down to the operating theater, but it felt like days while they waited for the new life to be born.
“The head’s stuck,” someone muttered on the other side of the curtain separating them from the gore of Mina’s cesarean section.
“Work faster,” another demanded quietly as a wet suction sound filled the room. “The outcome will not be good if we don’t.”
Jonathan sat farther up on the uncomfortable stool as the urgency in the doctors’ tones registered. A year ago, he would have struggled to understand the rapid-fire Russian they spoke, but now he understood just fine that even though emergency surgery was taking place, the baby was still in trouble. He swallowed while sweat dribbled down his back and Mina blinked up at him.
“Widen the incision,” another doctor said.
“Everything’s okay,” he mumbled, stroking Mina’s forehead, praying his words were true, even though it was clear things weren’t going well.
Mina sucked in a breath as her body was roughly jostled. “Why are they pulling so? Even with the drugs, I feel as if I’m being ripped in two.”
“It will be over soon—very soon,” he promised as the fetal alarms started beeping the way they had when the doctors raced around in the upstairs delivery room.
More tense seconds passed while Jonathan stared into Mina’s pretty blue eyes.
“Finally,” said the doctor closest to Jonathan’s side as he listened to his child’s first lusty wails.
The nurse peeked her face over the curtain, holding up a tiny, screaming infant covered in goop and blood. “What do you have, Mina?”
“A girl.” Mina grinned as Jonathan laughed his relief.
“We have a daughter.” Jonathan followed the nurse’s movements with his gaze as she quickly walked his baby over to the warming station. “She’s really here.” He kissed Mina’s forehead and relaxed his tense shoulders for the first time in days. “You did it. You did it, Mina,” he whispered next to her ear. “I’m so proud of you.”
“I did nothing more than lay here like a log. Kiss me again, my darling, and tell them I need to see her.”
He pressed his mouth to Mina’s and smiled as he wiped away her tears, surprised that it was possible to love her more than he already did.
“Tell them, Jonathan. Tell them we must see her, or I’ll simply die from the anticipation.”
Nodding, he chuckled as his daughter’s cries echoed, certain he’d never been so overcome with joy. Mina had been waiting for this moment since the doctor confirmed her pregnancy. “Okay.” He moved to stand as the nurse walked their way.
“Sit, Papa, and you will hold your daughter.”
He settled on the stool again, reaching for the small bundle, careful to support her head. “Hi, beautiful.” He brought her close, breathing her in, touching his cheek to her forehead. “You’re so warm and soft.” He eased her back for another good look, already in love. “I’m your dad.”
“Let me see, darling. Let me see.”
He angled the baby for Mina’s view.
“Oh, she’s perfect.” She struggled to move her hand secured beneath the restraint. “May I be undone?”
The nurse released her wrist from the tie.
“Thank you. I must touch you. I’ve longed to touch you, little one.” Mina stroked the baby’s forehead.
“Lyla, right? We’re sure her name is Lyla?”
“Yes.” Mina nuzzled the baby’s cheek with her own. “Our little Lyla Katarina.” Mina awkwardly tugged at the tightly wrapped blanket. “Her feet. I must know her fate, Jonathan. Who will she be?”
He helped Mina unwrap the white cotton, exposing tiny pink legs and feet.
Mina laughed. “She has my arch.” Mina kissed miniature soles. “Russia’s princess. You, my love, will be Russia’s next great prima ballerina.”
“Just like your mama.” Jonathan caressed his new daughter’s knuckles as Lyla’s hand wrapped around his finger, unable to get enough of the perfect little girl. “I think she’ll have your hair color. She definitely has your nose.”
“She has your chin.” Mina stroked Lyla’s head, stomach, and arms as the baby started to fuss again. “You are dear to my heart already, my girl. So dear.” Mina kissed Lyla’s palm and dropped her trembling hand back to the table as she rested her head against the small cushion.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m overwhelmed with happiness.” She smiled and closed her eyes. “Wrap our sweet Lyla back up, will you? We don’t want her getting cold. We want her healthy and lovely when she makes her debut to the world in the morning.”
Newspapers, reporters, and Mina’s millions of adoring fans were the last thing on his mind as he struggled to swaddle his daughter while the baby blinked up at him. “I think I’ve got it.” He grinned as he tucked the lip of the blanket in place. “I’ll need more practice but—”
“Mina, open your eyes.” The nurse gave a rough rub to Mina’s pale cheeks as alarms began to beep behind the curtain. “Mina.” The nurse gave her another aggressive scrub.
“You must go out now, Diplomat Avery.” One of the nurses took Lyla from Jonathan’s arms while another helped him from the stool, quickly ushering him toward the doors of the operating suite.
“Stop.” He pulled away, fighting to turn around. “Wait.”
“Out. Please, Sir.” She gave him a small shove.
“What’s going on?” he demanded in English and shook his head, remembering that few of the staff members here were fluent in his native tongue. “What’s happening?” he tried again in Russian.
“Mina’s losing too much blood.”