Featured Author: Janine Rosche
“Why don’t you love me?” My voice barely registers above a whisper in the blustery autumn breeze. Not that I have any dignity left to spare.
The focus of Emmett’s earthen-brown eyes flitters between the moving cars and a squirrel crossing Main Street on a telephone wire. A noncommittal growl rumbles out of him. I stroke his blocky head from his ears to his collar, and he shifts away from my touch. My heart drops a bit more as his mouth opens in a panting smile.
“Great. I adopted the only Labrador Retriever in history that doesn’t like people.” With a heavy sigh, I stand. “Time to go home.”
Emmett leaps, yanking the leash like he’d once been on an arctic mushing team. I lose my grip, and he darts into the path of an oncoming truck. I follow, and when the pickup swerves around my dog, it nearly clips me.
“Sorry!” I yell.
Emmett beelines to Arcadia Library’s front door and sniffs the threshold. On the other side of the glass, a boxer peeks out from behind a sign: Dogs Welcome. The door opens, and Emmett pushes himself inside.
Imagining the headline—Dog Urinates on Vintage Copy of Old Yeller—I enter the library and see the dogs sniffing each other.
At the center of their awkward greeting stands a man, his gaze following Emmett’s movement. “Where’s your family, buddy?”
Breathless, I raise my hand.
The man offers a crooked grin that could make a girl forget her own dog’s name. “You look like you lost your best friend. Is this him?”
“Yes, but he probably wouldn’t call me his best friend. That role looks taken,” I say, pointing to the dog in the pink collar.
The cute guy kneels, fitting his arm around the boxer who gazes at him like he invented Milk-Bones. “He made an excellent choice. She’s been my best friend for three years.” He offers up a handshake, and I accept. “I’m Jacob—one of the librarians here. This is Lucy.”
“Nina. And this is Emmett.” Reluctantly, I release Jacob’s hand, trying not to fixate on the bare left ring finger, and take the leash. “I’ve only had him a few weeks.”
“How’s he adjusting?”
I try but fail to bite back the words. “He hates me.”
Jacob and Lucy cock their heads in unison. “That can’t be true.”
“It is.” I drop to my knees and run my fingers over the ebony fur along Emmett’s spine. In response, Emmett shuffles out of my reach. “See?”
“Maybe he’s simply not affectionate. It might take time to learn the small ways he shows love. I’ve known people with similar hang-ups. Haven’t you?”
“Considering my dating history, that’s all I know.” I cringe. “TMI. Sorry.”
“No apology necessary.” He pats Lucy’s side. “Dating can be ruff—pun intended.” He releases a soft butterscotch-scented breath, and I spy the golden candy on his tongue as he offers a casual slack-jawed grin.
“Cute,” I say with a headshake. “Actually, that’s why I adopted Emmett.”
He smirks. “Bad idea. He’ll scarf down dinner and leave you with the check.”
My cheeks blaze with heat. Still, I smile. “It was my mom’s suggestion when I moved here this summer. She didn’t want me to be lonely.”
“Smart mom.” He studies me long enough for the leash to slip in my sweaty palm. “Should I pull books about canine behavior?”
With Lucy and Emmett at our heels, we head to an aisle where Jacob gathers books about pet psychology, Labrador Retrievers, and dog training. Once the eight-book stack pleasantly strains his bicep where it peeks from beneath his sleeve, he leads me to a study table and splays the books across it.
After I settle into the chair, Jacob remains near, shifting his weight from one foot to another. In my periphery, Lucy groans and nudges his hand with her nose. Her owner clears his throat, places that same hand on the back of my seat, and leans closer. “If you want, I could show you around town. Arcadia’s dog-friendly so Emmett could come along.”
My breath hitches. “I’d like that.”
“Great. I should get back to work, but let me know what you find.”
As Jacob and Lucy return to the front desk, Emmett whines.
“I know, boy. I know.”
Before I surrender to a daydream about the handsome librarian, Emmett sits, leaning heavily against my shin. It’s silly but this small, long-awaited gesture blurs my vision. Finally, my eyes clear enough to read the opening line of the first book:
Once given, a dog’s love is eternal.
Connect with Janine online at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BookBub, and Goodreads. You can also join her Facebook group, The Love | Wander | Read Book Club, and find boards dedicated to each of her books on Pinterest.