"It's too late, Chase."
"What do you mean?" he said into the phone, an edge to his voice. Lawyers had an annoying habit of dragging out the details, especially for their friends.
"The procedure took. Six months ago."
"What! You mean there's a woman walking around with my baby inside her and I've never laid eyes on her?"
"That about sums it up."
Chase Madison shielded his eyes from the sun blasting through his office window and rubbed his temples. Janis had done this. He just knew it. "God, if Janis wasn't already dead, I'd kill her."
"Oh, it gets better."
Chase closed his eyes, tamping down his temper. "Let's have it."
"She believes you're nothing but a sperm donor." Something nasty twisted inside Chase just then. "And she isn't going to let you near this child, nor give you the time of day."
"We'll just see about that."
Chase hung up the phone and sank into the nearest chair, cradling his aching head in his hands. A sperm donor. Wonderful. If his marriage alone wasn't the grand joke of the century, now he felt as if Janis were taking digs from the grave. Chase wasn't mourning her. He'd done that briefly months ago, after the accident, with whatever little feeling he had left for her. Now he felt only anger and resentment. She'd used her job at the fertility clinic to get back at him. She'd had access, and God knows she'd had motivation. But this, he thought, was beyond even her. This was vicious.
It always came back to kids. He wanted them. She couldn't have any. It hadn't mattered to him at the time. He just wanted to be a father. Anybody's father. He wanted to feel the sweet energy kids gave, their fascination for discovery, wanted to love them and feel loved. With secret dreams of his own son, he'd convinced Janis to go the adoption route—a seven-year wait for a newborn. But it was Janis, as administrator for the clinic, who'd introduced the possibility of a surrogate mother.
Chase hadn't liked the idea of a strange woman having his child by artificial insemination. Even the sound of it was clinically impersonal. And he couldn't imagine a woman going through pregnancy and childbirth only to relinquish her rights to her baby. But Janis had convinced him it was reasonable. Persuaded him with the fact that the child would at least have Chase's blood in his veins.
You let her convince you, his conscience niggled. He'd wanted a child that badly, yet still he'd dragged his heels. He remembered the humiliation of entering a little sterilized room, staring at the specimen cup in his hand, the leather office couch, the stack of video tapes on the TV/VCR. Then he'd dragged Janis in with him. She was very accommodating about assisting him, as he recalled.
Two weeks later his world fell apart. Or at least what he thought was his marriage. Hell. It had been over before that, he knew. Just as he knew having children was the wrong reason to hold a marriage together. Yet he'd felt cheated out of something precious and wonderful when he'd found the birth control pills tucked in the glove box of her car when he'd taken it to the shop. Janis wasn't infertile. She'd just never wanted children. Never wanted her career or her figure or her life interrupted. Let the baby machines do it, she'd said, unaware that he'd heard her bitter comments until he stepped around the edge of her office door. Oh, she'd stumbled through an explanation, but in that moment, he'd seen her for what she truly was. Selfish, heartless, a lousy example of impending motherhood. He'd told her to dump their files, their marriage and his donation.
Obviously she hadn't. He'd known she was bitter, but this? Manipulating files and specimens? Why?
For a baby.
An incredible warmth crept into his chest, seeping out to his limbs. Chase sagged back into the leather chair and savored the feeling, knowing it wouldn't last, wouldn't stay. Had she intentionally allowed the surrogate-intended sperm to go to a woman who thought she was selecting only genes and chromosomes from a bank? Was she bitter enough to see the child he longed for created, only to keep the baby from his grasp? He hated to think anyone was that horrible.
Leaning forward, he scooted the pad of paper closer and read the name. The woman wasn't even one of the potential surrogates they'd interviewed.
She wanted a child, but didn't want the father. Well, Miss Lightfoot. You got both. And she couldn't dump him down the drain with the rest of the liquid papas.
Tessa gripped the phone, praying she'd heard wrong. "This can't be happening. Tell me it isn't."
"It is, Sis. Now stay calm."
"I am calm!"
"Dia, please," Tessa moaned, blinking back fresh tears.
"As your counsel, I advise you to meet with him."