When an unwanted Valentine’s Day present is dumped at the shelter, volunteer Lily decides to foster the poor dog herself. A little attention is all he needs to blossom into a loving pet, ready for his forever home. Plus, helping a poor, rejected animal will distract her from her own problems. Win, win. Right? Wrong. Valentine needs more than a makeover if he’s going to be adopted. He destroys her home, hates to be groomed and when he behaves better for a perfect stranger than he does her, Lily swallows her pride and begs the good looking but quiet stranger for help
After losing his canine partner in a horrific moment that upended his future, sexy and stoic Shane turns to books, walks in the park and remodeling his grandmother’s home. No more intense K9 officer career, no more dogs, no more risks. But it’s hard to ignore the misunderstood mutt at the park and his well-intentioned, but clueless, handler. Shane reluctantly agrees to give her a few tips and tricks, but that’s all. He won’t care. He won’t get invested. And once Valentine finds his new home, his life can go back to normal.
But Shane doesn’t bargain on a new normal in town and, suddenly, Valentine’s Day will never be the same.
“Congratulations! You’ve been approved,” said the text message. “Here’s your match. Please contact us at your earliest convenience for details. Have a great day!”
Lily Garner stared at her cell phone for a moment, and then leaped up from her chair and gave a whoop, sending a sheaf of term project reports cascading to the floor.
The woman in the cubicle next to her shrieked, then sagged back in relief. “Lily, you’re going to give me a heart attack one of these days. This better be good.”
“It is,” Lily told her. She came around the side of the narrow divider, holding the small screen out for her friend to see. “They found me a match! I knew this was the right thing to do. Just look at him, Harp. He’s perfect. Oh, I can’t wait to meet him.”
Harpreet Kaur shifted her glossy black hair over one shoulder, peered at the screen and made a face. “You’re giving up, is that it? My cousin has a friend—”
“Harp, I love you like a sister, but the last dinner date you set me up with, some friend of a cousin’s roommate’s high school buddy or whatever, talked for forty-five minutes straight without asking me a single question. About accounting. Actually, it was longer than that, but I didn’t start timing him right away. He sent his steak back twice, and then didn’t leave a tip. He was the worst date, ever. And I’ve dated a lot of losers.”
Harpreet waved a hand. “This one’s different.”
Lily perched a hip on her friend and coinstructor’s desk. “You always say that. Everyone says that. I’m tired of it. No more eharmony, no more Match.com, no more setups by well-meaning friends and relatives.”
Harpreet tipped her head at the wedding photo pinned to her wall. “Setups can work.”
Lily swallowed, turning her gaze to the happy couple. She’d been the maid of honor during the week of events culminating in Harp and Manny’s multicultural celebration. “I know. But your parents introduced you to someone awesome.” She shuddered. “My mother…”
Harpreet put up a hand. “This is a safe space. She Who Must Not Be Named is not welcome here.”
A face peered over the divider, blue eyes wide with curiosity. Danika Shubert, the third part of their art and design program triumvirate. “What am I missing? Are we talking about Lily’s love life? Ooh, catch me up.”
Harpreet leaned back in her seat. “Lily’s given up on love.”
“I have not!”
“I was afraid that would happen.” Danika crossed yoga-toned arms above the swell of her baby bump and pursed her lips. “It’s time for an intervention.”
But it was as if they didn’t even hear her.
“Perhaps a party? Wait. I know.” Harpreet’s mouth held the o sound, as excitement took hold. “We need to celebrate our new venture! We’ll do it at our house, invite everyone we know—”
“No party.” Lily stepped between them, holding her palms up like a traffic cop. “No intervention. No need for mass hysteria or running in the streets and eating brains. Definitely not about us starting our own firm. My mother thinks teaching design is bad enough—”
“No mother talk,” Harpreet insisted.
Danika nodded. “She makes you crazy and this is a crazy-free zone. Now, back to you giving up on love?”
Lily exhaled loudly. “I’m taking a break from dating, that’s all. Geez. Just because you two are both paired up like pigeons doesn’t mean I have to quickly dive for the nearest single guy, like he’s a chair and the music’s about to stop. It’ll happen when it happens and probably when I least expect it. Or, it won’t. I’m fine, either way.”
She stopped for breath and looked down, suddenly unable to meet her friends’ eyes.
Danika put a hand on her arm. “Honey,” she said softly, her voice full of kindness, “you’re more than fine. You’re beautiful and interesting and accomplished and kind and so talented.”
“Stop.” Lily adjusted her shoulders and made herself smile. “It’s not like I have a broken heart. It’s time for a change, that’s all. Something completely different. I was just telling Harp about it. Look.”
She pulled up the photo again and held her phone out.
“You’re done with dating,” Danika said, “but that appeals to you?”
“That’s what I said,” crowed Harpreet. “Talk about homely.”
“Talk about homeless.” Danika shook her head. “Really, Lily? This seems rather impulsive.”
“He’s had all his shots and he’s neutered, which would normally be a deal breaker but in this case is exactly right.”
“Oh, honey,” Danika said.
“He’s a dog,” Harpreet said.
“Yes, he is,” Lily said, “and don’t worry, I’m not keeping him. He’s just staying with me until he finds his forever home. A month or two, tops.”
“You’ll get fleas,” Harpreet said.
“Bad idea,” Danika said.
“I don’t care,” Lily said.
Then she hugged each of her friends and turned back to her phone to look again at the photo of her soon-to-be foster dog.
End of Excerpt
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