Sneak Peek – Book 1 of the Woodward Hill Mystery Romance Series
Book 1 of our Psychic Mystery Romance series is FREE for Valentine’s Day. Don’t have a date? Meet your new book boyfriend – Nikko “Nik” Sanna, our brooding hero who has a jaded past and a big heart for animals…and animal lovers.
How much mystery and mayhem can you handle? Scroll down to read the sneak peek and find out OR CLICK HERE to get Psychic Whispers for FREE.
But only for a limited time: February 11-15 (UK dates: Feb 12-16).
He burst through the front door. Wood rattled in the frame as he slammed and locked it before marching to the living room window.
Dawn peeked through the trees over the mountains, and he wrenched closed the heavy drapes. At the fireplace, he crammed twisted newspapers under the logs already stacked on the grate.
A tear trailed down his cheek, stinging the seeping scrape on his throbbing jaw. With a sniffle and a trembling hand, he struck the long blue-tipped match and held it to the kindling.
The fire crackled and spread.
Crossing the living room, he returned to the window and carefully peeked through slit between the curtains. No sign of witnesses. He fumbled his flip-phone from his back pocket to check the time and messages, only to find the glass was spiderwebbed, the gadget unresponsive.
He unbuttoned his soiled shirt and jerked it off his shoulders. The stench of earth, sweat and fear made him grimace, and he tugged off his boots and socks. Jeans and boxers were next, and he finished stripping by removing his undershirt.
Blood stained the thin cotton as he wiped off the lacerations on his knuckles. With the flames roaring high in the hearth, he tossed his clothes, one by one, into the fire along with the useless phone.
Naked and shivering, he sprinted up the stairs to the bathroom and cranked the faucet in the tub. His lungs pumped from the panic. He yanked the plunger to divert the water and stepped beneath the scalding spray.
The scratches on his neck stung. The bruises on his shoulder and ribs had blossomed a dark reddish purple. Squeezing his eyes shut, he pounded his fist against the tile.
The gash split, and new blood flowed down the back of his hand, dripping off the ends between his fingers.
Sliding down the wall, he slumped to his ass in the tub.
Chunks of grime floated in the sickly pink water, circling the drain as he curled into the fetal position and wept.
Nikko Sanna chewed the inside of his cheek from the end of the bar at the Quicksilver Bar & Grill. Elbow propped on the edge, he thrust his fingers through his hair and hung his head. His scalp complained as he fisted the strands.
With probate done and the last of the legal papers signed today, he and Dion could finally put their mother’s death behind them. And yet, nothing was ever that simple. The constant ache in his heart was proof enough.
Chugging the last of his beer, he tried dulling the pain and slammed the mug down on the counter. “I need another. And this time, I’ll take a whiskey chaser.”
“That’ll be round number four.” Randy gave him the stink-eye and grabbed the empty glass. Droplets sprayed as he dropped it in the soapy water. “Not too sure about you stumbling out of my establishment with a bad attitude and completely shit-faced.”
“Last I checked, you weren’t responsible for my sterling reputation.” Nik tapped the leftover ring of condensation. “Make it a JD.”
Randy shook his head, but tipped a frosted mug under the running tap. He slid over a shot of Jack Daniel’s and returned to his routine of buffing the shine on the bar’s glossy top.
Nik’s Apple iPhone buzzed and he flipped it face up to spot a text from his brother.
Kennel’s locked up. omw
He tapped send and continued nursing his beer. As the eldest of two, Nik had been the executor of their mother’s estate. Which meant, while he was at the lawyer’s office, Dion had been stuck alone at the kennel, holding down the fort for the day.
Grabbing the shot, Nik brought it to his lips and dumped the hard alcohol down his throat. The whiskey burned his esophagus. Warmth spread and tingled his ears.
A chorus of feminine squeals came from the door, and he glanced to the left as two women greeted a smiling blonde who’d just arrived with her redheaded date.
Nik swiveled his stool, searching the grain-soaked recesses of his brain for where he’d seen her freckle-nosed face before. The blonde’s date bounced on his toes and swooped toward the others, helloing everyone with a round of air kisses.
Okay, maybe instead of her significant other, the dude was one of the girls, after all. Not that she wasn’t stunning enough to turn every guy in the place into her personal lap dog. But for some screwy reason, he found it quite the relief there were still women this in this town that automatically didn’t come with a ring on their finger.
She withdrew from a hug with her dark-haired friend and locked onto Nikko across the distance.
Her cheeks pinked, lips curving with the hint of a smile. And three seconds of staring into her golden-brown eyes, he was ready to dive into those depths full throttle.
A huff reset the angle of his shoulders. But rather than alarm or the usual diversion of a rapid-fire blink, kindness remained centered in her gaze. Seemed weird he didn’t know how to process her attention after the loneliness of so many years.
Her red-headed counterpart stepped back with a frown and steadily tracked her stare across the floor. His eyes landed on Nik and his brows rose. Lashes fluttering, he whirled toward the blonde and squarely planted his elbow in her ribs.
She flinched and joined the conversation as they moved to a window table en masse. Though that certainly didn’t stop Nik from enjoying the view as he hunkered down and waited for his brother.
Jason Arbor slithered into Nik’s peripheral vision and he gritted his teeth through a groan. “Careful, ladies. Satan just entered the building.”
How in the hell had he missed that dick when he’d first walked into the bar? A sickening lead ball formed in Nik’s stomach, rife with memories he’d be happier to forget. Becoming friends with Arbor was one of the biggest mistakes Nik would forever regret.
It didn’t matter that he’d only been fifteen. How nothing but rumors had haunted his family since the news of his father’s death. Lashing out at everyone…being a rebellious teenager on the hunt for drugs hadn’t managed to fix a damn thing.
And Arbor had been right there to egg him on. Down every destructive step of that path.
Gulping his beer, Nik wished once and for all he could find a way to drown out the past. If it hadn’t been for his Uncle Karl, he would’ve easily ruined his life…and in the process, forced his brother and mother to walk that same devastating path along with him.
A snake-like grin curled Jason’s thin lips as he sauntered toward the blonde. Nik clenched his fists and muscle bunched in his thighs in preparation to hop off the seat.
The last thing he needed was to pretend to be a hero. Act as if he had any right to get involved. Tongues were already wagging about his mother’s sudden passing and the reasons behind it last month.
It hadn’t taken much for word of her accident to turn into speculations of suicide. If he stepped in now, Nik would be asking for trouble neither he nor Dion could afford.
The blonde tossed her head with a musical laugh and waved off a comment from the table. But with the way she was currently facing the window, she wouldn’t notice that slimy weasel’s approach.
Arbor scratched at the tribal tattoo on his right wrist, either jonesing or itchy from his high. The redhead guy finally glanced up just as Arbor set his hands on the blonde’s slender shoulders and leaned down to nuzzle her ear.
Nik shot to his feet at the same time her friend ratcheted up from his chair. His maroon hoodie slipped off the barstool, and he let it lay there on the floor.
If the redhead didn’t handle this in the next point-two seconds, Nik was diffusing the situation regardless of the risk or what anyone else had to say.
Finger extended, her friend jabbed Arbor’s chest, but the asshole easily pushed him aside. The blonde squirmed in her seat, trying to shrug out of Jason’s grip. With the background noise, Nik was at a loss to eavesdrop on their heated exchange.
Jason’s lips moved. No doubt spewing some lewd suggestion. The blonde gasped and Nik’s mouth dropped open as she drove her chair back with both legs.
Arbor stumbled, caught off guard by the move. And the best part was, it allowed plenty of room for her wind up and drive her fist into Jason’s stomach.
Nik sputtered. Go on with your bad self, girl.
Quickly recovering, Arbor straightened from his hunch, snarled and seized her face.
Oh, fuck no. Nik dodged the few patrons standing in his way and jabbed the blade of his hand into Jason’s throat.
The asshole staggered. Clawing at his neck. His other arm flailed as he teetered and tripped over the vacant chair on his left.
Rolling his eyes, Nik turned to the blonde and looked her up and down. Her long bangs angled past the curve of her cheek, and his first impulse was to reach up to brush them away from her pretty face. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, thanks. I think I’m all right.” She tugged on her blouse to straighten the buttons and shot a death glare at Jason. “What a jerk.”
“Eh? You showed him who was boss.” Nik smirked. “If I ever get lucky enough to run into you again, remind me to never piss you off.”
Biting her lip, she lowered her chin, but he still picked up on her smile.
Wood screeched against the floor, and Nik pivoted to Arbor as he coughed and climbed to his feet.
Great, here they went again. He advanced on Nik, his bloodshot eyes laced with murder. Gradually retreating, Nik raised his hands in an obvious show of surrender. “Chill out, dude. Pretty sure it’s time for you to take it somewhere else.”
