“Why the hell did you agree to marry him again?”
Denver, the terrier, looks up at me with curious eyes while I lovingly massage the shampoo into his matted fur.
He’s only been here for two days, but I can already feel the bond between us.
I fall in love with every one of them, I swear.
“Because I love him.” I shrug, rinsing Denver’s fur. Already the tub is filled with dirty brown water, and my heart breaks for the poor dog that’s been left in such a way.
“His owner was old, chick,” Natalya says softly, scratching behind Denver’s ears. “It was neglect, but she loved him.”
“She couldn’t have asked anyone to bathe him? Paid someone to come and groom him? Come on, Nat. It’s not hard to look after someone you love.”
Natalya makes a face, rubbing her nose against Denver’s.
“It doesn’t matter. He’s here now, and we’ll get him the best home. Won’t we Denver? Yes, we will!” Natalya is lost in doggie land, and I smile to myself as I towel dry Denver.
Kiki watches me from her bed in the corner, her eyes locked on Denver, warning him not to step out of line.
I’m hers, after all.
And she’s mine.
Her large brown eyes follow me around the room, her ears pricking when I lean out of her sight to grab Denver’s leash.
She lets out a howl, and my chest aches.
How can I live without her?
“I’m signing the papers for Kiki.” I declare, surprising myself.
Natalya nods with a wide grin.
“Good. What does Kurt say about that?”
I have to be careful here because if I bring home a dog like Kiki, it’s for life. There are no second chances.
“He said it’s up to me what I do,” I lie, wondering what I’ll do if Kurt kicks off. I’ll probably kill him. “What’s not to love, anyway?”
Natalya lets out a little shriek, and Denver’s legs buckle.
“Shush, it’s okay, baby boy.” I soothe him, lifting him into my arms. His fur smells delicious now, and it feels so soft.
Just as he deserves to be.
Kiki follows us to the drying station, yawning loudly before collapsing on my feet.
I glance down at her with a laugh. “Kiki, you’re making this so much harder.”
But Kiki is snoring already, content at my feet. It’s challenging, but I manage to get Denver ready for his kennel, and together we take him back.
The rescue center is beautiful. A true sanctuary for animals that haven’t had the best start in life.
As we pass the other kennels, the barks from the guests fill my ears, and I whisper for the millionth time that I’d I had the money, I’d have them all.
Denver settles in well, snuggling against the rabbit toy that he’s already chewed to bits.
“Another happy camper, huh, Kiki?” Reaching down to scratch Kiki's ears, I crouch to tell her the good news. “We’ve been getting closer every day, Kiki girl, and I love you so much. There’s a corner in every room of my house just for you. What do you say? Wanna come home with me?”
It’s stupid, but it’s like she knows.
Her ears prick up, her head tilting to the side as she pants excitedly.
One bark later, and I’m in the office, promising my boss a lifetime of love and adoration for the beautiful dog that’s stolen my heart.
I pick out a heart-shaped bowl, plenty of treats and blankets, a large cozy bed, and a handful of toys before returning to my car.
“This is so exciting, Kiki!”
Helping her into the front seat, her tail smacks my face repeatedly as she jumps on both seats in the truck.
I slide in beside her, laughing at her reaction.
“Hey, this truck is older than me, be kind,” I joke, pulling her against me.
Her coarse fur makes my nose itch, but I don’t care. Her wet tongue strokes my cheek, and an excited bark tells me to get moving.
Kiki wants to see her home.
Home isn’t far away, and Kiki enjoys every minute of the journey, her head hanging out the window the whole way.
Passerby’s laugh as she barks at fresh air, her tongue hanging out in the wind. It’s almost the height of summer now, and it reminds me that I still haven’t planned a single thing for our wedding next summer.
Not a thing.
Pulling onto our drive, I leash Kiki, praying she doesn’t drag me into the house by my ass.
Not that my parents would mind; they are animal crazy too.
