Chasing Lights

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Chapter 33: Welcome Back

Florence

"I'm not getting a dog, Jas." I groaned at the sight in front of me: the patch of grass behind the animal shelter's metal crates was crowded with about a dozen dogs wrestling and playing with each other.

"Not saying you have to." She shrugged, bending down to greet a Pomerian mix in her arms. "Just saying these dogs want a home, and you could offer them one."

My eyes narrowed at the way she ruffled the dog's fur before she released it again.

"Don't know if you noticed, but I don't exactly have much time to spend at home. I work more than I breathe."

"Which is exactly why you need a dog to keep you company," she quipped, a wide grin on her lips. "Oh my god, how cute is he?"

Following her gaze, I spotted a grey French bulldog running toward her, its tongue slipping out of the mouth as it collided with her legs. Jas bent down to pick it up, and I stifled a laugh at the way she tried to contain her scowl when it started licking her face.

"I don't even know why you want a dog." I laughed, watching how she tried to force its tongue back into his mouth. "Doesn't look like you're up for it, anyway."

"Excuse me?" She challenged me with raised brows. "I'm very much up for the challenge. He could keep me company when I'm in the studio."

"It's a she," I commented, nodding toward the dog's belly.

"What?" Jas followed my gaze. "Oh, he doesn't have a dick."

The laugh from my lips was loud enough to get the dogs' attention, many of them now running in our direction. "No, she doesn't." I snorted, watching how half a dozen furballs gathered between our legs.

"Look, they already like you."

"They're all so small," I retorted, frowning at the size of those canines. "Don't they have a German Shepherd or something around here?"

"This is a shelter for injured and unwanted animals!" A woman standing a few feet away from us gasped, scowling at us. "Excuse us for not having your favorite breed in store."

She rolled her eyes and propped her hands on her hips, challenging me. As much as I despised her attitude, I couldn't deny she was right. This wasn't a supermarket, and these weren't lifeless objects. They were living beings, wanting a home, safety, and someone to cuddle with.

Great. Now I felt bad.

"I apologize," I said, bathing in the woman's surprised reaction. It would never cease to amaze me how startled people get when someone genuinely apologized for their mistakes. "You're right, that was inconsiderate of me."

The woman blinked a few times, but finally shot me a smile, her gaze averting to the grass in front of us. I studied the area intently, scanning every dog and why it could possibly be here.

The dark French bulldog sitting in the far corner made me cock my head to the side, and I watched how he dragged his hind legs behind him to crawl to a ball stuck beneath the fence. Something about the way he nudged his nose at it made my heart warm, and I watched how he stuck his paw beneath the gap of the fence, trying to get the red ball out from its grasp.

Without thinking much, I moved over there, still watching the pup fight the ball. Reaching the fence, I squatted down, instantly feeling the dog's eyes on me.

"You want this?" I asked, poking the ball. The dog barked and nudged his nose against the red plastic, trying to move it. "Alright, then."

I reached behind the ball to pull it out of its wedged position, but the second it rolled to the dog, he nudged it again, putting it right back beneath the fence.

"Woof!" He scratched the toy, expectantly looking up at me. His position exposed the patch of white on his chest, and I smiled at the unique mix of black and white on his fur.

With raised brows, I grabbed the ball again, this time kicking it a little further, trying to avoid the hollow space beneath the fence. The dog didn't care, though. It was almost as if he didn't even want it to be free, his nose nudging it toward the fence again.

I watched how it got stuck beneath the wood, shaking my head at the dog. "What the hell do you want?" I asked curiously, but as I saw the dog nudging his nose against the ball again, now somehow smiling at me (did dogs smile?), I got my answer.

He liked that the ball was stuck. With his limited range of motion, this was much easier for him, I reckoned.

We ended up nudging the ball to each other, only a few inches at a time, and the dog kept barking and panting, showing me I understood his game now. An involuntary smile spread across my lips as I played with him, enjoying the way his eyes lit up with every push of the ball.

"I'd be careful with this one." A blond guy appeared in my peripheral, his arms crossed in front of his chest as he nodded at the Frenchie. "He's got a temper."

