Authors: Inglath Cooper
Tags: #Adult, #Romance, #Humor
mind, she reluctantly agreed to
postpone their wedding
plans. He reassured her that nothing
would be different
between them. Once school ended, he
would return to
New York and pick up his life where
he'd left off. And
maybe by then he could mend the rift
between him and
abel Atkins waited at the door while
Mhis car at the rear of the house a
later. â€œDid they
get you all fixed up, Miss Smidge? she
asked, wiping her hands on her
â€œShe'll be fine.
Ian followed his plump, flour-dusted
housekeeper into the kitchen.
â€œWel , that's
certainly good news, she said, giving the
dog an affectionate pat on the head.
Ian had known Mabel little more than
a week, but he
already felt as if he'd known her
forever. She made no
attempt to hide herself from the
world. Blunt and to the
point, she took great pride in her
work. Although she claimed
to have once been more than five
feet tal , she now stood
an inch or two under that height and
that she would soon need a step
stool to reach the sink. She
wore her hair in a kinky perm and
had a penchant for
chocolate malt bal s, which she kept
in the cabinet above the
stove, high enough to make her think
twice about pul ing
GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS
Ian spent his first few days in
Keeling Creek thinking
he'd do everything on his own. He
and Luke could manage.
But when the laundry started to pile
up and the dirty dishes
multiplied exponential y, he'd given
up and gone in search of
They'd been in town less than a week
when he'd asked
Maude Cutter at Cutter's Grocery if
she knew of anyone who
would be interested in the job.
She'd said Mabel was just
the woman he was looking for. And
she'd been right. Mabel
fit in as if she'd always been here.
She'd taken a firm hand
with Luke, too, informing him of
kitchen rules on her first day
in the house. Luke needed that kind
of structure, something
Ian hadn't been around enough to
Smidge managed an exaggerated limp
over to her bowl
where Mabel had a dish ful of
leftover chicken waiting for
her. No dog was a bigger ham when a
little sympathy could
be conjured up.
â€œNow if she'll
just stay out of the blackberry bushes,
â€œShe's lived in
the city al her life, Mabel replied in the
dog's defense. â€œBeen
running around like a wild thing set
free since you got here. She'l learn
â€œLet's hope so,
Ian said doubtful y. Only a few days
before, they'd found her in the
creek behind the house, hip
deep in mud and howling.
â€œDid you get to
meet Colby? Mabel asked.
â€œFunny as that
sounds to me, yes. The older woman
chuckled, stirring the contents of
the pot simmering on top
of the stove. â€œKnown
her since she stood knee-high to a
grasshopper. Stil can't believe
she's old enough to be called
â€œShe seemed very
good. Ian opened the refrigerator
and took out the pitcher of lemonade
Mabel just made that
Colby Wil iams didn't fit his
stereotype of a smal -town
veterinarian. She was attractive.
Very attractive, if different
from the women he knew in New York.
Her style said casual,
a blue cotton shirt tucked into
slim-fitting Levi's, her straight
blond hair in a ponytail,
emphasizing a face with nice
cheekbones and expressive green
â€œEven as a little
girl, she wanted to be the first female
vet in town, Mabel said. â€œAnd
she was. We're lucky to
Intrigued, Ian said, â€œShe
mentioned having a daughter.
How old is she?
Mabel ladled out a bowl of soup from
the pot on the
stove and set it in front of him.
â€œA little younger than Luke,
I believe. Colby raised her by
herself. Nice kid, so she must
have done a good job.
married? The question popped out before
he even realized he wanted to ask
Mabel turned to look at him, both
disappearing beneath gray bangs.
â€œAs a matter of fact, she's
Ian swal owed a spoonful of soup and
burned his mouth
in the process.
GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS
Mabel eyed him with a thoughtful look
on her face. â€œIt's
â€œYou're right, it
is. He washed away the sting with the
lemonade and wondered at the glint
in his housekeeper's eye.
â€œGlad you like
it. After my Thomas was gone, there
was just me, and food doesn't taste
nearly as good if you're
not cooking it with someone other
than yourself in mind.
It's a real pleasure to have you and
Luke to cook for.
â€œThomas was a
lucky man. You'l spoil us if we're not
careful, Ian said with a smile. He
knew what she meant
about eating alone. When Sherry had
died, he thought he, too,
would die of loneliness. Knowing
that the smal , helpless
infant who was his son needed him
had been the one thing
that kept him going. Despite what
Luke thought, Ian didn't
know what he would have done without
Mabel dropped the soup ladle into
the sink and turned
to give him an assessing look.
â€œThat's al right by me. I
know you said you and Luke would
only be here until he
finished high school, but if you and
Colby happened to hit it
off, you might not want to return to
the big city.
He nearly choked on his soup. Mabel
the kitchen floor, whacking him on
the back. â€œYou okay, Mr.
Once he'd gotten his coughing under
nodded and wiped his eyes with his
napkin. Not wanting
her to get any ideas, he said, â€œIf
you remember, Mabel, I
mentioned that I recently got
â€œOh, yes, you
did, didn't you? the older woman said
with a deadpan expression.
down this weekend. On Saturday.
