Page 42 of Puppy Madness

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Lizzy’s smile is soft, more understanding than I could wish for, even as my brimming tears make her blurry.

“And you don’t think it is that anymore?” Lizzy says, without missing a beat.

When I narrow my eyes at her, she gives me a duh look. It’s one I remember countless times through school when we were doing homework together or talking about some drama in school that my shyness had made me miss.

“You knew?” I ask.

“Danni, you’re not as sneaky as you think you are,” she says, with another hope-inducing smile. “Yeah, I knew. I never said anything because I figured…well, you’d tell me when you were ready. When you didn’t, I thought, fine, she wants to keep it private.”

Tears start flowing down my cheeks, despite my efforts to stop them.

I don’t want to make this about me.

“And you were still my friend?”

Lizzy reaches across the table, keeping one hand on Shelby. Her hand comes to rest on mine. “I’ll always be your friend. That’s not what we’re discussing here.”

I squeeze her hand.

“But you need to be sure this is more than a crush.”

“It is,” I say, voice trembling. “I love him, Lizzy. I want to be together forever. I’ve never wanted to date around, to sow my oats, or whatever people say. I’ve found my man. If I didn’t think it would tear you apart, I’d have no doubt about it at all.”

“Look at me.” Lizzy grins. “Do I look torn apart? All I want is for you two to be happy. That’s it. I won’t lie. Sure, it might be awkward for a while, my sister being your daughter, my brother being your son…but looking at it another way, it will be amazing. It will be like a gift. We’ve felt like family for years. Now, we will be family, Danni.”

“You don’t care if I’m your stepmom?” I say, a light teasing note in my voice.

She laughs, tears glittering in her eyes. But I can read my best friend, and I know these are tears of pure emotion, not hate, not sadness. Just the importance of the situation bubbling up.

“As long as you don’t give me a curfew.”

I laugh, and then so does she. Finally, Dominic joins in our laughter connecting in the air, becoming one noise.

It’s like I float above the table, looking down at Lizzy’s hand clasping mine, the affection and love flowing between us.

And then Shelby leaps onto the table, pulling his short back legs up behind him. He pads over to mine and Lizzy’s clasped hands and starts licking us like crazy like he wants to join in.

Because he knows, miraculously, beautifully, we’re going to be okay.



“Thank you so much,” Danni tells Margot, the woman who’s passed the checks and is rehoming one of the Corgis.

We’re standing at Margot’s door, my woman and me, three days after we told Elizabeth the truth.

I still have to remind myself this is it, my life, our life…that Elizabeth gave us her blessing, and, on top of that, she’s been nothing but supportive as the days have passed.

And now I’m here, with my woman, standing side by side as we do our job together.

Margot smiles, hugging Effie to her chest. The Corgi is the most relaxed of the litter, sprawling in contentment, her mouth open and tongue hanging. “You don’t have to thank me. It’s an absolute pleasure.”

After we say goodbye, I take Danni’s hand and walk back toward the car. She looks up at me, eyes glittering with emotion, with love….

We’ve said it dozens, if not hundreds, since the first time. We’re addicted to saying it the same way we’re addicted to each other.

“That is so satisfying,” she says.

I lean down, kissing her gently on the cheek and avoiding her lips because I know I might not be able to stop.

There’s never going to be a time when my woman doesn’t drive me feral.

“It never gets old, does it?”

After opening the door for her, I walk around to the driver’s seat, checking my pocket.

It’s there. I can feel the question trying to explode now before it’s time.

As I drive, I think about the video chat a couple of days ago, sitting at Danni’s side as I promised her mom I’d always support her and how I only want the best for her.

“Love can come from the most unexpected places,” Caroline, Danni’s mom, said. “As long as you take care of Danni, we don’t have a problem. But if that changes….”

“It won’t, ma’am,” I said. “I promise.”

Danni doesn’t know about the other video call I had with her mom…the one in which I asked the most important question a man can ask his woman’s parents.

I would have asked her dad if the car crash hadn’t cruelly taken him.

“I love you,” Danni murmurs sweetly.

I smile at her for a moment before returning to the road. Her eyes gleam as she returns my gaze.

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