Can Theo outmaneuver her high school nemesis, a persistent ex-boyfriend, and a wayward pup to win the affections of the town’s newest vet?
Theo decides to give up on love when she catches her sister in bed with her husband. Instead of blaming her sister or her husband, she blames herself, divorces her husband, distances herself from her sister, and shuts her heart to love.
Her son inadvertently pushes her back into the dating game when he drops off his puppy, Ollie, as he heads out to deployment abroad. He fails to inform her that the puppy isn’t even close to being trained or even somewhat obedient.
Ollie brings the dating-phobic Theo into contact with Westvale’s hottest bachelor, Dr. Brent Knight. Despite her best friend Lorna’s urging to go after him, Theo hangs back due the eleven year age gap and her past romantic history, but it doesn’t stop Ollie from barreling ahead.
When her high school rival Jenny shows up, Theo decides to fight for her man with comic and passionate results.
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Read an excerpt:
Thursday rolled around before she realized. As she opened her mailbox and retrieved her mail, she found a postcard addressed to Ollie, thanking him for coming to the vet. Cute, it was a good way to guarantee repeat customers with an extra touch. She wondered if the sloping handwriting belonged to Brent. Did he write this card or did his receptionist? Since she could read it, she figured it must have been the secretary. The card reminded her of the dog training class. Maybe she would go. Maybe he would be there. With hope in mind, she hurried into the house to redo her makeup.
An hour later, Theo rolled into the parking lot with an unhappy Ollie in his dog carrier. He’d made his discontent known by whining the entire five miles. She sat for a moment not sure she came to the right place. All sorts of cars started turning into the parking lot, Camrys, Impalas, an occasional BMW, and one huge monster truck. They all parked and began the process of unloading their canines. A huge Great Dane towered over smaller mop-like dogs, while the monster truck woman had a dog bearing a startling resemblance to the guardian of the underworld. Monster truck woman showed a great deal of leg and ass as she struggled to prevent her dog from devouring the other dogs. Why a woman would wear a mini skirt to a dog training class was beyond Theo’s comprehension. Then she surveyed the other women walking into the armory.
The platinum blonde teetered on heels so high a female impersonator must be missing a pair. The redhead with the Rottweiler showed enough cleavage to be on a Hooters’ calendar. Was that Jenny McAbee, her old roommate, in the snakeskin-patterned pants, adhered to her body like a second skin? Slutty week at the dog training class and she did not get the memo? Her old Levis and college t-shirt made her look like she came to have a little discipline instilled in her dog as opposed to show off her wares.
By the time she entered the building, Ollie twisted at the end of the leash doing his best impression of demon possession. The clutch of women encircling a table ignored their dogs. A Yorkie chewed on its leash while a mutt humped a poodle. At the edge of the group, Cujo stood eyeing the group deciding whom he would attack, until Ollie barked. He issued a challenge to the massive dog perhaps feeling safe with Theo by his side. Probably, no thought involved at all, just stupidity. Cujo lunged, yanking the leash out of his owner’s hand.
The snarling dog ran at her. Death, painful death flashed through her mind, and Ollie’s too since he wound his leash around her ankles and whimpered. Theo’s memory failed her as she tried to remember how to avoid a dog attack. She knew it didn’t have anything to do with having her ankles tied up by a whimpering rat dog. Amid the dogs’ barks, women’s gasps registered along with the monster truck woman yelling.
“Bundy, Ted Bundy, stop!”
Did she seriously name her dog after a serial killer? It might be appropriate.
A high-pitched whistle halted her imminent demise in its tracks. The crowd parted to reveal Brent vaulting over a table. In a few running steps, he grabbed Bundy’s collar, jerked back, and commanded the dog to sit, which it did. Amazing.
A swell of mutterings began to build as Theo unwrapped a whimpering Ollie from her ankles. Bundy’s owner had him on a short leash, her mouth pulled in to an obstinate line indicating she didn’t like what she heard when Brent’s voice rang out loud and clear.
“Please leave. Your dog is not socialized enough to participate in a group setting.” He pointed in the direction of the doors as if to emphasize his directive.
Jenny McAbee wandered over to Theo’s side. “Not socialized, my foot. That dog should be put down.”
Nodding her agreement, Theo’s eyes tracked the dog named after the serial killer until the door closed behind him. She didn’t want to take a chance on him turning and catching her off guard as he took another charge at Ollie.
“You okay?” Brent put a hand on her shoulder as he came up behind her.
She recognized Brent before he even touched her, starting the same familiar tinge and accompanying chain reaction. Besides, Brent was only male in the room. Wait, a man stood by the door with a Labrador and a grin. God, no. Don’t let it be Bruce McCormick, the ex-boyfriend who would not fade away quietly.
She should answer. “Um, yeah.”
“Good.” Brent gave her shoulder a squeeze, catching Bruce’s attention as he walked back to the registration table.
Jenny moved closer to her as if to whisper and then spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. “Look, it’s Bruce, your old beau.”
“He’s not my beau,” Theo ground out as Bruce made a beeline toward her.
The other women fluttered and a few called out greetings. Bruce’s broad shoulders, strong chin, and toothpaste grin tended to make women act silly and girlish. Unfortunately, his good looks hid his lack of personality and critical thinking skills. If he had any ability to think he would realize when Theo told him last year she did not ever want to see him again after their third disastrous date, she meant she really didn’t want to see him. Instead, he used every accidental public encounter to promote the idea of a follow-up date. Theo never fooled herself into thinking she existed as Bruce’s great love, but realized his ego could not deal with a woman actually walking away.
Bruce waved vigorously, pulling a resistant Lab behind him. Good thing Bruce had heft on his side. Only a big man could not make a full-grown Labrador go where it didn’t want to go. “Theo, it is so good to see you. I missed you. Memories of our last date keep me up at night.”
His overloud voice and words made her cringe. He knew how it would sound to the surrounding people. What did she do that kept a man up at night reliving the moments? Could have been when she told him to piss off. One woman caught her eye and winked. Ugh, one person alert to Bruce’s game. Why he insisted on acting this way made no sense. He could easily date any woman in the room, but he still pursued her.
After staring death in the canine mouth, the class itself seemed anticlimactic. Ollie trotted around in a circle without growling or barking. In fact, he seemed to be the best-behaved dog in the whole place. Brent turned out to be the instructor, which allowed him to promote his own vet clinic and pass out cards. As far as actually talking to Brent, it didn’t happen. It could be because her old classmate Jenny glued herself to his side, not allowing him out of arm’s reach. The benefit of a small town was not only did you know everyone, but also you knew how they operated. Once Jenny McAbee sets her sights on a man, only a fool would intervene.
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