I got up from the ground, ignoring the way my heart bled when the dog crawled between my legs, resting his head on my boots. "He seems fine to me," I retort, wondering why the hell he'd warn me from adopting a pup that desperately needed a home.

The man raised his hands in defense, taking a step back. "Hey, I'm just saying. Him and his sister have been tearing this place apart."

"His sister?" I glanced around, trying to find another French bulldog. The memory of Jas and her companion flooded my mind, and I almost cackled at the possibility, but the guy interrupted my thoughts.

"Yeah, the grey one. Some weird redhead just grabbed her and refused to give her back, I think."

The laugh from my lips was inevitable, and I couldn't help but shake my head as I spotted Jas at the far end of the glade, raising the dog in her hands like she was in the middle of The Lion King.

"That weird redhead happens to be my friend," I retorted.

"Oh, that's perfect!" The woman from earlier chimed in, hands clapping in excitement. "We always want them to stay close so they can see each other. Siblings share a special bond, you know."

I nodded, staring at the dog laying by my feet. Was I really about to adopt a damn puppy?

"How old are they?"

"They're two years old. Luna over there is deaf, and Jimmy got hit by a car just a couple of months ago when he escaped our enclosure. He still hasn't accepted that his legs aren't working anymore, and we're desperately looking for the right contraption to help him work."

I stared at the dog, his limp legs draped across the grass. "His name is Jimmy?" The name made me cringe.

The woman laughed. "Well, you can change the mind to anything that sounds similar, like Timmy, Winny..."

Taking in that information, I frowned at the way Jimmy (no, fuck that name) tried to get up, not having a care in the world that he had to drag himself across the grass. In my mind, I already had an idea of how I could help him with his range of motion, to make sure he got the agility he deserved.

I could give him super cool wheels with shiny rims, making him the dopest dog wherever he went.

"Who's he?" Jas's voice made me look up, the smug grin on her face telling me she knew she succeeded in her mission.

Never in my life did I think I'd adopt a dog the day after I found my girlfriend in bed with two women. What the hell even was my life?

"That's her sister." Nodding at Jas's dog in her arms, I couldn't help but laugh at the way her eyes widened.

"What? Really?" She glanced down at the pup, who was still trying to lick her new owner's face. "Fuck, we have to get both of them now, don't we?"

"You brought me here," I commented, unable to hide my smirk.

We stared at each other for a moment, but had little energy to hold back our laughter. Count on us to impulsively adopt dogs. Well, granted, she knew she wanted to adopt one when we got here. I, on the other hand...

"Give me just one sec," I muttered, remembering I'd have to take care of something before I actually went through with this.

Jas nodded as I stepped to the side, grabbing my phone from the back of my jeans. I dialled the number, waiting for two rings until she picked up. "Flo! What's up?"

"Hey, Ames." I grinned, glancing back at the pup. He stared over at me with wide eyes, almost like he was afraid I was leaving him here.

Fuck.

A sigh fled my lips as I focused on the task at hand. "I don't have much time, I just need you to answer a business question for me."

"Okay..."

"So we both know you're the best lawyer anyone could wish for and you make the impossible possible."

"Uh-huh..." Curiosity lingered in her voice.

"Well, I'm going to adopt a dog and I need you to make sure that part of my contract will be that I can take it with me when I travel for work. Can you do that?"

Silence.

I didn't like it when Amara had nothing to say; It usually meant she had to deny my request. Somehow, that thought broke my heart.

"You're getting a dog?" Her shriek made me distance the phone from my ear. "A real one? That pees and poops and stuff?"

"He'll have wheels, too." I laughed, looking over at the furball who was trying to crawl over to me. Ugh, my heart... "Tell me you can make that work, Ames."

I didn't know why I was so hellbent on adopting the damn boy, suddenly. Just ten minutes ago, I wanted to leave this place.

"Hell yeah!" She chuckled. "I'll negotiate the fuck out of that meeting. We'll make it work, don't worry. Just bring the dog and they won't be able to say no, I bet."

"Perfect." I grinned. "You're the best."