And if that didn’t do the trick then Nik was primed to defend or strike.
“Mind your own fuckin’ buz’ness.” Swiping at his nose, Arbor wavered unsteadily. Several customers picked up their drinks and hightailed it out of their seats.
But it wasn’t as if Nik could blame them. Even three feet away, the guy reeked worse than rotting garbage that had baked in the sun for a week. “You made it my business the second you put your hands where they don’t belong.”
Nik glanced toward the door. And while he was at it, where was the bouncer? Any time now, he could do his job and help to bust this up.
Jason’s Adam’s apple bobbed as his head fell back and he aimed a grating cackle at the ceiling. “Oh, that’s hilar’ous. You think yer some kinna white knight?” His laughter faded and he finally faced Nik, his blown pupils hardening with anger. “Nice try when everyone knows yer the freakish offspring of a killer.”
Grief took a sledgehammer to Nik’s midsection. Fraying tendon and pulverizing bone. Leaving him half-blind with the unresolved rage he’d been fighting to erase from his memory for years.
A tense hush descended. Nearby conversations ebbed until they were gone.
Blood pumped in his ears over the beat of classic rock grinding from the jukebox in the corner.
Nik darted a dark scowl around the room and one of the Sierra Miwok Tribe stood from his booth on the far wall.
Nice. Nik sighed. He wasn’t any more interested in taking on that warrior than glancing at the blonde beauty behind him. There was too much of a chance he’d find the same judgment filling everyone else’s eyes.
Yes, his wound was old, but he’d become goddamned practiced at nursing it. His pride, however, had never fully healed, and under the strain of such caustic stares, those stitches were threatening to snap. “You’re high as a kite, Arbor. As usual, you got nothing but lies and your rancid breath to throw back in my face.”
Nik withdrew a few steps toward the bar before turning on his heel.
“Aw-w-w, you ready to run home to mommy? Oh wait, you can’t do that anymore. She went and threw herself off a ladder.”
Enough! Nik spun and pain exploded through his arm, his knuckles cracking against Jason’s jaw.
The room erupted into chaos. Shouts drowned out the music and thrashing bodies closed in on all sides.
Grabbing the front of Arbor’s flannel shirt, Nik hauled him up on his toes. “Don’t you ever mention my mother again.”
Hands grappled with his shoulders. Arbor clung to his wrists as Nik shook him like a ragdoll. “You so much as walk past her headstone and I swear to Christ, I will clean your clock into next week.”
A hard yank wrenched the collar of Nik’s t-shirt like a clothesline cutting into his throat. Arbor wrestled from his hold, regrouped and charged. Nik dodged, but wasn’t fast enough to avoid the incoming swing.
Stars lit up his vision, cheek bursting into flames. His teeth cut the inner flesh of his lip, and coppery blood flooded his tongue as he hailed a volley of jabs at Arbor’s nose.
Jason gurgled and a red wave gushed from his nostrils, staining his shirt and chin. The bartender pounced and dragged him out of Nik’s reach. A pair of solid arms lifted him off the ground.
In a series of tugs through the roiling confusion, Dion jostled him out the back door into the alley.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Raking his fingers through his curly black hair, his brother punched Nik’s shoulder once then twice. “A fight, Nik? Jesus, come on.”
But it was the disappointment on Dion’s face that cut deeper than any wound. A reminder of how often Nik had gone off the rails only to let his brother down once again. “Jason grabbed a woman by the face, D. What was I supposed to do? Just sit there an—”
“Leave it to the bouncer? Yes!”
Sirens bleeped along the street, and Nik rubbed his sore jaw as a squad rolled to a stop at the corner. “Yeah, good idea. Too bad he wasn’t anywhere to be found.”
“Then you should’ve gone to Randy and pointed out the trouble. For God’s sake, Nik. We’ve already got enough problems without you going all Rottweiler and adding more bullshit to our name.”
Nik grimaced, but kept his big mouth shut. His kid brother was right, of course.
He should have stayed where he was. Pretended not to notice or said something then. Or even better, as soon as Jason had made an appearance, Nik should’ve packed from the bar and left.
Shifting his weight, he tongued the split in his lip.
It was anyone’s guess what Arbor would’ve done if Nik hadn’t protected that girl.
The door swung open and Chief Karl Dixon stepped through, a big dose of disappointment crimping his brows, as well.
