New leash and collar in hand, Julian walked into For Paws to pick up his new dog. He was excited to have a pet, happy to know he’d have company, and dammit, looking forward to seeing Kendall again.
When he arrived, she was nowhere to be found. Josie, the other woman he’d met, walked him through the signing of the paperwork, reiterated his responsibilities, and congratulated him on his new family member.
“Are you ready to go get him?” she asked, oblivious to Julian’s disappointment in missing out on his chance to see Kendall again.
“Sure thing. Let’s go get Steve.” He followed her through the back door and into the area where the dogs were kept.
He glanced down the row to Steve’s pen, where to his surprise, Kendall sat with his dog on her lap, petting his head and talking to him in a soft voice.
Julian let out a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding, relief and pleasure suffusing him in equal measure. He wouldn’t have to leave without talking to Kendall.
“You’re going to a good home,” Kendall said softly, unaware they were behind her. “You’ll be well fed and loved. And even if I won’t see you anymore, I’ll always remember you.”
“It’s hard for us not to get attached,” Josie explained quietly. “Kendall has a soft spot for Steve because he’s been here for such a long time.” Josie treated him to a warm smile. “I’ll leave you now. Kendall can get you settled from here.”
Josie stepped away, heading back to the front office. Julian stood in silence, watching Kendall. Her head was bent low, her long ponytail falling over one shoulder, her neck exposed. The desire to glide his lips over the exposed skin was strong. The urge to mark her there, even stronger.
Something about Kendall affected him deeply.
As he walked quietly closer to the pen, once again he was struck by the quiet strength in her now, the even keel to her mood compared to before. He’d known she was smart, but this woman clearly had depths he hadn’t seen or plummed. And he realized how much he wanted to know her again. To learn who she was now and to introduce her to the man he’d become. The one he wanted to be, in part, for her.
At the realization, he blew out a sharp breath.
As if sensing him, she looked up. She stood, the gray dog still in her arms.
He smiled. “Mind if I ask you something?”
“Go on,” she said warily.
He took in the protective way she cuddled Steve against her chest. Steve wasn’t tiny, and it couldn’t have been easy to hold him for long.
“Why didn’t you take him? You’re obviously bonded,” he said, as the dog licked her neck. The lucky bastard.
She sighed. “My building has a one dog only rule. And you’ve met Waffles. Besides, we can’t save them all ourselves, as Josie likes to remind me.”
He inclined his head. “Then your loss is my gain.”
She shifted the dog and held him out for Julian. He accepted his new pet, juggling him with the leash, and held him up, meeting his gaze. “Looks like it’s you and me, Bud. You ready for your new life?”