The Pregnant Virgin. Anne Eames
her sister had been right. At the very least, this wasn’t the best place to read a romance novel.
Fortunately the phone rang, then other clients arrived, and Ali suddenly found herself very busy.
But when “Darling, Brad” sheepishly passed her desk a while later and headed for the exit, her gaze followed him.
And in that instant a seed of an idea began to take root.
Brad walked briskly around the exterior of the sprawling complex, muttering under his breath. What had gotten into him back there? Flirting with her like that. The last thing he needed was a personal relationship with someone who worked at the sperm bank he planned to visit every week.
Real discreet, guy. Real discreet.
He yanked open a back door and strode inside. So what if she’s a knockout and built like a brick—
Forget it. Forget her.
He picked up his pace to the lounge and his locker. She could be the star of “Baywatch” with a Mensa IQ and it wouldn’t matter. He didn’t have time for a social life. At least not until his residency was over, and even then he would be hard-pressed to foot the tab for dinner and a movie.
With no one in sight he quickly changed back into his aqua scrubs, trying not to dwell on how long it would take him to repay one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in student loans.
Still, as the day progressed, Brad’s worries about money were replaced by the image of the woman in the clinic. He would see a patient with blond hair and it would remind him of hers—long, thick and silky-looking. He wondered what it would feel like and how she would look with it mussed and falling in her face. Sometimes he’d catch himself and redirect his thoughts. Other times he’d simply smile and go with the flow.
When things slowed around midnight, he found an empty bed and settled in for a short nap. As usual the day had been long and grueling and he was beat. With a weary sigh he closed his eyes. And there she was again.
Ali called Michelle Singleton, a computer consultant who had helped her get the position at the clinic. She’d met Michelle at her previous job where the team of arrogant doctors had used Michelle’s services. When Michelle gave notice that she wouldn’t be working for them any longer, Ali asked Michelle’s help in getting her out, too. A close friendship had been developing ever since.
As luck would have it, Michelle was free for lunch and she agreed to meet Ali in the cafeteria.
Ali arrived a few minutes early and staked out the same table she’d used with her sister the day before, except this time she sat on the opposite side. She tried to lie to herself as to why she did this, but she knew the truth. People were creatures of habit. Maybe that handsome creature would sit at his same table, too, and this way she wouldn’t have to crane her neck to watch him.
Michelle placed her tray on the table a moment later and sat down. “How’s the new job going?”
“Great. I owe you one.”
The table behind Michelle remained empty and the women ate and made small talk until Ali finally worked up enough courage to broach the reason for getting together.
“There’s something personal I’d like to ask you, but if you’d rather not discuss it, I’ll understand.”
Michelle wiped her mouth with her napkin and sat back. “I can’t imagine what would be so private, but fire away.”
“Your insemination,” Ali said, not beating around the bush. Michelle had confided her own trip to the clinic a few years ago. Now Ali wanted more details.
“Oh, that.” Michelle leaned forward and lowered her voice. “No problem. What do you want to know?”
Before Ali answered the question she said that her mind was made up to do it and that she’d already been to another clinic for a complete physical and work-up.
“Good idea. If I had to do it over I wouldn’t have used the hospital’s clinic, either. Too much breach of confidentiality risk.” Michelle whispered, “So this is why you were so interested in that job! Smart girl—learning all about things first. But do I detect a little reservation in your voice?”
“It’s going to sound silly—”
“No, go ahead.”
“The father. Didn’t it bother you that you didn’t even have a face or—” Brad Darling sat down at the table behind Michelle and Ali stopped midsentence.
“Yes, it did,” Michelle said.
Ali watched as he began to read a stack of papers he’d brought with him, apparently not noticing her. Ali ducked behind Michelle and picked up her water glass, wishing again that maintenance would do something about the air. It was stifling.
“—so that’s why I looked for a fantasy man.”
Ali looked at Michelle, hoping she hadn’t missed much. “Fantasy man?”
Michelle laughed and pushed away her plate. “It sounds pathetic, but every store I went into I looked at picture frames hoping to find just the right model’s face behind the glass—someone who could seem real to me—the kind of man I’d be attracted to and go out with if given the chance.”
“Did you ever find one?”
Michelle smiled. “Not in a picture frame. I met Kevin on a cruise—one that left the same day I was inseminated. And as they say, the rest is history.”
Ali peeked around Michelle and caught “Darling” Brad staring at her, those damnable blue eyes boring into her, and she felt a pink tinge travel up her neck. He didn’t smile or acknowledge her in any way. Maybe he was trying to remember where he’d seen her before. Or maybe he knew exactly where and that was the problem.
“Ali? Are you okay?”
“Uh…sure. Fine.” She waved her hand in front of her face. “Just off in la-la land. I do that sometimes.”
“Something like that.”
“Was that all you wanted to ask me?”
Was there anything else? Only one thing came to mind.
“I don’t mean to sound like a wuss, but did it hurt?”
“More than I had anticipated, but not too bad…and it’s over rather fast. A lot faster than the other end of the process, believe me. I’m sure you’ll hear enough of those stories when your time comes.”
When her time came. Not if. Michelle believed it would happen. Ali hoped she was right and that her sisters’ problems wouldn’t plague her, too. Over Michelle’s shoulder she saw Blue Eyes leave the room, papers under his arm, empty tray in front of him. He had a confident yet not cocky gait, and again she noticed his narrow waist, long, lean legs and sinewy arms. And he had to be smarter than the average bear in his profession. Good genes, she thought. What more could she hope for?
“Do you have a time table in mind?”
He disappeared around the corner and Ali gave Michelle her full attention. She hadn’t even told her sisters this, but Michelle had been so forthright it seemed okay to do. Besides, she’d been dying to tell someone. Who better than a trusted friend who’d been there?
Still she felt herself blush when she said, “Actually…any day now.”
Michelle reached for her hand and squeezed it. “That’s wonderful, Ali. I wish you luck. I know this is a very private matter for you, but if you ever want to talk again, I’m more than willing to meet you anytime. Just call.”
“Thank you. I will.” It was good to talk with someone outside the family who didn’t see her as a child. Even though Michelle was closer to Lynne and Barbara’s ages, she had never treated Ali as anything other than a peer.