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The Lieutenant's Lost and Found Family

Written by Christy Jeffries

Chapter Four

I hope you’re not suggesting that our dog belongs to you.” Abby narrowed her eyes at Nolan Murphy, trying not to zero in on the chiseled line of his jaw or the determined set of his full lips.

Who was she kidding? She’d seen the way the animal had greeted Nolan and how quickly he’d responded to the man’s commands.

But Abby had to stall for time and put on a brave face. She’d do anything in her power to keep Harper from experiencing any more heartbreak this year.

“That’s exactly what I’m suggesting,” Nolan replied. “I saw the video you posted online of him doing the backflip.”

Abby took a step to the side to create a little more distance. “One of my neighbors actually posted the video when we’d been attending a family movie night in the park. Since then, I’ve had several offers to buy the dog, a dozen inappropriate comments about my physical appearance, and one creep who found me on social media and sent me a direct message with pictures of his…uh…private parts. So forgive me for being a little protective when someone walks up to me on the street and tries to claim my sister’s dog for his own.”

“You need more proof than Thor’s welcome-home trick earlier?” Nolan asked and pulled a smartphone out of his pocket. “I have pictures. My unit adopted Thor when he was only eight weeks old and we were stationed overseas.”

The puppy on his screen was surrounded by at least twenty soldiers wearing desert camouflage, but it was the ruggedly handsome guy in the center of the photo who commanded her attention. Abby shrugged to mask the shudder racing down her back. “It kind of looks like him, but puppies change a lot over the years.”

“Then how about this one?” He used his thumb to scroll to the next photo. “That’s Thor visiting me at the hospital after my…uh…after I had surgery.”

Her pace slowed as she studied the picture of Nolan in a hospital bed, the dog tucked into the man’s side as though someone had sneaked him into the facility.

Apparently, her body decided now was the perfect time to remind her that it’d been way too long since she’d been out in public with a handsome man. Of course, mourning a lost mom and stepfather, along with taking on the sole responsibility for an emotionally fragile younger sister, tended to make one less social.

Nolan leaned toward her as he showed her the screen, and the scent of coffee and masculinity tickled her nose. “Here’s another one with Thor and my neighbor, who was taking care of him while I was on my last deployment. Look for yourself,” he said, placing the device in her hand. “There’s plenty more pictures of him in there.”

Abby scrolled through his pictures, partly out of curiosity and partly as a distraction to her body’s physical response to his closeness.

There were pictures of the dog running and playing on the beach, and pictures of the dog snuggled into a giant red blanket with the USMC logo on it. One after the next, a pattern slowly began to emerge. There were plenty of shots of either the dog alone or the dog with Nolan. There were even a couple of the dog with the neighbor, an elderly gentleman with age spots on his bald head.

In fact, there wasn’t one single picture in the entire phone that didn’t contain the dog. Which meant that Nolan was telling the truth—and that Abby suddenly had a ninety-pound problem on her hands.

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Christy Jeffries

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