Chapter One TRISH A newborn generates its own heat. Sleeping, wrapped in a pink candy-stripe receiving blanket and a matching knit hat, the baby’s a hot coal threatening to burst into flames, and yet my husband, beaming, assures me—as nurses have assured him—that she’s not...

Chapter Two TRISH A year ago, long before Laurel entered James’s life, my father flew back to DC to greet James and me when we returned from our disastrous Chinese fertility treatments. Having recently retired to the Cayman Islands following a mostly distinguished banking career,...

Gradually, I pulled myself together. Her three children—Ellie, Sebastian, and Stephen—sat inside the stroller bundled in cutesy panda sweatshirts she’d bought at a National Zoo fundraiser. Ellie, the youngest at barely two, looked up at me from the stroller’s front seat....

Chapter Three TRISH Laurel points at me from her hospital bed and, in a slow, medicated voice, asks, “What’s she doing here?” “Relax, honey,” James says. He takes the baby from me and, walking the five paces across the airy room, places the baby on Laurel’s lap. Because...

Chapter Four LAUREL I’m no special snowflake, no precious girl who demands to play by her own rules. Every dawn must have its day and every monkey its—what?—comeuppance. A woman in my position, having given birth to the daughter of another woman’s husband, can expect no...

After some moments he squeezed my hand, his hand warm and pliable, like the modeling clay public school art teachers had doled out whenever my creative urge slouched toward sculpture. Jimmy said he’d take care of everything, that I’d have nothing to worry about, and in the weeks...

Chapter Five JIM Ten hours have passed since I left Trish and Laurel at the hospital. For much of that time, I’d been ensconced on a barstool tipping back tumblers of Scotch with a farm belt commodities insider who, upon hearing I’d just become a father, gifted me the investment...

Months after I met Trish, I received a phone call from her father, Jack Riggs, inviting me to lunch. I arrived at Savory Mew at the appointed hour expecting her to be present, but opening the door, Jack informed me she was away with friends. “Let’s get to know each other,”...

Chapter Six JIM Seven hours after wobbling home drunk, I wake in bed, alone, and shut my eyes in reaction to the light filtering through the gauzy bedroom curtains. My tongue is a dehydrated strip of parched shoe leather, and there’s an überache in my head. I remember being irrationally...

Chapter Seven TRISH James’s touch is like no other. Because he’s conflicted and confused, I must push harder on him to stay with me. If I were pregnant, none of this would’ve happened. We may have our differences, but the bond between us is unbreakable. Drunk as he was, he...