Chasing Stanley
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Chasing Stanley

4.2 35
by Deirdre Martin
     
 

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Professional hockey player Jason Mitchell is thrilled when he's traded to the New York Blades-the team of his dreams. There's just one problem: his pooch isn't adjusting to city life too well. Good thing he crosses paths with dog trainer Delilah Gould. And then he begins to fall for her...

Now, with the season heating up, Jason realizes he'll have to score

Overview

Professional hockey player Jason Mitchell is thrilled when he's traded to the New York Blades-the team of his dreams. There's just one problem: his pooch isn't adjusting to city life too well. Good thing he crosses paths with dog trainer Delilah Gould. And then he begins to fall for her...

Now, with the season heating up, Jason realizes he'll have to score big to win the Stanley Cup-and the woman who has tamed his dog and unleashed his heart.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Count on a dog -- in this case, a rambunctious Newfoundland named Stanley -- to bring an unlikely couple together! This is how shy dog trainer Delilah Gould meets pro hockey player Jason Mitchell. On paper, they're a bad match: He's a party animal, she's a bit of a recluse who hasn't had a real date in a very long time. Still, they start to date, they begin to fall in love, and then the trouble begins. As they mix with her friends, his faults are magnified; when they visit with his friends, she embarrasses him no end. Deidre Martin, author of The Penalty Box, does a great job painting the couple's disparate worlds, and it's a poignantly realistic moment when Delilah can't see a way forward that works. A side plot about Delilah's divorced parents, Jason's father's new girlfriend, and the disastrous wedding adds insight and comic touches. Ginger Curwen

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425214473
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/06/2007
Series:
New York Blades Series , #4
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
888,383
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.66(h) x 1.05(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

He was big and handsome, with wavy black hair that gleamed in the sun and warm brown eyes that could tease out a girl’s deepest secrets. Delilah Gould’s heart flapped madly in her chest just looking at him. Her fingers itched; what she wouldn’t give to run them through that thick, lustrous hair! Unable to stop herself, she edged closer. Their eyes met. Delilah’s heart melted into a puddle, especially when he started wagging his tail. He was the most stunning Newfoundland she’d ever seen.

Delilah had taken her three dogs for a quick midday walk around her Upper West Side neighborhood. According to local weathercasters, the temperature was hovering around ninety-five degrees, with the mercury expected to hit one hundred by late afternoon. Delilah was anxious for Sherman, her golden retriever, Shiloh, a cairn terrier, and Belle, a white mutt, to do their business quickly so she could hustle them right back inside into air-conditioning. After only a few minutes, sweat was pasting her clothes to her body, while the stifling humidity had shocked the hair around her head into a brunette halo.

Despite the heat, the streets were still crowded, though most people were moving like sleepwalkers and looked about as happy to be outside as Delilah was. Rounding the corner of West Eighty-first and Madison, she paused to take a sip from her water bottle. That’s when she saw him.

“C’mon, Stanley. Don’t do this to me.” A well-built man with hair dark as his dog’s and brown eyes just as tender, sounded desperate, cajoling the dog. “Stanley!” The man’s voice turned harsh. “Get up.” He moved behind the dog and tried pushing him. Stanley didn’t budge. “C’mon, you big slug. I don’t have time for this.” Hooking his fingers under the dog’s collar, he pulled. That’s when Delilah sprang into action.

“Don’t do that!”

Delilah commanded her own dogs to lie down and stay. They did so dutifully as she approached the Newf and his owner, who was eying her suspiciously.

“Do what?”

“Pull on his collar like that.” She clucked her tongue, noting how heavily the poor dog was panting. “How long have you had him outside like this? Don’t you know big dogs suffer more in the heat? Especially black dogs. Black absorbs the rays of the sun. Look how heavily he’s panting! How would you like to be out in this weather wearing a big fur coat?”

The man stared at her. “Do I know you?”

Delilah ignored him. She took her water bottle and squeezed some water into the grateful dog’s mouth before pulling a bandanna from her pocket and wiping his dripping jowls. The dog owner watched, dumbstruck. Sizing him up as discreetly as she could, Delilah noticed he seemed unaffected by the heat, his tennis shirt dry as a bone, not a trace of moisture on his rugged, tanned face, almost as if he was above sweating. Delilah felt like a total zhlub standing there with her sticky T-shirt and shorts covered in dog hair. As casually as she could, she touched the top of her head, pretending to push some hair into place. It was just as she suspected: she was close to sporting an afro. Frazzled, she shoved her bandanna back in her pocket.

