Impoverished, widowed single mom Carrie Pace thinks that her five-year run of terrible luck has finally come to an end when she is hired to be a surrogate for a wealthy pair of Hollywood A-listers.
The deal: live on their property, all expenses paid, until she has borne and weaned a child for them. At the end of that time, she will receive $500,000 with which to restart her life. It sounds too good to be true...and unfortunately, it is.
Problems start when Carrie and her son move into a cottage on the property and she begins treatment under the couple’s fertility doctor. She soon learns that her new job comes with some catches she never expected.
The child she’s soon carrying has a controlling biological mother and a biological father with a wandering eye pointed at his surrogate.
As Carrie gets nearer to her due date, things take a sinister turn. When she discovers the truth, can she save herself, her son, and the unborn child from the mortal danger that masquerades as friend?
A thrilling psychological thriller that you won't be able to put down!
Release date: May 9, 2022
Print pages: 341
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The Perfect Surrogate
"Benny! Dinner," Carrie called out, trying hard not to cry. It was just one of those days that everything came crashing down.
"Coming, Mom!" her son yelled from his room.
He always had his head stuck in a book or was too focused on a game he invented to remember even the simplest of things like eating or cleaning his room. Considering how kids his age played video games all the time, Carrie considered his little quirks a blessing.
She quickly wiped away her tears, not even aware she'd shed them, as she set the table for the two of them. They'd been alone for a long time, and she didn't know how much longer she could go on like this. She was at the end of her rope, both physically and mentally.
It was a miracle that the electric company hadn't cut their power since she had to spend all the money she earned, and then some, on the rent for their tiny apartment. It was a shoebox, really, with one small bedroom, one bathroom, and a living room that was also a kitchen, but it was the best she could afford at the moment.
Forget the electricity, she thought. She had no idea what they were going to eat until her next paycheck. Although she had two jobs and Benny received a small amount of Social Security, they were struggling. There was never enough money no matter how much she tried to save on everything.
Maybe we should move someplace else, she thought. Los Angeles was by no means a cheap place to reside.
Benny ran the short distance from his room to the table and sat down, clearly in high spirits.
"What have you been doing?" she asked.
Carrie smiled despite herself. She had a wonderful, special kid. Her son was her biggest joy. Her only joy at the moment.
"Do you want one or two slices of bread?"
When her husband died and they were forced to leave their home on the base at Fort Carson, Colorado, Carrie thought it was best to move someplace else. Start fresh and away from all the bad memories and heartache. In the end, instead of taking the map and picking a place at random, she simply returned to her hometown, to L.A., because despite everything, it was familiar to her and safe.
But not easy.
She was wrong, thinking her life would be better in any way simply because she decided to return home. Her parents didn't want anything to do with her—or their grandson, for that matter—so she struggled to make ends meet on her own. Even after all this time, they held a grudge against her and hung up the phone when she tried to speak with them.
They had never forgiven her for running off after high school to marry Marco. Her mother forbade her from seeing him, but Carrie hadn't listened. Her father had big plans for her and wanted her to become a lawyer, so her getting knocked up and marrying some soldier really screwed that up for him.
She screwed herself up as well, but that was a different matter altogether.
Fuck them. If they couldn't put their feelings aside to think about hers, they didn't deserve to be called parents in the first place. There was nothing she wouldn't do for her Benny, so she couldn't understand parents who could so easily turn their backs on their flesh and blood. Their pride was bigger than their love, plain and simple.
If Carrie made mistakes in her life, that was her prerogative. It was her life, after all. Parents’ expectations be damned.
Besides, no matter if they were right regarding Marco, no matter how disappointing her short marriage had turned out to be on so many different levels, she never regretted a second of it because it gave her Benny. She would never trade her son for anything. Not for all the money in the world, not for fame, and certainly not for her parents’ approval.
He was the reason she’d managed to go on, continuing to fight when everything around her, her whole life, fell apart. Twice.
"Do we have some more orange juice?"
Carrie nodded, stood up, and opened the fridge to get it. In truth, she could have simply reached for the fridge door while sitting down, but she liked the exercise.
Trying to banish her troubled thoughts and failing miserably, she poured him a glass then threw the container in the trash. Another item added to the grocery list.
She sat down and continued to eat, but stopped shortly after when Benny looked at her oddly.
"What is it, buddy?" she asked in concern.
"There's not enough juice for you as well," he stated.
"You can have half of mine." He offered her the glass.
Carrie suppressed a sob. He was such a sweet kid. She was truly lucky. Although her mother called him a curse, he was nothing short of a miracle to Carrie.
"Thank you, but I don't feel like drinking orange juice."
He looked at her as though he couldn't fathom someone refusing orange juice but shrugged it off and continued eating. As he ate, he chatted about all the interesting things he learned about time while reading his lessons in advance.
Carrie was thinking of time as well.
What are we going to do? They were running out of time because they had almost completely run out of money. It became more than apparent that they could not continue living like this. What if we end up on the street? No. Carrie would figure something out. She had to.
Unfortunately, she lost all hope that she would get death benefits from her husband. The death benefit was a rather morbid coining, as though there could ever be any benefit from death. Benny had lost his father, for crying out loud, and no amount of money could ever compensate for that. Sadly, the Army was trying to stiff them for that as well.
Marco had been an Explosives Ordnance Disposal Technician, which was still considered one of the most dangerous jobs there were, and he died in Afghanistan in an explosion.
All she could gather in all this time since the Army could be pretty tight-lipped about the details was that after a thorough investigation, they blamed him for trying to disarm a massive homemade improvised device despite his instructions to secure the perimeter then stand down. Two other people were also killed on that day.
Marco had always had problems with his ego, but Carrie believed with all her heart that he did what he did with the belief that he was doing the right thing. If he thought the people in the area were in danger, he would do everything in his power to defuse that device and save lives or die trying.
Of course, the Army didn't care about her opinion. So, after five long, exhausting years of deliberation over whether she should receive a death gratuity, they were still no closer to a decision no matter how many letters she sent to the command. There was a lot of military red tape involved, and she was seriously losing hope.
Everything was so fucked up.
The military had completely abandoned her and Benny, kicked them out of their home, and didn't want to pay for them to survive in any way. Her parents had practically disowned her and ignored the existence of her son because that didn't fit into their plans for her. And because Marco had been so young, the amount of Social Security Benny received was barely enough to cover the water bill. And yet none of that mattered.
Carrie would continue fighting and finding ways to provide for her son because she didn't have a choice. She had a kid she had to take care of, to make sure he was healthy and happy, so it didn't matter how miserable or tired she was.
Carrie would make sure he had a better life than she had. She had lacked nothing material in her childhood and still felt like she was missing the most important thing, love. No wonder she ran away with the first person who said he loved her.
Perhaps it was a bit ironic that she was this jaded considering she was only twenty-six, but after everything she'd been through, it was hard not to be.
Her son's voice snapped her from her reverie. "Yes?"
"What are you thinking about? You look so sad."
Ah, yes. She had to remember her son was too perceptive for his age.
"About work and how I don't want to go."
That wasn't technically a lie. She hated leaving him alone to work a night shift. Benny loved to snuggle with her, and that was her favorite part of the day as well, reading together before falling asleep. Not to mention she was constantly worried something might happen to him while she was away.
What if there's a fire? Of course, it was a stretch, but electrical fires happened all the time, especially in an old building like this one. There can't be an electrical fire if you don't have electricity.
"Can we read tonight?" he asked her.
Carrie checked the time before replying. "Yes, for about half an hour, and then I have to go to work."
If the piece-of-shit car will start. If not, she was fucked.
"OK," he replied glumly.
Carrie understood why. They couldn't finish their book tonight, and he was already looking forward to starting another. Benny was such a bookworm, it was endearing. He could read on his own just fine, but he still preferred her reading to him like when he was a baby. It was a ritual they both enjoyed.
It broke her heart leaving him alone so often, but they needed the money, and the diner she worked at paid better for the night shift. She couldn't afford a babysitter.
Besides, she didn't trust some stranger staying over with her son. There were a lot of psychos in this world. Better to be alone, even if she missed him terribly. Benny was a reasonable, responsible kid. She could trust him not to do anything dangerous while she was away.
She couldn't decide if it was a good or a bad thing that he was forced to grow up a bit too soon. Realizing this line of thought was dangerous since she could once again question whether she was a good or a bad mother, she stopped.
After dinner, Benny took her phone to watch cartoons while Carrie cleaned up.
She just about finished, and Benny was looking at her expectantly to announce that it was reading time when her phone rang. It was an unknown number. Frowning, Carrie answered.
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