“Hey, Uncle Karl.” Dion moved to the side, giving the Chief a full view of the most worthless piece of shit in their lives.
“Okay, look. Before you say anything—”
“How much did you drink?” Uncle Karl planted his hands on his hips. His gun belt creaked from the added weight framing his protruding belly.
Dropping his chin, Nik scrubbed at his lids and his chest heaved with a sigh. “Four beers and a shot of JD.”
Dion’s grunt landed halfway between resigned and extremely pissed off.
“Listen, son.” The Chief removed his cowboy hat and shined the Woodward Hill PD badge along the length of his sleeve. “If you’re looking to blow off some steam, then you know this isn’t the way to do it.”
“It was Arbor. He—”
“I heard, I heard.” The Chief held up his calloused palm. “He started it by grabbing Inara Woodward. Randy told me the only reason you interfered was to come to her defense.”
Wait, Woodward? Nik tossed his hand in the air. Well, fuck.
“Is she okay?” Searching his Uncle’s pale blue eyes, he braced to hear the worst.
“Yes, she’s fine. Believe or not, that little drink of water can take care of herself. When I spoke to her, she said her cousin was waiting to take her home.” Karl jabbed his thumb over his shoulder. “Randy decided not to press charges on you, but he asked me to start the paperwork on Jason. I’m required to check if you wanna do the same. But I feel I should warn ya that can of worms includes a breathalyzer test. Not too sure it’s a good idea at this point.”
“Skip it, Nik.” Dion bumped his chin toward the door. “Leave Arbor with his broken nose and let the tox screen take care of the rest.”
“Best thing you could do is to find a soft bed and spend eight hours sleeping it off.” Uncle Karl jammed his hat onto his head. “I gotta go take care of this. I’ll check in with you boys at a later date.”
“Thanks, Uncle Karl.” Dion held out his hand and they shook. “Come on, bro. We’re calling it quits for the night.”
Nik nodded and fell in step beside his brother. Inara Woodward, huh?
He was nowhere near classy enough for the royal linage attached to that founding name. A lopsided grin tugged the corner of his mouth. Then again, she hadn’t really come off like a damsel in distress.
After centering her white lab coat on her tense shoulders, Inara shook out the trembling in her hands. The endless growling from the Pitbull in the kennel was wearing on her very last nerve.
“I was told this was your specialty.” The breeder crossed his arms, bent at the waist. Peeking inside the large portable carrier, he nudged the plastic corner with his boot. “Most of the dogs I rescued from the fighting pit have already been adopted. But Buster here is so darn aggressive, I’m having a hard time getting him placed. I took him to a few shelters, but they were either full or said they’d have to put him down. I’d hate to see that happen. Obviously, though, I might not have a choice since he’s a threat to anyone who comes near him.”
Lifting a brow, she leveled her gaze at the guy and waited for him to straighten. “He’s scared.”
Idiot. Not to mention hurt, infected, severely underweight and, if she had to guess, suffering the damage from an infinite amount of brutal psychological abuse.
Clearing her throat, she spoke loud enough to be heard over the Pitbull’s raw barking. “How long as he been like this, Mr. Jones?”
“Three days.” He shrugged. “And please, call me Stanley.”
But her beef wasn’t really with him. Thank goodness, he’d gone the extra mile to do his homework and ask around. “And I’m Inara. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the effort you took to bring him in.”
He cleaned his round glasses on the tail of his shirt before smoothing his graying combover. “So, is this the part where you do your hooky magic? Should I put on one of those leaded aprons or maybe take a seat in the other room?”
She blinked. And then stole a quick glance at the ceiling. “Um, I hate to disappoint, but it’s nothing so dramatic.”
“Oh.” Smiling, he jingled the change in his slash pockets and rocked forward on his toes. “Okay, then.”
Her nostrils flared as she forced a return smile and inhaled a calming breath. She crouched to peer into the animal carrier and the heat of her ponytail was a comforting weight fanning the width of her back.
Her anxiety spiked and her tongue grew pasty. The ends of her bangs tickled her scars, and she tucked them away from her cheek.
Saliva splattered from Buster’s loose jowls. The nasty gash across his swollen muzzle was oozing and crusted with blood. A crude bandage had been taped to his left hindquarter, only the edges protected by the dirty adhesive showing any signs that it had once been white.
He shuddered and tucked his tail under his body. His blue-gray coat was dull with grime. Paralyzing fear pulsed from his muscular frame, and the second she made eye contact with the animal, his barking intensified and increased.
