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The Lieutenant's Lost and Found Family

Written by Christy Jeffries

Chapter Nine

When Nolan pulled into the driveway the following afternoon, the dog leaped off the front porch and ran toward him. Either the guy had bacon lining his pockets or the animal just really loved him. Abby fought the urge to massage the tension out of her temples.

“I brought some of his favorite toys,” Nolan said, lifting a backpack out from his rental car as Harper tentatively followed the dog. “Want to see a trick?”

“I guess,” Harper said as she lifted on her tiptoes to sneak a peek at what was in the backpack.

Nolan pulled out a tattered stuffed animal that might’ve been a pig at one point. “This is Sergeant Oink,” he said, and the dog immediately lifted both his front paws. “Sergeant Oink used to play a song when you pushed his snout, but Thor chewed the mechanism out. He’ll still do the dance, though.”

When Nolan raised the formerly pink and formerly plush toy over his head, the dog let out a bark and made a couple of circles on his hind legs. Sergeant Oink then went flying in the air and Thor jumped up to catch his dance partner in his mouth before lowering himself into a one-legged bow.

Harper clapped her hands. “Let me try!”

After the dancing trick came the Frisbee trick where Nolan said, “Close your eyes, Thor,” and the dog plopped his head down on the ground and put his paws over his face. Nolan then walked around the side of the house, returning a few moments later without the plastic disc.

“Where’d it go?” Harper asked.

Nolan put a finger to his lips and winked. “Okay, boy, go find the Frisbee.”

The dog barked and ran to the side of the house, out of sight.

“Maybe we should go help him look,” she suggested, but Nolan just smiled and shook his head.

Then Abby heard the splash of water and the blood rushed from her face.

“It’s not even spring yet. Please tell me that you didn’t just send him into the freezing-cold water.”

Crap. Nolan began tearing at the buttons of his flannel shirt as they raced toward the lake. He’d been so eager to prove the dog belonged to him, he hadn’t stopped to consider that the water temperature near a mountain ski resort was going to be quite a bit cooler than the beaches along the North Carolina shore.

Would he have to jump in and rescue his mighty pup?

But when they reached the water’s edge, Thor was already emerging from the lake, the bright green Frisbee clutched in his mouth.

“Oh, thank God,” Abby said as she wrapped her arms around her waist, her chest rising and falling with each breath.

Thor dropped the disc at his feet and Nolan ripped his gaze away from the front of Abby’s sweater.

“Good boy,” he told the dog, who replied with a forceful shake, sending water flying off his fur. The icy water landed on Nolan’s bare torso, reminding him that he was standing there with his shirt halfway off.

A shudder raced down Nolan’s spine, but not because of the cold. It was because Abby was now looking at his chest the same way he’d been looking at her a few moments ago. His shoulders pushed back involuntarily and her pink tongue darted out and traced her upper lip.

“Hey, I didn’t know my dog could swim,” Harper said, thrashing noisily through the pine needles along the bank as she made her way down to them. “Can he do it again?”

Nolan quickly managed to get the edges of his shirt together, then cleared his throat. “He could do it all day long if the water was warmer.”

“Yeah,” Abby said, her voice sounding a bit huskier than it had a few moments ago. “It’s way too cold for him right now.”

“But I didn’t get to see.” Harper’s tiny hand latched onto Nolan’s forearm as she lost her balance in her red costume boots. Yesterday, the girl had strategically stationed herself behind either Abby or Thor when anyone came near. The fact that she was now making eye contact with Nolan and standing so close wasn’t lost on him. She shoved her crooked WW monogrammed headband back in place and turned her big green eyes on him. “Please, Mr. Nolan. Just one more time?”

A minuscule rip tugged at a corner of his heart and that was when he knew he was in trouble.

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Christy Jeffries

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