Barefoot by the Sea - Roxanne St. Claire

Roxanne St. Claire - Barefoot Bay #4 - Barefoot by the Sea

Barefoot by the Sea (Barefoot Bay #4)
Roxanne St. Claire


Chapter One

I suppose I could just walk up to a man and ask for sperm.” Tessa picked up her bottle to punctuate the statement with a sip of cold beer, but froze midway as she took in the reaction around the booth. “Guys, that was a joke.”

Her friends weren’t laughing. Although the evening out at the local dive was supposed to be a business strategy session, the conversation had, of course, turned personal. After all, the four women might be partners in the Casa Blanca resort, but they were best friends long before that, and no topic was off limits. Not even this one.

“No harm in asking.” Next to Tessa, Jocelyn leaned in to make her point over the din of the Toasted Pelican crowd. “They love to give that stuff away.”

“Absolutely,” Lacey agreed from across the table, her topaz eyes lit with enthusiasm instead of humor. “Knowing your donor takes all the guesswork out of it. What you see is what you get, unlike anonymous sperm.”

“Sperrrrrm.” Zoe made a disgusted face, her gaze drifting over the action in the bar. “Couldn’t man’s life force have a more inviting name? You know, like chocolate or Cabernet?”

“Baby juice?” Jocelyn suggested.

“Liquid gold,” Lacey added.

“Nature’s protein smoothie,” Tessa said dryly.

That made Zoe laugh, but she didn’t take her eyes off the crowd. “Says the organic girl.”

Tessa waved her beer bottle to prove that she could have plenty of lapses in clean living and to move the conversation along to a more comfortable subject.

“We have bigger issues than my baby needs,” she said, looking down at the paper Lacey had printed for them to read, the last line of the brutal review jumping off the page. “Did she really have to call the dining room ‘as lively as a morgue’?”

Lacey sighed and pointed to the printout. “We can weather one bitter blogger.”

“The Vixen of Vacation Vows is not one bitter blogger,” Jocelyn said. “Vix is the bitter blogger, with thousands of hits a month. No one plans a destination wedding without checking her snark-fest—er, I mean reviews.”

And what would those potential guests see when they searched Casa Blanca on Barefoot Bay? The words were still fresh in Tessa’s mind. This sweet homegrown resort might conjure up images of Bogie and Bergman, but brides will be lost in a desert of disaster.

The review had made them all a little sick and scared. Especially Lacey, who slumped her chin into her palm. “If we don’t hire a chef and start getting some positive buzz for Casa Blanca, the resort we spent the last two years of our lives building will never get in the black.”

“How long until those wedding consultants can come for a preview?” Tessa asked.

Lacey lifted her head and gave a slow smile. “Eight months until the wedding consultants can get us on their schedule, and by then you can be good and pregnant.”

“Or we can be good and out of business.”

Lacey closed her eyes at the punch that had to hit her, the resort owner, even harder than the rest of them, who’d just invested and worked there.

Jocelyn waved off Lacey’s blues. “Look, with the right chef, a few great events, and some powerful Internet reviews, this winter will have snowbirds flocking to Casa Blanca. When the wedding planners come next summer, we’ll be ready to knock their socks off.”

She paused long enough for the four of them to share a silent “We hope.”

“But your baby dreams are as important as our resort dreams, Tess,” Lacey continued. “It took you months to scour all those applications to find a surrogate who meets your exacting standards. What if she gets scooped up by someone else?”

“I hope she doesn’t. I’ve put a deposit down and the clinic has scheduled a house visit and interview. Once they do the psych evaluation…” She paused, knowing that was where the process had fallen apart once before with her ex-husband, and it was the reason she’d never tried again. “I’ll meet her and make a final decision. Obviously, I want the perfect surrogate mother as much as I want the perfect sperm donor.”

“No one’s perfect,” Lacey shot back.

“You know what I mean.” But did they know? None of these women had any idea how gut-wrenching and grueling infertility had been. “And the baby won’t be perfect because these are my eggs, which I harvested already.” Defensiveness lifted Tessa’s voice as she