The dog owner looked bemused. “Do you always rush up to strangers’ dogs and give them water?”

“No. Just the ones who are dying in the heat.”

The man’s teeth gritted. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to get him to move.”

“Not very effectively. You’re totally clueless,” Delilah blurted. Oh, God. It was happening. Whenever she got nervous, her mouth went into overdrive. She either blurted the first thing that came to her head or babbled incoherently. Sometimes both. Today appeared to be a blurt day.

The man folded his arms across his chest. “You know, I’d heard New Yorkers could be jerks, but until now, I didn’t believe it.”

“I’m not a jerk,” Delilah insisted weakly. “I just know a lot about dogs.”

“Think you can get him to move?”

“Yes.”

“Oh yeah? Then be my guest. Please.”

Delilah pulled a piece of hot dog from her fanny pack and held it out to Stanley, slowly walking backward away from him. Stanley immediately scrambled to his feet, lumbering after her. Delilah stopped moving. Stanley stood in front of her, eyes glued to the treat in her hand.

Delilah casually picked up his leash. Stanley’s eyes remained riveted on her hand, his jowls dripping. “Stanley, sit,” Delilah said firmly, raising the treat high over Stanley’s head. Stanley sat. “Good boy,” Delilah cooed, feeding him the hot dog slice. She turned back to Stanley’s owner. “See? That wasn’t too hard.”

The owner frowned. “Except now he’s sitting again.” He gestured at Delilah’s fanny pack. “Got any more hot dog chunks in there?”

“Why?”

“To bribe him into moving.”

“No, the secret is using food as a reward for listening to a command.”

“Right. Listen, um—what’s your name?”

“Delilah.”

“I’m Jason. Delilah, if you could give me another piece of hot dog so I can just get him home, I’d really appreciate it.”

“Where do you live?”

“Three blocks up on Eighty-fourth. Why?”

“You can’t make him walk three blocks dangling a treat in front of his face! It’s inhumane!”

At the sound of the word treat, Stanley jerked his head in Delilah’s direction, sending a thick string of drool sailing toward her. It landed on the left sleeve of her T-shirt.

Jason looked mortified. “I’m sorry.”

“No biggie.” Delilah pulled out her bandanna again and wiped off her arm before wiping Stanley’s mouth again. “You don’t see many Newfs in the city,” she noted.

Jason seemed pleased by this observation. “You don’t see many Newfs, period. That’s why I wanted one.”

Delilah frowned with dismay. “Is this some kind of status thing for you?”

“No.” Jason seemed offended. “This is some kind of breed thing for me. A friend of mine growing up had a Newf, and the dog was great. When I had a chance to get one myself, I grabbed it.”

“Newfs are kind of special,” Delilah agreed. There had once been a Newfie named Cyrus who lived in the neighborhood for three years, until his owners moved to the burbs. Delilah had adored Cyrus; he was intelligent, affectionate, and extremely protective—not just of Delilah, but of everyone he bonded with. Some people were repulsed by his drool, but not Delilah. When necessary, she lovingly wiped the long strings of spittle from his mouth, oblivious to the stains smeared on her clothing.

Delilah stuffed her bandanna back into her pocket. “You really need to train him.”

“I don’t have time.”

Delilah shrugged. “Then don’t complain about how long it takes to get him to move.” She picked up her own dogs’ leashes, commanded them to “Go,” and resumed walking down the block.

“Wait!” Jason yelled after her. “You’re just going to leave me here?”

“Yes!” Delilah called back over her shoulder. Poor Stanley.

She was halfway up the block when Jason’s voice again rang out. “Goddamn . . . Delilah, help!”

Delilah turned. Stanley had wound his leash around Jason’s legs.

Delilah walked back to them, shaking her head in admonishment. “Stanley’s a delinquent. You do realize that, don’t you?”

Jason scowled. “Think you could help me out first and lecture me later?”

