He shrugged. “Just trying to rule out all

“He shrugged. “Just trying to rule out all probable causes for your symptoms. According to this, you’re positive.”

Her mouth suddenly felt dry as cotton. “That’s impossible. I’m sterile.”

“Says who?”

“David and I . . . we couldn’t have children. He’s gone on to have two kids, so that leaves me.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.” He regarded her with kind blue eyes. “Were you ever tested for infertility?”

“No . . .” The admission came reluctantly.

He contemplated her reply for a moment, then grabbed her chart again. “When was your last menstrual period?” He clicked his ball point pen, poised to jot down the information.

“I’m not very regular, so I don’t keep track.” She’d never had a reason to mark her calendar and count days because she was inevitably late. “I’d say somewhere around six weeks ago. I should start any day.”

Seemingly taking her comment for face value—that she hadn’t been sexually active as of late—he made a note about her irregular cycle then met her gaze through his wire-rimmed glasses. “It sounds like a false positive to me, or an error at the lab.”

She pasted on a bright, agreeable smile. “I’m sure you’re right.”

“And then there’s always the possibility of Immaculate Conception,” he said with a playful wink.

She laughed, but the light sound did nothing to ease the pounding of her heart, or the thought that kept popping into her head. Could she really be pregnant ? She mentally scanned through her symptoms, and though she’d never been pregnant before, what she was experiencing were classic signs as she’d heard other women describe them.

How could that be possible ? Had she and David just been incompatible in as that they hadn’t been able to conceive a child together? Questions bombarded her mind, but as much as she wanted answers, she refused to ask Dr. Chase and risk his suspicion.

“Why don’t you stay home for the next few days to rest and have Darcy run the shop?” he suggested. “If you’re not feeling better by Monday, then come in and see me again.”

She nodded, feeling numb, confused, and more out of sorts than when she’d first arrived. Grabbing her purse, she stopped Dr. Chase before they exited the examination room. “I’d like to exercise my doctor patient privilege and keep this between you and I,” she said, stating her preference that her father not discover the results of that lab test.

“All right,” Dr. Chase said slowly, digesting her request and coming to his own conclusions. He hesitated for a moment, then his gaze softened. “Just because you and David couldn’t get pregnant doesn’t mean you’re sterile, Grace. There are a lot of variables when it comes to reasons why a couple can’t conceive, and even if you were tested and confirmed as infertile, there is always that miracle of a chance that you could still get pregnant and have a family.”

Grace nodded, unable to bring herself to tell Dr. Chase that although that bit of news thrilled her, it also struck an awful fear in her heart because she suspected her irresponsible actions with Ford might have produced irrevocable consequences.

Ford’s fingers tensed on the steering wheel of his car as he turned down Oakton Avenue and headed toward Whitaker Towne Square. Nearly five weeks after making love with Grace, Ford still couldn’t shake the regret that had lodged itself deep within him . . . regret for the way he’d handled the situation, and for hurting Grace with his stubborn silence.

And then there was also the heavy dose of guilt that had played tug of war with his conscience over the ensuing weeks. He should have told her the truth about Cutter Creek and FZM that night at dinner, but he’d believed he had time on his side to sway her, to court her, to gradually prove to her that he’d changed and belonged in her world.

Her father had stolen that opportunity from him, had reduced his plans to ashes with his harsh words and the bitter blame Ellis had cast upon him. From Grace’s bedroom, Ford had heard Ellis’s ranting, his dredging up of the ugly past, the accusations that had haunted him since the day Aaron had died. In that moment, all the years Ford had spent rebuilding his life and developing credibility had been crush into insignificance by one man’s hatred.”