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Tyler brought Apollo closer and picked the young dog up. “How about I bring this big guy to you . . . ” Tyler looked up at Dani expectantly.


“Noah, meet Apollo. If you’re very gentle, you can stroke his ears.” Noah reached out cautiously, running his hand down the puppy’s neck. “Doesn’t he just have the softest fur?”

Noah nodded and started to stretch closer but hesitated. As if sensing her son’s desire, Tyler put the pup on the bed next to Noah gently and said, “Stay.”

The dog stilled, even when Noah cuddled closer, his hand drifting over Apollo’s head and down his back.

Dani’s whole body relaxed, warming from the inside out as Apollo turned his head and ran his pink tongue over Noah’s wrist, causing her son to giggle softly. Ashamed that she’d been thinking unkindly of Tyler, she had a hard time meeting his eyes as she commented, “Wow, he’s really well behaved. There is no way my dog would be that still, especially if she was getting love.”

“He’s been training for months and had two different kids working with him. It’s just something that takes time and patience.”

As she watched Noah stroke the puppy’s shiny black coat, tears pricked her eyes. There were kids a lot sicker than Noah in the hospital, so she shouldn’t take up too much of Tyler’s time, but it was the first smile she’d seen from her son all day.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

When she met Tyler’s eyes again, there was a charge of awareness. The blue depths were the color of those tropical ocean pictures, so bright and clear, and although she’d never really noticed a man’s lips before, his were really quite nice and soft looking.

“You’re welcome. Like I said, we’re just making the rounds.”

Horrified by her thoughts, she stammered, “Oh, well, we . . . We shouldn’t keep you.”

“You’re not, really. I’ve been here for hours and already said hi to everyone else today. We’ve got just one more stop after you before we head home.”

“If you’re sure you don’t want to get going—”

“Do you want us to leave?” he asked.

Yes! “No, of course not.” Dani glanced toward Noah and saw that he was turned on his side with his arm wrapped around Apollo, whose head was down on the hospital bed. “Is he asleep?”

Tyler craned his neck and nodded. “They both are.”

Dani ran her hands over her face. “Thank God.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what’s going on with Noah?” Tyler asked.

“He had the flu, and they think he tore his esophagus while he was vomiting. He started throwing up blood this morning, and we’ve been here since about seven.”

“That must have been really scary.”

His expression was filled with such sincere empathy, and it was comforting. “It was. He’s my whole world, you know?”

Realizing that tears were spilling down her cheeks, she laughed. “I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to cry and make you uncomfortable.” Sniffing softly, she asked, “How’s the dog?”

“Good, I’m picking him up Friday. Luckily, just his leg was injured. They did surgery, pinned the break, and put a cast on it, but he’s great. He still has to take it easy, but the healing time is only six weeks or so. Hopefully, we’ll be able to evaluate him and see where he fits in the program.”

“What if he doesn’t fit in the program?” she asked.

“If he doesn’t fit and he passes his temperament test with flying covers, then I’ll just find him an awesome home.” That wide, charming smile came out again, and her heart did a little stutter. The guy was pretty lethal; she imagined that women fell all over themselves to get with him.

But not Dani. She could think he was drop-dead gorgeous, but she wasn’t interested. Especially when adding the wrong man to their lives could have devastating repercussions for Noah.

Why are you even thinking about this? It’s not like the guy has asked you out or anything.

“How long have you been at the program? I’m sorry; I don’t know much about it.”

“I’ve been there since it opened, so about seven months. If we can get one of these programs set up near every military base, we’d be helping a lot of dogs, but it all depends on how it goes here.”