Title: Tomorrow's Wish for Love
Author: Diana Stout
All Marion ever wanted was a family but that dream disappeared in a horrific car accident that changed everything. No longer able to have children, she left her teaching position, returned home to take care of her father, and started a cleaning service.
When John Dalton finds a stranger in his apartment cleaning, he discovers someone hired Marion without his knowledge. A teacher by day and a political cartoonist on the side, John's real passion is helping kids learn how to play baseball. Now, he's bought an empty lot to create a much-needed ball field, but he needs the neighborhood to agree to the lot's changes, and his number one opponent is Marion.
Will their differences keep them forever apart or can they find a way into each other's heart and their wishes for tomorrow's future?
Turning away from the bedroom, she bent and retrieved her carry-all basket of supplies. Head bent, she inspected the basket, holding it in front of her as she walked down the hallway, reminding herself that she needed to refill her glass cleaner.
Suddenly, the basket crushed into her mid-section. Her movement stopped.
Surprised, Marion looked up. Shock ran through her, her skin turned cold with fear, and the air left her lungs. The wall she had run into was a man. About six-three to her five-six. A strand of dark hair lay curled on his forehead. Equally dark brows hooded eyes the color of milk chocolate, and his gaze bore into her. His impressive wide shoulders make the narrow three-foot wide hall even smaller.
"Who in blue blazes are you?" he asked. His voice rumbled loudly against the hall walls.
"Maid Marion," she said.
"Yeah, right. And I'm Robin Hood."
"No, really, I'm Maid Marion," she repeated. "Marion Winter actually." She saw nothing but puzzlement in his eyes. "Maid Marion is the name of my business. John Dalton?" He nodded. "You hired me to clean your house."
"I did no such thing. How did you get in here?"
"You left your keys with my father."
"I've never met your father."
"Yes, you did, Mr. Dalton. Two nights ago."
"And I'm telling you, I didn't."
Marion bit her lip. Nothing made sense. Remembering the contract, she moved forward, intending to go to the small table near the entrance, but he blocked her way.
"Where are you going?"
"To get the contract you signed."
For a long moment he studied her. Without a word, he turned sideways. Marion swung the basket in front of her in an attempt to bring the bulky item in line with her body and in the process, her knuckles rubbed against the front of his powder blue chambray shirt. She felt his stomach muscles contract and heard his short inhalation of air. Heat shot from her knuckles to her whole hand and up her arm.
She darted a quick look at him. He still stared at her, the furrow between his brows deeper than before. She pressed forward determined to get past him without further incident.
Reaching the small oak table near the door, she set the basket on the floor and reached for the canvas bag that acted as her traveling office wherever she went. In it, she carried the records of her clients and other pertinent information she needed from day-to-day. Quickly, she found what she was looking for and extracted two sheets of stapled paper.
She believed in brevity and organization, and her contracts reflected her philosophy. Turning, she found John standing behind her. She held out the papers and he took them.
She watched as he scanned through the material, turning to the second page. His gaze dropped to the bottom of the page to the signature line. His mouth a straight line, he glanced at her, then spun around.
In half a dozen steps, he was at the drafting table. She followed. He reached for a pen and scribbled something at the bottom of the page, dropped the pen, straightened, and turned back to her.
With the papers back in her possession she looked at what he had written. His name was scribbled, almost unreadable, below the first signature.
"They're not the same," she said.
"I don't know. All I know is that I didn't arrange for your services."
"I believe you, Mr. Dalton."
"John, please. I'm not old enough to be called mister." He smiled.
It was a nice smile. She especially liked the tiny dimple that appeared at the left side of his mouth.
"As a bachelor, John, you could use my services."
"How do you know I'm a bachelor?"
"You—I mean—your impersonator told my father you were. Was he lying?"
He hesitated. Was he hiding a wife and kids?
"No. I'm a bachelor. Bona fide."
Whatever that meant. She saw him looking at the apartment, seemingly for the first time since he entered the rooms. He appeared stunned.
"I hardly recognize the place," he said.
"I'm not surprised," she told him. "But, I didn't touch your work area. I've learned from experience to get permission to straighten a desk no matter how disgustingly unorganized it is."
Quickly, his gaze was on her again. "You like organization, don't you?"
"It's my job."
"And you do it well."
Marion took that as a compliment. "But...?" Though he hadn't said it, she knew there was a but on the end of his sentence.
"I won't be needing your services anymore."
"I haven't finished. I was going to do the kitchen next. It was the last room."
"That's okay," he told her. "Let's pretend you did."
Marion shook her head. "I couldn't do that. I was paid to clean your apartment twice a week and was paid ahead—for the next three months."
"Then, refund the money."
"I can't. The gentleman paid in cash and it's already spent."
"Then, think of it as a bonus."
"I can't do that either. It wouldn't be right."
"Let me find out who did this and when I do, you can make the refund then."
Marion swallowed. This was becoming more and more difficult.
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Diana Stout, MFA, PhD began her writing career with humorous essays about life in general to a local newspaper. "It was cheaper than seeing a psychiatrist." From there she moved to magazines with short stories and articles that included her photographs, then publishing three books, and screenplays, optioning one, collecting awards all along the way.
Returning to college later in life, she began writing plays and poetry, collecting even more awards. She has served as a reviewer; contest judge; as a writing coach; and has made numerous national, regional, and local presentations about writing. Her students have said, "She smiles when she talks about writing."
Today she's an indie publisher through Sharpened Pencils Productions and is most proud of its first publication, Grendel's Mother. Today, she celebrates her return to her creative-writing roots where she is working on novels, novellas, and screenplays. Favorite non-writing activities include movies, reading, a little gardening, birding, family and friends, and jigsaw puzzles.
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