They say desperate times
call for desperate measures.
Charley Weatherly is about to realize that it’s true.
Life isn’t working out exactly the way Charley Weatherly imagined it might when she walked away from her steady paycheck as a copywriter to start her own business. It turns out that not everyone in town is knocking down the door of her tiny independent bookshop. She has lost money every quarter since she opened.
Now, with her grandmother in need of more care than Charley can provide, some difficult decisions have to be made. The rest of her 401k plus the proceeds from selling the business might keep Nana in Pacifico Manor for about a year. That would give Charley time to figure out her next move.
But when that money is irretrievably lost, Charley is faced with an impossible choice. Being a gestational surrogate for a couple who can’t have a baby on their own will bring in the kind of cash she needs. Can she really follow through? And has she finally met the right man at the wrong time?
Here’s a snippet from THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE.
Seated across from Drew and Alex Shepherd-Wang at the center of a long conference table, Charley struggled to focus as her head swam. Voices came to her as if she were underwater. In front of her was a stack of paper that constituted the agreement between herself and the couple on the other side of the table.
“What do you think about Item 15, Charley?” Jacqueline asked, bringing her out of her fog. “If the implantation of multiple embryos results in more than one fetus, are you willing to carry multiples?”
Charley blinked hard. “Multiples?” A glance across the table showed Alex and Drew watching her anxiously.
Jacqueline’s smile was kind. “Twins or triplets? On the off-chance, you realize. It’s not actually all that common. It’s just that implanting more than one embryo increases the chances of a successful pregnancy.”
Exhaling slowly, Charley nodded. “I understand. Yes, that’s fine.”
“Excellent.” The lawyer gave a satisfied nod. “Okay, everyone, initial Item 15. Obviously, Charley, in the unlikely event of multiple fetuses, your fee increases per baby.”
Charley nodded again and swallowed hard. Holy shit!
“Now if everyone can turn to page 5,” Jacqueline continued over the shuffling of paper. “Charley, the Shepherd-Wangs have a rather unusual offer. You can peruse it, but maybe it would be best to let them explain their thoughts.”
Frowning, Charley skimmed the item in question. …San Francisco…guest house… When Drew quietly cleared his throat, she put the paper back on the table and looked up at him.
“Charley, we’d like to ask you to move to the city. I mean, once you’re pregnant, of course.”
Frown deepening, she tilted her head. “What?”
Alex slipped his hand through the crook of Drew’s elbow. “We’re just a little concerned, that’s all,” he said. “There you are, living all alone in Modesto, at least an hour and a half away, having to schlep all the way here every time you have a doctor’s appointment. Plus, what if something happened? Or there was some kind of emergency?”
“We have a guest house out back,” Drew offered earnestly. “It’s not huge but it’s very comfortable.”
Alex leaned forward. “And I’ve been itching to redecorate it for ages. What’s your favorite color?”
Head spinning, Charley leaned back in her seat. “I’m always drawn to purples and blues, I guess,” she murmured. “But I can’t just move to San Francisco.”
“Why not?” asked Alex reasonably.
“Well,” Charley spluttered, “because.”
With amused expressions, the pair watched her expectantly.
She gestured in front of herself. “For one thing, there’s the house. I can’t just…board up the house for months on end.”
“So rent it out,” Alex suggested reasonably. “I’m guessing your grandmother paid it off a long time ago, right? So that income would be profit. Which helps with your goal of keeping her in quality care.”
Charley blinked, picturing the vintage white bungalow. It was a good idea, she had to admit to herself. She considered what she might be able to charge and figured it would go a long way toward adding to the Pacifico Manor account.
Then she thought about the marketing firm she’d left to take a chance on her own business.
“Plus, I was just about to see if I can get my old job back,” she said with a sigh.
Alex leaned forward on his elbows. “Is that your dream? Going back to a job you walked away from?”
“Of course not,” Charley frowned. “But what choice do I have?”
Drew’s smile was soft. “Rent out your place. We have a really comfortable life in Pacific Heights. Come stay with us in the guest house. Take the time to figure out your next move.”
“Besides owning your own bookstore, what is your wildest dream?” Alex gently prodded.
Charley blinked hard, attempting to slam shut the window on her most secret aspiration.
“It was right there,” Alex observed softly.
Charley rolled her eyes and shrugged softly. “It’s ridiculous, really.” She blew out a breath. “I’ve sometimes puttered around with writing a gothic romance novel, you know, like Jane Eyre or something. I know, it’s beyond–“
“Brilliant,” Alex finished for her. “You’re Charlotte, as in Brontë.”
She nodded as her face reddened. “My mom was a big fan, and she passed that passion on to me, I guess.”
“So come to our guesthouse and write your book.”
Sighing deeply, she shook her head slowly. “I don’t know. I mean, even if I did, I’d need to have a job. I can’t just…” she waved her hands again, “not work.”
“I own five companies. We can find you a job, if you insist. We want you to be happy. And we’d feel more comfortable if you were close by.” Drew watched her curiously.
Charley pushed back from the table and stood, walking over to the window where she looked out over the busy city. She was afraid to admit to herself that their offer sounded like the dream vacation she hadn’t had the luxury to take since she’d quit her full-time job. To not have to worry about the house other than to collect the rent payment, maybe occasionally see to some minor repair or other? To not worry about paying any bills other than her phone and the insurance on her ancient Honda?
But what about Nana?
She sighed. That was an issue.
Why, though? She could still drive out to see her grandmother anytime she pleased. She’d probably have more time to do it than she did now, certainly more time than she’d have if she worked full-time.
Doing a job she hated. At a place where everyone would know that she’d risked chasing her dream and gone down in flames.
Maybe this was her second chance. Inhaling deeply, she turned back to the table.
“I’ll do it,” she nodded.THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE by Pandora Spocks