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C1 Prologue


Grayson Godwin emerged from his red-eye flight to La Guardia airport with a hell of a headache and feeling short tempered. It should have been a happy occasion as he was only six hours away from finding out the gender of his first child. But after a grueling day spent in meetings with lawyers and board members at Godwin Railroad, negotiating the sale of lands owned both privately and publicly, to expand the train’s railways, he was fucking done. His nerves shot and his tolerance for incompetence even less than usual. Just the sound of the adjacent businessman in first class, chewing and breathing loudly, had nearly made him cause a scene on the six-hour flight. And well, there was the fact of the matter, Grayson actually had little desire to become a single father at the age of twenty-three.

A child was the last thing he fucking needed. He had little time outside of work to give it any attention for starters. He didn’t know shit about raising kids and didn’t live a lifestyle compatible for it. If his father was so hell-bent on Grayson producing an heir to ensure the future of the company, Cole Godwin should have knocked the surrogate up himself. At least that way this child would know a loving mother figure as Viola Worthington-Godwin was a saint. How his mother had put up with his father all these years was a mystery to him.

Even though he himself had the reputation for being cold and cruel, it still bothered Grayson that his child would be raised by nannies and likely barely know him. And while that was an upbringing common among his circle of family and friends, it wasn’t one he and his brother had shared, nor was it one he wished on his own child. Grayson simply wasn’t prepared either mentally or physically to raise a child. Not that what he wanted mattered. He was expected to man up and do his part for the greater good of The Godwin family and it’s legacy.

He hadn’t shared his reluctance for fatherhood or aired any of his other grievances with anyone. Rather than after an initial attempt to make his feelings on the matter known to his father, but Cole had shut him down rather quickly and continued making plans regardless of his son’s willingness. He had long since given up any attempts to convince his hardheaded father otherwise after the patriarch’s gaslighting and guilt trips. Grayson was the only remaining son and it was up to him to carry on the family name, to keep the company- Cole and Grandfather Warren had built from the ground up- out of his Uncle Arthur’s hands.

Uncle Arthur had a history of questionable decisions and bad investments, without a doubt he would bankrupt the company, and run it into the ground. And America depended on Godwin Railroad. It was a lifeline the broken world so desperately needed, without their armored trains, people across the country would starve, die from easily treated infections, and from lack of other basic necessities. Cole was quick to remind his son, without a competent heir to run the railroad when they were gone, their fellow Americans would suffer because of it.

So of course, no one save Cole Godwin knew that Grayson didn’t want to become a father at this stage in his life. Or more likely, ever. Fatherhood hadn’t appealed much to him, and he had little experience with children. Not that he would ever tell his surrogate Blair his true feelings on the matter, that their baby was a burden forced onto his already overburdened shoulders. Blair had seemed genuinely excited to tell him the news when she’d found out she was pregnant after three months of their trying. Of course, the fact he was paying her handsomely to carry his child, probably also had lots to do with her elation.

She’d also been eager at all her appointments and joyful the first time they’d heard the baby’s heartbeat. Grayson always smiled and remained cordial at these appointments, and in Blair’s company, but on the inside his stomach clenched and he felt the need to curse and cut and run. Hearing that heartbeat for the first time hadn’t been a joyous occasion for him. It had hit home this baby was real and coming soon enough to change his life and turn it upside down. And how fucking unprepared he was for it. And how much he didn’t want it, even if that made him a fucking terrible person.

Not that he wished his child or Blair any complications or ill health. He was thankful the pregnancy was progressing smoothly and both mother and child were healthy now in the twentieth week of gestation. He’d come around a bit more to the idea since that first appointment. Well, more like had accepted his fate rather than openly embraced his impending fatherhood. Though he still felt somewhat detached from the child growing inside a near stranger.

