Home > Every Dog Has His Day (Bluff Point #3)

Every Dog Has His Day (Bluff Point #3)
Author: Jenn McKinlay


Chapter 1

 

 

“Yeoooow!”

   Ugh. Zachary Caine was pretty sure the seizure-inducing caterwauling that was harshing his mellow was annoying enough to reanimate the dead, of which he was one.

   He was lying on his overstuffed blue leather recliner couch, affectionately known as Big Bertha, which he’d had since his college days, while watching Sunday playoff football on mute because the unexpected houseguests he had were still asleep upstairs in all three of his bedrooms.

   In what had seemed like a singular act of good manners at the time, he had insisted his company take the beds in his house while he took the couch. Now, having spent a sleepless night on Big Bertha because she had a dip in her middle the size of the Grand Canyon, he was sure his spine had been reconfigured into a serpentine S curve of pain. Clearly, chivalry was overrated.

   Generally a cheerful, happy-go-lucky sort, Zach was feeling a tad surly. He glared at his couch mate Rufus, the cinnamon standard poodle he was dog sitting for a friend, who looked at him from beneath the poof of curly hair on his head as if trying to determine whether Zach wanted him to bark or not. Zach met his gaze and watched as Rufus rolled over and fell back asleep.

   “Really?” Zach asked the dog, who ignored him. “Isn’t it your job to investigate strange noises or at the very least bark at them?”

   Rufus yawned and Zach watched as his eyes rolled back into his head.

   “Yeoooow!”

   Crap! What was making such a racket? Zach rolled onto his side, flinching through the back pain, and pulled a pillow over his head.

   “Yeoooow!”

   Argh! The wailing cut right through the fluffy pillow and now he could hear the sound of voices outside his front door, too. No, no, no! Go away! Seriously, if it was a door-to-door salesman, he might punch the guy in the throat on principle. His doorbell rang.

   That did it! Zach threw the pillow across the room and pushed himself up to his feet. His back muscles protested by clenching into a hot ball of pain. He huffed out a breath and forced himself to shuffle to the door.

   It was Sunday. Wasn’t it supposed to be a day of rest? Why were people forcing him to be upright? And moving? It was just so wrong!

   He unlocked the door and yanked it wide. He opened his mouth to bark at the rude people on his porch, since Rufus clearly wasn’t going to do it, but the words never left his lips. Standing in front of him were two little cherubs with pink cheeks and tousled curls poking out from under their woolen hats, looking up at him with big blue imploring eyes. Uh-oh!

   “Hey, mister,” the littler one said. “We need your help.”

   Zach squinted at her. If this was a Girl Scout cookie dealer, he was all in. Those little round yummies of caramel coconut chewy goodness were his crack.

   “Yeooooooow!”

   Zach clapped his hands over his ears. There it was, that hideous noise again, only louder.

   “Oh, no, he’s getting upset!” The taller girl hurried off his porch and back down his walkway. She stopped a few feet away and stared up at his roof. “It’s okay, boy, it’s okay. We’re getting help.”

   What the . . . ? Zach shoved his feet into the Timberland boots he’d discarded by his front door and strode across his porch, down the steps, and onto the walk. The icy cold air of January in Maine felt like a closed-fist punch in the face, making him wince, but at least it was a new pain and distracted him from the ache in his back.

   He stood beside the girl in the purple coat and glanced up. Peering at him over the lip of the narrow porch roof was a tiny orange tabby not much bigger than his fist.

   The smaller girl in a blue coat joined them. She glanced up and looked exasperated. Then she wagged her pointer finger at the feline and said, “You are a naughty kitty.”

   “Can you get him down for us, sir, please?” the girl in purple asked. “He’s just a baby. He might freeze to death.”

   “Yeoooooow!”

   For a little guy, he sure had decent lung capacity. For a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which was to end the cat’s howling, Zach knew there was no way he was getting out of this without getting the kitten down.

   “What’s his name? Kitty?” he asked.

   “No.” The younger one shook her head. She gave him an exasperated look. “We call him Chaos.”

   Zach looked at her droll little face and laughed.

   “Of course you do,” he said. “Good name.”

   The frigid winter air started to seep into his underdressed hide and he shivered. Flannel pajama bottoms and a thermal shirt were no match for temperatures in the twenties.

   “Wait here and keep an eye on him,” he said. “I’m going to get my ladder.”

   The girls looked so relieved he almost felt heroic. Glancing up at the kitten, who continued yowling, he figured he’d better save the self-congratulations until after he got the little furball down.

   As he strode back into the house, Rufus passed him, looking fierce. He barked, low and deep, and Zach shook his head at him.

   “Too little too late, my friend,” he said.

   Rufus ignored him and bounded toward the girls. The older one looked nervous and backed up, but the younger girl opened her arms wide.

   “You have a dog?” she cried, as if this were the greatest news ever.

   “Sort of,” he said. “I’m temporarily dog sitting him. Don’t worry, he loves kids.”

   As if to prove Zach right, Rufus dropped onto his back in the snow at the girls’ feet, offering his belly for rubs. Both girls laughed and Zach hurried inside, grabbed a thick chambray shirt off the back of a chair, and drew it on without bothering to button it. He then took the shortcut through the small house to the garage door.

   He lifted the ladder off its wall brackets and opened the side door that let him back out into his front yard. He didn’t want to raise the garage door for fear he’d scare the kitten into doing something stupid. Although one could argue that climbing onto his roof was pretty dumb to begin with, especially on a day when the high temperature was twenty-seven degrees and the ground still had a few feet of snow on it from the icy dumping they’d gotten yesterday. How had the little scrapper gotten up there anyway?

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