An unexpected FedEx envelop arrived one day after the most horrifying telephone conversation Ashley McDowell could have experienced. The person on the other end had been completed and utterly heartless.
She opened the seal and stared in disbelief at the papers inside. Pulling out the paperwork she saw there were three distinct units of business. The first, a small beige sheet with a California bank seal at the top, was a check for two hundred and fifty dollars. The second, a regular letter sized creamy colored paper, was a note explaining a similar check would arrive every month for her silence and to care for the raising of her expectant child. A firm line at the bottom stated, she should not contact the office again.
Ashley couldn’t believe she was being bought and silenced. It wasn’t her fault she had fallen for a young actor, who at the time had been nothing more than a physical trainer. It might be her fault she’d slept with him. Who could have predicted the one night of romance would result in a child being conceived. Certainly, it wasn’t in Ashley’s plan.
She had a plan. A very distinct plan. A plan she was bring to light.
It was the plan she had devised while still in high school. One step at a time she was checking off the items on the list in the order they had been written. A perfect order to ensure a perfect life – at least in her mind.
Ashley had started her writing career in freelance. Various magazines still expected her to write a short monthly piece. Moving forward in her career she worked in copywriting, the consistent work for various websites was a nice addition to her resume. Her true passion was in fiction. In her young career she had three novels published and was working on her fourth. Ashley found herself busy travelling the continent promoting her books and doing research for future manuscripts. It was the research that gave her fiction its authenticity.
She’d positioned her life plan so it could be accomplished from anywhere with Internet connection. There was no time for a baby, besides she knew she wanted to do it right – that was in the plan too.
When she met the right man they would get married and have a family in the good old fashion sense of life. For years, Ashley had always pictured the perfect family with the house, white picket fence, smiling parents, two kids, and a dog. It was her dream. It was a dream that would wait until she was ready. It was a dream that would wait its turn in the plan.
At least it was what she had thought.
Until the appointment a few days before had changed her plan. At first the news had been disastrous. Her mind had been swirling with the news from her doctor. Her plan had her travelling to Boston for more research to start her new mystery novel series. Her plan had her then going on a much anticipated vacation to Australia.
She’d always wanted to visit Australia and while in the air to California she’d woke from a pleasant dream about the country. Ashley had been riding on horseback through the Outback and Rainforest. With those images firmly implanted in her brain she had booked the trip almost as soon as she’d landed in the golden state.
Booking the trip had definitely put her in a good mood for the meetings planned for her month-long stay in the Los Angeles area. Kristen, her book agent, was fiercely working to have Ashley’s third novel made into a motion picture. The story was set in Europe. A real Interpol mystery with a serial killer and espionage twist. The studio was keen on the idea. Ashley had asked to be part of the script writing, so there she was in LA.
While visiting, since it was for a longer stay, she rented a condo, a car, and joined the local gym. Who knew she would fall for the hunky physical trainer, Jordan Purcell? Who knew she’d still keep her distance? Who knew in a moment of pure anger everything she planned would be flipped on its head? Who knew she’d get pregnant?
Before leaving the doctor’s office, she’d resolved to her situation. Ashley would have this baby. She’d raise it. She’d try to get in touch with Jordan. The task had proven very difficult. Jordan had earned the role of the Interpol agent – the reason for their celebration. Jordan was in Europe filming. His cell phone off and his calendar full. Ashley had reached out to the only other person she thought could help her.
Jordan’s agent had been anything but polite. He’d even gone as far to suggest Ashley was trying to profit off of Jordan’s success. The call had ended with Ashley staring at her phone in disbelief after the line had gone dead.
Then this package. Her head was spinning.
The last set of papers were the most disturbing. The light blue, hard-backed board held three stapled sheets of legal documentation. The top one told her everything she needed to know.
The package fell out of her hands and spilled across the kitchen table.
The docket threatened a lawsuit and removal of the child should she ever contact Jordan. It requested she send a notarized DNA test result to confirm the authenticity of her claim. It was forwarded from a law office in Santa Monica.
She was being paid-off. Or perhaps, it was this blackmail. She didn’t understand.
Would they really take her child if she pushed back? What was worse having Jordan know nothing or losing the child?
Ashley picked up the phone and dialed.
A quick call to her own lawyer gave her the support she needed to retaliate against Mark and his band of lawyers. Calvin Olivier helped her make some decisions. He had always been a friend when she needed him. He’d read so many contracts of late, she trusted him completely with her career.
It was quickly decided, she would send the test results after the child was born.
Ashley knew they would keep sending her the checks every month. She would store the money in this envelope. At this point, they could only assume there would be some treachery trying to state the DNA comparison with Jordan was not a match.
Calvin told her to hold onto every piece of paper they sent.
The last request he made was for her to write down everything she could remember about the phone call. In her journal, he suggested she right about her experience in California with Jordan. Anything she could remember him saying could be important in the future.
All the legal talk scared Ashley. She had to remind herself she was in good hands with Calvin. He would never let them take her child. He’d drag things on in court so long the child would be eighteen by the time it was all finished and sorted.
“I’ll take care of the initial paperwork here at my end. Fax me a copy of that document as soon as you can. And Ashley,” He paused to hear her acknowledgement. “Go on your trips. Don’t let any of this stop you. Australia is calling – GO!”
Tears were still rolling down her cheeks. Her world seemed completely upside-down. She wanted the stability of her plan. A new plan had to be finalized. A new plan was inconceivable at this point.
