Authors: Faith Loveright
Tags: #rancher, #Romance, #Cowboy
Humidity filled the air, the ground was cracked and dry covering his feet as
Eric Schmidt stood off to the side, watching the undertaker scoop shovelfuls of dirt over his wife's casket. He felt numb inside as he spun his filthy Stetson in his hands.
They had been so happy and in love. She had been so excited too. After years of trying unsuccessfully to get her pregnant, they had taken the next logical step. They had gone to a fertility specialist and she had undergone a painful procedure to extract some of her eggs, which they had then fertilized with his sperm. The eggs were on ice, just waiting for her to finish up with the series of hormone shots she had been taking
leading up to the miraculous moment they would have implanted them in her womb. She had undergone the test and had been informed that she was mere days away from her dream of carrying his child becoming a reality.
Then, out of nowhere, a stupid teenager had taken his father’s car out for a joyride and hadn’t been paying attention to what he was doing before he drove Victoria off the steep ravine to plunge to her untimely death while she had been excitedly giving him the good news on her cell phone while she drove.
The sound of squealing tires and Victoria's blood-curdling scream still echoed in his ears.
The man at his side leaned over and whispered in his ear. "I can't tell you how sorry I am about this... But I want you to know; I will hold on to the embryos and keep them in cold storage for you until such a time as you feel up to looking for a surrogate to carry them for you... You may have lost Victoria, but you can still have her children..."
Eric looked down at the other man and blinked as if he was sure that what he saw had to be some sort of mirage.
"Are you serious?" He whispered under his breath, looking pointedly over at the grave before he brought his eyes back to the plump man at his side. "I don't mean to sound crass or heartless, but I have no intention of ever doing anything with those eggs now... In a roundabout way, they are at least partially to blame for their mother being in that grave over there," he said through gritted teeth as he nodded his head in the general direction of the mound of growing dirt.
"But... the babies... they were your dream..." the tiny man at his side argued.
Eric denied profusely. "They were Victoria's dream, and look where it got her," he said miserably. "I want nothing to do with what did this to her."
"I am going to pretend you didn't say that... it's the grief talking right now. The embryos will be on ice in my storage area... free of charge until you come to your senses.
"Do what you like," Eric murmured moodily as he settled his hat back over his dusty brown hair. "But I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you... All the time in the world ain't gonna make a difference in you know where. No wife.... no kids. Short and simple."
He didn't bother looking back as he went over to his truck and climbed up in the cab. With Victoria gone, he had
buried his heart right along with her. The children she had wanted with him so badly would be better off never being born into his world now. With no more love to give, he had no business even considering becoming a father to Victoria’s babies.
His mind made up,
Eric started the truck and drove back home to the ranch they had both fallen in love with the first time they had seen it.
He would be better off if he just forgot how close he had come to making the ultimate dream come true for the woman he loved. There was no point in looking back or asking the age old question.... "What if". What was done could not be undone. There was no point in wishing on any stars.
No matter how much he may wish it to be different, things would forever more be the way they were. He would die a lonely, bitter man who had almost had it all and then lost it. Nodding his head deciding the finality of his choice to let Victoria’s dream die with her, Eric turned his mind to the ranch they’d both loved. It would be just him and the animals from this point forward. There would be no more looking back from this day on.
years had passed and things at the ranch had eventually gotten quietly back on track. Every now and then, on what would have been the special days, he would have a few moments when he would allow himself to grieve for what he had lost, but they were getting fewer and further in between.
This last year, it had only happened on her birthday, their anniversary and on the anniversary of the day
Victoria had died. He stood on his front porch looking out at the sunset; the wind lightly ruffling his hair. The soft sounds of nature filled the air and he heard the quiet whinny of the newborn foal coming from the paddock to the west of the house. These were the hardest moments for him to deal with… Those times when he was reminded of the child he’d given up all hopes of being a father to when he’d buried his wife.