"Yeah, yeah, I know..." Amara's pride seeped straight through the phone line, rightfully so. "Well, what's his name?"

My gaze fell back on the pup, the image of wheels strapped to his back now flooding my mind. He'd look so badass with my invention, shiny rims making all the other dogs wish they were him. "Rimmy," I replied with a grin. "His name's Rimmy."

Amara laughed. "Of course it is."



"Rimmy!" I ran down the hallway, mentally cursing Past-Florence for adopting the damn dog. What the hell was I thinking?

Oh, yeah, I wasn't. I just saw his literal puppy eyes and the way he silently begged me to take him with me. Damn heart doing what it wanted...

Truth be told, I already loved the little fucker, even though he'd been a pain in my ass from the second we left that damn shelter. He'd been running off, barking my apartment down, and peeing uncontrollably — though that wasn't entirely his fault. The woman from the shelter mentioned he was incontinent at times.

Oh, and he'd ripped my mail to shreds. What a damn cliche.

It'd been a blast.

"He went right!" A dark voice ripped me out of my thoughts, helping me figure out which way to take as my glance fell to both sides of the hallway.

"Thanks!" I waved before sprinting down to my right, spotting how Rimmy drifted around the far corner of a parallel hallway.

I cringed when he bumped into the wall and toppled over, leaving his wheels on the side. His paws scratched against the white paint as he tried to move, unable to twist his body so he could get up.

This is not funny, Flo. It's not funny.

But it was no use. I was full-on laughing by the time I reached him. "Rimmy, what the hell are you doing?" I clipped the leash to his collar before I helped him get up, suddenly hating myself for making fun of the poor dog.

He looked defeated, his snout turning into a frown as he glanced up at me. It almost seemed like he was apologizing, too, the sadness in his eyes slowly overwhelming me.

Picking him up, I scratched the spot behind his ears until he closed his eyes, obviously content. "Guess we have to build you better wheels, huh?" I whispered, watching how he buried his nose beneath my armpits, nudging my ribs.

"You're lucky you're cute." Muttering, I made my way back to the office, hoping that this outburst wouldn't stop Michael from allowing Rimmy into the paddock. It'd only been a few days with him, but I'd already grown attached to the little hellhound, even with his reckless behavior.

Or maybe because of it, too.

As I approached the office, I glanced around the hallway, wanting to find the guy who helped me find my dog in time. Unfortunately, the halls were empty by the time I returned, but my spine tingled as I took a deep breath, sensing a familiarity in the air.

Weird.

Shaking my head, I made my way back to the office, Rimmy still glued to my chest when I glared at the security man who let him out in the first place.

"Flo! Perfect timing." Amara grinned, waving the stack of papers in her hands.

I took a seat next to her, patting Rimmy's head as he got comfortable in my lap. "You guys are finished?"

Michael's laughter filled the entire room, his German accent lingering on his tongue when he retorted, "Your lawyer is ruthless!"

"That's because I'm her best friend, too," Amara responded with a smirk, nudging my shoulder.

"So, we got them all?" I asked, hinting at the most important points Ames and I discussed before this meeting. There were a few of them, considering Azure Racing requested me personally. I knew my worth, and I knew I had the right to demand what I deserved, including having my dog at work.

"Every single one of them." She nodded, a proud grin on her lips.

God bless my best friend.

She'd been by my side through it all; the heartbreak, the emotional turmoil of taking care of Dad, the career decisions that were so damn hard to make... she'd been my rock through and through. And not just mine, either. Rafi had depended on her almost as much as I did, their relationship growing stronger and stronger with every day that'd passed.

I was still waiting for the shoe to drop, for either of them to make the first move after a damn decade of pining for each other. It was ridiculous to watch, but also none of my business. The lines were blurry either way, even if Amara was like family to me, and the last thing I'd do was interfere where it wasn't my place.

We all know how my life had turned upside down after the last time that had happened...

"Well, Flo!" Michael's voice ripped me out of my thoughts, the mischief in his eyes clear as day. "Will you be signing, or what?"

