A Convenient Proposal(6)

She took hold of the dog’s collar. “What in the world is wrong with you, Igor? Is this how you say welcome home?”

Igor waved his fluffy tail back and forth. But he didn’t change his stance, and his glare stayed on Griff.

“I don’t usually get this reaction,” he said quietly. “What’s going on?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve never seen him behave this way. Then again, I haven’t seen him with another person since I took him from the shelter.” Shaking her head, Arden started backing up, holding on to the dog. “I’ll put him away.”

“No, wait. Let’s see if we can call a truce first. He’s a rescue?”

She nodded.

“Let me guess…his owner was a guy?”


“Abusive, probably.” Griff relaxed slightly. “Igor might think all men are out to hurt him.”

“That could be true.” She went down on her knees beside the dog and put her arm around his neck. “It’s okay, Igor. Griff won’t hurt you. He likes dogs.”

“I don’t like dogs that bite.” But he said the words in a pleasant, nonthreatening tone. “I didn’t hear him barking as we came up. I would have been better prepared.”

“He doesn’t bark. His larynx has been removed. He ‘barked too much.’” Her tone made the words a quotation.

“The bastard. Sometimes I’m ashamed to be human.” Moving slowly, Griff sank into a squat. “Right now, I’m ashamed to be a veterinarian.”

Arden nodded. “I know what you mean.” At the sound of her calm voice, Igor lowered his hackles a fraction. “Should I leave, do you think? Will he be worse or better with me here?”

Griff ran his gaze over her, from her sleek black hair to the tips of her pink-polished toes. “You won’t be able to stop him, whatever he decides to do. Maybe without you to protect, he’ll calm down.”

“Okay.” She petted the dog again, then straightened up and retreated toward the house. When Igor didn’t move, she gave Griff a smile and a thumbs-up, then stepped inside and closed the door.

Releasing the breath he’d been holding, Griff made his posture as unthreatening as possible. He didn’t want to sleep on the concrete floor of the porch, and the wicker chairs and love seat all looked creaky. The dog would have to let him into the house.

“Good boy, Igor. Let’s be cool, okay?” He lowered his hands to hang between his knees, in full sight. “Sounds like you’re a good dog. I used to be a good dog. And I guess I’m going home to be a good dog again. So we’re going to be good dogs together, all right?”

As far as Igor was concerned, he might have been saying, “Blah-blah-blah.” The tone mattered, though, and Griff kept it calm. “That’s it,” he said, as Igor’s lips lowered to cover his teeth. “No threat here. Just two good dogs, hanging out.”

Pottery and metal clinked inside the house, and the aroma of coffee soon filled the air. Step by step, Igor drew closer to Griff, who stayed motionless as the dog reached out to sniff at his toes, his fingers, his wrists.

“Good boy.” He lifted a finger to stroke the floppy ear.

Igor scooted backward. His upper lip curled again, revealing those bright white canines.

“Bad boy,” Griff told himself. “At this rate, the floor’s beginning to look pretty good.” The dizziness had evolved into a headache. His eyes burned and his stomach growled. “Terrific. I’m getting to enjoy the hangover without waiting for the morning after.”

“This will help.” Arden stepped forward and set a cup of coffee on a nearby table, along with three white pills. “I’m going to put Igor in the bedroom. Then you can come in and sleep on the couch.”

“That’s one way to protect your virtue,” Griff muttered as she led the dog away. “I’ll never get past Igor the man-eater.”

Not that he had any inclination to ravish the fair maiden. At this point, he could generate sufficient passion for only one pursuit—sleep.

After swallowing the aspirin, he left the mug of coffee half-finished and followed his desire onto the cushions of the gray leather couch in the living room. A pillow covered in soft pink cradled his head and a blanket in the same shade warmed his legs and shoulders.

Should’ve brushed off my feet, he thought hazily. Sand everywhere…

Lynnette Kent's Books