Overall, his life was full and busy, but he always felt like something big was missing. Of course, he knew deep down that it was his heart. He’d left it in that deep
hole in the ground along with the woman he’d loved. He cringed as he reached up and absently rubbed his huge fist over his chest. If his heart was gone, what was causing the ache where his heart should be, whenever one of the animals on his ranch gave birth? That child that Victoria had come so very close to giving him had left an even bigger chunk in his otherwise impenetrable soul than his wife had when she’d suddenly died.
His mind whirled as he recalled the many times since he’d buried
Victoria that the doctor had come to him and reminded him that the eggs were still waiting for him, should he change his mind about having another woman carry them for him. He could still be a father if he wanted to.
The idea of doing so without
Victoria was what stopped him from going through with it. The baby had been her dream for them… It was a dream that he had happily tried to grant, but ultimately, he would have been just as content to grow old with just the two of them out here in the wide open Texas plains.
“No. I made the right decision, letting the dream die with her,” he told himself as he shook off the painful memories as well as his momentary lapse into doubt. “I don’t have the time or the energy to take parenthood on by myself, and after losing the woman I fell in love with when I was still wet behind the ears, I have no intention of ever going there again. I
t’s better this way. The kid would only grow to hate me because I would never be able to give it the life it deserves.”
Sighing heavily, he turned around and slumped his shoulders. Dragging his boots, he went into the house. Somehow, he would get through the
melancholy he was dealing with, just as he’d gotten through it every time it had smacked him in the face since he’d gotten the call that had changed his life.
Determination filled him as he kicked the Texas dirt off his boots and went into the house
he’d built with his own two hands from the ground up for his blushing bride. He was not going to let sadness overwhelm him anymore regarding those fertilized eggs that could have been his children. First thing in the morning, he was going to call that doctor up and demand that the damn things were destroyed. Once he had put a final end to the what if’s that those eggs represented, perhaps he’d finally be able to move forward with his life without all of the reoccurring doubt and longing for what he knew he could never have now that Victoria was dead.
“I’ve decided I’m going to a sperm bank,” Madeline announced to the room at large as she sat in the back of the busy restaurant with her four closest friends.
As usual, they had all gathered there for a cup of coffee and to shoot the breeze. Madeline had always been jealous of her friends. They were all so much prettier than she was… taller, slimmer, smarter, wealthier,
happier … and they were all married to sexy, romantic men. Two of them had children of their own and one of them had just announced last week that she was going to be a mommy.
Madeline felt like a cow whenever she was with them. She knew she was overweight. It was a condition brought on by loneliness and depression. Her biological clock was ticking rather loudly and as of yet, she’d yet to meet a man who was in the least bit interested in even spending time with her in a romantic way, let alone settling down and starting a family with her.
Georgia leaned over and patted Madeline’s hand soothingly. “There are tons of good men out there, Maddie. A sperm bank is a bit of a stretch… Don’t you think?” she asked the other women, looking for confirmation.
Sydney nodded her head and scooted her chair closer to Madeline. “I’m sure between the four of
us; one of us can find a man for you. Don’t lose heart. Just because you haven’t found Mr. Right yet, doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. A woman should always have a partner before she becomes a Mommy. Take it from me; it’s not a job you want to take on by yourself if you have an option.”
Madeline shook her head. “I’m tired of waiting and just watching the World go by, you guys. If I don’t do this soon, my window for having a baby will have passed me by. You won’t talk me out of this… I’m doing it.”
Trina sighed heavily and looked at her friends. “I can’t speak for the rest of the gang, but if this is really what you want, I’ll stand by your choice and do anything I can to help.”
Tears filled Madeline’s eyes as she gripped her friend’s hand in her own. “Thank you,” she said tearfully. “Just be there for me… I have to admit something to you all… I actually made this decision for myself a while back. I’ve been taking hormone shots for a while now. I have an appointment next week to go in and have some eggs extracted. They told me that the procedure is much more likely to take if they do the fertilization outside the womb and then inject the embryo
s directly into my uterus.”
