Read Beginnings (Crawley Creek Prequel) Online

Authors: Lori King

Tags: #erotic, #short story, #hea, #western, #ranch, #cowboys, #north dakota, #prequel, #foster children

Beginnings (Crawley Creek Prequel) (3 page)

With a weak smile of gratitude, Sera nodded
and entered the beautiful old chapel. Oak pews sat in ten perfect
rows between the double doors and the altar, each accommodating at
least fifteen people comfortably. Hymnals and bibles dotted the
backs of each pew, as well as boxes of crayons and coloring books
for the young. The sun beamed through the stained glass windows
that bracketed an oversized cross above the pastor’s podium, and as
always, gave her a sense of peace. Here she felt one with
herself.

Mary handed her a coffee mug and sat down
next to her crossing her legs as she waited for Sera to spill her
secrets.

“I went to see the doctor again. For more
tests,” she began, staring down into the swirling black liquid in
her cup. “The news wasn’t good.”

“Oh, no.”

“I can’t have children.”

“Can’t? As in ever?” Mary’s eyes were wide
with shock when Sera glanced her way.

“I have a hostile uterus. Basically my body
can’t carry a baby. There’s no way to fix me.” Tears began to slip
from her eyes, and she set the cup on the bench next to her to
avoid its contents slopping over from her shaking hands. “I haven’t
told Abe yet. I don’t know how.”

“Oh Sera,” Mary gasped. “You can’t keep this
from him. He needs to know so that you guys can decide what your
other options are.”

“Other options? What options?” Sera’s tone
was grim. “I have no problem with adoption. In fact, we’ve actually
talked about it before, but we always assumed we’d adopt a child
after we had one of our own.”

Nodding in sympathy, Mary said, “You could
look into a surrogate.”

Sera wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know how I
feel about another woman carrying my child.”

“It’s not just about how you feel, Sera. Abe
should have a say in this, too.”

“I know, but how can I break his heart like
this? When he asked me to marry him he also asked me to be the
mother of his children. It’s like he got me under false
pretenses.”

“Are you kidding me?” Mary let out a snort.
“That man would have married you even if you’d told him you didn’t
want
children.”

“But I do want children. I always have—”

“We don’t always get what we want. Do you
think David and I planned on building two different homes? No, of
course not. We wanted to build our dream home and live in it for
the rest of our days. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans
when she sent that twister through and took down the first house.”
Sera rolled her eyes and glared at her. “Okay, so it’s a bad
analogy, but the point is that sometimes we’re directed down a
different path than we want to walk. Maybe you were meant to be
barren because there’s a child out there just waiting for you to
bring them home.”

Sera’s heart lifted at the thought. Mary
might be right. No, she was absolutely right. Just because she
couldn’t carry a babe in her belly didn’t mean she couldn’t love
one with all of her heart.

“How do I tell him? What if he thinks of me
differently?”

“You’re crazy, girl. Abraham Crawley is
smitten with you. Head over heels, over the moon, lovesick puppy
dog—”

“Okay, okay, I get it, he loves me. I know
he loves me, but this changes things.”

Shrugging Mary said, “Everything changes.
You can’t stop living just because you don’t like the options in
front of you. Tell Abe what’s going on. Ease your heart, and stop
letting this guilt eat you up. Good grief, it’s not like you did
something wrong and made yourself unable to have kids.”

“I know, and you’re right. I’ll talk to him
tonight. I guess I just needed to hear someone else say it.” Sera
agreed. “So, now that I’ve dumped on you, tell me how you’ve been
while I was wallowing in guilt?”

“Oh, you know, everything is as it always
is. David is taking on too much because he wants to care for all of
Montford himself, and the boys are growing like weeds. Luke made
the peewee football team, and Mark is planning on running for the
junior high student council at school.”

“That’s wonderful! Mark would make a great
student councilman.” Sera said encouragingly. Jealousy burned in
the back of her throat as it almost always did when they talked
about Mary’s two young sons. Sera and Abe were the boys’
godparents, and they loved them dearly, but spending time with them
recently had just made the emptiness of their own home more
prominent. “You’ll have to let me know when Luke has games so that
Abe and I can come and see him play.”

“He’d love that! Maybe we can tailgate one
of the games. They play on Saturday mornings usually.”

“That would be great.” Sera agreed. “I’d
better get back home. I didn’t tell Abe I was stopping here after
my salon appointment. He’ll be wondering what happened to me.”

