May 11, 1986
“No!” the girl screamed as she collapsed against the glass.
But no one helped her. They were stealing her baby, and no one cared.
She pounded her fists against the hospital window, but they couldn’t hear her cry. Would they tell him how much she loved him? That she never wanted to let him go?
Her stomach cramped, and she bowed over with pain. Losing him hurt worse than the contractions. Worse than the labor. Worse than her parents slamming the front door. Worse than her boyfriend never coming back. It was more than she could bear.
Her hands pressed against her belly, but the baby was gone. Two days ago, she’d felt him growing and rolling and dancing inside her. Just hours ago, she’d snuggled him close to her chest; playing with his tiny fingers, stroking his dark crown of hair.
The nurses took him away and never brought him back. One kiss, and her boy disappeared.
She scraped her fingernails across the glass, squinting to see his crinkled lips and soft blue eyes as they carried him across the parking lot below.
No one believed her, but she would’ve taken good care of him. She would’ve loved him more than anyone else could ever love him. She would have been a good mom.
The man who’d taken him tucked a blanket around his legs; the wife kissed his cheek. How dare that woman kiss her baby!
She was his mom! She’d taken care of him for nine months and anguished through twelve hours of labor to deliver him into the world. She’d borne this child, so much a part of her even after he was gone. Would she ever see her boy again? Not for a minute did she want to let him go. Surely they’d tell him she hadn’t wanted to give him away. That she’d love him for the rest of her life. That she’d done this for his own good.
If only she could run down the hospital stairs and rip her baby from their hands. If only she could take care of him by herself.
“Stop!” she yelled at the glass. Stop those thieves.
As the woman opened the car door, the girl’s fingers trembled. Her nose pressed against the cold glass for one last look before the couple stole away her son.
Twenty Years Later
Abby Wagner smoothed her tailored skirt before she knocked on her boss’s closed door. Blanche Nulte was a player in the public relations world, but new business at Nulte P.R. had waned over the past year.
Not good for the firm, and especially not good for anyone meeting with Blanche on a bad day. Abby wished there was a Blanche meter beside the door to gauge her boss’s mood. If a client was upset, Blanche was irate. If a client was happy, she was tolerable. Most days were a combo of highs and lows. The wise employee waited for one of the high moments before delivering bad news.
Blanche’s disposition didn’t seem to matter to their clients. She was a professional. She got results. And she’d succeeded at building her company over the last seven years into a firm that competed with agencies in New York City and L.A.—the ones that billed hundreds of dollars an hour and powered through lunches with politicians, celebrities, and CEOs. Nulte P.R. was only a few steps behind.
Abby had been in the trenches with Blanche from the beginning, first as her only employee—executive assistant and chief gopher. Now she was a vice president, and in spite of her boss’s rants, she intended to be here until she retired.
“Come in,” Blanche shouted. Edging the door open, Abby walked in and slipped into a black leather chair.
Pictures of aspen groves and mountain peaks plastered the brick walls, and behind Blanche’s handcrafted desk was a long window framing the range of white-tipped Rocky Mountains. Blanche’s peach-painted nails skimmed across the Denver Post on her desk as she finished reading the article. Pearls lined her long neck, and her fiery red hair was pulled tight.
“I’ve got a potential client that I want you to pitch.” Blanche reached for a green file. “We’re competing with the big boys on this account.”
Abby released her breath. It was a good day.
“What’s their story?” Abby leaned forward in her chair to see the stack of papers Blanche was spreading across the desk.
“It’s a national adoption agency that’s based here in Denver.”
Abby gulped air and held her breath. An adoption agency? How many national adoption agencies were based out of Denver? Hopefully there was more than one.
“They’ve got a new president who wants to update their old-fashioned image, but it’s a huge, cumbersome organization. A lot of people to move into this century. They’ve got sixty-plus offices across the country placing infants in—,” she held up a paper of statistics from the adoption agency’s Web site and read, “‘. . . placing every needy infant into a loving home.’”
Blanche tucked the page back into the file. “The agency has been around for forty years, but Harold Rogers wants to generate more exposure for them as well as educate potential adoptive parents on the simplicity of the process.”
Abby steadied her voice and lied. “Sounds like an admirable cause.”
“Harold believes that more people would adopt if they connected with a reliable agency. Heartsong Adoptions is the agency people can trust.”
Heartsong Adoptions. Abby hadn’t heard that name in years. The familiar surge jolted her hands, and she clenched her fingers into fists. Not here in her boss’s office! She couldn’t start shaking now.
Blanche didn’t miss a beat. She handed a booklet to Abby. “Here’s their current brochure. Awful, isn’t Abby clamped onto the brochure with her thumb and stared down at the cover. Grainy photos. Cursive fonts. Splashes of mauve and baby blue.
She opened the fold. Was that child wearing white jelly shoes?
“Needs some work, doesn’t it?” Blanche asked.
Abby slowly nodded her head. Her eyes caught the small picture in the left-hand corner. A perfect baby boy with blond hair and blue eyes. He looked just like her son.
“I think we can create a real story here.” Blanche made a note on her legal pad. “With infertility rates up and couples waiting until later in life to have kids, Heartsong wants to present adoption as a viable option to expensive infertility treatments. They also want to encourage girls from rough home situations to consider giving up their babies to a loving family instead of opting for an abortion.”
Was Blanche still talking? Her words muffled like they were caught in a drum.
“Heartsong is working with treasures, family treasures. Do you like that: ‘Heartsong Adoptions . . . Treasuring the Heart of Family’?” Blanche asked. “We’ll have no problem getting the national media onboard if we can convince Harold that we’re right for this job. What do you think?”
The irony stung. Abby Wagner promoting the good works of Heartsong. What was God trying to do? How could she tell the world about Heartsong’s “treasures” after they’d destroyed her family?
Abby shut her eyes briefly, begging the darkness to flee.
“Are you with me, Abby?”
She struggled to focus on her boss’s stare. “Just thinking. Is there a downside?”
“You have less than a week to get us ready for the pitch.”
“Go get started then.” Blanche dismissed her with a wave. “We’re meeting with them on Wednesday.”
Abby grasped the leather arm and maneuvered herself out of the chair. Her heart pounded so hard that she thought Blanche must be able to hear it as she walked across the room and reached for the doorknob.
“We need this account,” Blanche said before Abby shut the door.
Hunched over the bathroom sink, Abby splashed cold water on her face. This was ridiculous. She hadn’t had a panic attack in seven years. She had to get over this insanity. Too much time had gone by for this to happen again.
Someone knocked on the door. “Abby, are you in there?”
She splashed one more handful on her face and opened the door.
“Are you okay?” her assistant, Maggie, asked.
“Well, you look awful.”
Abby had to smile. She’d marveled for years at the consistent polarization between her assistant’s disheveled appearance and her meticulous organizational skills. Today Maggie’s powder blue suit needed to be cleaned, blood red lipstick oozed down toward her chin, and her hair begged for a decent cut. She must really look bad.
“Good Morning America just called,” Maggie said. “They want to do the interview.”
If it was an hour earlier, she would have cheered. She’d been pitching the morning show for two weeks on a feature story, an in-depth look at preserving Colorado’s decayed mining towns. Different angles.
Back and forth. New footage. Old footage. And an interview with Ted Zant, one of their top clients, the man leading the charge. Ted would be thrilled.
“That’s the best news I’ve ever had,” her assistant prompted her, squeezing her arm. “You deserve a raise just for delivering it.”
“You’re right, Maggie. You’re the best.”
“How about that raise?”
Abby caught a drop of water with her sleeve before it dripped off her chin. “If you deliver this news to Blanche, she might give you one.”
“You’re leaving for the weekend or I will visit Blanche and tell her to send you home.” Maggie paused. “Seriously, are you okay?”
Another tremor raced through Abby’s arm. “I’ll be fine.”