Authors: Kathi Daley
Beach Blanket Barbie
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Katherine Daley
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
This book is dedicated to my beach
-loving boys, Isaiah, Eisley, and Greyson.
Special thanks to all my Facebook friends who show their support by sharing their opinions and encouragement. I also want to thank my team of advance readers for taking time out of their busy lives to help me launch each new book. I’d like to offer special thanks to Amy Brantley for her help wit
up to and including the recipes for this episode of the Zoe Donovan story.
And, as always, love and thanks to my sister Christy for her time, encouragement, unwavering support, and valuable feedback. I also want to thank Carrie, Cristin, and Danny for the Facebook shares, Ricky for the webpage, Randy Ladenheim-Gil for the editing, and, last but not least, my super-husband Ken for allowing me time to write by taking care of everything else.
, you have to do something,” Bitzy Bellingham said, just a tad too loudly to be considered prim and proper.
“I really thi
nk it’s best to let them finish,” I suggested to the polished woman with professionally styled hair, designer clothes, and impeccable makeup.
“But poor Muffet must
be traumatized,” Bitzy insisted as she paced back and forth in three-inch heels that were definitely not meant for everyday wear.
I looked across the yard
, where Bitzy’s prizewinning bichon frise was having
with a stray dog who had dug his way in under the fence. I seriously doubted Muffet was traumatized, given the fact that she had climbed up onto one of the steps leading to the heated pool to provide enough height for her much taller suitor to perform his manly deed. Still, I was in charge of animal control and rehabilitation for my hometown of Ashton Falls. I suppose it was reasonable that Bitzy called me with the expectation that I could somehow fix the rather awkward situation.
“Muffet will be fine,” I assured Bitzy. “
I realize you’re concerned for her, but I assure you that things aren’t as bad as they seem. As soon as they’re finished, I’ll catch Casanova and take him to the Zoo.”
‘Aren’t as bad as they seem’? Are you kidding me? This is the most horrible thing that could have happened.”
“I don’t know that it’s the
horrible thing. Muffet doesn’t seem to have been harmed in any way, and if you ask me, she seems to have a thing for her suitor. Look, she’s smiling.”
She’s not smiling,” Bitzy disagreed. “Muffet was supposed to be mated to a champion stud and this mongrel ruined everything.”
eart wants what the heart wants,” I reminded Bitzy.
“Oh dear lord. I can assure you that Muffet does
have feelings for that filthy, mangy mutt with half an ear. This is simply a disaster, and it’s your job, Zoe Donovan, to do something to fix it.”
“You know,” I tried to sound encouraging, “our Casanova sort of looks like Tramp from
Lady and the Tramp.
I’ve seen the movie, and everything turns out okay.”
“This is not a movie,” Bitzy insisted. “Now
, I insist you do your job and break this up. Immediately!”
“Looks like they’re done anyway.” I unwound the leash I
was carrying and approached the trespassing dog, who seemed mellow and cooperative by this point. He really was a sweet thing, with a look of mischief in his intelligent eyes. He was covered in long, matted fur that was so dirty it was hard to tell its true color, but I suspected his coat was a lighter shade of the curly brown fur that covered his ears. I was reaching down to snap on the lead when he darted to his left, then took off back toward the fence he’d crawled under in the first place.
“You let him go,” Bitzy
“I didn’t let him go,” I
said. I knelt down to see if the little scamp was still on the other side of the fence, but it appeared he was long gone.
“You should have grabbed him right off,” Bitzy informed me. “Now we’ll never get him.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll track him down.” I turned back toward Bitzy and cringed. It appeared that in his eagerness to make his way into the yard, our Casanova had dug up one of Bitzy’s prized roses. I knew the only things Bitzy cared more about than her pampered little dog were her pampered long-stemmed roses. At least it was too early for them to have bloomed. Maybe she wouldn’t notice them until after I left.
, that was a total waste of a stud fee,” Bitzy complained. “I spent months researching the perfect pairing for my Muffet and it’s all for naught. I suppose I’ll need to terminate the pregnancy and start again in six months. Maybe the owner of the stud I selected will transfer the deposit, since services were never rendered.”
