Just a Dream

Chapter 1 - Accidents and Purposes

A strange sort of sound was grinding on my nerves. It was so very, very loud.

I sighed and discover it really didn't work to relieve the pressure I felt. Wondering what the problem was I opened my eyes. I really wasn't prepared for the sight ahead of me.

I was in the backseat of Mom's Mercedes. The car was crumpled and bunched unnaturally and several men in dark blue shirts and pants were running around the scene. I'd been in car accident.

I blinked slowly and my lids had trouble reopening. I was so tired. The strange sound started again and my stomach lurched when the car moved slightly. I turned my head to see a large metal contraption, peeling back pieces of the car. The front passenger doors and windows were gone and it occurred to me that the machine was for me. They were trying to get to me.

I sighed and put my head back against the headrest, surprised when tears came to my eyes. My lungs constricted painfully as I took small breaths, trying to breathe even thought my body was smashed between the seats. Unable to take a full breath and completely frightened by the entire situation my asthma flared immediately. I knew it was possibly the worst time ever for an attack but I wasn't in a position to control it this time. Stress was my trigger and it had just been pushed.

"It's all right, sweetheart," a man said from outside the car. He leaned in close so I could both see and hear him. "We're getting you out. Are you doing all right?"

I wheezed a couple of times and said "Asthma," as loudly as I could.

"Do you have an inhaler with you?" he asked concernedly.

I nodded. "Bag."

"Bag," he mumbled under his breath. "I'll find it. Don't worry."

He wondered away, looking through things on the pavement that had either been extracted from or thrown from the car. He first found Mom's purse on the sidewalk and it occurred to me I hadn't seen my parents. Where was my mom? Where was my dad? I tried to turn my head to really look around but found I couldn't see much with the windows caved in.

When the man came back holding my roughed up messenger bag and holding out my inhaler, I gratefully took two puffs and began calming down.

"Where are my parents?" I asked worriedly.

He frowned and his brown eyes softened in concern.

"I'm sorry," he said solemnly. "They didn't make it."

Neither of them? Neither? Mom and Dad … were gone?

I was alone.


"Eden?... Eden?"

I blinked several times, squinting against a bright light. It took a moment for my eyes to focus and then I was looking into the face of a beautiful African-american woman, leaning toward me slightly.

"Eden?"

"Y-yes?" I answered hesitantly.

"How are you feeling, dear?" she asked concernedly.

"I hurt," I said honestly. That headache I'd had had only gotten worse.

"That's to be expected," she said empathetically. "You've been in an accident and have some injuries. They're aren't extensive but they will hurt for a bit as they heal.

"Injuries?" I asked confusedly.

"Yes, ma'am," she said brightly. "You've a large goose-egg on your head. We're going to keep you over night, just to keep an eye on things. You have a couple scrapes and bruises, nothing too bad. Considering the accident you were in you've been preserved quite miraculously."

I shook my head and immediately regretted it. "I don't remember the accident."

"No?" she asked. "Well, it seems you spun out in the rain. Your car was hit by an oncoming car and then hit the median wall."

"Oh," I said. I was probably glad then that I didn't remember the accident,

"Now, like I said, you hit your head pretty hard, and have some stitches that'll need to be removed in a few days, but I need to ask you a couple questions just to be certain you haven't lost any cognitive reasoning. Do you know where you are?"

"Not exactly. We were in Amethyst," I said.

"Right," she smiled. "You're still in Amethyst honey, Amethyst Memorial. Do you know your name?"

"Eden," I said thoughtfully. "Eden Rose Harper."

"And how old are you, Miss Harper?"

"Twenty-three," I responded.

"Good," she said pleasantly. "Now, has someone updated you on your parents?"

I swallowed. "They're dead."

She stopped, appeared to be stunned at my blunt delivery and nodded. "Yes, hon, they are."

"Did they die instantly?" I wondered. "No pain?"

She nodded. "They may not have even seen it coming."

That was good, I guessed.

"If you feel overwhelmed or upset, that's completely normal," the woman said. "Is there anyone you would like me to call? Someone who could sit with you?"

"I don't have anyone," I said honestly.

"Well, if you need to talk to someone, you let me know, sweetheart. I have a very good friend who works here in the hospital and would be able to help you work through some things."

