Saturday Spotlight – Christmas Pets and Kisses Boxed Set #XmasPets #CoverReveal

SIXTEEN ALL-NEW, NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED SWEET (PG-rated) CHRISTMAS ROMANCES from NY Times, USA Today, and Award Winning Authors – 99c for a limited time!
Ring in the Christmas cheer with sixteen all-new sweet and heart-warming romances from New York Times, USA Today and National bestselling authors. Don’t miss out on this romantic collection of Christmas tails…uh, tales as adorable pets with fins, paws, feathers, and hooves bring holiday magic with the gift of true love
Golden Christmas – Helen Scott Taylor
Every Christmas Vicky hides so she doesn’t have to celebrate the date she lost her husband and son. She doesn’t want to see anyone but when she finds a dog’s lost ball she meets Jon, a wounded ex-soldier who’s struggling with his own problems. This brave man touches Vicky’s shattered heart and makes her realize she can’t hide forever. With his support, can she find the strength to love again?
Two Loves for Christmas – Mona Risk
Tabloid pictures of charming laywer, Josh Dutton, threaten his father’s senatorial campaign. The family decides he needs a sweet ‘temporary fiancée’ to repair the damage. With only her German shepherd for friend, Emma struggles with problems. Attraction sizzles between Josh and Emma but no one mentions the ‘fake fiancée’ detail. When the truth surfaces will Josh be able to prove that his kisses were not part of a charade?
Dog-Gone Christmas – Melinda Curtis
Widow Marnie Haywood wants Christmas hosting her in-laws to go smoothly. And it would – if her handsome neighbor and his friendly St. Bernard would stop coming over, mooching food, and stealing kisses.
His Christmas Promise – Alicia Street
A stray dog with a penchant for giving warm and fuzzy love finds refuge with an ex-Army helicopter pilot and helps restore his bedridden grandmother’s will to live. It seems like a Christmas miracle until the bachelor war vet discovers the mutt belongs to a little girl who wants him back—and a single mom who makes him rethink his freewheeling ways and maybe even believe in love.
We Wish You A Ferret Christmas – Nikki Lynn Barrett
Widower Lance Rossiter wants nothing to do with the pet ferret who caused his daughter to be hit by a car. Widow Cara McLean is shocked by the ferret her son finds and wants to keep. When Lance and Cara meet, sparks fly and love suddenly seems possible. Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?
Christmas Lovebirds – Rachelle Ayala
Melisa Hart has a soft spot for her brother Connor’s ex-best buddy, Rob Reed, who slept with Connor’s girlfriend. When her pet lovebird is mixed up with Rob’s, Melisa discovers he’s always cared about her. Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?
Christmas on Cougar Mountain – Nancy Radke
Hard-working Zoey is dedicated to helping children learn, and has built her business to the neglect of having a family. When she rescues a dog on the freeway, she discovers that the escape artist brings a family with him, including a boy she would like to help, and as love grows, a man she would like to keep. But will Kellen ever trust her to help his son, much less give her his heart?
The Vet’s Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell
The last thing Toni wants for Christmas is more responsibility, but her daughter has other ideas. A near accident not only brings them a dog in need of a home, but Matthias Laing, who Toni would prefer to keep in the past.
Tails, Time, and St. Nick – Mary Leo
Kris Timemaker has inherited a magical clock. Using the clock’s magic for anyone other than St. Nick on Christmas Eve has some grave consequences, but when his daughter’s beloved Westie goes missing, and his estranged wife asks for his help, Kris has no choice but to take a chance with time and try to win back his family in the process.
Graced – Jade Kerrion
Connor Bradley doesn’t have time for distractions, not while juggling single parenthood and his clinic on five hours of sleep a night. He most certainly doesn’t have time for Noelle, the high school flirt, who is prettier and more irresistible than he remembers. When Noelle’s father’s heart attack derails Connor’s plans for his first Christmas without his wife, Noelle wants to save the day for his adorable children, but can she also find her way into Connor’s guarded heart?
Unexpected Gift – Chantel Rhondeau
Aspiring decorator Cali Johnson moves to New York City—lonely, afraid, and far from home during the holidays. When she finds a lost cat in her apartment building, she strikes up an odd friendship with his reclusive owner, Marcus Ritz. If only she knew what he was hiding.

