All I Want For Christmas Is You
By Brenna Lyons
Two years after losing her fiancé Zach in a car accident, Robin is moving on. She's set her priorities, and one of them is following through with a life plan she and Zach made together...having a baby. It would be best if said child shared some of Zach's genes.
Enter David, Zach's older brother. He's Robin's best friend, her confidant, the one person who won't think she's crazy to do this...she hopes. Since there's no chance the ladies' man will fall for her, she hopes sex with him will stop the dreams where David takes Zach's place.
It's the invitation he's been waiting for, three years of watching Robin with his little brother, then watching her grieve Zach. If only she wanted David for himself and not a convenient sperm donor to conceive his brother's child. Then again, in such close quarters, maybe he'll be able to convince her to something more permanent...if his parents don't catch wind of the whole thing first.
January 29, 2008
Robin Lewis snapped awake at the sound of the doorbell, forcing herself to a sitting position. Her bleary eyes focused on the red LCD glow of the clock. “Three o’clock?”
A shaft of fear struck in the center of her chest. Stories about people murdered or raped in their own homes magnified it.
Would it be better not to answer it? They might go away if there was no sport inside. Or they might come in, believing the house is empty.
Then again, if she answered, they’d know a woman was inside.
Damn it! She’d never been afraid with Zach here, but Zach was in Portland on business, trying to finalize the purchase of another established company to expand Carson and Carson.
The doorbell rang again, and a brisk knocking followed. Something in the latter told her that feigning an empty house would be a very bad idea.
Her knees shaking, Robin pushed to her feet and grabbed the heavy fleece robe off the headboard. She belted it around her on the way to the door, hesitated, then scooped up the cordless phone.
While she didn’t want to appear foolish by calling the police before she knew what was going on, at the first sign of trouble, speed dial would be her best friend. Better yet, the police would respond to even an open line and silence if she dialed nine-one-one.
The doorbell sounded a third time, just as she reached the door. Though the outside light was on—which Zach insisted on, whether he was home or not—she’d never been able to get a good look through the peephole, even on tiptoe.
“Yes?” she called out.
“Robin, it’s me.”
She nearly crumpled in relief. “David? What are you doing here so late?” Without waiting for an answer, she started working the locks. Chances were, the storm had taken down the power lines between his house and hers, and he needed somewhere warm to crash for the night.
Robin swung the door wide and stopped in shock. David wasn’t alone. She stared at the police officer on the top step, her mouth going dry and gummy.
This was a first. Her soon to be brother-in-law had pulled a lot of stunts in his life, but to her knowledge none had involved being arrested since he was twelve.
A nervous laugh bubbled up. “Aren’t you a little old to be brought home by the police?”
Their grim expressions were the only answers forthcoming. Robin shivered...less in the cold from the open doors than from a sense of dark foreboding. Something was wrong here. More than wrong.
She vaguely noted the edge of the door cutting into her fingers. A wild buzzing in her skull impeded her hearing. Her head spun, and her breathing went rough. Robin shook her head, gasping out a refusal of the obvious reason for their arrival.
The officer cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to have to tell you—”
“No,” she pleaded. It’s not possible. Zach is in Portland.
“There was an accid—”
“No! He’s at the Doubletree,” Robin insisted. She turned from the open door, hurrying to the note pad Zach kept next to the phone. “I’ll get you the number. He’s in room ten-twenty-f—”
“Robin!” David interrupted her.
She stared at him, shocked to silence by his outburst.
He stepped into the house and took careful, precise little steps toward her. It was nothing like his usual swagger. His hands were up in a calming gesture, as if he was approaching an injured animal. His shaggy brown hair was sticking up at odd angles, as if he’d dragged his hands through it repeatedly. His deep brown eyes—so like Zach’s—were agonized, so tortured she swore she could feel it eating at her.
Maybe, it’s my own pain I’m feeling.
“No,” she repeated. I have no reason to feel pain. Do I? A strange numbness stole over her muscles, and the cordless dropped to the table, bounced off the base, and went skittering across the room.
His expression went from concerned to stricken. “He came home early, Robin. Zach...wanted to surprise you, but...he...he was tired.”
A tear glistened at the corner of his eye. She stared at it, fixated.
No! Robin shook her head, sobs choking off another denial. Tears blurred her vision. Her knees buckled, and David gathered her to his chest.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Lewis,” the officer intoned.
He sounded it, which only made her cry harder.
Miss Lewis. Only six weeks away from being Mrs. Carson, and that day will never come.
“Thank you,” David replied. “I’ll take it from here.”
The door closed and latched.
David held her until her legs gave out entirely. Then he carried her to bed and tucked the blankets around her. “I’ll take care of everything, Robin. You have my word.”
She choked again at the promise. Robin didn’t want to consider what needed “taken care of.” Zach wasn’t a load of girders. She didn’t want him to have to be “taken care of.”
