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“I imagine your parents will probably have a lot of questions if they find me here. You sure you want to deal with that?”

Just imagining her mom drilling him and her with questions was enough to turn her stomach.

“Never mind, just eat your pancakes. We’ll save the parental inquisition about my intentions for another day,” he said.

The two of them doctored their pancakes and ate in relative silence for several minutes. Dani studied him, wondering why he had really stayed. She didn’t buy that it was late and he was tired. Had he been hoping she’d wake up and they’d get frisky?

“Why did you really stay over? I know you; it wasn’t just because it was late and I asked you not to drive.”

“Would you believe it was because I was worried and wanted to make sure you were safe?”


“I might. Is that the truth?”

A knock on the door interrupted his answer.

“I guess the end is nigh, huh?” he said.

Shit, her mom was early. Dani’s heart threatened to pound right out of her chest. “If I asked you to hide, that would be immature and unreasonable, right?”

Around a mouthful of pancake, he said, “I can try, but the plate and second cup of coffee is a dead giveaway. I can, however, put my shirt on if you give me a second.”

He was right. She would just have to deal with her mom like a mature, independent adult.

Dani waited until he was decent before she headed for the door, pulling it open with a bright smile for Noah. “Hey, buddy! Did you have fun?”

Noah flew into her arms, and she squeezed him hard, burying her face in the soft skin of his neck.

Suddenly, he was squirming to get away from her.


She released him, and he shot across the room to Tyler, who picked him up with ease. “What’s up, Noah? Want some pancakes?”

A cleared throat turned Dani’s attention from the scene, and she faced her mom, whose eyebrow was hiked up her forehead.

“Well, aren’t you going to introduce me to your . . . friend?”

No avoiding it now, especially since her mom pushed right past her, stepping on her foot in the process.

“Sure, Mom, come on in. Tyler, this is my mom, Laura. Mom, Tyler. We met a while ago, when Tyler came in to evaluate some of the dogs at the shelter. He’s a trainer for that military program I was telling you about, Alpha Dog?”

Her mom held her hand out to Tyler, who adjusted Noah on his hip to take it. “Nice to meet you, ma’am.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too, considering I’ve heard absolutely nothing about you.”

Ouch, dig number one. Dani tried to convey an apology with just her eyes, but Tyler was focused on her mom.

“Well, we’ve known each other for over a month, but we just struck up a friendship recently.”

“A friendship, really?”

“Mom, where’s Dad?” Dani asked.

“He dropped us off and went to go fill the car up. You were saying, Tyler?”

“Well, ma’am, we were watching a movie, and both of us fell asleep. Because it was late, Dani offered to let me sleep on the couch, and I decided to return her kindness by making her breakfast.”