“I’m glad you came by, Sera. I miss you guys
living in town. It was much easier to meet for coffee.”

“That’s one of the drawbacks to living out
on the ranch. The lack of females.” Sera said with a laugh.
“Sometimes I swear I can see the testosterone in the air out
there.”

Mary wrinkled her nose. “I think those are
called horseflies.”

Laughing as she said her goodbyes, Sera left
the church and her best friend feeling lighter and surer of
herself. Somehow she and Abe would get through this and be stronger
for it. She had to have hope.

Chapter 4

 

“I’ll need at least a dozen of those
half-inch screws, Ron. Seraphina has me building her a new set of
tables for one of the bedrooms.” Abe unloaded the pile of materials
he’d collected on the hardware store countertop and reached for his
wallet. “I swear she has more projects for me to do than I have
hairs on my head.”

Ron laughed as he filled a small bag with
the requested screws. “That’s the beauty of a Honey-Do list. It’s
never ending. I swear Angie could write a five hundred page book of
things she wanted me to do and still not run out of ideas.”

“Tell me about it.” Abe agreed.

“Heard y’all had a scare out there last
month.”

“Yeah, that damn feed store sold us bad
grain.”

“No kidding?”

Abe shook his head. “Well the grain was
bagged and stored properly, but considering it killed off four of
my cattle, and damn near killed a fifth one, I’d say it was
bad.”

“Didja give ‘em hell?”

“Tried, but they’re a corporate outfit. Said
that we couldn’t prove the grain came that way, so there wasn’t
anything they could do.”

“That’s terrible. I sure do miss the old
days when folks were honest.” Ron shook his head.

“Me too. Back in my daddy’s day they’d have
been run out of town under the suspicion of selling bad feed.”

Snorting a laugh Ron said, “Damn straight
they would have. How’s your daddy doin’?”

“Good as can be expected. Doctor says he
won’t be with us much longer, but we all knew that. We were
expecting him to pass within days of Mama. The fact that he’s made
it this long is a blessing.”

“And the rest of the family?”

“Good, good. Now that I’m the only one left
in North Dakota it feels a might lonely, but they’ve all put down
roots in other places. I suppose that’s the way of the world
now.”

Ron nodded in agreement. “You know, Abe, I
actually wanted to talk with you. I have a nephew who just got out
of school in May. He’s been looking for work. Do you need any help
out on the ranch?”

Groaning silently in his head, Abe once
again questioned his intelligence in purchasing a large cattle
ranch. It seemed that everyone and his brother was looking for work
these days, and the quick answer was to ask him. “I’m actually
pretty full up right now…”

The disappointment on Ron’s face was like a
punch to the gut. “I understand, but he’s a great kid. He just
needs a little toughening up. You know how kids are these days.
They don’t understand the value of hard work.”

“I can’t make you any promises, but let me
talk it over with the hands and see if they’ve got anything he
could help with. The last thing I need is a mama’s boy, so if he
comes to work for Crawley Creek he’d better be ready to work hard.”
There was no way to turn Ron’s request down. Hell, how many times
had the man given him discounts and extras when he was struggling
to rebuild over the last few years.

“You bet! I’ll have him give you a call
tomorrow and see what’s what. Thanks Abe. I really appreciate it.”
Ron said, beaming with pleasure.

“Yeah, no problem. I’d better get back
before Seraphina does or she’ll worry. Thanks Ron.” Abe lifted the
pile of wood and supplies and headed out to the parking lot.

He’d just slammed the tailgate shut when he
heard a horn honking behind him. Turning, he found Pastor Gillian
waving at him from his open station wagon window.

“Abe! How are you today?” David called
out.

“Real good David, how are you?”

“Let me park real quick. I wanted to have a
word with you.”

Once again Abe groaned in his head. What was
this, mooch on Abe day?

Reaching into the truck, he turned the key
and flipped the air conditioner on to full blast. If he had to
wait, he wasn’t going to be sitting in the heat. With his legs
hanging out of the truck, he tapped his fingers while David parked
his car and made his way over to where Abe was.

“Hey, I know this is sudden, but I need your
help.” David lifted his hands as if to ward off a rejection.
“Actually I need you and Sera for this one. See, I just got a call
from Danica Washington. You know she took that job with the state
foster care system?”

