Holly Jolly Christmas Ch. 5

Holly Jolly Christmas

CoverFinalMD-HollyJollyChristmasPrequel to Holiday Babies Series

by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author
Mona Risk

Copyright © 2016 by Mona Risk

Book Description
Heather and Jeff have always been in love. Yet to find herself pregnant now, at eighteen, before she even starts college and he joins MIT for a master’s degree… Talk about the wrong time. Besides, the news might kill her father who is battling cancer.
Although the decision to give up her baby is breaking her heart, Heather contacts an adoption agency. But Jeff absolutely refuses to consider her solution. How can they save their relationship and their baby’s future?

Chapter Five

“Gorgeous. Absolutely stunning.” Standing in the living room next to Mr. Ramsay’s recliner, Jeff had trouble closing his sagging jaw.

Pregnancy hadn’t lessened his girlfriend’s loveliness. On the contrary, it had enhanced her charm a hundred times. Her blond tresses framed her face and bounced on her back as she sprinted toward him on high-heeled sandals, a vision in a symphony of blue highlighting the blue of her eyes. Her sweet floral scent drifted over to him. Longing to have her in his arms, Jeff wished they could make a detour by his lodge before driving to the twins’ party.

“Take good care of my little girl,” Mr. Ramsay ordered with a jovial voice.

“Absolutely. We may end up staying overnight. I hope you don’t mind, Mr. Ramsay. The Herberts own a huge house and will distribute sleeping bags. Some of the guests will probably decide to bunk on the floor, in the family room and living room, rather than drive back if they’re too tired.”

“Wise decision. We won’t worry about you.”

Heather sashayed to her dad and leaned forward to kiss his cheek.

“Have fun, little girl.” Mr. Ramsay insisted on calling his daughters little girl.

How would he react if—and when—he learned that one of his dear little girls was expecting out of wedlock? Eventually the truth would come out. Jeff swallowed wrong, hating to hurt the sick man’s feelings. Mr. Ramsay was a wonderful father who adored his female brood.

“Goodnight, sir.” Jeff picked up the overnight bag Heather had left near the door and followed her out to his car. “You look terrific. To think you were afraid of showing.”

“This dress works miracles with its three layers of different shades. Somehow, the layered hems hide any roundness.”

Jeff glanced at her midsection and smiled appreciatively. The darker lowest sheet in satin tightly fit to her hips, the shorter second shift in blue muslin loosely covered her belly and the top layer with printed blue flowers revealed delicious cleavage.

After she settled in the passenger seat, he stowed her bag in the trunk next to his and slid behind the wheel. “Honestly, Heather, you’re far from being round.” He shook his head and started the car. “And your shoes are something else.” His fingers itched to caress her tanned, sexy legs elongated by the silver stilettos. To distract himself, he tapped on the steering wheel.

She laughed. “I borrowed Roxy’s high-heeled sandals. She owns more shoes than all of us together. And Madelyn let me have her silver clutch to match. My sisters are the best.”

She’d finally relaxed and was enjoying the moment. Hopefully, the evening would proceed with the same mood. He should follow her example and unwind.

At her friends’ residence, they met a noisy crowd of teenagers ambling in and out of the house. Some splashing in the pool, other meandering about in bikinis and swim trunks with drinks in their hands. A few in shorts or dresses chatted at the bar and in the family room. In the kitchen, the twins’ parents prepared plates of appetizers without missing a glance of the party. Heather and Jeff stopped by to say hi.

“What a pretty dress,” Olivia’s mother exclaimed. “You can hang it in one of the girls’ closets when swimming.”

“I’m not swimming today. My throat is…huh.” Heather scratched her neck and laughed nervously.

Jeff suppressed a chuckle. She was becoming such a good actress.

“Well if you’re feeling something coming, then it’s better to play it safe,” Mrs. Herbert said with an understanding nod.

“What about your friend?” the twins’ father asked, his eyebrows arched. Darn, she’d forgotten to introduce Jeff.

“I’m sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert. This is my boyfriend, Jeff Bolin. He too is not swimming.”

Jeff shook hands with the dad. “Don’t worry about us. We’re going out to mingle.” He gripped Heather’s hand and tugged her toward the family room. “A soda?”

“With a lot of ice.” They sat with a group of Heather’s classmates who preferred to chat rather than swim.

An hour later, Heather wanted to move around and Jeff obliged, leading her to the patio. The setting sun tinted the sky in various hues of pink and the noise in the pool escalated.

“Hey, Heather, come and join us,” a young male called from the water.

“I didn’t bring a bathing suit,” she answered with a laugh.

“Who cares? Jump in with your dress on or take it off.”

“Jerk,” Jeff mumbled and spun Heather away from the pool and the rowdy throng. “Let’s walk on the terrace. There’s a nice breeze.”

A young woman sitting at a table by herself waved. “Hi.”

Heather approached her. “Can we join you?”

“Please do. I’m Lyn Herbert, Olivia and Lucia’s cousin.”

“Heather Ramsay. I’m a classmate of Olivia. And this is my boyfriend, Jeff Bolin,” she added and seated herself at the table.