Minty’s Kiss – P.C. Zick
When newly divorced Molly retreats to a family cabin with Gracie, her ten-year-old daughter, she’s surprised to find her childhood crush, Nick, still living in the area. Can a small kitty named Minty help Gracie accept the love developing between Nick and Molly in time for her first Christmas in the mountains of North Carolina?
The Christmas Wish – Michele Shriver
Ashley McLaughlin is struggling to move on from her husband’s infidelity. Brennan wants to make amends for his transgression. Their young daughter, Hayley, has only one wish for Christmas- for her family to be together again. When Hayley suffers a head injury after a fall from her horse, will it help her get her wish? Or do the wounds from Brennan’s betrayal run too deep for Ashley to forgive?
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?
Mavy’s Christmas Miracle – Sharon Coady
Anne Hurd returns to the Pocono’s to help her elderly grandfather. Six years earlier Kyle Shafer disappeared from her life. She rescues a kitten, takes her to a vet who turns out to be Kyle. Kyle can’t believe Anne walked back into his life. Will he scare her away, or will she give him another chance? Kyle decides to take a chance and try for the love he gave up on.
The Impossible Rescue – Annamaria Bazzi
Christmas is no joy for Julia who’s gambling husband comes around only to ask for money. When a handsome stranger and his cute Pomeranian puppy moves in next door, Julia feels guilty for their mutual attraction. Michael’s not the rescuing type, but when he spies Julia’s husband haranguing her for holiday cash, anger flares and he is determined to rescue Julia from another miserable Christmas.

