Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)(3)

But then he was reaching out to the wall, and she realized over the noise of the storm that he was ttalking quietly to something.

Something that was growling at him fiercely.

“Don’t be scared,” he said softly. “I’m not going to hurt you, I promise.”

The growling got a little louder, but Suits didn’t back away, he just held eye contact with what sounded like a huge dog that Sadie still couldn’t see in the dark shadows.

“Okay,” Suits said. “Come here. Slowly.”

Sadie realized with a start that he was talking to her . “What? No way. What is it?”

“Come closer and you’ll see.”

Damn him. And damn her insatiable curiosity because she stepped out from beneath the spa’s overhang and immediately got wind and rain in her face for her efforts. Pulling out her cell phone, she accessed her flashlight app and aimed it at the wall.

“Don’t,” he said, wrapping his hand around her wrist, bringing the phone down to her side. “You’ll scare it.”

“Better that than getting eaten.” She shrugged off his warm hand but went still when the growling upped a notch.

“I think it’s hurt,” Suits said. “Come here, baby,” he coaxed gently. “Let me see.”

Sadie bet that voice worked for him in the bedroom, but no way would it work here. And yet . . . the matted, drenched shadow scooted away from the wall, not nearly as large as she’d thought. Not a young puppy but not a grown dog either. Its tan-colored body was way too skinny, and black eyes stared out from a black face. “Aw, looks like a young oversize pug,” she murmured.

Suits shook his head. “Too big for a pug. It’s probably got some bullmastiff in it though.”

A skin-and-bones bullmastiff with only three legs, Sadie realized as it shifted closer, and her entire heart melted. “Oh my God.” Moving toward it now without hesitation, she got only a few steps before the dog scrambled to escape her approach like a cat on linoleum, heading right at Suits.

With a surprised grunt, he fell to his ass on the wet cobblestones. “Okay,” he said, hands up, backing up on those fine butt cheeks as if suddenly terrified of the dog trying to get into his lap. “Okay, see? You’re safe now, right? Stay. Stay and sit.”

The dog didn’t stay. Or sit, for that matter. Instead, it leaned on Suits’s bent legs, leaving dirty beige fur sticking to his pants.

He sucked in a breath and seemed to hold it. “I’d really like to be your person, but I can’t.”

“Arf!” Translation: Too late, buddy, you’re totally my person.

“No, you don’t understand,” Suits said. “I literally can’t .”

Undeterred by this news, the dog continued to huddle close to his new human, even as that human shifted back, trying to avoid further contact.

Finally, Suits lifted his head and looked at Sadie. “Help.”

Fascinated by this unexpected show of weakness in the man who’d always come off as invincible, she shook her head. “I think it thinks you’re its mama.”

He glanced around the courtyard as if to see who the dog might belong to, but there was no one.

“Arf!” the dog repeated and sat on Suits’s foot.

“Oh, I hear you, and we’re going to help you, I promise.”

“I know you must mean you and the mouse in your pocket because we ”—Sadie gestured with a finger between him and herself—“are most definitely not a we .”

Ignoring that, he got to his feet, lifting his hands at the dog, giving the universal gesture for stay . But the minute Suits raised his hands, the dog squeaked in terror and leapt back as if he’d been shoved. Off-balance with only three legs, it fell to its back, exposing its underbelly and the fact that it was a she .

Sadie didn’t easily attach. To anything. But right then and there, she fell in love with her. Not partially, but all the way in love, because neglected and mistreated meant they were soul mates. “I’m going to kill her owner.”

“Not if I get to them first.” Suits’s eyes flashed absolute fury, though his voice remained calm as he once again squatted low, trying to get his six-foot-plus frame as nonthreateningly small as he could. “It’s okay, baby,” he crooned softly. “We’re together now, for better or worse, even if you’re going to kill me.”

“What are you talking about?” Sadie asked. “She wouldn’t hurt a damn fly, much less kill you.”

Proving that, the dog slowly once again scooted toward Suits, head down, her hind end a little wiggly as she crawled close, trying to get into his lap.

The sweet hope of it had Sadie’s heart pretty much exploding in her chest.

With a sigh, Suits wrapped his arms around the dog and hugged her close. In response, the cutie-pie set her oversize head on his broad chest.

“Yeah, that’s some killer,” Sadie said, shoving her wet hair from her face.

“I’m allergic.”

Suits said this so nonchalantly that she blinked. “Is that some sort of a euphemism for ‘I hate dogs’?”

“No,” he said. “Reach into my front left pocket.”

She snorted. “You’re kidding me, right? Does anyone actually fall for that?”

“If I pass out, you’ll need my keys to play Nurse Nightingale.”

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