As she cleared papers from her fax machine the plane ticket fell onto the desk. Ashley stared at the dark blue diagonal stripes with the red outline of an airplane. Australia. Calvin had reminder her to go. She wanted so badly to fly to the country. A fleeting thought suggested she go and never come back to the problems here.
Her brain couldn’t think straight.
Ashley sat uncomfortably in the first class seat. She had decided to upgrade to the bigger more expensive seat because of her pregnancy and the long flight.
Australia awaited her.
She asked the flight attendant for another pillow and stuffed it behind her lower back.
It had taken months – dinners out with friends, long talks with her mother, and another call to Calvin – to finally put her mind at ease about this trip.
Boston had happened, but it had been shorter than her original planned trip. Morning sickness had certainly made it hard to tour the city for inspiration. Instead she’d spent months completing research about the city online and in her own local library. A trip to the bookstore had also furnished her with some non-fiction books about Boston. Her fifth manuscript was finished and Kristen was now in the process of reading it for final edits before sending it off to the publisher. Her fourth book set to hit stores within days.
Kristen had vehemently complained about Ashley’s decision to leave. Kristen had been the only one not ready to drive her to the airport and chain her to this first class seat.
A gurgle in her stomach automatically made her rub the mildly extended tissue. It was a habit she had quickly developed. Her belly appeared to be constantly bloated now well into her fourth month. It was the only part of her body putting on weight so people naturally began to ask if she was pregnant. Fortunately, they didn’t ask about the father.
Thankfully, she felt she had survived through the morning sickness and was now in a safe position to enjoy her pregnancy. Why did they call it morning sickness? She’d felt nauseated all day long. The slightest smell sent her stomach into convulsions. Her doctor had warned her not to believe it was only an early pregnancy occurrence, but Ashley hoped it was over.
Ashley had survived so far. She’d been managing her exercises and diet. She’d tried over the last few months to focus on her life. But reality was never far away. More often than not she found herself crying. Emotional, didn’t begin to describe her mood swings. Sometimes she wished Jordan was around to help her through the difficult times. Those thoughts only brought renewed pain.
Kristen had not been of any help. All she’d said was this was something Ashley would have to live with and it had better not affect her career. Ashley couldn’t believe the heartless reaction of her agent.
Ashley knew their relationship would soon come to an end. Ashley had always hoped her agent would be a friend, someone she could confide in. Kristen was the opposite. She was a born and bred New Yorker with a hard core focus on the business. Her tenacity had been great in the early days, but Kristen hadn’t changed. Ashley wondered if it was fair to expect Kristen to understand.
The message of apology from Kristen had done nothing to diminish Ashley’s feeling of loneliness. She was definitely glad to be heading overseas. For a few months she could ignore Kristen and the negative criticism from the woman.
The last ultrasound and check up with the doctor had gone smoothly. Everything was progressing as it should. The ultrasound images of the child were in her wallet. Blood work showed some Y-chromosomes suggesting the presence of a male child. The doctor had even help with an Australian contact. Ashely felt well-prepared and in good hands.
Since it was decided the DNA test would be completed after the child was born. The law office in California would have to wait for their necessary DNA. Calvin had already made contact. She was glad for the protective barrier against the insults. Ashley didn’t care what they said; she knew Jordan was the father.
In the end, she didn’t care about any of the other issues. Looking at the ultrasound and listening to the heartbeat of the child was enough to make her feel love she couldn’t describe.
Silently, she prayed the boy would look like his father. It would mean so much to look at her son and see the man she longed to be with again. The features would certainly give him an edge in life. If he used them wisely he would be a lady-killer like his father.
The next five months would be a nice break from all the issues in North America. Australia was going to be her chance to think, write, and explore.
Ashley had a new plan. Her schedule was simple. Fly into Melbourne for a month, travel up the coast to Sydney for the better portion of her stay, visit the Outback on a weeklong safari, and then head up into Northern Queensland to finish her vacation with a tour through the rainforest at Daintree.
It was a great plan. It was also very focused on rest and relaxation. Many days were blank with no specific plans so she could do whatever her heart desired. A part of her wished the child would have been able to see the sights, but she promised someday she would bring him back to this continent. At least he would be born in Australia. It was a decision she hadn’t made lightly, but once made she knew it was the right one. Her return flight had been extended by a couple weeks to accommodate the birth.
Ashley thought it would be a cool piece of trivia for her son – born on foreign soil. He would forever be a citizen of Australia.
Her personal story would add to the conversation. She was sure in the future people would ask why she had decided to have her child in a foreign country. Would people understand when she tried to explain she felt a calling to come to this country? Would they see it as a need that had to be met with or without the child she carried? Would they listen to the plight she had endured? Did it matter what others thought?
This was her story.
With everything that had happened, Ashley couldn’t wait to unwind and spread her wings. This was her chance to really explore who she was and who she wanted to be. Hopefully, she’d come away from Australia with a new plan. A plan created to guarantee her ‘perfect’ life with this new little bundle of happiness.
Unsure Footing chronicles the adventure of a pregnant Ashley McDowell as she travels to the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland Australia. When her expedition goes horribly wrong she must rely on herself and her trust in the search and rescue man, handsome Will Christensen. Ashley must learn to survive in the national park, while Will driven to find the mysteriously wonderful woman must do his job.
Want to read more? Look for publication information coming soon. Get your own copy and learn if Ashley and Will fate-crossed lives will survive disaster.