"Sending me the wrong sperm sample is not a minor customer satisfaction problem, Dr. Ashtar." Clasping her palms across her pregnant belly, Chloe Simon willed her stomach to stay calm.
"I'm not minimizing the complexity of the situation, Miss Simon." The physician looked down at the open chart on the conference table in front of him, then hit her with a high wattage surely-we-can-solve-this smile. "I'm merely trying to assure you that your actual donor, Sergeant, uh ...."
"Gallagher. B.D." Those were the first words that Chloe's donor had uttered since his arrival in the clinic's conference room. "Broderick Devlin," he added, his clear green eyes giving nothing away as they observed her. By his unconcerned demeanor, he could have been sitting in a clubhouse waiting for his tee time.
"I assure you," Ashtar continued, "Sgt. Gallagher provided a specimen of the highest quality. He's in excellent health." Dr. Ashtar beamed with pride as he gestured to Gallagher. "No family history of inherited disease. Meets--in fact, exceeds--our extremely rigid donor standards. Had he appeared in our catalogue, he would have been very popular with our clients."
Chloe conceded that the hunk sitting across the table was as perfect a physical specimen as a man in his mid-thirties could be. A moss green sport shirt accentuated his tanned forearms, well-muscled arms, and wide shoulders. The short cut of his light brown hair emphasized the square jaw and the shadow from his clean shave. His nose was a little big for his face and his eyebrows a little too heavy, but B.D. Gallagher would never be voted off the island, at least by any of the women.
"I'm sure the Essence of Sgt. Gallagher would have been a sell-out, Doc." Chloe was satisfied to see a flash in Gallagher's suspiciously bland eyes, but her satisfaction was short lived. Nausea that had been simmering just below the surface since this morning's phone call was beginning to churn in earnest. Breathe in. Breathe out.
"Another positive attribute you should not discount, Miss Simon, is the superior strength and quality of the sperm you received."
Trailing her fingertips lightly over the swell of her belly, Chloe took a deep breath and tried not to hyperventilate.
"In order to achieve success, our average client inseminates over a period of at least three cycles, using as many as six vials at each setting." The little man in the starched white coat could hardly contain his excitement as he leaned forward on the table to touch her arm. "You merely used one vial and became pregnant on your first try. Superb results, really."
Chloe swiveled her chair away from the contact and watched Gallagher closely. If he moved so much as an eyelash to display macho pride, she would purposely lose her breakfast all over his crisp khaki slacks. She was almost disappointed when not so much as a facial twitch occurred. It was smooth sailing in the ocean of those green eyes, no victory flags flapping in the breeze.
"Dr. Ashtar." Chloe was tired of hearing about the upside of this little glitch. "I selected donor attributes that were of more importance than Olympic caliber sperm."
"Such as what, Ms. Simon?" asked Gallagher. Of course, his voice would be radio announcer deep. It made the hair on her arms vibrate to attention.
"Certain talents and interests." She was not about to explain her desire to insure the family artistic gene, the one that had managed to skip over Chloe.
Gallagher leaned back in his chair. "I would have thought the goal would be a healthy baby." Before she could answer, he placed his folded hands on the table. Those fingers were long and sure and capable of palming a basketball. "Never mind," he muttered. "There's another issue you're overlooking."
Ashtar cleared his throat. "I really think we ought to give Miss Simon time to digest this news before we explore further ramifications."
Chloe stared straight at Gallagher with icy dread. "What ramifications?"
"I banked my sperm here. I never gave permission for its use as an anonymous donation."
Chloe smoothed back the damp hair that had escaped the heavy braid down her back. The air conditioning in the building seemed to suddenly lose its battle with the outside Atlanta heat. "Well I didn't give permission for the clinic to overnight your sperm instead of the donor's I selected. So we're even. "
"The only way things will be even, Miss Simon, is if you agree that the child you're carrying is just as much mine as yours."
Chloe put both hands on her womb and felt the blood drain from her face. "No."