Chapter Nineteen: Right Here

Puppies sure were a handful.

"Ow," I complained as the Border collie pup chewed on my finger. "Is that necessary?" The little animal just stared up at me playfully. Another one nipped at my heel, while another attempted to climb my leg.

Trey's backyard was filled with yapping puppies and dogs – but when was it not? I stood in the middle, pretending to be a strict disciplinary with these young pups, even though inside I was just dying to roll on the ground with them.

"There, that's better," I told my Border collie friend as she started to lick my fingers instead of bite. "That's much friendlier – ha, wait, that tickles, stop – "

Ah, whatever. I got down on my knees and started rough-housing with them.

"They're never going to learn anything if you play with them. Work first, play later."

I smiled as my heart jumped. I looked up to see Trey coming out from the backdoor, a bag of puppy snacks in his hand. He stared down at me, a broad smile on his face.

"Ridiculous. All you had to do was to train them firmly to quit biting while I went in to get some treats. And this is what I come out to find."

One of the pups jumped up and snagged my hair in its tiny teeth. "Ouch," I said, and scooped him up into my arms as I stood up. "You have to understand," I told Trey in a mock-serious tone. "These guys have the worst puppy-dog eyes. You know, the kind where they can just melt your heart with a few blinks…"

Trey nodded solemnly. "Oh, yes, very dangerous."

"It is," I agreed. "It's no wonder they get their way all the time."

He chuckled and knelt down to give the puppies the chewy bacon-flavored snacks in his hand. Then he straightened, brushed his hands off, then stepped closer to me.

"Doesn't sound like you'd make a very good trainer," he teased, giving the pup in my arms a quick ruffle on the head.

"Probably not," I admitted. "But you'll keep me around anyway."

"Oh, really?"

"Sure. If you buy an eight-thousand dollar dog, who else is going to run him over for you? Or, say, you get caught in a fire. Who else is going to give you CPR?"

He laughed and came even closer. The puppy in my arms was nearly squished in between us.

"Those are very good points," he said, and his hands came around my waist as he leaned forward.

As my breath caught in my throat, as his face came closer – the puppy vaulted from my arms and started attacking Trey's chin.

"Hey!" Trey exclaimed. "You little bugger…" He took the furry animal out of my arms. "They're adorable, yes, but…" He placed the puppy on the ground and then straightened again. "They get in the way sometimes."

I only nodded as he finally reached up, cupped my face, and kissed me.

The puppies were romping around our legs, nipping at our ankles, but I could barely feel them. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and he smiled against my lips and deepened the kiss. One of his hands went into my hair and the other wrapped around my waist to pull me closer.

I sighed contently just as the backdoor slammed.

"Hey!" came Fay's voice. "Will you two stop and get in here for lunch already?"

We broke apart, though Trey's hands remained around me, and both looked over at her. "We're not hungry," he said carelessly.

"Oh, you better be hungry," she scoffed. "I made the sandwiches and everything, so you better eat it."

"Now we're really not hungry," said Trey, and I laughed.

"Listen, you better get in here and – whoa, whoa there, mister, don't you even think about – " She was backing away from Hero, who had jumped up and crept toward her when she came out the door. "Oh, yeah, you think you're being all sneaky, but I see you – no, do you hear me? Stop it…"

And she turned to make a break for the door again, but she could hardly outrun a greyhound.

Trey turned away from his cousin as she screamed bloody murder. He gazed down at me. "Hungry?"

My brain was still in a daze. "Um…it's up to you."

He smiled and said over Fay's background pleas for mercy, "I'm fine right here." And once again he leaned down, and I smiled as his lips pressed against mine.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ah, that's the end! Wow. Kind of hard to believe!
If you've stuck with this story from the very beginning (which was a few years ago) I just want to say…thank you. So much. I can't even describe how awesome that is.

Here's a pretty important note: as of very soon my penname is going to be Autumn C. instead of HungarianHorntail. Just to let you know.