What Early Reviewers Are Saying

Golden Christmas – Helen Scott Taylor
Two wounded hearts are brought together at Christmas by a golden retriever puppy.
“I found this to be well written and so heartwarming,… You are going to love this story as well as each one in this box-set.” – Cynthia, Page by Page Inside-Out Reviews
“I enjoyed this book so very much! It’s hard to go wrong with a hunky wounded warrior and not just one, but two precious pups!!” – Sandra D on Goodreads
“It is a really sweet story about second chances and it will touch your heart as it touched mine.” – Winnie Lim on Goodreads
Two Loves for Christmas – Mona Risk
Her German shepherd is her only friend until Josh teams up with Rino to love and protect her.
“This is not only a story featuring romance, but it has a touch of suspense too. Romance, suspense, danger and a German Shepherd – definitely a great combination. You’ll love this as much as I did.” ~ Winnie Lim
“This story is a romance story with a hint on danger and suspense. This story will definitely keep you interested.” ~ Julie Fowler
“Will Emma truly change Josh? Will they fall in love? This was a really enjoyable book!” ~ Kimberly Dawn
Dog-Gone Christmas – Melinda Curtis
A handsome neighbor and his friendly St. Bernard mooch food and kisses from a merry widow.
“It’s a sweet love story, with a bit of angst, a lot of humor, and some lovely kisses. I really enjoyed this story, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more from this author.” – Elizabeth Robbins from Goodreads
“Dog-Gone Christmas by Melinda Curtis is a sweet story. It is all about new beginnings and forgiveness.” – Julia David from Goodreads
“Dog-Gone Christmas is a sweet love story with some angst and humor involving a dog owner, his neighbor, and a dog — be prepared to laugh out loud at times.” – JoAnne from Goodreads
We Wish You A Ferret Christmas – Nikki Lynn Barrett
Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?
“As with every other Nikki Lynn Barrett book, I loved the characters and was drawn into the story immediately. You can’t go wrong reading a book by Mrs. Barrett and this is another example of that.”
“Nothing makes me happier than a book that deals with difficult issues and really gets down to the heart of the matter and how hard it can be…Such an amazing read and it really touches the heart!”
“We Wish you a Ferret Christmas is just the perfect story for getting us prepared for the holiday. Loved it.”
Christmas Lovebirds – Rachelle Ayala
Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?
“I love it when authors add in a little animal love, too! It feels almost like 2 romances in one.” – Nikki from Goodreads
“This story is a great reminder of what the Christmas season is truly about…family and forgiveness.” – Julie Fowler
“It had laughter, love, heartache, forgiveness, and two little lovebirds that had their own thing going on.” – Lisa Longstreth
The Vet’s Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell
A near accident brings Toni and her daughter a homeless dog and a man she’d prefer to keep in her past.
Ms. Campbell has hit the nail on the head with what love is all about. Bravo!—Rose Morales
The characters are lovely from the beginning and especially Jade and Ridley, the puppy, who actually steal the show.—Sally Stackhouse
It was sweet, refreshing and a good balance of how a blended family comes together.—Celeste Williams
Graced – Jade Kerrion
Noelle, armed with several goldfish and a kitten, brings Christmas cheer to a widower and his children.
“You definitely are on an emotional rollercoaster while reading Graced.”—Julie Fowler
“Graced is a must read that will pull on your heart strings.”—Terri Merkel
Unexpected Gift – Chantel Rhondeau
Far from home, a lonely young woman strikes up a friendship with a lost cat and his secretive owner.
“Unexpected Gift was truly heartwarming and a very different kind of love story. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop.” – Maria Diaz
“An emotionally turbulent, yet sweetly poignant, reminder that love has the power to heal all wounds.” – Liza Robbins
“What an incredible heart-warming story on true love that grows from the inside and not based on appearances.” – Rebecca Austin
Minty’s Kiss – P.C. Zick
One kitten, a broken-hearted girl, and long lost loves are brought together for a special mountain Christmas.
“I loved this novella. It is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and I liked her style of writing. This author has succeeded brilliantly.” ~Sally Stackhouse
“This story right here screamed made for TV. I love the Hallmark channel, and I could see this being played out there.” ~Celeste Williams
“This is a sweet story of love lost and regained, which will certainly put you in the Christmas spirit. If the rest of the stories are half as entertaining as this one, then readers will be well served.” ~David Lawlor
The Christmas Wish – Michele Shriver
Will a fall from a horse bring Hayley’s parents back together in time for Christmas?
“This was a great novella and I love the writing around it and how Hayley and Thunder showed Ashley and Brennan what really matters!”- Rebecca Austin
“Michele Shriver has once again given us another heartwarming story.”- Elizabeth Clinton
“This is another great read by Michele Shriver! Loved the sweet family story centered around Christmas!!”- Jill Snead
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?
“Wynne has crafted a beautiful short story guaranteed to warm your heart and make you sigh.” ~ Kishan Paul, author of Blind Love and The Second Wife
“It is a story of romance…that will have you misty-eyed.” ~ Celeste Williams ~ Goodreads Reviewer
“This is a really beautiful love story that will touch everyone’s heart and brings tears to your eyes.” ~ Winnie Lim ~ Top Goodreads Reviewer
Mavy’s Christmas Miracle – Sharon Coady
Anne takes a rescue kitten to the vet, only to discover he’s the man who broke her heart.
“I just couldn’t put down! Very sweet, family oriented reading… A definite “feel good” story that is at home around the holidays or any season! I heartily recommend this story!” ~ Holly Lachman-Militello
“This story is full of Christmas hope, dreams of lost love found and family. I couldn’t put it down. A delightful tale you will read again.” ~ Karen Baird-Butler
“..this story is phenomenal. Love the characters and the plot is amazing. I couldn’t put it down. Would highly recommend this to anyone that loves a good romance!!” ~ Delina Parker
Available Now!

A FERRET KIND OF CHRISTMAS FROM BEST SELLING AUTHOR NIKKI LYNN BARRETT

Unique and original – one of the sweet romances stars a cute ferret! Check out this excerpt, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love.