Delilah pulled another piece of hot dog from her pack and led Stanley counterclockwise around his master the maypole. When she was done, she again commanded him to sit. This time he obeyed without hesitation.

“Good boy!” Delilah praised him, feeding him his treat and giving his ears a rub for good measure. Her tone was considerably cooler as she addressed Jason. “He’s not leash trained, is he?”

Jason looked sheepish as he shook his head.

“You’re not doing him any favors.”

“He’s not a city dog. At least he wasn’t until last week.” Jason crouched down so he was eye level with Stanley. “Isn’t that right, boy?” Stanley began licking his face. “Some people thought I should have left you behind, but we’re a team, aren’t we, big guy?”

Clueless though he was, Delilah found herself softening toward Jason. “I can see you really love him,” she said, “but a dog of Stanley’s size needs to be trained—especially living in the city.” Delilah couldn’t shake the image of Stanley barreling down the sidewalk, mindlessly mowing down innocent pedestrians in his wake. Or worse, trotting out into traffic and getting hit by a car.

Delilah had a waiting list of owners dying for her to train their dogs, but she’d always been a sucker for the neediest cases. “I’m a dog trainer,” she confessed.

“I had a feeling you were some kind of animal nut.”

“I am not a nut!”

Jason looked apologetic as he rose to his feet. “Let me rephrase that. I had a feeling you were a trainer or walker or something.”

“Both, actually. I board dogs, too.” She reached into the zippered compartment of her fanny pack and pulled out her business card, handing it to Jason.

“‘The Bed and Biscuit, Delilah Gould, Owner,’” Jason read aloud. “You’re a godsend.”

“Why’s that?” Delilah’s attention was divided between Stanley, who had sauntered over to sniff her dogs, and Jason, who was giving her the once-over. Delilah felt her stomach contract. Sweaty face plus frizzy hair plus fur-coated walking shorts equaled major bowwow. She was sure of it.

Jason was smiling proudly. “I’m a hockey player for the New York Blades.”

“Are those your real teeth?” Delilah blurted.

Jason did a small double take. “What?”

Delilah took a deep breath, fighting the impulse for flight. Her foot was so deep in her mouth she could feel the toe of her sneaker kicking against her rib cage. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. It just—came out.”

Jason’s expression was guarded. “Apology accepted.”

“Thank you,” Delilah said gratefully. “Now tell me why I’m a godsend.”

“I’ll be traveling a lot during the season, and I’ll need a place to board Stanley. How much do you charge?”

“Fifty dollars a day.”

“In Minnesota it was only twenty-five!”

“You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

He looked over her card before slipping it into his pocket. “I guess if that’s the going rate, I’ll pay it.”

“Not so fast. I only board dogs who are trained.”

Jason frowned. “And how much do you charge for that?”

“It depends.”

“Ballpark estimate.” Jason tugged on the leash in an attempt to pull Stanley back from approaching an elderly woman who clearly thought a bear cub had escaped from the zoo. “Excuse me a minute,” he said to Delilah as he grabbed Stanley’s collar, restraining him. “He’s harmless!” he assured the woman, who looked terrified as she hurried to cross the street. He turned back to Delilah. “I know, I know: he needs to be trained. When can you start?”

“When can you start?”

Jason looked confused. “Can’t I just drop him at your place and pick him up when the lesson’s over?”

“No. His success depends on your cooperation and dedication. You need to observe what I’m doing and practice with him between lessons.”

“You’re pulling my leg, right?”

Delilah was silent.

“Guess not.” Jason rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Okay, look. How about I look at my schedule and give you a call, and we can figure out a time and place for our first lesson?”

“I need to interview you first.”

Jason blinked. “Huh?”

“I don’t take on just anybody. I like to get a sense of the dogs and their owners first, see how they interact.”

“You’ve seen how we interact! I beg Stanley to do something, Stanley ignores me, and if I’m lucky, he gets bored and eventually obeys!”

Delilah found herself smiling. “I need to see how the two of you interact in your home environment,” she continued, nervously running her sweaty palms down the front of her shorts. Dumb move. Now her hands were coated with dog hair. She laced them behind her back. “I know it sounds like a bit much. But it’s worth it, believe me. I’m very good at what I do.”

“I can see that.”

