By Aubrey Wynne
Java stood, tail wagging, and sniffed at the artificial hand. Her pink tongue licked a finger and then another. An unexpected smile curled his lips. At least one female is good with it.
“She understands verbal commands as well,” Lindsey said with more than a hint of laughter. This time, she held out her right hand.
Jess unclenched his fist from inside his pocket and felt her warm fingers slide over his. For a brief moment, he allowed himself to remain lost in those clear green eyes. When his jeans tightened, he gave a fake cough and ended the contact.
“So what’s on the agenda today? How to take her for a walk?”
“We’ll get to that. Today you both need to get acquainted and make sure you are compatible,” Lindsey said in a professional tone. “Have you owned a dog before?”
“Sure, as a kid. And our unit had a shepherd that sniffed out bombs.” Dammit.
“I only ask to make sure you have no fear of canines. Some people think they want a dog but are intimidated by the size, exuberance, or just the barking.” She studied him for a moment. “I don’t think that will be an issue.”
“I get the feeling there isn’t much that frightens you.”
No smile, no hint of teasing. She was serious. I’ll remember to keep the windows closed so she doesn’t hear me at night. “Nope. I’ve survived hell, and I’m here to tell it about it.” He absently rubbed his aching arm.
A flash of jade eyes took in the action, and a sadness shadowed her face. Not pity—he knew the difference by now. “I’d like to hear your story.”
She gently squeezed his forearm and the ache moved to his chest. He wondered again if he might find comfort in the warmth of her skin next to his, her body filling the cold emptiness that had settled in his heart since that day…
The next few hours flew by as he learned the skills of his new canine companion. He had even managed a few grins and a genuine laugh. An apology might be a good way to end the session.
“Thanks for all your help. I can be a real ass sometimes, and I appreciate you not holding it against me.” His mother would be proud of him but he could almost hear Chuck hooting with disbelief.
“Well, I know Shelby can be a bit obnoxious but she’s a work in progress. I’ve only had her a couple of months.” She bit her plump bottom lip then looked up at him under thick, dark lashes. “Since I’m your neighbor, we could probably arrange to bring Java home sooner and do more of the training at your house. Would you like that?”
Would he like that? No. Yes. Fuck! “Sure, if it isn’t too much trouble. I guess that would work.”
“We can introduce Shelby and set up some play dates.”
“Play dates?” Could you wipe the stupid grin off your face? She’ll think you’re a pervert.
“For the dogs,” Lindsey answered. “Or whatever.”
Those kissable lips turned up at the corners as she turned and bent over Java to attach her leash. He stuck his hand in his pocket to keep from giving her firm, round ass a light smack. Flirting had once been second nature to him but he hadn’t felt the urge in years. She’d also made him forget about his arm for a few hours. It might be an interesting summer after all.