Home > Charming as Puck(8)

Charming as Puck(8)
Author: Pippa Grant

That’s not a cow, that’s my new dog.

I’ve said that last one at least three times this morning as my three—I mean four—dogs and I have circled the block to get all of us some exercise. We’re a few houses from home when I hear an engine approach and slow down.

I sigh, because there are only so many times I can repeat that Sugarbear’s a dog before someone gets suspicious.

And I don’t mean about her not being a cow.

I mean about my sanity.

“You ladies need a lift?” a very familiar, nerve-rattling, nipple-tightening, belly-flipping voice calls.

My vajayjay hears you want a ride?, and yes, it means that kind of ride, and it’s also totally on board with this plan.

Clearly, I need to have a come to Jesus meeting with my vagina.

Or possibly I need to introduce her to something better than Nick’s cock.

My three dogs all lunge for the road and the car, even Tiger, my teacup Yorkie, who tends to freak out at the sight of her own shadow.

Only Sugarbear stays calm, which is good, because I don’t know how I’d handle being yanked down the road by a three-hundred-pound-and-growing calf.

I mean puppy.

“Down, Pancake. Back, Dixie. Tiger, stop.” I hold tight to the leashes on my boxer and my spaniel, and I grab Tiger and pick her up.

“We’re fine, thank you,” I tell Nick.

“Moooooooo,” Sugarbear barks.

Yes, barks. I’m living fully in my fantasy, okay?

“It’s no trouble,” he continues. He coasts along beside us in his Cherokee while I pull my pack along toward home. “This car was built for hauling dogs and cows.”

And it hauled a cow—dog—that pooped in it just a couple days ago. “That’s nice, but I only have dogs.”

For once, he’s silent.

But only momentarily.

“I didn’t mean for you to take the cow.”

“Please stop calling my new dog a cow.” I know. I know. I’ve lost my mind.

And then he laughs, and that rich, happy, intoxicating sound makes all of my determination waver.

He’s not a bad guy. He’s funny, even if some of his pranks push boundaries. He’s loyal and protective to the people inside his circle, and generous in his own unique ways, even if he overlooks the little things. Though he did always make sure I got as much out of our physical relationship as he did.

And why did we stop that again? my vagina asks.

The engine stops, and his car door slams. Sugarbear stops too, so I tug on her leash. “C’mon, sweet girl.”

She doesn’t move. Pancake and Dixie are jumping all over Nick, and Tiger is straining toward him.

“Who’s a good girl? Are you a good girl?”

I’m trying not to watch him love all over my dogs, because watching a man love on animals is almost as potent as watching a man hold a baby, and I need to be immune to Nick’s charm, but I can’t stop myself. He lets them lick all over his face and stick their noses in his crotch and put paw prints all over his track pants without complaint.

His light brown hair is disheveled, his green eyes are tired, and he’s started growing his beard for the season, so he’s extra scruffy in the cheeks. But he’s still pulling off the panty-melting smile.

My dogs are even susceptible. Dixie just flopped on her back and spread her legs like she’d give him full access if he was interested.

“What do you want?” The question is harsher than I mean it to be, but I’m caving. I can feel it. I’m giving in to the magic that is Nick Murphy.

He straightens and hits me with those imploring green eyes that always flip my belly inside out. “I missed your birthday.”

I steel myself against my body’s instinctive reaction to full-blown eye contact with him. First there’s the soda bubbles fizzing through my veins. Then the tightening in my nipples. The heat between my legs. And the extra hard thumping of my heart.

I tell myself someone reminded him, that this isn’t Nick remembering my birthday.

It was right there on video screens on the scoreboard at the game the other night.

The Thrusters wish Kami Oakley a Happy Thirtieth Birthday.

The announcer even said it out loud.

I know Nick gets into the game and focuses hard on the ice, but it was during a break. While Ares was getting a new stick because his broke.

Nick was hanging at the net drinking water.

And he didn’t even notice my name.

If we had a real chance at forever, wouldn’t he have heard my name?

“Which birthday?” I ask. My palms are sweating. So are my boobs. And Sugarbear still won’t move.

He frowns. “The one last Thursday.”

“What number birthday? How old am I?”

His lips part, and his eyes get that goalie-in-the-headlights look. “You don’t look a day over twenty-four.”