â€œI didn't mean to
be making any untoward suggestions,
Mr. McKinley, Mabel said hastily.
â€œAnd if your intended is
planning a visit, then I'd better
quit yakking and get this
place in tip-top order, hadn't I?
She left him in the
kitchen to finish his soup alone.
Ian put his dishes in the sink and
went out on the front
porch of the two-story brick house.
Smidge followed him,
sprawling on the floor beside him.
With his glass of
lemonade in one hand, Ian leaned
against a porch column
noticeably in need of paint and
stared out at the oak trees
lining the driveway. Oak Hill was a
beautiful place. No
denying that. A lot like Tara must
have looked to Scarlett
after the war.
Built in the late 1800s, the farm
had been used to raise
both cattle and horses until a few
years ago when it went
up for sale and had since become
Ian had asked his Manhattan real
estate agent to find
Luke and him a place in need of some
work. The thought
of that appealed to him, even though
he didn't own a
toolbox and had next to zero
experience in carpentry work.
Coming here had been his decision,
but going from a sixteen-
hour workday to a one-year leave of
absence felt like being
forced to a halt halfway through a
marathon. He'd consoled
himself with the thought that he
might spend part of his
time making improvements to the
house. He'd also hoped
GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS
that might be something he and Luke
could do together. A
The agent found him what he'd been
looking for. But
photographs of the place didn't
reveal just how much work
the farm would require. The barn was
in dire need of paint,
and a good number of boards needed
replacing, as wel as
the roof. The fields beside and
behind the house looked as if
they hadn't been mowed in years. But
the house itself was
the most daunting of al , with
peeling wal paper, floors in
need of refinishing and bathtubs
that needed re-sealing.
There wasn't a room that didn't need
something done to it.
He definitely had his work cut out
He heard the school bus in the
distance rol to a stop
and then move on down the road. A
few minutes later, Luke
appeared at the top of the driveway,
his book bag slung over
one shoulder, his baseball cap and
loose, baggy clothes
marking him as the city kid he was.
His expression remained
set and unsmiling until he spotted
Smidge wobbling across
the yard toward him, limping on her
Luke looked up at Ian, a worried
frown on his face.
â€œWhat happened to
â€œShe had a briar
in her paw. I took her to see the vet.
She got it out and gave her
something for infection.
Luke plopped down on the ground and
the ecstatic dog for a couple of
minutes while Ian watched
them, a catch in his heart. The boy
loved the dog, and he
had to admit he wished Luke showed
as much affection for
Luke had been even less
communicative than usual
since they'd arrived here at the end
of August, and Ian hoped
patience would eventual y pay off.
He knew the changes
weren't easy for him. A new school.
New kids. But
schoolwork had always come easily to
him. He was smart
and, if anything, often bored by his
classes. He'd been one
of the top soccer players at his
school in the city, but
Jefferson County High didn't have a
team, and so far, he'd
shown no interest in any other
Luke got up and bounded up the porch
steps past Ian
without saying a word.
â€œHow was school
today? Ian asked.
Luke turned around at the screen
door, his gaze on
he said, his tone less than convincing.
â€œIt can't be that
bad. Surely, you like some of the kids.
â€œThey're all too
wild for me.
Ian ignored his sarcasm. Despite his
intel igence and
athletic ability, Luke had a shy
side that made it difficult for
him to make new friends. â€œI
started chipping away the old
paint on the porch this morning, Ian
said. â€œI thought maybe
you'd like to help this weekend.
Luke kicked at a twig on the wood
floor. â€œYou're the
one who wanted to come out here and
play farmer. I didn't
want any part of this. Believe me,
if I'd known you were
going to bring me to this no-action
town, I'd have asked that
judge for jail time instead. There
wouldn't have been much
difference, anyway. He disappeared
inside the house, the
screen door slapping closed behind
GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS
â€œLuke! Ian cal
ed, starting after him, then deciding
against it. He dropped down on the
top step of the porch.
He'd known that nothing about this
would be easy. So far,
he'd been right. His relationship
with Luke didn't fal apart
overnight and it would certainly
take longer than that to fix
t five minutes past five that
Astepped through the front door of
Do Salon for her monthly trim. Her
cut required little more effort than
a nip off the ends.
A bel dinged, announcing her
arrival. A waiting area
held several chairs and a couple of
littered the coffee table,
them. Louise Mason, the owner of the
that her customers didn't come here
to read about the latest
tuna casserole recipe or how to
paint their kitchen in less than
five hours. Here, women were free to
gossip, ogle men's
magazines and general y let their
hair down, so to speak.
Judging from the fact that the place
rarely had an empty
chair, Louise apparently had the
You're on time as usual, Louise said,
approaching the desk. At five feet
ten inches tall, Louise
often joked that the only thing that
kept her from being a
professional model was her looks.
â€œHi, Louise. You
GOOD GUYS LOVE DOGS
The woman threw a glance at the shop
where hair dryers buzzed and the
smel of permanent
solution hung in the air. â€œIf
it weren't for vanity, I'd be in
Colby smiled and followed the
heavyset woman to the
back. Louise shampooed her hair and
applied an apple-