Excerpt from Cherished Beginnings

     "All right, sweetheart," he said gently, cuddling her close. "Do you want to talk about it?"
     A hesitation. Then she shook her head. But her heart's pounding lessened.
     He tipped her face toward his and saw great sadness there. He had seen it before, when she'd been thinking about the other man, the one in California who had hurt her so. Yet at this moment he was sure that tonight's sorrow had nothing to do with that boyfriend of hers. This had to do with something else.
     Wanting desperately to reassure her, hoping that she would open up and tell him what was on her mind, he said against her hair, "I cupped a wild bird in my hand once. It felt like you do—tense, its little heart beating away against its feathers."
     "What happened?" she said unsteadily.
     "I opened my hand and it flew away."
     "I don't want to fly away."
     He waited, but she didn't speak. His arms tightened around her. "I guess I insulted you by suggesting that you work as a labor coach," he said, treading carefully, hoping she would talk to him about what was upsetting her. There were depths to her that he had never fully understood.
     When she remained silent, he said, "I thought you might not mind working in the birthing room for a while if it meant eventual backup for your patients so much closer to home."
     Her patients. She should be thinking of them first, not herself. It would be traumatic to do labor coaching in a hospital, and she didn't like the rigid delivery-room methods at Quinby. But Xan was right—she had her patients to consider.
     "I don't want to be just a labor coach," she said. "But I might consider it if it would benefit my patients in the end. What do you want me to do?"
     They began to stroll back toward the house.
     "Talk with Raymond Lyles. See what arrangement he has in mind. After all, the birthing-room concept is new at Quinby."
     They walked up the steps to the porch, and Xan opened the kitchen door for her. "I'll think about it, Xan," she said thoughtfully.
     "That's good enough for now," he told her, relieved.
     "Would you be my medical supervisor?" She riveted her eyes on him.
     "Ah, Maura, the first time I ever saw you deliver a baby so artfully, I knew you had a gift for it. I have the utmost respect for your expertise. It—it's just hard for me to overcome the prejudice most obstetricians harbor against midwives."
     "Does that mean yes or no?"
     "I guess," he hedged, nonetheless smiling down at her, "that it means a definite maybe. Couldn't we discuss it more thoroughly after you've talked with Raymond?"
     "I suppose so."
     He pulled her into his arms. "That makes two definite maybes," he said, smiling against her hair.
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