Here’s an early Christmas present. When the call came out for short shorts from Black Opal Books, for an anthology, I had nothing. Then this came along a couple weeks past the deadline. Figures! I want to thank everyone who did a beta read and let me know what made no sense. There are a large number of inside jokes, see how many you can find! And you might recognize some of the characters. Gwen was in the Floogle, and Kat…oh, wait, I’m working on Kat’s story. Enjoy!
“Scrooge was right,” A woman’s voice declared from around the corner of the grooming area, accompanied by various thumps and clangs. “All he ever asked for was an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay…”
The sharply dressed blond handler rolled her eyes while wrapping up her Afghan Hound’s side coat. “Here she goes again. Every Christmas.”
“Well she manages to be nice the rest of the year,” the Poodle handler said while doing the same protective wrapping to the long hair
on her dog’s ears. “It’s not like Christmas isn’t stressful even when we’re not dashing through the dog show circuit.”
Gwen smiled but went around the corner to see an obviously harassed woman surrounded by large crates, Borzoi, and supplies. She was attaching an arm to a large, low grooming table. Full figured and usually displaying a calm demeanor, Kat looked upset far beyond the tone of her voice.
“My so called help decided they needed to be with their families over Christmas instead of helping me out.”
“Family is important to some people”
“I understand that,”.Her expression said not really. “If they had just told me before I was on the road.”
“Were they supposed to come with you?”
“One of them said she wanted to, for more ring experience. Then said she’d meet me here. The other one was supposed to cover for me at home. Then both of them decided they needed to spend holiday time together, with their families. NEVER let your help date, it messes up everything. If they’re not arguing and breaking up and sulking, they’re snogging in the corners and wanting time off to meet each other’s families”
“Sucking face. It’s a great word–haven’t you read Harry Potter?”
“When the books came out years ago. I don’t remember every word.”
“I have the series on audio books. Helps me drive long distances by myself.” She leaned over to encourage a large dark brindle Borzoi out of the crate and onto the grooming table. In spite of her angry words she was patient with the young dog. “I’d hoped hiring two girls would avoid the dating problem.”
“You know that’s no guarantee. I’m done with everything for this show, and I’m not due back at work until after the holidays. Can I help?”
Kat’s face appeared from around the dog’s heavy white neck ruff, eyebrows raised.
“I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t mean it. Mind you I’m not the best conformation handler in the world and I only know how to brush, not trim.”
“I can deal with the dogs here, and pick up handling help ringside. But I had to call my neighbor to take care of the homebody ‘zois. She’s a dear but she’s not been feeling well, and I left more dogs home than usual since I thought I’d have someone there. Otherwise I would have brought more with me.”
“That would be great, I always like visiting your place. Just give me instructions and be around to answer your cell if I have any questions. As long as Wimsey can come along.” Gwen indicated the Irish Setter sitting alertly at her side
“Bless you. Of course Lord Peter Wimsey is always welcome.” Kat smiled when the red dog politely waved his tail. “There’s an instruction sheet on the side of the refrigerator; you know my cell. Oh, and keep an eye on the water tank, the well’s been acting up.”
Kat’s home was isolated but the set up was great for dogs, with large fields and simply furnished, easy to keep clean, rooms. Wimsey ran alongside the Borzoi yards while Kat relaxed the way she liked best: playing with the dogs, brushing them in the outside grooming area and tossing a myriad of items for them to chase. All in all a much better time than what she’d had planned, which was not much of anything. It was nearly a vacation, except for the water issue.
‘Keep an eye on the water,’ Kat had mentioned.. Gwen stared at the nearly empty holding tank and, sighed. A search revealed someone had left a hose running and the Well Manager was close to run dry, with not much water coming from the well itself. Looked like she’d be hauling water. Fortunately she’d done this when visiting before, and had a trailer hitch on her van, though one of the tires on the water trailer looked a little suspicious.
Her suspicions bore fruit when a bit more than halfway back the tire went flat. Very flat, as in shredded rubber around a rusted rim flat. No choice but to limp the water trailer back to Kat’s place and hope she had a spare somewhere in one of the sheds.
Gwen was contemplating the long trip into town for a replacement tire when a bright flash of light behind her made her feel better about her decision to drive on the rim. Though the sky didn’t look too threatening, that flash could only be a harbinger for one of the area’s impressive thunder storms.
Then a mellifluous voice spoke from behind her
“May I assist you?”
She whirled around, barely catching herself on the water tank. Her jaw had to have dropped to somewhere near her knees in shock. Not only in the obvious: “Where in the world had he come from?” question. But also in the Oh great goddess of lonely single women WHERE in the world had he come from?
