Wind Chime Point - By Sherryl Woods


Unemployed and pregnant! Those were two words Gabriella Castle had never envisioned applying to her, at least not in combination. Now, in a twist of fate she couldn’t possibly have anticipated, she was out of work and, just as shocking, expecting a baby. So much for years of fast-track career dedication and workaholic tendencies!

Sitting in the middle of her comfortably furnished living room in Raleigh, North Carolina, Gabi stared at a painting that had cost more than some people made in a year. Her sister Emily had talked her into it when she’d stayed overnight a few weeks ago. She’d seen it in some fancy auction catalog—Sotheby’s or someplace like it—and insisted it would be just the thing to pull all the colors in Gabi’s haphazardly decorated living room together.

“Besides that, it’s a great investment,” Emily had said enthusiastically. “In a few years, it will probably triple in value.”

Gabi wondered if she could simply get her money back now. She was probably going to need it.

In the meantime, she couldn’t help wondering if her sister could come up with a painting—or a magical formula—that would pull her life together.

Even though it had been three days since she’d walked into her boss’s office expecting to be commended on her latest public-relations campaign for their biomedical company, only to leave the room with a severance package, she still couldn’t quite believe what had happened. She’d been working since she was eighteen, climbing the corporate ladder since she’d turned twenty-one.

Driven by ambition and the determination to prove something to her father, she’d worked out a career plan even as she’d scheduled her college classes, taking a succession of internships and summer jobs to gain the experience that would land her a top-notch job after graduation. She’d hoped that job would be with her dad, but Sam Castle had turned her down flat.

Once hired by a competing company and more driven than ever, she’d made a meteoric rise to become the company’s top public-relations executive by the time she was twenty-eight. Everyone had assumed there would be a vice presidency in her future. She’d certainly earned it.

Unfortunately, it seemed that particular career path didn’t blend with being an unmarried mother, not in certain circles, anyway.

Not that her boss had dared to fire her. No, Amanda Warren had just made it impossible for her to stay. She’d outlined a plan that would keep Gabi well hidden from the judgmental world for the duration of the pregnancy. Beyond that, well, the handwriting had been on the wall. Her days of being a high-profile spokeswoman for the company were over.

She could have stayed and fought, but still reeling from the news that she was pregnant, she hadn’t had the energy for a legal battle. She’d opted instead to negotiate a buyout that would give her a smidgen of dignity, a decent severance package and time to consider her options for the future.

A future that included a baby! That was, of course, the real kicker—the unexpected news that had first left her stunned and shaken and launched this downward spiral.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t understood that no method of protection was a hundred percent foolproof, but she’d thought birth control pills and condoms together were reasonably effective. Her boyfriend of five years, Paul Langley, had thought so, too. In fact, he’d been so certain of it, his first reaction had been to suggest that the baby couldn’t possibly be his.

Then, once convinced of the truth, he’d said she was on her own, that a baby wasn’t part of their deal. She hadn’t even been aware that their relationship was a “deal” only as long as it was convenient for him.

As she was pondering just how wildly out of control her life suddenly was, her phone rang. According to the caller ID, it was her older sister, Samantha. Knowing Sam would just keep calling until Gabi picked up, she answered, trying to inject an upbeat note into her voice.

“When you didn’t answer your cell phone, I called your office and was told you no longer work there,” Samantha said, sounding suitably stunned. “What’s going on?”

Gabi sighed. So much for any chance of keeping her professional catastrophe a secret from her family, at least for a while longer. “I quit,” she explained to her sister. “Or was forced out, depending on your point of view.”

“But why?” Samantha inquired, her tone indignant. “Not because you took some time off to go help Grandmother after the hurricane, I hope.”

“No, of course not. They