“No!” I shouted
, louder than I should have.
“No what?” Bitzy looked confused by my outburst.
“Don’t end the pregnancy, if there even
a pregnancy. These things don’t always take, you know.”
, I know that, but a mixed-breed litter is totally worthless to me, so why bother with the hassle and expense of letting the pregnancy run its course?”
“Because,” I argued
, “you might end up with a really exceptional puppy. You know Charlie?” Charlie, my mixed-breed dog, was waiting for me in the truck.
“Of course. Everyone in town knows Charlie.”
“And you like him?”
“Of course I like him. Sweet little thing sat with me for hours when I was in the hospital last year with my broken leg.”
For those of you who don’t know, Charlie is a therapy dog.
“Charlie is the product of a pairing much like this. My
mom’s friend had a prizewinning Tibetan terrier who had an unfortunate encounter with a mystery dog, resulting in Charlie. If Muffet
pregnant, and she may not be,” I assured Bitzy, “please let her deliver the pups. I’ll reimburse you for all your expenses and take the puppies off your hands the minute they’re weaned.”
Bitzy frowned but appeared to be considering my proposal.
“You’ll pay for all the expenses?”
“Even if Muffet needs a C-section, which is likely, given the size of the mongrel who covered her?”
, even then.”
“I’ll need to consult with my vet.”
“Certainly. I encourage you to do so.”
Bitzy picked up Muffet
, who immediately began to struggle to get down. I smiled at the hyper little dog, who looked at me with soulful eyes, as if begging me to rescue her from a life of structure and propriety. I suspected the pampered pooch had few opportunities to let loose and really be a dog. By the look of her manicure—pink polish with sparkles, I’m not kidding—and perfectly groomed coat, I suspected she spent more time at the beauty parlor than playing in the yard. Bitzy took a few steps toward the mansion she lived in before turning back and speaking to me. “I’m not sure that carrying a litter of half-breeds will be the best thing for poor Muffet, but I promise I’ll think about it.”
“That’s all I can ask. For now
, I suggest you isolate Muffet until she is out of estrus.”
“Yes, I guess that might be a good idea.”
After looking around the area for some sign of Scamp, which was the name I’d given the dog, I headed back toward town. Charlie stuck his head out of the window as we merged onto the highway that ran along the lake. It was a perfect summer day. The midday sun shimmered on the surface of the glassy water, which was so perfectly calm you could see the mountains reflecting on its surface. The weatherman was calling for temperatures in the midseventies, and I couldn’t help but feel a song in my heart. Charlie and I headed to Ellie’s Beach
Hut for lunch on the pier, as planned. As I pulled onto Main Street, I rolled down my window and let the warm afternoon breeze blow thorough my long brown curls. I was beginning to regret my choice of heavy denim jeans rather than the knee-length khaki shorts I normally wore to work during the warm summer months. At least I’d pulled on a tank top under my Zoe’s Zoo sweatshirt, which I’d discarded shortly after leaving Bitzy’s hillside home.
down in deference to the hundreds of tourists wandering aimlessly along the sidewalk of the small downtown section of Ashton Falls. Men, women, and children dressed in shorts and tank tops combed the cute mom-and-pop shops looking for that special trinket to take home from their trip to the mountain resort. I slowed my truck to a good ten miles an hour below the posted speed limit of twenty-five and relaxed as the sun hit my left arm, which was propped on the open window of the driver’s side door. Bon Jovi blared from the radio as I took in the warm-weather frenzy of our little town.
Charlie barked in greeting as Hazel Hampton, the tow
n librarian, waved at us from the sidewalk in front of Rosie’s Café, where she was talking to Willa Walton, a member of the Events Committee to which we both belonged. Each month the committee organized and planned an event we hoped would bring tourists from the valley to our little hamlet to spend their hard-earned money in our local shops. As the snow from the long winter melted and the focus on skiing gave way to the outdoor sports that can be found on our white-sand beaches and large alpine lake, the events we orchestrated moved outdoors as well. Next on the agenda was the four-day Memorial Day event, which featured sailboat races and water-ski demonstrations for the outdoor enthusiasts, a kiddie carnival and sand castle–building competition for the younger crowd, and a beer crawl and outdoor music and arts festival for those over twenty-one. I was in charge of the kiddie carnival, which would be set up in the park on the east end of town, as well as the pet adoption clinic my assistant Jeremy and I had decided to sponsor in the hopes of placing the plethora of puppies and kittens we seemed to acquire every spring.