"That's all right," I said honestly. "I'll be all right as soon as I get a little while to wrap my head around it. Thank you."

She stared at me in concern. I could see she was trying to find the nicest way to ask me an awkward question so I helped her out.

"I wasn't close to my parents," I told her. "It sounds heartless, but it's better for me that they're gone. I guess I have to stand on my own now."

She nodded cautiously and gave me a timid smile on her way out, closing the door very softly behind her. I sighed and looked up at the ceiling, feeling for just a second the pull in my hair from where the stitches were.

I'd been in an accident and my parents were dead. I knew I should be more upset, maybe crying. I was certainly worried and scared. I'd never been known as a brave person or one to really take on a challenge, but it seemed I wasn't getting a choice this time.

At least, I thought, this was probably the best circumstance for me to try and stand on my own. No one to tear me down or convince me I'd done it wrong… again. No one to berate me about my stupid choices or to show a little backbone. I could start over. I'd have to. I had no more family. No aunts or uncles, no siblings or cousins. Just my selfish parents. Only I didn't have them either.

I closed my eyes and allowed myself to sink into the pillow. My headache was worsening and trying to sort through my situation was hard enough without the grogginess caused by the accident, asthma attack, and medications. Maybe I'd sleep a bit more and think through all of this tomorrow.

"Eden!" a man I'd known all my life said jovially as he came into my room without knocking. I grimaced.

"Hello, Mr. Priatt," I muttered tiredly.

"I was called down about your parents," he said, not sounding nearly as unhappy as he should considering he'd been my parents lawyer for nearly twenty years. "It seems there are quite a few things with the estate we need to talk about. Lots of things to handle."

"Don't you think this could wait until morning?" I asked. "I'm not really feeling up to a long discussion."

"I'm sorry," he said, clicking his teeth slightly. "I got called in the middle of night and I love my after hours billing," he smiled. "Now, I realize your parents estate was quite large and worth a couple million, but unfortunately, so was their debt."

"Debt?" I asked in disbelief.

"Oh, yes," he said dramatically. "It seemed you beloved Mother, while she had a certain love of alcohol, not unlike your father; she also had a love of gambling. I've tallied some things, Eden, and between the estate's worth, the property, and horses and stables, and your father's stocks and holdings it seems you have approximately three million, four hundred ninety seven thousand, six hundred and two dollars to your name."

I stared wide eyed at the tall, skinny man before me and tried to determine why he was waiting for me to be sad. I could do very well on that until I'd finished my degree. I'd be fine. Far more than fine.

"That bad part," he said, grimacing in that annoying and patronizing way. "Is that because you're the sole heir to the Harper fortune, you are also the sole heir to the Harper debt."

"Well, how much is it?" I wondered.

"The debt?" he asked. "Well, I took the liberty of speaking to the doctors and the men who'd be caring for the bodies of your parents, preparing them for the funeral and the like, so I could add that to the tally. It seems that between gambling debts, mortgage payments, cars, boats, medical bills, funeral costs, and the ticket for speeding issues this evening, the total would come to about four point eight million."

Four point eight million? Four point eigh…

"Now, now, Eden," he said nervously. "Breathe, my girl. We don't need any more medical bills to add to the list."

I glared ferociously at him and he looked properly penitent, but it didn't erase the enormity of that number from my mind.

"Mr. Priatt, I appreciate you coming down here, but I don't think I'll be able to sort this out so quickly. Would it be possible for you to return in the morning? Perhaps we could ride out to the estate and see what I might sell to cover the debts."

"You realize, of course, that you would be billed every time I see you?" he asked pleasantly.

"Yes, Mr. Priatt," I said irritatedly. "Why don't you just add that to the list."

"Yes, of course," he said amiably, closing his leather notebook. "Now you just rest Miss Harper. I'll return in the morning."


Morning came way too soon.

While I felt more rested, I did not feel any better. After some breakfast and pain meds I was starting to feel human. And then Mr. Priatt came back. I had no patience for him, even less than the previous night, and commanded him to just get to the point.

"The point, Eden, is that you have nothing," he said bluntly.

"What?"