Patricia rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I personally think you’re insane… Those sperm banks
are fishy at best. How do you know that you aren’t getting fertilized by some ugly, fat, lazy, jackass idiot?”
Madeline laughed as she relaxed for the first time since she’d sat down with her friends. “I get to see a menu of sorts,” she explained. “Where I read all about the donors and can choose which one I want as a father for my child. It’s all on the up and up. Actually, doing it this way, I’ll be going in knowing a lot more about the man that will father my child than I would have if I’d just chosen some guy at random to sleep with.”
Sydney shook her head and flipped her long blonde hair over her slim shoulder with a flourish. “But at least that way, getting pregnant is free. Going to a sperm bank and a fertility center just because you don’t have a man… It’s going to cost you a fortune, just to
pregnant. And that’s not even touching on what the kid is going to cost you.”
“I don’t care what it costs,” Madeline said, leaning back in her chair. “It’s not like I’m hurting for money,” she reminded them as she looked at each of their faces. “While the lot of you have been off making happy little families, I was busy making a success of myself. You know that I made it to the top of my graduating class in college. You also know that the hospital I got hired on at has given me promotion after promotion. I am getting paid a ton of money just sitting in the lab every day. I’m really close to finding a cure for more than one ailment… and I have actually just finished taking the necessary classes to expand my expertise outside of the lab think tank and into the field of drug development. I have hardly any living expenses being just me. I have a set shift since I do work in the lab and not in the emergency room; so it’s not like my schedule would be too difficult to work around once the baby gets here. Believe me, I’ve thought this through.”
Sighing dramatically, Madeline went on. “Face it guys… I’m not getting any younger. I’m going to be thirty soon. I’m running out of time to give birth to a healthy baby. I may never find a good man,” she said, sniffling. “I have accepted that. But you know I’ve always dreamed of being a Mommy…”
Suddenly the tinkling sound of her cell phone ringing filled the air, and she sent her friends an apologetic smile. “Sorry… I need to take this.”
She sat and listened to the excited doctor on the other end of the line. A slow serene smile crossed her face and she quickly assured the other woman she’d be there as soon as she could possibly get there. After she hung the phone up, her friends all stared at her, waiting for an explanation.
“That was my doctor
… I had a checkup appointment this morning. The tests they ran all came back with my numbers a lot higher than they expected them to be. They want me to come in today for the egg extraction instead of waiting. I have to go,” she said, grinning ear to ear as she stood up and tossed a ten dollar bill on the table to cover her lunch.
“Good luck!” her friends all called as she sprinted out to her car. She knew that with pushing up the extraction, there was a great hope that the fertilization would also be coming sooner than she had anticipated. With any luck, by this same time the following week, she would be well on her way to finally holding her own child in her arms for a change.
It wasn’t that she didn’t thoroughly enjoy volunteering her time in the NICU, taking turns holding the babies that needed it the most. She really did. But it wasn’t the same when she knew that in the end, she had no choice but to hand that precious baby over to his or her Mommy. It would be wonderful when she could hold her own child in her arms, confident that there would never come a day when anyone could ever take it away from her.
That was one benefit of going through the sperm bank… The father in question was forced to sign away any and all parental rights before he ever donated his sperm. Once she became pregnant, no one but her would ever have any claim on her child.
Madeline was woozy after the extraction procedure but was happy when she was informed that they had managed to pull three healthy eggs. She was then told that after she chose a donor, the eggs would be fertilized and then implanted. She was a little stunned by the speed in which she was told this process needed to happen in, but she was thrilled when she was handed an arm full of papers. Her eyes scanned the top page greedily, reading about the first potential donor.
