The Wish
Silhouette Romance
April 2003
ISBN: 0-373-19657-1

Excerpt




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 BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR...

All Gerri Conklin wanted was to do over the most disastrous week of her life. But wishes couldn't come true...unless the wish involved a pair of magic eyeglasses! This time, quiet bookstore owner Gerri wouldn't sprain her ankle or embarrass herself at the ball. She would win the heart of wealthy and handsome Rance Wallace III.

But things were not turning out the way Gerri expected. This time, injury-free Gerri found herself spending time with rugged rancher Des Quinlan. This time, Gerri and Des shared intimate conversations—and a sizzling kiss! And this time, Gerri would end up with the man of her dreams...but which man?




 Reviews
" Diane Pershing's THE WISH takes us down that tempting what-if-we-had-it-to-do-over-again road with a truly entertaining read."

- Romantic Times

Excerpt
Sobbing, Gerri ran out of the casino ballroom and into the night as though running for her life, the skirts of her gown flying in the dry evening breeze. Down the flight of stone steps to the street level she fled, but on the second to last step, her heel caught in the hem of her dress, and she tripped.

Cursing herself under her breath for her life-long clumsiness, and with tears still streaming down her cheeks, she managed to disentangle her heel, avoiding a pratfall-but turning her already sprained ankle-as she landed upright with both feet on the sidewalk. Taking a moment to wince in pain, she took off again at a run, but when she rounded the corner of the building, she ran smack into a very solid, all male chest.

“Oof!” she said.

“Gerri?” the owner of the chest replied, surprise in his voice as he gripped her upper arms to prevent her from taking a header.

“Des?”

Unbelievable. She’d just bumped into Des, of all people, her good friend, or sort of good friend. Incredibly strong and wonderfully solid Des. Solid being the operative word here; she’d just barreled into him, all six-feet-in-heels of her, but, bless him, he’d stayed right where he was, upright and planted firmly, so yet one more mishap in an evening of mishaps had been avoided.

Thank God for small favors, Gerri thought. After the social nightmare she’d just experienced, all she needed was another un-graceful, un-feminine, classless, ignominious, klutzy act on her part, and she might just as well die on the spot.

The pressure on her upper arms increased. “Hey, Gerri, what’s wrong?”

She looked up at him, then glanced away quickly, too uncomfortable to face Des’s probing gaze. “Nothing.” She shook off his grip and headed out into the night. “Thanks for catching me. I have to go home now.”

She was maybe two steps away when he caught up to her and pulled her around to face him. Again, she tried to avoid looking at him head on, because she didn’t want him to see her face, which, as she well knew, was a total disaster. Her inexpertly-applied mascara was dripping down her cheeks, her eyes were red, as was her nose, she was sure-she was not one of those women who looked beautiful when they cried. She’d long ago bitten off any lipstick she’d been wearing. The week-old bruise on her upper cheek was probably glowing all kinds of colors, making her look like a woman in need of shelter from an abusive husband. Her attempt at a hairdo had come partly loose and was hanging in funny clumps around her face. Her gown was wrong, her shoes were killing her, and although Des had surely never thought of her as anything approaching glamorous, somehow this final humiliation of his seeing her at her very worst was more than she could bear.

“Gerri?” He squeezed her arm, not unkindly, but to get her attention. “Look at me.” He followed this with a finger under her chin, forcing her to meet his gaze.

Amazingly enough, he didn’t blanch at the sight of her ruined aspect. In the glow of a nearby street lamp, his craggy face seemed less forbidding than usual, and his startling blue eyes less hooded and mysterious. His eyebrows, black as his thick head of hair, were furrowed, but with concern, not anger. There was no judgment in his gaze, none at all. Amazing.

A sudden warmth filled her chest area, making her want to cry all over again. Dear Des, the only male friend she’d ever had.

“What are you doing here?” she managed with a lopsided grin, swallowing the urge to weep all over him.

The only answer he gave was one of his non-committal shrugs. “Tell me what happened,” he persisted.

“Nothing,” she said brightly, but couldn’t keep it up. “Everything.” The traitorous tears came barreling up through her tear ducts once again.

He pulled her into his arms, enfolding her, pushing her head against his neck, offering friendship and comfort, both of which she sorely needed at the moment. Still, her immediate reaction was to stiffen. This was the first time the two of them had touched, really, the first time she’d felt the true strength of his long arms, ropy with muscle from years of ranch work.

Then she relaxed against him and sobbed into his shirt collar, worrying all the time if her mascara was the waterproof kind that would stain his shirt, but then realizing that the way the stuff had been leaking all over her face answered that question. It was on the tip of her tongue to offer to launder his shirt, but then she told her brain to turn off, please, and just let her rest here, enveloped by the first pair of strong male arms she could remember in years.

However, Gerri’s brain was rarely able to turn off-it was her life’s blessing and its curse-so she pulled away from him. “Please, Des, don’t,” she told him, taking a step back and swiping her index fingers under her lower eyelids, trying to soak up the blackness of the makeup. “I don’t deserve comfort. I should have known better.”