"Nothing. That's what you have," he said. "I took the liberty of going to the estate last night. I didn't want you to have to worry about such things in your condition, by the way my fee for after hours has doubled, and I've determined that you have nothing. The staff will have to be let go, the horses sold, the property, cars, furniture, electronics, antiques, outbuildings, and your father's company will all have to be sold. Almost immediately."

"So what is left?" I asked. "My bed, dresser, and clothes."

"No," he shook his head. "Your bed is antique teak…"

"Just a dresser and my clothes," I asked again.

"And your grandmother's rocking chair," he said obviously. "It's not worth anything."

"Right," I mumbled unhappily.

My family was gone. My home would soon be gone. I had nothing.

Dr. Edison came in soon after that while Mr. Priatt sat tallying everything. She checked on me and upon determining I was doing remarkably well, she started making the preparations for my discharge. I thank her but my heart fell. I wouldn't be going home to rest or to mourn. I was going home to catalogue…

A little less than an hour later I was standing at the nurses station with a prescription for pain pills and signing my release forms and the forms for my parents bodies as well. It was a little odd to me that I was taking responsibility for my parents in any way. It seemed even in death they could cause me additional pain and stress.

"I'm sorry, Miss Harper?"

I turned around, unhappy to be seeing Mr. Priatt again.

"It seems, my dear, that you are need in Labor and Delivery."

I stared at him waiting for him to make sense. It wasn't working.

"Why would I be needed in Labor and Delivery. I don't work here," I said.

He shrugged. "It's been requested that you attend … a meeting of sorts."

"A meeting?" I asked incredulously. "In Labor and Delivery?"

"Yes," he said impatiently, as if I were slow. "And they would like to start soon, so please come with me."

"Okay, then," I said flatly, giving the nurse her pen back and donning my jacket as we exited the hospital and crossed the parking lot in the rain. I exhaled, releasing some of the stress that had been pent up in me and smelled the fresh air, happy that at least rain was the same. Rain was my constant.

"Here we are," Mr. Priatt said, pulling the door of the small, red brick building open and letting it fall closed behind him.

"Thank you," I said sarcastically, opening the door by myself.

A gust of wind burst through the doors and blew them shut behind me, pining my jacket in the doors. I tugged roughly and ripped the bottom snap from my jacket.

Muttering frustratedly under my breath, I turned to see where Mr. Priatt had gone and trailed after him into the waiting room for the Maternity Ward. I saw him talking to someone at the nurses station and assumed he'd come get me when he was ready. I needed to sit down. My head was killing me.

I turned a corner to find a chair and saw a man standing and watching the news of the storm on the TV suspended in the corner. I'd only been in the room three seconds when he'd realized I'd walked in and turned around. When the gaze of this man hit me it was as though electricity had been sent through every cell of my body. Every nerve stood on end, every part of my skin came alive with tingles and goosebumps, my mouth went dry even as it fell open.

He was tall and extremely handsome. He looked sort of rugged with his tanned skin and warm brown dreadlocks tucked neatly into a band at the base of his neck. He arms and chest were obviously toned and muscular; if he didn't work out he definitely did something. He was amazing and even on top of that… There was something about him. I wanted him in every way. I knew if I could just get close enough his arms would fit warmly around me. I knew that my head would rest just inside his shoulder, perfect for a hug. I wanted to hold his hands, his long fingers lacing through mine. I wanted to kiss him, certain the impact of which could turn me inside out. Oh, how I wanted him.

The man with dreadlocks seemed just as stalled as I was. He stared purposefully, almost with a sort of recognition. Did he know we'd be magic together, too? Could he imagine everything I could? He chewed absently on his bottom lip and my mind started to wander back to those kisses.

"Let's go, Miss Harper, we have a lot to do," Mr. Priatt said impatiently, gripping my arm and yanking me down the hall.

I stumbled a few times to right my feet and he propelled me forward, still keeping hold on my arm. I couldn't help the empty feeling I had and looked back over my shoulder only to find the mysterious and handsome man watching me carefully from the end of the hallway until I disappeared around a corner.

"All right, Eden, in here," he said, thrusting me into a patient room. "I'll take care of this."

He pulled the door closed behind me and I stood uncertainly in the entrance of a large hospital room. The blue polka dot pattern on a curtain blocked me from the view of the patient in the room and that was good, because I desperately needed to get my bearings after my brain turned to mush in that waiting room.

