Ella’s hand crept to her stomach.
Mindful of how much her sister hated it when she nagged, Ella tempered her outrage. “You can’t just leave a baby for a few months...or even a year...and hope it will be there when you get back.”
“I know that, Ella.” Keira’s brows drew together. “Don’t try to put the guilts on me. I’m not ready for a baby—neither of us are.”
Ignoring her sister’s unfair accusation, Ella tried to fathom out what Keira’s response meant. Did she intend to give the baby up for adoption? Shock chilled Ella. Had her sister thought this through? She would hate to see Keira suffer when it one day came home to her what she’d lost. Perhaps Keira needed to be reminded of that.
“If you’re thinking about giving the baby up for adoption, just remember it’s not going to be easy to find a surrogate again if you decide you want a baby when you come back from Africa.”
She certainly wouldn’t be doing it again. She shouldn’t even have done it this time. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb decision. That’s what came of making decisions with her heart rather than her head.
Keira flicked back her pale silver hair. “We can do what Yevgeny suggested when we first talked about you being our surrogate—put our names down to adopt a baby.”
She’d known Dmitri’s high-handed brother was behind this!
The ache in her lower back that had been worsening all day, intensified. It wasn’t worth arguing with Keira, pointing out that putting down your name didn’t guarantee a baby because so few became available for adoption. And when one did, the legal mother had the final say. She alone could choose whichever couple she wanted—there was no waiting list, no way to predict who she would choose.
But right now Keira’s future plans were not her concern.
“And what about this baby?” Ella knew she sounded angry. But, damn it, she was angry. Yevgeny made her blood bubble—even when he wasn’t present. Just the mention of the man was enough! “You can’t just dump it—”
“I’m not dumping it— You’re the legal mother. I know you’ll make the best decision for the baby.” There was an imploring expression in her sister’s eyes that caused the hairs at the back of Ella’s neck to stand on end.
Oh, no! Keira had planned to leave the baby with her and come back to claim it. Panic prickled through her. “I can’t keep the baby.”
Keira’s eyes teared up again. “I know I shouldn’t have expected you to. But you always wanted the adoption of the baby to us to be an open one. So I hoped you would consider...”
“No!” Panic swamped Ella. “We have a surrogacy arrangement—”
Keira was shaking her head. “But Ella, you explained we can’t actually adopt the baby until after you sign the consent to give her up on the twelfth day. As the legal mother, you’re entitled to change your mind—but so are we.”
She’d explained the legalities too well to her sister. Ella swallowed a curse. “You can’t change your mind—because I can’t keep this baby.”
A wave of sick helplessness engulfed her.
Keira sighed. “We already have. We’re not ready to raise a child. I don’t even want to think about the decision you’re going to have to make, but you have to do what you feel is right, Ella. It’s your body, your b—”
“Don’t tell me it’s my baby!”
Keira looked doleful. “I think I always knew deep in my heart that you wouldn’t agree to keep her, and I’ve made peace with that. Even though I had so hoped...” Her little sister’s voice trailed away.
Did Keira not know how much this hurt? What she was
asking? The pain that pierced her chest was sharp and unforgiving. And guilt made it worse. Ella wished she could burst into tears...weep and wail. But she couldn’t. Instead, she fought for composure.