Holly Jolly Christmas
Prequel to Holiday Babies Series
by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author
Copyright © 2016 by Mona Risk
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?
If Heather only knew how much willpower Jeff had needed to keep him from carrying her inside his lodge and making love to her. He counted on his hectic schedule in the coming days to occupy his mind and prevent him from fantasizing about her.
Tomorrow, he had an interview with a major manufacturer of agricultural equipment. The company offered excellent benefits, medical insurance for family members, and paid graduate studies, and it was located a twenty-minute drive from his place. What more could he ask for? His fingers crossed for good luck.
During the weekend, his brother Bert and friend Josh would come for a full day of construction. Bert had used his delivery truck to transport the wood studs and sheet-rock that they’d stowed in the backyard. Josh, a big hunk who owned a contracting company had started building the foundations for both rooms. The house would be finished in time to welcome the baby. Once he and Heather were engaged officially, he would convince her to change her mind about the adoption.
Wanting Heather to relax at the party, Jeff had carefully avoided any reference to the baby. How could he have guessed that they would sit with a woman who would upset her so much?
Hoping Heather felt better after his proposal, he called her. “Hi, I was thinking of you. Feeling better now?”
“Yes. I’m in bed. Alone.” Her voice held some resentment.
He chuckled. “Me too. Don’t remind me. Sorry about Lyn bothering you.”
“At first, I felt bad for her. She’s determined to raise her child on her own. I suggested adoption. She said it was a terrible risk. Her mother was adopted and ran away from an alcoholic adoptive father. Jeff, do you think I’d be taking a risk by giving the baby up for adoption?” she blurted.
Sweet Heather, he knew he could always trust her to share her innermost feelings with him. He owed it to her to be honest and not take advantage of her confidence.
“There’s always a risk. Adoptive parents can be good or bad. Just like natural parents. It has more to do with the individuals rather than the procedure of adoption. That’s why I want my child to be with me, not with strangers.”
“Jeff, you have such a good heart. Lyn said I didn’t deserve you.”
“What?” Although he empathized with Lyn and her decision to raise her child, Jeff didn’t like the woman. “Don’t pay attention to that…hmm. You’re so generous, sweetheart. All you’ve been thinking about is my scholarship, my master’s degree, MIT and my future. How about closing your eyes, relaxing and thinking of your comfort, your health, your feelings for the baby and his dad?” he added with a smile.
“I love you, Jeff. Goodnight.”
Heather’s conversation with Lyn had shaken her more than she cared to admit. What if the adoptive parents had hidden flaws?
The next day, while running errands for her mother and driving her little sisters to their training, Heather couldn’t stop pondering the disturbing thought. Several times, she reached for her phone to call Jeff and discuss her doubts with him, but she already knew his opinion. Madelyn was on call at the hospital and too busy to talk.
By the afternoon, Heather had developed a monumental headache and her stomach hurt with strange cramps all over.
Like a nervous wreck, she paced her room, flopped onto the bed, and got up and paced again. Since no one was available to converse with her, why not debate the situation with her baby?
Rubbing her belly gently, she began, “My darling boy. I’m sure you’re a boy. A big handsome one like your daddy. I’ve tried to ignore you. I’ve tried not to get too fond of you. But I can’t. I love you. I adore you.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “I don’t want us to be a burden on your daddy. But I don’t want you to have a lousy life because I’m only eighteen and I can’t support you.”
Suddenly she froze and stared at her belly. Good God, it was moving. The baby kicked. She laughed. “Baby boy, you heard Mommy. You do understand me, right?”
The baby kicked again.
“Oh God, you’re answering me.” Her child was real, alive and kicking. Exhilaration rippled through her with every tiny thrust inside her body.
With a new determination, she called the adoption agency. The phone rang and rang. No one answered. When the leave-a-message tone came, Heather spoke slowly. “Hi Ms. Benson, this is Heather Ramsay. I carefully thought about the adoption.” She injected more authority into her voice. “Here are my requirements. I want to meet the adoptive parents. I want to be part of my child’s life and see him from time to time. I want to have reports about his growing and wellbeing. If this is in disagreement with your policies, then cancel my application. Anyway, I haven’t signed it yet. Bye.”