We Wish You A Ferret Christmas by Nikki Lynn Barrett

Widower Lance Rossiter wants nothing to do with the pet ferret who caused his daughter to be hit by a car. Widow Cara McLean is shocked by the ferret her son finds and wants to keep. When Lance and Cara meet, sparks fly and love suddenly seems possible. Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?

Excerpt

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you….” Children’s voices blended with a few adult ones filled the hallways.
Seriously? Lance Rossiter glanced up from the magazine he’d barely been looking at anyway to peer out the hospital room door. Christmas carolers? So people still did things like that? He found it a little disheartening that Christmas tunes were sung as a background noise to beeping machines- one of them currently hooked up to his five year old daughter to monitor her breathing.
Fine. Maybe some people felt the need to surround themselves with the holiday. He could put on a little cheer and go with the flow. He loved Christmas, as did Tamara, but his bad mood reflected on his first reaction to wave off the cheery carolers.
Nah, really they were a welcome sound. Plastering on a smile, he stood and quietly moved toward the holiday cheerers. He watched as the group of around eight or more kids with two adults slowly walked down the hospital hallways singing. In their hands, they each carried a bag. Lance spotted a teddy bear hanging out of one of them. So not only were they singing, but bringing gifts as well. Maybe a get-well effort? Kind of like candy stripers, or whatever you call them. They weren’t over-the-top loud, and their harmonies blended well. Others had taken up his idea and lined the doors of hospital rooms. Some were wearing a smile, but others were unsure what to make of the whole scene. When the kids spread out and handed each person a bag, his heart melted. Well, this wasn’t something he saw every day. What a sweet gesture. Whoever organized this event deserved a medal. This was a perfect way to brighten a sick child’s day.
A little sandy blond haired boy Lance guessed to be about seven trailed behind. He wasn’t singing, and his face was masked into one of confusion and worry. The woman leading the group stopped, smiled, and held her hand out to him. “Come on, Alex. Don’t be afraid,” she soothed. “You love music.”
The boy didn’t reach for her hand. He trailed close behind the woman, but didn’t make eye contact with her. His gaze was cast downward. The child shuffled his feet along the tile.
“Look up at me, please,” the woman said softly. The rest of their party continued down the hall singing. The kid clutched the gift bag.
Lance should have gone inside, but he continued to watch the two. Most of the other patients and family members had already disappeared from the doorway, probably taking pictures of the goodies, posting them on social media, and sharing them with the patients.
“No! Leave me alone!” The boy screamed and ran from her, barreling straight towards Lance. Startled, he took a step back as the boy plowed into him, ran into the room, and closed himself off in the bathroom.
Alrighty then. Talk about awkward.
“I’m so terribly sorry!” The woman’s cheeks reddened as she darted toward him. “I’d hoped for a better outcome today.” She shoved her frizzy brown curls from her face.
Unsure what to do or say, Lance shrugged his shoulders. “Kids will be kids.” He stared back at Tamara and hoped this situation could be resolved quickly. He felt for the little boy, who was obviously having some kind of meltdown. He also sympathized with the woman, who’d become very flustered and nervous.
“Alex, please come out of the bathroom. I don’t want to have to call your mom. She’s very busy at work today,” she coaxed from outside the door.
The sound of crying wafted through the walls. Lance didn’t want to sit back down, but standing around seemed like the wrong thing to do. He didn’t want to leave the room in search of a nurse or someone else who could help, either. He blew out a breath and hoped to hide his exasperation. While patient and understanding, he silently pleaded with no one in particular for this to get situated quickly.
The woman glanced back at him again. “I really am sorry-”
“It happens.” He waved it off, but Lance wished he’d never walked toward the door. Would that have stopped the little boy from running into his room? Maybe not. Thank God for little favors, though. Tamara hadn’t woken from her nap to this mess.
The woman pulled out a cell phone and, in a desperate plea, spoke into it. “Cara? I’m sorry to bother you, but Alex locked himself in a bathroom at the hospital. In a patient’s room. I think it’s best you come down here.”
Lance stifled a groan. This could take a while.
As the boy inside the bathroom continued to wail, the sound of Christmas carolers on TV now drew his attention, singing the same song he’d just heard.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas….”
Some Christmas.
*****

