Page 14 of Puppy Madness

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There’s no world where I touch this woman or allow her to touch me, simply because it might seem rude.

That part of my life is dedicated to Danni, only her.

I’ll release the beast inside of me, let out the howling animal that wants, needs to claim her.

But only for my woman.

Matilda stops, tilting her head. “I told you, you can call me Matilda.”

I nod, saying nothing.

“What else do you have to check?” she asks.

“I’ve got a questionnaire for you to fill in.”

“That’s fine. I’ll do anything you want.”

Outwardly, I keep myself composed, but inside there’s a tremor. I want to be able to gesture in such a way that the sunlight slanting through the window would catch my wedding ring. I want to be able to tell her I’m married.

To Danni.

Matilda sits at the small table, her dog at her feet. Whatever else is true about her, she’s clearly treated the terrier well. He’s well-groomed and seems completely at ease.

“I did a little googling,” she says, looking up from the questionnaire, her eyebrows raised.

“Oh, right,” I say.

“About you. I had no clue you were a dog handler in the Army.”

“Yes, I was.”

“That must’ve been so scary.”

“It was my duty,” I tell her.

I don’t talk about my time overseas much. I never see the use in it.

“You’re too modest… and brave,” she says.

I say nothing, waiting with my hands behind my back.

“My girlfriend and I were talking about it,” she goes on. “She’s…adventurous, some might say. Others would say crazy. I promised her I’d ask you something since she’s at work today and couldn’t be here. But trust me, she really wanted to meet you.”

Still, I say nothing. Matilda huffs, then rises to her feet, doing that same slow walk toward me.

Again, I move backward. I’m not at all worried for my own safety, but I simply don’t want to touch her, to touch any woman who isn’t short and curvy with gorgeous flushed cheeks and a combination of confidence and shyness that has me obsessed.

“I promised I’d ask you,” Matilda says. “If you were interested in, you know, spending some time with her and me…no strings, that sort of deal.”

“I’ve got a girlfriend. Her name’s Danni.” The words rush out as if I’m turning my dreams into reality with the lie. “I’m planning to propose to her very soon. So with all due respect, I’m not interested.”

“Oh,” Matilda steps back, then tilts her head, a different kind of smile touching her lips. “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

This goes further than making me merely disinterested. I try to withhold judgment from people, but this is a line I’d never cross.

Once a person has committed to another, people should respect the people within the relationship and outside of it.

“I’d never cheat,” I snap. “If I wanted anything to do with you and your girlfriend – which I don’t – I’d leave my girlfriend first. But as I said, I don’t.”

“It’s just…it’s a joke. You fell for it.”

She almost runs back to the table, staring down at the questionnaire.

With a sigh, I walk over to the window, looking out at the garden as I wait for her to finish. She’s filling it in far more quickly now. I can hear the pencil tsking across the page.

“I can’t believe you fell for that,” she says, laughing as she slides the folded-up questionnaire across the kitchen counter.

“I guess I’m gullible,” I tell her, preferring to let her save face, not in the mood for an extended discussion.

After saying goodbye to Pablo, I leave the house, sitting in the car and thinking about what just happened. About what I said.

Danni’s my girlfriend. I’m going to propose to her soon.

I want both to be true so badly it hurts.

“How was your first day?” I ask as Danni and I walk across the lot toward my car, Shelby trotting between us.

“It was a lot,” she says. “But overall, it was great. I made a few mistakes. But Candace says I did better than most people on their first day. I’m not saying that to brag.”

I move my gaze from Shelby to her. I can’t look at her without getting excited, my body responding, roaring at me to take her right this second.

She’s changed into one of the shelter polo T-shirts, the green color giving more shape to her gorgeous breasts. Her hair is tied up in a short ponytail, giving more attention to her features, full lips, and vivacious cheeks.

“I know you’re not bragging,” I tell her, resisting the urge to reach over and cradle her cheek with my hand.

“It was fun,” she says. “Anyway, I’m sure Candace will give you the unbiased version.”

I smirk. “She already has. She said you did great. I just wanted to hear what you thought too.”

“So you tricked me?” She laughs as I unlock the car and approach the back seat. “I feel like I should be offended.”

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