With her attention focused on the impromptu lesson in photography, Hayley miscalculated the angle of the bag above the water. The bag hit with a solid plop that spewed boiling water over her right hand. Pain shot through her fingers to her elbow. She cried out.
David's discourse stopped abruptly. "Hayley?"
"I just played bombs away with the hash, and it backfired." She managed a laugh, but clutched her wrist and slowly moved her fingers. "It hurts," she whispered.
David was beside her, his face pale. He gently took the injured hand within his own. The palm was already turning red. He pulled her over to the sink, thrust the water on full to cold, tested it, then guided her hand under the water. Waves of relief flowed through her hand and all through her body as the stinging subsided.
"Keep it there," he ordered, and moved to the freezer. As he scooped ice cubes from the tray, he said roughly, "Do you have a towel?"
"On the side of the fridge."
He wrapped the cubes in the cloth, then pushed Hayley into a chair. Gently, he laid the cloth in her hand and held it there. Finally the cold conquered the searing heat, and Hayley's shoulders relaxed.
Hayley could finally forget the pain long enough to look into David's worried eyes. He was clearly as shaken as she.
He knelt beside her for over ten minutes, pressing the ice on her hand. When he lifted the ice, the redness remained, but the pain was now a tolerable ache.
"Thanks," she whispered with a weak smile.
David bent and kissed the wounded palm. She gazed in wonder at the thick brown hair at the back of his head and with her free hand, she combed her fingers through his hair, reveling in the clean silkiness of it.
David rose and pulled her into his arms. He held her close, his desire to protect and cherish her communicated through the soft stroking of her hair.
"Hayley, Hayley," he whispered against her cheek, and her name had never sounded so beautiful.
The pain in her hand was a memory replaced by the sweet calm that now engulfed her. The world righted in his arms. Hayley was home, and she knew she never wanted to leave.