Home > The Baby Project (Kingston Family #3)

The Baby Project (Kingston Family #3)
Author: Miranda Liasson

Chapter One

“I want you to be the father of my baby, but, of course, we wouldn’t have sex,” Liz Kingston said as she stood near the exam table in her ob-gyn office, crossing her arms and planting her feet to make her case. “You’re the most decent guy I know.”

Dr. Brett Stevens immediately got up and walked to the door, cracking it and taking a quick sweep up and down the hallway. Satisfied no one was eavesdropping, he shut it and returned to his exam stool.

Liz adjusted her lab coat a little nervously but made sure to use her most chipper tone of voice. “It wouldn’t be stressful. We can do it the regular way, via test tube.”

Brett rolled back his stool—and his eyes. “Liz, darling. I’m your best friend. You know I’d do anything for you. But a child… I just think that would make our friendship awkward, especially since Kevin and I are thinking of adopting.”

Liz nodded to show Brett she understood. She was genuinely happy that he’d found happiness with his longtime partner. She just didn’t know anyone else she could ask for such a favor.

She made the teeny-tiny gesture with her hand. “I need a little bit of sperm is all. Hardly any.” Brett had a pained expression on his face, a combination, she was sure, of discomfort and a genuine desire to help her.

He understood everything she’d been through the past couple of years. Her struggles to have a baby for over two years. Her divorce. The endometriosis thing. The fact that she was the only sibling in her family who didn’t have kids or wasn’t pregnant—and currently her two sisters were. She needed a fresh start, and she’d done her best to achieve that, with a new job, a new life back in her hometown. But the missing part was that she wanted a baby, desperately.

“You said yourself the endometriosis is bad and I’m running out of time,” she said, trying not to tear up. “I’m just a little nervous using an anonymous sperm donor, someone I don’t know at all.”

“The sperm bank process is more controlled than you think. You can pick hair color and eye color and even height. I know the control-freak part of you hates not knowing everything, but you can actually select a lot of traits.”

“I want more than that, things you can’t list on paper. I want someone who’s intelligent and kind, and who isn’t a serial killer or a compulsive shopper—or, God forbid, who isn’t a vegetarian. And someone who eats all-organic would be nice.” She was half teasing about the last one but still…you are what you eat, right?

Brett rolled his eyes. “You want non-GMO sperm? Isn’t that asking a bit much?” He wheeled his chair closer and grabbed hold of her hand, which really did make her tear up. Outside the window, the rows of cherry trees along Main Street were in glorious bloom, the earth fully alive after the long winter. In her heart, however, she felt no such awakening. She took one look at the serious expression on her friend’s face and braced for what was coming.

“You also want someone who loves big old houses and flower gardens, who would share a glass of wine on the wraparound porch, who would lie around and read thrillers on a rainy Saturday, and who loves one-eyed dogs no one else wants.”

“I’m not adopting that dog,” Liz said. He was referring to Gizmo, the shelter dog her sister kept wanting her to keep and who’d had no trouble falling in insta-love with her. If only she could find a man as faithful.

She thought she’d found a man like that once, thousands of miles away from their little hometown of Buckleberry Bend, North Carolina, during the year after her divorce she’d spent doing Doctors Without Borders, but he hadn’t felt the same. Brett massaged the tension out of her right trapezius muscle. “Don’t give up on your dream yet, kiddo. It’s not too late.”

“I’m thirty-two years old, divorced, and I have endometriosis. And I haven’t had a date since my grandmother tried to fix me up with that guy whose first name was the same as my mom’s maiden name. She kept trying to say we weren’t related, but I knew better.”

“Well, this is the South.” Brett’s mouth curved up in a half smile. “Can’t blame a grandma for trying.”

“The point is, we know what my prospects are for getting pregnant the natural way.” She held her fingers up in a big, fat O. “I don’t mind having some laboratory assistance to help me conceive. I just wish I could find someone normal to help me out with the, er, donation.”

“Normal men are afraid of you.”

She shot him a look.

“They are. You don’t show soft edges around anybody.”

“No one’s going to take advantage of me again, Brett. Ever.”

He threw his hands up in the air. “Okay, okay. After that scumbag of an ex-husband cheated on you, I believe that, sweetie, but it’s okay to let people in once in a while. You can’t find love if you’re not open to it.”

Ouch. That was a low blow, but she wouldn’t let it take her down. “I’m never going to put my fate in the hands of another man as long as I live. I’m settled back in town, and I have a great job. And if I have to use a sperm bank, fine. I’ll do it. Now’s the time.”

Brett snapped his tablet shut. “All right, then. It’s your choice. I can help you to get in to see the fertility specialist in Charlotte for artificial insemination for your next cycle. You should probably go on Clomid for maximum success.”

Liz smiled. “I’m going to do this. I’m going to take charge of my own future.”

A nervous thrill ran through her, one that made her a little less apprehensive about picking a random sperm sample from a sperm bank.

She’d made her decision, then. She was going to control her destiny and do everything she could to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother. She wasn’t going to wait for a man to come along.

Because time was running out.

Grant Wilbanks walked at a fast clip through JFK Airport, keeping an eye out for the nearest shop to grab a candy bar. He’d eaten his last real meal eighteen hours ago before he left Nairobi, a bowl of githeri, a traditional dish consisting of beans, corn, and other vegetables. It had been satisfying enough, but he’d only had junk food since: airport peanuts, trail mix, and bad coffee on the plane. He was craving a big, juicy cheeseburger with the works, but he barely had enough time to grab a Snickers and haul ass onto his final flight to Charlotte.

As an international TV journalist for a major network, he had a face that was instantly recognizable around the world, but he rarely took advantage of his celebrity. Except for now, when he was so hungry he thought he might just use a friendly smile and a nod of acknowledgement to cut a line and make his plane.

He’d just snagged a Snickers from the candy display and walked the short distance to the checkout line when a woman hauling a baby stroller with one hand and holding a little girl’s hand in the other steered in front of him in line, effectively cutting off his straight path to the cashier.

He practically bumped into the stroller. In it was a bald baby sucking on the ear of a plastic bunny toy. Cute or not cute, he really didn’t have an opinion. Babies were just…babies. Fine for other people to cuddle.

“Oops, excuse me,” he said.

The woman didn’t hear him because the little girl at her side, who couldn’t have been more than three or four, was tugging insistently on her arm saying, “Mommy. Mommy, I want this.” She waved a little blue stuffed bear in front of her mother.

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