A Touch of Temptation

By: Tara Pammi

CHAPTER ONE


KIMBERLY STANTON STARED at the white rectangle of plastic on the gleaming marble counter in the ladies’ bathroom. Terror coated her throat as though it might come to life and take a bite out of her. It looked alien, out of place amidst the lavender potpourri, the crystal lamp settings and the glossy chrome fixtures.

The few minutes stretched like an eternity. The quiet lull of voices outside was exaggerated into distorted echoes.

Her heart beat faster and louder. A painful tug in her lower belly stole her breath. She clutched the cold granite vanity unit and clenched the muscles in her legs, willing herself to hold on.

The scariest word she had ever encountered appeared on the stick.

Pregnant.

No confusing colors or symbols that meant you had to peek again at the box discarded in terrified panic.

Simple, plain English.

Her heart leaped into her throat. Her legs shaking beneath her, she leaned against one of the stalls behind her, dipped her head low and forced herself to breathe past the deafening whoosh in her ears.

Her one mistake, which technically she had committed twice, couldn’t haunt her for the rest of her life, could it?

But she couldn’t change the consequences. She had never been naïve or stupid enough to wish it either.

She flicked the gleaming chrome tap open and dangled her fingers under the ice-cold water. The sound of the water hitting the sink drowned out the sound of her heartbeat, helping her focus on her breathing.

In, out. In, out...

She closed the tap. Straightening up, she was about to reach for the hand towel when she looked at the mirror and froze.

She stared at her reflection, noting the dark circles under her eyes, the lack of color in her face, the skin pulled tautly over her bones. Drops of water seeped through the thin silk of her blouse to her skin beneath.

She looked as if she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. And maybe she was. But she didn’t have time now. The breakdown had to wait. She touched the tips of her fingers to her temple and pressed. The cold from her almost numb fingers seeped into her overheated skin.

She had no time to deal with this now. She had to compartmentalize—set it aside until she was alone, until she was equipped to think logically, until the shock making her jittery all over faded into nothing more than a numbing ache.

And when it did she would assess the situation again with a clear head, take the necessary action to equip herself better to handle it. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have any experience with dealing with shock and pain.

Although why she had chosen this particular moment to take the test when the pregnancy kit had been burning a rectangular hole in her handbag for more than a week was anybody’s guess. Or maybe she was having another momentary collapse of her rational thinking circuits.

She had been having those moments a lot lately.

She pulled her lip-gloss out of her clutch and reapplied it with shaking fingers. She ran a hand over her suit. The silky material under her fingers rooted her back to reality.

She needed to get back out there. She needed to circulate among the guests—a specially put together group of investors she had researched for more than six months. Investors who had shown interest in her web startup The Daily Help.

She had a presentation to give. She had to talk them through the financial outline she had sketched for the next five years. She had to convince them to invest in her start-up when there were a million others mushrooming every day.

She had to convince them that the recent scandal about her, Olivia and Alexander had nothing to do with the way she did business. It was a sign of how strong her business proposal was that they had even showed up, despite the scandal.

She straightened her jacket and turned toward the exit. And paused midstride.

Turning back, she picked up the plastic tube, wrapped it carefully in the wrapper she had left on the sink and threw it into the trash. She fumbled when she turned the corner, struggling to breathe past the tight ache in her gut. She placed her hand on her stomach and drew in gulps of air, waiting for the tidal wave of pain that threatened to pull her under to pass.

Striding out of the restroom, she plucked a glass of sparkling water from a passing waiter and nodded at an old friend from Harvard. She was glad she had booked this conference hall in one of the glitzy hotels in Manhattan, even though her tightfisted CFO had frowned over the expense.

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