Love & Secrets Excerpt

Love & Secrets - Cover

 

The loud, abrupt sound jerked him out of a deep, desperately needed sleep.

Barking?

Oz lifted his head slightly, not sure he was fully committed to caring about whatever was outside.  Was it a threat?

He listened again, his brain still foggy but….

Nothing.

Laying his head down again, Oz figured it had just been his imagination.  Pulling the pillow closer, he shifted and…

There it was again.  Odd.

What the hell?  A dog?

Lifting his head again, he searched for, and found, Betty staring at him.  His faithful, overly haired dog whimpered at the end of the bed. Every night, Oz ordered Betty to the bottom of his bed.  And every morning, he found the sweet, affectionate canine pressed against his back/side/legs/head/face…wherever she could be touching him with as much of her body as possible.

And because Oz was such a sucker, he never admonished her for creeping out of her designated bed space.

Betty heard it too, her fluffy ears perking up, her head pointing towards the window…every part of her on high alert.

So, if it wasn’t Betty outside of his house, which was deep in the woods and as far away from humanity as possible…who was barking?

And a better question…why was a dog barking at…Oz looked at his clock and groaned.  It was five thirty in the freaking morning!  Normally, that wasn’t an issue, but when he’d just fallen into bed two hours ago, five-thirty was on par with what he thought of as hell.

“Someone is going to be in a world of hurt,” he snapped as he jerked out of bed.  Betty, always ready to play and a horrible guard dog, raced ahead of him, pausing at the stair’s landing to ensure that Oz was following before sprinting down the stairs, black nose pressed tightly to the door, butt wiggling in anxious eagerness to find out who was in her territory.

He opened the front door, glaring out into the surrounding woods, trying to locate the culprit as a furry thing whisked past his legs.

“Betty!” he ordered.  His normally obedient border collie didn’t even glance over her fluffy shoulder as she darted towards…a bull dog?  A big, gruff bull dog?  And yeah, that beast was racing towards his Betty as if she were a doggie biscuit drenched in bacon grease.

“What the hell!”

Immediately, some awkward, albeit romantic butt sniffing ensued, tails wagging and happy barks emitted, or were they flirtatious?  Whatever, they kept doing it like some strange doggie dance designed to entice and allure.  “Betty!” he called, trying to bring her back inside.

“Bart!” a feminine voice called out.  A moment later, a blonde with tight yoga pants and an equally tight sports shirt appeared through the trees.

Immediately, Oz felt like Bart, wanting to sniff and dance and entice.  There wasn’t a need for butt sniffing, he thought stupidly.  But…oh man, what an incredible ass!  The blonde woman bent over and latched a leash to the bull dog’s collar.  “Come on, Bart.  That was naughty of you to…”

That’s when the blond saw him.

Belatedly, Oz realized that he was naked, having just gotten out of bed.  The woman’s eyes widened and he thought about laughing, but the color of her eyes, even from this distance, was amazing!  Feeling the crystal blue of her gaze all over his body was better than butt sniffing!

The woman stared.  He stared.  In the back of his mind, Oz heard the dogs barking while Betty continued to flirt with the big bull dog, apparently named Bart.  But he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the blond beauty!  She was stunning!  Her soft, red lips parted.  Her eyes moved over him, warming him, caressing him with crystal-blue heat.

His body reacted and he stepped closer, only to stop when her eyes widened further.  She stepped backwards, and he noticed her nipples press against the tight sports shirt.

“You’re…ummmm…” the blonde pointed weakly and Oz looked down.  Sure enough, he had a full-on erection going.

He shrugged.  “Yeah, it happens when a woman wakes me up at this hour of the morning.”

The woman laughed and quickly slapped a hand over her mouth.  “Yes.  Well, I…” her eyes darted downward once more.  Lingering.  His body hardened further and her reaction made him want to howl.  Or drag her inside to continue what she was currently doing with her eyes.

“Oh” she gasped, then twirled clumsily as her dog raced around her legs, trying to get another sniff of his Betty.  The two dogs were circling, wanting to entice the other.  He chuckled, watching the woman try and control both dogs without falling down.  It wasn’t working.

“Are you just going to stand there?  Or are you going to control your dog?” she snapped over her shoulder.

“Always ready to help out a lady in distress,” he replied and hurried down the stone steps.  He caught Betty’s collar and pulled her back.  But the woman was still tangled up in Bart’s leash.  It was an interesting predicament and Oz couldn’t deny that he enjoyed the show as she bent over, her perfectly round ass right in front of him as she stepped over the leash and untangled her legs.

“Thank…” she stopped as she turned around and looked up at him.  “You’re still naked!”

He shrugged.  “You asked for help.  I provided.”

“But…” she glanced down and her eyes lingered again.  “Well, why didn’t you pull on some pants?!” she hissed, ripping her gaze away.

“Why? You’ve gotten an eyeful already.  Pulling on pants wasn’t going to change what’s already there.”

The woman abruptly turned her back to him, but he could feel her eyes roll.  “Come on, Bart.  Let’s go.”