Although Memorial Day was still a week away
, the town was filled to the brim with visitors from the valley who couldn’t wait to spend time on the water. I groaned as I pulled into the parking area that served the businesses on the pier as well as the most popular beach in the area. You see, I drive a truck—a big one—and parking is a problem more often than not. There was no way I could squeeze into one of the few spots left, so I executed a twenty-point turn and returned to the highway, after which I made a quick left, which took me to the alleyway behind the downtown shops. I found an empty space behind Bears and Beavers and parked. I decided that I really should let Gilda Reynolds, the owner of the eclectic little shop, know that I’d parked in one of the four spots designated for her business, so I clipped a leash on Charlie and headed inside via the delivery door at the back of the building.
“Zoe, what brings you and Charlie in on this beautiful day?” Gilda greeted
I explained about the truck
, and she assured me that she was working alone that afternoon, so I could leave my monster of a vehicle there as long as I liked.
Has business been good?” I asked politely as Gilda unpacked beaver cookie jars.
“Business has been outstanding. The beautiful weather has brought beachcombers from m
iles around. I completely sold out of those coffee mugs I bought a few months ago.”
“It really has been perfect
weather ever since that freak snow we had last month,” I agreed.
Can Charlie have a biscuit?” Gilda asked.
“Certainly,” I answered as Gilda made her way to a cabinet behind the cash register.
Gilda is a short woman with a stocky frame, green eyes, and a bright red afro. I suspect that the color of her hair comes from a box rather than her genetics, although in all the years I’ve known her, she’s never altered the shade or made any attempt to tame her curls.
How is Hershey doing?” I asked. Hershey is a chocolate lab Gilda adopted a while back. The dog is a sweet thing with a laundry list of emotional problems that Gilda and I have been working to remedy. Initially, he suffered severe separation anxiety whenever Gilda left her alone, but after we introduced a second lab—a yellow female named Honey—to the family, Hershey seemed to calm down.
“She’s doing wonderfully. All of her behavior issues have disappeared since Honey joined the family.”
“I’m glad it worked out. Honey seemed like she’d be just the type of companion Hershey would relate to.”
“By the way, I meant to tell you that your mom stopped in with Harper the other day.
She’s such a cute little thing, and you know, I think she’s going to look at lot like her big sister. She definitely has your beautiful blue eyes, although she seems to have your mom’s hair.”
“Thankfully,” I replied. While my hair is thick, curly, brown, and unmanageable, my mom has long blond hair that hangs perfectly straight
, with little to no effort on her part. “And maybe she’ll have my dad’s height as well. Topping the height chart at five feet isn’t always the thrill that some would assume.”
“Preaching to the choir
.” Gilda laughed. Poor Gilda is a good two inches shorter than me. “When I first heard that your mom was back in town after all these years, I was afraid she might not stay, but she seemed wonderfully content in her role as mother.”
“Yeah, I guess she’s matured.”
My mom is forty-two. While she may be a tad on the old side to be a new mother, she’s settled right into her role during the month since Harper was born. I know there are those in town who remember my mother deserting me, leaving me in the custody of my father when I was just a few days old, but that was twenty-five years ago, and it seems things will be different this time around.
“Mom mentioned that you were asking about Sophie’s puppies,” I
said, changing the subject.
Sophie was a short
-timer from the Bryton Lake Shelter who’d been delivered to the Zoo in April. She was very pregnant at the time, so I’d taken her home, although my mom ended up adopting her and delivering her four pups. Since my dad already had two dogs and a cat, my parents had agreed that Mom would have to find homes for all four pups.