Published by Changeling Press
Cover Art by Bryan Keller
Kirk lives in a cabin in the woods and takes care of rescue dogs. The more he can avoid people, the better. The two exceptions to his rule are his friends Zoe and her fiancé, Gordon.
When Sandy, Gordon’s cousin, is asked to take care of Sexy, the foster-fail dachshund, Zoe and Gordon tell her to ask Kirk for help whenever she needs to. Dachshunds are outside of her skill set. So is Kirk. But somehow, they all keep ending up together. Will the humans’ insecurities get in the way or can Sexy keep them in line?
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Copyright ©2022 Treva Harte
Kirk looked up at the sky, hands laced behind his head, trying to figure out constellations. He never could, but that didn’t mean he didn’t like trying. And just looking up into the night. It had been a hell of a day. Probably most folks wouldn’t think so. He was sure Zoe had no problems with greeting adopters and delivering a furry bundle of joy to them. Well, she might be a little teary afterward because she got attached, but she didn’t have any problems talking to the adopters and making sure they had signed their papers and answered the new owner’s questions and that kind of shit.
He was exhausted. The new adopters looked okay, and their references had checked out and all that. But talking was exhausting. He kept having to do it. Having a team meant talking to people. And paperwork. It was smart of Zoe and her new man to create an actual rescue organization instead of just what he and Zoe had done before. He wouldn’t argue against that. It helped more dogs than he could alone, that was for real, but… damn. Organizations meant many words — written, in person, on the computer. So many…
A cold nose sniffed at his hand, and he scratched a coonhound’s ear. What he needed was more stars and dogs and a lot less dealing with humans.
* * *
Sandy rubbed her neck when she paused at the stoplight. It was almost ten p.m., and she was getting home from the office. That made it an earlier night than usual this week but that didn’t make it right.
Work wasn’t as absorbing as usual. It wasn’t bad or anything, but it wasn’t giving her that old thrill. She remembered the text she got at five, when crazy people left work, reminding her about her involuntary volunteer job.
There was no way in hell she could pull this off and do her real work. Why had she said yes?
Because Zoe, and Sandy’s favorite cousin, Gordon, had ganged up on her, that’s why. They had tag teaming down to an art. You didn’t say no, even if you were a great negotiator. Sandy knew she could win a deal when she had all the facts and expenses in line. But arguing against emotional blackmail wasn’t her strength.
It’s our honeymoon. Sexy doesn’t like boarding or other dogs, and it’s just for a long weekend. It’s the only honeymoon time we could find all year. Please, Sandy.
It was not like she was against honeymoons or marriage — for other people — although she wouldn’t have recommended getting married as young as Gordon or his bride-to-be, even if they seemed to be doing all right. She wasn’t against responsible dog ownership, or not taking a pet on a honeymoon either. Even if the honeymoon was coming before they announced the wedding date.
But there was still no way she would’ve ever agreed until they added the kicker — We’ll find someone to walk and feed him when you can’t make it back on time. He just needs a place to chill.
Somehow, she’d been strong-armed into it. That didn’t happen to her often.
Sandy pulled into a parking lot to text her new dog walker before she forgot and woke up to a whining dachshund who hadn’t been fed the day before. She could walk him before she left. She started off strong in the mornings. Things tended to fall apart around noon under a barrage of emails and calls.
And the damned dog was showing up early tomorrow morning and throwing her off her game already.
* * *
Zoe burst into Sandy’s condo first. Maybe not actually burst, since the door was open and she was lugging a pet carrier, but Zoe always figuratively burst in. She was short and her curly dark hair took up as much room as her body did. She wore colorful clothes and said what she was thinking, no matter how inappropriate.
She was nothing like anyone in Sandy and Gordon’s family and bless her for that. Sandy’s quiet, slightly shy and stiff cousin needed that. But Sandy was probably the only member of the Allbrit family to appreciate Zoe. Well, except for Gordon, of course.
The way he was looking at her as he followed, lugging a medium-sized duffel bag, meant he did a little more active appreciation than Sandy was up for, which was fine. They were engaged, after all.
“Here’s Sexy,” Zoe said, entirely unnecessarily. “I wrote a schedule and phone numbers in case of problems. Since he’s a grump and tends to dislike changes in routine, there may be problems. Gotta be honest about that. But it’s just for a long weekend.”
“I can handle it,” Sandy said. Probably. I can handle mergers and potential embezzlement and cybersecurity. A miniature dachshund should be a piece of cake.
Gordon looked at her. He knew what she was thinking. “Kirk can handle anything Sexy can dish out. Call him first.”
Sexy strolled out of his carrier and looked around. He sniffed. Sandy wasn’t sure if the dog’s expression meant “It’s is a dump here,” or “I want to take a dump here,” but she knew it was going to be a long weekend.
Thank God the carpeting was beige, not white.
“Have a great time. Make sure I’m your best woman at the wedding, when you get around to having one,” Sandy said. “You’ll owe me.”
“I already owe you,” Gordon told her and startled her with a quick, awkward hug. Allbrits didn’t hug. “Bye. We’re leaving before you or Zoe change your mind and say Sexy is going to come with us. I have plans.”
Zoe was really good for him. Sandy knew she could suck it up for a long weekend for her cousin. And if she couldn’t, she had a list of phone numbers. She waved as they left, then she opened the duffel bag full of bedding, food, dishes and toys. Many piddle pads.
Sandy wondered how soon it would be before she had to cave and beg that weird friend of Zoe’s for help and advice. Kirk was impossible to talk to — she’d tried the one time she saw him long enough. But he was a genius with dogs.
Almost before the happy pre-wedding honeymooners had left the floor of her condo, Sexy began to bark. Sandy jumped. The dog had a huge, deep bark for such a small dog.
And one that didn’t let up.
About twenty minutes in, Sandy was thinking about the neighbors and noise ordinances and sedatives for her and the dog. A place for him to chill. Right. She’d forgotten and Zoe hadn’t reminded her that Sexy only chilled if he was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted.
After a half hour, she thought about taking a long drive away. By herself.
Forty-five minutes. “Hey, Kirk?” she yelled into the phone, over the crescendo of barks. “Dude, could use some help –”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Treva Harte has always been an overachiever. She also collects things. First it was degrees. First a B.A. in English, then she decided to go back for a Master’s degree. Not content with that, she added a J.D. Since then she’s added a husband, also an attorney, and two children to her collection. She’s continuing her ways as an overachiever, writing her wonderfully offbeat tales of passion and possibilities — in her spare time.
Visit her website at www.trevaharte.com.