He was six foot
tall; slim, thirty years old; of Italian heritage… one of five brothers who worked as a stunt double. She flipped the page and looked at the next choice. This one was five foot four inches tall, twenty six years old; a little on the chunky side, Caucasian … of Irish heritage, red thinning hair an only child who worked as a mechanic. Frowning, she firmly placed his page in the no way column and moved on to the next page.
Her eyes no sooner began to read about the man and the woman at her side cleared her throat loudly. “You can take these home and look them over. We need the room for the next patient… Once you’ve made your choice, you can call it in and we’ll proceed to the next step.”
“Oh… Okay,” she said, blushing deeply. She’d been so anxious to see what her options were, she hadn’t thought about the fact that she was standing in the middle of a very busy fertility clinic.
Once at her house, Madeline sat down in her rocking chair with a large cup of hot tea, sipping it as she went through the pile of donors. When she spotted one that looked promising, she couldn’t help but grin as she read over the page a second time.
“Six foot, two inches tall; 175 pounds – mostly muscle with black hair and bright blue eyes. Youngest of three children. A 28 year old Caucasian rancher who dabbles in rodeo, of German heritage; I’m intrigued,” she said to herself. She had always had a secret thing for cowboys. Whenever she read a romance novel, she always picked the ones that involved a sexy, muscular man wearing a cowboy hat and boots. “Yes… I think he would do nicely,” she said, nodding her head enthusiastically. “I could pretend that I got my wild romp in the hay with a sexy stud and am going to have his love child,” she added, grinning at the thought.
The decision made, she called the doctor office and gave them the donor number she had decided on. Excitement filled her as she was told that the fertilization would be finished before they called it a day. Joy and elation added to her jubilation when she was told that she could come in first thing in the morning to have the embryos implanted. They were going to fertilize all three eggs, just to be on the safe side. With any kind of luck, she wouldn’t have just one baby when all was said and done… She might actually walk away with up to three.
She couldn’t have been more pleased.
The procedure was done.
Madeline stood staring at her reflection in her bedroom mirror late that night, standing sideways with her shirt lifted. She didn’t look any different, but she knew that behind her flat belly, a miracle could be happening. She had been surprised when she had been told she could go home as long as she took it easy and didn’t strain herself.
For the first several hours, she had stayed flat on her back in the bed with her feet propped up on a mound of pillows, looking ridiculous just because she’d seen movies where women trying to get pregnant had done the same thing. It hadn’t been until her friends had all shown up on her doorstep with balloons and sweets
, talking excitedly, that she’d finally gotten up.
They had all talked and laughed for hours. Finally, after ten that night, they had left her alone to celebrate in peace. Now, when she knew she should climb into bed and get some sleep, she found that she was too excited to bother. There wasn’t a chance of falling asleep and she knew it as surely as she knew her own name.
She had been told to take it easy for a few days and then to come back in two weeks to be tested to see if the pregnancy had taken or not. Her hand shook as she smoothed it over the flat expanse of her stomach; her voice quivering as she spoke to the child that she prayed was attaching to her uterine wall even as she stood there.
“It’s just you and me against the world now. You have my word… You will know more love than
you will know how to handle… I promise, it won’t matter that you won’t have a Daddy.”
Blinking away tears,
Madeline vowed to herself that she would find a way to keep her promise to her unborn child or children. As much as she longed to be loved by a man, she would make certain that their lives together would be happy and unaffected by the fact that there would be no man in the picture.
The following day, she was going to take one of her friends up on their invitation to wait things out until she went in for the test at their house. She was entirely too nervous to do
this on her own. The decision made, she yawned widely and climbed into her nice soft bed; her hand settled protectively over her abdomen as she allowed happy dreams to lull her to a peaceful slumber. She was so relieved that she had the next few days off from work, it wasn’t even funny.
The chaos and stress that came with her job could wait for another day… After things with her hopeful pregnancy were settled and her baby was safe and sound, implanted within her uterine wall where nothing could possibly harm him or her… or even them, if things went right.