Soft voices filtered through the curtain and I paused to listen.

"How can you possibly be so certain?" one woman asked.

"I just am," another said with a wise tone. "I've known for sometime and I believe this is the proper course to prevent their further, and completely unnecessary, separation." Apparently, the other woman seems uncertain because the lady with the kind voice continued. "Just wait," she said knowingly. "You'll see it when they are here together."

I heard a sigh and then the other woman said, "I hope you are right. I have no reason to doubt you, but I hope you are right."

Just then the silence seemed deafening and somehow I knew they'd just noticed me. Pretending I'd only just come in I fiddled with the door handle and swept the curtain back with an 'excuse me.'

"Good morning," the woman in bed said. She was the one with the kind voice. She was obviously pregnant as her rounded belly rested just below the edge of her blanket. She seemed remarkably pleasant for being strapped to so many monitors and machines.

"Good morning," I said with a timid smile.

"Well, come in," the woman said. "You're certainly welcome in here. I'm Sophie Carlton. You can call me Sophie. And this is my sister, Charlotte."

"How are you?" I asked tentatively to the sister, who seemed just as pleasant as the other.

"You must be Eden Harper?" Sophie asked with an ill-concealed expression of glee and excitement in her eyes.

"Yes," I said. "I'm sorry. Do I know you? Have we met before?"

She laughed with a musical quality and smiled warmly at me. "No," she said confidently. "We've never met."

I nodded as if that made sense, but it only confused me more. What in the world was I doing there? What could they possibly want from me?

As if reading my thoughts Sophie said. "I'm sorry, I would explain everything but I think it would be easier if we wait for the others and then I promise I'll explain all at once."

I smiled somewhat awkwardly at the woman tucked into the large bed and looked at the seam of the sheets hanging from the side of the bed. The whole situation was very strange.

A moment later a masculine voice came through the doorway, his identity blocked by the same patterned curtain that had hidden me for a few moments.

"…a minute, Dyl. They're going over a docume-"

When he came around the side of the curtain he paused mid-sentence, letting his phone drop from his ear. I looked over, absolutely beside myself when I saw the same tall and muscular man with dreadlocks, who I'd stared at in the waiting room. His dark eyes really did something to my insides. The knot in my stomach that had formed previously in this man's presence had come back in full force. I couldn't seem to breathe and strangely I didn't want to. His eyes had locked onto mine and all I was aware of was the measly five feet of air separating us.

As if completely aware of the train of thought I'd been riding, the man strode purposefully toward me, gathering me in his arms, and leaning me back into a kiss I never could've imagined.

My heart lurched wonderfully and I seemed to be floating. I was completely aware of his hands on my back and at my waist, just as I was aware of my own hands buried deep in his thick, rough hair, desperate to keep his lips well within kissing distance of my own. The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering wildly as he held me. I couldn't resist him. I didn't want to. He was exactly as I'd imagined. Perfect.

"I … think you might be right, Sophie," the woman called Charlotte conceded softly.

I smiled, not certain why I felt so happy, and gripped the man's shirt pulling him close to me again, so his lips wouldn't leave mine. He obliged willingly. With his mouth preoccupied, his fingers lightly trailed along my arms around his neck until he reached my hand and threaded his fingers through mine, flooding my heart with an emotion I was entirely unable to name.

The vague sound of the door opening and men's voices brought me partially back to the present. For the first time I realized I was in a room of strangers, yet I felt so safe.

The man whose arms I was in smiled gently, obviously content as his eyes were still closed, and brushed a kiss to my lips one more time, once again inciting my skin to rise in goosebumps and my eyelids to close, too.

"Well, I think we just need to- Mr. Carson?"

Our eyes opened and all at once we stepped back. I moved away from the strange man who I'd just been soundly kissing and did my best not to look into the eyes of anyone else in the room. What in the world had come over me? I'd never even met this man! He probably considered me extremely forward and pushy. Then again, he kissed me first, I'd merely returned the gesture. It could be construed as being polite? Right?

I looked over at the man and immediately noticed his flushed face, quickened breaths, and the way he was wiping at his lips and turned scarlet. Nope. It could definitely not be construed at politeness.

"Miss Harper?"