Only they don’t have the room for everything they want, so they’ve settled for a tortoise called Albert, a parrot called Clive, and about a million fish.
Oh, and Mabel.
Mabel is the grumpiest cat you’ll ever meet, but she’s also a hunter.
Meaning she’s usually out all night and asleep all day. I’m sure she won’t even notice Kiki.
“Guess who’s here!” I call out, unable to contain my excitement. Mom rounds the corner, gasping when she sees Kiki.
“Oh my! A dog! Is this Kiki?!”
I chuckle, watching as Mom drops to her knees, fussing Kiki.
Something about animals soothes and calms you, and I can see it happening with my mom right now.
“She’s beautiful, Alison! How on earth she ended up in a shelter, I’ll never know.”
Rolling my eyes, I head back to the car to grab Kikis's things.
Twenty minutes later, Kiki is on the sofa with Mom, having eaten boiled rice and chicken instead of the kibble I’d bought her.
“The dog eats better than me,” Dad whines from the other side of the sofa, patting the space beside him. “Come on, Kiki. Come to Daddy.”
Dad works long days as a gardener, and Mom works in a school, meaning neither could commit to an animal like Kiki.
But I can.
My phone flashes and Mom raises her brows.
“Is that Pretty Boy?”
I wince, answering the phone.
Kurt sounds irritated.
“Hey. Wanna come over?”
He’s supposed to be coming here.
“I can’t,” I sigh, grinning at Kiki, who’s rolling around on the sofa with glee.
“Well,” I swing my legs down, winking at my parents, who avert their eyes.
They didn’t like Kurt very much, but as always, they respected my decisions.
I love my parents.
As an only child, I was spoiled for attention, but it made me who I am today.
Caring, loving, and kind.
“I brought Kiki home today.” I let out the words in a rush of air, closing my eyes as though it would help with his reaction somehow.
“Yeah, really. You know it’s important to me, Kurt.”
I’m chewing on my lip, dreading this conversation.
Kurt doesn’t disappoint.
“Alison, for real? I told you I’m not feeling a dog. Can’t you take it back?”
Fire ignites in my stomach as I watch Kiki licking my dad's face, her tail wagging faster than a helicopter in flight.
“It?” I echo, wondering what the hell I'm doing with this klutz.
Anyone that calls an animal ‘it’ needs a slap.
“I’ve had a shit day. Sorry. Shall I call you tomorrow?”
I shake my head, clucking my tongue in disbelief.
“You aren’t coming to meet her?” I frown.
“Nah, not tonight, babe. My dad has a date tomorrow, though, so we can have the place to ourselves.”
I sigh heavily.
“Where’s he going?”
Knowing Lincoln and Timea, it’s somewhere sexy and romantic. They’re always doing something exciting.
“Horse riding then dinner or some shit.” Kurt yawns. “I’m going to watch the game. Enjoy the dog.”
The line dies, taking a part of me with it.
“Good girl Kiki!” Mom’s exclaiming, glancing at me when I slump across from her.
“Is it over?”
Dad snorts with laughter, avoiding my death stare.
“The call?” I answer crisply. “Yes.”
Mom and Dad giggle like kids, and I cross my arms.
They’re so frustrating.
“The marriage is still on, though?” Dad asks, his eyes wide.
“That’s a bloody shame. I thought you’d swapped him for Kiki.” Dad scoffed, turning his attention back to Kiki.
“He’s not right for you.” Mom shakes her head at me, pointing a finger. “He’s too good-looking. Men like that can’t keep it in their pants. Mark my words.”
Kiki looks up, meeting my gaze head-on. Her tongue rolls out of her mouth, and I can’t help but laugh at her gormless expression.
“Hopefully, Ma, I'm the exception.”
Mom ignores me, talking in a bag voice to Kiki, who is lapping it up.
“I'm sure you are, dear.”
Said with such conviction.