The Good Luck Sister (Wildstone #1.5)

The Good Luck Sister (Wildstone #1.5)

Jill Shalvis

Chapter 1

I’ve finished my free trial of adulthood and am no longer interested, so please cancel my subscription.

—from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

Tilly Adams sat in the vet’s office staring at the doctor in shock. “Say that again?”

Dr. Janet Lyons smiled. “I think Leo faked being sick. Probably so you’d stay home from work today.”

Tilly looked down at Leo. “You do know he’s a dog, right?”

All six pounds of him smiled up at her. About a month ago, she found him on a street corner hiding beneath a bus bench; wet, dirty, cold, hungry and matted. He’d been Dobby meets Gremlin meets neglected, abused Care Bear. Tilly had looked around for an adult, and then had to remind herself that at twenty-five years old, she was legal herself. So then she’d searched for an adultier adult, but she’d been the only one in sight.

So she’d scooped the little guy up and had brought him to the SPCA, who’d said he was about five weeks old, a possible Maltipoo, which meant he came by his Care Bear look naturally. He was malnutritioned and suffering from mange. They’d said they’d do what they could, and Tilly had turned to go. That had been when she’d seen all the eyes on her from an endless row of cages . . . and she’d realized her Care Bear would soon be sitting in one too. Then she’d heard herself offer to foster him until they found him a forever home.

They’d found him one too. Tilly had signed the adoption papers last weekend in spite of the fact that just that morning he’d escaped his crate, eaten her favorite sneakers, destroyed her favorite pillow, and then yakked up the stuffing from the pillow.

He was a destructo of the highest magnitude, and something else too. He had no idea how small he was. He went after her sister Quinn’s twenty-plus pound cat and her neighbor’s hundred pound black lab with the same fierce, fearless gusto. Turned out, the little guy had a bad case of small-man syndrome, which was how he’d earned his name.

Leo, short for Napoleon.

And now on top of Leo’s impressive chewing skills, his escape artist skills, and his ability to get up on her bed and yet still not understand why stepping in his own poop was annoying, he had a new skill.

He’d faked being sick.

Proud of himself, Leo smiled up at her. Smiled. An hour ago he’d been coughing and limping and acting all sorts of odd. Now he just kept smiling up at her while sending her meaningful glances at the open dog biscuit bin between her and the doctor.

Dr. Lyons laughed and gave him one.

“Dogs can’t fake sick,” Tilly said while Leo inhaled the biscuit whole before licking the floor to make sure he got all the crumbs. “Can they?”

Dr. Lyons scooped him up and gave him a kiss on his adorable snout. “Yours did.”

Tilly sighed. It was too early for this. She’d had a crazy late night. Not hanging at Whiskey River, the local bar and grill. Not at a club with friends. Not working on her designs for the upcoming graphic art showing.

Nope, she’d been on a serious stress bender—a marathon of Game of Thrones. She hadn’t fallen asleep until after two and her alarm had interrupted her in the middle of a really great dream starring Jon Snow.

Dr. Lyons handed Leo over. He immediately snuggled into the crook of Tilly’s neck and dammit, her cold heart melted on the spot and she hugged him close. “You’re sure he’s okay? He was coughing. And then he limped funny. And then he wouldn’t eat.”

“But he hasn’t coughed once that I’ve seen. And he’s not limping either. And you said all his food vanished while you took a quick shower.”

“Yes,” Tilly said.

Dr. Lyons waited for her to catch up.

Tilly sighed. “He really did fake me out.”

“You mentioned you’ve been working long hours in the studio, right? And also taking extra shifts at Caro’s Café. And now you’re teaching art at the community college as well. I think Leo’s lonely. Take him to work with you today and see what happens.”

“It’s my first day teaching.”

The vet smiled. “He’ll warm up your students for you.”

That, or eat their shoes. Tilly sighed and put Leo in his little carrier bag that doubled as her purse. She paid the office visit tab with her already loaded credit card, and got in her car.

Wildstone was a small California coastal and ranching town that sat in a bowl between the Pacific Coast and wine country. She’d grown up here, a wild child who favored riding her bike through the oak-covered rolling hills or hiding in the bluffs above the ocean to school work and social niceties. She’d been raised by her mom until she’d passed away when Tilly had been fifteen. Her older sister, Quinn, had come to live with her and took over parental duties.

Tilly hadn’t been exactly welcoming. In fact, she’d been a nightmare. She’d thought she’d been so original, but the truth was, she’d been a classic cliché, ignoring curfew, sneaking out, “borrowing” the car and then crashing it . . . but somehow she and Quinn had fumbled their way through.

And Tilly had gone on to become an adult, as dubious as that seemed at the moment as she raced to school with a foster fail puppy in her purse. She’d come back to Wildstone after graduating college a few years ago. She’d had a few stints at the local art fairs, but nothing had come of them and she’d gotten her teaching credential to pay the bills. Somehow in the doing of that, she realized she’d given up the big artist dream in order to have a roof over her head and food in her belly.

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