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By Mary Kay McComas
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1988 Mary Kay McComas
All rights reserved.
Meghan finished applying her makeup and stepped back to study herself critically in the mirror. With her body bathed, lotioned, powdered and perfumed, her hair french braided and coiled skillfully at the nape of her neck, she was well satisfied with her efforts.
The outfit she'd bought especially to wear this evening lay on the bed. Over black silk string bikini panties she fastened a matching black garter belt and carefully pulled on dark silk stockings. Braless, she tied a black satin halter top around her neck and again behind her at her waist. Although the garment was completely backless, the front had a gently draped cowl neckline and appeared from that angle to be a nice, conservative blouse, perfectly suited to wear with her cinnamon-colored crepe dirndl skirt and jacket. Next she donned a pair of large, round nonprescription glasses.
Surveying the results in her full-length mirror, Meghan almost crowed with delight. In her one-inch pumps she looked ready to do business with a judge. If she took off the glasses and jacket, let down her hair, and put on higher heels, she'd look ready to give him the business.
Stuffing her extra pair of shoes and a clipboard, which held a hundred copies of her questionnaire, into her oversized shoulder bag, she took one last glance at herself in the mirror. Finally she grinned stunningly and winked at her image. With an anticipatory bounce in her walk, Meghan Shay set out to get pregnant.
In the cab, Meghan felt unexpectedly calm. It wasn't as if she did this every day. Maybe her confidence sprang from her conviction that what she was about to do was right for her, that the plan she had hatched had been years in development. She knew she wasn't being impulsive. It was a deliberate, well-thought-out, logical act. At least Meghan thought so.
She would have preferred to do this in the conventional manner. She knew hers wasn't the easiest way, but her heart was possessed by the idea. Meghan felt driven to take matters into her own hands. It was strange, she thought, the way you could affect your own destiny at times, and at other times fate took over. Then no matter how you tried to change things, you couldn't gain control.
In their most unrealistic moments of daydreaming she and Carl had planned to have a dozen children. They had finally settled on having three or four babies, to be started immediately after their "I do's," the day after graduation from law school.
Meghan shook her head regretfully. It still didn't seem fair that Carl's life had been cut short. Not just because of how it had affected her, but because Carl had been a kind, gentle, loving man. A good man, who could have had the world by the tail, if he'd only had the chance. Meghan still missed him and probably always would.
Years later she had fallen in love with Bob, a wonderful man who had much in common with her, except the desire to have children. When he proposed marriage, Meghan had been truly upset because she'd had to refuse, but she knew she wanted a child at least as much as she'd wanted him.
Her experiences with Carl and Bob were now arguments in favor of what she was doing. Life was short and it gave no guarantees. Meghan had come to learn that very few things in life were just given to you. Getting what you wanted called for effort and determination, for total control of your own destiny.
At the age of thirty-four, Meghan had decided not to wait for another man to come into her life. Time was passing and there was no assurance that he'd show up before her biological clock ran down. She desperately wanted a child. She had everything to give, and her heart told her it was time to take action.
"Have you considered seeing an exorcist before you get carried away with this plan of yours?" Lucy, her best friend and only confidante had asked after hearing Meghan's grand scheme.
"For heaven's sake, Lucy. All I want is one little sperm with some decent chromosomes. Is that so much to ask for?"
"No," she had conceded, "but have you thought about the man's right to know about his own child?"
"Give me a break, Lucy," Meghan had said vehemently. "Men run all over New York dropping their seeds indiscriminately. Exceptionally 'nice' men will take a woman to bed and just assume she's taken care of protecting herself and never even ask. So what if one of those seeds falls on fertile soil? Do you think the man will even think twice about the possibility? That's why he has to be a stranger. Preferably one from out of town. He'll drop his seed, leave town, and think of it as a fling at a convention in New York City." She paused briefly, then added in a gentler tone, "I don't want to hurt anyone, Lucy. I just want a baby. If I were honest with a man and asked him to please impregnate me, he'd turn and run like hell, thinking I wanted to make some sort of claim on his life. But if he thinks he's just getting a nice roll in the hay for free, if he never knows I'm pregnant, how could it possibly hurt him?" She had finished, making the whole outrageous idea sound simple.
"There's got to be a flaw in there somewhere. I just don't hear it yet," Lucy had replied. "Give me some time to think it over."
"You have till Saturday," Meghan had warned.
Lucy had called several times to voice her objections. Each time Meghan had calmly and logically shot down her every protest until Lucy had given in.