For his first month’s visit to Manhattan, he and Blair had met at a hotel, once a day for three days straight on her most fertile days. This became the pattern, that each month he would fly to New York when the surrogate was at peak ovulation and spend three consecutive days in the city to fuck her. By his second visit, Blair had felt comfortable enough to invite him to stay at her apartment. It just made things easier and with more opportunities to make a baby with her. Grayson would be a liar if he said he never physically enjoyed his time with Blair trying to get her pregnant. At least on a carnal level, as they didn’t really try and get to know each other on more intimate levels. It was hardly more than a business arrangement. He wasn’t emotionally available nor looking for a serious relationship. And not to mention, he was seeing someone else at the time.

Grayson and Daniella had both known their relationship wasn’t exclusive and they were free to see other people. However, he hadn’t been entirely forthcoming with Daniella, failing to mention he was actively trying to get another woman pregnant. But that relationship turned out to be little more than a short-lived fling. If it had lasted, Grayson would’ve told her about his surrogate arrangement. But they’d broken up a month after he’d started trying to impregnate Blair and it was because Daniella was crazy. Legitimately, she was now in prison for trying to burn down her ex-husband’s house while he was in it. Grayson had dodged a major bullet there for sure. The sex had been good though. Perhaps crazy chicks fucked the best.

There was no need to continue to fuck Blair after she became pregnant as the contract was fulfilled. His trips to Manhattan afterwards had been for her obstetric appointments or at least the most important ones that included ultrasounds. The routine visits where they took her blood and she peed in cups and things, Grayson didn’t attend. He was far too busy back in Omega City trying to run a fortune five hundred company that helped to keep America alive. But this morning’s appointment was important, perhaps the most important one of all, the reveal of their baby’s gender. He had been completely honest in that regard at least, telling Blair a male heir would be best.

But since they’d forgone the traditional surrogacy route of invitro-fertilization, of specifically implanting a male egg, it had been left up to chance. But nothing else had been left up to chance when it came to the choice of surrogates. Blair had been thoroughly screened from a federal background check, to past medical records, her family’s medical history combed through, and even a series of medical tests she’d undergone by a discrete physician chosen by Cole Godwin.

She’d also had a session with a psychologist to evaluate her mental health. It was critical Blair be emotionally ready and able to give up the baby to be raised by Grayson without any problems or any future contact with the child. The last thing they needed down the road was any nasty and highly publicized, legal custody battles over the child. The surrogacy contract had been iron-clad on that regard, that Blair wouldn’t retain any custodial rights. She’d signed it without hesitation, and with seemingly full understanding that any child they produced from their arrangement, legally belonged to Grayson. Preferably a male child.

And while Grayson had the reputation of being a crass prick, if the child was female, he would still honor the contract, and not make a scene or let Blair see his disappointment. He wanted a daughter even less than he wanted a son. Females were far too complicated. He had no idea what to do with a daughter. They were sensitive and needed to be handled differently than boys. But he didn’t want to fuck up his child, regardless of it’s gender. So far, his ambivalent feelings towards his own flesh and blood were not getting that goal off to a good start. But he had four months left to try and get his shit together and figure it all out.

He took a car to his hotel and was a bit short with the hotel staff’s attempts to kiss hiss ass. He made it clear he didn’t want to be disturbed, even hung the sign on his door for good measure. He made use of the coffee machine in his room and the shower. It felt good to wash off the filth of air travel and all the bullshit from those thirteen hours trapped in the board room with a bunch of idiots. All the attempted price gouging for mostly wasteland- that were nothing but ruins that needed to be demolished since the infection-was laughable. That land was worth far less than the absurd amount wanted to purchase it. By the time his company’s contractors cleared away thousands of pounds of rubble and debris from those fallen cities to even make the land usable, they’d already be far in the hole on the deal before a single track was even laid. It was ridiculous the extravagant numbers being asked at the negotiation table. Grayson Godwin might have been young, but he wasn’t born yesterday, nor would he be taken advantage of. His father had put him in charge of overseeing these legal meetings, a test to see if his son had what it took to run the company on his own someday. Today had tested his resolve to even want to run the fucking railroad on his own someday. He wasn’t looking forward to a lifetime of this grind.