Abe nodded, an image of the pretty black
woman appearing in his brain. Danica was fairly new in town, but
she’d been a great asset to the community. She was always involved
with the church and the school, and as he understood it, she’d
recently gotten her social worker’s license.

“Danica had a woman show up at her office
this morning with her three-year-old son, Vincent. The woman wanted
to turn him over to the state. Said she couldn’t take care of him
anymore,” David explained.

Abe’s stomach twisted, and he felt his mouth
drop open. “Her own son? She just wanted to give him away like
that?”

David nodded. “Guess so. Anyway, she asked
if there was a way to sign papers freeing herself of him, and
Danica tried to explain the court system. I guess the gal just took
off. Left her boy there in Danica’s office and drove away.”

“Shit.” Abe muttered, before catching
himself. “Sorry, Pastor.”

David waved the apology off, “Don’t be. That
was my reaction, too. Anyway, Danica needs to find a place for
Vincent to stay for a while. Do you think you and Sera could take
him in? It wouldn’t be permanent. Just a temporary foster care
thing.”

“Oh, uh, I don’t know David...”

David couldn’t hide his disappointment as he
nodded, “I know I’m asking a lot, but Mary and I don’t have room
for him in the parsonage, and there’s no one I can think of who
would take as good care of the boy. Please, Abe, just until we
figure out what to do with him. Danica has to petition the court to
get custody for the state.”

He couldn’t imagine how the young boy felt
knowing his mother didn’t want him. No matter what her reasons,
there was no explanation for abandoning a child. “Okay, yeah. Give
me some time to talk to Sera. When can we expect him?”

“Fantastic. I’ll call Danica when I get back
to the church. She can bring him out after she gets off work.” The
Pastor nearly burst with excitement and relief right there in front
of the hardware store. Abe wasn’t sure if he was feeling proud of
taking on the situation or regretting it already. “Thank you Abe,
you’re doing a good thing.”

“Yeah, I’m sure I am. I just hope Sera
doesn’t throttle me.” He pulled his legs up into the truck, and
swung the door closed. Just before he pulled out, he rolled the
window down and called out, “Hey David, is this kid potty trained
at least?”

David shrugged. “I have no idea.”

Cursing once again, Abe gunned the engine
and headed home to Crawley Creek. He’d probably just dug himself
into a huge hole. Sera was barely speaking to him lately, and he’d
just volunteered her to be a mother. Good grief, what was he
thinking?

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The car sputtered and died again, and Sera
hit the steering wheel with her palm. “Gosh darn it, don’t do this
to me.” Turning the key for the tenth time, she felt tears prick
her eyes when the engine made no sound. Nothing. Not even a
click.

Reaching for her purse, she dug around
looking for a hair tie so that she could braid her hair. It was
ridiculously hot for September, and she had no idea how long she
was going to be stuck on the side of the highway waiting for
someone to come by.

After another fifteen minutes she’d managed
to slip on the gravel and twist her ankle, burn her hand trying to
find the latch under the hood of the car, and determine that she
had no idea what she was looking at while she was staring at the
engine. Sweat trickled down her neck, and her clothes clung to her
in damp patches. A quick glance around reiterated the fact that not
only had she broken down on one of the emptiest stretches of back
highway in North Dakota, but she’d also managed to find the one
mile stretch with absolutely no shade.

Slumping down in the small shadow of the car
just to get out of the sun’s vicious rays, a sob broke free of her
throat before a torrent of tears washed down her face. It was like
everything hit her all at once—the news about her health, the lies,
the secrets, the avoidance, and the pressure that she’d been
putting herself under. There was no way around the fact that she’d
lied to her husband. Abe would be hurt and disappointed in her, but
she knew he’d also forgive her. That was just the type of man he
was.

The day she met him, was her first day of
school in Montford, and she’d just been happy to see a friendly
face. His offer to carry her books made her blush and eased her
into the popular crowd at the small school. She’d never been able
to get him to understand how much that meant to her. Instead of
feeling like an outcast from Idaho, she’d been embraced and built
lifelong friendships. Marrying Abe was the best decision of her
life, and she looked back on their ten years of marriage with
pride. Why she ever thought hiding this from him was a good idea,
she’d never know.

Other books

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
Three More Wishes by Sean Michael
TYCE 6 by Jaudon, Shareef
Lead a Horse to Murder by Cynthia Baxter
Pitch Perfect by McLane, LuAnn
A Just Deception by Adrienne Giordano
Waters Run Deep by Liz Talley
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle