“What’s going on?” This time, the words are impatient.
“Nothing,” I reply immediately, and his eyes narrow further.
“Then why are you over there and not here?” He points to the floor in front of him.
I go to him like I normally would, lift up on my tiptoes, and tilt my head back, waiting for him to bend to kiss me.
“Okay, what the f**k is goin’ on?”
“Um…I… Well, we…um,” I start, trying to tell him about Tubs, when all of a sudden, there’s a loud bang upstairs and both of our heads tilt towards the ceiling for a second before he looks back down at me. When our eyes meet again, I see hurt hit his eyes. Then rage.
“Stay here,” he growls, setting me away from him before I can explain what’s going on.
“Wait!” I yell when I see him pull his gun out from behind his back. I run after him up the stairs and yell, “No!” as he pushes open my old bedroom door when he sees all the others are open.
“What the f**k?” he asks, stopping dead, causing me to run into his back.
I slide around him into the room, seeing that Tubs has pulled the lamp off the bedside table and onto the ground. Luckily, it didn’t break. I pick him up and pull him into my chest.
“Bad puppy,” I mutter, kissing his furry little head.
“What is that?” Kenton asks.
My eyes go to him and I smile. “This is Tubs.” I hold him out to Kenton and he wiggles in my hands, his tongue coming out, trying to reach Kenton’s face. I look from Tubs to my confused man, who is looking at the dog like he’s some kind of alien.
“How did it get here?”
“He got here in my car,” I say, bringing him back to my chest, petting him behind his ears when he whines.
“Put him back in your car and take him back to where he came from.”
I lift my eyes and narrow them. “I’m keeping him.”
“Baby, do you know how much work a puppy is?”
No, I don’t know, but I talked to a very sweet girl at the pet store and she made sure I had everything we needed—from food to a rhinestone-studded collar.
“It’s a lot of work,” he says, watching me.
“But I love him,” I pout, tucking his tiny head back under my chin.
His eyes drop to my mouth then to Tubs. “Fuck.” He shakes his head then reaches out his hand, petting the top of Tubs’s head. “What kind of dog is he?”
“American Eskimo,” I whisper as he takes Tubs from my hands and pulls him to his chest. My heart melts at the sight of him cuddling the puppy.
“What?” I ask, thinking, This is way too easy.
“We can keep him.”
“Really?” My eyes go wide.
“I’ll probably regret this after the first time he pisses in the house, but yeah, we can keep him,” he says, bending towards me, kissing the smile off my face. “None of that,” he tells Tubs when he tries to get in on our kiss.
I laugh and wrap my arms around his waist, looking up into his eyes. “Thank you, honey.” I give him a squeeze.
“You owe me.”
“Anything you want.” I smile and his eyes heat.
“Remember you said that,” he says with a wicked grin, but then I remember the look on his face before he ran up the stairs.
“Did you think I had someone here?” I ask him, my eyebrows coming together, thinking the look of hurt I caught.
“No, but you were acting strange, and then the crash happened, so I didn’t know what to think.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you,” I tell him softly. The thought alone feels like a lead weight in my gut.
“I know that”—his hand comes up, cupping my jaw—“but sometimes when you have something that seems too good to be true, you start waiting for it to crumble to pieces around you.” My breath catches in my throat and tears fill my eyes. “You, Autumn Freeman, are the most important thing in my life.”
“Stop,” I choke out.
“I love you, baby.”
“Love you too,” I sob, burying my face in his chest, and Tubs takes the opportunity to start licking me, making my sobs turn into laughter.
Kenton tilts my head back again, kissing me. “Where’s his kennel?” he asks when his mouth leaves mine.
“Kennel?” I ask dizzily.
“Where he sleeps,” he prompts.
“Oh, I got him a bed.” I point to the large, fluffy dog bed that is now in the middle of the floor, where I’m sure Tubs dragged it.
Kenton looks at me then the bed and shakes his head. “Get his leash and collar.”
“Why?” I ask, going over to the bags I put on the bed with all his stuff in them. I dig through until I find his baby-blue collar with rhinestone studs and his leash that matches. I turn around, my head bent as I take the tags off both items.
I jump at his voice and lift my head. “What?” I ask, looking down at my hands, where his eyes are pointed.
“He’s a boy.”
“I know,” I say, feeling my eyebrows draw together. “That’s why I bought blue.” I hold up the collar and leash so he can see them better.
“It has sparkly shit on it.”
“The girl at the pet store told me they’re the ‘in’ thing. I even got him a couple of shirts that are blue,” I tell him.
“Scratch that. We have two stops to make—one to Petco and the next to wherever the hell it is you bought all that crap so we can return it.”
“We don’t need to return his stuff.”
“It was one hundred degrees outside today with eighty percent humidity. He’s covered in fur. When the hell would he wear a shirt?”
That’s a good point, but I don’t want to give in; the things I bought are cute. “He can wear them around the house.” I shrug, walking towards him with the collar undone so I can put it around Tubs’s neck.
“He’s not wearing shirts around the house.” He shakes his head, pulling the stuff out of my hand and giving me Tubs.
I turn and watch him go back over to the bags of stuff I bought, look through it, and mutter the whole time. By the time he’s done, all he keeps out is the dog food.
“Let’s go.” He puts his hand on the small of my back, leading me out of the room then down the stairs to his car.
When we get home that night, Tubs has a new kennel, a few toys, and a plain, black leash and collar, but I did make it out of the store with a new harness that has blue hearts on it, much to Kenton’s disapproval.