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A Baby Of Her Own
By Brenda Novak
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Artificial insemination. Of course! That's the answer."
Delaney Lawson almost choked on her drink. Swallowing hard, she sent a quick glance around the redneck bar that was the center of Dundee, Idaho's weekend entertainment to see who might have overheard, then lowered her voice. "I hope you're talking about breeding horses, Beck."
Rebecca Sparks, her friend and housemate, didn't look the least bit abashed. "You know I'm not talking about horses. I'm talking about you," she responded, fiddling with her new short haircut. "Because of what you said last night."
Delaney grimaced. "Forget about last night. Buddy had just told me that the two of you are getting married, that you're going to be leaving the state in five months. And it was my thirtieth birthday. I had a right to be depressed."
"I was planning to tell you after your birthday."
"Oh, well, what are big, dumb guys for?"
"I can think of several uses for Buddy. But you weren't upset about my engagement or your birthday. You were depressed because you can't find anyone to love, and Aunt Millie and everyone else in this godforsaken town is asking when you're going to get married. And because - more than anything - you want a baby."
"I was depressed because you're marrying a man you met on the Internet, a guyyou've seen only once, and I'm turning thirty without the prospect of a family in sight. It's all those things," Delaney insisted. "Besides, Valentine's Day is in a couple of weeks, which doesn't help."
Someone started the jukebox and Rebecca looked away. Delaney knew she didn't like displays of emotion. Rebecca expressed herself with sarcasm and laughter, not words like I love you and I'm going to miss you. But Delaney understood how deeply she cared, and returned those feelings. They'd been part of each other's lives for twenty-four years.
"I'll come back and visit every chance I get, you know that," Rebecca said after a long silence.
"I know," Delaney told her. "I'll be okay. I mean, we're adults. We have lives to lead. I just hope Buddy turns out to be everything you think he is."
"Buddy will drive me crazy, like he did yesterday when he let the cat out of the bag early - but we fit, you know?"
Delaney nodded, even though she wasn't sure she agreed. Physically they were opposites - Buddy short, round and dark; Rebecca tall, thin and dishwater blond when her hair wasn't colored something more trendy - but it was the differences in their personalities that worried Delaney. From what she could gather, Buddy seemed nice, but he was also quiet, steady and ploddingly predictable. She couldn't see her volatile friend settling for a couch potato. Or maybe that was exactly what Rebecca needed. Maybe Buddy's easygoing nature would temper Rebecca's high spirits and they'd reach some common ground and live happily ever after. Delaney certainly hoped it would end that way.
"You'll find someone," Rebecca said, but her words rang hollow to Delaney, who was running out of patience.
She'd wanted to get married for several years now and she felt as if she couldn't wait another day.
"There's still plenty of time to have kids," Rebecca cajoled.
"Not if the next ten years go like the last. As much as I love the people around here, I don't really belong to any of them. But you probably can't understand what it's like to feel so detached. You grew up in a family with three older sisters -"
"Who I want to choke most the time," she interrupted, stirring her gin and tonic with one long fingernail.
"Still, you're connected. You're blood. You get together for holidays and stuff that wouldn't be the same if any of you weren't there. My mother died shortly after we moved here. I don't know who my father is - even my mother didn't know that. And I was raised by Dundee's own Mother Teresa. Aunt Millie would've taken in and loved any child." She sighed wearily. "I've been wanting a family of my own since forever, but it looks like I'm going to die an old maid."
Rebecca licked her wet finger and leaned back to light a cigarette. "Then, do something about it," she said on a long exhalation. "Get artificially inseminated."
"Not so loud," Delaney whispered. "We live in a small town, for heaven's sake. This isn't New York or L.A. And we grew up here. Everyone knows us. I don't want word getting out that I'm considering something so ... radical. It could embarrass Aunt Millie and Uncle Ralph, make them regret they ever took me in."
"I knew it!" Rebecca clapped her hands, although she did it carefully so she wouldn't crush her cigarette.
"What?" Delaney asked, exasperated.
"That you've been thinking about having a baby on your own!"
"And how did you know that?"
"I've seen you stare at the parenting magazines we pass in the grocery store.
I've seen how you admire every child you come across."
"Maybe I have been thinking about it," she said. "But I don't believe that doing things the artificial way will work."
"Why not?" Rebecca squinted at her through the thin stream of smoke curling toward the ceiling.
"First of all, it's expensive and my insurance won't cover it. Librarians in a town of fifteen hundred people only make so much. And now that you're going to be moving out, my house payment will double. Aunt Millie needs a few things, too, like another coat of paint on her place. Second, I wouldn't even know where to find the right doctor. We only have a general practitioner around here, and I'm sure it would take some sort of specialist. Finally, I probably wouldn't qualify. Don't you have to be married? Or at least infertile?"
Delaney cast another furtive glance at the Honky Tonk's fellow patrons. The divorced Mary Thornton, who'd been captain of the cheer squad in high school, sat with her crowd in the corner, but the place hadn't filled up yet. Elton John was singing "Rocket Man" on the jukebox. He competed with the clack of balls coming from the direction of the pool tables, a television droning in the corner and Rusty Schultz at the bar, loudly detailing his frustration with a car engine he was trying to rebuild. "In any case," she finished, sitting back to avoid Rebecca's secondhand smoke. "I'm sure they don't give sperm away to just any woman who happens to want it."
"They might not, but I know a lot of men who would."
A devilish smile curled Rebecca's lips as she tapped the end of her cigarette on a small tin ashtray. "Why not get yourself laid and be done with it?"
"Rebecca!" Her friend held up the hand with the cigarette, fake red nails gleaming even in the dim light. "Come on, what about all those assertiveness training classes you've been taking online? You're always telling me your instructor says to take charge of your life, decide what you want and make it happen."
"I don't think my instructor had something like this in mind."
"Well, it applies, and getting pregnant wouldn't be that difficult. First of all, a willing partner would be free," she said, ticking the points off on her fingers as Delaney had just done. "So you can afford the mortgage and still get Aunt Millie's house painted this spring. Second, you wouldn't have as much trouble finding a donor as you would the right doctor. Can you imagine approaching Dr. Hatcher for a recommendation?" She took a long drag on her cigarette, then set it aside to smolder. "And three, if you're picking up some guy at a bar, it's better if you're not married."
Delaney tried to appear scandalized, but immediately gave up the charade. This was Rebecca; knowing her was the closest she'd ever come to having a sister. And as low as Delaney thought tricking a man would be, she was actually getting desperate enough to consider it. "It just seems so ... dishonest. Almost like stealing."
Excerpted from A Baby Of Her Own by Brenda Novak Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.