Abruptly, her eyes stung and she had to blink quick and look away. She was not going to cry in front of him—
The palms that cradled her face and turned her back to him were callused yet gentle.
“Let me go,” she said hoarsely.
But he wasn’t holding her. Not really. She could have broken away at any second, and he would have dropped his hands.
“Anne . . .” His voice cracked. “Oh, God, Anne . . .”
The following morning, at eight a.m., Anne called Dr. Delgado at the vet clinic. As she waited for the receptionist answer, she drummed her fingers on her kitchen countertop. Took a sip of her coffee. Tucked in the back of her blouse—
“Metro Vet, how may I help you?”
“Oh, yes, hi.” She cleared her throat. “This is Anne Ashburn calling about the—”
“The rescue you brought in? The gray pit?”
“Ah, yes. I’d like to—”
“We just gave him over to the New Brunie pound. So you don’t have to worry about any more charges to your card—”
“Wait, what? You gave him to the city shelter? I thought you were going to try to adopt him out?”
“We really couldn’t keep him here. His injuries were not life-threatening, and we really are not in a position to—”
“Hold on, stop.” Anne reminded herself that yelling was not going to help. “Who can I call there? I mean, who can I phone to—never mind. Thanks, bye.”
As she hung up, she couldn’t breathe, and went for her keys. But then she stopped herself. The rehab social workers had warned her not to make any big life-altering plans in the first twelve months following her injuries—and with her working all day at a new job, how was she going to take care of a—
“Screw that,” she said out loud. “That’s my damn dog.”
Traffic was horrible as she tried to get across town, and no matter how many red lights she ran or bypasses she took, it was clear she was in trouble for time if she wanted to make it to work by nine.
When she pulled into the city shelter’s parking lot, she was one of only three cars, and as soon as she got out, she heard the muffled barking.
She jogged to the front door, only to find it locked.
Knocking. Lot of knocking.
Eventually, a tired-looking middle-aged woman with a travel mug appeared on the other side of the glass door. “We’re not open ’til nine—”
“My dog is here,” Anne said loudly. “I need to get him now. I have to go to work.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you in. It’s policy and—”
The woman leaned in. “Anne . . . ?”
The door got opened in a flash and a strong pair of arms shot around her. “Oh, my God, I haven’t seen you forever.”
Anne closed her eyes and tried to keep her voice level. “I know, right?”
Debbie Fazio pushed her back. “How are you. And I mean that really. Not socially.”
“I’m okay. How’s Sal?”
“He’s good. He’s Sal, you know the drill. Working overtime at the 508.”
Sal Fazio was a veteran firefighter, a good man, and almost at retirement. He and Debbie had three kids, and Anne had been seeing the family at department functions for years.
“So you got a dog?” Debbie said. “After you . . .”