Cara McLean ignored the frustrated mixed with pity stare from her boss as once again she had to leave her desk for another meltdown rescue. Alex had been been having meltdown after meltdown at school, and more frequently she continued to go there to coax him out of a room. It wasn’t really the teachers’ faults. They didn’t know how to handle him.
Just before school, Alex had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, after countless appointments and evaluations. She’d dodged the suggestions for months about moving Alex to a more private school setting. He was a bright kid and had a lot of talent, but it appeared his behavioral issues were going to be in the way of regular learning.
It took her a long time to accept it, and Cara hoped the damage hadn’t already been done. She’d agonized over the decision and the pros and cons of it since the diagnosis. It didn’t help being a widowed mom of two and going at this alone, especially since Cara had attempted to convince her late husband that something wasn’t right with Alex. No, he’d avoided the subject and said she was paranoid. Nothing could be wrong with his son.
Now, things were spiraling out of control. Time to actually get something done about it. Swiping at stray tears, she swallowed her regrets, then headed toward her car to drive to the hospital. Ten minutes later, she arrived in the crowded parking lot. Cara called Jean to find out where they were.
“Still in the room. The others have gone on to keep things normal.” There was a frantic note in Jean’s voice. “I made that mistake again- mentioning for him to look at me- and he got extremely agitated. I’m sorry.”
Suppressing a sigh, Cara asked for the room number, then hung up and made her way.
Alex’s cries could be heard all the way down the hall. And no nurses helped? What about the patient in the room? Cheeks heated, Cara stepped up her pace. Nurses stood outside the door, baffled and unsure what to do.
“Excuse me, but that’s my son in there. I’ll get him out. I’m so sorry.” Cara apologized as she blew past them and bumped full force into a body. “I’m-”
Strong arms held her steady. “Careful there.” Her skin tingled where the man’s hands still rested.
Cara stared up into the blue eyes of a gorgeous man. Oh, this must be his room, or at least a member of his family, as this was the children’s ward. There was compassion, curiosity, and a whole lot of torture in those eyes. What a disaster! He continued to study her, and Cara was frozen in place. His bangs drifted across tan skin along his forehead. A tiny mole close to his hairline caught her attention for a moment. Sucking in a breath, Cara realized she’d better move, instead of staring back at this man.
“I’ll have my son out of the bathroom in just a second,” she whispered, regaining her composure and jerking out of his hold. He dropped his hands to his sides. No wedding ring on his left hand. Why did she even look? A shiver rippled through her. Cara briefly searched the room. Her heart ached for the pale young girl in the bed with her eyes closed.
Could this day get any worse? Failure and worry settled over her shoulder like a heavy weight. She needed to coax Alex out of that bathroom, take him home, and make the necessary calls.
Cara ignored the stares and walked with rubbery legs to the door and knocked. “Come on out, Alex. I’m here. Please open the door, okay?” Her voice came out weak and squeaky. Ugh. She dared not to look back at the blue eyed man behind her, though she had to really work at that. Who cared what he thought about her? She’d never see him again. After today, Cara could wake up and forget about this encounter. But those eyes, the way they carried so much, really ate at her. He had a story to tell, but she’d never hear it.