“I’m going to the bar. A soft drink, Heather?” Jeff offered.

“Just a glass of ice water.”

“Make that two, please.” Lyn sent him a charming smile that puzzled him.

***

Heather’s heart swelled with love as she watched Jeff stride to the bar. He took such good care of her.

“Nice guy.” Lyn’s voice startled her.

Heather whirled, and then scowled at Lyn’s dreamy expression. With her tilted head, parted lips and dazed eyes, the woman was mentally devouring Jeff’s back.

“We’ve been together for three years,” Heather said with a crisp keep-your-hands-off tone.

“You lucky one.”

“I know.” True, Jeff was a handsome man. And a smart one. And a kind one. But he was her man and she’d scratch out the eyes of any woman who’d try to take him away from her.

“I had a good-looking boyfriend.”

“What happened?” Too late, Heather bit her lip. She shouldn’t interfere in this stranger’s personal melodrama. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. Ignore my question.”

“You’re not intruding. If I was standing you’d have noticed I’m pregnant.”

“Ah.” Heather’s eye flew to the woman’s waist. Her situation hit close to home.

“He left me when I told him.”

“What a scumbag.”

“Yeah, he spent two years saying he loved me and we’d get married as soon as he had a good job. And then he disappeared and left me to deal with the situation.”

“Are you putting the baby up for adoption?”

“Are you crazy?” Lyn scowled at her. “Adoption? No way.”

“So what are you…”

“I’m keeping my baby. One more year and I’ll be done with college. I’ve already secured a job as a social worker. My mother promised to help.”

“You told her?” Stunned, Heather considered her.

“Of course. It’s too difficult to handle a baby on your own. Although I have a friend who’s doing it. But the poor thing had no choice. She had no loving support around her and she’s pinching pennies just to scrape by.”

“Why? Why expose a baby to a miserable life when she can put him up for adoption and give him a good future?”

“Are you adopted by any chance?”

“Me? No.”

“So how can you be so sure the kid will be loved the way his own mother would love him?”

“Well, because usually the adoptive parents have done so much to have a baby and waited so long and—”

“My mother was adopted and ran away at sixteen to escape a drunken father and neglectful mother. I won’t take any risks with my child, unless I’m dying of hunger, or terminally ill, or…or crazy. Maybe I’ll find a nice guy like Jeff to marry and help me raise my kid.”

“Oh.” Momentarily speechless, Heather stared at Lyn.

“Here are your ice waters.” Jeff set the plastic cups on the table. They’d been so engrossed in their conversation, they hadn’t seen him approaching.

“Thanks.” Her throat dry from the emotional exchange, Heather gulped her water.

“So what’s the big discussion about?”

“Nothing important,” Heather hastened to answer, not ready to give Jeff more ammunition to oppose her in the adoption issue.

“Thank you for the drink, Jeff,” Lyn said with a sugar-sweet curl to her lips. “We were discussing adoptive parents.”

Jeff threw Heather a concerned glance. “Wrong subject for a party. Too serious. We’re here to have fun.” He grabbed her hand. “The music is starting. Let’s dance. Sorry, Lyn, we’re going to leave you.”

“I’m coming too. Dancing is a good idea.” Lyn put her hand on Jeff’s arm and tagged along.

They joined other guests dancing on the edge of the terrace. Jeff folded his arm around Heather’s waist. Lyn faced him and followed his lead. Always the gentleman, he included her in the dance.

Sharing her partner with Lyn was definitely not part of Heather’s agenda. But how could they get rid of Lyn? Patiently Heather waited for the rock music to end, but Lyn seemed to be having the time of her life and lingered next to them for the second and third songs.

“I haven’t danced for so long. Jeff, you’re amazing,” she crooned with a flirty tone that grated on Heather’s nerves.

Jeff grinned awkwardly and glanced at Heather. She didn’t feel like smiling.

A slow song started. Heather wrapped both arms around Jeff’s neck. “Excuse me.”

“We can dance together again.” Lyn’s eyes filled with tears. “I haven’t had so much fun since Rob dumped me.”

Heather rolled her eyes. “I’m tired. Jeff, let’s go home.” Exasperation knotted her insides. Jeff nodded and held her elbow.

“If you’re leaving, can I ask you for a ride home?” Lyn said.

Unable to believe her ears, Heather braced herself to deal with the woman’s demand. “How did you get here?”

“My mother dropped me off. I was going to sleep over. But I’m not feeling well now.”

As far as Heather could see, Lyn was determined to take advantage of Jeff’s kindness. Maybe she was even plotting to snatch him.

“Lyn is pregnant,” Heather said in a warning tone. If she fainted or threw up in Jeff’s car, they’d be stuck taking care of the manipulating woman all night.

“Stay with her for a minute, sweetheart, while I bring the car around.”

“No way…”

But Jeff had already disappeared.

“Exactly what do you have in mind?” Heather asked, fuming at the scheming of the woman.

Lyn gave her a cold stare and shrugged. “He’s a nice guy.”

“He’s my boyfriend.”

“You don’t deserve him.”

Darn, the nerve of this shrew.

