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“Mom! Noah is fine.”

“I don’t want to fight with you, Danielle. You’re young, and I just thought you’d be interested in what I’ve learned from raising you, but that’s fine.”

Danielle didn’t mention that she hadn’t exactly grown up to be a perfect, functioning adult. What was the point? Her mother had given her an out, and she was going to take it.

“I appreciate your advice, Mom, just let me ask for it. Okay?”

Her mother nodded regally. “I’ll try, but it’s hard to break old habits.”

Dani shook her head. Her mother wasn’t going to change, but at least she was being reasonable.

Wait . . .

A reasonable mother meant she wanted something.

As if on cue, her mother said, “By the way, I wanted to make sure you’re coming to church with us on Sunday.”

Uh-oh, here we go again. “I haven’t been to church in years, Mom.”

“Well then, it’s time to start back up. It’s good for the soul, you know.”

Despite the innocence in her voice, Dani knew there was something else afoot. “Why now?”

“Because I want you to meet a few people. You’re always saying you don’t have time to meet men your age, but there are several very nice ones who go to church with us, and I want to introduce you.”

“Mom, when are you going to give up? I am not looking for a husband.”

“Well, you should be,” she snapped.

“And thousands of feminists’ heads just spun around in horror.”

“Your father and I won’t be around forever to help you with Noah, and it’s expensive to pay for childcare and housing and other bills. You get by because we help you, but you need a partner. Someone to take on the burden. And honestly, you need to stop all this volunteering and wasting your time. You should be working more. You can’t afford to give your time away, not now.”

Dani took a deep, cleansing breath. “Mom, I volunteer one day a month at the spay and neuter clinic, and it is something that is needed. We are all doing fine, and as far as the future goes, we’ll see how everything shakes out, but I am not going to chase down man after man just because you think I should. When I’m ready, and I don’t know that I will be, I will start dating.”

“Yes, because you’ve shown just what a good judge of character you can be.”

Her mom’s sarcasm swirled like a bitter brew in her stomach, confirming her own thoughts. “We’ll see you later, Mom.”

“I’m only trying to help you,” her mom called after her.

Dani shut her parents’ front door, thinking about Tyler and his words of wisdom as well.

“Everybody’s just so helpful today.”

Chapter Three

TYLER SAT ACROSS from Sergeant Dean Sparks on Monday morning, waiting for him to say something. He’d known the minute he told Sparks about the dog he was going to have a meltdown, but what could Tyler do? He co

uldn’t leave the dog to die.

“You don’t even know if we can use the dog for the program?”

“Nope,” Tyler said flippantly.

Sparks sat back in his chair, sighing heavily. “Best, I know that we’ve had a couple of dogs we ended up not being able to train for the program, but we can’t spend thousands of dollars on a dog that might be a good fit.”

“Alpha Dog isn’t paying for him. I am. Once he’s out of the vet and healed, I’ll temperament test him and go from there. The program doesn’t need to be affected unless he passes his test and doesn’t have any long-standing injuries.”