Ms. Benson would probably call and tell her that her expectations were impossible to meet. And then… Jeff would be happy if no prospective parents could be found. Lyn’s words resonated in her ears. “He’s a nice guy…You don’t deserve him.” Yet Jeff had defended her. And asked her to marry him.
Should she agree to marry him right away? In a week or two? The idea excited her. She’d be with Jeff day and night, but would her parents consent to a hasty wedding? Darn, she couldn’t talk about a wedding now with Dad going for chemotherapy tomorrow and Mom taking care of her flock without ever complaining.
Poor Mom, she had her hands full, helping Dad cope with the chemo side effects, cooking and baking the cookies he liked, and still managing to pay attention to her children. No wonder she hadn’t noticed that Heather had gained weight.
“Heather, Claire, Tiffany,” Mom called from downstairs. “Dinner-time.”
“Coming.” The answers echoed from various parts of the house. Heather changed her top and donned a double-layer T-shirt to better conceal her waist.
“Hi Mom, Dad.” Heather placed a quick kiss on each parent’s cheek before sitting at her place at the dinner table. With Madelyn and Roxanne absent, she’d have to help Mom carry on the bulk of the conversation and distract Dad from his continuous pain.
“Claire and Tiffy did really well on their diving,” she started after filling her plate.
“Dad, I’m going to be promoted to the next level,” Tiffany announced, her big news guaranteed to fill her parents with pride.
“Wonderful.” Dad’s husky voice betrayed his effort to talk.
“One more week and we’re off for the season. I’m not sure I’ll continue next year,” Claire declared.
“Next year,” Dad murmured sadly.
Heather caught Mom’s eyes filling with tears that she quickly suppressed. Would Dad be around next year? How could Heather pile up more problems on her parents? She lowered her head and concentrated on eating, the tomato sauce with garlic and basil stimulating her appetite.
“I want to spend more time on the tennis court. It may help me secure an athletic scholarship for college,” Claire continued.
“I’m sure you will.” Dad encouraged her with a weak smile. “And you’ll become a good architect as you always wished. When we have a dream, we must work hard to fulfill it.”
His words hit Heather with guilt. She had no ambitious goals like her sisters. Her only ambition was to see Jeff successful and her baby growing happy. Unable to mingle in the conversation, she reached for a second serving.
“I’m glad you’re eating better, Heather.” Mom nodded, always pleased to see her family appreciating her cooking. “The last few weeks, you’ve really worried me. I thought you were coming down with something. You hardly ate and lost weight. But I must say you’ve regained a few pounds now.”
Heather choked on her pasta. “Hmm…so good, Mom.” So much for thinking that Mom had stopped noticing things around her.
“Tell us about last night’s party, honey. You didn’t stay overnight at the Herberts’,” Mom commented.
“You didn’t have fun?” Dad asked, and the little sisters opened interested eyes.
“Oh yes, it was a lot of fun,” Heather said, injecting a joyful note in her voice. “With music, delicious food, and drink. Soft drinks,” she added to reassure her parents. “There were about fifty people. Some in the pool, others in the backyard or the family room.”
“So what did you and Jeff do?” Tiffany wanted details. And Heather was not ready to specify anything.
“We mingled. And ate and drank and danced.”
“Must have been boring if you came home so early.” Claire shrugged and Heather glared at her. “Unless…” Claire squinted at her. “I hope you didn’t have another fight with Jeff.”
“What?” Dad and Mom exclaimed.
“Another fight?” Mom repeated, her eyebrows arched.
“Of course not.” She kicked Claire under the table and pinned her with a warning look.
“Why would you fight when you have always gotten along so well?” Mom tilted her head. “Jeff is a very nice young man. Smart, hardworking, polite. Brilliant in school and in sports.”
Yes, he was every mother’s wish of a boyfriend for her daughter. And he was her boyfriend. Maybe soon-to-be fiancé.