I glanced over at Mr. Priatt and gestured for him to continue. I folded my arms across my chest and tried to look invested though I had no idea as to what was being discussed.

"All right," the man in the black suit, who had interrupted us, said, unlatching his briefcase on the woman's bedside table. "We have several contracts to attend to. Most of which apparently concern the two of you," he said, gesturing between me and the handsome man.

"Me?" I asked in confusion.

"I have to say I wonder about the validity of these claims as my client has never had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Carlton," Mr. Priatt said.

Slightly embarrassed, and feeling more than a little out of my element, I averted my gaze from the room of lawyers and strangers and checked my phone for messages briefly. I just needed something else to focus on.

A strange feeling came over me, causing a knot in my stomach. Automatically, I looked over at the man and saw he was stealing a glance my direction as well. He seemed to turn red a bit and returned his attention to the matter at hand, though I was lost for just a moment, trying to decide what in the world was going on. Perhaps I'd hit my head a little harder than they'd thought last night.

"I'm sorry," Sophie said. "I'm not much for legal talk myself, I'd be more comfortable if I could simply relate to you why you've been called here, and then you can ask any questions you'd like."

"Okay," the handsome man agreed as I nodded.

"All right, then," she said happily. "My name is Sophie Carlton. This is my sister Charlotte," she said, gesturing again to the pleasant woman beside her. "I am a very sick woman and have had several months to really think and consider things. I am six and a half months pregnant, but … unfortunately; I will not be here to care for my new child." She paused momentarily and her sister placed a comforting hand on her forearm. "The reason I have called the two of you here this morning ... is because I have come to a decision. I've done hours of considering, and quite a bit of soul searching, and have come to the unquestionable conclusion that you two," she said, pausing to look at the man and myself, "will be most suited to raise my precious child."

My jaw dropped in astonishment. Somewhere inside me I wanted to laugh, as though it was an elaborate joke, but I couldn't. I could see she was serious. She wanted me to take her baby and raise it? With a stranger?

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Carlton, but I don't think you…," the man started, but she held up her hand. He quieted respectfully.

"I've never met you, Jeremy, yet I know that you've a kind heart," Sophie said. "You know better than most the importance of having a family in your life, especially as a young child."

He stuttered, obviously astonished that she knew so much about him, but kept his peace. I supposed it was because there really was nothing he could've said.

"And you Miss Harper," she said with a smile. "Eden. You have a kind heart as well, but even moreso a penchant for caring for and loving others that no other mother couldn't help but be jealous of."

"Thank you," I said uncertainly. "I'm sorry. Are you certain Mrs. Carlton, that you want us to raise your child?" I questioned. "I've never been around children and I don't even know him. I'm still in school. I have no income and-"

"Jeremy?" Sophie said. "If you were to agree to take responsibility for this child-and no one is saying that you are- would you have a way to provide for your new family?"

"Well, yeah," he said confusedly.

"And somewhere they could live and be safe? Happy?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"And Miss Harper," she said, turning to me. "Are you not home almost everyday, studying and doing homework, yet craving the company of another person? Someone …" she looked carefully at me and sadness filled her eyes. "Undemanding?"

"Yes," I said, feeling my heart plummet to the floor. How could she know so much about me?

"Then wouldn't you say you would have time most days and desire necessary to care for a child with minimal help?"

"Yes, I would," I said, feeling for the first time a glimmer of light at the end of the convoluted tunnel.

She'd matched us. This man, Jeremy, and I. Together we'd be enough for the baby. As a team we'd be able to provide everything for the baby, from a good home to two parents and all of life's necessities, almost without disrupting our lives. How had she done it? Should I do it? Why did it feel like I should? Like she'd solved all my problems?

"It's clear that you've put a lot of thought into this, Sophie, but I don't know if … I can have a family," the man named Jeremy said. "I mean, I work a lot and my house isn't exactly ready for a baby."

"No one is perfect, honey," Sophie said warmly. "A person only has to be enough. And you two… you are enough. Together, you'll be marvelous. I know this is a strange thing to ask, and you have every right to refuse, but I feel deeply that this child is meant to be here. Is here for a purpose. A child so special should have all that I cannot give him or her. The best I can give … is a life with you two. A family."

I swallowed and looked over at Mr. Priatt, who looked completely dumbfounded, and then Jeremy, who seemed deep in thought.

