Authors: Lori King
Tags: #erotic, #short story, #hea, #western, #ranch, #cowboys, #north dakota, #prequel, #foster children
By: Lori King
Text Copyright © July 2015 Lori King
Art and Logo © Copyright Lori King Books
All rights reserved.
A Smashwords Edition
Edited by: Ekatarina Sayanova
Red Quill Editing
Artwork by: Jess Buffett
Jess Buffett Graphic Designs
Published by: Lori King Books
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This work is fictional. Any resemblance to
real persons, places, or events is purely coincidental. All Rights
Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission of the author, except
in the case of quotations embodied in critical articles and
Seraphina Crawley have loved each other since they were fifteen
years old. Abe has never doubted the strength of their bond, and
together they’ve planted roots and built a successful ranch. But
news that will impact the rest of their lives, she finds herself
unable to tell the man she loves. Their decade-long marriage has
been blighted by their lack of children, and now secrets could tear
this couple apart. Follow their journey from heartbroken to
houseful, and experience how Crawley Creek Ranch became a refuge
for those who needed a place to plant roots. Second chances and new
beginnings are a way of life at Crawley Creek. Everyone is
To the readers who have found joy in my
“I’m sorry Mrs. Crawley, but the news isn’t
good.” The doctor’s kind face had deep-set wrinkles bracketing his
thin lips and framed a smile, but today they made his tipped frown
seem pitifully sad. “It seems you have a hostile uterus.”
Sera stared at him trying to absorb his
words, but all she heard was “hostile”.
“Yes. Basically your womb isn’t an ideal
place for the implantation of a fertilized embryo. The likelihood
of you ever conceiving is slim, and even if you did conceive, the
chances that the pregnancy would be supported longer than the first
trimester are extremely improbable. I’m sorry. I know that’s not
what you were hoping to hear—”
“Not what I was hoping to hear?” She knew
she was in shock, and that made it all the easier to blast her
disappointment with anger. “I think that’s putting it rather mildly
Martin, don’t you? And why are you calling me Mrs. Crawley? My name
is Sera, and I’ve been coming to you for almost fifteen years. You
know everything there is to know about my physical health, and
you’ve never once mentioned that I had a
“Seraphina it’s not something I could have
known based on the standard pelvic tests we do annually. The
fertility testing you had in Grand Forks highlighted some
disturbing inconsistencies. As you know fertility science is still
in its infancy. We only know so much about why the female
reproductive organs are sometimes lacking. I’ve reviewed your tests
extensively, and I even had a colleague of mine review them for a
second opinion. Unfortunately, he agreed with my results. You’re
barren.” Martin Warburg took off his glasses and set them on the
desk in front of him, his gaze sympathetic. After several moments
of tense silence, he sighed and gestured to the phone on his desk.
“Would you like me to call Abe for you?”
Abe. Her husband. The man who’d loved her
for the last fifteen years unconditionally. The sweetest, kindest
soul on the planet. He’d supported her through month after month of
negative pregnancy tests, and ten years of disappointment. Now she
had to tell him that she was a defective wife. Unable to give him
the children he so badly wanted. The family they’d dreamed of
“No. Thank you, but I need some time
to...um...digest this information. I’ll talk to him soon.” Rising
from the hard wooden chair where all of her dreams had been dashed,
Seraphina Crawley brushed her braid behind her shoulder, and picked
up her pocketbook. “Thank you, Doctor.”
Martin rose to his feet quickly, and began
to move her way. “Sera, you shouldn’t be alone to process this
news. Let me call Abe and have him come collect you. Your car will
be fine here in the lot.”
“I said, no thank you. I appreciate
everything you’ve done for me and all the time you’ve devoted to
this, but now that we know how futile it is... Well, I suppose it’s
best to just let the things that are out of our control, go. Tell
Lenora that I said hello.” Reaching for the handle on the door, she
hurried to put as much distance as possible between herself and the
The sunshine was dimmer, and the day seemed
significantly drearier as she stepped out of the office onto the
sidewalk. Montford was a very small town, so there was no one on
the street to see her sorrow as tears began to fall from her eyes.
By the time she’d settled in behind the wheel of her car, she was
gasping for air around the sobs of pain that echoed around her.
Logically, she knew they were from her own throat, but somehow it
seemed she was completely separate from the emotional response. She
could feel herself trembling, hear the sniffles, and taste the
vomit on the back of her tongue, but she still wasn’t ready to
accept it was real. No matter what she did, or how healthy she
lived her life, she’d never be a mother.
She’d known instinctively for a while that
something was wrong. She was an only child, but not for lack of
trying. Her parents had always wanted more children, but medical
science wasn’t as good in the forties and fifties. Nowadays they
were able to give women more of an idea of what was wrong…in most
Struggling to calm her raging emotions, she
closed her eyes and focused her energies on slowing the tears. Once
her breathing eased back to a normal rhythm, she reached for the
keys and shoved them into the ignition with a silent prayer that
her old clunker would start today. The last thing she needed was
more to deal with. Between Montford and Crawley Creek she would
have twenty minutes to figure out how she was going to tell her
husband the bad news.
At thirty years old, she felt like her life
had just ended.
