Authors: Judith B. Glad
Tags: #Contemporary Romance, #Idaho, #artificial insemination, #wetlands, #twins
Uncial Press Aloha, Oregon
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events described herein
are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.
ISBN 13: 978-1-60174-070-0
ISBN 10: 1-60174-070-0
Copyright © 2009 by Judith B. Glad
Copyright © 2009 by Judith B. Glad
Earlier versions of
were briefly published
in 2001 and 2006.
All rights reserved. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this
work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now
known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the author or
Published by Uncial Press,
an imprint of GCT, Inc.
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For members of women's social clubs everywhere--women who band together to
enrich their communities as well as their own lives. They give their time, energy and
enthusiasm and they have fun while doing so. Thank you, ladies. You're making the world
a better place.
For Richard R. Halse, because of the many hours we spent slogging through
wetlands together, with an occasional encounter with slow mud.
And for Neil, one last time.
* * * *
My thanks to Karole E. Scott, Chief of Public Affairs, and Sgt. K.L. Kistner,
Flight Engineer, 939th Air Rescue Wing, Air Force Reserve, for information about rescue
helicopters and methods of lifting people out of dense forests.
My brother, Charles E. Bogard, helicopter pilot extraordinary, also contributed
with many tales of his adventures in the air.
She was an emotional basket case when she walked into the conference hall.
Perhaps that was why he affected her so strongly.
Madeline didn't know what she'd do if the insemination didn't take this time. She'd
been so certain she was pregnant following the first one that when her period came she'd
felt like a failure. Having to be at the Wetlands Conference at approximately the same time
as her next fertility period had had her chewing nails until her temperature began to climb
and she knew she'd be able to do both.
Coming here directly from the clinic wasn't the most intelligent thing she'd ever
done. Nor had her doctor approved. He was a firm believer in rest and relaxation. "I can't
imagine any self-respecting embryo wanting to imbed itself in a tense uterus," he'd said.
"Go home. Put your feet up, and pamper yourself for a day or two."
Instead she'd caught the next shuttle flight to Seattle.
The auditorium was almost full. She saw her boss waving at her from a seat in the
middle of a row about halfway back. Stifling her desire to be anywhere else but here, she
wove her way through the crowd. At least she could sit down.
"Did I miss anything this morning?" she said, slipping past two jeans-clad young
women and gratefully sinking onto the molded plastic chair he had saved for her.
"Not much." He handed her a plastic-covered name badge and a handful of
literature. "Registration lasted until ten, then they introduced the VIPs and talked about the
philosophy of wetlands preservation." He pushed his attaché case under her feet,
grinning as he did so. Around the office it was an acknowledged fact that her feet didn't
reach the ground. "Oh, yeah. We had a slide show, with pictures of wetlands."
"What else?" she said, smiling in spite of herself. There was absolutely no reason
she should feel so fragile. It was as if a single cross word from any perfect stranger would
make her dissolve into a puddle of tears.
The first and second speakers of the afternoon were undistinguished, although the
information they shared was interesting. Madeline didn't think, however, that she'd ever
have much need to create urban wetlands, or to work with industrial complex designers to
incorporate existing wetlands into site plans. She was really waiting to hear about "The
Responsibility of Local Regulatory Agencies in Wetlands Preservation." Sooner or later
she would have to deal with a wetland threatened with destruction. When she did, she
wanted to be prepared.
"I've heard this next fellow is a pretty dramatic speaker," her boss murmured as
the audience rustled programs and whispered before the third speaker was introduced.
Madeline started to reply, to say she'd heard that before, a long time ago, but the
words caught in her throat.
The man who bounded onto the stage was beautiful! Even from forty feet away,
she could see the lively sparkle in his eyes, could feel the energy he radiated.
More than that, she sensed his pure virility. Her mouth grew dry, her heartbeat
accelerated. A heavy warmth flared in her lower belly, and her breasts were suddenly
sensitive and tender.
"Omigawd!" she gasped, but the tiny sound was lost in applause. She was grateful
for the sudden darkness, because she was certain her instant lust for the man on the stage
was written all over her face.
Under other conditions she would have been thrilled to be finally putting a face to
the name. Ever since Jesse had gone off to Boys' State when he was a Junior in high
school, she'd heard stories of the young man for whom he'd felt immediate liking. Erik
Solomon had charisma--a word she doubted Jesse had ever used before in his life. He was
committed, was directed. His name would be a household word in a few years.
Jesse had never again met Erik, but they'd kept in touch. Madeline had been
impressed more than once by Erik's inspiring, impassioned letters to Jesse, his espousal of
ideas and concepts that might bridge the gap between conservation of natural resources and
the needs of a growing world population. Perhaps Erik's letters had even contributed to her
choice of career.
* * * *
Waiting at the edge of the stage in the last moments before he was introduced,
Erik closed his eyes and pulled the tatters of his psyche into a tight sphere at the center of
his being. He was so tired! It was getting more and more difficult to generate the
enthusiasm that put him in such demand as a speaker at these conferences.
