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“I didn’t say anything like that. I told you his prognosis wasn’t good and he was suffering.”

“And I wanted a second opinion, so we’re getting one.”

Tyler grinned, following Dani out the door. Pausing for half a second, Tyler gave Lab Coat a warning look. “I haven’t had a chance to evaluate the dogs yet. They’d better all be there when I get back.”

Lab Coat swallowed hard, and as she closed the door, Dani laughed. “I think he just pissed himself.”

Tyler liked her laugh, light and tinkling, like Christmas bells. “You’re pretty terrifying yourself.”

“I don’t let bullies push me around,” she said. “Where are your keys?”

“Right pocket.”

When the warmth of her hand pushed into his pocket and grabbed his keys, he couldn’t help his physical reaction. It was just too close to the groin, and the way she pressed with seeking fingers against him was enough to give him a semi. Despite it being October, it was still in the mideighties in Sacramento, and Tyler could feel beads of sweat dribbling down the sides of his face as she continued her search; he told himself it was just the heat getting to him.

Luckily, she hadn’t seemed to notice, and once she found the keys, she unlocked the doors and pulled open the back door of the Alpha Dog van.

“Hang on.” She ran back inside while Tyler waited, the dog’s weight making his arms burn.

Suddenly, she was back and climbing past him into the backseat of the van.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Isn’t it obvious? I’m coming with you. You’re going to need someone to hold onto him while you drive, and besides,” she said, her expression a soft mask of worry, “I don’t want him to be alone and scared.”

Tyler nodded, knowing exactly what she meant. He’d been rescuing dogs his whole life, much to his parents’ exasperation. He remembered the first dog he’d brought home at nine, a skinny black dog with matted fur and a rank odor. When his mom had told him he couldn’t bring the dog inside, he’d teared up and told her, “But, Mom, he’s so hungry and scared.” His mom had caved like a big old softy, and his dad left, coming back with food, bowls, and a collar and leash. He’d named the dog Barney, and he’d been the start of Tyler’s love of dogs.

The fact that Dani appeared to have the same passion made him like her more. Cute, funny, didn’t take shit from anyone? Plus, he’d bet his last dollar she was great in bed.

But the tiny, smiling little boy on her phone screen was like a big fat stop sign. He didn’t do single moms—at least, not when he knew about the kid.

Laying the dog gently into the back, he watched her settle his head in her lap and begin stroking his gray coat. Su

ddenly, she looked up at Tyler, those green eyes filled with gratitude and . . . Hell, he had no idea, but it was a first for him.

“Thank you.”

Tyler slammed the door to the van without responding, grabbing the keys out of the passenger door.

Tyler Best, bleeding-heart dog rescuer.

He climbed up into the driver’s seat, preparing to take off.

“Really, why are you doing this?” she asked from behind him.

Adjusting the mirror so he could see her, he gave the only answer that made sense. “Why not?”

Chapter Two

DANI HILL HAD never been easily won over by any man. Could they get her into bed? Sure, but she never had any delusions about who she was sleeping with. She was a magnet for jackasses and always had been. Until she’d gotten pregnant, and her boyfriend had decided he couldn’t handle being a dad and had taken off.

Angel Ramirez had been all that a twenty-one-year-old girl could desire. Muscular with a jealous streak and hazel eyes, he’d been everything her mom and dad had hated. But she’d loved him—or, at least, she’d thought it was love.

They hadn’t been together very long when she’d found out she was pregnant, and she’d been terrified to tell him. He’d been pissed and told her he would take her to the clinic, but she’d refused. He’d disappeared for days, but just as she was sure he was gone for good, he’d popped up again. She’d been relieved, thinking he was back for her and the baby, but he had just wanted her to know that he was moving south to Los Angeles. He was taking a job with his cousin, and if she wanted to keep the baby, that was fine, but she shouldn’t expect anything from him.

In that moment, Dani had finally realized that her parents had been right about everything. That there was a reason bad boys should be avoided at all times. That she was about to have a baby with a man who had never cared about her, but she’d been too stupid to realize it.

And although she couldn’t fully regret being with Angel, she had learned from her wild and reckless dating history. She’d grown and was more determined than ever to live her life right and give her son, Noah, the best of her.