If You Were Mine - Bella Andre Page 0,1

a couple of pounds.”

“Closer to three,” Gabe said as he headed for Zach’s front door and came back a few seconds later with a huge cardboard box. “Here are her things.”

Zach knew what the food and bowls were for, but everything else looked like it belonged in the toy box at a preschool. “Why does a three-pound puppy need all of this for just two weeks?”

He had a bad feeling about this whole thing, sensing how easily fourteen days could turn into way longer than that if he wasn’t careful.

Gabe shrugged. “We’ve only had her a couple of days and Summer has mostly been taking care of her so far. Timing kind of sucks on having to leave her so soon, but I know Megan really appreciates you stepping up to the plate like this.”

It grated that they all thought he was such a done deal with the puppy before ever talking to him about it, but not nearly as much as it did when Cuddles chose that exact moment to squat down over the toe of his shoe and empty her bladder.

Her surprisingly large bladder.

“You’d better be back for her in two weeks,” Zach warned in a low voice, “or she’s going straight to the pound.”

Gabe’s laughter rang out as he wisely hightailed it to his car.

* * *

Heather Linsey was just finishing up with the students in her preliminary-level dog trainer certification class when her cell phone buzzed. She pulled it out, but when she saw the name on her screen, she quickly shoved it back into her pocket.

“I can handle giving everyone the information for the next set of classes if you need to get that,” her assistant, Tina, said.

Heather forced a smile. “I’ve got it.”

But her brain was only half on her students as she congratulated them on a job well done and let them know she was available to help them if they had any problems setting up their businesses. After finishing up with a quick reminder about the big Bark in the Park fundraiser at the baseball stadium that coming Friday, and the auction the following Saturday night, she headed back to her office with Atlas, her Great Dane, close beside her.

Heather closed the door before pulling the phone back out and putting it on her desk. She wished she could just delete the message, but she knew from past experience that it would be smarter to find out what her father wanted.

“Sweetheart, I was hoping I’d get you rather than your voice mail,” he began, and she was amazed at just how strong his denial was. Didn’t he realize she hadn’t picked up a call from him in years? She rubbed her hands over her arms as he continued, “I have a business trip to San Francisco next week and I’m thinking of bringing your mother with me. It’s been too long since we’ve seen our girl and we both miss you.”

The skin on Heather’s arms started to tingle, and then burn, across the pattern of criss-crossed scars that went from her wrists up past her elbows, all around her arms. Nearly ten years later, the scars were faint enough that she probably didn’t need to wear long sleeves all the time to cover them up. But even though the cuts were long since healed, every time she had to deal with her father, she felt this phantom pain. Almost as if she was seventeen years old again and locking herself into her room to try to deal with her out-of-control emotions by making small cuts across the surface of her skin with a razor and watching them bleed.

At the sound of her father’s voice, Atlas hadn’t gone to his huge dog pillow in the corner. Instead, he’d stuck right with her and put his big head in her lap. She stopped rubbing her arms and stroked his head instead.

“Let me know your schedule so we can plan our evening with you. Your mother sends her love.”

The message ended and she stared blankly at the phone on her desk, her hand absentmindedly moving over Atlas’s short, soft fur. She couldn’t believe how long they’d been playing this game, the one where her father tried to act like everything was normal and they had a perfect relationship. Especially when he knew that she knew for a fact that everything wasn’t perfect, that his “perfect” marriage to her mother and his “loving” relationship with his daughter was just a big, stupid lie.

A knock came at