His headache hadn’t gone anywhere after caffeine, dimming the lights, and a hot shower. What he really needed was to catch a few hours of sleep before he had to meet Blair at her obstetricians. Another glance at his smartwatch confirmed he had four hours until then. He sighed and debated if it was even worth trying to fall asleep for such a short time. Insomnia had plagued him for a while now. Demands of his career had a big hand in that, finding it hard to shut down his brain long enough to get any type of meaningful rest. But his brother’s death had started his trail of sleepless nights. And then his own impending health problems hadn’t helped him get a full eight hours of uninterrupted slumber. Pills and alcohol could only do so much to ease that pain of losing Adam and the reality of what he was facing himself in the years ahead.

Things had only gotten much worse since last year when he caught his fiancée in his own bed with another man. He’d overlooked Courtney’s prior indiscretions from before they’d gotten engaged, but he could no longer turn a blind eye when she fucked another in their own home. Despite pressure from his father, Grayson couldn’t marry a woman he couldn’t trust. A woman he’d grown up with, loved, lost his virginity to, and thought had felt the same way he had. He’d been mistaken about many things.

Courtney Van Tessin had been only in for the money and the fame being his wife would have brought her. She didn’t see the problem with screwing others behind his back, even while wearing the engagement ring he’d bought her. Despite his reputation, Grayson had never fucked another woman the whole four years they were in what he believed to be a committed relationship. But that commitment had been one sided and so had those feelings of love and finding the one. God only knew how many others she’d fucked in those four years that he didn’t even know about. But he took the fall for the dissolution of their engagement and let the media label him as a womanizing cheater. He hadn’t felt the need or inclination to set the story straight or change the public’s opinion of him. He didn’t give a fuck what the world thought.

Grayson had no more intentions of going further down that rabbit hole of his past, least of all that morning. Sleep also seemed likely to elude him. With a disgruntled sigh, he staggered over to the stocked minibar of liquor. He removed several bottles of mini cocktails and didn’t even read the labels before downing three of them. He couldn’t let himself overindulge though, he needed to be sober for the day to come. To find out whether The Godwin empire was getting that male heir his father wanted. Or the stinging disappointment of a daughter who would likely never run the company, no matter how progressive things got in the future. Women just didn’t have the same head for business like men did. They were too driven by their emotions. A daughter who wouldn’t keep the family name after marriage and her children wouldn’t be Godwin’s in the ways that mattered to men like his father.

He had lots of experience with disappointing his old man, he was well versed in it. It was likely Blair was carrying a girl. But Grayson wasn’t doing this whole charade again no matter what came out of his surrogate. Any child of his would technically fulfill his obligation to produce an heir. He wasn’t going to try again with Blair or any other surrogate even if this child didn’t have the right parts Cole was looking for. He’d sacrificed enough already in the name of being a dutiful son.

He downed another mini-cocktail and turned on the flatscreen in the room to The History Channel. He was in no mood or state of mind to check E-mails or look over the latest crop of documents the legal team had sent his way. But the documentary playing was about The Korean War which he’d already seen. It was much more entertaining this time around though when he turned it into a drinking game. Every time the narrator said Korea, he took a drink. Considering the war was between North and South Korea and happened in Korea, he emptied several more small bottles of liquor by the time the end credits rolled across the screen. But at least he was feeling much better about his lot in life afterwards.

At some point in the early morning hours, he must have fallen asleep. Because he opened his heavy-lidded eyes to the alarm on his smartwatch. It’s shrill tone a ten-minute warning until the time of Blair’s appointment. Fuck! He hated being late and had scolded many employees for the same transgression over the years. No way he’d make it in time even if he hauled ass. He quickly changed his wrinkled suit, ran a comb through his dark hair, and sent Blair a text letting her know he was running a bit behind schedule. Her reply came with a smiling emoji and that she’d stall the ultrasound until he arrived. He hated that it was necessary as he despised not being punctual.

