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More Than a Rescue

By:Amy J. Hawthorn

A Dark Horse Allies Novella

Chapter 1


Olivia fumbled with her keys and dropped her purse. "Crap!" She unlocked the door, shoved it open, then stooped to pick up her bag. Grabbing it on the fly, she hurried through the door and shut it behind her.

Then she stopped in her tracks. Pieces of wood and plastic littered the floor of the entryway. With a sinking feeling, she realized the debris bore a striking resemblance to the baby gate she used to contain Boomer to the laundry room while she was away.

Baby boy, I don't have time for this! This day was for celebrating dreams and new beginnings. Instead, she began her morning by sleeping through her alarm clock. She'd stayed up most of the night before, packing her things in preparation for her move across town. Then, in her hurry to get to her salon appointment, she'd forgotten to put her dress and shoes in the car.

She didn't bother going to the laundry room to inspect the damage there. With an all too familiar feeling of dread, she walked to Boomer's favorite room to cause havoc-her bedroom.

What sort of disaster had he left for her? Once, she'd found him gnawing on the corner of her dresser. Twice she'd found him on the bed chewing on trash he'd retrieved from the bathroom.

At the end of the hallway, she braced herself and turned into the open doorway.

Oh no. No, no, no!

Olivia stared at her bedroom in horror. In the floor near her closet, Boomer sat in the same ridiculously cute pose that had suckered her into adopting him in the first place. The puppy's brown head was cocked, and his shaggy ears stood straight up. Great big brown eyes stared up at her, shining with innocence.

In his mouth? Boomer held one of Olivia's shoes. One of her formerly gorgeous silver strappy heels that perfectly matched her bridal dress for the wedding that she was running late for.

"Boomer, no! Bad dog!" The pup dropped the shoe and ran out of the room as if his tail had caught fire.

Tiny sparkling crystals had been scattered over her floor, glinting in the light pouring through the window. The cheerful sunlight mocked her distress.

What am I going to do?

Her fiancé would erupt like Mount St. Helens when he found out. She knelt on the floor of her closet and looked for something remotely suitable to match her dress. She'd chosen a simple but beautiful knee-length sheath that would have shown off the shoes that had become Boomer's latest chew toy.

Her heart sank. This would be one more strike against her baby.

Desperate, grasping for a lifeline, she called her best friend.

Michelle picked up on the first ring. "Where are you? You were supposed to be here ten minutes ago. I still have to do your makeup!"

"Help! Please tell me you have a pair of shoes I can borrow!" Even as she spoke, she knew her words to be a waste of energy.

"Olivia … " Michelle drew her name out. She could picture her friend pressing her fingers to her temples in frustration. "We've been best friends since kindergarten. You know we're two sizes apart. Please tell me Boomer didn't get to those shoes."

Her belly clutched as she looked at the meager offerings at the bottom of the closet. She'd never been much of a fashionista, and she'd packed most of her belongings in preparation for her move to her fiancé's house. "Okay. I won't tell you that my shoes have been devoured by my infant Hellhound. What am I going to do?"

She wanted to pull out her freshly styled hair.

"Just get here. Everyone's waiting and giving Chris sympathetic looks. Bring the dress. Come, get ready. I will run to the closest shoe store and see what I can find. There's a department store just a few miles down the road. I'll grab the first suitable thing and hurry back. We can do this. Just bring the dress and get here STAT."

"Okay. Thank you. I love you."

"I love you, too. Now get your ass in gear and move it." A woman on a mission, Michelle hung up.

Olivia grabbed her tote and the garment bag containing her dress. She ran them out to her car before coming back to grab one last thing and to lock up. She removed the leash from the drawer in the entryway table and shook it. "Boomer? Where are you, boy? Come on out, trouble." She looked through her living room without success, not that there were many places a shaggy, basset-schnauzer-whatchamacallit could hide.

Next, she checked the kitchen. Looking under the table and in the pantry got her nowhere. She'd signed up for puppy classes but had been so busy with her whirlwind wedding preparations that she had to postpone the first lesson.