"As my contribution to this harebrained idea," she had started without preamble over the phone that morning, "I have a title for the thesis you're supposedly working on."
"Okay, let's have it," Meghan had said with a laugh, glad she finally had Lucy's reluctant support.
"Call it 'Ramifications of the Out-of-Town Convention Upon the Professional Male of the Species.'"
"That's great." Meghan had chuckled. "That sounds dry enough to put a real sociologist to sleep."
"Meghan"—Lucy's voice had been sober and serious—"you be careful." "I promise I will."
Putting phase one into action, Meghan explained to the desk clerk at the Essex House Hotel that she was working on a sociology thesis and got his permission to "tactfully" conduct her survey in the lobby.
In her planning she had obtained several convention schedules from the larger hotels and had methodically eliminated possibilities until she'd come to her final decision. A Physics Symposium at the Essex. She was hoping her baby would have the intellect of a physicist and the superbly athletic body for which members of her family were known.
She had never in her wildest imagination thought it was going to be so difficult to find one decent man to get her pregnant. She must have met hundreds of men in her life, and, of course, she'd always mentally accepted or rejected them as possible husband material. But picking out a stranger to father her baby was something else entirely.
She had, however, worked out a logical system for interviewing the candidates ambling about the lobby of the hotel. The first priority was general appearance. She didn't mind bald men, but height was a definite point of consideration. If the baby grew up to be a short person, he or she would feel inferior in the Shay family. A pot belly and thin, straight, greasy hair were probably irrelevant, but if coupled with a short stature, the conventioneer was automatically eliminated. The second factor involved was how Meghan felt about the person in general. Considering herself an excellent judge of character, she didn't approach a man unless she had a good feeling about him.
There were five hundred men attending the Physics Symposium. Of the possible subjects in the lobby, Meghan had interviewed twelve, none of whom had turned out to be the right man.
An hour later, she was in the cocktail lounge. She had explained herself to the bartender, and he had graciously given the pleasant, harmless looking sociologist free reign of his domain.
Meghan thought she had hit pay dirt when she encountered four gentlemen, whom she guessed were all in their mid-thirties, sitting at a table. They happily agreed to answer her questions, and had great fun with their responses.
"I definitely wouldn't mind taking a woman who was a total stranger, to bed," one of the men was saying, as he eyed Meghan lecherously.
Feeling extremely uncomfortable and about ready to chuck the entire project, Meghan looked away from the table, toward the entrance to the lobby.
There were people passing back and forth in front of the archway. A cluster of men were talking and shaking hands. All these people are perfectly normal human beings, she thought to herself. Over half are probably married, or have been, and I'll bet most of them have fathered a child. Why can't I find just one?
It was then she noticed him breaking away from the group. He said something to the man on his right, shook the man's hand and turned toward the lounge.
Meghan felt her breath catch in her throat. He was the most magnificent man she'd ever seen. Tall and burly, his movements were fluent and graceful. Then, as she watched him turn in response to his name and allow himself to be draped in the long white arms of Daphne Alexander, her lip curled with disgust.
Daphne traveled in the fast lane. She was one of those young, plastic society women who never seemed to have anything better to do than flirt with men and paint her toenails. Not that Meghan had anything against wealthy people in general; some of her favorite clients were well-to-do. But the idle rich who had more money than manners, more time than they knew what to do with, and who knew more gossip about their so-called friends than they knew about current world events, irritated her beyond control.
Meghan had met Daphne at several of the lavish affairs thrown by her law firm's senior partners. Meghan had always considered the events to be a bit on the garish side and found it interesting in retrospect that Daphne had always seemed right at home amid the festivities.
The giant man gave Daphne a brief, polite embrace, then stepped back as she launched into conversation. He kept nodding and smiling for several minutes, and to Meghan's delight he didn't appear to be enjoying himself very much. She almost giggled when he thrust one hand deep into his pants pocket and impatiently shifted his weight from one leg to the other. The gesture spoke volumes on his good manners.
Somewhere in the back of her mind she realized that the professor who was currently answering her last question was nearly finished. She glanced back at the men, now finding them totally lacking as specimens, and asked her next question. Their answers were irrelevant to her, but she needed time to plan her moves on "Mr. Right."
When he was finally able to break away from Daphne, he entered the lounge with an air of bold self-assurance, exuding total masculinity. Briefly scanning the room, he chose a table behind and to the left of where Meghan was sitting. Stretching out in the chair, his legs reaching under the table for what seemed like miles, he glanced up to find Meghan watching him. She saw him give her a brief half smile before she quickly drew her attention back to the four ex- candidates.
