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Puppy Love
Author: Misha Bell


Chapter 1






How the hell is he hot? Everything about Bruce Roxford is ice cold, from his arctic blue eyes to the frosty frown on his lips. Even his dark, sleeked-back hair has a cool, blue-black sheen to it instead of the usual warm brown undertones.

“Yes?” he demands, pointedly not opening his front door any wider.

Why is he acting like his security people didn’t announce who I was? Not to mention, we have an appointment—and it’s not like there are random people coming and going from his massive estate.

Doing my best not to shiver from the chill he exudes, I say, “I’m Lilly Johnson.”

No reply.

“The dog trainer.”


“I’m here for an interview with Bruce Roxford?”

What I don’t say is that the interview is just a pretext to give the heartless bastard a tongue lashing. His bank took my childhood home, so when I saw his ad looking for someone in my field, I knew it was fate.

Maybe I should just cuss him out now?

No. He’d slam the door in my face and have his security escort me off the premises. I need to have him as a captive audience. Before seeing him in person, I figured I’d lock us in a room and read the note that I’ve carefully composed for the occasion. That way, I wouldn’t forget any insults or accusations. However, now that I’m face to face with this huge, broad-shouldered male specimen, I’m less sure about being alone with him, especially in a hostile situation.

He folds his muscular arm in front of his face and frowns at his A. Lange & Sohne watch. “You’re late. Goodbye.”

The words hit me like shards of hail.

“Late by five minutes,” I retort, proud of how steady my voice is. “There was traffic and—”

“Traffic is as predictable a fact of life as taxes.” He starts to close the door in my face.

I suck in a big breath. No time to read my whole spiel. A quick version will have to suffice.

Before I can let loose any vitriol, a blur of black fluff darts out from the tiny sliver between the door and its frame.

A guinea pig?

No. It’s wagging its tail and licking my shoes.

Oh, right. It’s a puppy—which makes sense given the ad.

My heart leaps. This is a long-haired Chihuahua—and a gorgeous one at that, with a silky pitch-black coat, white fur on its chest, a face that reminds me of a tiny bear, and brown patches above its eyes that look like curious eyebrows. Better yet, the lack of yappiness and ankle biting thus far makes me think this might be the friendliest member of this particular breed.

I crouch and pet its heavenly fur. “Hi there. Who are you?”

The puppy flops over, revealing that he’s a good boy, as opposed to girl.

A bittersweet ache squeezes my chest as I scratch the little bald patch on his belly. It’s been five years since I lost Roach, the canine love of my life, and he too was a Chihuahua—just much bigger, less friendly to strangers, and with a smooth coat.

To this day, whenever I come across a new member of this breed, a touch of sadness tarnishes the joy of meeting a dog. Luckily, because they are small, few people formally train Chihuahuas, so I’ve never had to pass on a client because of this. In any case, the joy quickly wins out as I move my fingers to scratch the puppy’s fluffy chest, and he starts to look like he’s mainlining heroin.

“You like that, don’t you, sweetheart?” I croon.

As usual, my imagination provides me with the dog’s response—which, for some unknown reason, is spoken in the impossibly deep voice of James Earl Jones, a.k.a. Darth Vader:

Do I like belly rubs? That’s like asking if I like howling at the moon. Or licking my balls. Or eating a—

Somewhere far above me, I hear someone blow out an exasperated breath.

Oh, shit. I forgot where I am. It’s a common occurrence when dogs are involved.

Straightening to my full height (which, admittedly, is barely five feet), I stare up challengingly into my nemesis’s blue eyes—which look wider now, like fishing holes in an icy lake.

“How did you do that?” he demands.

I nervously tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “Do what?”

He gestures at the tail-wagging Chihuahua. “Colossus is never friendly. With anyone.”

So maybe he is typical for his breed. I grin, unable to help myself. “Colossus? What is he, like two pounds?”

“Two and a half,” he says, expression still stern. “Do you have bacon in your pockets?”

Feeling like I’m on trial, I pull out my pockets to show they’re empty. “I never feed dogs bacon. Even the safest kinds have too much fat and sodium, not to mention other flavorings that—”

“Okay,” he interrupts imperiously.

I blink at him. “Okay what?”

“You’ve got the job.”



Chapter 2






The tiny creature—and I’m not talking about the puppy—raises one of her impressively fluffy eyebrows. “I’ve got the job?”


She will be my first-ever tardy employee, but between Colossus liking her and the bacon diatribe, she’s the best candidate I’ve seen thus far. As ridiculous as it is, this position has been harder to fill than that of my CTO.

“Just like that?” she asks as she gently picks up the puppy, who, to my shock, lets her do so without a single biting attempt.

It took an entire week before he allowed me to reach for him without chomping on my fingers—and none of my staff have yet achieved this feat.

I open the door wider to let her step inside. “One of my trade secrets is my ability to choose the right person for every job.”

The other fluffy eyebrow joins the first. “Are you sure your trade secret isn’t your modesty?”

I pretend not to have heard. I have no idea why Colossus likes her. He’s clearly a horrible judge of character. I bet it was something stupid, like the fact that she’s the tiniest human he’s ever met, which makes him feel like a bigger dog. Or it could be as simple as the fact that she smells nice. As she passes by, I detect notes of cherries and incense in her perfume, along with something floral.

She waits until I close the front door before setting Colossus down on the floor—an attention to detail that I appreciate. We don’t need the dumb puppy running out.

“What on Earth are those?” She points at the pee pads that span the whole house, like a blue carpet.

I grimace. “Colossus is not housebroken.”

She wrinkles her dainty nose. “I prefer the term ‘domesticized.’”

Though my eyebrows are vastly inferior to hers, I arch one anyway. “Is there a practical difference between a ‘housebroken’ and a ‘domesticized’ Chihuahua?”

She narrows her hazel eyes at me. “Is there one between ‘abrasive’ and ‘jerk?’”

If that’s an attempt to insult me, it’s as weak as her attempted lesson in linguistics. “‘Domesticize’ makes it sound like we’re taming a wolf.”

As usual, my mind boggles at the idea of Colossus sharing 99.9% of his DNA with a fierce killing machine. Then again, the puny human in front of me and I share even more DNA, which just proves how much difference that tiny percentage can make.

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