His lips thinned. That wasn’t a childhood he’d known. And what had followed in its wake wasn’t worth thinking about. Not anymore.
Waves splashed up against the back of the clinic...the secure dock had been rendered invisible. The normal gentle hum and buzz of the clinic had been replaced by a cacophony of tightly issued instructions. Phones. Alarms.
Theo lifted his eyes to the invisible heavens in thanks for the emergency training they’d insisted upon for all the staff. He and his “brothers” had never wanted anyone to feel any unnecessary pain or fear when they entered the doors of the Mythelios Free Clinic. The Malakas of Mythelios. His best friends. The closest thing he had to a real family after his own had proved to be nothing more than a mirage.
He’d get on the phone to them as soon as possible. His gut told him that whatever was happening beyond these sheltered walls would demand all of them this time. If he could even track them down...
Ares was usually in the world’s latest hellhole, doing his best to put a dent in its need for medical care. Deakin’s specialist burn treatment skills were in demand worldwide. Heaven knew where he was now. And Chris, a neurosurgeon, could usually be found in New York City. If he wanted to be found, that was. More often than not he didn’t.
Not that it had stopped him from posing for that insane calendar of local island men that had been organized to raise funds for the clinic. Ooopaa! Theo’s eyes followed that very calendar’s trajectory across the room as it slid to the floor behind the reception desk. It was his month anyway. No great loss.
Again Alida tried to pull her son away from him and run. “It’s gone on too long!”
“It’s nearly over now,” he soothed. As if he knew. Earthquakes could last for seconds or minutes. There’d been tremors on the island before, but nothing like this. The Richter scale would be near to double digits. Of that he had no doubt.
He tuned in to the chaos, breaking it down and putting it back together into some sort of comprehensible order. Rattling. Sharp cries of concern. Sensory discord.
As much as Alida struggled against him, pleaded with him to free her and let her run from the building, Theo’s instinct was to stay put and work through it. These were his patients. His clinic. He’d promised them solace and care from the moment they entered the bougainvillea-laced doors and he’d meant it with every pore in his body.
The need to launch into action, preparing for the storm bound to follow in the earthquake’s wake, crackled through his body like electricity. It was likely only seconds had passed—a minute or two at most—but each moment had shaken the island to its core.
He heard a woman cry out in pain.
“Get in a doorway!” he shouted, his broad hands cupping the child and Alida’s heads.
Not being able to control what was happening made Theo want to roar with frustration.
“Is it over?” Alida’s voice was barely audible amidst the rising chaos of human voices.
Theo shook his head, tightening his grip so that she didn’t leave until he was positive it was safe.
How soon were aftershocks? Immediate? The next day?
This was the cruelty of nature. You simply didn’t know.
The same way you didn’t know if the parents who gave birth to you would act like Alida—protectively—or like his—abandoning him at the first opportunity.
He shook his head clear of the thought. They didn’t deserve one second of his attention. The people here did. The people he’d vowed to care for.
He shouted out a few instructions. Their clinic was a small one, but there must be at least fifty people there. Doctors, nurses, patients, a few older patients who needed more care in the overnight wards.
Another crash of waves and the howl of the earth fighting against the manmade buildings upon her surface filled his senses.
Please let the clinic be spared.
He tightened his grip on the mother and child, wondering for just an instant what it would be like to hold his own wife and child. What lengths would he go to for them?
Another tremor gripped the ground beneath them.
All thoughts other than survival left him.
Theós. Let us be spared.