Trapped! Trapped! Go! Go!
Inara frowned and pushed off from the tile, freeing her hair from behind her ear. Buster’s barking switched over to a feral growl interspersed with a high-frequency whine. “The file here’s not clear. How was it you came in possession of this dog?”
“Well, I originally sold him to this guy I heard has a good reputation for showing Pitbulls. But apparently, he got into some financial trouble and sold off the entire litter to the fighting pits. Once I found out, I did my best to have the place shut down, of course. Problem is, most of the dogs were killed in the scramble as soon as the police showed up.” Shuffling his feet, Mr. Jones shook his head. “They managed to take the pit manager into custody, but I feel horrible about what happened. Since Buster was one of a few to make it out alive, I’m really hoping you can help him.”
“I see.” With more clarity than Stanley Jones would ever get. The sheer primal terror emanating off of Buster was thicker than a vat of toxic sludge. Turning toward the metal table, Inara flipped the file closed. “If you wouldn’t mind, I need just a minute to confer with my associate.”
“Sure thing.” Mr. Jones nodded and, as she exited into the hall, Buster’s loud barking resumed. Three doors down, she twisted the knob and poked her head inside the office.
Seth sat back from the computer. Pinching the corner of his boxy black glasses, he slid the bridge down his nose.
The delicate chain attached to the sides pooled in the folds of his lab coat. One of his brows rose at what had to be the dark thunderclouds swirling around her head. “Damn, girl, you’re a splotchy gray mess. That bad, huh?”
She slumped and leaned against the frame, hugging the folder to her chest. “Bad doesn’t even begin to cover it. What did you pick up from the guy when you led him back into the room?”
“Concern, mostly. A little pink which can signify guilt.”
O-o-okay? That wasn’t informative in the least. “As in, he’s responsible for Buster’s condition and is worried we’re gonna find out? Or he feels responsible for Buster’s condition and is worried we’re gonna judge him for not being more careful about his clientele?”
“And welcome to my world.” Seth sighed. “You already know that’s not how auras work. But if I had to guess, I’d go with the latter. I can’t imagine Jones would go to the hassle of carting Buster in here if he was nervous about getting caught.”
True. Crossing to the desk, Inara slid some paperwork aside and hitched her hip on the edge. If that were the case, then any questions she had about her next move really weren’t up for debate.
“The bigger issue here is your insecurity about tackling the challenge.”
Uh, huh. “Remind me again why I keep you around?” She squinted into Seth’s pale green eyes. “Less than three seconds ago, you were just complaining that wasn’t how auras worked.”
He laughed and pried her death grip off the file, threading their fingers on her lap. “It doesn’t take an ability like mine to understand why you’re conflicted. No one would blame you for being scared after everything you’ve been through. But if memory serves, you’ve been saying for years this is the exact opportunity you’ve always wanted. That’s why you accepted the appointment in the first place, right? So you could face your fears and have the chance to finally put them behind you?”
Rhetorical questions. He knew exactly why she’d become a vet. Her gifts cured animals in all kinds of ways others with her knowledge could not…and was the very same reason Seth had insisted she buckle down and pursue her degree.
“You can do this.” He squeezed her fingers. “And if you decide it’s getting too hard, I promise you that’s still okay.”
Yeah, right. She stood and struggled for air, striding across the office to the door. If she failed, at least where Buster was concerned, she’d be handing that poor dog a death sentence. “I’m sweating like a pig.”
“Weak.” Seth buzzed like an insect and waved her off. “They barely sweat, so that proves I’m right and everything is going to be fine.”
Jones was leaning against the counter with his arms crossed as she entered, both hope and expectancy in his gaze.
“This will probably sound strange but, before we go any further, I need another moment with Buster.”
To make sure Seth’s confidence in her wasn’t misplaced.
To confirm she was strong enough to start down this road before it was too late to back out.
Kneeling beside the carrier, Inara peered through the cage side window. Buster’s gruff protests continued. He cowered on his haunches in the corner. She placed her hand on the plastic and the heat from his fever radiated into her palm.
A few heavy heartbeats, and he finally paused long enough for her to lock onto his ice-blue gaze.
The din of his barking faded. Her surroundings slowly disappeared.
Zooming through the tunnel of his irises, Inara eased back the curtain on his memories…and was nearly knocked on her ass from the pain.
