Page 9 of Puppy Madness

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He’s not talking about the first time we have sex, with his manhood gliding inside of me, and somehow I’ll know what to do.

I’ll know how to please him as his other women have. The women who are probably like supermodels, successful too, with glitzy personalities that shine brighter than mine ever could.

Urgh, I hate this self-doubt stuff. But that doesn’t mean I can automatically stop it.

I remind myself that he’s not talking about our first kiss, our first date, or what kind of mother I’ll be.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I murmur. “Why do you ask?”

He chuckles gruffly. If I didn’t know better, I’d think his voice was tangled with lust and burning desire.

Gesturing at my legs, he says, “No reason.”

I realize I’m squeezing onto my legs, fingernails digging into my simple jeans. The thickness of the denim is maybe why I didn’t feel it. But I wonder if it could be the fact that feeling anything is getting more difficult, so much of me directed at Dominic, my man.

“I’m fine,” I tell him, laughing it off as I release my death grip.

We drive quietly for a time. Shelby stands on his little legs and presses his snout against the window, watching the world drift by.

“Jackson used to do that,” I say. “Well, he didn’t have to stand quite as tall since he was a Goldie. But he used to love looking out the window.”


“My stepdad’s dog,” I say. “I got really close with him. But obviously, I couldn’t bring him with me.”

“It must’ve been hard.”

I wave a hand. “What do people say? It’s just a dog.”

“Do you believe that?”

“No,” I say fiercely. “Not even a little bit.”

“Then don’t devalue your emotions. You don’t have to do that with me.”

The with me has my heart picking up its pace, a light layer of sweat rising on my skin. I feel my core tingling, telling me to find somewhere private I can fantasize about Dominic.

But I don’t have to fantasize. He’s right here.

“Do you miss him?” Dominic asks.

“Yeah. It’s all the little things. He loved giving one paw but was stubborn about the other. He never barked at other dogs, except Chihuahuas, for some reason. We never knew why.”

Dominic chuckles. “Chihuahuas can be pretty mean themselves sometimes. Maybe he just wanted to get the first word in.”

I laugh, nodding. “Yeah, maybe that’s it.”

“It was a big decision,” he says. “Moving overseas, alone this time.”

“I know. But it was a choice between that and pretty much giving up my dreams. There was nowhere to study in the village, nothing to do. Mom understands. And I wanted to see Lizzy again. I’ve missed her so much.”

“It’s a mature decision,” Dominic says. “A lot of people your age would’ve felt too scared, too alone.”

“I’m nineteen,” I say, voice sharp even if it has no reason to be. “Not nine.”

Okay, my voice has no reason to be sharp…as far as he knows. But I don’t want Dominic to think of me as some kid, confused and unsure about what I want.

I know what I want. Him.

“A lot of nineteen-year-olds are pretty immature these days,” Dominic says. “I see it at my shelters all the time. They come to work acting more like fifteen-year-olds or even younger. It’s not like when I was that age. The teens are different somehow. I don’t know what’s changed. Or maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy.”

“You’re not old,” I say fiercely, wanting him to know his age doesn’t bother me. “You’re experienced, mature. But not old.”

He glances over at me again, his mouth tight, as if there are a lot of things he wants to say but can’t bring himself to do it.

“And if I’m more mature than the average nineteen-year-old,” I go on, feeling like I have to speak before I spontaneously lean in and kiss him. “Maybe it has something to do with Dad.”

“You could be right. Elizabeth seemed to grow up pretty fast after her mother passed.”

“You don’t have to think of me as some dumb little kid,” I say, voice getting fierce again, even as the mention of Lizzy pains me.

“I didn’t mean it like that. I can tell how mature you are. You’re a woman. Anybody could see that.”

A shiver moves over me. Or maybe it’s more accurate that the shivering gets even stronger since it’s always here when I’m with Dominic.

Anybody could see that.

See it, he said.


Like he’s been looking at me, at my womanhood, thinking about it, wondering if he should do something about it.

Even if I know that’s almost certainly not true, I lay my forehead against the glass, watching the world glide by, a smile on my face.



I take Shelby from the car, purposefully looking down at his open-mouthed smile and not at Danni as she climbs from the passenger side. She’s wearing jeans and a simple sweater, nothing overtly sexy about it at all.