“Stanley has a wonderful temperament,” Delilah gushed. “And he obviously learns quickly. Training the two of you should be a snap.”

Jason smiled. “Does that mean you think I have a wonderful temperament, too?”

Delilah didn’t know what to say. This was one of the reasons she preferred dogs to people: they didn’t flirt or make you flustered. “I need to get going,” she mumbled.

“Oh. Okay.” Jason seemed reluctant to end contact. “So, I’ll call you, and we’ll set something up?”

“Sure,” said Delilah.

“Do I need to wear a tie for my interview?”

Delilah blushed, glancing down at Stanley, whose tail began wagging the second their eyes made contact. No doubt about it: he was a charmer. She bent down and kissed Stanley on the top of the head.

“How am I supposed to get him home?” Jason lamented.

“How have you been getting him home before today?”

“Well, I kinda wait till he’s ready to move.”

“And how long does that take?”

“Sometimes minutes. Sometimes—longer.”

“You stand here in the middle of a city block and make people go around you?” Before Jason could answer, Delilah pulled out another piece of hot dog from her fanny pack, slipping it discreetly into Jason’s palm. “Lead him home with this—but just this once! Otherwise he’ll expect it every time, and it will make training a nightmare.”

Jason looked grateful. “Thank you.” Stanley was sniffing the air. A second later he was back on his feet, nudging Jason’s hand with his nose.

Delilah pursed her lips disapprovingly. “That’s one bad boy you’ve got there.”

“But you’re gonna whip him into shape, right?”

“I’m going to whip both of you into shape. Figuratively. Not literally. I mean, I’m not a doggie dominatrix or anything. If such a thing even exists. Which would be pretty weird if you think about it. I mean—”

Jason held out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Delilah hesitated. No way was she shaking his hand when hers was sweaty. Not knowing what else to do, she bowed. Jason looked confused, then bowed back.

“Well, that was a first,” he murmured.

“So, uh, call me,” Delilah mumbled.

Jason winked. “Looking forward to it, Miss Gould.”

Check it out.”

Jason passed that day’s Daily News to his brother, Eric. It was open to a full-page article about him. Eric gave the article a cursory glance and handed it back.

“So you’re flavor of the week. Big deal. Tomorrow it will be someone else.”

“Did the News do a full-page article on you when you came to play for Jersey?” Jason needled.

Eric snorted. “Yeah. And they did an article on me in Sports Illustrated, too. One of us in this room has won the Cup, and it ain’t you.”

“Yet.”

Eric snorted again. “Don’t hold your breath, little brother.” He returned to watching a rerun of Lost on Jason’s brand new plasma TV. Stanley lay at Eric’s feet, snoring louder than their father ever had. It was easy to forget sometimes he was a dog.

Jason picked up the paper again, staring at the image of himself flanked by the Blades’ head coach, Ty Gallagher, and the team’s new captain, Michael Dante, who had taken over after Kevin Gill’s retirement. After three years of playing for the Minnesota Mosquitoes, Jason had been traded to the big time: one of the original six and the team of his dreams. Most players dreamed of playing with or under Gallagher—even Eric, though he’d never admit it now that he played for Jersey.

Little brother . . . yeah, by three whole minutes. The family joked the only reason Eric emerged first was because he’d elbowed Jason out of the way. He’d been doing it ever since. For as far back as Jason could remember, the two had competed against each other in everything: grades, girls, their parents’ affection, and especially hockey.

There wasn’t much to do in Flasher, North Dakota, but play hockey, and the twins had excelled at it. The pond on the family farm froze early and thawed late, and it wasn’t unusual for the two of them to play one-on-one for hours. In school, they played on the same team, Jason on the wing and Eric on defense. Sometimes Jason resented the way the town spoke of them as “the Mitchell Boys,” as if they were one entity rather than two individuals.

At least they weren’t identical. Eric took after their blonde, blue-eyed mother, while Jason, with his unruly dark hair and deep-set brown eyes, was the spitting image of their father. Their only physical similarity was stature: both were big and broad. Their mom said they were built like her grandfather, who’d worked the farm until he dropped dead among the corn at ninety-one. Both boys figured out early on that with their less-than-stellar grades, the only ways out of Flasher were hockey or the military. Both had made the NHL. But of course, Eric did it first.