A chain-link fence. Brown blood stains on a filthy concrete floor. Bleachers surrounding the enclosed ring of an arena. Hunger, thirst and a suffocating fear.
She choked at the smell. Urine and the stifling stench of body odor. The legs of two men kicked. Metal baseball bats swung, and she hissed at the yelps of breaking bones.
Buster fought to get away, but a sharp crack exploded through his left hindquarter. His howl of agony filled her ears. White-hot terror fueled his barking as another bat descended. A smarting tink and blood sprayed. The familiar taste of copper wet his nose.
A gate creaked open. The one called Rex stepped into the pit. He adjusted his black baseball cap and, beyond, lay freedom. A rectangle of light at the end of a long tunnel.
Rex pulled a gun from his hip and took aim. Bang! His arm jerked from the retort and Inara flinched. Trixie collapsed, her tongue lolling. Bang! Cobalt summersaulted over his face and fell limp.
Buster charged for the door, sprinting for the light. Bang! A sting tore through his leg, ripping it from beneath him. The ache spread and he was no longer sure-footed or strong.
Rex pointed the gun at the last Pitbull, Flint. One of the managers jumped into his way and—Bang! Red spread across the man’s white t-shirt. His bat clanged to the ground. Collapsing to his knees, he clutched his belly. Bang! Another man dropped. Bang! Flint flew through the air and landed in a heap.
Sirens blared. Buster panted and thrashed. Rex’s heavy boots thudded past and iron screeched as he pried open a grate in the floor.
He chucked the gun into the hole. Water splashed. Replacing the cover, he glanced over his shoulder and disappeared through an adjacent door.
Minutes later, several uniformed men filed around Buster and the edges of his vision closed in.
He lunged in the crate and Inara snatched her palm back. Get away! Stay away! No! No! Pain! Hurt!
Shaking like a leaf, she tried to stand and a lightning bolt shot down her ankle. Oof.
Mr. Jones quickly stepped in and helped her to her feet, lifting her by the elbow. “Wow, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” She patted his hand, scars throbbing on her cheek. Though he continued to hover as she hobbled over to the sink. Gritting her teeth through the phantom pain in her leg, she splashed some cold water on her face. “Who’s the asshole with the black baseball cap? Guy by the name of Rex?”
“How did you…?” His arms fell to his sides with a slap. “He’s the owner of the pit. They have him in custody on a pending murder charge, but they can’t seem to locate a weapon. He claims one of the managers shot the dogs and the other workers, and he somehow managed to escape.”
“He’s lying.” She tugged a few brown sheets from the dispenser and dried off her chin and neck. “He shot up the whole place. Tell the police the gun is at the bottom of the drain in the hallway. By the entrance. He stashed it in there before he took off.”
Jones clamped his mouth shut. Then frowned. “How do you know that?”
“He saw everything.” Inara pointed at Buster, straining to talk as his barking rose in volume once again. “Unfortunately, that also means it could take months before he’s rehabilitated. He’s been through a lot, Mr. Jones. And with all his trust issues, I’m not too sure how long it’ll be before I can give him back.”
“Whoa.” He held up his hands. “I get what you’re saying but, keep in mind, I don’t plan to be his permanent owner. Litters come and go, and so do the people, and a big portion of my business is word of mouth. All due respect, but I have to consider if a dog like that attached to my name is conducive to making a living.”
And yep, she was right back to her original thought. Idiot. “Then maybe the best option is to reevaluate at some point in the future. I’ll work with him for now, at my own expense, and once I feel he’s ready to be integrated, I’ll go ahead and give you a call.”
“Deal.” Mr. Jones stuck out his hand and they shook. “Thank you, Dr. Woodward. As an animal lover, I don’t want him to be euthanized, but his current condition puts me in a tough spot.”
“It’s okay.” She smiled and guided him toward the door. “I’ll let Seth know what we discussed and be in touch soon with a report.”
Stanley Jones left and Inara stared at the door before retracing her steps to the kennel.
Or maybe the joke was on her and she was the only dummy in the room.
“I know, buddy.” She went down on one knee. The same as always, it was easy for her to communicate with an animal after bridging that initial gap.
Hey, relax. I’m not going to hurt you. You don’t have to warn me to stay away. I promise to respect your space.
He lifted his chin with a few protracted yowls and finally settled on nervous panting.
There you go. You’re such a good boy.
Between the two of them, it was going to be a long uphill battle from here.
END SNEAK PEEK