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The Lieutenant's Lost and Found Family

Written by Christy Jeffries

Chapter Seven

Nolan felt Abby’s pulse fluttering at the base of her wrist and immediately regretted his accusatory words. He also regretted his own body’s response to the soft skin on her warm hand.

Dropping her hand quickly, he added, “I mean, obviously, you’re not going to run off with my dog.” At least he hoped she wouldn’t. “And put your money away. I’m sure I owe you a lot more than a coffee and a cookie for taking care of Thor this long for me.”

Her look was doubtful, but she finally slid the twenty-dollar bill into her back pocket. Nolan gulped, trying not to imagine his own palm following that same path, sliding along the curve of her jeans.

The chow chow a few spots in front of them growled again, straining against his bow tie collar as Harper and Thor passed by it to get to the exit. Thor immediately stepped in front of Harper, his ears pinned back as he shielded the little girl.

Despite the pride coursing through Nolan’s chest at his pet’s protective reaction, the last thing Nolan wanted was a full-scale dogfight in the middle of a small-town cookie shop. He gave a hand command to Thor and nodded to Abby. “I’ll meet you guys in the park across the street.”

“Sorry about that,” the older man holding the leash of the spiky-haired dog said when the line moved up. “Esquire here always gets feisty about this time of day when he thinks he’s going to miss his favorite show. The People’s Court.” The man lowered his voice to a whisper. “It’s only reruns this week, but don’t tell Esquire that.”

Nolan, wishing he could’ve been the one to take Thor outside, politely mumbled, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“You see, ever since we retired, Esquire’s been really missing the courtroom.”

“Oh, were you a judge?” Nolan asked absently as his eyes tracked Harper and Thor through the shop’s window as they made their way across the street.

“Nope, just the town attorney. Sam Sugarbaker,” the man said, sticking out his hand. Nolan extended his own, but Esquire let out another menacing bark and Nolan withdrew before the dog could land its pointy teeth in his flesh. “In fact, I handled the guardianship papers when Abby and Harper’s parents died in that car crash last year. The Jordans struggled for years to have a second child and then that terrible tragedy struck. The older gal had to quit her job in Seattle and move back home. The little one stopped talking altogether.”

He was pretty sure Mr. Sugarbaker’s ramblings violated attorney-client privilege, but Nolan was strangely curious about the people who’d taken in his dog—and not just because Abby Jordan had awakened something inside of him. Just like any mission, Nolan needed to gather as much intel as he could before plotting his next course of action.

As he glanced out the window again at the little girl in the wonder suit who was trying to get a matching Thor to go down the slide with her, it was tough not to think about losing his own parents.

When he’d brought Thor home from Afghanistan, he’d vowed to always take care of him, to never abandon him.

It was a vow he had no intention of breaking.

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Christy Jeffries

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