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May I Present:
Pain blossomed in more than one spot as my elbows and palms hit the cement and my head whacked into the decorative stone edging that lined the grass. Thor yelped as my dead weight kept him from getting any farther, then doubled back to see what was wrong and stomped all over me at least three times before settling on my head. By the time my senses cleared, I was so tangled in leash and puppy I couldn’t even figure out where to start. My head and arms throbbing didn’t help at all.
“Thor, get off,” a firm voice said.
I thought I wanted to die when I got gum in my hair, or soda ice down my shirt, or an ice cream pedicure. Those were nothing compared to having to be rescued from an over-enthusiastic puppy by Roman Carpenter while covered in dirt, grass, and blood. It was a miracle I didn’t give up right then and just start crying. I loved my nephews, but I was never going to be able to show my face in this neighborhood again.
The heavy weight of the squirming—and rather large—puppy was finally removed from my face. I heard Roman ask one of the boys to hold the leash, but I kept my eyes closed out of pure shame. Not until a pair of hands pressed against my face did I even dare to breathe. Even then, it was a gasp at the urgency behind the touch.
“Greenly, are you okay?” Roman demanded.
The hint of worry in his voice forced me to peel my eyelids apart. I peeked up at him through half-opened eyes and was startled not to find him laughing at me again. There was real, honest fear in his expression and it left me speechless.
“Are you okay?” he repeated.
Breathe, Greenly. “Yeah, uh huh. Yep.”
He just stared at me for a moment. Probably because I sounded ridiculous. “Are you sure?” he asked.
I tried to sit up in order to prove I was just fine. The sting of putting my hands on the ground made me hiss and I felt a little woozy when I tried to move.
“Whoa, whoa,” Roman said, which made me feel a little like a horse. “Don’t move. Let me help you.”
Great, just great. I tried again to sit up on my own. “Really, I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” Roman said as his arms slid beneath my arms and legs.
I experienced an irrational moment of panic, not because the idea of Roman carrying me off somewhere was frightening, but because being this close to him would expose everything about me I hadn’t already managed to bare. He lifted me easily and my breath caught as he adjusted his arms and I felt momentarily unsupported. Then his grip rolled me against his chest, to a place of absolute security. I don’t think I took a single breath as he walked up to the house.
About the Author
DelSheree Gladden was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.
Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.
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Former fireman Larry Davison covers his burn scars well, by working at an elementary school as a custodian where he finds a lost hound dog behind the dumpster. Fashion designer Jenna Hart is in town to do a charity fashion show when she loses her top model, Little Treat.When Larry turns up with the puppy, she asks him to be in the show and bachelor auction. Larry’s not sure he belongs in a fashion show and balks at being her good deed. Can Jenna convince Larry beauty is never skin deep and love’s arrow strikes not only the beautiful, but the bold?
A piercing wind blew as he lifted the dumpster lid, threatening to blow it down. Larry held the lid with one hand and hefted the trash bag into it. Letting the lid slam, he turned toward the warmth of the building.
Something moved near the dumpster, darting behind it. Probably a rat. He should set traps, but not tonight. The wind whined and howled as he opened the door.
Another whine and something furry touched the back of his leg. It was a puppy, likely a basset hound, with a brown and black patchwork face and white paws.
“What’cha doing here, boy?” Larry bent down and held his hand out for the puppy to sniff. There was no collar, but the puppy appeared well groomed and plump. “Did you get lost?”
The puppy licked his hand, and Larry scooped him up. “I bet you’re hungry. Tomorrow I’ll put up a poster. See if anyone lost you.”
He rubbed the puppy’s head and long ears while the puppy licked his jowls and yawned. How could he resist such cuteness?
# # #
“I can’t believe I lost him,” Jenna cried on the phone to her sister, Melisa. “One minute, he was following me to your apartment building, and the next minute he disappeared.”
“Following you?” Melisa glanced at Rob who was driving her home from work. “Didn’t you have him on a leash?”
“The leash and collar were in the shopping bag. I don’t have five hands. I was carrying him and then when I got to the security door, I had to put him down to punch in the code.”
“Couldn’t you have set the bags down?”
“No, that little rascal would have stuck his nose in and stolen a chicken strip.”
“Rob and I are on our way. You stay put and we’ll help you look.”
“Okay, hurry. It’s getting dark, and he’s only a tiny little puppy. I’ve already run all around your building but no one’s seen him.”
“Maybe he went back home. Where did you get him?”
“The rescue center down near where you work. But there’s no way he could have made it back. He’s so tiny and there’s so much traffic.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll find him,” her sister said. “We’re almost home.”
“Good. I don’t know how much more stress I can take. What with the show, the firemen not cooperating, and now my model gone.”
“Model? Which one?”
“Little Treat, the puppy.” Jenna couldn’t help pulling at her hair. “He’s my signature piece.”
“Signature piece? Wait? What about the gowns and the outfits?”
“Those are a mess. I need to get back home and sew, sew, sew.”
“Then what are you doing with a puppy?” Her sister’s voice took on a motherly, or was it a teacherly, tone. How was it that Melisa was younger than her and so calm?
“He’s supposed to be Connor’s bribe so the firemen can undress for my show!” Jenna wailed. “Now, the show will be a flop, all because I lost Little Treat.”
About the Author
Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it’s within the pages of a book. Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, and A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award.