It's National Dog Day! Even though I wrote my first dozen books with Rogue the wunderdawg at my feet, I don't usually write in dogs. Or babies. They distract me with cuteness. But way back when I wrote Par For The Course, I couldn't help but include Ben's collection of rescue dogs.
“Do you like dogs?” Ben’s hand wrapped completely around her upper arm, warming her more than the excitement of a summer storm.
Jillian nodded at the strange question, and tried as best she could to keep up with his long legs as he sprinted off the green and through the trees. Fear excited her further when she realized they were running in near darkness away from what she knew and towards something she didn’t.
The trees gave way to a grassy lawn behind a tall, modern house. On the lawn was a low balance-beam, wooden tunnel, seven poles sticking up from the ground in a line. Her heart lurched as he pulled her past a seesaw. This had better not be his house. Anyone with a playground like that in their back yard would have kids.
He opened an unlocked back door and pushed her inside, pressing her against a wall, their ragged breaths echoing in the quiet. Water was heavy on her eyelashes, dripping from her fingertips as she raised her hand to his face. Would he remember the last time he pushed her up against a wall? His eyes widened as he leaned towards her, lips parted.
Eardrum-splitting barking tensed her entire body. Thundering paws pounded louder than the rain outside. In seconds she and Ben were surrounded by five panting, yelping, sniffing dogs.
“Shut it!” Ben barked back at the canines. The yelping immediately ceased, followed by the roar of panting. He stepped away, punching a few numbers on an alarm box by the door she hadn’t noticed before.
Jillian dropped her hands flat at her sides, inviting the dogs to smell her friendliness. Labradors, like her dog growing up. She rubbed the ear of the gray-muzzled black lab and recalled Duchess had gone to sleep for the last time the week before Jillian left for college. She’d been so worried about leaving her to go to school. And then she was gone.
“Sorry about them. They don’t have the best people-skills.” Ben’s lips pressed thin, a high-pitched whistle hissing through his teeth. Most of the dogs leapt up a step and out of the mudroom. Except for the one whose ear Jillian continued to scratch.
“Rogue, leave the lady alone.” Ben toed off his shoes and cast an evil eye at the dogs lined up in the doorway to—where exactly? Jillian couldn’t see past them.
“Are they yours?” Jillian leaned against the wall again, taking off her shoes and peeling off her ankle socks. It was as if the sky had just opened up and dropped a lake on their heads.
“Yeah,” Ben chuckled. Was his face reddening? “I can’t seem to say no lately.”
“Say no to whom?” Jillian studied the dogs again. Rogue was the black lab rubbing against her leg. The other four stood in the archway. One was chocolate brown, another dusty white, the third mustard yellow, and the smallest was a mottled mix of all three.
“The retriever-rescue people. I went to them because I wanted a friend for Rogue so he wouldn’t be lonely, but an older dog so I wouldn’t have to deal with puppy destruction in a new house.”
Ben pulled his polo shirt over his head with confident unaffectedness. As if there weren’t a sopping-wet woman staring at every muscle as they rippled and flattened. At least the water hid her drool.