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“What exactly was so special about this dog?” Sparks asked.

Tyler wasn’t sure how to describe it, the undeniable connection between him and the big gray dog. I had to help him sounded stupid, and Dean would never be able to understand that it was the truth.

Plus, having that pretty tech Dani looking at you like you hung the moon wasn’t half bad, either.

Well, for a little while at least, before he managed to piss her off again. Tyler wasn’t going to mention the girl, though, and have Sparks give him more shit. Especially since Tyler wasn’t really into her.

Then how come she keeps popping up in your head?

Because he hadn’t gotten laid over the weekend?

“Look, it’s on my dime, and if he doesn’t work out, I’ll find him a home.”

“Still, this program needs to be functioning in order to succeed. You brought six dogs back with you from the shelter, and we only have four kennels.”

“If a dog passes his evaluation, then I’m bringing him back here. If you have a problem with that, replace me.” Tyler wasn’t going to back down on this. Leaving behind dogs who couldn’t pass their evaluation was one thing, but there was no way he wasn’t going to find room for every dog who did.

Sparks shook his head. “Just when I think you don’t have a heart, you do something like this.”

“I never said I don’t have a heart; I just keep it heavily guarded.”

Sparks ran his hands over his face and close-cropped dark hair. “Best, I want to save them all, believe me. But we don’t have enough kids in here to handle all the dogs you’re bringing in, let alone trainers.” Sparks paused to look over one of the other dog’s descriptions. “I mean, this dog Bosco is only thirty pounds and looks like a stuffed animal a child would snuggle. Is he going to be a therapy dog?”

“No, he’s too high energy, and it would be a waste. The dog is fast as hell, and I guarantee with the right training, I can have him taking down men like a hundred-pound rottie.”

“Meanwhile, where are two of these dogs going to go?” Sparks asked.

“Apollo and Zeus are ready for training, so I’ll graduate them from basic. The kids working with them can take over these new ones.”

“So, does that mean you’re going to be taking Apollo and Zeus home with you?” Dean grinned evilly. “Casey misses Apollo so much. I think he’s actually convinced Violet he needs a dog, but if I tell him you’ve got Apollo at home, he might forget about it for a while and just start showing up at your place.”

Casey was a graduate of the Alpha Dog Training Program and was Sparks’s girlfriend’s little brother. Tyler liked Casey, and the kid liked him. His sister Violet wasn’t Tyler’s biggest fan, probably because he’d slept with her best friend and never called her again. That tended to make women think he was a jerk, but he wasn’t out to hurt anyone. He just liked having fun.

“You tell him he’s welcome anytime, just text me first in case I have . . . company.”

Dean rolled his eyes at the innuendo. “Get the hell out of my office, player. You’ve got a date at the pediatric wing this afternoon.”

Tyler left the office and headed back toward where Apollo and Zeus were held. Most of the trainers took turns visiting local hospitals and nursing homes. It gave the dogs excellent exposure and usually brightened the patients’ spirits.

Tyler liked visiting the kids, but there was another patient he usually swung in to check in on. Henry Coleson was a sixty-four-year-old Marine with no family or friends to speak of. They had met by chance, and Tyler had started visiting him whenever he could. Henry’s body was riddled with cancer, and although he could be a pissy son of a bitch, he never turned Tyler away when he visited.

Tyler passed by one of the moms being led out by a trainer and nodded at her with a smile. “Ma’am.”

She returned his smile, and Tyler started whistling, feeling good. It didn’t matter if they were young or old, women liked Tyler, always had. Only a handful had ever shot him down or stood immune to his charms. One of them had been Dani.

Which is good for you because not only is she a single mom, she obviously has some issues.

It was true; she’d been angry, defensive, and rude. In other words, drama. And he definitely didn’t need any of that.

You’re better off sticking to the lonely and uncomplicated.

DANI STOOD IN her kitchen making coffee, her eyes burning with fatigue. The whole weekend had been a disaster. It was bad enough that she’d picked Noah up on Thursday with the bump on his forehead, but after trying and failing to get in with his pediatrician, they’d ended up at the urgent care clinic. The doctor there had assured her Noah would be fine, but she’d overheard the nurses saying that one of the other little boys in the waiting room had been dehydrated from throwing up for days. Dani had prayed hard that Noah wouldn’t get it, but sure enough, Noah had spent most of yesterday throwing up, and she had hardly been able to sleep, worried he’d start up again. She’d slept on the couch, with Bella lying across her feet snoring. She loved the fat pug, really, but her loud snores hadn’t helped Dani’s insomnia.

The coffee dripped slowly, and Dani tapped her foot impatiently. She’d called in sick for tonight, just to be on the safe side, and her boss had been understanding. It was the first time Noah had ever experienced the stomach flu, and watching his tiny body convulse and retch had been heartbreaking.

Finally, the pot filled up, and Dani pulled down one of the mismatched mugs from the cupboard. The rich aroma made her mouth water as she started to pour.

The soft sound of Noah’s feet on the carpet, followed by the trampling of Shasta, their shepherd mix, made Dani put down the coffeepot reluctantly. She turned with a smile, her heart swelling as her son stumbled down the hallway, his brown curls mussed from sleep. Although he still slept in his crib, he had started to be able to climb out. Shasta padded along beside him, pushing her nose into his hand for head pats, but the little boy ignored her, surprisingly. She had brought the dog home the same time she’d found out she was pregnant with Noah, and from the moment he was born, Shasta had attached herself to him, and he adored her. He still must feel pretty crummy if even her demand for affection couldn’t make him smile.

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