Just then, Jeff returned with Mr. and Mrs. Herbert. “Lyn said she’s not feeling well. Please take care of her. Heather and I are leaving.” Without giving Lyn time to protest, he drew Heather off the terrace toward the front yard and the street. “Hurry.”

She took off her shoes and ran with him to his car. “What a bloodsucker. She kept saying you’re so nice. I swear the woman wanted to grab you.”

“Jealous?” He wiggled his eyebrows as he drove away.

“Yes, Jeff, yes. I don’t want to lose you.”

“I don’t want to lose you either. Yet you don’t mind my going away to MIT. On my own.”

“Huh…Why would I mind?”

“We’ll be separated for a year or two, you here and me in Boston. So much can happen during such a long time.”

“Do you mean…” Would he cheat on her?

Of course he wouldn’t. But women like Lyn wouldn’t mind throwing themselves at his neck.

Silence settled in the car. Jeff finally slowed down and turned into the lane leading to his lodge. After cutting the engine, he unbuckled his seatbelt and cupped her face in his hands.

“Heather, I love you. I adore you.”

“I know, Jeff. I adore you, too.”

“Will you marry me?”

“Of course. We’re going to marry in two years.”

“Not in two years, Heather. Will you marry me now? Next week?”

Her eyes rounded like saucers. “Next… Seriously?”

“I want you in my arms, but we can’t continue to hide from your family, lie to your parents.”

“Ah.” She blinked, guilt nudging her.

“Today, I felt like dirt when telling your father we were staying at the Herberts’.”

“You were not lying. We were going to sleep there, if it wasn’t for that b… hmm.” Heather couldn’t stomach the woman who had been clinging to Jeff too closely.

“There will always be jerks trying to grab you away from me, like the ones in the pool who wanted you to jump in without a bathing suit, or girls thinking I’m available. As long as we have no commitment, we’re fair game.”

She frowned, not liking this bit of truth. He had a point there. Although she had laughed at the friends in the pool, thinking they’d had one beer too many, Jeff had been irritated, and jealous. The way she felt about Lyn.

“You want us to get married before you leave for MIT?” She wouldn’t have to worry about other women, although marriage didn’t come with a guarantee of faithfulness.

“If we marry, I’m not going to MIT. I’m already looking for a job here in Lexington. And I’ll join a local program for the MS. Going to Boston doesn’t appeal to me anymore.”

In spite of her bravado, the idea of a two-year separation terrified her. She’d tried to be generous and think only of his future, but that had been before she met Lyn and imagined the likes of her hanging on Jeff’s neck.

A sigh of relief escaped her. Jeff hadn’t mentioned the baby. He’d proposed because he loved her, not to fix a bad situation. She loved him too. Would her parents agree to let her marry at eighteen? Before finishing, or actually starting college?

“I don’t mind getting married now, but it would require some diplomacy to obtain my parents’ blessing.”

The family had always thought that Madelyn or Roxanne would be the first to marry. They had already graduated from college, garnered jobs, and lived on their own. But Madelyn had no other interests than her medical training and career, and no one knew anything about Roxanne who traveled for business continuously.

“I know. My parents too might give me a hard time. But I’m not a kid anymore. I’m entitled to make my own decisions.”

How she loved him when he sounded so confident. She laced her fingers around his neck and kissed him, ready to melt in his arms.

“Your answer first?”

“I will marry you, Jeff. Any time you want.” She stroked his hand to reassure him. “I just need a few days to think about the how and where.”

“Wonderful. You have three days to give me a final answer.” He enfolded her in his arms for a searing kiss, one of those kisses that made her forget the rules and principles her parents had instilled in her since she was a kid.

“Hmm. Let’s go inside.”

He revved the engine and drove away.

“Jeff, where are you going?”

“Taking you home. No more sneaking around.”

“But Jeff, can we…tonight… No one would mind.” It would feel so good to snuggle against his muscled body.

Lips pursed, he shook his head and kept driving.

“No way…” She blew up. Some willpower he had. “You’re going to dump me at home to sleep alone in my bed like a …”

“Like a good girl, sweetheart. Yes. I’m a good boy who loves good girls. And I plan to marry one.”

“Bummer.”

“Until you give me your final answer.”

(To be continued on 12-7-2016)

Holiday Babies Series

With high moral values and a strong sense of unity, the Ramsay family counts five daughters—Madelyn, Roxanne, Heather, Claire, and Tiffany, and their mother Barbara. Later, stepdaughter Monica Roland joins the clan.
 