~ ~ ~ ~
Abraham Crawley fell in love with Seraphina
Jerome the moment he laid eyes on her. It was the first day of
class in his freshman year, and the florescent lights had shone on
her like a beam of heavenly light. Her rich mahogany-colored hair
had captivated him in a second, and her dark eyes seemed almost
unnaturally expressive above her sweet smile.
Back then, she was a fifteen-year-old slip
of a girl, barely past puberty, but he saw the beauty of her soul,
and he wanted it for his own. Carting her books for her from class
to class and then home, he was able to find out more about
Montford’s newest resident. Originally from Idaho, her father was
an over-the-road truck driver who’d had to stop driving due to a
bad back, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom who’d just recently
entered the work force to help make ends meet.
When he’d left her on her front porch that
first afternoon, she’d smiled at him in a way that stole his
breath, and there hadn’t been a moment since that he hadn’t loved
her. She was his one true soulmate, and he loved her more than life
itself. So when she’d suddenly withdrawn and become quiet and sad a
few weeks ago, he noticed right away.
The problem was that she refused to talk to
him about what was bothering her. His gut told him it had to do
with the neatly labeled calendar on the bathroom counter that
charted her ovulation and the scores of pregnancy tests she’d
purchased in the last several years. He wished she wasn’t so hung
up the lack of a child, but whenever he brought up other options,
she shut down on him. He’d learned to just avoid the subject, so it
just hung over their relationship like a thick morning fog. Neither
one of them knew what was on the other side, and neither was brave
enough to push their way through the murk.
They’d fulfilled their parents’ wishes that
they wait until after college to get married. As teenagers, they’d
planned and prepared so that with associate degrees in hand they
could spend the rest of their lives together. Children were
something they’d talked about from the evening of his fumbling
nervous proposal the night of Sera’s twentieth birthday. They’d
excitedly made plans for a future of planting roots and building a
legacy, but ten years later they were celebrating yet another
anniversary, just the two of them.
He couldn’t lie to himself and say he wasn’t
disappointed by the lack of a child, but it certainly didn’t stop
him from enjoying his life. He and Sera had scrimped and saved for
five years before they managed to purchase the ranch of their
dreams. Crawley Creek was finally thriving after another five years
of backbreaking work. They should be celebrating what they’d
accomplished instead of weeping for what they were missing. He knew
that children would come when the timing was right, and if they
didn’t… well, he could be happy with just Sera.
That’s why he’d planned something special
for the evening. The ranch hands had the night off, so he was going
to make use of their beautiful property by taking her out for a
special picnic. In a basket, he’d packed two tuna fish sandwiches
and a dish of potato salad, as well as a thermos of Sera’s favorite
peach tea. He was waiting on the porch when she pulled into the
driveway, and instantly, he knew something was seriously wrong.
“Seraphina? Angel?” He called out, hurrying
across the yard to her. “Have you been crying?”
She sniffed and shook her head, “I’m fine.
Just a bit of hayfever is all. What are you doing at the main house
so early in the day?”
“I thought we’d celebrate our anniversary
this evening since I have to go to that auction this weekend in
Saline.” He held the door for her.
“Oh, that’s a lovely idea. What do you have
planned?” she asked, lifting her face for a kiss. He obliged her,
sinking his hands into her dark hair to hold her steady while he
tasted her. As always she was a delicious cross between a sweet
treat and a soothing balm for his soul. The perfect woman in his
“It’s a surprise,” he said, as he stepped
backwards to give his body space to cool off. Even after all of
these years she turned him on like no one else.
“Mmmm…I love surprises. Should I change?”
she gestured to her dress and he nodded.
“Probably, we’re going by horseback.”
Though sadness still lingered in her eyes,
she smiled with enthusiasm. “I’ll be down in a flash.”
He watched her as she headed up the stairs,
her curvy backside swaying. A lingering feeling of doubt tickled
his gut. Something was wrong, and she was hiding it from him.
Should he confront her? They’d never kept secrets from each other,
and the idea that she might be keeping one now, hurt him deeply.
But what if she wasn’t? Maybe it was all in his head?
Resigning himself to waiting it out, he
headed off to saddle Sera’s new horse, Blossom, for their ride. For
tonight at least, they would celebrate.
~ ~ ~ ~
Any other day, Sera
would have been blissfully happy riding double with Abe on the
horse he’d surprised her with on her last birthday. Today, even as
the August sunshine warmed them and cicadas chirped nearby, it was
all she could do to hold back tears. Doctor Warburg’s words haunted
Hostile uterus. You’re barren.
Her dream of having children was shattered,
and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. Guilt, confusion,
frustration, and anger took turns overwhelming her, but she stayed
quiet. She needed to figure out exactly how she was going to tell
Abe the news. They’d prayed for so long that she would get pregnant
it seemed impossible to even voice the fact it would never
She wasn’t sure how to put her pain into
words. She knew he loved her deeply, but this was life altering. He
would never have children of his own to inherit the ranch he loved
so dearly. The legacy they were working to build together would all
be for naught.
Of course, she knew there were children in
the world who needed parents. In fact, she and Abe had danced
around the topic as a possibility for the last couple of years, but
that was supposed to be a last resort. After they had a child of
their own. Would raising someone else’s child feel the same? Would
she ever be able to build a bond with a baby that wasn’t from her
womb, when she knew she’d never be able to carry one?