One Intimate Night(3)

By: Penny Jordan

He was, he reflected now, at the dangerous age of thirty-seven, not so very far off the landmark birthday of forty, and ready to eschew the fast-paced city life he had lived for the last decade for something a little gentler. He was also ready to trade the single life he had enjoyed, for something more companionable and cosy. A wife? Children? He wasn’t against marriage as such, but perhaps he was too choosy because, as yet, he had not met ‘the right woman’, nor even come close to doing so.

Now, thanks to Ben and his godmother’s painful ankle, he had had to put back the appointments he had made to view several properties in the area in order instead to take Ben to his training class.

‘How many has he been to?’ he had asked his godmother as she had tussled with Ben and the dog’s reluctance to wear his collar, tenderly loosening it a notch.

‘Oh, I’m not sure. I think this is his third. Of course, we did miss some of the classes in the first set I took him to. He got dreadfully upset because there was a dog there he didn’t like, and the teacher suggested that it might be as well if he didn’t attend for a few weeks. He was so disappointed, poor dog, and I really felt for him when all the other dogs graduated with good marks. He looked so downcast.’

‘Oh, indeed,’ Piers had agreed dryly, surveying the troublemaker with dispassionate eyes.

‘He’s a very sensitive animal,’ his godmother had persisted gently. ‘And so clever. He always knows when the telephone’s going to ring and he comes to find me to tell me.’

Piers, who had heard the sorry tale of how the dog had chewed through the handset cord, had forborne to comment on this remarkable display of canine intelligence. His godmother always had been a soft touch.

Now, as he crisply commanded Ben to sit, he turned to investigate the mess of chewed paper on the rear seat and floor of the car, cursing under his breath as he realised the dog had munched on a magazine he had been keeping because of an article that contained some information he had wanted to reread.

Judging from the diverse array of cars in the practice’s car park, its dog owners must span the full spectrum of human personalities, Piers acknowledged as his glance moved from a gleaming brand-new top-of-the-range Mercedes to a battered Land Rover and on to a pretty red and cream Citroën.

His own Jaguar was, he had to admit, a small piece of pure self-indulgence, a sleek dark maroon sports model which he had bought in a moment of uncharacteristic impulsiveness.

‘What happened to the eco-friendly estate car you said you were intending to buy?’ Jason Sawyer, his partner, had asked him wryly when he had seen it. Jason, with a wife and four children, often bemoaned the fact that the only really suitable car for his lifestyle was the large people-carrier which his wife drove, leaving him to use the family’s second car.

‘I’m not quite sure,’ Piers had admitted.

‘Enjoy it whilst you can,’ Jason had told him. ‘Belinda is making noises about us buying a camper van. She says it will be ideal for touring holidays with the kids!’

As Piers approached the entrance to the practice he saw a large notice pinned to the door with an arrow on it, stating ‘Training Classes—this way.’

Following the direction of the arrow round the side of the building, he could see a long, low range of outhouses in front of him which had obviously been converted for a variety of uses. It was plain which one was his destination from the small crowd of owners and dogs milling around outside it, all of them surrounding a small red-headed girl dressed in a white tee shirt that lovingly moulded itself to her softly rounded breasts and a pair of jeans which moulded themselves equally tenderly to a femininely curved bottom.

Very sexy, was Piers’s first thought—his second was that it was no wonder the majority of dog owners surrounding her were male.

It was obvious that she was the class’s teacher, but Piers deliberately held off from approaching her. It was his habit to assess everything carefully and detachedly before allowing himself to become involved with anyone. A little caution, in his view, was no bad thing, but Ben, it seemed, had other ideas. A momentary lapse of attention, a small slackening of Piers’s firm hand on the dog’s lead, and Ben seized his chance.

Georgia had seen Ben and his unfamiliar human attachment arrive out of the corner of her eye, but she had been too busy welcoming her class with small treats and warm words of welcome to pay too much attention—at least not openly. Inwardly, though, there was nothing wrong with the speed of her reactions, nor the lightning way that her senses registered the awesomely male aspects of Ben’s handler. Tall, broad-shouldered, well muscled, if the way his tee shirt was being flattened against his torso by the breeze was anything to go by. Very thick short dark hair, a rather grim expression in those bitter-chocolate-brown eyes, it was true, and a certain very determined compression about the folded line of his mouth, but otherwise quite staggeringly good-looking, and more sexy in his jeans and tee shirt than any man except an actor as seen in a chocolate-bar advert had any right to be.

Ben, meanwhile, for reasons which only a similarly attuned canine mind could appreciate, had spotted the human who, so far as he was concerned, was responsible for his present blissful lifestyle in doggie heaven with Mrs Latham. He’d made a connection in his brain between Georgia’s brief appearance in the waiting room at the vet’s and his re-homing with Mrs Latham and, being the affectionate animal that he was, he quite naturally wanted to show his appreciation.

Having convinced his besotted owner that a collar worn anything less than loose enough for him to slip his head through and free himself from at will was an instrument of torture highly likely to cause him death by strangulation, as soon as he spotted Georgia he slipped his head from his collar with practised ease and tore across the yard towards her, scattering pets and owners as he did so, launching himself at Georgia and almost knocking her to the ground with the force of his enthusiastic greeting.

‘Ben...down,’ Georgia instructed firmly.

Tongue lolling, Ben obligingly wagged his tail.

‘Ben,’ Georgia repeated, ‘down.’

Ben nuzzled her neck lovingly.

‘Dr Dolittle, I presume,’ Piers drawled sarcastically as he reached his escapee charge and unceremoniously yanked him off Georgia by the scruff of his neck, instructing him in an ominously quiet voice, ‘Sit.’

Ben knew when a little diplomacy was called for. Obligingly he sat very heavily on Piers’s feet, leaning lovingly against him and looking up into his eyes.