Christmas Babies: Can a career fill her life? (Madelyn and Dr. Nick Preston)
Valentine Babies: Can he love a woman expecting another man’s baby? (Roxanne and Dr. Greg Hayes)
Mother’s Day Babies: Never too late to find love and happiness. (Barbara and Lou Roland)
Wedding Surprise: Is it the worst or best wedding surprise? (Claire and David Wheeler)
Christmas Papa: Who’ s my papa, Mommy? (Monica and Michael Wheeler)
On Christmas Eve: We want a mommy for Christmas. (Tiffany and Dr. Matthew Alonso)

Posted in Anthology, Boxed set, christmas stories, Contemporary Romance, holiday, USA Today Bestseller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holly Jolly Christmas Ch. 4

Holly Jolly Christmas

CoverFinalMD-HollyJollyChristmasPrequel to Holiday Babies Series

by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author
Mona Risk

Copyright © 2016 by Mona Risk

Book Description
Heather and Jeff have always been in love. Yet to find herself pregnant now, at eighteen, before she even starts college and he joins MIT for a master’s degree… Talk about the wrong time. Besides, the news might kill her father who is battling cancer.
Although the decision to give up her baby is breaking her heart, Heather contacts an adoption agency. But Jeff absolutely refuses to consider her solution. How can they save their relationship and their baby’s future?

Chapter Four

Seething at Heather’s dismissal of his fatherly right, Jeff called Madelyn. “Why are you encouraging Heather to get rid of our baby?”

“Nothing of the sort, Jeff. She trusted me with her secret and I plan to be at her side to make sure no one takes advantage of her.”

“I always considered you to be a sensible person, a doctor I respect.” His heart churned with resentment. “Yet you’re not even trying to stop her from doing that crazy thing,” he almost yelled. “Instead, you’re taking her to an adoption agency.”

“Calm down, Jeff,” Madelyn replied in a gentle but firm voice. “I’ve already talked to her, advised her, but she’s convinced she’s doing the right thing. I hope she’ll soon come to her senses. Meanwhile, I’ll stick by her and accompany her.”

He felt embarrassed at unleashing his anger on her. “Which agency? Give me the address.”

“I’d rather not have you come.”

“For heaven’s sake, Madelyn, it’s my baby too. I should have my say in his future.”

“I know, but according to the agency, putting a baby up for adoption is the mother’s decision. They don’t require the father’s signature.”

“Damn.” He almost threw the phone, and then closed his eyes and forced himself to regain his composure. “Still, I want to be present.”

“You may not like the place or the people, and you may lose your temper—”

“Of course I won’t like them, but I’ll keep my cool.” Like a lion in a cage, he paced his small living room where his girlfriend had announced her big news. “Please tell Heather to text me the agency’s name and address. If she doesn’t within the hour, I’m confessing the whole thing to my parents and yours.”

“You know you wouldn’t.”

“Just tell her I am at the end of my rope. Bye, Madelyn.” He heaved a long sigh. When would this nightmare end?

His baby was not a nightmare. His baby would bring joy and love. Jeff knew it. He felt it deep in his heart and would do everything in his power to prepare for the baby’s arrival.

Jeff stood at the door of his bedroom and surveyed the small area already cluttered with a double bed, a night table, a chest of drawer and a desk. There was hardly any space left. Where would he put a baby crib? If he squeezed it in between his bed and the wall, they would have to scramble onto the bed to reach the crib.

Frustration coursed through him. He spun around, considering various options. Get rid of the chest and use the space for the crib. Move the desk to the living room and remove the chair. He huffed. There was no room for a baby in his bachelor cabin. And even less for a young family. It was one thing to share a passionate tumble with his girlfriend and another to ask her to live here with a baby. Damn it, was she right?

He would find a solution. Soon.

The phone interrupted his musing. She did call.

“You’re a jerk. A lowly sleaze.”

“The address, Heather.”

Her voice a crisp murmur, she gave him the information. “If you come, that’ll be the end between us.”

“If you give my baby up for adoption, I’ll make your life a living hell. But I won’t let you.” He couldn’t believe the nasty words they were hurling at each other. Last night he’d been dreaming of having Heather join him in Boston, of sharing two years together before getting married.

And now… But he wouldn’t let her carry on her thoughtless plan. He’d create space, a warm cozy house where she’d be eager to live.

It had taken him two months to transform the barn into living quarters. He’d build two new rooms, a baby room and an office. Adding two rooms wouldn’t be such a big deal. The money he’d saved for sharing fun time with Heather in Boston would come in handy now. Maybe he’d request help from two amazing handymen, his brother Bert and his best friend Josh. He could trust them to keep his secret and work diligently at his side.

Comforted by his reasonable solution, Jeff sat at his desk, tabulated his priorities, and organized a schedule. By the time his son arrived, they would have a comfortable house to welcome him, with a pretty baby room painted in sky blue and furnished with a white crib, a changing table, and a rocking chair for Mommy to nurse him.

A clear image of the area formed in Jeff’s mind and helped him loosen up. On one wall he would draw teddy bears, cars, boats and airplanes to provide a cheerful mood and inspire his child’s curiosity, and on another wall he would line up the alphabet in capital letters and the numbers from one to ten. Already a proud dad, Jeff chuckled, imagining his son singing “ABCDEFG…”

***

Heather spotted Jeff waiting for them on the sidewalk in front of the adoption agency. So handsome in a pair of navy-blue pants and a white button-down shirt. His neatly combed golden strands shone under the blazing sun, and he displayed a three-day stubble with a growing goatee that gave him a more mature appearance. The subtle but enticing scent of his lemon cologne tickled her nose. Yet Jeff’s blank face revealed no expression, no frown, no smile, only a direct steely gaze.

