The sheikhs twin baby su.., p.4
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       The Sheikh's Twin Baby Surprise, p.4

         Part #1 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  Relaxing after the talk with Omar was almost impossible. Neither the jet tub nor a few more glasses of wine did anything to wring out the tension that galloped through my muscles at the thought of the decision before me. I paced around the plush carpet of my private suite for hours, trying to weigh the pros and cons, asking myself the hard questions. It had been daunting enough to consider quitting this job and finding myself a new place to live and work. Now on top of that, I had to consider a much bigger, more life-changing decision, and one I never expected to have to make.

  The man I secretly love asking me to carry his child—as a business arrangement. What had my life become? Six months ago, I was tying tourniquets gritted with sand and trying to get my hands on any local remedy that would wash the constant smell of blood out of my hair. Now, there was an evening gown on the floor of my plush suite, looking like a dark puddle of water in an ocean of cream-colored carpet, and I had to decide if I wanted to carry the heir of one of the oldest countries in the Middle East so that the man I loved could take the throne.

  Desperate for guidance, I rang my family back home, hoping in some vague way that the time difference suddenly wouldn’t matter and my mother would answer, bright-eyed and ready to help. But she didn’t.

  Teary-eyed, I sighed as I hung up the call, hovering on the edge of my enormous canopy bed. It was probably for the best, anyway. There was no easy way to explain what was happening here, and my mother would be horrified at the prospect of me selling out my womb to anyone, Sheikh or not.

  My mother was a traditionalist, as were most of my family back home in Ohio, and I couldn’t think of any way to explain this to them. They didn’t understand a lot of my life decisions. My mother cried for three days when I told her I was headed to be a doctor in a war-torn country. She was proud of me, sure, but she didn’t understand why I would give up the comfort of middle-class American life for one of danger, uncertainty and struggle. I had no idea how to explain it to her, just like I had no idea how to explain that I was thinking of having a man’s baby for money.

  The thought hit me like a landslide. That’s what he was asking of me, wasn’t it? To rent out my reproductive organs in order to produce something he needed. Some part of that realization horrified me.

  And yet, how many young women found themselves pregnant and with no father around to help raise the child? At least Omar was willing to make sure I never wanted for anything—and our child certainly wouldn’t. He or she would be raised in one of the most prosperous places in the world, taught by world-class tutors and coaches, brought up with every advantage in order to become a fine ruler one day. How many mothers would happily pay any price to ensure that for their child? Was I selfish if I turned it down? If I had my own kids one day, outside of such an arrangement, I doubted I would be able to provide them even a fraction of the kind of security Omar could offer.

  And then there was the whole business of surrogacy—willing, healthy women carrying children for couples who couldn’t otherwise conceive, so that the joy of parenthood could be spread. Was there anything dishonorable about that profession? Of course not. As a doctor, I knew surrogates and egg and sperm donors brought an immeasurable amount of happiness to people’s lives, giving them hope when they had none. There was nothing shameful about it; they were helping people, and at great personal sacrifice. It was exactly the kind of life I wanted to live.

  So why did I feel so badly about the idea?

  After a hot bath, I dressed in one of the silk nightgowns from my dresser and moved to lay in bed and finish off the bottle of red wine I had opened. Sleep was going to be elusive tonight, and I figured I would try and coax her in with a little bait.

  I lay there and looked down at my body, and my flat belly. With a soft hand, I rubbed it, and imagined myself with child. My body would go through some drastic changes if I made this decision, some of which would be permanent. I would never be the same woman after it was over, even if it was a business transaction and not a family choice. The weight of that realization settled over me like a wet wool coat. My body, my mind, my spirit, everything would be changed forever once I went through the experience of carrying and giving birth to a child.

  Tears began to stream down my cheek with sudden timing. A family choice; that was the choice I really wanted to be making. Having children was always in my life plan, ever since I was a little girl. Being a doctor, and one who was attracted to dangerous work, had put a bit of a delay on that plan to be sure, but the hope never really died.

  I’d always figured I would eventually find some attractive fellow doctor or nurse who enjoyed travel and excitement as much as I did, and we would run off together, healing people and raising our kids as worldly little nomads who understood the truth of culture, beauty and people. Part of me always worried that it was just a pipe dream, and that eventually I would have to give up one or the other in order to survive. With every year that passed, the less likely it became, and I knew that a day would come when it would be impossible for me to bear children. One of my dreams was always doomed to die, an ugly voice in the back of my head told me.

  But what girl dreams of selling her womb to a sheikh? Was this really the way I wanted to bring a child into the world—as a business transaction with a man who saw me only as an employee? Even though I loved him, it was a one-way street. This wouldn’t be an act of love on his part, so much as self-preservation.

  Flashes of social media pages and birth announcements from my girlfriends back at college entered my mind. They were easy enough to ignore when I had more pressing, life-saving issues at hand. But in the dark of night, I had to admit that being in my thirties, watching all my peers settle down and start families was starting to bite at my heels like a yappy dog. I always knew that having a baby while I was on my own and out in the world wasn’t feasible. I didn’t have the time, money, or energy to trot the globe with a baby on my back, and it wouldn’t be fair to any child to make them go without just because their mother wanted to be a globetrotter.

  But Omar’s offer seemed to fix that conundrum. I could have a child, and know that he would want for nothing, while I continued on with my adventurous lifestyle. Omar would make a wonderful father; I was certain of that much. I had seen him with his nieces enough times to have faith in his ability to be patient, caring, and loving to any child. He was a good man. It would crush me not to be a parent alongside him to a child of our making, but my feelings weren’t the point here.

  Omar wasn’t asking me this because he loved me. He needed an heir to ensure his life continued on the track he had been planning. And my love for him couldn’t factor into this; that was a surefire way to get my heart broken.

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