“Thirty, Nick. I’m thirty. Your parents came to my surprise birthday at the game. Felicity was hiding thirty balloons in her office when you stopped in to see her that afternoon. It was announced on the loudspeaker at the game.”

“I—” He rubs his neck and absently scratches Pancake’s head. “You’re right. I should’ve remembered your birthday. I should know which birthday it was. I just got wrapped up in the season starting, and it’s a big season, Kami. We could be repeat champions, and—”

He stops himself and looks down. “So I owe you more than a nice dinner out.”

Dixie barks her agreement, and Tiger, who’s still being denied Nick’s affection, howls. It sounds sort of like an overinflated balloon with too much air rushing out the nozzle at once, and that howl is exactly the reason I took her home when I didn’t really need another dog.

She was too precious to resist.

“You don’t owe me anything,” I tell him.

“You’re my friend. I fucked up. I owe you dinner.”

“No, you don’t. Thank you for the sentiment, but you don’t.”

There’s something I’ve never seen before flickering in his eyes as he searches my face.

Like—like he’s seeing me.

Sugarbear moos and takes two steps forward to nuzzle Nick’s thigh.

She doesn’t even come up to his waist, and her brown eyes are so bright and content, and I could picture us all as a happy family, Nick walking our bovine dog, me holding the canine dogs, circling the block and picking up dog poop in cute little green bags and shoveling calf poop into cute large green bags and apologizing to the neighbors for the river of pee raining down on their rhododendrons from our growing several-hundred-pound puppy.

“Back, Sugarbear.” I tug on her leash too—not that it makes any difference.

“You named the cow.” He scratches her head and smiles at me again, the clouds part, and a million angels swoon and fall off their harps. “That’s sweet.”

Tiger whines mournfully in my arms. She’s the only one of the three to ever visit Nick’s place. He fed her plain popcorn, and she’s basically his for the taking now, though I’m pretty sure she’s not as easy as Dixie, who’s now wagging her tail as she continues to lay belly-up at his feet. “We need to get going before someone mistakes my dog for a cow again and calls animal control. Excuse us.”

I tug.

Sugarbear lifts her tail and gives me a just a minute look.

Of course she does.

“Are you keeping the cow?” he asks me.

“The dog,” I grit out.

The cow-dog who’s currently dumping a load on the sidewalk.

And here I am without my shovel.

He looks down at the patty. “Are you going to keep that?”

Oh, good gravy. “You cannot have the cow’s poop for a prank!”

“A-ha! You admit it’s a cow.”

“She’s a dog. Named Sugarbear. Nicknamed The Cow. And now I have to pick that poop up because I don’t trust you to not shove it in Zeus Berger’s locker.”

“I was going to send it off to be made into Christmas ornaments for everyone on the team, but I like your idea better.”

I sigh and shove all of my dogs at him while I whip a plastic grocery bag out of my coat pocket. Our fingers brush, and dammit, why do I always get that electric rush whenever he touches me?

He doesn’t try to take the bag from me to clean up the poop himself, but then, he now has his hands full with a dog trying to lick his beard off while two more jump on him and the cow-dog nuzzles his hip. “Aww, who’s a sweet puppy?” he croons to Tiger while I try to finagle a cow patty into a plastic grocery bag without actually touching it with my hands. “Kami, your dogs want to go out to dinner. They think you should let me make it up to all of you.”

“Little up to my elbows in shit right now, Murphy.”

“I could’ve gotten that for you.”

“Kami?” Mrs. Ostermeijer, my next-door neighbor, pokes her head out the door. “Kami, is that a cow?”

“Afternoon, ma’am,” Nick calls. “This is my dog. Her name’s Sugarbear.”

“Bless my stars, you look just like that handsome goaltender for the Thrusters,” the sweet older lady says. “He’s having an awful season, isn’t he? Couldn’t block a car rolling in at a mile an hour, could he?”

I snort when I should really defend his honor, which sends the scent of cow patty to the back of my throat, and now I’m choking on shit odor.

“Eh, he’s an ass,” he calls back. “He deserves it.”

And that right there is why he’s so irresistible.

Just when you think his ego can’t get any bigger and more unbearable, he goes and deflates it himself.

“I heard his grandmother used to live down the street,” Mrs. Ostermeijer says. “Back before I moved in, and everyone says the same thing. That he’s an ass. My, you have such a good handle on that cow.”

“She’s a dog, ma’am. And thank you. And everybody? I heard at least half the neighborhood loved that goalie guy.”

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