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Annalise stared at the plastic stick, stunned to see the positive indicator. It took a moment or two to register. The plus meant she was pregnant. Impossible.
She carefully wrapped the kit in the brown paper bag she'd brought it home in and stuffed into the small bathroom trash container. Then she pulled it out. Too obvious. She carried it to the kitchen and stuffed it into that trash. Picking up the container, she went to the hallway incinerator chute and emptied the telltale evidence.
Fifteen minutes later, she stood in McClel-lan's Drugstore buying another brand of preg-nancy-test kit. Without a second thought she bought two. No sense taking chances on a faulty reading.
When both of those kits confirmed what she secretly wouldn't admit she'd known, she went to flop down on the edge of the bed. This couldn't be the worst thing that had happened to her since marrying Dominic, but it seemed like it. His sentiments played in her mind. They'd had a discussion about having children just recently, when her twin sister announced she was pregnant.
Lianne had been trying. Annalise had not.
She so did not need this.
Dominic was going to hit the roof. Things had been a bit testy between them for the last few weeks. Thinking back, she wondered if it coincided with her confiding in him Lianne's quest to have a baby before it was too late. He had said unequivocally that he was satisfied with their marriage. They'd discussed having children years ago and decided not to. He had not changed his view.
Annalise wasn't sure how she felt, but she knew when he learned she was pregnant he was going to explode.
Annalise felt a bit overwhelmed herself. She'd never pictured herself a mother. She had better readjust her thinking. How far along was she? There was no way she could pinpoint the date of conception, but she tried to remember her last period. Maybe two months ago? Could she expect the baby to arrive in seven months? Ohmygodhow was she going to tell Dominic?
She had to tell him soon. Try to minimize the fall-out. Convince him this would be a good thing. Only how she would accomplish that was a mystery right nowshe herself wasn't so sure she wanted a child.
So when to tell Dominic? Tonight they were hosting a cocktail party for twenty-four. Should she get hold of him before? Or wait? Should she lead up to it or just blurt it out? She hoped the right words came. Rising, she went to the phone in the living room and called his cell number. It rolled to the message center. Damn. He must be in a high-level meeting to have turned his phone off. The seconds ticked by. She replaced the receiver without leaving him a message. Maybe he'd get home early and she'd tell him then.
Or maybe wait until everyone had left, so there'd be no tension at the party. That was what she'd do. Taking a deep breath, Annalise tried to quell the flutters in her stomach. He had to be reasonable about this. After all, it took two to make a baby. It wasn't as if she'd deliberately tried to become pregnant. She was not following in Lianne's footsteps. But something told her Dominic was not going to be reasonable.
They'd had several heated discussions about having a family in the last few weeks. Every time, Dominic had been stubbornly adamant against the idea. She hadn't pushed. She knew what living in a large family was like. And she'd agreed years ago when he'd brought up marriage, that a childless one suited her just fine. Fresh from the chaos of a large family, the idea of only the two of them doing what they wanted had sounded to her like perfection.
Still, a small smiled played around her mouth. They were going to have a baby.
How amazingshe and her twin were pregnant at the same time.
Now she just had to make her husband see what a wonderful thing this would be.
The one time Annalise really wanted to speak to her husband, he was late. The party had already begun when he dashed in, making excuses, greeting their guests with the confidence of a well-respected man. She knew the instant he entered. Whenever he was near it was as if she had a special sixth sense that instantly recognized his presence.
She went to greet him, happy to see he wasn't going to be so late as to be awkward. Greeting their first guests without him had been bad enough.
"Hello, darling," she said, with a wide smile.
"Sweetheart," he said, giving her a quick kiss and turning almost simultaneously to greet Ben Waters.
Once Dominic had put down his briefcase, he began to walk through the large living room, greeting guests, apologizing for being late, stopping with one group or another to chat for a while.
Annalise knew she couldn't tell him her important news until the last guest had left, so she resigned herself to a long evening of anticipation and dread. Normally she loved to entertain. They had a wide, eclectic group of friends. She watched Dominic as he shook hands with Congressman Peters. The congressman's wife was very shy. Annalise had invited her sister Bridget to the party to meet Judy Peters. They both were avid gardeners, and Annalise knew they'd hit it off.
"Lovely to see you again, my dear," Sheila Simpson said, coming up to Annalise. "So nice to have an event to attend where I know everyone and like them. Honestly, some of the receptions and parties we have to attend are too dull and boring for words." She laughed and chatted. Her husband was with the world bank, and Annalise knew Sheila loved parties of all types. She couldn't imagine her friend finding anything boring.