Early in the morning, he’d called Madelyn and offered to pick them up. Her sister had declined and arranged to meet him at the agency. But he hadn’t contacted Heather herself. Not hearing from him for three days had been close to hell. She loved Jeff and couldn’t imagine herself without him or with anyone else.

“Hi,” Madelyn said when they reached him.

“Hi,” he answered with an icy tone, without reaching to kiss Heather. It was the first time in the two years they’d being dating that Jeff hadn’t greeted her with a kiss, or a hug, or a touch. Her heart squeezed with pain and she realized he might seriously resent her.

Without adding another word, he opened the door of the four-story building and let them pass. They found a plaque on the wall indicating the agency’s location on the third floor and took the elevator. The waiting room reminded Heather of a doctor’s office, furnished with chairs and side tables covered with magazines. She signed in at the reception window.

A moment later, a tall, middle-aged woman walked to them with a big grin. “I’m Norma Benson. Ms. Heather Ramsay, I presume.” She proffered a hand at Madelyn who grabbed it for a handshake.

“I’m Dr. Madelyn Ramsay, and this is my sister Heather, who called you.”

“Welcome to our agency, Dr. Ramsay, Heather. And the gentleman is…” Norma narrowed her eyes.

Jeff arched an eyebrow and turned to Heather.

For the life of her, she couldn’t utter a sound and kept fiddling with the straps of her handbag. Why had he insisted on coming and embarrassing her?

“I’m Jeff Bolin, Heather’s boyfriend. The baby’s father.”

“The fath… Oh.” Norma’s gaze flipped from Heather to Jeff. “How honorable of you to share the responsibility and decision of putting the baby up for adoption. Many young fathers choose to disappear and leave the moms to deal with the problems.”

“We are here to study the situation before making any decision. Right, sweetheart?”

Taken by surprise at his unexpected cooperation, Heather frowned. What game was he playing now?

“Very wise attitude, Mr. Bolin,” Norma said, although her questioning look attested to her unease. “Please follow me.” She led them to an office with an oblong table and a screen on the wall. Bottles of water waited in front of each seat.

Heather sat beside Madelyn, but Jeff walked around the table and took the chair next to Norma.

“I will ask you a few questions.” She opened a laptop. “When is the baby due?”

“December,” Heather said.

“A Christmas baby,” Jeff blurted.

Heather felt like slapping him for his insensitivity. She was giving away the baby. It was certainly no Christmas gift.

“Who’s your doctor?”

“I haven’t seen a doctor yet. It’s next on my list of things to do,” Heather answered in an apologetic voice.

“It’s important to make sure the baby is growing normal and healthy.”

A shiver slithered down Heather’s spine. “Normal and healthy?” she murmured. Oh God, it would be horrible if she were cursed with a sick baby no one wanted.

“I’m sure our baby is healthy.” Jeff’s voice had lost its frigid tone.

“We’ll need a health report.”

“If we decide to sign up with you, we’ll give you all the necessary reassurance,” he uttered with a razor-sharp voice.

“Heather, please fill in this form and sign at the bottom,” Norma instructed as she slid an open folder with a bunch of papers across the table.

Madelyn leaned over to read while Heather entered the information. Jeff sidled behind Norma and skirted around the table to study the file. “Before you sign anything, Heather, we have to know who will take our baby.”

“Sorry, sir, we can’t disclose any name.”

“I was hoping I could have news about the baby, visit him sometimes,” Heather said with a pleading voice.

“We will send you a report after a couple of months, but you can’t see the child or have any contact with him. He will become someone else’s child. I’m sorry. The parents’ names and contact information will remain secret. These are regulations necessary to protect the privacy of the adoptive parents.”

Heather folded her arms on her stomach as if to shield her baby from an uncertain future. “Oh God, what if he’s not happy or well-taken care of?” She felt Jeff’s fingers squeezing her shoulders.

“We make sure we place the babies with excellent families. After waiting for years to have a baby, the adoptive parents are often the best parents in the world.”

“How do we know that they are a loving couple?” Jeff asked. “We need some proof.”

“I can show you videos with information about prospective parents on our waiting list.” She turned on a projector connected to her laptop. A big house with a beautiful yard appeared on the screen. “First couple, mid-thirties. He’s a contractor and she’s a teacher. She plans to stay home and take care of the baby. They live in Montana.”

“So far away?” Heather choked on the sip of water she was swallowing.

“Second couple. Very wealthy, in their forties. Two grownup daughters. They want a son. The baby will be quite pampered in their mansion.” Several more slides followed, all presenting big houses belonging to rich middle-aged people who’d be eager to welcome Heather’s baby. “By the way, do you know the baby’s gender?”

“No.” Exasperated by the woman’s assumptions that money topped a single mother’s priorities for her child, Heather couldn’t wait to get out. “I’m feeling nausea coming. Can we take the flash drive and watch it at home?”

“At home? We usually don’t —”

“Yes, please,” Madelyn interfered. “We’d better leave before Heather vomits on the floor of this room.”

“Huh…just sign here, and initial there.” Norma shoved a pen in Heather’s hand but Jeff snatched the papers from the table.