Chris was quickly tiring of Boomer's disobedience and had suggested Olivia get rid of him. Olivia had been appalled. She'd refused so quickly that he'd never brought it up again. As time had passed, she'd despaired of her fiancé ever understanding how much Boomer meant to her.   





 

The silly mutt might have been with her just a couple of months, but he was her only family. Olivia couldn't get rid of him anymore than she could a child.

He was hers.

She moved on to the bathroom and checked behind the partially open door. Nothing. That left the bathtub. Pulling the shower curtain aside, she looked inside. Lying flat on his belly, chin resting on his front paws, was her delinquent dog. He looked up with enormous glossy, brown eyes, the very definition of a sad puppy dog.

"Come on. We have got to get out of here. We are already in so much trouble." His long, shaggy tail wagged once. Out of options and time, Olivia clipped the leash to his collar and led him out. She quickly locked up and put him in the car.

Dreading the upcoming confrontation, she started the car and they were on their way.

At best, Chris's face would darken with annoyance and disapproval when he discovered she'd brought Boomer. At worst? She didn't even want to think about it. Without a way to contain Boomer, she didn't have a choice. If she left him loose, there was no telling what kind of havoc he'd cause.

Michelle had offered to dog sit for her while they went on their short honeymoon. Her friend had already planned on coming by after the ceremony to pick him up. She'd just hand Boomer off to Michelle a little sooner.

It could work.

He was a chewer, not a barker, so he would probably be quiet. They, or she, had planned their ceremony, so it would be sweet and simple. Short. And he was her only family, so why couldn't he attend?

Her future in-laws were getting what they wanted, so why shouldn't she? For what might have been the hundredth time, she reminded herself that this was her day, not theirs.

Christopher's parents had flown in to visit with their son a week ago. June, his mother, had done everything but literally twist her son's ear to get them to schedule an impromptu wedding before they left for their next stop, his sister's home in Connecticut.

That had given Olivia less than a week to plan her wedding. The past few days had flown by in a whirlwind of phone calls, last minute appointments, and shopping. The rush had sucked the enjoyment out of everything, even choosing her dress. After work each day, she'd run all over the county until she'd finally found a dress that didn't need to be altered. She refused to think about the shoes that were supposed to go with it.

Everything will be okay.

She didn't need an extravagant affair, but Chris's mother wouldn't rest unless everything was perfect-meaning June's idea of perfect, not Olivia's.

The main reason Olivia hadn't left all the decisions up to her future mother-in-law was cost. She didn't have any family and didn't need a big extravaganza to start off her life with a man she'd been engaged to for almost two years. Not to mention, she didn't want to hand over her savings to a woman whose eyes lit with an almost maniacal gleam anytime the words marriage or wedding were mentioned.

Her and Chris's relationship had moved into an easy, comfortable routine, and they hadn't been in a hurry to get to the altar. His proposal came almost two years to the day after their first date.

She looked in her rearview mirror and, with his doggy grin in place, Boomer watched the scenery fly by.

She'd seen a picture of him on her social media account and those sad eyes had been her undoing. Unable to forget that face, she'd gone to the rescue two days later and filled out the adoption paperwork. She'd been totally unprepared for how much work had waited for her, but she didn't regret a single moment. There was something so innocent about Boomer, almost childlike.

Yes, he could be an enormous pain in her ass, but she didn't care. He was hers. They'd make this work. She crossed her fingers as she turned her car onto the county road that would take her to Riley Creek. She'd always loved the little town, but it was on the far side of a state park and a thirty-minute drive from where she lived.

She checked the time on the clock in her dash. She couldn't help but feel that the closer to got to her destination, the farther she got from where she was meant to be.

Her car stuttered.

What in the world?

Then her car coughed.

With both hands on the steering wheel, she peered at the gas gauge. The little red needle lay just under the bottom line on the gauge and right on top of the letter E. Beside that ominous letter, a little orange dot glowed in a bright, obnoxious orange.

With one final shudder, her car went silent.



Caleb hefted the fifty-pound bag of dog food from his shoulder and dropped it onto the other two he'd purchased. It landed with a dull thud into the bed of his truck. He shut the tailgate and waved to Bill Peterman. As the old-timer opened the door on his way back into his feed store he paused. "Son, how many dogs you got out at your place?"   

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