Woman's World

Read a Romance!

Corinne thought she had no time for love . . . Then she met Joe and Marley!


One look into his soulful brown eyes, and I’m a goner. “You must be Marley,” I croon, crouching low and extending a hand. The chocolate Lab sniffs, then, body in full wriggle, licks my face while I scratch his ears.

“I think he likes you,” a deep, male voice observes.

“The feeling’s mutual.” I look up into another soulful pair of brown eyes. Marley’s owner has a smile that makes my heart race. Down, girl, I tell myself. This is a business transactio­n. “Hi, Joe,” I say. “I’m Corinne.” “Hi, Corinne.” His smile is half-embarrasse­d, half-rueful. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

“Me, either,” I confess. “But your sister assures me dog sharing is all the rage in Europe.”

“Well, Stacey also assures me real men wear makeup.”

I give a surprised laugh. “She wants you to wear makeup?”

The gesture, and his words, tug at my heart

“Something to do with concealer and bags under my eyes.”

I peer into his face. “They look fine to me.” More than fine. Perfect.

“That’s what I told her.” He nods at Marley, who’s straining at the leash. “Mind if we walk while we talk?”

I fall into step beside him, and we stroll along the park path, pausing every few seconds to let Marley sniff at a tree or a leaf.

“What did Stacey tell you about me?” he asks.

A local wedding planner, his sister is one of my florist shop’s best clients. “Only that you’re an architect and that you don’t like Marley being alone so much.”

“When I told her I was thinking of finding him a new home, with a yard and kids, you’d have thought I was about to commit murder.”

“Could you really give him up?” I ask.

“Nah.” Joe reaches down a hand to pat Marley. “We’re in this for the long haul, isn’t that right, buddy?”

The gesture, and his words, tug at my heart.

“Stacey recommends you highly.”

“She knows how much I love dogs. My business keeps me so busy, I’m just not sure I’m ready for that responsibi­lity.”

“Having Marley with you during the day will be a good test.”

“That’s what Stacey tells me. I know I’ll enjoy the company.”

“And maybe, between the two of us, we can give this guy the attention he deserves. And I won’t go into debt at doggy daycare.” Joe addresses Marley. “What do you say, boy? Want to try it for a week?” Marley wags his tail in approval. Before I know it, the trial week turns into two, then three. I love having Marley at the shop, and so do my customers. I also find myself looking forward to those few minutes each morning and evening when I get to talk to Joe.

About a month into our arrangemen­t, he arrives one morning carrying a baker’s box.

“To say thank you,” he explains, “for taking such good care of Marley. My first impulse was a bouquet of flowers.” He gestures to the flower-filled coolers lining my shop’s walls. “You can see my dilemma.”

“Like bringing shoes to a shoemaker,” I say, laughing.

“Total overkill,” he agrees. “So I baked a cake instead.” “You baked it?” “With my own two hands. Let me cut you a piece.”

The first bite is so delicious, I close my eyes to better savor it. That’s when I feel Joe’s thumb brush the corner of my mouth.

“You missed a crumb,” he says softly. When my eyes fly open, his gaze is intent on mine. “I have an important question for you. Two, really. First, have you decided yet?” “Decided what?” I croak. “Whether you have room in your busy life for anything besides work.”

Heart pounding like crazy, I glance at the dog at our feet and opt for the truth. “Having Marley here has taught me that I have time for whatever is important.”

“Good.” He nods. “Question number two: Will you have dinner with me Saturday?”

My breath catches. “Are you asking me out on a date, Joe?” “Yes, Corinne, I am.” I wait a beat, letting the wonder of it all sink in, then say, “Can Marley come, too?”

His smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

My answering smile feels a mile wide. “Then it’s a date.”

— Shelley Cooper

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