“We need time to look at the flash drive, study the couples and discuss. We’ll get back to you, Ms. Benson. Come, sweetheart.” He pulled out Heather’s chair, wrapped an arm around her waist and tugged her out of the room.

“Thank you, Norma,” Madelyn added politely. “As Jeff said, we’ll be in touch.”

“You shouldn’t have brought him along. These young bulls create a mess and continue to muddle things when they are not welcome.”

“Goodbye,” Jeff threw over his shoulder.

Heather couldn’t help but admire his poise. She’d expected him to cause problems but he’d been calm as if he had initiated the meeting with the adoption agent.

“Ride with me, Heather. I missed you.” He leveled a gaze full of longing on her when they stepped onto the sidewalk, and her heart beat a happy staccato.

“I missed you too. Madelyn, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all. I have errands to run. See you later.”

Heather slipped into the passenger seat of Jeff’s car and buckled her seatbelt with a sigh of relief. Her boyfriend didn’t resent her.

Without wasting time, he drove away.

“I wanted to take you to lunch but you said your stomach is unsettled.”

She chuckled. “Not at all. It was a way to get out of that place. The woman was grating on my nerves with her show of wealthy houses.”

Jeff nodded with understanding. “Hamburgers okay?”

“Perfect.”

He parked his old Chevrolet in the Rock Burger parking lot. They got out of the car and strolled to the fast food place, hand in hand.

After placing their orders, he carried the tray with their food and soft drinks to the table she chose next to the window. The view of a pond with a family of geese paddling in the shallow water brought a smile to her lips.

“They’re so cute. The father leading and the mother turning, now and then, to watch her brood.”

“Laws of nature. Even the birds follow it.”

“Jeff.” She covered his hand on the table. “I don’t want you to think I don’t care about the baby. Because I do.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “My decision is breaking my heart, but I know it’s for the best. I don’t want to get attached to this baby and spend the rest of my life crying.”

“I understand.” Jeff grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips. “Listen, what do you think if we take a break from that subject and enjoy life for a couple of days? No more talk about future, study, work or baby. Just a few days to relax and go out together.”

“I’d love that. Where would we go? To your lodge?”

“No, my lodge is not a fun place.”

“It used to be. We created wonderful memories there.” She winked at him. “First kiss under the big oak tree in the backyard. First—”

“Okay, okay. No need to go into details. I have a good memory.” They burst out laughing together. It felt so good to have her Jeff back. “I wanted to take you to Cumberland Lake to relax. We could walk, swim and kayak.”

“Hmm, why not?”

“And next weekend we can attend your friends Olivia and Lucia’s party.”

“I already sent my apologies. I wasn’t in the mood for a big birthday and graduation celebration when I received their invitation.”

“How about reconsidering? It’s a pool party, a huge affair at the Herberts for the twins. I’m sure it’ll be fun.”

She grimaced and lowered her head. “I have trouble fitting into a bathing suit. People may notice.”

“No need to swim. Just wear a pool outfit. We’ll dance and have a good time. Please, sweetheart. We can’t lock ourselves away because—”

“You don’t have to. Nothing has changed for you.”

“Wrong. I love you and share all your feelings.” He stopped her protest with a raised hand. “But we said we’re taking a break from all that talk.”

“Correct.” Suddenly hungry, she bit into her sandwich with gusto. “I’ll talk to Olivia Herbert tonight and tell her I can’t miss her party.”

If he wanted to go to the party, she’d go with him and stick by his side. Jeff was her man and she’d do anything to keep him. Too many of her dear friends wouldn’t mind snatching the good-looking agricultural engineer who’d just garnered a scholarship at MIT.

(To be continued on 12-5-2016)

Holiday Babies Series

With high moral values and a strong sense of unity, the Ramsay family counts five daughters—Madelyn, Roxanne, Heather, Claire, and Tiffany, and their mother Barbara. Later, stepdaughter Monica Roland joins the clan.
 
Christmas Babies: Can a career fill her life? (Madelyn and Dr. Nick Preston)
Valentine Babies: Can he love a woman expecting another man’s baby? (Roxanne and Dr. Greg Hayes)
Mother’s Day Babies: Never too late to find love and happiness. (Barbara and Lou Roland)
Wedding Surprise: Is it the worst or best wedding surprise? (Claire and David Wheeler)
Christmas Papa: Who’ s my papa, Mommy? (Monica and Michael Wheeler)
On Christmas Eve: We want a mommy for Christmas. (Tiffany and Dr. Matthew Alonso)

Posted in Anthology, christmas stories, Contemporary Romance, Medical Romance, USA Today Bestseller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holly Jolly Christmas Ch. 3

Holly Jolly Christmas

CoverFinalMD-HollyJollyChristmasPrequel to Holiday Babies Series

by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author
Mona Risk

Copyright © 2016 by Mona Risk

Book Description
Heather and Jeff have always been in love. Yet to find herself pregnant now, at eighteen, before she even starts college and he joins MIT for a master’s degree… Talk about the wrong time. Besides, the news might kill her father who is battling cancer.
Although the decision to give up her baby is breaking her heart, Heather contacts an adoption agency. But Jeff absolutely refuses to consider her solution. How can they save their relationship and their baby’s future?

