The Surrogate’s Secret by Mimi Barbour

Again the doorbell pealed; this time followed by an impatient knock. Moving quickly to the front entrance, Sheri wrenched the door open. The tanned, good-looking man leaning against the doorjamb wasn’t Charly. This mysterious male reached well over six feet, and looked to be pure trouble. His head, held at a cocky angle, and especially his cold gray eyes affected Sheri. Maybe tiredness made her unusually grumpy, but she wanted her bed and this man looked like he had a mission. Her bare feet, naked legs, and rounded belly still recovering from recently giving birth received a laser-like scan. From his scowl, he either didn’t like her clothes or her looks. She noticed his full lips curl slightly as his eyes skimmed her mess of hair, which had escaped the confines of her clip and now hung in total disarray over her bare shoulders. Not one to dress fancy at home, Sheri nonetheless wished she’d chosen something other than the low-cut, thin cotton blouse with the frills that directed one’s eye to the protruding breasts below. The favored blouse never worn outside the apartment for that exact reason was her sheerest and therefore the coolest one she owned. Sheri straightened her shoulders, refusing to be intimidated. “Can I help you?” Her voice sounded huskier than normal. Tiredness did that to her. He eased upright and asked. “Are you Sheri O’Connor, Mary-Anne Rivera’s friend and her surrogate mother?” His voice vibrated with fake courtesy, a strong accent and a mesmerizing quality that might fool a fool. Sheri was no fool. “Yes.” The name of her deceased friend, spoken by a stranger, pierced her, forcing her to brace herself. Stepping back, she folded her arms across her stomach, this time to conceal her shaky reaction. She cocked her head, copying his style. “Miss O’Connor, may we go inside and talk? You look ready to collapse, and I wouldn’t want to upset the mother of my brother’s baby. Come.” He clasped her arm with one hand and beckoned behind her with the other. An emotion, very like pain, registered in his expression. It beguiled her for several seconds, until big city rules of safety kicked finally in.

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