After six weeks of back-to-back conferences and workshops, he was drained. He
just didn't have that much of himself to give, anymore. Each conference, each encounter
with questioning, demanding audiences took a little more away, until sometimes, trying to
unwind in his everywhere-the-same hotel room, he felt like an automaton, mouthing
platitudes about a resource loss that didn't matter to nine-tenths of the people in the
"When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember that your initial
objective was to drain the swamp," had been a popular quip about overwork when he was
in college. The attitude it reflected was all too prevalent, even today. To the general public,
a swamp was for draining. It wasn't a member of a class of highly productive ecosystems
that were vanishing at an alarming rate.
The rustling of the audience continued, taking on an impatient pitch. With one last
deep breath, he opened his eyes and bounded onto the stage, ending in front of the lectern.
Shoulders back, arms loose at his sides, chin high, he stood in a carefully dynamic stance,
a leader, a prophet, a wise man.
Silence. So quiet the proverbial dropping pin would echo and re-echo from the
hard, undraped walls. No one challenged his fitness to lead them wherever he chose.
He raised his chin a little higher and narrowed his eyes, so no one would see how
he was searching the audience for those two or three faces to whom he would speak
Erik Solomon was well known as an intimate, charismatic speaker. He'd never
told anyone how he faked it by pretending he was talking with his best friends.
There. A middle-aged man with a friendly, open face, a good listener.
And there. That young, pony-tailed, bearded fellow in the brightly colored parka,
one of the save-the-world crowd.
One more. His eyes roved over the crowd and were caught, held, by a face so
endearing, so yearning, that he almost forgot where he was, what he was doing.
A quick, automatic chop of his left hand called for darkness. After that the swiftly
changing slides kept the audience enthralled while he calmed his breathing and forced his
thoughts back to wetlands.
His presentation following the slides must have been competent, for the questions
were the ones he always got. Finally he brought the session to a close with a promise to
elaborate on many of the points of confusion in his workshop tomorrow. As he concluded,
he allowed himself another quick glance toward the woman whose face had filled his mind
throughout his talk, hoping his extreme physical--sexual--reaction to her had been a
She was gone. Her wide, yearning eyes, her curly mass of dark hair, her daffodil
blouse, were nowhere in sight. And he couldn't even search for her, for the brief recess
following his talk brought many of the audience to the side of the stage, full of
Would she be at the banquet tonight? And would it matter? He knew from
experience that his attention would be demanded by half the people there, leaving him little
time for any sort of socializing.
* * * *
Erik saw her, as he'd hoped to, across the banquet room. Everyone else faded into
insignificance as he watched her, noted the way her lips lingered on the rim of her
wineglass, imagined them lingering thus against his mouth.
She was only average in looks, not spectacularly beautiful, not plain. Her mop of
curly black hair framed a thin face with enormous eyes, a straight nose, and lips that
seemed to quiver on the edge of a smile. She should have a dimple in each cheek, but he
had yet to be close enough to discover it, or to see the color of her eyes. They were light,
but whether golden brown or sky blue he could not tell.
Her clothes were ordinary too. A straight skirt, a frilly lavender blouse, replacing
the crisp yellow one she'd worn that afternoon, when his attention had first been captured
by something about her. There was a glint of gold at her ear, a sparkle of white fire on her
finger. Her right ring finger, not her left.
His relief was unreasonable.
Erik realized he'd been staring, oblivious to the conversation circling around him,
when he heard, "Hey, man, come to the party!" A stocky, swarthy man in suntans was
motioning to him.
Erik stifled a groan. It wasn't as if he'd missed much. Those guys dragged him into
their unending disagreement every time they got together. He tried to look interested, but
found his attention wandering as soon as he heard the same old argument yet again.
"We did what we had to do for the demands of the time. If the Soil Conservation
Service hadn't managed those salt marshes back in the Thirties, they'd have been entirely
lost to development."
And, as he always did, the other countered with, "If you guys hadn't put in
floodgates and weirs, we'd still have salt marshes, instead of pastures."
"Bull! Erik, tell him how they filled--"
"You guys are wasting your energy. What's done is done. I'm concerned with
saving what we've got left, not assigning blame for what's already gone." He swallowed the
last of his wine and set the glass on a table beside him. "I'll see you around."
He began to weave his way among people, many of whom caught at his sleeve or
tried to stop him with a question. Before he could reach her, the call to dinner came, and he
watched her take a table halfway back in the large room, beside the older man whom she'd
been standing with. Her partner? No. He had to be a co-worker. He had a good thirty years
He'd catch her after dinner. They could go into the bar and have a liqueur, while
they got acquainted.
* * * *
Madeline wilted seriously during dinner, until she didn't know if she'd make it
back to the hotel. Perhaps she should just lay her head down on the table beside her plate
and give in to the seductive desire to sleep. Someone would surely wake her when it was
time to go.
She laid her fork across her half-full plate and forced her eyelids back where they
belonged. Wide open. Willing her head to turn, she looked about the banquet room for a
focus, something that she could concentrate on, anything to keep her attention well enough
that she could maintain consciousness for just a little longer.
The sight of him woke her like a jolt of direct current. His profile was sharply
defined by the pale gray draperies behind the head table. His short beard glinted golden in
the overhead light. He seemed removed from the conversation all around him, distracted.
His hand lifted a coffee cup to his mouth slowly, as if he were operating on automatic. Lift
cup. Sip. Set cup down. Wait thirty seconds. Lift cup.