The Marriage Contract(4)

By: Kat Cantrell

They’d never been formally introduced, but the baby was a dead giveaway. Desmond Pierce didn’t look anything like the pictures she’d searched on the internet. Of course she’d had a better-than-average dose of curiosity about the man with such strict ideas about the surrogacy arrangement, the man who would marry her without meeting her.

But this man—he made tall, dark and handsome seem banal. He was fascinating, with a scruff of a beard that gave him a dangerous edge, deep brown hair swept back from his face and a wiry build.

Desmond Pierce was the perfect man to be a father or she wouldn’t have agreed to his proposal. What she hadn’t realized was that he was a perfect man, period. Coupled with the baby in his arms, he might well be the most devastatingly handsome male on the planet.

And then she realized. He wasn’t just a man. They were married. He was her husband. Whom she was never supposed to meet.

“The baby won’t eat,” he said over the yowls. “You need to try to breast-feed him.”

She blinked. Twice. “I need to do what?”

“The nurse said he’s allergic to formula. We’ve tried for an hour.” He moved closer to the bed with a purposeful stride that brooked no nonsense and held out the wailing bundle. “He needs you. This is the one thing I cannot give him.”

She stared at the wrinkled face of her child, refusing to reach out, refusing to let the wash of emotions beating through her chest take hold. The baby needed her and she was the sole person who could help. But how could she? Breast-feeding was far too nurturing of a thing to do with a baby she wasn’t allowed to keep.

How dare Desmond come in here and layer on more impossible emotional turmoil in the middle of her already-chaotic heart?

She’d done her part according to their agreement. The baby was born, healthy and the child was set for life with a billionaire father who wanted him badly enough to seek out an unusual surrogacy agreement and who had the means to take care of him. What more could Desmond Pierce possibly expect from her? Did he want to slice off a piece of her soul when he took her baby away for the second time?

“That’s too much to ask,” she whispered even as her breasts tingled at the suggestion. They’d grown hard and heavy the moment the baby had entered the room crying. It was simple physiology and she’d known she’d have to let her milk dry up. Had been prepared for it.

What she had not been prepared for was the request to use it to feed her son.

Desmond’s brows came together. “You’re concerned about your figure?”

That shouldn’t have been so funny. “Yeah, I’m entering the Miss USA pageant next week and how I’ll look in a bikini is definitely my biggest objection.”

“That’s sarcasm, right?”

The fact that he had to ask struck her oddly, but before she could comment, he stuck the baby right into her arms. Against her will, her muscles shifted, cradling the baby to her bosom, and she was lost. As he must have known. As the nurse had known.

She shouldn’t be holding the baby, but she was, and it was too late to stop the thunder of her pulse as it pumped awe and love and duty and shock straight to her heart.

My son.

He still cried, his face rooting against her breast, and it was clear what he wanted. She just hadn’t realized how deeply her desire to give it to him would ultimately go.

“There’s a clause in the custody agreement about the baby’s medical needs,” Desmond reminded her. “You’re on the hook for eighteen years if he needs you for medical reasons.”

“Yeah, but I thought that would only be invoked if he needed a kidney or something,” she blurted as the baby’s little fingers worked blindly against her chest. “Not breast-feeding.”

She couldn’t. Judging by how badly she wanted to, if she did this, it would be so much harder to walk away. It wasn’t fair of Desmond to ask. She was supposed to go back to Portland, register for school. Become a doctor like she’d dreamed about for over a decade. That’s how she’d help people. This evisceration Desmond Pierce wanted to perform wasn’t part of the plan.

“He might still need a kidney, too.” Desmond shrugged. “Such is the nature of sharing DNA with another human.”

Did he really not get the emotional quandary she was in? All of this must be so easy for him. After all, he was man, and rich besides—all he had to do was snap his fingers to make the world do his bidding. “You know breast-feeding isn’t a one-time thing, right? You have to repeat it.”

In the tight-knit community her parents belonged to, they raised babies as a village. She’d watched mothers commit to being a baby’s sole food source twenty-four hours a day for months. Some women had trouble with breast-feeding. He acted like she could just pop out a breast and everything would be peachy.

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