Excerpted from 'Mother's Day Miracle' with permission from Harlequin Enterprises.

"Dear God, I wish You'd send me a husband -"

Clarissa Cartwright chewed on her lower lip as the words echoed around the empty library. The patrons were gone now, trickling away one by one, hurrying toward family and home. She could imagine them gathered around the dinner table, laughing as they shared the day's events with their dear ones, making plans to sample the sweet-scented spring evening with that one special person who made your heart thump in anticipation.

Clarissa sat alone, her heart longing to be included, to be part of something. To be needed.

She tried to formulate the petition in her mind, to choose just the right words so God would understand how deeply the ache went. It wasn't hard to say it out loud. She'd been turning the words around in her heart in a silent prayer for ages, even more frequently since her cousin's Hawaiian wedding two weeks ago.

"Could God answer this fast? Of course He could. He was God!"

But here in the Waseka, Missouri, town library, alone among the books she'd cared for these past ten years, Clarissa felt strangely comfortable about voicing her request to the One who'd promised to answer.

"I didn't want to be a burden, Lord, as I was growing up. But I'm an adult now, and I'd really like to be a wife." She hesitated, then breathed out the rest of it. "I want to be a mother."

It sounded like such a big request, so demanding. She hurried on to quantify it, make it easier for God to fulfil. "He doesn't have to be rich. Or even handsome."

That sounded desperate. And she wasn't. Just lonely.

"But not just any husband," she modified, staring at the stained and peeling plaster ceiling as she spoke. "A man I can love with all my heart. A man who doesn't care that I'm not young and gorgeous with lots of money, or smart, and upwardly mobile. What I really want is a man who wants to settle down and have a family. I'm so tired of being alone."

Was that everything?

Clarissa tried to get her mind off chubby babies with rosy cheeks and fisted hands. It wasn't easy. Lately she dreamed of babies all the time. She thrust the bundles of joy out of her mind. But her replacement vision of glistening white tulle over satin and lace didn't help matters in the least. Clarissa twisted her homemade flowered cotton skirt between her fingers, scrunching her eyes up as tightly as she dared.

"Could You please send a man who will love me?" she whispered, whooshing the words out on a wish and a prayer.

"Excuse me?"

Clarissa opened her eyes so fast she saw stars. A man stood at her counter. A big man. He had the kind of straight black glossy hair that hung over his collar as if he hadn't had time to get it cut. His eyes burned a deep rich chocolate in a face full of angles and planes. His lashes were -

"Excuse me, miss?" He cleared his throat and frowned at her. "Can you help me?"

Could God answer this fast? Clarissa dismissed the question almost as quickly as it entered her brain. Of course He could. He was God!

She swallowed down her surprise and nodded. "Uh-huh."

"Oh." He looked as if he wasn't sure she was telling the truth. But when a quick glance around assured him there was no one else lurking nearby he shrugged. "I'm looking for some books on birds. They're for my ne - son."

He had a son. He was married. Her hopes dashed to the worn marble floor. It was all a mistake. A silly, childish mistake. This man wasn't for her.


"Yes. Yes, I heard you. I'm just thinking." She pretended she needed time to recall that section eight held most of her books on bird-watching. "What kind of birds?"

His eyebrows rose. "What kind? I don't know." His brow furrowed, then he shrugged defensively. "The kind that fly, I guess. Just birds, that's all."

Clarissa smiled, rose from her perch behind the big oak desk and clambered awkwardly down stairs that normally gave her no problem whatsoever. "I'll show you," she offered and led the way.

The nature section was only two rows over. Clarissa stopped in front of it, considered the contents, then pulled out several of the largest picture books.

"Depending on how old he is, he might like these. They have wonderful illustrations." She opened it to show him the gorgeous colors of a parrot, and then flushed with embarrassment as the hardcover tumbled to the floor.

It was a good thing the kindergarten class wasn't here to see this. Her cast-iron rule about respecting books would be open to criticism by those curious five-year-olds.

"I'm sorry," she murmured when he handed it back.

"It's okay. Actually, I should have been clearer. I'm looking for something that would show some birds native to the area. Pierce is doing a project for school."

He tossed back his hair, raking through it with one hand. Clarissa caught the fresh clean scent of soap and smiled. She liked a man who didn't pour over-powering cologne all over himself.

You have no business liking this one, her conscience reminded. He's married. With a son...

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