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Dani could tell her mom was studying the living room for signs that he spoke the truth and noticed the rumpled blanket on the couch.

“I see.”

“Do you want some pancakes, Mom? They’re really good, and Tyler made a huge stack.” Finally catching Tyler’s gaze, she mouthed I am so sorry.

He shrugged with a smile.

“No, I’m fine. Your father and I were going to take you to lunch, but I can see you already ate.”

Tyler set Noah at the table with a stack of cut-up pancakes. He did it with such ease, as if it had happened a hundred times, and she could only imagine what her mom was thinking.

“Well, ladies, I should let you visit. I need to get Duke home anyway.”

“I’ll walk you out,” Dani said.

Once she closed the door behind them, she leaned against it with a groan. “I am so sorry.”

“Seriously, it’s fine. My mom would have been the same way.”

“You’re just trying to make me feel better,” she said.

“A little. Is it working?”

Putting her hands and her forehead on his chest, she breathed deep. “Thank you.”

He laughed as his arms circled her waist. “Wow, the way you act, I feel like I should have more battle wounds.”

Her arms wrapped around him. “How are you not running right now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got a good feeling about you,” he said.

“Well, you’d better take that feeling and get the hell out of here before my dad shows up and then there are two of them.”

He cupped her chin with one hand and brought her gaze up to meet his. As his lips dropped and covered hers, she hardly had time to worry about her breath before his mouth was moving over hers in a soft, loving kiss.

When he finally released her, she leaned back against the door in a daze.

“I’ll call you.”

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” she said breathlessly.

Tyler’s hand trailed over her cheek, an indiscernible expression on his handsome face. “But with you, I mean it.”

Chapter Seventeen

TYLER WASN’T SURPRISED that Jeremiah was less than trusting of the trainers at Alpha Dog. Hell, most of the kids who came through those doors were leery of the staff, who tried to earn their trust with structure, understanding, and firmness when needed. But Jeremiah hadn’t been a problem at all. Whereas most of the kids were harsh and angry or attention seeking, Jeremiah was soft-spoken and slightly awkward. Since he’d been at the program, he had hardly said anything, fading into the background. But Tyler hadn’t forgotten about him.

“Jeremiah, why don’t you show us how to put Lucky into a sit-stay?” he called.

Had Jeremiah’s face actually paled? His light blue eyes were definitely wider than usual, but he stepped forward, his longish brown hair falling over his forehead as he stared at the ground upon approach.

Tyler frowned, concerned at the kid’s timidity.

And then, just as Jeremiah reached the front of the group, Tyler heard a coughed word, loud enough for others to hear. Some of the boys started laughing, but Tyler’s body stiffened with fury.


“Who the fuck said that?” The boys were dead silent, and Tyler stepped up to Jamie Platt, whose laughter died under Tyler’s thunderous expression. “You think hate speech and slurs are funny? Huh, Platt?”