“I agree with you, Mom.” Heather racked her brain for a plausible explanation. “We left the party earlier than planned because…because it wasn’t that much fun.” This was the absolute truth.
“But you just said it was a lot of fun,” Tiffany reminded her.
Dad and Mom exchanged guarded glances that didn’t bode well. “Tiffany, stop bugging your sister.” Mom might show up to Heather’s room after dinner to find out if her daughter wanted to talk.
Just as Heather cleared her plate and Dad laboriously finished a small piece of meat, the doorbell chimed. Tiffany jumped out of her chair and ran to the door. “Jeff, what a surprise.”
Jeff came? Heather pushed out her chair and dashed to the hallway. “What a nice surprise.”
He wrapped an arm around her and gave her a quick but blazing kiss.
“We’re finishing dinner.” She walked him to the dining table.
“Good evening. Please don’t interrupt your dinner.”
“Good to see you, son.” As usual, Dad greeted him with a grin and a solid handshake.
Mom sighed with relief, while Tiffany whispered something in Claire’s ear. “How was the party?” Claire asked.
“Fantastic,” Jeff said.
Heather kicked at Claire under the table.
“Ouch,” Mom shrieked. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Sorry Mom. I had a bad reflex.”
“Really? A fantastic party?” Claire ignored Heather’s furious glances. “So why did you leave so early?”
“Huh… Someone upset Heather and we decided we didn’t have to put up with that.” He squeezed her hand. “Feeling better now?”
She nodded. “I have been thinking about what you said last night.” Maybe it was time to spill the whole truth to her parents. They approved of Jeff and may forgive and agree.
“Mom, Dad, can we be excused for a moment? I need a word with Jeff. We’ll be back to talk to you.”
Mom and Dad looked at each other and nodded. “Of course.”
Heather grabbed his hand, rushed out to Dad’s office down the hall, and locked the door behind them.
“Well?” he asked.
“Yes, Jeff. I will marry you. Anytime you want.”
He pulled her into his arms and sealed their engagement with a passionate kiss.
“And I have something else to tell you. Baby has been kicking several times.” She held his hand and put it on her belly.
“Oh my God.” He splayed his fingers and blinked several times, concentrating on feeling. “Oh my God. I felt it. A tiny tremor.” His eyes filled with tenderness. “That’s him. That’s our baby all right. Sweetheart, we’re going to—”
Her phone rang. “Oh, Norma. Hold on, Jeff.”
“No.” He tried to grab her phone.
“Just a sec.” She pressed the green button. “Hi, Heather speaking.”
“I have the perfect couple. They are in their late thirties. You can meet them tomorrow. They agreed to everything you want. Mary said she understands your feelings and doesn’t mind you being part of the baby’s life. Like a dear aunt. She promised you could visit once a month. And she’ll email you regularly about the baby. Isn’t it wonderful?”
“Yes, it is,” she muttered. Darn, it didn’t feel that wonderful.
“They can meet you at the agency tomorrow at two p.m. Your baby is a lucky one. Bye, now.”
Her pulse racing, Heather cut the connection and frowned. Tomorrow, she’d meet these strangers who would take her child forever. The parents who would raise him.
Maybe they would be great parents, protective, loving, generous.
And maybe they wouldn’t. The thought clawed at her heart.
“What is it?” Jeff’s restrained tone interrupted.
“Norma found a couple who’d let me see the baby every month, be part of his life, and—”
“No. Don’t do that, Heather.” He clasped her shoulders, almost shaking her.
“I have to meet them, and evaluate them. I’ve insisted so much on that point. I can’t back out now. I owe them to—”
“We don’t owe them anything.” He put his hand on her belly. “Our baby is ours. He’s in your body. Don’t betray him. Don’t give him away.” His voice cracked. “Don’t, please.”
She opened her mouth and closed it, unable to answer.
He released her and stepped back, gazing at her with scorching intensity. “Don’t, Heather,” he repeated, his eyes ordering, threatening and imploring at the same time.
“Good bye, Heather.” He opened the door, strode to the entrance hall, and walked out of the house.
(To be continued on 12-9-2016)
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)