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Betting on Paris Series
The rest of the day unfolded in blessed peace and quiet. The stray dog she'd temporarily named Dusty, curled up on the porch and went to sleep.
Toward late afternoon, Alana grabbed one of Grandma Essie’s vinyl shopping bags and took the footpath behind the house to the grocery store. The path ran parallel to the back boundaries of all the houses on the block and wound through a small copse of trees, down the hill to the center of town. It ended at the public parking lot which was situated at the north end of Main Street.
Alana stopped into the grocery store for dog food then treated herself to a soft-serve cone dipped in chocolate. The afternoon temperature had reached eighty degrees and as the sun waned, the air began to cool, creating a pleasant evening.
She hiked back up the hill, her bag now heavy with five pounds of dry dog food and assorted cans of wet food. Due to yesterday’s early rain, she had to step carefully along the wet, slippery earth, making sure to watch out for loose rocks or exposed tree roots. The last thing she needed was to trip and fall, scraping her knees and ruining her dress.
As she neared the top of the hill, she heard a man’s deep, angry voice. It sounded like it came from the backyard next door. Without warning, a large furry animal—soaking wet—streaked across the path, disappearing into the brush. Horrified, she gasped. That looked like Dusty! What had happened to her?
“What on earth is going on?” she said aloud.
The shopping bag landed with a loud thud as she let it drop to the ground. She slammed her purse on the flat stump of a sawed-off tree. With a surge of anger spurring her on, Alana charged along the path, her arms swinging as she searched for the person responsible for spraying water at Dusty and frightening her. She couldn’t permanently keep Dusty, but even so, the poor thing had taken up residence on her porch and for now, that gave her a sense of responsibility toward the sweet canine.
It didn’t take her long to find the culprit. Just beyond the thick stand of lilac bushes that had initially shielded her view, a man stood at the edge of the adjacent property with his back to her, watering a young apple tree with a garden hose. This must be Drew Sinclair, the same man her friend Jemma thought so highly of…
How dare he point that hose at Dusty and chase her off! Who does he think he is?
Her fists clenched with fury as she stomped toward the tall, lean man with thick blond hair, clad in a pair of snug-fitting jeans and a black T-shirt stretched over wide, muscular shoulders. The moment she brushed past the lilacs, he spun around, showering her with icy cold water. “I told you to get—”
“What—a-a-a-a-h!” Alana gasped in shock then screamed as the frigid water deluged her, saturating her from head to toe. “Stop! Turn it off!”
“Where did you—how did you…” Looking totally flummoxed by her presence, he quickly turned off the sprayer, his deep blue eyes widening as he tossed the hose away and approached her. “I’m truly sorry, I didn’t mean to get you all wet! I didn’t realize you were there until it was too late. When I heard the brush moving, it sounded like that coyote had come back—”
“That was no coyote. That was a homeless dog you were picking on!” She shivered, chilled to the bone. Clutching her skirt, she shook the water from it and glared at him, unimpressed with his convenient excuse. “Look at what you did to me! My dress is soaked, my hair is sopping wet, my shoes are probably ruined!”
“You’re shivering.” He reached out to warm her upper arms with his hands, but she jerked away. “You need to get warm. I’ll grab a blanket for you from my porch—”
“No thanks. I’m going home to change.” She needed a nice hot bath to warm her up and a glass of wine to calm her down. She turned to leave, then whirled around, firing one last question at him. “What did you think you were doing, attacking a poor, defenseless dog?”
“This town has been having major problems with coyotes lately. Some people have had their pets snatched right out of their yards. My daughter would be devastated if her cat disappeared.” He held out his palms in frustration. “I didn’t mean it any harm. I simply wanted to discourage it from coming onto my property.”
“Well,” she replied acidly, “I think you’ve gotten your wish. Neither the dog nor I will ever bother you again.”
She stood before him, tall and curvy in a dripping flowered sundress with a tiny waistline and flared skirt. Her long, dark hair, reaching just below her elbows, glistened with moisture in the late afternoon sun. Everything about her, from her manicured nails to her beautiful jewelry suggested she was a woman of fine taste. His younger self would have been attracted to her type like a magnet, but nowadays, with the pain of Monique’s betrayal still deep in his heart, Reid stayed far away from classy women like her.
Just the same, he felt like a fool for turning the hose on her. He should have looked first instead of acting on impulse. Her dress and shoes were probably ruined. Judging by the incensed look on her face, so was any chance to make things right. Even so, he had to try.
“I’m sorry about your dress,” he offered with sincerity. “If you’d like to drop it off at the dry cleaners in town, I’ll pay to have it cleaned and pressed.”
“That won’t be necessary. The dress is washable. It’ll be fine. I can’t say the same for my dog, though. She ran away looking terrified.” Her wide amber eyes flashed in disbelief as she folded her arms. “What did that poor animal ever do to you? It’s simply trying to survive!”
“Hey, I said I’m sorry,” he said, becoming frustrated. “I didn’t know it belonged to you. If you care about it so much, why don’t you take better care of it? It was so skinny and scruffy-looking I thought it was a coyote.”
She rolled her eyes in annoyance. “She’s a stray, but I’m feeding her in the hope that her condition will improve. After the way you just traumatized her, however, I wouldn’t blame the poor pooch if she never comes back!”
They were getting nowhere. In an attempt to lead the conversation into more friendly territory, he purposely softened his tone. “That’s very kind of you to take responsibility for its welfare.” He extended his hand. “By the way, I’m Reid Sinclair. I didn’t get your name.”
“I didn’t give it.” She ignored his gesture of neighborliness and instead kept her arms tightly folded. “I’m Alana Morgan, Essie’s granddaughter. I plan to be in town only a couple of days and I’d like to be able to walk outdoors without worrying about my dog getting drenched again—or me—so do me the courtesy of finding something else to use for target practice.”
Target practice? You’re being ridiculous.
“Look, lady, I wasn’t using the dog for target practice. I told you, I simply wanted to get her out of my yard—”
With a dismissive wave of her hand, she whirled around and began walking away before he’d finished talking. Her refusal to listen to reason made his temper flare. “Well, if you don’t like it then from now on maybe you should keep your dog in your own yard!”
The instant the retort left his lips he regretted it. He hadn’t meant to come across as a bully, and he didn’t know why he’d suddenly lost his cool with her, but there was no way to take the comment back now. He stood in silence and watched her walk away, disappointed in himself for insulting Essie’s granddaughter. He should have tried harder to sympathize with her reasons for being upset instead of alienating her further. She was the one person who might believe his theory that Essie had been pushed off her back steps. That Essie had been murdered.
She said she’d be around for merely a couple of days. Given their disastrous meeting tonight, he might not get another chance to speak to her, but if he did, he had to find a way to bring up the subject and tell Alana Morgan what was on his mind.
Essie deserved that much.
Betting on Paris!
Four exciting stories linked by a unifying theme. You’ll want to read each one!
BETTING ON PARIS SERIES
Sometimes the best bet is the one you lose…
Four best friends. Four promises.
Each year in mid-August, the former college roommates meet up on a girls-only trip somewhere in the world. This year, it’s Paris, the city of museums, art, and romance. One night during their vacation, the girls engage in a serious talk about the sorry state of their love lives and collectively decide they are swearing off men. Instead, each woman is intent on pursuing her life’s goal. Falling in love is the last thing on her mind!
Find all the Betting on Paris novellas at Amazon!