Jason looked at his brother, slack-jawed as he watched the action on TV. Eric’s penchant for watching TV amazed him. “Let’s take a walk,” he suggested.

“Screw that. It’s ninety-eight degrees out there. I prefer air-conditioned splendor, thank you very much.”

Jason frowned, restless. All his life he’d dreamed of coming to New York. He wanted to be outside so the city could soak into his skin—its sounds, its smells, even the taste of the air. Instead he was cooped up in his new apartment with his brother, his dog, and his TV.

Stanley woke up, and after a big yawn that sounded like a creaky door opening, began licking Eric’s feet. Eric jerked them away. “Jesus! Why does he do that?”

“He’s just telling you he loves you. Don’t be such a wuss.”

“I still can’t believe you brought him here. You should have left him with Mom and Dad.”

Jason looked down at Stanley, who’d taken Eric’s rejection in stride. That Eric could even suggest leaving Stanley behind was proof Eric had no clue about the sacred bond between a man and his dog. Jason had bought Stanley as a pup in Minnesota. They’d grown up together. Stanley was his rock. When Jason had a bad night on the ice, he had the comfort of knowing that when he’d get home, Stanley would be thrilled to see him, and it would lift his spirits. There was nothing that relaxed Jason more than hanging out with Stanley in the backyard playing fetch or taking Stanley swimming in his parents’ pond. Of course, now he didn’t have a yard. Or a pond.

“Do you know if there’s a dog run or anything around here?”

Eric scratched his arm. “No idea.”

“How long have you been living here?”

Eric looked at him. “Three years. But you may have noticed I don’t have a dog. I’m not needy like you.”

Jason gave Eric the finger and bent down to pet Stanley. Delilah would know if there was a dog run. He pulled her business card from his back pocket and looked at it. Delilah Gould. You didn’t hear names like that in North Dakota, or in Minnesota, for that matter.

“Whatcha got there?” Eric plucked the card from Jason’s fingers. “ You thinkin’ of boarding Stan the Man?”

“I’m going to have to during road trips, aren’t I?” Jason took Delilah’s business card from his brother and slipped it back into his pocket.

“What did you do with him in Minnesota?”

“David Kavli’s little sister would stay with him at the house for twenty-five bucks a day.” Kavli was one of Jason’s teammates on the Mosquitoes.

“Kavs couldn’t put one in the net if his life depended on it,” Eric declared.

“Yeah, no shit.” For once he and Eric were in agreement.

“Was the sister cute?” Eric asked.

Jason shrugged. “I never really noticed.”

Which was true. Delilah Gould, however, was another story. Jason noticed right away that she was pretty. She had big, brown doe eyes and light brown hair that fell in soft waves around her shoulders. Her baggy shorts and loose T-shirt made it hard to tell if she had a good body, but her calves were shapely. He’d been a little annoyed with her attitude at first, but his irritation evaporated as soon as he saw how quickly she was able to get Stan’s ass in gear. She was right: Stan was a delinquent, and it was all his fault. Still, he had no idea how he was going to fit obedience lessons into his schedule.

Eric suddenly turned to him, sniffing the air with a questioning look on his face. “Are you cooking hot dogs?”

“Yeah, for Stanley.”

“Since when does Stanley eat hot dogs?”

“Since I discovered it’s the only way to get him to do what I ask.” Delilah would kill him if she knew he intended to keep using the hot dog trick with Stanley, but he’d worry about that later.

“Do you have any idea what’s in those?” Eric was asking.

“No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me.”

“Nitrates and trites and God knows what else. You’re killing him slowly.”

“Thanks for your input, Eric.”

“Any time.” Eric glanced around Jason’s apartment. “I did pretty well for you, didn’t I?”

“I have to admit, you did.” Jason was genuinely grateful to his brother, who managed to find and secure this apartment for him before Jason even got to town. Some people might find it weird that they lived on the same block, but considering they’d spent the first sixteen years of their lives sharing the same room, this was a vast improvement.

He took the TV remote from his brother and turned off the TV. “I was wondering something.”

“What? Why I’m a great player and you’re mediocre?”

Jason ignored him. “Why do you live in Manhattan if you play for Jersey?”