“Mommy?” Alex’s voice came out small and uncertain. What was he doing in there? Had he hurt himself? Was he curled up on the floor, trembling and scared? It bugged her to no end how she couldn’t understand her son sometimes. What went on in his busy brain? What did he think and feel when hit with these meltdowns? Most people who weren’t up to date with signs and symptoms of Asperger’s would naturally assume a spoiled brat temper tantrum. Cara knew better, but she didn’t feel like explaining herself every single time Alex had a meltdown. And it happened more and more in public. What should she do, not go out any more to avoid it? That wasn’t the right answer, but she had no idea how to avoid that type of behavior. It all came down to wishing she could understand, so that making decisions would be easier.
“Yes, buddy. I’m here. Come on out so we can talk. There’s a little girl who needs her rest, and we’re in the way.” She kept her voice calm. No loudness, no distractions. Cara hoped for the best.
For a fraction of a minute, no one said anything. The crying stopped, but no other sounds came from behind the bathroom door. Cara anticipated a wail, a shout, something. Then after the hesitance, the door opened and Alex ran straight into her arms. Cara couldn’t be sure, but she thought she heard several sighs of relief.
Yeah, they did what she felt like doing. Tears formed in her eyes as she held her son. “Will you say sorry to the nice man for barging into his room?”
Alex’s lower lip quivered. Big eyes stared back at her, but her son did just what she asked. He pulled out of Cara’s hug and stood before the man. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“It’s okay,” the man awkwardly replied. “I accept your apology.”
“Give him the gift bag for the little girl, Alex.” Jean broke her silence, prodding him gently.
He thrust out his hand, still clutching the bag. “Here you go.”
Mr. Blue Eyes smiled. Dimples. Oh, he had dimples. “Thank you, Alex.” Not a tone of disdain, not even an irritated scowl. He could have really pitched a fit, but the man took it all in stride. Cara sent him a look of relief and a silent thank you. His gaze lingered on her for a lot longer than she anticipated. Alex hung back behind Cara. She blinked, breaking eye contact with the man so she could focus. Time to get out of here.
Cara led Alex out of the room. Jean followed, making more apologizes to the man. Nurses had finally scattered away from the door, but the faster Cara got out of here, the better.
“Cara-” Jean started once they were down the hall. She’d bet Jean had a lot to say right about now.
“I know, okay? I get it. I’m going to make those calls and look into getting him in the school you guys keep suggesting!” She didn’t mean to yell. Her loud voice echoed off the beige walls. Keep calm, keep calm. The last thing she needed was to upset Alex because she got all riled up and defensive.
Jean blanched. “I wasn’t going to say that. It’ll be good for him, though. I was going to apologize because I pushed again for eye contact. That’s what set him off.”
Shaking her head, Cara turned away again, keeping her arm on Alex’s shoulder. Jean was a good teacher, wonderful and patient, but Cara knew that she wasn’t equipped to deal with a child with Asperger’s when the rest of the kids were mainstreamed students.
“Cara.”
Keeping her tongue in check, she faced the teacher.
“It’s not your fault.”
The words were meant to be a comfort and a help, but they weren’t at this very moment. Giving Jean a curt nod, she walked Alex out of the hospital, attempting to put her emotions in check.
Lately, she took everything to heart, blaming herself. How could she not understand her son? Why did she feel so helpless? As Alex’s mother, Cara should have some sort of idea how to handle these situations, but she didn’t.
And it bothered the heck out of her.


