“What are you talking about?” she said, her brow knit in confusion.

I handed her the printout. She looked it over, read every word of the letter to Hadley in which I quit my job in protest over their callous business practices and willful outsourcing of American jobs being stolen from good, hardworking people like those of this town in the name of profit. I included a copy of the op-ed I sent in to the Washington Post about my part in the shameful practice of closing American factories to exploit low-wage foreign workers and destroy prosperous communities like this one. I had penciled in the date it was set to run in the paper nationwide. She flipped the page and saw the drawing, the initial blueprints.

“It’s a winery. I’m planning on a vineyard, a winery that gives tours and has a tasting room for events. A farm to table restaurant with a lot of the produce grown on-site and a full-service resort and spa. The initial figures show us being able to employ every worker from that factory and at least thirty more besides. That right there, in the back where the land is graded more level is where the playground will be. For the employee daycare I’m building.”

“How are you doing all this?” she said in disbelief.

“I told you. I’m a good project manager. I have amassed a great deal of money and I’m financing the rest. This is going to be incredibly successful. I hired away Hadley’s PR director and a friend of mine in marketing to manage our soft open and grand opening and to help with creating a brand profile and getting us media coverage. We’re about to make this town a travel destination. By we, I mean the two of us, if you’ll join me.”

“You’re building a daycare for me to run, and you’re hiring every single person from that factory?” she said.

“Ron’s going to be my general manager for the bottling factory. Trust me, he’ll be able to afford that cruise, or one to the Greek Isles if he prefers. We’ll have plenty of wine labels for the label lickers to affix, and lots of work in the fields and warehouse and resort for anyone who wants a job. The only thing I need is for the property owner to agree.”

“You haven’t even got the land? How are you going to do this?”

“Because you own the land, Maggie. All of this is yours. You can make this happen or shut down the whole project. You have the control.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I was wrong, and because I’d do anything for you. Some girls would want a Tiffany ring. What you needed from me was a business, a new heart for this community. It’s going to be a hell of a place, Maggie. We’ll have the place up and running in time for next year’s harvest, and I’ve already got HGTV buying an option on a three-episode reality show of our grand opening with a tour of the facilities and enough viewership to keep us booked up and sold out for months. We’ll have artisan gift shops with local products, expand as we need to. I have contacts in the hospitality and marketing industries that basically guarantee our success. We’re going to bring so much tourism to this area that the local economy will never be the same. Will you do this with me?”

She stared at me, drained her wine glass, speechless.

“This is my dream now, to do this with you. To build something worthwhile and amazing, to bring jobs to this area and reinvigorate it. To be with you,” I said.

“I—I guess I’ll have to give you another chance then,” she said with a nervous laugh. ”I can’t believe all this.”

“I don’t want a chance, Maggie,” I said, “I want a wife.”

I took out the ring and offered it to her. She looked at me with tears in her eyes, “Yes!” she said.

I pulled her into my lap and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around my neck and let me hold her. I felt a head rush like I’d just gone down the steepest hill of a roller coaster, a flood of pure happiness. Everything I’d ever wanted in my arms.

“I love you,” I said, “I’ve loved you since the minute you told me we were never going to kiss again. I felt like my lungs quit working. I was sure I’d die if it were true. If I didn’t’ get to kiss you every day for the rest of our lives. I knew right then that I’d do anything I could to try to deserve you, to be worthy of being your husband one day.”

“I love you too,” she said, laughing in spite of her tears. “I’ve wanted to tell you for so long, but I wouldn’t let myself admit it.”


Tags: Natasha L. Black Romance
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