“Because there’s fuck all to do in Jersey if you’re single, that’s why.” Eric snatched the remote back from Jason’s hand and turned the TV back on. “Why not live in the city? My commute is short, and this is where all the fun stuff happens. I’m not the only Jersey player taking bites from the Big Apple, bro. A bunch of other single guys on the team live here, too.”

Jason nodded. It made perfect sense. What better playground for young, single guys making a ton of money than Manhattan? Being professional athletes didn’t hurt, either. Jason had already noticed the adoration that sprang into people’s eyes when he mentioned he played for the Blades. He liked that.

Jason rose to go check on the hot dogs. Stanley followed him. “Yeah, you know what’s cooking in the pot, don’t you, buddy?” He reached down to scratch the top of Stanley’s nose. Stanley basked in the attention, then stretched out right in front of the stove. Jason laughed. When he sat at the kitchen table, Stanley sat right beside him. When he stretched out on the couch, Stanley did the same on the floor. It wasn’t unusual for Jason to emerge from the bathroom to find Stanley sitting right outside the door.

Eric appeared in the kitchen doorway. “I’m kinda hungry.”

“Hold on.” Jason swung the door of the refrigerator open. “I’ve got some eggs.”

“Screw that. Gimme a hot dog.”

Jason closed the fridge, staring at him. “You’re a piece of work, you know that?”

“And you’re a friggin’ pantywaist whose ass I’m gonna kick up and down the ice this season. Now shut up and give me a dog before I call Mom and tell her you’re dating a tranny named Lola.”

Jason shook his head. “ You know what, Eric?”

“What?”

“I can’t believe I’m related to an asshole like you.”

“You are ten minutes late, Miss Thang.”

Delilah hunched her shoulders apologetically as she joined her assistant, Marcus, on “their” bench at the local dog run. She and Marcus had a standing Saturday afternoon date, more to catch up on gossip than anything else. Delilah considered canceling, given the heat, but she knew Marcus. “If we were working you wouldn’t be able to cancel,” he’d chide her, and he’d be right. Being a dog walker was like being a mail carrier: come rain or shine, you had no choice but to do your job. Sunny days were known as “the dog walker’s revenge”: you got to work outside in the gorgeous weather, while most people were stuck inside toiling behind desks. But when it rained, snowed, or was blazing hot, no one wanted Delilah’s job, Delilah included.

“Where are the kids?” Marcus asked.

“I left them at home in the AC. Which is where we should be.” Delilah looked around the small, wooded park. Usually it was packed, especially on the weekends. The combination of the heat and summer vacation accounted for the thinning of the ranks. “Have you seen Gin?”

Marcus’s eyes got moist. “Cha-Cha died this morning.”

“Oh, no.” Delilah held back tears. Cha-Cha was their friend Ginny’s beloved Chihuahua, who’d been battling cancer for over a year. “I’ll pick up a sympathy card on Monday and bring it over here so we can all sign it.”

“I knew it was Cha-Cha’s time,” said Marcus. “When Ginny carried him over here on Thursday, he looked straight at me and said, ‘Amigo, I’m ready to go home to the casa of the Lord.’”

Delilah held her tongue. She believed animals and humans were connected. If you knew a dog well enough, you knew when he was in pain, or sad, or agitated. But Delilah did not believe people who put their ear to a dog’s mouth and announced things like, “She says she wants you to take her to Mexico because she’s always dreamed of seeing the Mayan ruins,” or “He hates those drapes in the living room; they clash with the parrot.” Delilah had been attuned to her pets for years, and not once had any of them “told” her anything of significance beyond Love me, Feed me, Take me out, Pet me, Play with me, I’m bored, or Leave me the hell alone. Occasionally one of her animals might convey that he felt threatened, afraid, or confused, but rarely. That was because she kept her dogs to a strict routine, which they needed and thrived on. Dogs didn’t do well with mixed signals. Neither did Delilah.

“I saw a Newf today,” she told Marcus.

“Really? Where?”

“On Eighty-first and Madison. He was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk and wouldn’t budge. His owner was beside himself.”

“People shouldn’t have dogs they can’t handle,” Marcus sniffed.

“I agree.”

“What was the owner like? Big and dumb like the dog, right?”

“Newfs aren’t dumb!”

