The Marriage Contract(2)

By: Kat Cantrell

“Why is he refusing?” Des asked the nurse as the sense of something being wrong welled up in his chest again.

“I don’t know.” She banked the concern in her expression but not before Des saw it. “It’s not unusual for babies who are taken from their mothers to have difficulty acclimating. We can try with a dropper. A bottle isn’t the only way to get the formula into his body.”

Desmond nodded and bit his tongue as the nurse crowded into his space.

The dropper worked. For about five minutes. Then Conner started spitting up all over everything. The nurse frowned again and her expression tingled his spine.

Thirty minutes later, all three of them were frustrated.

“It seems he might have an allergy to formula,” the nurse finally announced.

“What does that mean? He’s going to starve?” Des shut his eyes in pure agony and scrubbed at his beard, which could probably use trimming but, like usual, he’d forgotten. Sometimes Mrs. Elliot, his housekeeper, reminded him, but only if they crossed paths and, lately, he’d been hiding out in his workshop in preparation for today.

For no reason apparently, since none of his prep had covered this scenario.

“No, we’re not going to let that happen. We’ve got some options...” She trailed off. “Never mind that one. I’ve been made aware of your wishes regarding your son’s mother, so—”

“Forget my wishes and tell me your suggestion. The baby has to eat,” Des insisted.

The nurse nodded. “The baby might breast-feed. I mean, this is highly unusual. Typically it’s the other way around, where we have to supplement a mother’s breast milk with formula until a lactation consultant can work with her, but—”

The baby’s wails cut her off.

“She’s still here? At the hospital?” He’d never met his son’s surrogate mother, as they’d agreed, but he was desperate for a solution.

“Well, yes. Of course. Most women take a couple of days to recover from childbirth but—”

“Take me to her.” His mind went to work on how he could have said that better, but distress wasn’t the best state for a do-over. “Please.”

Relief eased the nurse’s expression and she nodded. “Just a warning. She might not be willing to breast-feed.”

“I’ll convince her,” he countered as he stood with the baby in his arms.

His agreement with McKenna Moore, his son’s surrogate mother, had loopholes for medical necessities. Plus, she was still legally his wife; they’d married by proxy to avoid any legal snarls, but their relationship was strictly professional. Despite the fact that they had never met, hopefully being married would count for something. The baby had to eat—as soon as Desmond convinced Conner’s mother that she was his only hope.

Frankly, asking for her help was a last resort. Their agreement limited Ms. Moore’s involvement with the baby because Des wanted a family that was all his own. But he was desperate to look after his son’s welfare.

Out into the hall they went. At room 247, the nurse stopped and inclined her head. “Give me a second to see if she’s accepting visitors.”

Des nodded. The baby had quieted during the walk, which was a blessing. The rocking motion had soothed him most likely. Good information to have at his disposal.

Voices from inside the room drifted out into the hall.

“He wants to what?” The feminine lilt that did not belong to the nurse could only be McKenna Moore’s. She was awake and likely decent by this time since the nurse was in the room.

The baby stirred, his little face lifting toward the sound. And that decided it. Conner recognized his mother’s voice and, despite the absolute conviction that the best way to handle this surrogacy situation was to never be in the same room with the woman who had given birth to his son, Desmond pushed open the door with his foot and entered.

The dark-haired figure in the hospital bed drew his eye like a siren song and when their gazes met a jolt of recognition buzzed through all his senses at once. The same sort as when he’d glimpsed his son for the first time. Their son.

This woman was his child’s mother. This woman was his legally wedded wife.

McKenna Moore’s features were delicate and beautiful and he’d never been so ruthlessly stirred by someone in his life. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t think, and for a man with a genius IQ, lack of brain function was alarming indeed. As was the sudden, irrevocable conviction that he’d made a terrible mistake in the way he’d structured the surrogacy agreement.

He couldn’t help but mourn the lost opportunity to woo this woman, to get to know her. To have the option to get her pregnant the old-fashioned way.

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