“It’s not. We haven’t found anything that works for us yet.”
Jake heard the frustration in his voice. He understood it. When a man made plans he liked to get right to them, but no one could ranch without ranchland.
“Talk to you Friday,” Jake said. He couldn’t wait.
Meanwhile he did his best to get his ducks in a row. He blew through his chores as fast as possible, stealing hours at his laptop while Hannah was at work to solidify his research. His plan was a tricky one. His position wasn’t nearly as strong as he’d like it to be, but he knew Evan shared his interests and he already came to Jake for practical advice.
Would Evan be interested in a long-term plan that brought their two capabilities together?
Or was he gambling everything on wishful thinking?
The following morning Hannah’s jeans didn’t fit. At least, they were harder than usual to zip up and the waistband constricted her when she finally buttoned it. Either she’d eaten far more of Jake’s waffles and sausages than was good for her or she was…
She put a hand on her belly and tested it. She knew it was silly—even if she was pregnant she wouldn’t show for months. But her breasts were tender and heavy when she pulled on her bra and she felt… different.
Knowing she would be late for work, she nevertheless sat down on her bed and tried to contemplate what it would truly mean if she was pregnant. Did she really think she could tackle coursework on top of everything else? She counted out the months. She’d be due sometime in the middle of the summer, so it was possible she’d be ready to return to classes in the fall. But could she move to a whole new state and attend a brand new school with an infant less than six weeks old?
It was as simple as that. She couldn’t. Not alone. Not without a lot of help. Still, she could take one semester off and start again the following January. She wouldn’t be the only woman to try for a higher education at the same time she raised a child.
Jake had said they’d figure it out when the time came. She wished she could trust that was true. Trying to put the conundrum out of her mind, she stood up and hurried downstairs, but thoughts about the possible pregnancy, her child, and her future plagued her throughout the day. The problem was she didn’t trust Jake, not after everything he’d pulled. Holt had undermined her confidence in the whole family, and like Autumn said yesterday, Jake’s family were the ones she needed to rely on if she was going to pursue her education and career while raising a child. Bella sent her sympathetic looks now and then but didn’t press her to talk and Hannah appreciated that. She doubted she could speak her heart without breaking down again.
By the end of the day her nerves were on edge and she wanted to get home and take a long, hot soak, but just as she pulled on her jacket to leave, lights flashed across the windows of the clinic and a moment later a desperate hammering came at the door.
Bella rushed past her to unlock it and staggered back when a hysterical woman launched herself inside, a Doberman in her arms.
The Doberman whimpered and barked in pain. A long gash sliced its side. The woman—Harriet Lynch—was covered in her pet’s blood and beside herself. “I was sorting tools in the shed and she got in and cut herself on a saw blade before I could stop her,” she cried. “Can you help her?”
“Of course.” Bella immediately jumped into action. Hannah dropped her coat and purse and followed the other two women into the examining room, moving automatically to prepare a sedative. She and Bella worked together for the next hour, cleaning the wound, stitching it and giving Stella—the Doberman—an antibiotic shot. “She’ll need to stay here for several days,” Bella told Harriet, “but she’ll be okay. You got her here in plenty of time.”
When Harriet broke down in tears of relief, Hannah couldn’t help but tear up, too. This damned emotionalism. Usually she could keep a professional distance, but not today. Feeling her shoulders slump with resignation, she decided it was time to face the facts. She had to be pregnant. Nothing else would make her act like this.
Once Stella was settled in for the night and Harriet had gone home, Hannah said good-bye to Bella and drove the roads out to the Double-Bar-K slowly. She was due to get her period on Friday. If it didn’t show up, she’d buy a pregnancy test Saturday morning and learn her fate. She already knew what it was, though.
While this morning she’d almost convinced herself she was ready for a family, the events of the afternoon gave her conviction that she was meant to be a vet. The thought of taking both on at once felt overwhelming. Who would help her when times got tough—when she was hundreds of miles away from everyone she knew attending school? How could she keep a baby away from its father for months at a time? She drove up to Jake’s cabin more confused than ever.
When she let herself in there was no dinner on the table, even though she was late. Apparently tonight Jake meant for them to stick to their appointed chores. Resentment spiked through her. Couldn’t he give an inch—just this once?
He sat at the table, staring into his laptop. When he didn’t even greet her or ask about her day, she dropped her purse in irritation and stripped off her coat. Kicking off her boots, she paced to the kitchen, pulled out the boneless chicken she’d defrosted for the meal and banged it on the counter. The sound jolted Jake out of his reverie.
“Hey yourself,” she said. She shoved the chicken aside, slapped a cutting board on the counter and began to slice onions.
“I got some interesting news,” he said slowly, still bent over his laptop.
“Oh, yeah?” She threw the onions in a pan with a slab of butter and turned it on. Rinsing two green peppers, she set to work chopping them as well.
“Yeah. It’s kind of a funny story,” he began.
“Don’t you care about my day?” She cut him off. “A dog—a Doberman—someone’s pet—nearly died in my arms this afternoon. It would have died if Bella and I hadn’t been there to save it.”
Jake looked up and blinked. “That’s… great. Good job.”
She slapped the knife down on the cutting board. “You know what? It is a good job. It’s a great job. Veterinarians help people and animals. We save lives. We make lives better. It’s not some stupid, silly pastime!”
“I never said it was,” Jake said. “But today—”