“They’re no Border collies, honey.” Marcus took out a pack of gum, unwrapping a stick for himself before passing the rest to Delilah. “The owner?”

Delilah hesitated. “He’s a hockey player. For the Blades.”

“Oooh, a jock.” Marcus popped the gum into his mouth. “Hot?”

Delilah absently fingered the gum. “I don’t know. I guess.”

“You guess? Tell me you didn’t notice what he looked like.”

“Okay, maybe I did. A little.”

Marcus tapped his foot. “I’m waiting.”

“Big, broad shoulders, darkish hair, brown eyes. Tennis shirt. Hiking shorts. Black Tevas.”

“You remember the color of his footwear?”

“So?” Delilah began chewing her gum.

“Well, to me that says, ‘Smitten kitten.’”

“I am not smitten,” Delilah insisted, watching Marcus as he walked to the nearest garbage pail to throw out their gum wrappers. She loved the way Marcus moved; he was muscular yet sinewy, a natural-born dancer. Striking, too, with a gleaming shaved head and caramel-colored skin. Delilah hoped he got his big break soon, even though it would make her life hellish until she found another assistant.

“You’re smitten,” Marcus insisted, returning to the bench. “I’m glad.” He gestured indelicately toward her crotch. “I was beginning to think the amusement park was closed down for the season.”

“Marcus!”

“Seriously: when’s the last time you got laid?”

“I don’t know!”

“If you don’t know, then it’s been too long.”

“No, wait! It was with Dennis.”

Dennis MacFadyen had been her boyfriend for six months. Things were fine until he brought her home to meet his parents. Delilah walked through their front door, and the first thing her nervous eyes latched onto was a painting of a handsome, bearded man. “Is that your brother?” she blurted to Dennis in front of his mother. It wasn’t. It was Jesus. Things went downhill from there.

Marcus’s gaze was filled with pity. “That was over a year ago, Lilah.”

“You’re the one who’s counting, not me.” She moved to wipe some sweat off her forehead. There was no air moving at all. It felt as if someone had taken a steaming, wet towel and was pressing it against her face. She thought back to her encounter with Jason and how awful she must have looked. He, on the other hand, had appeared cool as a cucumber. He must have had his sweat glands removed.

Marcus began fanning himself with a rolled-up copy of the Times. “I assume you gave Wayne Gretzky your card?”

“Of course. I might be taking them on as clients.”

“For what? Obedience, boarding, or walking?”

“All three, probably.” Delilah thought of Stanley’s noble but lovable face and smiled.

“Honey, we’ve got a waiting list a mile long,” Marcus reminded her.

“I know. But this dog really needs training.”

Marcus stopped fanning himself. “Oh, you’ve got it bad for Hockey Boy. B-A-D bad.”

“No, I don’t,” Delilah insisted again, though she could feel her face burning. She kept remembering the way Jason’s face looked when he’d asked if she thought he had a wonderful temperament like Stanley. The look was kind of flirtatious, or so she thought. Not that it mattered. The last thing on earth she wanted was a relationship. Dogs were better, hands down. They didn’t make fun of you for being shy. The only way they could hurt you was by dying.

Marcus wagged a finger in her face. “She who blushes is the one with the crushes.”

“Says who?”

“Me. I just made that up. Am I clever or what?” Marcus looked pleased with himself.

“You’re very clever,” Delilah acknowledged, taking the newspaper from him to fan herself for a moment, “but in this case, you’re wrong. Just because I notice a guy is good-looking doesn’t mean I want to date him.”

“Well, maybe you should think about it. I don’t want you winding up one of those crazy dog ladies with a hundred pets and no man in your bed.”

Delilah laughed. “I am one of those crazy dog ladies, Marcus! Or hadn’t you noticed?”

Marcus’s gaze turned serious as he plucked the paper from her fingers. “I have noticed, believe me. But we’re going to fix that.”

Meet the Author

Deirdre Martin has written scripts for the daytime drama One Life to Live. She lives with her husband and her dog, Molly, in Ithaca, New York.

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Chasing Stanley 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
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bookcrave More than 1 year ago
this book was good....not as great as the other books from this series. i enjoy how Deirdre Martin incorporates characters from her other books...it gives the books/reader a sense of family. makes you want to go back and read the others again!