Discovering that she had been holding her breath since first seeing him, Meghan sighed.
"If I were guaranteed that my wife would never find out, I probably wouldn't hesitate very long either," another, more serious physics professor was saying.
"What?" Meghan asked, confused.
"I was answering your question," he said.
"Oh. So you would have a fling at a convention then," she restated for him.
"I would if my wife's radar were out of commission, but she's got almost a sixth sense about my faithfulness. One time I had this gorgeous blonde in one of my classes." He went on to tell his story, but Meghan's own radar was homing in on the man behind her. In her mind she reviewed the smooth contours of his face, the cap of thick, dark hair, the keenness of his eyes....
Michael Ramsey was dog-tired and frustrated when he entered the cocktail lounge on the main floor of the Essex House Hotel. He'd taken the late flight out of Dallas the night before, and since nine o'clock that morning, he'd been discussing preliminary plans to buy out a company named Dobson Publishing. It was perfect for his needs—good reputation, moderate size, excellent facilities, superb staff. But Lord, those Dobson brothers could hem and haw. They quibbled and dickered over every point as if Michael, too, were haggling ... and he wasn't. He was very aware of what selling out meant to the two men and was more than willing to meet their demands. But after three or four hours with the picky old gentlemen, Michael's patience and understanding had begun to wear thin. He'd be glad when he could turn the whole deal over to his lawyers.
He should have gone straight up to his room, but he needed to unwind—a lot—before he would be able to sleep.
After the waitress had come and gone, leaving his drink behind, Michael looked around the lounge. Not many unattached women were out tonight, he noted absently. The majority of the people present were men in ties and suits, and an occasional woman in a business suit or casual dress. There were also several couples who were obviously out for a romantic night on the town. Lucky them, he thought wryly.
His attention finally settled on the group of men in front of him and the woman who had been staring at him earlier. She seemed to be throwing out topics for discussion, and the men were responding with animated conversation. She was probably a secretary, he speculated. As he watched, the woman turned her head slightly, looking from man to man, and as she did so, to Michael's bemused amazement, her hair changed colors.
As the soft lights in the darkened lounge reflected off the top of her head, her shiny red hair went from a golden copper color to chestnut, then to a flame red, and then to a deep, dark brick red. His weary, enfeebled brain found it fascinating. For several minutes he watched her in a daze.
His eyes narrowed slightly as the woman began to straighten her spine, sitting taller in her seat, her head held high. When she gave him a quick, sidelong glance, he knew she was still very aware of him.
He was amused. Women were one of his favorite sports. He tremendously enjoyed watching them use their tactics on men. He couldn't count the times a woman had set her cap for him and then proceeded to maneuver and connive to get his attentions. It was almost like a game to him to set his wits against those of the formidable fairer sex.
With the survival of his bachelorhood in mind, he sized up his latest possible opponent. Well, maybe she wasn't too much of a threat after all, he thought disappointedly. Considering the way she had quickly turned away when he had caught her looking at him, and the stylish but prim way she dressed, she was probably as shy as a church mouse. Too bad, he thought, because aside from her gorgeous hair, she also had incredible legs—beautifully shaped, and damned near as long as his.
As he examined her stems, the shy flower stood to take leave of the gentlemen. Michael's gaze followed the long, shapely limbs up to the voluptuous curves and bulges barely concealed by the conservative skirt and jacket. "Good Lord," he lamented out loud, thinking it was probably just as well that she was timid. Take down that hair, take off the glasses, and she could be a very dangerous woman.
He watched as she reluctantly turned toward him. She hesitated several seconds before she resolutely started walking toward his table. Nothing could conceal her lithe movements or the subtly seductive sway of her hips. For the first time he got a good look at her face. Her skin was creamy white, her high cheekbones flushed with a rosy glow. She had a pert, little nose that turned up slightly, and the way her chin was set at a stubbornly determined angle very much appealed to Michael.
Her eyes startled him. She looked at him straight on, and he was amazed that even through the glasses he could see how purely green they were. Her eyes were as green as her hair was red, not hazel or a mossy green, but almost a true kelly green. It fleetingly crossed his mind that she was indeed a "bonny Irish lass."
Excerpted from Divine Design by Mary Kay McComas. Copyright © 1988 Mary Kay McComas. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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