Exclusive excerpt from Flare:
“Stop it Max,” Emily said in earnest, retracting his leash, tugging him all the way back to her side.
Dagmore stepped forward, stopped and looked up at Jeremy as if seeking permission. Jeremy nodded and began to follow him forward.
Sighing, he stopped a few feet away. “Thanks. How are you?”
Now that he was up close she could see the bags under his eyes and signs of fatigue on his face. His green gaze held a haunted look.
“I’m doing okay. Look Jeremy, I’m sorry about your dad. You really should have let someone know.”
He was shaking his head in disagreement before she finished. “The gazette is a newspaper…remember? Can’t have word getting out.”
They were both silent for several seconds.
Max chose to fill the gap in conversation by making Dagmore feel unwelcome. Straining against the leash, he snarled at the diminutive dog.
The chihuahua eyed Jeremy for a moment. There was a subtle shift of his owner’s head and the dog opened his mouth and barked in response. Not the least bit intimidated by the larger terrier.
“How about you come out with me later for a beer,” Jeremy suggested with a familiar roguish look. “We’ll gossip about the boss and that girl you don’t like up in the marketing department.”
Emily stared at him. Was he talking about Lucy? How did he know Lucy? She’d never confided anything to him about her.
Jeremy smiled pleasantly, studying her.
When he noticed that she wasn’t chomping at the proffered carrot, he dangled a larger one. ‘I’ve been visiting some uh…friends up there. Found out some stuff… A lot of stuff.”
Friends, she puzzled sarcastically. Didn’t the marketing department have a new intern too? Still she was curious. What did he know about the Spakona?
“Really?” Emily replied with interest.
He nodded his dark head more vigorously, wet curls flopping as he did, then flinched and stopped. Spreading the fingers of one large hand over the top of his forehead he squeezed either temple with pinky and thumb.
“Are you okay?”
He shook his head more gingerly, removing the hand and taking another step forward. “I’ve got a killer headache,” he admitted.
Leaning toward her to speak -- somewhat precariously by the way his feet lurched -- before he settled back on them. Head close to hers, his breath smelled of stale ale as he whispered, “If you come with me, I’ll tell you all of my secrets.”
Emily harbored serious doubt whether Jeremy could drink any more beers without keeling over. She didn’t want to be stuck driving him home in any case. Picturing how easily that scenario could go sideways.
Jeremy’s proximity set off Max like a collision alarm. Barking at the intern until he backed up a step. Mischievous eyes widening as he gave the terrier a sour look.
Smiling more amiably at Emily his expression conveyed, “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
She frowned at him. He was incorrigible.
Small in stature but not in mindset the chihuahua yelped right at Max then darted forward long enough to lick the toe of Emily’s right sneaker. Jumping out of the range of Max’s teeth when the terrier lunged forward. Squatting down a safe distance away as if mocking Max, he was cute.
“Hello Dagmore. What a well-behaved little fella you are,” Emily said in a friendly tone while keeping a firm hold on Max’s leash. The terrier obviously didn’t get the inference. Looking down at her own pooch, she hissed, “Calm down Max!”
Moving the hand holding the leash behind her, she stood between Max and Dagmore. The terrier tried to trot around her feet but she stopped him.
He settled for glowering over her left ankle at Dagmore and growling under his breath.
The chihuahua looked up at her with warm beady eyes, placidly panting and got back to his feet moving closer. Wiggling in friendliness, he wagged the stub of a clipped tail like his hindquarters were powered by a battery.
“You’re a little flirt,” Emily noted. Like his owner.
As if to validate this observation, the little dog playfully trotted forward again. Due to Max’s restrained location or maybe because of it, Dagmore jumped up on his short hind legs with his upper legs gripping her lower calf and began humping her right ankle. Extending two inches of slightly wet, rosy-colored genitals across the top edge of her shoe, poking her rather aggressively. She could feel the dampness through her sock.
Max looked at the spectacle in appalled fascination. Tongue lolling out. Tearing his gaze away long enough to glance up at her accusingly with a look that said, “How come the little guy gets to do that?”