Dianna Bratcher tugged at the improvised maid’s uniform as she sat in the
bus stop kiosk across from Greg O’Rourke’s building in downtown Dallas.
Monday morning traffic was heavy. The August temperature already soared into
the eighties and it was even hotter in the little enclosure.
She squinted against the glare as she scanned the oncoming cars. Greg drove
a sporty black BMW. The car might have stood out in Twin Rivers, Kansas, but
not here. She swiped at perspiration beading along her hairline.
Unaccustomed to city traffic or noise, she hadn’t slept well alone in the
tiny motel room. This project had disaster written all over it. She couldn’t
imagine why she was letting herself consider getting involved in another of
Tom and Greg’s hair-brained schemes.
The same reason she had when they were kids, she supposed. She squirmed,
becoming even more annoyed as crawling perspiration tickled the flesh under
Her brother Tom and his best friend Greg were seven years older than Dianna.
When they were kids, the age difference meant she had to make Herculean
efforts to get their attention. But that was a long time ago. What was
motivating her now?
At twenty-four, she was a college graduate with a promising career as
librarian in her small home town. She owned a home of her own, for heaven’s
sake, and was seriously considering marriage to Griffin Mayo, a prominent
man in Twin Rivers. Yet here she was, again trying to win Tom and Greg’s
approval by going along with one of their plans, the difference being: this
time she wasn’t ten years old.
Dianna had rationalized for four days and three seemingly endless nights,
ever since Tom’s visit to Twin Rivers the Thursday before to enlist her
help. Yesterday she had yielded, though only a little.
Tom said Greg needed a wife--just for one weekend--to close a business deal.
He had been blunt. They needed someone presentable but not glamorous, an
unsophisticated woman, someone their city friends wouldn’t know. Greg would
send his company jet to pick her up on Wednesday, give his hirelings time to
transform her from homespun to some semblance of a believable wife for a
prominent Dallas businessman.
Dianna might be green, but she was not stupid. She disregarded the offered
plane ride and drove herself down to size up the situation before saying yes
or no to their graceless offer.
Before daylight this morning, she gave up trying to sleep, donned her
disguise, and drove downtown. She parked one street over from the building
which housed their offices, and walked to the bus stop directly across from
the main entrance.
Straightening, she readjusted the fabric gathered beneath her stretch belt,
and tightened the bandana securing her hair. The costume wasn’t necessary.
Greg hadn’t seen her in nine years, and she didn’t plan on his seeing her
now. Still, the disguise made her feel better as she fidgeted. She felt like
a kid again, tagging along. And she couldn’t help wondering, not for the
first time, how she had been cast as Greg’s wife. She was flattered, of
course, that they needed her, finally, which was probably why, acting
against her better judgment, she had come.
“Whoa,” she whispered under her breath and stiffened, suddenly alert as the
BMW with the “ORourke” license tag wheeled into the parking garage across
the street. Coming to full attention, she leaned forward, peering, but
unable to see anything through the vehicle’s tinted glass.
A downtown bus pulled to the curb in front of her, blocking her view. The
doors on the bus slid open. Frantically, Dianna leaped to her feet and waved
the driver on, straining to keep her eyes on the cavernous entrance to the
parking facility across the street which had fairly swallowed the Beemer.
The bus hovered several ticks of the clock before the doors wheezed shut and
the vehicle gasped and shivered its way back into the flow of traffic.
Then there he was, in front of her, materializing out of the exhaust fumes
like a genie rising out of a mist.
She would have recognized Greg’s athletic walk anywhere. He still toed in a
little, as he had all his life.
Paralyzed for a moment, Dianna forgot to breathe.
His navy blue blazer swung open over a chambray shirt and figured necktie.
In gray slacks and polished oxfords, he effortlessly executed what still had
to be the sexiest stride in the world.
As he sauntered into the sunlight, his dark, close-cropped hair glistened. A
newspaper clamped under one arm, he settled sunglasses into place on his
nose with his free hand. Dianna stood unmoving, unable to take her eyes off
of him. Luckily, he didn’t so much as glance her way.
He was taller than she remembered, broader, more muscular, more male, which
made him seem more threatening and, at the same time, more provocative.
Tom said her indecision about taking their “chance-of-a-lifetime offer” had
made Greg angry. She assessed his size again. Not smart to make such a
powerful looking guy mad.
She watched his long, determined stride, admiring the grim look on his
handsome face. She wished he’d smile. Just once. Of course, that was
ridiculous. There was no way he’d be grinning as he strode toward his office
As he reached the entrance, however, a gawky adolescent girl darted directly
into his path, lunging for the door before she saw Greg and stopped, looking
unsure of herself. He reached for the door, opened it, then stepped back and
motioned the girl in. She gulped and said a too-loud, “Sorry,” looking
Greg grinned the easy, lopsided grin preserved in Dianna’s memories, and
said “You’re all right,” and nodded, indicating the girl should go ahead.
Dianna clasped her hands together, bowed her head and thumbed her belt. Her
movements were a ruse. She couldn’t see anything through the tears blurring