If Dawn hadn’t already succumbed to Adam’s sexual allure, the sight that greeted her as she entered the barn would have sealed the deal right then and there. He wasn’t, as Phoebe had said, putting Gigi through her paces. On the contrary, he was lying on his back with his hands behind his head, allowing the puppy to crawl all over him. Gigi explored and licked and tugged at the buttons of his shirt, as sure of her reception as any adorable ball of fur had a right to be. And on the hay, too, straw itch mites be damned.
Dawn paused to watch, unwilling to draw too close for fear Adam would hear her and ruin the moment.
, she thought. Not just to crawl all over Adam as her mood and desires demanded—which, admittedly, she wanted a lot—but to elicit that relaxed look on his face, the expression of easy enjoyment. They enjoyed each other’s bodies, obviously, but they were never relaxed together. Never easy. Now that she thought about it, few men were with her.
“I know you’re there,” he said, not bothering to raise his voice. “So you can stop plotting all the ways you plan to make my life miserable.”
Dawn chuckled and took a step into the barn. Early-morning sunlight filtered through the weathered boards, highlighting dancing beams of dust and straw. The scent was musty but not unpleasant; this barn was used to store hay rather than animals, so it had a quiet, simple vibe that appealed to her.
“How could you tell?” she asked. “I didn’t make a sound.”
She fell into a crouch and extended a hand toward Gigi. Much to her dismay, the puppy showed a sudden hesitation, positioning herself behind Adam’s safe and solid body. “Gigi, love, it’s me. Remember? Your savior? The only person in the world who cared enough to rescue you in your hour of need?”
At the sound of her voice, Gigi’s ears relaxed but she still didn’t move from her position. Matters weren’t helped any when Adam sat up and scooped the puppy into his arms, holding her against his chest.
“I didn’t hear you,” he said. “I smelled you.”
“You smelled me?” She gave herself a tentative sniff. She’d been careful not to wear any scent this morning—not even in her deodorant. It was one of the drawbacks of being a puppy trainer. The little guys were already bombarded with so many stimuli and instructions. To confuse them with perfume at this stage in their lives was just cruel. “Is that supposed to be a hint? I’m not the one rolling around in the hay with a puppy.”
For the first time, Gigi noticed Uncle standing in the doorway to the barn and wriggled out of Adam’s arms. With a sprightliness that was heartening to see, she pounced over to the much larger dog and began coyly nipping at his legs.
“Uh-oh,” Dawn said. “It seems you’ve got a troublemaker on your hands.”
“Is she flirting with Uncle again?” Adam asked and hoisted himself to his feet. Straw clung to every part of him, dangling like rustic jewels from his rolled-up flannel. “Typical. The women in my life are fickle creatures.”
“If this is where you declare your intention to name her Dawn again? Don’t worry—I got the message the first time around. I’m not worth the twelve hundred dollars you’ll get for me at market.”
A shadow passed over his face, a frown that seemed more serious than the conversation warranted. “You don’t smell like anything.”
She blinked. “What?”
“That’s how I knew it was you. You have a very particular nonscent.”
She wasn’t done with the other conversation—the one that implied she was fickle—but she allowed herself to be distracted. “How can someone have a nonscent? The absence of smell is just air. That doesn’t make sense.”
“No,” he agreed and rolled his shoulders. “It doesn’t. But it’s true nonetheless. Well? What’s on the puppy-training agenda for today? I got Phoebe to clear me two hours this morning, but Zeke and I need to do a full herd check later. We’ve got a few late breeders who’ll be calving any day now.”
“Aw. Baby cows?”
His mouth firmed in a hard line. “Yes. They’re adorable and small and all things delightful. Well?”
She sighed, feeling more dejected by his reaction to her arrival than she cared to admit. As usual, she was more of a burden than a benefit, a not-altogether-welcome break in the day. Adam needed her——but there would soon come a time when that would no longer be the case.
She blamed that feeling, that pang of inevitability, for what came out of her mouth next.
“I thought we’d begin with a quick blow job in the back of the barn to get things loosened up,” she said without a trace of inflection. “Then we should probably do some basic skills training with both puppies before introducing Uncle to one or two of the cows. Just to start. We can bring in the whole herd later.”
Adam coughed until his face began to suffuse with red. “That’s not what I had in mind.”
“I know, but it’s best to get him used to the animals a few at a time. He’s never seen a cow before, so it’s impossible to tell how he’ll react. For all we know, he might take one look at them and think he’s at an all-you-can-eat hamburger buffet.”
(C) 2020, Lucy Gilmore, Sourcebooks Casablanca, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Forever Home #3
These adorable service puppies
are matchmakers in the making…
Dawn Vasquez never takes life too seriously. But when she rescues a golden retriever named Gigi, Dawn begins to imagine what it’d be like to settle down and let someone rely on her for a change. Unfortunately, Adam Dearborn–a handsome, hopelessly buttoned-up cattle rancher in need of a guide dog–has also fallen in love with the little ball of fluff and stubbornly insists that no other animal will do.
Adam isn’t sure what drives him to fight to keep Gigi for himself, but he suspects it has something to do with his growing–and unfortunate–attachment to Dawn. Her whirlwind spirit and sunny disposition might make her a delight to be around, but they also make her unsuited for the difficult life of a rancher. He should be able to put her out of his head. But what’s a love-struck cowboy to do when what he wants and what he needs have never seemed so far apart? And can he allow himself to take a chance on everything Dawn has to offer: puppy kisses, puppy love…and her.
Service Puppies Series:
Puppy Love (Book 1)
Puppy Christmas (Book 2)
Puppy Kisses (Book 3)
About Lucy Gilmore
Lucy Gilmore is a contemporary romance author with a love of puppies, rainbows, and happily ever afters. She began her reading (and writing) career as an English literature major and ended as a die-hard fan of romance in all forms. When she’s not rolling around with her two Akitas, she can be found hiking, biking, or with her nose buried in a book.