Authors: EC Sheedy
Man's Best Friend
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Copyright © 2000, 2012 by Edna Sheedy. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
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Tim, first, last and always.
And to the "lunch bunch," Vanessa, Susan, Bonnie, and Gail. Pen warriors all.
And Pat from Seattle, who told me all about tall buildings and the bathroom in the sky.
And Nancy, she of the teddy bears and generous heart. You are so special!
Rand Fielding glanced out the driver's side window of his black Mercedes.
Other than a shadowy line of trees, night erased all points of interest. He dropped his gaze to the dashboard clock. After midnight. Again. But this time his long hours—and the last telephone call—had paid off. Big time.
Even the pending deal with Cullen Macy and the millions it would bring in didn't stoke the dying fire in his once competitive soul. He rubbed between his brows, frowned.
Time to move on?
The voice of reason or exhaustion? Rand couldn't tell the difference anymore.
Ignoring the four-car garage, he arced the powerful sedan around his driveway and pulled up in front of his house. Briefcase in hand, he took the first of the five stone steps leading to his door.
On his second step, he heard something... not crying exactly. More like whimpering.
On the next step he saw it, a wicker bassinet propped against the door. A blue satin ribbon tied around it held a handmade sign proclaiming, IT'S A BOY!
His heart stopped with stunning immediacy, and he tried desperately to remember. Could he have...
Nine months ago, he'd been in negotiations for a wireless communications contract in Mexico. He'd barely slept, let alone had sex.
He took the last step.
Propped against the bassinet was a gigantic envelope with HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RAND in bright red letters. He tore it open, and read the note inside.
Every boy should have one. Ned.
Ned! Of course.
The snuffling sound stopped, replaced by a series of sharp yips. Rand leaned to look into the bassinet at the same time two small paws levered up to its edge and tipped it over.
A puppy, all fat belly and bravado, scrambled out. It pawed at Rand's shoes, growled with all the menace it could muster, squatted and peed; missing Rand's five-hundred-dollar wingtips by a bare half inch. That basic need met, it propped itself against his ankle to scratch an itch—a botched effort that toppled the little animal to the lower step.
Rand's rescue netted him a sharp nip on the thumb.
He stuffed the pup back in its lace-festooned basket. Its head popped up like a cork in beer, and it licked Rand's hand.
"Forget the apology, small stuff. Tomorrow morning you are outta here. It'd be sooner, if I thought there was any chance Ned would be home before the last club closed."
Not wanting to wake Milton, his house manager and cook, Rand sorted through his keys and opened the door. Briefcase in one hand, beribboned basket in the other, he stepped into his marble-floored entry hall.
He set his case by the door and sucked on his bitten thumb. Damn dog had hypodermics for teeth. Again the pup's head shot up from the bassinet. Sensing it was about to make a freedom leap, Rand pushed him back down and headed for the stairs. The sooner he got the creature settled, the sooner he'd get some sleep.
The pup, given more energy than space, rooted about with fury, growling and tearing at his blankets as if they were mortal enemies. He made more noise than a kennel full of strays at feeding time.
"Yeah, you're one tough puppy, all right."
The ferocious one woofed in agreement. Rand grinned, reached down to ruffle his ear. The pup nipped him again, then triumphantly wagged his skinny excuse for a tail.