Page 25

 Kristen Ashley

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I loved dogs. I wanted a dog. I just wanted to start with a puppy and I didn’t want a puppy chewing on exposed wiring and getting electrocuted so I’d start my first tenure as Puppy Parent by digging a Puppy Graveyard in my garden.
“Yeah, I like dogs,” I confirmed.
“Good. Thought so,” he muttered, then, “Buford is a bloodhound. He’s sweet. He loves everybody, but, just so you know, he hogs the covers.”
I started giggling.
Then I asked, “Donna?”
“Neighbor. She looks in on Buford when I’m out.”
“Oh,” I mumbled and stopped giggling, thinking about Donna, neighbor to a man that was all the man that was Jacob and how I’d also look after the unknown Buford while Jacob was out, and even offer to do it when he was in.
“She’s also married to an ex-Bronco defensive lineman,” he went on, telling me he knew why I quit laughing.
The giggle came back and through it I repeated, “Oh.” Then, “You named a bloodhound Buford?”
To that, smile in his voice, I got, “You name a Bronco Elrod or Cletus. You name a bloodhound Buford. It’s the law.” That got him another giggle and I could still hear the smile when he said, “Now I gotta go. I’ll be around this afternoon with the keys, directions and my security code.”
“Okay, Jacob.”
“Stay away from McFarland,” he demanded.
That wouldn’t be hard to do. That was already on my itinerary for the day.
“You got it.”
Another smile in his voice when he said, “Later, Emme.”
“ ’Bye, honey.”
We disconnected. I put my phone down and grabbed the piece of paper I’d been scribbling on before I called him. I crossed off tortillas, cheese, ground beef and refried beans and added munchies and brownie mix.
Then I went back to work.
* * *
Seven and a half hours later…
The black and tan bloodhound Buford following me, I wandered Jacob’s living space.
I did this lips parted, eyes big, shocked to the core.
I stopped in his sunken great room, the view from his two-story panoramic windows awe-inspiring. And not just the unhindered vision of the purple mountains majesty I could see silhouetted in black against the midnight blue of the starry sky. But also the pool that was heated if the steam coming up from it was anything to go by, and it had a light that gave its tranquil waters a slow shift through a variety of colors including purple, blue, green and pink.
And that wasn’t even getting into the flagstone patio and awesome patio furniture.
It was amazing.
Jacob might not have been paid much before for whatever mysterious dealings he dealt, but he clearly moved up the food chain.
High up.
Buford’s wet nose touched my hand and I looked into his adorable black and tan droopy-eared, droopy-skinned face with its lolling pink tongue.
Then I told him, “You didn’t know her but, trust me, Elsbeth was really, really stupid.”
Buford’s tail wagged.
I gave him a head scratch for doggie-agreeing with me.
My phone in my purse rang.
I dug it out and saw the display said “Jacob calling.”
I took the call by proclaiming, “You live in a showplace.”
“What?” he asked.
“Your house is huge and beautiful.”
“And you have an unhindered view of the mountains.”
“So do you.”
I ignored that and carried on.
“And you have a heated pool.”
“With a wheel of pretty lights.”
“You failed to tell me I should bring a bathing suit.”
“You’re sleepin’ in my bed the first time without me. You do not get in that pool for the first time without me.”
And another full-body spasm.
“I take it you’re in and you’re settled,” he remarked, explaining the call.
“Buford has a droopy face and it’s cute,” I said as confirmation, looking down at his dog who again wagged his tail.
“You’re in and settled,” he muttered, then, louder, “I gotta go.”
“Okay, honey.”
“Eat what you want. Got lots of DVDs. Whatever. Yeah?”
“Sleep good.”
“Okay, be safe.”
“Right. Later, Emme.”
“Later, Jacob.”
We disconnected.
I looked down at Buford.
“Let’s check out Jacob’s bedroom,” I suggested.
He got up from sitting like he knew what I was saying.
We checked out Jacob’s bedroom.
It. Was. Awesome.
I stood in the middle of its awesomeness, bent slightly, scratching Buford’s head, staring at the (unmade but still fantastic) huge bed with its cream comforter cover with black piping, black sheets and cream shams (with black piping). This color scheme was used throughout the room, giving it not a small amount of seriously classy masculine appeal.
My eyes fell on the kaleidoscope on his nightstand.
He did keep it by the bed.
I felt my lips tip up.
Then I commented to Buford, “I think you’re good. No way you could hog all those covers.”
Buford had no reply.
Five hours later, I’d find out I was wrong.
* * *
Nineteen hours later…
“You okay?”
I burst out laughing.
“Babe,” Jacob called through my laughter.
I got control of it and when I did, I saw the piles of rolled insulation that now filled two of my upstairs rooms, one of which I was standing in the door of.
“Just calling to confirm delivery,” I told him.
“Good. Now go back to my house,” he ordered.
“No bathing suit.”
“Gotta go.”
I stopped trying to get out his name seeing as it seemed he was in the middle of something important and said, “Okay, honey. See you tomorrow.”
“Text me when you get to my house,” he replied, then, “And yeah, babe. Tomorrow. But, way things are going, good chance I’ll be home tonight.”
But I’d be at his house tonight.
With him there!
Before I could begin a discussion about this, Jacob said, “Later, Emme.”
I knew he was in the middle of something important (or guessed), so all I could do was say, “ ’Bye.”