About the Author


USA Today bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett I’m an avid lover of books. I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember, completing my first “book” by fifth grade in one of those one subject spiral notebooks. I have a passion for music, photography, jewelry and all things creative. I live in Arizona with my husband and son, but dream of being somewhere much colder and stormier. For now, I’ll have to live that life through my characters and stick it out with the summer heat.

We Wish You A Ferret Christmas is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read We Wish You A Ferret Christmas by Nikki Lynn Barrett



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HOW ABOUT ANOTHER SNEAK PEEK AT CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES?


Christmas on Cougar Mountain – Nancy Radke

Hard-working Zoey is dedicated to helping children learn, and has built her business to the neglect of having a family. When she rescues a dog on the freeway, she discovers that the escape artist brings a family with him, including a boy she would like to help, and as love grows, a man she would like to keep. But will Kellen ever trust her to help his son, much less give her his heart?t.

Excerpt

A dog… on the freeway! Or just about. A lovely Border Collie, it was walking up the on-ramp, headed into deadly traffic. Zoey’s headlights picked up the shadowy form as she drove past.
Quickly decelerating, she pulled over to the edge and stopped, throwing on her emergency flashers. She hadn’t reached the actual freeway yet, she still had about thirty feet before the lanes merged. Watching for any cars coming up the on-ramp behind her, she opened her driver’s door and stepped out into the pouring rain. It was December in Seattle, so she was used to it. She splashed around to the back of her car and called the dog.
“Here boy. Here girl.” What did you call a dog when you were a total stranger? “Come on.” She bent forward and patted her hands against her legs. Zoey had grown up on a farm in Idaho and was no stranger to animals. She used her very best, soft coaxing voice, one that had saved the lives of lambs and other baby animals who had lost their mamas and had to be coaxed into eating. “Come on, pet. This is no place for you. You’ll get killed, or cause a pile-up, as people try to miss you. Come on, sweet.”
The dog paused, looking about, totally bewildered, then looked toward her, head low. Hers was the only encouraging, friendly voice around, and Zoey called again, wishing she had even part of a sandwich to help bring the dog to her. The rain soaked her hair and shoes and made short work of her raincoat. She could feel the moisture working its way around the collar.
“Come on. Would you like to go for a ride?”
The collie lifted its head.
“Ride? Go for a ride?”
That evidently meant something, and Zoey hurried over to the passenger door and opened it. “Get in! Ride.”
The dog bounded forward and leaped into her car. She shut the door quickly. None too soon, as two cars made the turn and were headed up the ramp, their headlights blinding her. She waited for them to swerve around and pass on by, then she rounded her car, cracked open the driver’s door, and slipped inside.
A wet tongue greeted her, adding to the wetness on her face. The dog was halfway onto the driver’s seat, thoroughly soaked, and Zoey had to push it away so that she could sit down. It put a wet paw on her arm and licked her face, treating her like a long lost friend, giving her a big doggy “thank you.”
“Down. Get down,” she protested, thankful that she had chosen to travel in her jeans and heavy coat, rather than in her better clothes.
The dog immediately jumped down on the floor and sat there, head cocked to one side, as if to say, “Now what?”
She stared out into the pouring rain. Almost a monsoon. Now that she had the collie off the freeway, what was she going to do with it? She was still close to Bellevue, although not familiar with this neighborhood.
“Well, I’m not going to have to worry that you’ll bite me,” she said, flipping on her turn signal and accelerating onto the freeway. “Let’s hope your owner had a chip put in you.”
She continued alongside the freeway for a few hundred feet, then pulled back off it, following the cloverleaf around. She drove down to the small shopping mall where she had stopped to get some coffee. There should be a veterinarian somewhere close. She didn’t want to take the dog with her, out of the area where she found it, in case the owners were looking for it.
Flipping on her phone, she searched for a nearby vet’s office. She found an animal hospital about a mile away, and drove to it.
Leaving the dog in the car, she tried the office door. Still open.
“Hi. I found a dog on the freeway, and would like to see if it has a locator chip,” she called across the room to the attendant.
“Sure. Bring him in.”
Zoey still wasn’t sure if the dog was male or female, so checked when she opened the door to take it out. Male.
He ran happily ahead of her, but when she said “Heel,” he came in close to her left side and stayed there.
“Well, someone has been teaching you manners,” she said, opening the vet’s door and going inside.
“He doesn’t look like he’s been injured,” the lady said, as they approached her.
“No. He was running up the on-ramp when I got him.”
The attendant petted the dog on the head and got a sweeping tail wag response. “Good boy. He might have been following his owner’s car. Dogs do that, expecting to get picked up. Then they get lost or hurt.”
