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“Because I respect him. Training dogs has as much to do with your attitude and behavior as it does theirs. He knows you don’t respect him, and he’s telling you that you should,” Best said.

Oliver smacked Jorge upside the head as he went to retrieve the leash from Best.

“Yo, that’s abuse!” Jorge said.

“Stop being a pussy,” Darrel snapped.

Oliver grinned as Jorge spluttered. They had been training for eight days now, and Darrel had finally started to relax and come out of his shell. He also had a knack for putting the dogs at ease, talking to them in low tones. All the dogs responded to him, even Beast.

It was just Oliver who Beast still wasn’t listening to.

At home, it was different. After their first night and day together, Oliver hadn’t let Beast out of his sight. He took the big old dog everywhere with him, even in the shower. And though he’d never admit this to anyone, he had even given Beast a thorough scrub down with some dog shampoo he’d bought. Despite their current battle during training, Oliver had actually grown attached to the big mutt.

Now, if only Beast would follow one simple command.

At this point, Oliver was ready to give up, but Eve’s smiling face crept into his mind each time he considered it. She’d called him every day, asking how his to-do list was going, but as professional as she tried to keep it, the conversation would eventually stray to training Beast. And when he’d say he just wasn’t cut out for it, she’d tell him not to give up, that eventually Beast and he would find their rhythm.

Oliver wasn’t as confident, but he wanted to make Eve happy.

“How do I show him that I respect him?”

Best pulled a bag of dog treats and a ball from his backpack and handed them to Oliver. “Positive reinforcement. Show him you like him and that you appreciate when he does something right.”

Oliver put the bag

in his pocket and held up the ball. “Okay, dude, I am at the end of my rope with you. You gotta meet me halfway, so if you want the ball, sit.”

Beast’s gaze shifted from him to the ball, and then he slowly sat.

“Good boy,” Oliver said, keeping his voice low. “Here you go.”

Oliver threw the ball, shocked at how fast Beast was. The brown blur of his body whizzed across the lawn and caught the ball in his mouth in seconds. He seemed to be contemplating whether or not to come back when Oliver called, “Come.”

“Five to one he takes off running again,” Tommy said. Oliver ignored him, refusing to break eye contact with Beast.

Beast tilted his head with the bright green ball hanging out the side of his mouth and finally started trotting back toward him.

When he stopped in front of Oliver and sat, Oliver hooked his leash on and took the ball from him. “Good dog.”

Loud whoops and cheers emitted from the group of boys until Best yelled, “Knock it off!”

Beast’s body shook, and Oliver could tell he was dying to run, but still he stayed seated. Oliver pulled a treat from his pocket and held it out for Beast, who took it gently from his palm. “Now, I’m going to put your leash down and I want you to stay.”

Beast remained relaxed while Oliver set his leash on the ground. “Stay.” Oliver stood up and took two steps away, surprised when Beast didn’t move.


Beast stood and lumbered over, plopping down at his feet expectantly.

This time, even Best applauded, and Oliver squatted down, taking Beast’s head between his hands and rubbing his floppy ears. “Good boy.”

“I was going to say the same thing to you.”

Oliver looked over his shoulder to find Eve standing behind him, smiling. Her black hair was held away from her face with a headband and her black dress was a stark contrast to the paleness of her skin.

She looked fucking gorgeous.

“Damn,” one of the boys said.