Suddenly Engaged (A Lake Haven Novel Book 3)(5)

By: Julia London



He’d ignored her.

Two days ago he’d asked her, fairly politely, not to give any more cheese to his dog, Otto. That little stunt of hers had resulted in a very long and malodorous night between man and beast.

Yesterday he’d commanded her to stay on her side of the fence.

But here the little monster came, apparently neither impressed with him nor intimidated by his warnings.

Well, Dax had had enough with that family, or whatever the situation was next door. And the enormous pickup truck that showed up at seven a.m. and idled in the drive just outside his bedroom window. Those people were exactly what was wrong with America—people doing whatever they wanted without regard for anyone else, letting their kids run wild, coming and going at all hours of the day.

He walked to the back screen door and opened it. He’d installed a dog door, but Otto refused to use it. No, Otto was a precious buttercup of a dog that liked to have his doors opened for him, and he assumed that anytime Dax neared the door, it was to open it for him. He assumed so now, stepping in front of Dax—pausing to stretch after his snoring nap—before sauntering out and down the back porch steps to sniff something at the bottom.

Dax walked out onto the porch and stood with his hands on his hips as the girl brazenly advanced.

“Hi!” she said.

She was about to learn that she couldn’t make a little girl’s social call whenever she wanted. There were rules in this world, and Dax had no compunction about teaching them to her. Clearly someone needed to. He responded to her greeting with a glower.

“Hi!” she said again, shouting this time, as if he hadn’t heard her from the tremendous distance of about six feet.

“What’d I tell you yesterday?” he asked.

“To stay on the other side of the fence.”

“Then why are you over here?”

“I forgot.” She rocked back on her heels and balanced on them, toes up. “Do you live there?”

“No, I just stand on the porch and guard the fence. Yes, I live here. And I work here. And I don’t want visitors. Now go home.”

“My name is Ruby Kokinos. What’s yours?”

What was wrong with this kid? “Where is your mother?”

“At work.”

“Then is your dad home?”

“My daddy is in Africa. He teaches cats to do tricks,” she said, pausing to twirl around on one heel. “Big cats, not little cats. They have really big cats in Africa.”

“Whatever,” he said impatiently. “Who is home with you right now?”

“Mrs. Miller. She’s watching TV. She said I could go outside.”

Great. A babysitter. “Go home,” he said, pointing to Number Three as Otto wandered over to examine Ruby Coconuts, or whatever her name was. “Go home and tell Mrs. Miller that you’re not allowed to come over or under that fence. Do you understand me?”

“What’s your dog’s name?” she asked, petting that lazy, useless mutt.

“Did you hear me?” Dax asked.

“Yes.” She giggled as Otto began to lick her hand, and went down on her knees to hug him. “I always always wanted a dog, but Mommy says I can’t have one now. Maybe when I’m big.” She stroked Otto’s nose, and the dog sat, settling in for some attention.

“Don’t pet the dog,” Dax said. “I just told you to go home. What else did I tell you to do?”

“To, um, to tell Mrs. Miller to stay over there,” she said, as she continued to pet the dog. “What’s her name?”

“It’s a he, and his name is Otto. And I told you to tell Mrs. Miller that you are supposed to stay over there. Now go on.”

She stopped petting the dog, and Otto, not ready for the gravy train of attention to end, began to lick her face. Ruby giggled with delight. Otto licked harder, like she’d been handling red meat. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise Dax if she had—the kid seemed like the type to be into everything. She was laughing uncontrollably now and fell onto her back. Otto straddled her, his tail wagging as hard as her feet were kicking, trying to lick her while she tried to hold him off.

Nope, this was not going to happen. Those two useless beings were not making friends. Dax marched down off the porch and grabbed Otto’s collar, shoving him out of the way. “Go,” he said to the dog, pointing to his cottage. Otto obediently lumbered away.

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