Orange and yellow flames danced in the twilight as I walked toward my cabin. The musky scent of burning wood and pine needles permeated the air.
“What the hell are you wearing?” Bobbi’s eyes went straight to my chest.
I looked down at Holt’s hoodie, still wrapped around my body.
“Where were you? You were gone for almost two hours.” Gwen scowled, launching into a lecture. “I was getting worried. I was going to call you on your cell soon and make sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” Tears threatened to spill forth any second.
“You are not fine.”
I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye, fiddling with the zipper on Holt’s sweater.
Gwen knelt in front of me and looked up into my face. Her voice softened. “What happened? What did he do to you?”
“And why are you wearing his hoodie?” Bobbi asked.
“I was cold and he loaned it to me.”
“I’m confused,” Jessica said. “You were gone with Holt for two hours, and you came back wearing his clothes. But you’re clearly upset. What are we missing?”
“He wants me to do him a favour.”
They stared at me in quiet anticipation, the silence punctuated only by the sounds of the crackling fire.
“He asked me to have his baby.” I chewed on my lower lip as I watched their reactions.
Gwen narrowed her eyes, her mouth set in a hard line. “I’m pretty sure that did not happen.”
“Have you been drinking?” Jessica asked with a confused grin.
Bobbi studied me for a minute before a wide smile spread across her face. She howled with laughter. “You’re fucking with us!”
“I wish I was.”
Jessica threw her hands up in the air. “C’mon. Why would some guy randomly come along and ask you to have his baby?”
After I finished telling the story about Holt’s sister, nobody said a word. I studied their faces, looking for feedback.
“I think it is a bad idea.” Gwen shook her head. “You would be throwing your life away.”
“Yeah. I don’t know, Kari. I don’t think I would do it. Sorry.” Jessica smiled apologetically.
“What about his sister? She might die if they can’t find a match.”
“That ain’t your problem,” Bobbi said. “But that’s a lot of coin. You’d never have to worry about money again. You’d be set.”
“You think I should do it, Bobbi?”
“I dunno. Maybe. You like him. This might be your chance to get together with him.”
“What about the baby? How is it going to feel when it finds out why it was born?” Gwen asked.
“What about all the people who are accidents? Do you think they give a shit?” Bobbi folded her arms and glared at Gwen. Bobbi and Gwen didn’t agree on many things.
Long after my friends went to sleep, I laid on my back and stared at the log ceiling. Did I want to become a mother at nineteen? Not really. I had lots of things that I planned to do before I had children. After culinary school, I wanted to travel the world and explore different cuisines. Then I would work for a famous chef until I was ready to open my own restaurant.
My plans carried a hefty price tag. I would have to work long hours to save enough money to accomplish my goals. This could be my big break. My chance to get a head start in life. But at what cost?
What about the baby? How would he or she feel about the fact that they were brought into the world to save someone else’s life?
The baby would have a comfortable life, never wanting for anything. They would never have to worry about paying for college tuition. But they would have two parents who were not together. My baby would be one of those kids who had to go to their Dad’s every other weekend. What would happen to the baby when Holt and I married other people and had families? They might feel left out.
What about Holt’s sister? I could save her life. It must be terrifying, facing a lengthy illness that she may not survive. Holt’s parents were probably worried sick. And what about Holt? He obviously wanted to give his sister a chance to live. He was willing to have a baby with someone who wasn’t a romantic partner. What if that changed once he started to spend time with me? Why did he really pick me? Was it like he said? I was available, and I met the criteria. Or was there another reason?
I nodded off to sleep around two am. When I woke up at five, I groaned at the thought of functioning on three hours sleep. But I would never get back to sleep, so there was no point in laying there. I showered, made a cup of coffee, and headed outside.
The dark faded away as the sun peeked over the mountains. I breathed in the fresh morning air and brought the coffee mug to my lips. The dawn chorus of the chipping sparrows echoed across the still water.
I picked up Holt’s hoodie and turned it over in my hands. When I brought it up to my nose, the smell of his cologne sent tingles through my lower body. He was a manly man. Holt was the reason that I never went on more than a couple dates with the same guy. I used him as a measuring stick. No high school boy stood a chance against Holt Bennett.
At seven, I headed down to his cabin. He smiled when he opened the door, his hair still damp from the shower. His bare chest glistened with water droplets.
I’d seen Holt without a shirt many times, but never up close. He had a v-shaped torso with a perfect six-pack. His upper chest was smooth and hairless. My eyes travelled down to the treasure trail that disappeared into the waist of his shorts.
“Would you like to come in?”
“Sure. I came to return your sweater. I forgot to give it back to you last night.”
He opened the door wider and gestured inside the small rustic cabin. A green love seat with an old, worn coffee table took up most of the living room. A small tv sat on a stand in the corner.
“Would you like some coffee?”
“No thanks. I just came to drop off the sweater.” Didn’t I already say that when he opened the door? Yet, I was still clutching it to my chest. I thrust the hoodie into his hands and bolted for the door.
“Why are you running away?”
I turned around as heat spread up my face to the roots of my scalp. In less than two minutes, I had made a complete ass of myself.
“I figured you needed to get ready for work,” I stuttered.
“Please stay and talk to me. You don’t need to be shy around me anymore. We’re friends now, aren’t we?” He smiled and took my hand, leading me to the love seat.
“So, what did your friends think of my proposition?” he asked as he sat down next to me.
“Gwen and Jessica didn’t think I should do it. Bobbi encouraged me to at least think about it.”
“I don’t want to push you. It’s a big decision. I’m curious to know though if you think there is any chance that you might do it?” He swallowed and fidgeted with a pen sitting on the coffee table.
“I’m seriously considering it. I can see how important this is to you.”
“Really? That’s great. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“You can promise me that if I do this, you will stay involved in our child’s life. Even if you have kids with someone else later on.”
“Absolutely. I realize the child deserves to have a happy life. I wouldn’t just discard him after he saved my sister’s life. I’m not that kind of man.” He paused and rubbed his jaw. “My father has a team of lawyers drawing up agreements. One of them would be between us.”
I gulped when he mentioned lawyers. It sounded so grown up.
He took both of my hands, gazing into my eyes with such intensity, I couldn’t decide whether I was sexually aroused, or scared to death.
“I want to be completely honest with you. The lawyers have recommended that I ask for joint custody. I don’t know if that eases your mind, or causes you more anxiety.”
“I’m not sure.”
My child would only live with me fifty percent of the time. What if they double crossed me and took my baby? Rich people could do things like that. I had seen it happen on tv shows and in movies.
There was so much to think about. I felt like a kid suddenly thrust into an adult world, with lawyers and sick people and custody agreements.
“I need to go home and talk to my parents. They won’t want me to do this though. I know that already.”
“So, I guess I should be expecting a visit from your dad this weekend?” Holt sighed and ran his hands through his hair.
“Yeah. He is not going to be pleased that you want to impregnate his little girl.”
I got up to leave and Holt followed me to the door.
“Even if you decide to say no, I want you to know that I appreciate the fact that you at least considered it. It says a lot about what kind of person you are. I’m glad I was right about you.”
His dark eyes locked with mine as he moved toward me. When his strong arms wrapped around me, my legs turned to jelly. As I sunk my face into his rock hard pecs, bolts of electricity shot through my body. The hug only lasted a brief second, but it was amazing.
“See you soon,” he said as I went out the door.
I skipped down the path, high on the smell of his cologne and the memory of his body next to mine.
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