The Montana Rancher (The Endeavour Ranch of Grand, Montana 3)

Page 49

She watched himclosely. Incomprehension came first, then, the news hit home. Something in his eyes died. A blank screen dropped into place.
She’d certainly hit him with it. And hard.
“That’s not possible,” he said.
“Three positive pregnancy tests suggest otherwise.”
“That’s pretty strong evidence, alright.” He stared at the dash for a second, as if clearing his thoughts, before looking at her. “Is that what’s been bothering you?” He said it as if her news wasn’t a problem at all, but his eyes told her he lied. “You’d be, what—only seven, maybe eight weeks along? There’s a clinic in Billings, although I’d prefer to pay for a private doctor. Either way, you don’t have to go through this alone. I’ll be right there with you the whole time.”
She couldn’t make sense of his words. “What are you talking about?”
“Abortions are legal in Montana. This isn’t a big deal.”
“I don’t want an abortion.” She’d never entertained it as a possibility. “I don’t want a baby right now either, but it’s too late. The future’s been decided. This baby is happening.”
“Not if we take care of it. The sooner, the better.”
Elizabeth felt ill. “This is ourbabywe’re talking about.”
“No, we’re talking about a cluster of cells.”
The news was as upsetting for him as it had been for her, and she’d had longer to process it. She was terrified she’d say something she might come to regret. But she was the one with a new life growing inside her—a life that was wholly dependent on her for survival. She was the one who’d have to put her career on hold. And she was the one willing to make the sacrifices required. She’d hoped he’d be willing to support her decisions.
She struggled to remain pragmatic and not give in to emotion. “You once told me you didn’t believe I had it in me to break someone’s leg, even if my own life was in danger, and you were right. I don’t have it in me. Which is why I don’t have it in me to end this baby’s life, either.”
“It’s not a baby. It’s not even a fetus yet,” Ryan insisted. “I’d understand if you were far enough along for it to be viable, but that’s months away. I agree abortion isn’t an ideal solution, but it’s the only option we’ve got.”
He’d overlooked one important detail. One she’d had to stress, in a professional capacity, herself. “Youdon’t have any options,” she said, gentle but firm. “I do. And for me, this is about more than whether or not a fetus is viable. It’s about my body and my right to decide what I do with it.”
“You want to use your body as an incubator. I get it. But those are hormones talking, Elizabeth. Not common sense.” He drummed his thumb against the steering wheel, as if trying to make his mind up about something. Indecision traipsed between his mouth and his eyes. His grip on the wheel tightened. “You can’t make an informed decision because you don’t have the full story. Here it is. When I lived in Chicago, my name was Giaco Cienetti Tosaro. Jackie. My grandfather was Giaco Cienetti. I was named for him. My dad was Giaco’s accountant, and as his son-in-law, he must have decided dipping into the petty cash was no big deal. My mother didn’t seem to think it was either, but unfortunately, Giaco didn’t feel the same way. He ordered the hit.”
On his own son-in-law. So this was what happened to Cienetti’s daughter and her family. A documentary on the Jackal had aired the night she’d gotten pregnant, she recalled. It came on the television right after the Disney princess movie they’d made the boys watch. Ryan had switched to another channel. She’d seen so many of those so-called documentaries that she’d stopped paying attention. His insistence on an abortion as the only solution made a little more sense.
“Your mother changed your names when you moved to Montana,” she said, encouraging him to talk more. She wanted to understand his position as best she could. He had no say in what she did with her body. He’d have a great deal of say in what happened after the baby was born.
“She didn’t change our names. They were changed for us when we entered the witness protection program. She’d given up a lot of information on Giaco. Sadly, none of it stuck. She was willing to try but figured he’d bought off too many people. And now you know why having this baby is such a bad idea.”
She cradled an arm protectively over her stomach. Her heart cracked a little for him. On the surface he appeared cold and well in control of his emotions. In reality, he was operating purely on fear.
It didn’t sway her resolve. An abortion was a decision they couldn’t undo. “No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat and his voice thickened. “Tell me how your family will feel about you having Giaco Cienetti’s great-grandchild—not to mention, the grandchild of a mob accountant who was also an embezzler.”
Her parents weren’t perfect. They’d been damaged by crime, the same as him. But they weren’t cold or cruel. This baby might be the best thing to happen to them since Marianne.
To Ryan, too—if she handled it right. He saw Giaco in himself. He believed Giaco would emerge in their baby. Childhood therapy likely taught him that antisocial personality disorders were hereditary.
But there was so much more to an APD diagnosis than a few traits he might share with a grandfather he’d barely known. Ryan had far too much self-control to be labeled a sociopath and lacked the charm associated with a true psychopath. His relationships with the people he loved were far from shallow. If only he could see what she and his best friends saw.
“I’m having their grandchild too,” she said. “That’s all my parents will care about. It’s all they’ll need to know. You haven’t been Jackie Cienetti Tosaro since you were seven years old.”
“In a few weeks, after you’ve thought this through, it’ll be too late to change your mind.”
“I won’t change my mind.”