The Texas Ranger. Jan Hudson

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Название The Texas Ranger
Автор произведения Jan Hudson
Жанр Современные любовные романы
Издательство Современные любовные романы
Год выпуска 0

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He finished dressing and turned to look for Pookie. He couldn’t find her anywhere.

      Oh, well, she’d come out sooner or later.

      He left out plenty of food and water in the kitchen and left her bed and toys in his bedroom. She’d be fine until he returned.

      SAM WAS LATER GETTING HOME than he figured on. And later than Pookie had figured on as well, from what he found on the floor. Honestly, he’d forgotten about the dog, so he didn’t scold her. Instead, he let her out the back door and cleaned up the mess without too many cuss words. He’d try to remember to come by home a couple of times during the day tomorrow to let her out.

      When he checked on her a few minutes later, the patio area was empty. As he went outside to search for her, he heard whining and scratching. He climbed up and looked over the fence and saw Pookie crying and clawing on Mrs. Book’s back door.

      He felt sorry for the little thing and went and got her.

      “How about you and me going to get a hamburger?” he asked her. “I’m hungry.”

      She seemed happy enough when she stood in his lap and looked out the window as they went to the fast food place a few blocks away. She hadn’t touched the dry food he’d left in her bowl, but she downed a good portion of his second hamburger—except the pickles and onions.

      Pookie even whined her way into his bed that night. He could understand that she was confused and probably slept with Mrs. Book.

      The next day he called the hospital to check on his neighbor, but the one he’d assumed she’d been sent to didn’t have any record of a Mrs. Book. He tried a couple of others with the same result. He couldn’t contact the maid; he didn’t even know her name. Nor did he know the name of her nephew. Sonny, she’d called him.

      Sam was even more concerned when he came home at noon the next day to let Pookie out and saw a van in front of Mrs. Book’s house with the name of an auction house on its doors. He walked over and spoke to a man who was there, hoping it might be Sonny.

      “I’m doing an inventory for the estate sale,” the man said.

      “What estate sale?” Sam asked.

      “Woman who lived here died. Her nephew said to auction off everything.”

      That was fast. Disgusted with Mrs. Book’s family, he managed to get the nephew’s name and phone number. When Sam called Sonny to find out what to do with Pookie, the man said, “I don’t give a damn what happens to that dog. Send it to the pound if you don’t want it.”

      Sam slammed down the phone and looked at Pookie, who sat watching him, her head cocked to one side, an imploring look in her eyes.

      Hell, he couldn’t have anymore sent her to the pound than he could have sent his own mother.

      He called Skye Walker’s clinic in Wimberley and made an appointment for Saturday, then he went to the building supply store and bought the stuff to make a doggy door.

      WHEN SAM GOT TO WIMBERLEY and stopped at the gate, he wasn’t sure he had the right place. Why in the world was there a manned guardhouse? He first thought it might be the entrance to a park or something.

      Sam rolled down his window. “I’m looking for the veterinary clinic.”

      “And your name is?”

      “Sam Outlaw. I have an appointment.”

      The man checked a list. “Yes, sir. I have you here. Go straight down the road and take a right at the Y. You’ll run into the clinic.” He punched a button and the metal barrier opened.

      Must be an upscale place, Sam thought as he drove through. He’d heard of gated communities, but he’d never been to a gated vet’s office. He parked in the lot in front of a white Austin stone building with a red tile roof, retrieved Pookie and attached a leash to her collar. When he got to the front door, he was even more mystified. The door was locked. What the devil? Had they closed already?

      He rang the doorbell, then knocked.

      He waited. And waited. The door opened a crack. “Mr. Outlaw?” a woman asked.

      He started to say, “Joe sent me,” but, instead of smarting off, he answered with a simple, “That’s me.”

      The door opened wider. “Please come in and have a seat. Dr. Walker will be with you in a moment.”

      Pookie balked at the threshold, and Sam had to pick her up and carry her inside. She was shaking again.

      “It’s okay, girl,” he said, stroking her. “Dr. Skye’s one of the good guys. She won’t hurt you.” How was it that animals always knew when they were going to the vet? He’d had to drag Pookie from under the bed this morning when he was ready to leave.

      He heard voices at an interior door, then it opened and the mayor walked out with his Doberman. Wouldn’t you know? The dude glanced at Pookie and smiled. “Cute dog.”

      “My neighbor’s.”

      “I see,” the mayor said. “Sam, isn’t it?” He held out his hand.

      “Yes.” Sam stood and shook hands with him.

      A guy roughly the size of a tank followed the mayor out of the interior. He checked the peephole in the front door, then flipped a switch on the wall, unlocked and opened the door for the mayor.

      “Good to see you again,” the mayor said.

      John? Jim? Sam couldn’t remember. He only remembered that he didn’t much care for his toothy smile.

      As soon as the lock clicked into place and the switch was flipped back up, the tank turned to Sam. “I’m Napoleon, Dr. Walker’s assistant. Come with me, please.”

      Sam didn’t argue. He was meaner looking than any man he’d ever seen on death row, and, although Sam didn’t often meet anyone who made him nervous, the tank put him on guard. This guy didn’t look like he’d go down unless you shot him—a bunch of times.

      He was led into a room where Skye waited. Gus lay quietly in a corner. Gus raised his head and glared at Sam—or did something that passed for a dog-glare. His lips twitched back over his teeth.

      Dressed in a blue smock, Skye stood by a tall examining table, scanned a chart. She glanced up when he entered and smiled. “Well, hello, Sam. What brings you here?”

      He held out the dog. “Pookie.”

      Skye took her, and the dog almost went into ecstasy, wiggling and licking Skye. “Hello, sweetie. How are you?”

      Pookie arfed. Twice.

      Skye cuddled her close. “Somehow I never figured you for the type who’d choose a Lhasa apso named Pookie.”

      Sam rolled his eyes. “Me, neither.” He told her the story of how he came to be her new owner. “I don’t know anything about her. I didn’t even know what kind of dog she was until you said. She just looks like a dust mop to me. I don’t know about her health or if she’s had her shots. She hides under the bed a lot.”

      Skye checked a tag on her collar. “Here’s the number of her vet in San Antonio. Why didn’t you call the office and ask?”

      Feeling a little dumb, Sam managed to grin. “Never thought of it. Guess I was looking for an excuse to drop over and ask you to lunch.”

      She laughed, took a cell phone from her pocket and punched in a number. She identified herself and asked for information on Pookie. After a few moments, she hung up and told Sam, “All her shots are in order, and she’s a bit overweight but basically healthy. Let me examine her to be sure.”

      Skye set the dog on her examining table, whispered something to her, and Pookie’s wiggling stopped. She stood statue-still while Skye looked her over.

      After a few minutes, Skye said, “She’s fine, just a little sad about the loss of her mistress. It’s to be expected. She likes you.”

      “I feed her hamburgers and steak.”

      “Leave off the hamburgers and steak, or she’ll be a real roly-poly.”