"Here's Karen. I was just saying how lovely this party is," Sheila said, when the wife of one of the British attachés joined them. "You look radiant."
Annalise smiled at Karen, who was very obviously pregnant. Annalise relished her secretsoon she'd be showing the world she carried a baby. She hugged her friend. "How are you feeling?"
"Fabulous, now that the morning sickness has passed. I thought I'd have to move into the bath for a few months. Yuck. But now everything is terrific."
Sheila laughed and complimented her on her dress.
"I feel huge, and I'm still three months away. Imagine how large I'll be by the end. Oh, the baby just kicked," Karen said, with a startled smile.
"Really?" Annalise stared at her friend's protruding stomach. "Can I feel?"
"Of coursethat's one of the best parts. Here." Karen took her hand and placed it to the side of her stomach. A moment later, Annalise felt a definite kick.
"Ah! Amazing." Involuntarily, she looked for Dominic. Would he soon be placing his hands on her stomach to feel their baby move?
Dominic glanced across the room and met Annalise's eyes. She smiled at him, then turned back to Karen Reynolds. A pregnant Karen. Annalise had her palm against the pregnant woman's belly. There was a soft smile on her face. For a moment, the world seemed to stand still. The topic of a baby had risen more in the last two months than in the previous five years of their marriage. His mouth went dry. He did not wish to discuss having a family again. He'd made his view known over and over. When they had first discussed marriage, as seniors at university, both had agreedno children.
The topic had not risen again until Annalise's twin became pregnant. Now it seemed every time he turned around he was seeing pregnant women, hearing about someone else having another child. He couldn't do that. Not again.
Deliberately turning, so he didn't have to see Annalise, he caught the thread of a conversation between two guests and tried to concentrate.
Annalise worked in real estate, specializing in homes in the northwest section of Washington, catering to embassy personnel and members of Congress. It was a rewarding job that enabled her to take a week off here and there whenever Dominic got a choice overseas assignment. It also enabled her to meet a wide variety of people. Many of whom became friends.
Dominic worked for a computer firm which specialized in troubleshooting high-end computer mainframes. His most recent trip, to England, had been to work on one with the Bank of England. The challenges were dramatic, but he thrived on solving complex problems. He was often given the most difficult ones, and usually turned things around within a few days of arriving on site. Which then gave he and Annalise time to sightsee and shop.
With his contacts through the "computerrepair business," as he called it, and her contacts from houses sold or listed, they had a wide variety of friends and acquaintances. Annalise loved giving parties with an assortment of guests. It made the evenings so interesting and fun. She could move from an argument between opposites about the world bank situation, to discussions about tourism in Florida, to hearing how an artist had fared at the latest showing of her work, all while circling her own living room. Tonight was no exception.
Some time later, Dominic poured himself another glass of wine. Glancing up, he heard Annalise's laugh. For a moment, he just gazed at her. She was lovely. He'd been attracted to her from the first moment they met. It wasn't only her looks that had appealed, but her manner, as well. She was confident and assured in any situation he'd seen her in. Friendly and genuinely interested in people, she loved to entertain and kept up with a wide circle of friends. She was so unlike his mother had been. Involuntarily a memory rose. His mother had looked far older than her years, and had worked nonstop as a clerk in a convenience store to keep their home, constantly arguing with his father about new furniture. He couldn't remember his parents ever entertaining friends. Annalise made it look so easy. His mother would have been horrified, and probably terrified at the assortment of people present. He frowned at the thought. He didn't need the past intruding.
Maybe he should have expected it to with all the talk about pregnancy. He was not cut out to be a father. He knew it, and if the subject arose again, Annalise would have to accept the fact. Even Phyllis
He turned away from the thought. He was married to a lovely, successful woman. Their future together was bright. He'd fought his way out of the life he'd once lived and was never going back.
The evening was winding down when Dominic finally got time to catch up with Annalise. She seemed quieter than usual. When she thought no one was watching, her smile faded. They'd returned from London four days agomaybe she was still suffering jet lag.
The trip had been a success, both from a business point of view and as a few days' down time. He shared Annalise's love for London. Though he was partial to Rome, as well. Part of the excitement of his job was never knowing where the next assignment would be. He relished the travel, and the opportunity to pit his wits and brain against the problems that arose with various software and computer usage. Most of the time it was silly mistakes. Occasionally industrial espionage or sabotage lay behind the difficulties.
The best part, however, was seeing the world and getting paid for it. Quite a change from his rather bleak childhood in a small Pennsylvania mill town.