“I’m here for you. I’ll always be here for you.”
He didn’t tell her everything would be all right. There was nothing right in this situation, and they both knew it. As such, David didn’t lie to her about it.
November 29, 2009
“I want to have a baby.”
“C-come again,” David managed to stutter out. Overall, it was a better response than she’d anticipated to the announcement.
Robin took a calming breath and prepared to explain. Despite how many times she’d rehearsed the speech, it deserted her in the heat of the moment, just as she’d feared it would. Just as it often had with Zach.
“Well...Zach and I had planned to have a baby right away.”
He nodded, setting his beer on the table between them. “He mentioned it.”
That would make things easier. I hope. “I still want to.”
Robin hesitated and then nodded. He thinks I’m insane. Then again, she thought she was insane some days. How many weeks had she argued this with herself? How many times had she reversed course? More than Robin cared to count.
David gulped down another few mouthfuls of his beer before he answered, seemingly steeling himself for something unpleasant. “Robin, I know you love Zach.”
And she loved David for phrasing it that way. Anyone else would have said “loved Zach,” marginalizing her feelings, dismissing them. Putting the nails in the coffin of her love for him. She winced at the pun.
“But, baby... Much as we both love Zach, he is gone.”
Anyone else would have ended up with a facefull of red wine at that blunt statement, but David had always been honest with her when no one else would.
“I know,” she replied with all the dignity she could muster.
“The plans you made together...” David sighed. “They were meant to be carried out together. I’m not saying you’re incapable of doing this without him,” he hastened to add.
“What are you saying, David?”
He darkened a notch. “Be sure, before you do something this...big. Be certain you’re not doing this just to hold onto a piece of what you and Zach planned.”
She stiffened, offended that he’d think her capable of it. “I’m not.”
“Just be sure,” he insisted. “Holding onto the past just to—”
A couple at a nearby table slid a glance at them at her outburst. Robin pretended not to notice it, and they went back to their conversation.
David took her hand, stroking his thumb over the back and his fingers in the bowl of her palm. With that little provocation, her body responded.
It seemed to be happening more and more often. Touches he intended to soothe her aroused her senses. Shared looks made her heart pound in excitement. Whispered words had her wet and aching.
His voice dragged her back to the present.
“You’ve thought this through, then?”
“For months.” That was no exaggeration.
David raised her hand and pressed a chaste kiss to her knuckles. “Then I’ll help you.”
Her breathing hitched. That simply? I ask the seemingly insane, and he agrees nearly without question. David was a rare man. Zach would have demanded weeks of negotiation on the subject. She pushed that thought away before she started second-guessing herself again. “Thank you.”
“So what’s it going to be? A sperm bank?”
Her face burned in embarrassment. Now comes the moment when he says I’m insane. Robin didn’t doubt that his offer to help was about to be rescinded.
“Robin?” There was an edge of steel in that question, and he stopped stroking her hand.
“I was hoping...” She couldn’t form the words. Damn! Why did I spend all that time practicing the logic, if I can’t speak coherently enough to say it?
One dark brow arched at her hesitation. “Hoped?” he prompted her.
“To have...ah...a donation from someone who shared chromosomes with Zach.” She knew her eyes were pleading with him. Not so much for his agreement; it was unlikely she’d get that much. Robin would be lucky if he didn’t walk away and wash his hands of her.
The beer came up in David’s free hand, and he drained it. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and set the empty glass back on the table. After a tense moment of silence, his eyes opened, and he forged on.
“You want me to... What? Leave a sample with your doctor or something?”
It sounded horrid, when phrased that way. Besides that, it wasn’t what she wanted. She tried for humor, her heart aching. “If that’s the only way you will.” At least, she’d get the baby that way, which was better than not, she supposed.
His eyes widened, and dark patches of color bloomed in his face. “If... If...?”
She stared to speak, uncertain what would spill out. It had been too much to ask. It was time to let him off the hook and get therapy for her fascination with him.
He put up an index finger, an unmistakable order for a moment of silence.
Robin snapped her mouth shut, cursing herself for not dropping the whole idea. She’d argued it was crazy at least a hundred times. Why had she bothered to pursue it?
David dragged out his wallet and tossed a twenty on the table. A whirlwind of a moment later, he was ushering Robin out of Mik’s and into the crisp winter air outside. She zipped her jacket, averting her eyes, anticipating the lecture to come.
He turned to her, and she looked up against her better judgment. His face was all harsh lines. Oh, yes. The lecture was coming.
“If that’s the only way I will?”
There was something manic couched in his tone, but he wasn’t shouting at her or suggesting a shrink. To her surprise, he seemed to want answers, so she organized her thoughts, seeking out the reasons she’d so carefully prepared.
“I’ve investigated every—”
“Robin,” he warned.
She stared at him, confused. What had he been asking, if not the reasons why he should consider a more intimate donation to the cause?
“Are you saying you’d prefer another option?”