The man, who I assumed was Jeremy's lawyer, spoke, suggesting that Jeremy and myself go into the hall and give them some time to over everything with Mrs. Carlton to really be certain of what she's asking and the repercussions. We obediently left, both leaving in silence and taking a seat on a hard bench just outside of Sophie's room.

I couldn't seem to think about anything, but that baby. A little baby boy or girl would be born in a couple of months and would need a home. He or she would need a family. What if Jeremy and I didn't do it? Would he or she be an orphan? Turned into child services to see if someone somewhere would adopt him or her? What if no one did? They'd just be stuck on their own for the foreseeable future? A newborn baby… all alone?

Yet, if we agreed. He or she would have a mother and a father. It seemed Sophie was very choosy with her selection of possible candidates. Certainly our circumstance was neither perfect, nor normal, but it had its merits. With a background like mine I would certainly never be able to give the baby anything, but the best of all I had. He or she would never be without me, and probably Jeremy, considering how Sophie talked about him.

If we agreed and adopted said baby I'd have a family again. Only I'd be the parent, able to give the child absolute security in my affection, something I'd never had the pleasure of experiencing.

Wow. I wanted the baby.

"I'm sorry," the man beside me said. "What was your name? Harper?"

"Please, call me Eden," I replied.

"Eden," he said uncertainly. "I don't know you and I don't know Sophie. I know it sounds very, very odd… but I think … I think I want to do this."

I sat up straighter, excited that I wasn't the only one and exclaimed, "So do I."

"You do?" he asked incredulously.

I nodded. "It makes sense. I don't have any family. No roommates and really no responsibilities other than school."

"I don't have any family either," he admitted. "I do have a good job. I could support a baby. My truck's big enough for a carseat."

"And you have a house," I remembered.

He nodded.

"Can we really do this?" he asked dazedly, staring ahead as if it were a picture he were looking at instead of an intangible idea.

"I think so," I said honestly. "It's not ideal and I really have no idea how we'll do it… but I think… I think we should do it. At least, I feel like we should."

He nodded vaguely, his eyes still focused on a point beyond my view. "Like it's important that we do this."

"Yeah."

"Well … Eden," he said, getting to his feet and facing me. "I'm willing if you are."

"I'm willing," I assured him..

"Good," he said decidedly. "Wow. This is… "

"You are welcome to come back in now," the stuffy man in the nice suit said, holding the door to Sophie's room open for us.

I stood up and immediately Jeremy stepped back a couple feet, apparently eager to keep some space between us. It seemed he was rethinking our kiss, too. Somehow, though I was embarrassed, I couldn't bring myself to feel badly. It had been wonderful no matter how inappropriate for a first meeting.

Jeremy gestured me in the door ahead of him and then followed me in. Upon re-entering the room I found four pairs of eyes looking at me.

"This documents and this entire situation is quite legit, Jeremy," his lawyer said. "If you agreed to this insane proposition you and Miss Harper would be legally adopting Mrs. Carlton's baby. It would be completely and legally binding. You would be guardians, that is to say, responsible for the child for the rest of your lives. That being said," he said, exhaling loudly. "I'm almost certain I can get you out of this with no repercussions."

I felt Jeremy step forward behind me and my mouth flew open, "We want the baby."

"You what?" Mr. Priatt said in astonishment.

"Wonderful," Sophie said in absolute happiness, her sister smiling as well.

"Jeremy, don't be rash," his lawyer said warningly.

"I've thought about this, Wayne. I just need your opinion on the documents," Jeremy said firmly. I admired his ability to just say it like it is. "Eden and I spoke in the hall, Mrs. Carlton, and it seems we've agreed to raise the baby."

Sophie eyes filled with tears but she was smiling. "Thank you," she said fervently. "This is exactly what I've been hoping for."

I nodded, but was unsure if I should say 'you're welcome.' We were taking her baby after all.

In short order the lawyers were going over every form imaginable and Jeremy and I were sitting at Sophie's bedside being given all the information we'd ever need. We had a couple months to take care of anything in our lives that needed to be handled since the baby wouldn't be due until the very end of May. We were made aware that Sophie would give us the child upon it's birth whether she had died or not, but she warned us that the birth might end up being an emergency if she became too ill before it's birth. She gained contact information from Jeremy, who apparently lived approximately seven hours to the south of Amethyst in Sunridge, a small town near the ocean. And from me, the girl who would soon have no house and be homeless with a baby an hour north of Amethyst in Liberty Heights.

When the proceedings were finished, I could see Sophie was exhausted, but I felt a surge of gratitude, and since I was the last one from the room, I tentatively gave Sophie and her sister, Charlotte, a hug.

"Thank you, Mrs. Carlton," I said earnestly. "I don't know exactly what I've just gotten myself into, but I'm certain it's the right thing. I actually feel happy," I admitted.

"That's wonderful, my dear," Sophie said. "You'll be wonderful with Jeremy. I'll be certain to let you know if anything happens, all right?"

"Yes, thank you," I said, slowly closing the door behind me.

In the hallway, Jeremy was signing some papers. He glanced at me and scribbled his name across the last line of the pile.

"I, uh, your lawyer already left," Jeremy said hesitantly to me. "I took the liberty of having my lawyer handle your paperwork, too ... I hope you don't mind. Your lawyer seems a little… uh-"

"Unprepared? Underhanded?" I supplied, knowing full-well it was true. "Unqualified?"

"Yeah," he agreed.

"He was my parents' lawyer," I responded as Jeremy's lawyer, Mr. Grant turned to me with my own pile of paperwork to sign. I adjusted the small bandage on my hand and took his pen.

"Was?" Jeremy questioned.

I nodded. "They just died last night."

"Oh," he said in surprise. "I'm sorry."

"It's all right," I said softly, somehow not feeling badly for myself even though I was sharing with a stranger. "They weren't much different than Mr. Priatt."

He nodded non-committally and half-chuckled. "I understand."

Mr. Grant continued pointing at various places that needed my signature or initials and suddenly closed his leather bound book.

"Thank you, Miss Harper," he said. "I'll see to it that the paperwork gets to the right people and will start drawing up the paperwork for the adoption. It will, of course, have to be completely after the birth of the child, but I see no reason to put it off."

"Thanks, Wayne," Jeremy said. "That would be great."

"I'll see you in a couple months then," he said with a slight bow. "Jeremy. Miss Harper."

He left us alone in the hallway then and I have to admit it did strange things to the air in the confined space, knowing Jeremy and I were alone. I supposed I could've walked away, but I felt this desperate need to stay, as if I was forgetting something. It was maddening.

"I guess I'll see you in a couple of months," he said hesitantly.

"Yeah," I agreed. "When the baby's born."

"Yeah," he mumbled.

He reached his arm across his body and rubbed his other arm looking for something to say. There was nothing I wanted more than to stand there talking to him, too, but my mind was blank. Every time he moved I kept wanting to touch his arm or see if he really was as strong as he looked. As strong as he seemed earlier.

"Well," he said awkwardly. "I guess…" he said, trailing off as he slowly gestured toward the waiting room doors.

"Oh, yeah," I said, coming to my senses.

We walked together out to the parking lot and Jeremy turned back to me.

"I'm over there," he said almost regretfully.

"I, uh…" What could I tell him? "My parents actually wrecked the car I got here in."

"Oh," he said. "Oh. I could… maybe give you a lift?"

"That's all right," I said, although every other part of my brain was screaming 'Yes! Go with him!' "I have a friend coming to pick me up. You live in Sunridge, anyway, right? So that's a pretty long way from here, and I'd just take you farther from home."

"Right," he said. He didn't seem convinced.

He looked up at the sky and zipped his sweatshirt, pulling his dreads from the back and looking at me again. He moved forward a little and my heart just raced in my chest. I could not get a hold of myself around this guy. He stepped a little closer and I watched his eyes close indecisively. Mine closed, too, but it wasn't from indecision. I knew I wanted him to kiss me.

He grew close enough I could smell the scent of his cologne and something else… sawdust? I swallowed, wondering if I was brave enough to close the distance and then suddenly the feeling was gone. When I opened my eyes I was standing alone on the sidewalk of the clinic, staring out into a rain covered parking lot.

I was on my own.


Hooray for new stories! This one is quickly becoming my favorite. I love all comments and would love to hear from you.

I will post at the very least once a week. I swear. :)