A Change of Hearts (Prologue, page 1 of 1)

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Laughter from the lobby roused him from the deep thought trance he had been in since the phone call from the doctor. Alex leaned back in his office chair, running hands through his hair.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he quipped to himself.
Their marriage was stronger – fuller – than it had ever been. Yet never had he faced so many major decisions at once . . . not decisions like these, anyway.
Foremost on his mind was the surrogacy thing. Carmen had agreed to it, but she wasn’t completely on board. At this point, the decision to proceed was up to her. They had over $30k committed already. Still, he couldn’t blame her if she backed out now. At first he thought she would accept the idea if he gave her the time. Now he wasn’t so sure. Carmen was a change of life baby, sheltered from the rest of the world by aging parents who were not only ultra conservative, but grassroots religious as well. It troubled him to see her torn between obedient daughter and subservient wife. Maybe he was buying trouble, but he longed to see her break from the past and discover Carmen.
Then there was the trip to Texas that she and Jonathan wanted so much. They had no idea what was in store for them. It was one thing to bring Carmen into it, but Jonathan was another story. Still, they had a right to know about the life he had decided to leave behind. He had little doubt that once they knew, they would be every bit as willing to leave it behind as well. Yet there was that tiny shred – the chance that they would like the lifestyle. Carmen wasn’t raised that way, and neither was Jonathan. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy it, though.
The lifestyle would be culture shock enough, but there were so many other things . . . family squabbles, gender commitments . . . things he had been foolish enough to believe he could escape so many miles away and in such a different lifestyle. It wasn’t something he could protect them from, though. They might as well find out now.
He leaned forward and stood. Removing his white lab coat, he carefully folded it and placed it on the back of the chair. As he walked through the lobby, he spoke to the receptionist.
“I’m going home for lunch early, Saundra. I’ll be back in a little while.”
The phone rang and she answered it, lifting an index finger to him in acknowledgement of his statement.
Donning a denim jacket, he left the clinic, his mind already back on the issue he needed to discuss with Carmen. Having a biological child wasn’t his only reason for proposing a surrogacy pregnancy. Josh had ultimately given her the one thing he couldn’t, and that had rankled. Still, watching Carmen with Destiny had made him aware that she still didn’t have the one thing she had wanted. It wasn’t simply a baby that she wanted. It was the intimacy of motherhood that she missed. That was when he realized her dream was still attainable. When he told her that surrogacy would give them the opportunity to time things so she could breast feed, her expression confirmed his observation. She still wouldn’t have the experience of pregnancy or childbirth, but those things might not have been all she thought they would be. With surrogacy, they could follow the pregnancy with ultrasounds, knowing that the baby was actually theirs. They were so close now – if she didn’t change her mind. Surrogacy was a large leap for someone who thought artificial insemination was immoral.
Carmen was the most moral woman he had ever met and he admired her dedication. Still, sometimes she took it to excessive limits. For instance, they had been married nearly five years, and yet she was still uncomfortable with intimacy. At first her innocence had great appeal – still did to an extent. He simply longed for a more mature relationship. In the heat of passion she was a mature woman – a passionate and uninhibited lover. Afterward she was embarrassed – as if they had done something immoral. It was amusing and annoying by turns.
Maybe he was to blame for her inability to move forward. She said she had forgiven him for those horrible months when he had denied his own child and accused her of infidelity. Yet it kept surfacing in arguments. Maybe she would never completely forgive him. Maybe he didn’t deserve forgiveness - but he needed it all the same.
He had known desire - even love before. Now he understood the term, soul mate. Only now could he realize what a mistake it would have been to marry Tessa. Carmen had her moments, but for the most part, she stood behind him – even when she disagreed. Sometimes the adoration in that amethyst gaze convinced him that she was happy with her choice as well.
From the time he was a young boy he had wanted to be a veterinarian. As he grew older there was another burning desire – for a wife and children. Maybe nurturing was in his personality. From the beginning he had felt compelled to protect Carmen. Instinct suggested that she wanted to be protected. Yet sometimes she seemed to push him away. Maybe they were both changing. That was to be expected, but knowing so didn’t make it less intimidating.
As he turned down their long drive, he spotted her at the creek, on the footbridge. She was looking off toward her renovated house. It was hard to tell whether she was thinking about the house or something else. If he could see her face, he’d know. She had the most expressive face he had ever seen. It was like reading an open book.
He parked the truck in front of the house and headed down the hill. In a way he dreaded telling her the news – seeing that painful indecision in her eyes. And yet, he was excited – anticipating sharing this wonderful event.

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