Holt smiled warmly and took my hands in his.
My head was spinning like an out of control top. I was out with Holt Bennett. We were holding hands.
Oh, wait. Too bad. It’s not a date.
He wasn’t interested in me that way. He wanted to borrow my uterus!
Peals of uncontrollable laughter erupted from deep inside of me. Holt grinned before bursting out in a loud roar. The people at the nearby tables stared at us.
Eventually, we stopped, descending into silence.
My mind raced as I tried to comprehend his proposal. How was he planning to conceive this baby? Why had he chosen me? It didn’t make sense. He didn’t even know me.
“I need to get some air,” I said as I slid out of the green plastic booth.
“Are you okay? You look a little pale.”
“Yeah. I just need to get out of here.” I bolted for the door.
Holt paid the bill and joined me outside. The temperature had dropped significantly since we arrived. I wrapped my arms around my body as we walked side by side back to Holt’s truck.
He opened the door and handed me a grey hoodie from behind the seat. The sweater was too large for my tiny frame, but there was something exciting about wearing clothing that belonged to the guy you liked.
When Holt climbed in the driver’s seat, he didn’t put the keys in the ignition. He turned and looked at me with those delicious brown eyes. Serious eyes that belonged to a man on a mission.
“You would be well compensated.”
“What does that mean?” Did he think I was actually considering this?
“My family is wealthy. You would be paid a large sum of money for having this baby. One million dollars to be exact. All of your medical bills would be paid. And the child would have a trust fund.”
I stared at him, my mouth hanging open.
The guy who had been cutting grass, collecting trash, emptying septic tanks, and other crappy jobs at a cottage park since he was fifteen years old, just confessed that he was rich.
What the hell?
“So, you expect me to believe you’re a millionaire who works as a maintenance boy?”
“I didn’t say that I was rich. I said my ~parents~ are rich. And more like billionaires.”
He stared out the windshield, running his fingers through his hair.
“My dad is strict. His father built the family business from the ground up. He wanted to instill the value of hard work into his son. My dad did the same thing to me.
“I had to pay my own way through school. They allowed me to live at home for free, but I have to pay for my tuition and my truck, and anything else that I want.”
“That’s pretty impressive. What kind of business does your family own?”
“Have you ever heard of the Bennett Group?”
I shook my head.
“It’s a large company that owns a lot of smaller companies in different industries. We own a coffee shop chain, fitness clubs, some manufacturing businesses, shipping companies…”
His voice trailed off in a bored tone.
“Why don’t you work for your father then?”
“I will after I graduate next year. I’m majoring in business and finance, so that I can take over the company someday. It’s a family business, and it is an expectation that my sister and I will work there.
“My passion is physical fitness, so I will probably look after the health clubs. My dad wants us to enjoy working there.”
“So, um.” I paused as I worked up the nerve to ask the burning question on the tip of my tongue.
Holt raised his eyebrows. A grin spread slowly across his face. He knew what I was about to ask him!
“Um, how were you planning to conceive this baby?” I could feel the heat coming off of my cheeks.
Holt chuckled. “Artificial insemination. Did you think that you would have to do it the old-fashioned way?”
“I have no idea what you are thinking. This whole thing sounds crazy. I understand that you would do anything to save your sister, but having a baby is kind of extreme.”
“If I don’t do it, my sister could die. I could never live with myself if that happened and I could have prevented it.”
“Was this your parent’s idea?”
“Yeah. They are desperate.”
“Why would you choose me to do this? You don’t even know me. Surely, you have an ex-girlfriend floating around out there somewhere that would be more than willing to have your baby.”
I picked an imaginary piece of lint off of my shorts to avoid looking at those brown eyes. I was afraid of those eyes. They might just convince me to consider this crazy request.
Holt looked out the driver’s window and rubbed his jaw. He cleared his throat and turned to face me again.
“There are a few reasons I chose you, Kari. The fact that you’re available is a big consideration. You’re taking a year off school to make money. My sister’s doctor said this needs to happen as soon as possible.
“Obviously, it takes nine months to have a baby, and Chelsea will need the transplant about a month after her treatments are finished. So it would be beneficial if the first insemination was successful.”
“Holy. That’s a lot of pressure.”
“If you did agree to do this, they would check your blood to see if you had enough matching markers. The more you have, the better the chance that our baby could be a donor.”
“So your dad is going to pay someone one million dollars to have your baby, but there is no guarantee that the baby will even be a match?”
“There is no guarantee. They would do something called an amniocentesis that would tell them for sure.”
“I’ve heard of that. It’s when they stick a big needle in the stomach. What if the baby isn’t a match? Would they expect me to have an abortion?”
“No. My family are extremely pro-life.”
“How do you feel about that? You’re the one who ends up with a kid whether it’s a match or not.”
“It’s a chance I’m willing to take.” He paused and cleared his throat.
“We need a young, healthy girl who is not sexually active or on any kind of birth control. They want to ensure that there is nothing that will delay conception.”
“How do you know I’m a suitable candidate? You don’t know anything about me. I could be a prostitute, for all you know!” How dare he make assumptions about my sex life?
He grinned, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
“I’m pretty sure you aren’t a prostitute. I know that you’re a virgin, and I know you don’t have a boyfriend. So I’m assuming you aren’t on the pill, are you? Cause that could be a problem.”
“Where are you getting your information from?”
“Eddie told me. Don’t be mad at him, though. He didn’t tell me anything until I told him why I wanted to know.”
“You told Eddie that you were going to ask me to have a baby for you? I didn’t even think you guys were friends.”
Eddie also worked at Whispering Pines. Gwen dated him for almost a year. They broke up earlier that summer because Gwen didn’t want to have a long distance relationship when she went to Stanford.
I had gotten to know Eddie pretty well over the past year. He was a decent guy, and we had become friends.
He knew I had a crush on Holt, but I never thought he would tell him. I had definitely not discussed my sex life with him.
Gwen must have told him. I was a little annoyed with her for sharing personal information about me with her boyfriend.
“We started hanging out this summer and talking. He was upset about his breakup with Gwen and I was worried about my sister.
“We went out for beers the other night, and I ended up telling him the whole story. When I told him that I was thinking about asking you, he was pretty surprised. He seems quite fond of you, Kari.”
“Yeah. We kind of became friends while he was going out with Gwen. What else did he tell you about me?”
“Nothing much.” The way he smiled, I had my doubts that he was telling the truth. It didn’t matter anyway. I’m sure he knew I had a crush on him.
“So, you never answered me about the birth control pills.”
I sighed. “I’m not on any form of birth control.” The conversation was getting way too personal. How did I end up in Holt Bennett’s truck discussing babies, virginity, and birth control pills?
“Please take a couple days and think it over. Discuss it with your parents or whoever. But please don’t take too long to decide.”