Barry Dunning is a lonely pet stylist who's been burned badly by an ex-boyfriend who left him with tons of debt, and will take years to pay off. His tiny apartment doesn't allow for pets, so Barry paints them on rocks, instead. The furry little charges at his day job are a balm to his soul with their antics and overly anxious owners. But that can only go so far.
Sheldon Svenson, the owner of the animal shelter where Barry volunteers on weekends, has had his eye on Barry since the day he started. He sees something in Barry—aside from the cute factor with having rocks for pets—that makes him want to get to know him better. Barry, however, is skittish, and their first date is a disaster.
A little persistence pays off, though, and Sheldon and Barry move beyond emotional barriers to find a place where two lonely hearts can beat together.
Enjoy an excerpt from Of Paws and Pet Rocks.
“Hey, Barry. How’s it going today?”
Sheldon was my height, with a wider build—tall and brawny. He was quite good-looking and confident—the polar opposite of me. If I were in the market for a guy to date, Sheldon, with his white-blond hair and pale blue eyes, would have been at the top of the list. But I knew better than to indulge in wishful thinking.
I was sure he had his choice of partners, especially since I’d heard through the grapevine that he’d broken up with his longtime boyfriend, Taye. Most of the male volunteers wanted in his pants, but he either didn’t notice, or didn’t care.
“Fine, boss. I’ll be done in another half hour or so.” I had ten more cages to clean.
“I appreciate that, but I wanted to talk to you about something, if you don’t mind.” His tone made me look up at him.
“Something wrong?” He seemed…pensive, for some reason.
“Nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to ask you a favor, that is, if you’d be interested.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But before I do, you know… You’re the only volunteer who doesn’t call me by my first name. Why is that? Hell, we’re the same age, and I like to have a friendly, laid-back atmosphere at the shelter. Is it something I’ve done? Have I offended you in any way?”
“No!” I bit my lip. “No,” I said in a softer tone. “You’ve done nothing wrong. I didn’t realize—” Though subconsciously, it may have been an attempt to remind me he was off-limits. “I apologize.”
He waved away my apology. “It’s okay. You’re a big part of what we do here, and I consider you a member of the family. Just…remember in future, okay? Can you do that?”
“Sure thing.” I smiled a little and hoped I was convincing enough. He studied me, then nodded.
“Good. Here’s the thing. I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing a grooming clinic here every once in a while, maybe twice a month? You already groom all the animals here and do a wonderful job, I might add. I just thought it might be something potential or existing owners might find helpful. People could bring their own pets, or groom some of the animals we have boarding here. It could draw more attention to the shelter, bring in donations. What do you think?”
It was a no-brainer. “It’s a wonderful idea! Count me in.”
Sheldon grinned. “Excellent! This is going to be awesome.” He rubbed his hands together. “Could you start next Saturday? I’ll put something in the weekly newsletter and add the info to our website.”
“Sure. How about I do the clinic every other Saturday, from now on?”
“Perfect! I’ll get one of the other volunteers to take over your duties while you do the grooming sessions. This means a lot, Barry. Thanks so much.” He gave me an impulsive hug. But once he realized what he was doing, Sheldon stepped back quickly, a slight blush on his face as he turned and practically ran back to his tiny office on the other side of the building.
Of Paws and Pet Rocks by J.D. Walker is now available at Amber Allure.
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