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“You okay?” As I hear the concern in Lucas’s voice, my eyes meet his.

“Yeah.” I clear my throat. “Great, actually.”

His eyes roam my face, and his expression fills with understanding. “What are your plans for tomorrow evening?”

“I’m thinking about going to the pound tomorrow. If I do find a dog, I might be attempting to win him or her over with lots of attention.”

“You’re gonna do that tomorrow?”

“Maybe.” I shrug.

“Do you want me and Madeline to go with you?”

My eyes move to Madeline’s sleeping face, and I slide some of her hair off her forehead, tucking it behind her ear.

“I’d like that, if you’re not busy.”

“We’re just hanging around the house tomorrow. I know without even asking her that Madeline would love to go. Fawn has a dog that Madeline adores. She’s always asking when she can get a puppy of her own, so this will be the next best thing.”

“Then I’d love it.”

“After we do that, we can go back to my place. I’ll cook you dinner and wow you with my Hamburger Helper.”

“A meal from a box has never sounded more appealing.” I grin at him, and he smiles back just as the cab driver pulls up in front of my building.

“Kiss me, babe,” he orders, holding my hand tighter as my other hand reaches for the door handle. My pulse skyrockets as I lean over the top of Madeline’s head and place my mouth against his softly before pulling away. “Message when you’re locked in. I’ll call you as soon as I get her to bed.”

“Sure,” I agree.

He lets me go. I get out and head toward the front door, then look over my shoulder and see that the cab hasn’t pulled away. Lucas’s eyes are locked on me. With a small wave, I head inside and then go upstairs to my place.

I send Lucas a text, then get ready for bed. I’m looking forward to my phone call from him tonight—and seeing him and Maddi again tomorrow. I know I should be worried that we are moving too fast, that this is too good to be true, but I’m willing to take the risk. I’m willing to put myself out there because I know I will regret it if I don’t at least see where this thing between Lucas and me will go.

Chapter 8



“What do you think of the name Merida?” Madeline asks.

I smile while I’m browning beef for my version of Hamburger Helper. I call it “my” version because I use the box’s seasonings but add a can of cream of broccoli soup and a bag of mixed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. The first time I made it like this was in the hopes I could get Maddi to actually eat vegetables without throwing a fit. Thankfully, it worked.

“Like the princess from Brave with red hair?” Courtney asks.

I’m a little surprised that she knows the princess from a Disney movie—but also for some odd reason not surprised at all.

“Yes, she’s my favorite. I want to learn to shoot a bow and arrow just like her,” Madeline replies.

Both girls are lounging on the couch with the dog Courtney adopted today between them. The dog is round and short, with rusty-red hair that’s curly in some spots and straight in others. With dark, wide-set eyes that are a little uneven and an underbite that shows off one missing tooth, the dog is so ugly she’s kind of cute.

This morning, when I told Madeline what our plans were for the day, she was champing at the bit to get to Courtney’s apartment. We ended up leaving our place an hour before we were supposed to. I made sure to call Courtney to let her know we were on our way, and when we got to her place she made us breakfast: pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. The pancakes were in the shape of hearts. I knew Courtney made them that way just for Maddi, who loved them.

After eating and cleaning up, we went across town to the ASPCA. As soon as we arrived, we were taken to the kennels. I honestly didn’t think Courtney would find a dog to adopt on the spot. I thought she would need some time to decide if she really wanted to own a dog, but I was wrong. As soon as the volunteer stopped in front of a scraggly-looking mutt and told us that the pup had been there for over five months without finding a home, both my girls fell in love. I suggested that we take the dog for a walk to make sure she was the right fit, so we took her to a park near the animal shelter. Courtney and Madeline played with her for over two hours. Watching both girls with smiles on their faces, running with the dog, throwing the ball, and just having fun, I knew that even if Courtney didn’t adopt the dog, I would go back and pick her up. When we finally took her back inside, I wasn’t surprised by Courtney’s immediate decision to adopt. After we filled out the necessary paperwork, we went to the pet store for supplies before heading to my place. The moment we got in, both girls and the dog went to the couch. I started dinner.

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