Buttons and Scalpel

His breathing was slowing. Edith was cradled in the crook of his arm, layers of wool and buttons holding her in, but her hair was loose and wild, a mass of thick, inky satin. There was a soft sheen of sweat on her forehead and between her lips and nose. It made him shake his head.
“What?” her voice was wonderfully croaky.
“You’re hot.”
She got that little crease between her brows. He could imagine watching that crease deepen with age. But from the stubborn look on her face there would be no answer to why she insisted on keeping her clothes on. Instead she rolled closer to him making her breasts press the side of this chest.
Her finger ran over his skin in slow strokes and circles as she looked him over.

His arm tucked her tighter against him and waited for the inevitable questions.

“When did you get this done?”
She traced the small tattoo over his heart. It was of a scalpel, bone saw and needle. All three were wrapped together with a suture tie coming out of the eye of the needle.

“No wait I know, you were a young graduate full of bluster about saving the world with the tools of your new trade.”

That wasn’t the usual question. He went to sit up and she moved her torso over his keeping him down. What was it with women that they couldn’t just enjoy the moment?

“Come on when did you do it? Am I right?”

She was right. Edith was very astute if not tactful.

There was a touch of irritation tightening his jaw. Why couldn’t she ask if it hurt? He liked answering that question.


He looked up at the bed’s canopy. And she tugged his chin down so their eyes met.

Hers were so earnest, sad almost.

He sighed at her purposefully, scowled in mock warning.

But it didn’t make her back down it just made her eyes soften a little. Damn, now he was smiling. He was an idiot.
What was it about her that made him wander into areas he had no interest of going into?

“When I started my first position at the hospital. And yes I naively thought I would save the world.”

She didn’t laugh like he expected, instead she looked at him harder. Maybe she thought she saw what his failure had done to him. But she could never really know what it was to lose so many on the operating table. Goodness was no amulet. Justice never rolled in the door with the gurney and it certainly didn’t reside with him and his skills no matter how hard he’d honed them.

Vaughn reached out and tried to undo a button.

“So when did you become an all buttons done up girl?”

Her hand pushed his away and that scowl returned as she sat up and started to twist that inky mass back into a bun.


© Elsa Holland

WIP:  Trusted.  The story of No 5.  The Painted Sisters