“Known what better? Has someone hurt you?”

Had someone hurt her? How about lots of someones? How about the fact that tonight, it felt as though her whole life was one big hurt. “It doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I’m going home.”

Again, she moved away from him and hurried down the street. But, again, Des wasn’t going to let her go so easily. He walked quickly beside her. “Didn’t you go to this charity thing with Rance tonight? Why isn’t he seeing you home?”

“Because-” she began, but stopped. It was too difficult to explain.

After all, how could she tell her friend Des that she’d accepted Rance’s last-minute, totally unexpected invitation to be his date for a formal charity function because she’d seen it as a golden opportunity? That even though a little voice inside her had told her to say no, she’d said yes, despite her still-bruised face and her sprained ankle, both of which she’d gotten from falling off a ladder in her bookshop.

And how could she tell her friend Des that even with the rainbow colored abrasion under her eye and a limp, there were women who could have pulled it off, who could manage to appear elegant and self-possessed, making a small joke about her less than stellar appearance.

But that woman was not Gerri, never had been. She’d done it wrong, all of it. The hour she’d spent at the charity function had been the hour from hell, and had been from the start.

The moment she’d walked into the ballroom, looking, she imagined, like a refugee from the backwoods, her personality-which was often sunny, funny and most definitely friendly-had undergone a total collapse. Even on the arm of Terrance Wallace III, better known as Rance, her self-confidence, which she possessed under certain conditions, plummeted to an all time low.

She’d wilted under the scrutiny of the town’s upper crust. She’d laughed too loudly and at the wrong places, apologized for her behavior, stumbled over her words, even stepped on Rance’s foot the one time they’d danced. She’d practically worn a sign on her saying Kick Me.

The coup de grace had been in the Ladies’ Room, to which she’d escaped in an attempt to force her flyaway hair back into its bun. While fussing at the mirror, despair fighting tooth and nail with an inner pep talk, she’d overheard a couple of other guests talking about her from their individual stalls.

The gist of the unflattering and mean-spirited remarks, after they’d done tearing apart her hair, her face, her dress, her body, was that the only qualities she had to recommend her were her sense of humor, her brains, and her ownership of a bookstore. It might be better, they suggested, if she stopped trying to do anything or be anyone else, such as an appropriate date for Rance, the town’s most eligible bachelor.

Choking down a sob, she’d run from the bathroom, tripping over her dress as she did, all the voices of a lifetime echoing in her head: Outsider. Different. Brainiac. Plain. Clumsy.

In grade school, she’d been given the nickname of “The Giraffe,” because she’d early on developed long, skinny legs with knobby knees and a long, skinny neck-minus the knobs-to match, none of which had changed as she matured. “Giraffe” had morphed into Gerri as she got older, which was a lot better than her given name, Phoebe Minerva, so it had stuck.

But the self-image had stuck too.

There were other social disadvantages beside physical ones. Her brains put her way ahead of others her age, so she’d skipped a couple of grades and was always younger than her classmates. She didn’t develop breasts, for heaven’s sake, until she was a senior in high school. Along the way, there had been the occasional date, the rare brave boy willing to take a chance on a girl who was taller and most probably a lot smarter than he was, but socializing with the opposite sex was always excruciatingly uncomfortable, with Gerri trying too hard to relax and the boy trying too hard to impress.

The only one who’d gotten through had been Tommy Mosher, in college. But that too had turned out badly. Very badly. Nearly ten years later, his treachery still hurt, still informed her daily life. Men did not fall for her. Men did not find her attractive. The only thing they might want from her was her brain power and what it could do for them.

But she still had normal female urges, and even with her history, a kernel of hope remained. Maybe, she’d dreamed over the years since college, maybe one day she would encounter a worthy man who would love her.

She’d had a crush on Rance, a regular customer in her book shop, for months, so when, earlier that day, he’d asked her to go to a formal event with him, something inside her had screamed, “Here’s your chance!” Finally, she would erase the past. She would do it right this time. She would feel and act like a princess, gliding easily and gracefully through the evening.

Fool, she called herself now. People didn’t change. Sure, the prince had asked her to the ball, but she was no Cinderella, with a fairy godmother who provided magic that would make her blossom and bring her inner beauty to the surface.

Inner beauty? Hah.

“Gerri?”

Des was still waiting for the answer to his question about why Rance wasn’t seeing her home. She glanced sideways as they rushed along, his long legs having no trouble keeping up easily with her hurried pace. The expression on his face, which was arresting rather than handsome, with its deep, attractive grooves from spending days on horseback, was stormy. Oh, no, she wondered. Was he angry at her for canceling their date tonight, so she could go to the affair with Rance?

But it hadn’t been a real date. Not between her and Des. They were friends, that was all, just a bite to eat together was all it was to be. So why would he be hurt? Still, she couldn’t avoid noticing the fact that his expression was fierce and combative now, erasing the genuine concern of moments earlier.

It was confusing. The whole evening was confusing. If only she could do it over.

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