Chapter Three

Heather had expected Jeff to argue against her decision but she’d never thought he’d be so negative. Couldn’t he understand she was doing this to allow him to fulfill his dreams, to protect their love and future? Dad had been thrilled to learn Jeff’s good news. She’d bet his parents must have been in seventh heaven for Mr. Bolin to call Dad right away and share his pride in his son. She couldn’t let Jeff destroy all the good feelings with a bad decision.

Besides, he might resent her later if she let him drop out of the prestigious MIT. Of course it wasn’t easy for him. Or for her. When she thought of the baby, she felt like curling up in a corner and crying her heart out. Was she a monster to give up her own child?

“I’ll make sure he’ll have a wonderful home,” she muttered under her breath while driving home.

“Who?” Claire asked, her eyebrows arching dubiously.

“Her dearest Jeff. Who else?” Tiffany answered from the backseat.

Bummer, these girls were so annoying with their sharp hearing and unrestrained curiosity.

Claire shrugged. “Right now, his lodge is rather microscopic, far from a wonderful home.”

“Haven’t you read that love is blind?” Tiffany snorted. “These two are in love, lovey-love. They can’t see beyond their own noses, which are usually too close together, if you ask me my humble opinion.”

“Enough, you too. No one wants your opinion.”

“Seriously, Heather, you’re becoming a pain in the patootie.” Claire sighed. “Even Jeff is fed up with you. Everyone at the pool noticed how you upset him.”

“Will you shut up once and for all, or I’ll drop you here. And you can walk the rest of the way home.”

“And Mom would kill you for sure,” Tiffany yelled from the back.

Darn, couldn’t they keep quiet? Heather bit her lip not to shout that she hated them, she hated Jeff, and mostly she hated herself.

Fighting the tears threatening to spill, she pressed her foot on the accelerator.

“Slow down, you’re going to kill us,” Tiffany screamed.

But Claire patted her arm. “Calm down. You’ve been a live wire. Is something wrong?”

Damnit, that did it. The tears rolled onto her cheeks and sobs shook her.

“Are you crazy? You can’t drive in this shape. Stop at the side of the road.” Claire was right.

Heather had better control herself if she didn’t want to cause an accident.

“Okay, I will.” She hiccupped and pulled to the side of the road. Her head dropped onto the wheel and she hauled in a few deep breaths.

“Care to share what’s going on? Maybe I can help.” Claire’s gentle strokes on her back helped her calm down. Her cries subsided.

“Thank you. I’m better now.” She started the car and took off slowly. Good God, she’d almost endangered her sisters and the baby. Bad enough she was giving him away, no need to traumatize the new life growing inside her. From now on, she promised herself, she’d think of the baby’s health and safety before all else.

At home, she parked the car in the garage and followed her sisters inside the house. Sure enough, they found Madelyn in the hallway. “Had a good time at the pool?” Big Sis asked.

“At the pool, yes, but on the way back, Heather wasn’t feeling well,” Tiffany said with an important air.

“What happened?” Madelyn raised her eyebrows with concern.

“Nothing happened, for heaven’s sake.” When would these girls learn to be discreet?

“You should give her a check-up, Maddy. Methinks she had a fight with Jeff and is now going into a depression,” Tiffany declared with a serious pout. “She couldn’t stop crying.”

“Thanks for telling me, Tiff. I’ll take care of that. Come to my room, Heather.”

“Gladly.” At least she wouldn’t have to listen to the little pests’ rant.

“Or better, we’ll go to your room. I’ll show you a few things on the computer,” Madelyn added after the two young ones had disappeared into their rooms.

“What things?” Heather couldn’t wait to see what Madelyn had uncovered about adoption.

“I found an agency that looks quite reliable.” She sat at the desktop and entered a link while Heather locked the door to avoid unwelcome interruptions. “Here, read this and then you’ll call them and get an appointment.”

“Thank you, Maddy. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“Pregnancy can make the expectant mother very nervous. So you shouldn’t put more stress on yourself. Take one step at a time. First, you have to gather all the information, then explain it to Jeff. And then both of you will discuss the adoption benefits and come up with the right decision.”

“I already told him my decision. But it upset him. He started yelling and left. I was so disturbed I couldn’t help crying while driving home.”

“It’s not your decision alone. Jeff has to agree.”

“He’s too stubborn.”

Madelyn held up both hands impatiently and sat on the bed. “Stop arguing. Read the information they give you on this site. And then call them.”

An hour later, Heather noted an address on a paper. “I’m meeting a Norma Benson in two days at the agency. Will you come with me?”

“What about Jeff?”

“The woman said she doesn’t need to see the father. It’s my decision alone.”

“Seriously? I’m stunned. I don’t want you going to meet these people all alone. I’ll come with you.”

A bang on the door interrupted them. “Mom said dinner will be served in ten minutes. Be downstairs,” Claire said without bothering to open the door.

“We’re coming. Now put a smile on your face and let’s go.” Madelyn didn’t wait for her.