Black denim pants and a black knit Henley shirt fitted the way they were meant to fit over the kind of body she’d only seen on the cover of hot romance books. Topped off, of course, by thick dark hair with auburn highlights. Just the right length so it looked shaggy but not flowing. A face only Photoshop could make except here it was in front of her. Smiling a little boy smile on that gorgeous wide mouth, the mouth that had just used perfect English to ask a question.
“Ummm,” she tried, then gulped. “Good afternoon, I’m afraid I don’t…”
“I apologize if I startled you. You’ve had so many problems I could not let you continue to suffer.”
“To work so hard, and then have to bring water from somewhere else. A woman of your quality should not work so hard.”
“Hard work never hurt anyone,” she offered in an attempt to stand up for the right to overwork herself whenever she wished.
“True. But for one of your obvious quality, hard work should not be required.”
Gwen looked down at her ratty sweatshirt, aged jeans and well broken in hiking shoes, and frowned even though she knew she’d have more wrinkles by tomorrow.
“Maybe you need some glasses?” She suggested.
“The outer wrappings are immaterial when the inner beauty is so obvious. You attracted me the first time I saw you.”
“When was that? And where did you come from?”
He waved vaguely to a place across the fields. Sure enough she could see the angular shape of a building, sunlight glinting off the windows. She didn’t remember seeing the building before, but she had been wrapped up in the dogs.
“So…you’ve been spying on me?”
“Oh, no, not at all. But I did notice a new person was here, other than the owner.”
“How could you tell? We dress the same. Unless you’re using binoculars?”
“It is obvious without any viewing items. You do not have…” he indicated with cupped hands held away from his chest.
“Breasts? Of course I do. Everyone has breasts.”
“But not as the woman who lives here”
“Kat? Hardly anyone has breasts like Kat.” She sighed, one more victim of unequal mammary distribution.
“This is attractive”
“Big breasts? No surprise there”
“No, yours” he waved his hand in her general direction. “Your body is sleek and lean. In my world this would be very attractive.”
“Your world?” Uh-huh, just her luck. She meets a hot guy who likes flat chested women except he’s waaay out of touch with reality.
“Sorry, mister. I’m not interested in a cruise on the love boat to Fantasy Island.
“You do not understand, lovely lady.”
He moved closer, far too close for her comfort except she couldn’t move away. The heat from his sculptured body reached out to warm her as he pressed himself against her side. His magnificent lavender eyes took up her whole vision. What man had lavender eyes? Then her thoughts drifted away. She saw a world of delicate white buildings surrounded by pristine gardens. People strolled about in pastel clothing, and some in very dark clothing, all clean and pressed.
‘We would live here…’ a voice whispered in her mind while she saw a room of opulent luxury, the large bed covered with thick pillows and the kind of sheer silk comforter she had always craved but never owned since it would be so fragile around puppy toenails. ‘And here we would…’ Something touched her, delicately stroking down her arms, up her waist, opening her shirt to caress… She gasped, then let out a sigh. Oh, yessss. The strokes continued on her back, her front, her… A wave of prickling heat rushed through her body. It had been so long.
She opened eyes she didn’t realize she’d closed, to see the beauty of his aristocratic face, his eyes watching so intently, his hands fisted at his sides. His nostrils flared and she saw a sheen on his noble brow, letting her know he was not unaffected. The rod pressing against her thigh confirmed his condition.
“You would no longer need to be a slave to these inferior beings,” his deep voice murmured, the sensuous tones setting up a vibration in her nerves. Then…
“Slave?” Inferior beings???
“I have watched you carry their food, clean up their waste. I have seen them force you to brush their hair and throw objects for their enjoyment.”
“Wait a minute. You’re telling me you don’t have DOGS in your world?”
“No longer. We had them at one time but eliminated them when our society became more advanced. These animals demand too much attention.”
“No dogs? No dog shows? No Agility Trials or Herding Tests or Lure Coursing?”
“I not know of these activities but if they are for the pleasure of these animals then no.” He looked out on the paddocks where Borzoi romped, cheered on by a dark red setter, and his lip curled in what was obviously scorn.
“How can you say…How can you not…” She wrenched away, ignoring the whining in certain deep feminine places. Whimsy stopped teasing the Borzoi, stiffened as if on point, then charged toward them. The man stepped away from her, then further back when Whimsy wound himself around her legs.
“How can you allow this being to touch your magnificent body?”
“Watch this.” She clicked her tongue softly, giving permission, and Whimsy lifted his large dirty paws to her shoulders, nudging her
cheek, then slurping his tongue across her face. She heard gagging in the background, then was momentarily blinded by a flash of light. When she could see again, the man was gone. “Huh, wonder if it was something I said?” she crooned to her dog, then sighed. “Guess it was just too good to be true.”