A laugh fled my lips from his demand, and I focused on the papers in front of me. I read this contract about a dozen times, but my eyes still stuck to the words printed in big, bold letters.

Position: Head Mechanic at Azure Racing Team

I'd worked damn hard to get here. The memory of studying nights on end in my childhood home flashed through my mind. Getting my engineering degree through distance learning while things had been toughest with Dad seemed like an impossible task, but Mom and I rose to the challenge, accepted the part we'd have to play.

By the time I'd finished my studies, Dad had been much better, and he and Mom practically kicked me out the second I'd gotten my apprenticeship at a prestigious garage an hour away from home.

Amara had helped them carry me out the front door that day, and she'd helped keep me out, too. I owed her for forcing me to claim my freedom when I'd felt like I didn't deserve it.

"You did it, Flo," Ames whispered, reading my mind. Her hand found my shoulder, and she squeezed it gently, reassuring my thoughts. "That's all you."

I nodded, shooting her a thankful smile before glancing back at the contract in front of me.

And as I reached for the sleek blue pen handed to me, my fingers tightly gripping around the metal, I couldn't help but think back to that moment ten years ago. I'd signed a different contract with a whole other person in front of me, but it felt so damn similar right now.

"Make sure you know what you're signing up for before you leave your name on the dotted line. It means something." Those were Salim's words, and even though his existence had played a huge part in my heartbreak back then, I couldn't help but smile at the memory.

I'd learned what my name meant. Not just to this business or the people around me, but to myself.

And even though at this moment I couldn't have known just how much I underestimated what I'd signed up for, I knew I was ready for it. The world had shown me how cruel it could be already; there wasn't much that could've surprised me anymore.

Or at least, so I thought.

Clicking the pen, I signed my name on the line, smiling at the prospect of leading my very own garage. I'd worked in other Formula One teams by now, but something about Azure Racing felt right to me.

It felt like coming home.

"Well..." Michael's hand in front of me made me glance up at him, and I shot him a bright grin as I shook it confidently. "Welcome back, Flo."

"Hell yeah!" Amara clapped her hands, causing Rimmy to look up at her with an unnerved glance. She reached into her purse and threw a treat in my lap, watching how Rimmy ate it up before she pulled out a travel mug out of the other bag.

A laugh fled my lips when she handed it to me, the wide grin on her face confirming my suspicions.

"Is that a chocolate milkshake with—"

"With cinnamon and double whipped cream, yes," she finished my sentence with a chuckle.

Michael's amused snort made me focus back on him, and I raised my travel mug into the middle between the three of us. "To new beginnings!"

"Hell yeah!" Amara raised her water bottle, and Michael his coffee mug, and we let them meet gently. They weren't champagne glasses, but who the hell needed those? Mimosas only brought trouble, as I'd learned the hard way...

"Alright," Amara chimed in while dropping the bottle in her bag, "That means we'll go out before you leave me for those testosterone-ridden idiots, right?"

"Hey," Michael protested, though the smirk on his lips told me he found her words as amusing as I did.

If it went my way, I would've dropped everything right this second and drove to the factory to make sure I was in the loop with everything. It was my priority to do my job right, and even though we still had a few weeks until the season started, I couldn't help but feel unprepared as hell with this last-minute change of events.

"Oh, no!" Ames scolded me. "Don't hit me with that look now. You will not go to work before we had a proper goodbye."

With the way my best friend looked at me, I couldn't help but sigh. She was right; she deserved as much with all the work she'd put into this contract and my career.

"Fine," I conceded, cringing at the warmth I felt on my lap. Glancing down, I frowned as I muttered, "But we need to stop somewhere first."

"What? Why?"

Rimmy looked up at me, apologies dancing in his eyes. "'Cause this boy needs some damn diapers."



Author's Note

Happy Friday, folks!

So, now you know how Rimmy and Flo found their way to each other! Can't wait to see what they have in store for us in the future, haha.

With Ames and Jas, Flo sure has a great set up of friends to help her through what the future holds, and I mean... We all know me. It'll be one hell of a ride!

Enjoy your weekend and please stay safe!

Lots of love,

xx Jane
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