A Tricky Proposition(3)

By: Cat Schield



“It’s possible.” Her gaze turned inward. A tranquil half smile curved her lips.

For a couple, triplets would be hard. How was she going to handle three babies as a single mom?

Images paraded through his head. Ming’s mysterious smile as she placed his hand on her round belly. Her eyes sparkling as she settled the baby in his arms for the first time. The way the pictures appealed to him triggered alarm bells. After his father’s suicide attempt, he’d closed himself off to being a husband and a father. Not once in the years since had he questioned his decision.

Ming glanced at the silver watch on her delicate wrist. “I’ve got seven minutes to get upstairs or I’ll be late for my next appointment.”

“We need to talk about this more.”

“It’ll have to be later.” She gathered Muffin and exited the car.

“When later?”

But she’d shut the door and was heading away, sleek and sexy in form-fitting black pants and a sleeveless knit top that showed off her toned arms.

Appreciation slammed into his gut.

Uninvited.

Unnerving.

Cursing beneath his breath, Jason shut off the engine, got out of the car and headed for the front door, but he wasn’t fast enough to catch her before she crossed the building’s threshold.

Four-inch heels clicking on the tile lobby floor, she headed toward the elevator. With his longer legs, Jason had little trouble keeping pace. He reached the elevator ahead of her and put his hand over the up button to keep her from hitting it.

“The Camaro will get towed if you leave it there.”

He barely registered her words. “Let’s have dinner.”

A ding sounded and the doors before them opened. She barely waited for the elevator to empty before stepping forward.

“I already have plans.”

“With whom?”

She shook her head. “Since when are you so curious about my social life?”

Since her engagement had broken off.

On the third floor, they passed a door marked Dr. Terrance Kincaid, DDS, and Dr. Ming Campbell, DDS. Another ten feet and they came to an unmarked door that she unlocked and breezed through.

One of the dental assistants hovered outside Ming’s office. “Oh, good, you’re here. I’ll get your next patient.”

Ming set down Muffin, and the Yorkie bounded through the hallway toward the waiting room. She headed into her office and returned wearing a white lab coat. When she started past him, Jason caught her arm.

“You can’t do this alone.” Whether he meant get pregnant or raise a child, he wasn’t sure.

Her gentle smile was meant to relieve him of all obligations. “I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t doubt that.” But he couldn’t shake the sense that she needed him.

A thirteen-year-old boy appeared in the hallway and waved to her.

“Hello, Billy,” she called. “How did your baseball tournament go last month?”

“Great. Our team won every game.”

“I’d expect nothing else with a fabulous pitcher like you on the mound. I’ll see you in a couple minutes.”

As often as Jason had seen her at work, he never stopped being amazed that she could summon a detail for any of her two hundred clients that made the child feel less like a patient and more like a friend.

“I’ll call you tomorrow.” Without waiting for him to respond, she followed Billy to the treatment area.

Reluctant to leave, Jason stared after her until she disappeared. Impatience and concern urged him to hound her until he was satisfied he knew all her plans, but he knew how he’d feel if she’d cornered him at work.

Instead, he returned to the parking lot. The Camaro remained at the curb where he’d left it. Donning his shades, he slid behind the wheel and started the powerful engine.





Two

When Ming returned to her office after her last appointment, she found her sister sitting cross-legged on the floor, a laptop balanced on her thighs.

“There are three chairs in the room. You should use one.”

“I like sitting on the ground.” With her short, spiky hair and fondness for natural fibers and loose-fitting clothes, Lily looked more than an environmental activist than a top software engineer. “It lets me feel connected to the earth.”

“We’re three stories up in a concrete building.”

Lily gave her a “whatever” shoulder shrug and closed the laptop. “I stopped by to tell you I’m heading out really early tomorrow morning.”

“Where to this time?”

For the past five years, her sister had been leading a team of consultants involved with transitioning their company’s various divisions to a single software system. Since the branches were all over the country, she traveled forty weeks out of the year. The rest of the time, she stayed rent-free in Ming’s spare bedroom.

“Portland.”

“How long?”

“They offered me a permanent position.”

Her sister’s announcement came as an unwelcome surprise. “Did you say yes?”

“Not yet. I want to see if I like Portland first. But I gotta tell you, I’m sick of all the traveling. It would be nice to buy a place and get some appliances. I want a juicer.”

Lily had this whole “a healthy body equals a healthy mind” mentality. She made all sorts of disgusting green concoctions that smelled awful and tasted like a decomposing marsh. Ming’s eyes watered just thinking about them. She preferred to jump-start her day with massive doses of caffeine.

“You won’t get bored being stuck in one city?”

“I’m ready to settle down.”

“And you can’t settle down in Houston?”

“I want to meet a guy I can get serious about.”

“And you have to go all the way to Portland to find one?” Ming wondered what was really going on with her sister.

Lily slipped her laptop into its protective sleeve. “I need a change.”

“You’re not going to stick around and be an auntie?” She’d hoped once Lily held the baby and saw how happy Ming was as a mom, her sister could finally get why Ming was willing to risk their mother’s wrath about her decision.

“I think it’s better if I don’t.”

As close as the sisters were, they’d done nothing but argue since Ming had divulged her intention of becoming a single mom. Her sister’s negative reaction had come as a complete surprise. And on the heels of her broken engagement, Ming was feeling alone and blue.

“I wish I could make you understand how much this means to me.”

“Look, I get it. You’ve always wanted children. I just think that a kid needs both a mother and a father.”

Ming’s confidence waned beneath her sister’s criticism. Despite her free-spirited style and reluctance to be tied down, Lily was a lot more traditional than Ming when it came to family. Last night, when Ming had told her sister she was going to talk to Jason today, Lily had accused Ming of being selfish.

But was she? Raising a child without a father didn’t necessarily mean that the child would have problems. Children needed love and boundaries. She could provide both.

It wasn’t fair for Lily to push her opinions on Ming. She hadn’t made her decision overnight. She’d spent months and months talking to single moms, weighing the pros and cons, and using her head, not her emotions, to make up her mind about raising a child on her own. Of course, when it came right down to it, her longing to be a mother was a strong, biological urge that was hard to ignore.

Ming slipped out of her lab coat and hung it on the back of her office door. “Have you told Mom about the job offer?”

“No.” Lily countered. “Have you told her what you’re going to do?”

“I was planning to on Friday. We’re having dinner, just the two of us.” Ming arched an eyebrow. “Unless you’d like to head over there now so we can both share our news. Maybe with two of us to yell at, we’ll each get half a tongue lashing.”

“As much as I would love to be there to see the look on Mom’s face when she finds out you’re going to have a baby without a husband, I’m not ready to talk about my plans. Not until I’m completely sure.”

It sounded as if Lily wasn’t one hundred percent sold on moving away. Ming kept relief off her face and clung to the hope that her sister would find that Portland wasn’t to her liking.

“Will I see you at home later?”

Lily shook her head. “Got plans.”

“A date?”

“Not exactly.”

“Same guy?” For the past few months, whenever she was in town, her sister had been spending a lot of time with a mystery man. “Have you told him your plans to move?”

“It’s not like that.”

“It’s not like what?”

“We’re not dating.”

“Then it’s just sex?”

Her sister made an impatient noise. “Geez, Ming. You of all people should know that men and women can be just friends.”

“Most men and women can’t. Besides, Jason and I are more like brother and sister than friends.”

For about the hundredth time, Ming toyed with telling Lily about her mixed feelings for Jason. How she loved him as a friend but couldn’t stop wondering if they could have made it as a couple. Of course, she’d blown any chance to find out when she’d agreed to have dinner with Evan three years ago.

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