She walked away in a huff, tugging on Bart’s leash while the bulldog stared longingly back at Betty.  Oz knew exactly how he felt as he watched the blonde beauty walk away, her spine stiff with outrage.

With a chuckle, Oz bent down to scratch Betty’s ears.  “That’s one way to meet the new neighbors,” he soothed.  Betty only whined slightly, her soft ears twitching as she stared off in the direction where her lost love had disappeared.

“I know, honey.  But he’s gone.”  With a gently tug, he got Betty back into his house.

“Food,” he announced. Betty began to dance with excitement, easily distracted. After moving his company to Kentucky, he’d chosen a piece of land that was only ten miles from the airport and quickly commissioned this house.  It was modern in design with massive windows that looked out at the forests.  On one end of the great room was a smooth wall of glass that revealed the trees that were just starting to burst with leaves as the spring warmth helped ease the world out of the winter doldrums.

He padded barefoot into the huge kitchen where the new, modern appliances gleamed, waiting impatiently for him to break them in.  He couldn’t wait to start cooking, experimenting with different flavors and ingredients, using the state of the art equipment that he’d had installed.  But first, he’d have to get pots and pans.  The black granite countertops were sparkling clean at the moment, but as soon as he went grocery shopping, he was going to make…something delicious.  He hadn’t decided what his first meal would be, but the idea of cooking for a blonde beauty with a great ass sprang to mind.

 

“The gall of that man!” Charlotte grumbled as she stomped through the crackling oak leaves back towards her house.  “Naked!  The man was literally naked!”  She shook her head, then looked down at Bart as his lovingly ugly features turned towards her.  “He was naked, Bart!”

Her dog’s stub of a tail wagged but since there wasn’t much of it, his whole body wagged, making him appear to swagger.

“Yeah, I know.  You didn’t like him either.  He was…” Impressive came to mind as that massive erection appeared in her thoughts.  “Annoying!” she substituted quickly.  “What kind of man walks out of his house naked when a stranger is around?” she asked the dog.  More swaggering from Bart and he sneezed violently. “I agree.  He wasn’t tasty at all!”

She unlocked the door to her small, cottage-style house, tossing the keys onto the entry table.  “How about some breakfast?” she offered.  A moment later, she dumped dog food into his bowl, scratching Bart’s ears affectionately as he smashed his face into his bowl, barely taking time to breathe as he inhaled the food.

“Are you coming to the office with me today?”

Bart barely looked up in response, but Charlotte took that to mean that he was all in.  As a psychologist, Charlotte had trained Bart to help in her therapy sessions.  The sweet, ugly animal seemed to have a sixth sense for when a person needed a bit of a snuggle.  He’d move from his doggie bed in the corner of her office over to the couch where her patients usually sat and just rest his muzzled chin on someone’s knee. There was something about a dog’s affection that soothed the soul and helped her patients get through whatever emotions were haunting them.

Kids were initially scared of Bart’s gruff face.  But Bart knew how to snuggle with even the smallest of creatures.  There were a couple of kids who had screamed at the first sight of Bart, terrified out of their minds of dogs in general and Bart in particular.  Bart was undeterred.   When he saw a small child screaming, he simply walked away to his basket of toys, sort through until he found one he liked and brought it back, lowering his belly to the ground and nudging the toy closer and closer until the child understood.  They were fast friends after that.

Forty-five minutes later, Charlotte was showered and changed into black slacks and a cream silk blouse, her hair pulled back, showcasing simple pearl earrings.  “Okay, buddy.  Let’s roll!” she called to Bart.

The big lug leapt from his doggy bed and swaggered to the garage.  He knew the drill and jumped into the back seat, but always wanting to be as close as possible to Charlotte, he squeezed his body closer to the console between the seats.  As soon as she stepped into the car, she spotted his game.  He gave her that guilty, wistful, “please don’t push me away” look and Charlotte rolled her eyes, scratched his ears and gave in.  She got a lick to her silk-covered elbow as a reward when she attached his doggie seatbelt, then she started the engine.  “You’re spoiled, dude,” she told the canine as she backed out of the garage.

If she glanced in the direction of her new neighbor’s house, lingering ever so slightly along the leaf-hidden driveway, it was only because she still couldn’t believe how…huge…the man was.  “He was tall, Bart!” she said guiltily.  “Just really tall.  And with broad shoulders!”  She kept thinking about him, his naked glory all…out there on display.  “Didn’t he have a lot of scars for a man his age?” she asked the dog.  Bart snuffled her elbow in answer.  “What kind of job does he do that would cause scars like those, do you think?”

She chatted with Bart until they reached her office. She heard the jingling of his collar when she pulled into the parking lot.  “Enough about him,” she announced.  “His house is finished now, so we’ll just steer clear of that side of the woods, okay?”

Bart stood on the seat and shook his head.  “No, you’re not going over to visit that border collie again,” she admonished the dog, attaching his leash.  “She let you sniff her butt on the first date.  She’s a hussy!”

And if Bart seemed to grin right back at her, as if to say, “Yeah, just try and stop me.” Charlotte told herself she was just being fanciful.

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