A smile? When she felt like crying again? She washed her face, changed her clothes and combed her hair on her shoulders. A touch of makeup would give her a cheerful appearance. She ran down the stairs but stopped mid-way, struck by the smell of garlic and rosemary emanating from the kitchen. She splayed one hand on her midriff and pinched her nose with the other.

Oh no, why now? Afraid of vomiting on the stairs, she rushed back to her room.

“Heather,” Mom called.

“Oh God, help me.”

Her door burst open. Madelyn walked in with a small towel. “I saw you on the stairs. Put this on your face and slowly breathe. I wet it with alcohol. And take this pill. It will calm down the nausea.”

Grateful, she nodded and obeyed.

“Lie down on the bed. I’ll tell Mom and Dad to excuse you for a few minutes. And I’ll increase the AC ventilation.”

“Thanks,” she murmured and sprawled on her bed.

Ten minutes later, she felt better and went down to the kitchen. By then, Mom had switched off the stove. The air-conditioning blew cold air and the food odors had subsided.

“Sorry, Dad. Jeff called unexpectedly.” She hated herself for lying but what else could she say? Certainly not apologize for almost vomiting.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. He must be so excited.”

“You should have asked him to come for dinner,” Mom said.

“You know, Mom,” Tiffany started but got pinched in her side. “Ouch.” She lowered her head and remained silent.

“Did you have a good time at the pool, girls?” Dad asked.

“Very good time,” Heather hastened to answer before Tiffany could put her foot in her mouth and relate Heather’s argument with Jeff, or whatever she’d heard of it. “Claire and Tiff did great in their training. I’m sure they’re going to win next month’s competition. Claire, tell Mom and Dad about your diving and swimming.”

Claire cast her a knowing glance and launched into a lengthy story about their prowess. Interested in her daughters’ sportive accomplishments, their mother didn’t notice when Heather slid her food into Madelyn’s plate with a pleading look, and ate bread only.

“Your turn, Heather.” Dad’s loving gaze and proud smile filled her with guilt. Any report she’d give about her day would be laced with lies. But their father insisted on a family conversation where each member shared news about the day.

“Let’s see. Nothing really interesting today, apart from Jeff visiting and coming with us to the pool. We all enjoyed a swim. Claire, Tiff and I raced and I won. It was fun watching Tiffany hanging on Jeff’s neck while he swam the length of the pool. That’s about it.” At least this was the truth.

“I like this boy. One day he’ll make a terrific dad.” Her father’s compliment banged on her stomach like a baseball bat, roiling her emotions.

Stunned, she drank a sip of water, hiccupped and prayed for her food to stay put. If she dared throw up, Mom would take her straight to Dr. Newman.

“Don’t we all know who’d be delighted with this compliment?” Madelyn caught Heather’s hand and laughed. “Why don’t you give him a call, sweetie? I’m sure he’d love to know we all appreciate him. Go, go.”

She nodded, threw Madelyn a grateful look, and rushed out of the dining room, taking the stairs two at a time. “Be back in a minute.”

In her room, she inhaled and exhaled, then lay on her bed and pressed the towel moistened with alcohol on her face as Madelyn had shown her. Better, much better. The pungent smell calmed the nausea. Not ready yet to tackle the family gathering, she went to the bathroom and tried to throw up. Nothing came out. The crisis had passed. To be safe, she poured more alcohol on her small towel and shoved it in her shorts pocket.

On a sudden impulse, she called Jeff and related her conversation with her parents. “Dad said you’ll make a terrific father.”

“Ah.” A big exhale followed. “Glad you came to your senses, sweetheart.”

“What do you mean? I haven’t changed my mind about the adoption. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with a social worker.”

“Don’t you dare go behind my back and give up my baby.”

“It’s in my body. You can’t order me. Bye.” Trembling with aggravation, she flipped off her phone, breathed the alcohol from the towel, and closed her eyes to recover her calm.

How dare he? Why couldn’t he understand she was suffering too?

They made a mistake and she was trying her best to fix it. Loving a baby was not enough. He needed care they couldn’t give him. But Heather would make sure to show her baby the biggest proof of love by securing his future with caring parents. Even if the decision broke her heart and sleep eluded her at the thought of losing him.

(To be continued on 12-2-2016)

Holiday Babies Series

With high moral values and a strong sense of unity, the Ramsay family counts five daughters—Madelyn, Roxanne, Heather, Claire, and Tiffany, and their mother Barbara. Later, stepdaughter Monica Roland joins the clan.
 
Christmas Babies: Can a career fill her life? (Madelyn and Dr. Nick Preston)
Valentine Babies: Can he love a woman expecting another man’s baby? (Roxanne and Dr. Greg Hayes)
Mother’s Day Babies: Never too late to find love and happiness. (Barbara and Lou Roland)
Wedding Surprise: Is it the worst or best wedding surprise? (Claire and David Wheeler)
Christmas Papa: Who’ s my papa, Mommy? (Monica and Michael Wheeler)
On Christmas Eve: We want a mommy for Christmas. (Tiffany and Dr. Matthew Alonso)

Posted in Anthology, christmas stories, Contemporary Romance, holiday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment