The Baby Jackpot
brought last night. She wished she hadn’t been so rude
about the dessert.
    What was Cole doing this morning? she wondered.
    When the tea was ready, she settled in to read the paper. On
the bottom half of page one, folded so she hadn’t seen it before, was a picture
of Cole, his eyes keen and his lips parted as he spoke into a microphone.
    Pride surged through Stacy. Then she read the headline, “Man’s
future in doubt? M.D. cites low sperm counts.” While he’d mentioned speaking on
the subject, she doubted he’d done so in such an inflammatory fashion.
    The article began with the same provocative angle as the
headline, but the rest sounded more like Cole: calmly informative. Stacy
considered clipping it to give to him, until it occurred to her that the public
relations office would no doubt secure plenty of copies.
    Moving to the sports section, she saw that an Orange County
gymnast was in an international competition to be aired in about ten minutes.
She switched on the TV in the living room.
    A newscaster was droning on about a bill scheduled to come
before Congress that week. Then she heard the anchorwoman say, “If you’re
worried about our budget problems, here’s even scarier news. In another
generation or two, there might not be enough young people to pay taxes,
according to a California fertility expert.”
    Cole appeared, broad-shouldered in his white coat as he faced
the camera. “We hear reports from around the globe that sperm counts are
dropping.” An almost imperceptible blip was followed by: “We could be in
trouble.”
    Back to the anchorwoman. “That’s the word from Dr. Cole
Rattigan at Safe Harbor Medical Center. He cites statistics that show...”
    The words blurred as Stacy realized that this was no longer a
local story. It had made the network news.
    Whether Cole liked it or not—and he probably hated it—anything
he did was likely to be broadcast. Such as revealing that he’d impregnated his
surgical nurse. That was all Stacy needed, for her parents to see her
embarrassing situation played up like some cheesy reality show. Her father would
be horrified. Both her reputation and Cole’s would be dragged through the gossip
mill.
    Until this moment, she hadn’t realized how much she’d been
hoping that somehow, despite her protests, Cole would wind up as her new
roommate. Glumly, she faced the fact that, for both their sakes, she couldn’t
let that happen.
    * * *
    “R EFUSE ALL INTERVIEWS and don’t post any
comments online unless Jennifer or I approve them first,” Owen Tartikoff warned
Cole on Monday afternoon. The fertility chief, fresh from surgery judging by the
strong smell of antiseptic, had stopped by Cole’s office in the medical
building.
    “Too bad. And here I was planning to write a blog about the
imminent end of the human race,” Cole deadpanned.
    “You may think this is funny, but the media will twist anything
you say.”
    “They already have,” Cole pointed out. He had no intention of
writing or saying anything about the Daddy Crisis, as some hyperventilating
reporter had called it. Somehow, even on a Sunday, the fearmongers had dredged
up a few experts to comment pro and con. Each time, the TV stations reran clips
of Cole’s remarks.
    He clung to the hope, as Jennifer’s email had suggested, that
today would bring fresh news to fill their gossip-casts. Never before had Cole
wished so hard for a senator to commit some deadly sin or a celebrity to get
caught shoplifting.
    “I’m just offering friendly advice.” Owen tried his most
intimidating stare on Cole. “Keep it low-key.”
    “You sure you don’t want me to give any more lectures?” Cole
asked. “How about one called ‘Teach Your Sperm to Do the Conga’?”
    “You’re enjoying this,” Owen growled.
    Only the part where I’m having fun at your
expense.
    “If you light a fire, don’t complain when it gets too hot.”
    “Point taken.”
    Nurse Luke Mendez, who went by the nickname Lucky,

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