Blair kept her promise it seemed, when he arrived in the exam room fifteen minutes late. She was in a conversation with the tech, all smiles. Grayson may have not been interested in a serious relationship with her, not to mention Blair had a long-term boyfriend that was stationed on the West Coast at the moment, but he couldn’t deny the woman was beautiful. Her physical appearance had also been taken into account when she’d been selected as his surrogate, as the child would have half of her DNA. She was a blonde haired, blued-eyed, attractive figure typical all American beauty type like was plastered all over magazines and T.V. commercials. He hoped their combined genes would produce an attractive child. He wasn’t naïve enough to believe looks didn’t matter in this world, even if you were wealthy.

“Hello. Sorry I’m late. I had an early flight in this morning. I hope I haven’t missed anything,” Grayson said as he shuffled to a chair near the exam table.

Blair was already in the position for the scan, a sheet across her lap, her white maternity dress bunched up beneath her breasts. Her belly had gotten significantly larger since the last time he’d seen her, back then she’d barely been showing at all. Though he still communicated with her daily for updates on the health of the baby and the progression of the pregnancy.

The smile never seemed to leave her face when he was around. He’d wondered in the beginning if Blair was catching real feelings for him and had the wrong impression. But he’d come to figure out she just wanted to keep him happy because he was the man paying her a substantial sum of money. This baby was a big investment in both of their futures in different ways. And she had plans to wed her boyfriend when he returned from his deployment later in the year.

“No worries. You got here just in time. We’re about to start. Are you ready to learn if you’re having a daughter or a son Mr. Godwin?” beamed Blair.

The lie rolled off his tongue easily, “It doesn’t matter so long as there’s a healthy baby in there.”

It was an answer that satisfied both Blair and the ultrasound tech. The older woman gave them a smile of her own as she pressed some buttons on the machine with the probe in hand. He could already see the lubricating jelly smeared across Blair’s belly.

“Well we’re all about to find out. Hopefully if baby cooperates. Never can make any guarantees on that,” chuckled the tech.

Grayson knew you could never make guarantees on anything in life. He also wasn’t a betting man who wanted to leave things up to chance or fate or destiny. The more variables you controlled, the more likelihood of a favorable outcome. He shifted in his chair, as all their eyes focused on the screen. Blair let out an excited breath. Grayson tried to feel it too. Tried to feel something rather than the crushing anxiety threatening to steal his breath. It couldn’t be normal a father didn’t look forward to something like this.

This part had always made him anxious. That waiting for the tech to find the heartbeat. To make sure the baby had all it’s parts and was developing normally. Today proved no different as the sound of a fast and strong heartbeat emitted from the machine. He relaxed a bit back into his chair. Blair looked teary-eyed, that sound seemed to choke her up every time. Perhaps he really was a cold-hearted, emotionless bastard like he’d been called before, as he didn’t feel immense joy over the sound of his child’s heartbeat. He was really fucked up not to be moved by it.

“I’ll never get tired of hearing that sound. It’s beautiful. And so is our baby. Perfect,” gushed Blair.

Grayson managed to give her a forced smile. The baby appeared to be decent looking from their 3D scans, but it was hard to tell this early and things could go either way. He wished he had Blair’s confidence their child would outgrow it’s odd features and be attractive someday. Lots of babies were ugly and wrinkled at birth. He wasn’t expecting anything magical or different with his own, rather than coming out wet, squalling, and smooshed.

The tech made sure the baby was growing right on track, all the measurements lining up for a fetus at twenty-weeks gestation. Grayson charted the newest numbers in his phone, eleven inches long, ten ounces in weight. He’d made a graph to follow the baby’s growing patterns in comparison to normal unborn babies at the same gestation. So far, the child had been right on the normal charts with every scan. But while he was more focused on the numbers, the hard data, Blair always chatted with the techs about the more sentimental and subjective aspects of the pregnancy. Like guesses which one of them the child favored. He’d indulged her, while knowing a scan of a twelve-week-old fetus was hardly evidence of anything in that regards. Even now several weeks later, a close up of the child’s face didn’t enlighten him any further. Lots of babies looked the same.

