She named a dry food that she recommended for small dogs. “She can have a treat occasionally.” She ruffled Pookie’s coat. “Show dogs of this breed really do look like dust mops, and they have to be carefully and frequently groomed. Her coat has been kept clipped, and I’d recommend continuing that for her comfort and your convenience. She needs a haircut and grooming now before she starts getting painful mats.”
“Where do I get that done?”
Skye glanced at Napoleon. He nodded. “Napoleon will get her fixed up. Every few weeks you can take her to any good groomer near you.”
Skye handed Pookie to Napoleon, and the dog went into her wiggling and licking routine again for him. She didn’t seem to mind his looks. The man spoke to her softly as they left the room.
“Sam, I think it’s very sweet of you to take in Pookie.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t want to take her to the pound. Do you know of anybody who might like to have her?”
Skye looked concerned. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to traumatize her further. She’s probably best off with you.”
Sam nodded. Looked like he now had a dog. “How about joining me for lunch?”
“How about you join me at home instead? You and Pookie. Belle is coming over to go swimming this afternoon.”
“I don’t have a suit.”
“I’m sure one of Gabe’s will fit.”
“It’s a deal.” The thought of Skye in a bathing suit had him salivating. He’d bet she was a knockout in a bikini.
“You can have a seat in the waiting room until Napoleon is finished with Pookie,” she said. “I have a couple more patients to see yet.”
SKYE FELT AS GIDDY AS A CHILD at Christmas. She was sure that Mrs. Westmoreland thought she was nuts because of the way she kept smiling during the account of Puffy’s numerous hair balls. And certainly nothing was funny about George Bill’s parrot, who had picked out half his feathers, but she could barely keep her mind on her patients. She wanted to break out into song and dance around the examining tables.
Sam Outlaw was here, here in her office. She’d thought about him all week, wondering if she would ever see him again. Gabe had said that Sam wasn’t her type, but she had to disagree. Sam was exactly her type. No man that she’d met in years had made her chest tighten and her stomach do back-flips.
She wanted to kiss little Pookie for bringing him to her office. And she could hardly wait to see Sam in a bathing suit. He was sexy enough with all his clothes on. Bare-chested, she’d bet he was a serious stud-muffin.
She giggled as she hung up her smock. Where were all these thoughts and feelings coming from? It was as if all her pent-up desires were rattling their cages and clamoring to get out. She’d have to watch herself or she’d scare the poor man to death.
When Sam pulled himself out of the pool, looked at her and grinned, Skye nearly melted into a little puddle. Even his teeth were perfect—as perfect as his abs. He could have been a model, except he probably thought models were sissies. And maybe they were. Sam was all man for sure, and she hadn’t been able to keep her eyes off him since they’d left her office. He was gorgeous, and sexuality oozed from him like honey from a comb. She wanted to run her tongue over his chest to see if he tasted sweet.
Suddenly embarrassed by her thoughts, she forced herself to look away and say something to Belle. But Belle was looking at Gabe as if he were an eclair on a doily and not paying the least bit of attention to Sam and her. Gabe was just as rapt with Belle.
Maybe that’s why Skye had gone so goofy over Sam. She was envious of her brother and Belle, and wanted the same thing they had. Boy, had she picked a doozy for her first foray into romance in years. Why couldn’t she be attracted to somebody sane and simple? Like John.
But no. John didn’t make her heart rev up like a race car.
“Come on in the water,” Sam said.
“I don’t want to get my hair wet.”
“It’ll dry. Come on in. Or can’t you swim?”
“Of course I can swim. I’ve got a box full of ribbons somewhere that says I can.”
Sam walked toward her, trailing water. “Guess I’ll just have to toss you in.” He grabbed her.
“No-o-o-o!” she screamed. “Don’t!”
He laughed, hauled her up and jumped into the pool with her in his arms.
Gus barked, Gabe yelled and she hit the water in a panic.
When she surfaced, Gus had Sam by the arm, and both Gabe and Belle were in the pool yelling and splashing. Pandemonium.
“Gus! Release!” Skye shouted.
Gus let go of Sam’s arm, but Gabe grabbed it. “What the hell are you doing?” He drew back his fist.
“Let go of my brother,” Belle yelled at Gabe. “What the hell are you doing?”
Gabe stepped back. “Sorry. Skye, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Gabe. I’m fine. Out, Gus. Sam, are you hurt?”
Sam looked down at his forearm. “I was expecting blood, but he didn’t even break the skin.”
“Thank, God,” Skye said. She heaved herself onto the pool apron and, knees still wobbly, went to talk to Gus, who sat by the chair she’d vacated, looking very pleased with himself. She wasn’t sure whether to praise him or scold him. She settled for ruffling his coat. “Sam’s a friend, Gus. Get that? A friend.”
Why was Gus so wary around Sam? It was as if he really thought Sam would hurt her.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Gabe said.
“I’m sure.” She wasn’t sure at all, but her brother looked so concerned that she didn’t want to make a big deal of it. She hadn’t felt comfortable in the water for years. Being in the pool made her feel vulnerable—a feeling she avoided in any way possible.
“Don’t be such a mother hen, Gabe,” Belle said.
Skye felt awful for more than Gus’s attack. She didn’t want to be the cause of an argument between her brother and someone she hoped would be her sister-in-law. She stood and pasted a big smile on her face. “Yeah, Gabe. Don’t be such a mother hen. Gus, stay.”
She forced herself to walk to the diving board, mount it and execute what she hoped was a perfect jackknife into the deep end of the pool. Slicing cleanly into the water felt wonderful. A ton of old memories flooded her, good ones, as she pushed up and broke the surface. She hadn’t forgotten how to dive.
Or swim, she thought as she began a slow crawl down the length of the pool. When she got to Sam she stopped.
“I’m really sorry about Gus attacking you. When I screamed, he thought you were hurting me. Is your arm still okay?”
“Not a problem.” He smiled.
She returned his smile. “Good.” She shoved the heel of her hand through the water and splashed him with a face-full of water. Then she laughed and surfaced-dived, heading away from him.
He grabbed her foot. She kicked furiously at him and popped to the surface, anxiety almost overwhelming her. She fought the dreadful clawing in her chest, fought the urge to cry out.
“Please don’t grab me,” she said quietly. “I have a thing about being grabbed. It makes me go a little nuts.”
“Sorry,” Sam said, holding up his hands in surrender. “I didn’t know. But I understand. With me it’s being tickled. My brothers used to hold me down and do it. J.J. especially. I become a wild man when anybody tickles me in the ribs.”
“Tell you what,” Skye said. “I won’t tickle you if you won’t