“If so, he might be from around here. I picked him up on this exit.”
The lady scanned him along the back and shoulder. “No chip. Probably a family pet, and so no one thought to put in a chip. Do you want to leave him here?”
“What will you do with him?”
“We’ll send him to one of the pet rescue groups. If they can’t find his owner, they’ll put him out for adoption. If no one takes him, he’ll be put down.”
“That would be a shame. He’s a nice dog. Well trained. I think I’ll leave my name and number with you, and take the dog. You know what he looks like. If someone calls looking for him, you can send them to me.”
“Do you have room for him?”
“Yes. I have a large enclosed porch where he can stay.” Zoey wrote down her name and phone number on a pad and handed it to the attendant. “I put ‘Found Dog’ beside my name.”
“Border Collie. Male,” the attendant said, and added the words to the paper. Then she tore off the note and stuck it on a bulletin board on the wall behind her.
Zoey looked at all the notes. There were a lot of them. “All lost dogs?”
“Dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, birds… you name it. Even a rooster. We get a lot of missing pets this time of year. Folks get busy with the Christmas holidays and forget to check their animals. Or they think someone else in the family has done it.”
That wouldn’t be her, Zoey thought. Her family was still in Idaho.
“Come along, Dog.”
“You’d better name him. Do you want a leash?”
“A name?” Zoey’s mind stayed blank. What would she name the dog?
“Call him Jack. Just something rather than ‘Dog.'”
“OK. Jack was my grandfather’s name. I can remember that.”
“Have you had a dog before?”
“Not recently. But my folks had dogs. There was always one or two around.”
Leashes and collars hung on a rack near the counter. Should she get one? She might only have this dog for one day. She realized she wanted Jack. He would keep the nights from being so long. He probably wouldn’t sleep out on her porch, after all.
“I’ll take a leash and collar.” She chose a serviceable-looking set from the rack and put it on Jack. Sixty dollars. She could afford it, and pulled out her credit card.
The attendant ran the card and handed it back to her. “There you go. Don’t get too attached. Owners have a habit of showing up out of the woodwork, when you figure they never will.”
“Thanks for the warning.” She put the collar and leash on the dog. “Come on, Jack.” The collie followed her to the door and waited while she opened it. “Good dog. Heel.”
Jack positioned himself on her left side and stayed that way out to the car. She opened the door and he looked at her. “Get in.”
Thus invited, he jumped inside. She went around the car and joined him.
“There is no way I’d let anyone put you down,” she told him, giving him a scratch behind the ears. “Even if you chewed holes in my boots. I’m a sucker for a lost animal. Besides, you’ll make the kids feel at home.” And herself less lonely. She didn’t say it, but she thought it.
Zoey’s biological clock was ticking. She was almost twenty-eight and had no man interested in her. She had tried gym membership, but couldn’t stand the smell. Online dating seemed too risky. Her work kept her so busy, she really didn’t have time for dating. She had spent her college-age years getting her business going, and hadn’t met anyone.
Now she wished she had spent a little time looking around, “husband hunting,” but it had seemed so important to find a place where she could work. She had tried renting a duplex, where she could live in one side and work in the other, but it wasn’t set up the way she wanted it, and the double rent was just as expensive as a house. So she had bought a new house, built the way she wanted it.
She felt left behind. As lost as this dog. The eligible men had all settled down with someone else. She was going to have to make some changes in her life. Schedule more vacations. Join some clubs. Go out and meet people. Pray about it more often.
She turned on the windshield wipers and drove home to their rapid thumping. At top speed they still couldn’t keep the windshield clear of the heavy rain. Like everyone else on the freeway, she slowed down to forty miles an hour.
The dog in the car made a difference. She had made this trip many times, to and from the airport, but always by herself. Just the presence of a living, breathing being in the car beside her made a difference. He couldn’t talk back to her, but she chatted away to him, happy to have a companion for the journey.
“Do you know you are both beautiful and intelligent?” she asked Jack. “I don’t expect I’m going to get to keep you very long, not a dog like you. But if your owner is out of town or somewhere, I wouldn’t want you to end up at a shelter and go to someone else. Or get put down. I’ll take care of you. You really are a sweetie. You don’t look very old.”
In reply, he steamed up the windows and filled the air with the smell of wet dog, but she was very glad to have him.


About the Author

Author Nancy Radke, started out writing full-length, modern romance and suspense stories, then switched to novella length for her western series, The Traherns, and now writes both, usually two or three books at the same time. She has published ten Sisters of Spirit books, including Christmas on Cougar Mountain, thirteen Trahern books, and one book of a new Brothers of Spirit series. A former special education teacher, her education background shows when she includes history, or in this case, reading problems, in her books. Her books are G-rated, no sex, no swearing.


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