Published by Lyrical Shine on October 9th, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Head vet at the Forever Friends animal rescue shelter, Gabriel Moretti is known as the Dog Whisperer because of his gift for soothing rambunctious patients. But it’s the two-legged species that has him, and his libido, working overtime. Marla Popov single-handedly saved the shelter from financial ruin. But the bossy trust funder is even more irritating than her snooty Standard Poodle. You’d think keeping his attraction on a short leash would be a no-brainer for Gabe. Unfortunately, Marla is also smart, beautiful, and intriguing . . .
Most of her life, people have been eager to tell Marla just what she wants to hear. So now that she’s nearing forty, she doesn’t expect to be refused—especially by a sexy younger man like Gabe. She also doesn’t expect it to sting so much. But when she discovers a scheme involving illegal dog fights, she gets a chance to show what she’s truly made of. And as she and Gabe team up to fight it, they discover a surprising respect for each other—and passion that might just grow into love. . .
Some days just sucked from the start and went downhill from there. Gabe Moretti knew this was one of those days. Tapping his fingers on his steering wheel, he dug deep for the restraint not to blare his horn at the old man at the pump in front of him. The Gas & Stuff had two islands with two gas pumps on each one. Two of those pumps were blocked off by a tanker truck, refueling the station’s supply. A dented Ford Fiesta sat at the front pump of the other island, filling up, and behind that car was the old man’s Oldsmobile.
The geezer had finished pumping gas a minute ago, but now was washing every window with streak-free accuracy. The man tugged a handkerchief from his back pocket and lovingly buffed the frame of the driver’s door.
Gabe dropped his head onto the car’s seatback. He had an eleven o’clock appointment with a favorite patient of his and hated to make the girl wait. Most animals instinctively had a fear of veterinarian offices, and Shelley, a sweet-tempered cocker spaniel, was no exception. The less time she had to spend shivering in the waiting room, the better.
Snowflake had been another favorite. Gabe swallowed, the back of his throat thick. By now, his body should have been picked up from the office by the crematory service. It had been Snowflake’s time—Gabe knew it—but that never made putting a dog down any easier.
The pump hog bent over at the waist and unscrewed the cap from the valve stem of his front tire. He pulled a small metal check valve from another pocket.
“Oh, come on.” Turning his ignition off, Gabe put a hand on his door, prepared to tell the man to move his car to the side for all this bullshit. Gabe didn’t care how ancient he was. Rude was just rude, and a person didn’t block a spot to check the air in his tires.
The owner of the Ford Fiesta replaced the nozzle and climbed behind the wheel of her car. She pulled out, leaving the front pump empty.
Finally. Turning the ignition, Gabe put his Chevelle in reverse, backed up two feet, and shifted into drive. He rolled an inch before slamming on his brakes, barely avoiding the Jaguar XK convertible that flew past him and squealed into the empty spot.
He turned his car back off, gritting his teeth, and threw his door open. He recognized that car. More, he recognized the woman angling her body out of the convertible and strutting to the pump.
His anger faltered for a moment when her long, bare legs came into view. Those legs were the first thing he’d noticed about her when they’d met. She was a tall woman, and her toned and tanned legs seemed to stretch forever. She was wearing some kind of straw-covered platform sandals, adding another couple of inches to her already impressive height, and a pair of red shorts that should have been illegal for the amount of skin they exposed.
Her sense of entitlement had been the second thing he’d noticed, and its appearance now brought his anger flaring back to life. He strode toward her. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? There’s a line here.”
Marla Popov turned, nozzle in her hand and a surprised ‘O’ rounding her red lips. His stomach tightened. Jesus, everything about her was cherry. Her shorts, her car, her lipstick. Even her toenails were painted that deep, luscious red. The tempting splashes of color made him want to lean in and take a bite. Physically, this woman did it for him. Her selfish attitude, however, was another story. That spoiled his appetite right quick.
She tugged at the silk scarf that was knotted under her chin like she was Jackie O, and it slipped off her head and landed on her shoulders. The golden highlights in her strawberry blond hair caught the morning sun. The strands shimmered from blond to apricot to peach, a silky sunrise. She probably spent more money getting that color than most people did on food in a month.
Shooting him a bright smile, she stuck the gas nozzle into her Jag. “Hi, Gabe. I didn’t see you there. I’ll be super quick.”
“You’ll be super gone.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “There was a line. That is my spot. Move.”
She shook her head, as if he’d said something cute, and a hole burned into his gut. Her black standard poodle, who sat in the passenger seat wearing a matching and equally ridiculous scarf on its head, apparently didn’t find Gabe as amusing. She growled and stuck one paw on the creamy leather armrest between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, looking ready to launch herself at Gabe. For once, the feeling was mutual. There weren’t many animals Gabe didn’t like, but Marla Popov’s sissied-up poodle was one of them. The fur on her body was shaved close, except for little poofs that covered her lower legs, like fluffy leg warmers. A bubble of dark fur peeked out underneath the scarf. The red leather collar she wore dripped with crystal.
It wasn’t the dog’s fault. She was Marla’s, and dogs frequently took on the traits of their owners. As Marla was an annoying prima donna, it was only to be expected that the animal would have personality issues, too.
Gabe still didn’t like the poodle.
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