“Oh, look at those sweet cheeks! I hope he or she has your eyes,” said Blair.

“Your eyes would be fine. Nothing wrong with green. I’m just glad the baby is growing right on schedule. And normally. There are no signs of anything wrong, correct?” asked Grayson.

“None that I can see. Looks like you have yourselves a healthy sweetheart in there. Congratulations. Would you like me to try and see the sex of this little dear now?” grinned the tech.

“Yes, thank you,” answered Blair.

The room fell into a silence of anticipation as the tech maneuvered the probe further down Blair’s abdomen. Grayson’s eyed blurred from the intensity at which he glared at the screen. It could also be from his lack of sleep and indulgence of alcohol which hadn’t time to fully clear from his system yet. A part of him wished he’d drank more. Blair was practically squirming on the table from her excitement. For a moment, he considered taking her hand. But they didn’t have that kind of relationship. This moment between them wasn’t meant to be shared that intimately, the fruits of their arrangement.

With a huge smile, the tech highlighted an area on the screen and zoomed in. Even before she drew the outline and typed onto the screen, he knew.

“Congratulations! It’s a boy!”

Blair let out a happy cry of sorts. Her green eyes clouded with more tears. A part of Grayson felt the relief. But another part of him still felt scared shitless. A son. He was going to be a father to a son. Everything his father had hoped for was coming true. Blair had fulfilled her end of this deal better than expected.

She must have seen the uncertainty on his face. The slip of his mask. Because her light brows furrowed when she looked at him.

“Is it not the news you were hoping for?” she asked.

He cleared away the fog and doubt in his head. “Forgive me. I’m happy it’s a boy. It’s great news. Truly.”

“Dad just needed a moment to get his head together,” offered the tech, “have you picked out any names yet?”

Luckily Blair engaged in prattle about baby names, leaving Grayson to dwell on his own thoughts. Holy shit. He had a son. A boy he’d helped create. A boy he would be responsible to raise into a man. To prepare for the world and to take over the railroad. He was unprepared, but people younger than him and with far less resources had made it work, so could he. His mother would help him too, she would prove an invaluable resource. He’d read those parenting books. Take child rearing classes. This was a challenge he would accept. He’d adapt to fatherhood and be a good father. Give his son the world. And avoid his father’s mistakes before him.

The next smile he gave Blair was a genuine one. The tech printed out keepsake photos and left the room for her to get dressed. Blair placed the envelope in Grayson’s hand just before he made to leave the room to give her privacy. But before he’d made it out into the hall, his surrogate said his name.

“Mr. Godwin?”

He turned back on the threshold, “Yes Miss Prentice?”

She hiccupped, “Could…could you please close the door and come back inside for a moment?”

He did as he was asked. Intrigued on what had her so choked up and what she wanted to say. He felt his gut begin to clench to match the tightening in his chest. He crossed the room stopping a respectable distance away from her. He waited in a tight silence.

As if a damn burst, tears flowed down her cheeks, and she let out a sob she quickly silenced. He didn’t know if he should move towards her to comfort her, if she wanted him too, or if he should remain in place. He hated this feeling of not knowing what to do. He decided to stay rooted in his spot near the door. Take her lead.

“Blair? What is it?” he coaxed gently.

“I…I can’t do this anymore. I can’t lie to you anymore Grayson…” she cried, placing her face into her hands.

As if she were trying to hide from him. Now he really was frozen. From his feet to that useless, beating organ in his chest. He could feel his anger rising up just beneath the surface.

“Lie to me about what Blair?” His voice deadly calm, emotionless.

She continued to sob behind her hands for several seconds more. Finally, her words came out muffled and barely more than a whisper. She wouldn’t even look at him as she spoke. All the air was sucked from the room, from his chest, by her next words.

“The baby isn’t yours. He’s not yours. I’m so sorry…”

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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