Hello to the dog days of summer!I know many people
When I heard abou
My love for all things great and small led me to always expect that I'd grow up to work with animals in some capacity... but there were a few other career ideas, too. In no particular order, I wanted to be:
1) A movie star
6) A person who lived on the beach
7) Dr. Doolittle
8) Grizzly Adams' wife
9) Zookeeper, but not for the monkeys (I didn't like monkeys & still don't).
10) Wonder Woman
Let's just say one out of ten, folks. One out of ten. Although, in about four years, number six will sort of come to fruition. In fairness, I suppose a few of my great ideas were a bit... unrealistic. I can't sing. Too shy to act. Moderate art skills
Here's an excerpt from A Billion Reasons:
Jenna slung her battered duffel bag over her tan, too thin shoulder and hopped off the last gritty step of the Greyhound bus. Her dark brown cowboy boots kicked up a cloud of burnt sienna dust. She grinned and shook her head. That sure isn’t city dust. She slid a black hair elastic off her wrist and whipped her long, pale-blonde hair into a quick ponytail as the bus door closed with a hydraulic hiss and lumbered away.
Her eyes swept over the acres of green grass, manicured shrubs, the horses grazing in the distance, and a lake peeking out from between the trunks of tall evergreen trees. All under an endless blue sky, unobstructed by skyscrapers. Jenna took a deep breath, letting the clean air fill her lungs. Then she promptly began coughing. Apparently, her city lungs were rejecting the fresh country air.
was supposed to meet her at the bus stop—a groundskeeper
or some other hired help—but she was alone by the winding dirt road.
Jenna sighed and squinted at the speck of white in the distance. Averly
Estates. Her home for the next twelve weeks... unless she got caught out as
a fraud. If that happened, then... No, don't think about that. It'll be fine. Dog Behaviorist. Please, how hard could it be?
Anyhow, she hadn't completely lied on the application. Okay, dog walker might be a bit of a stretch from dog behaviorist. But with a little help from the internet and a fancy looking—albeit fake—certification award, Jenna thought she could pull it off.
She cupped her hand against her forehead and took another sweeping look across the estate. A tree-lined, pea-gravel road branched off from the main road and wound a meandering path to the great house. She guessed it to be maybe a mile or so away. Nothing for a professional dog walker. I mean dog behaviorist.
“There are facilities at the main house, you know.”
Jenna froze, then hurriedly pull the top on. “What the hell—” In her haste, she yanked the elastic halfway out of her hair and had pulled the tank top on backward. She straightened, squinted around, and found the source of the voice. It was a ruggedly handsome, older man. Jenna guessed him to be in his mid-forties. Or a well-aged fifty. Jenna eyed him coolly. Damn, even the help dressed nicely here. Shit. Jenna’s worn-out duffel held a meager array of shorts, tank tops, bathing suit, vintage tees, one dress, and her undergarments. Her purse her all her otherworldly goods—toothbrush and toothpaste, mascara, one tube of plum spice lipstick, and seventy-seven dollars. Oh, and half a pack of
“You always sneak up on people like that?”
Jenna Maxwell,” she filled in. It was actually Jenna Caldwell, but he didn’t need to know
that. The less anyone around here knew about Jenna, the better.
, of course. Jenna Maxwell, professional dog behaviorist
from New York City. I apologize. I was resting against that tree over there
and, well, I fell asleep,” he said with a shrug. He glanced down at her bag. “Is
that all you brought?”
“All I need.” She added her own shrug and hoped it looked nonchalant rather than embarrassed.
The man stared at Jenna for a long moment. A faint smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Right, then. Follow me, please. You don’t mind if we walk, I hope?”
“No, no, not at all.” Hundred-degree temps, four-hour bus ride… a mile-long walk sounds peachy. Jenna suddenly realized that he never introduced himself. “And you are…”
“You can call me Griff.” He said nothing more.
Griff. Okay, I guess that’s all I’m getting.
Jenna sighed. This guy wasn’t the first uppity staff-of-rich-people she’d ever dealt with. Mrs. Lannister in her fancy penthouse had a secretary named Johan who treated Jenna like a peasant. All while ironing Mrs. Lannister’s underwear, no less. Despite Johan and his snooty attitude, things had been going well for Jenna. The anonymity of the bustling, never sleeping city had caused her to lower her guard enough to make acquaintances, if not friends. Ophelia from the bodega set aside the best mangos for her. Abram at the coffee shop remembered just how she liked her coffee. Though she always kept her head down and
baseball cap on
while walking the dogs, she began to occasionally smile and wave to the regular
faces she saw. She should ’ve known better. Familiarity breeds attachment.
Attachment attracts questions, and questions attract
trouble. Until she’d let her guard down, she’d weaved through New York like
a ghost, unnoticeable in the sea of faces. Fake identifications, burner phones,
library internet, and landlords who like cash. She’d lulled herself into
believing that the city was perfect for
anonymity—it was for nearly a year—but then she must ’ve gotten sloppy.
Out of the blue, a small white envelope arrived at the Lannister’s penthouse addressed to Jenna. Johan handed it to her with a sniff and a reminder that ‘Mrs. Lannister’s penthouse was not her personal post office.’ With shaking hands, Jenna tore open the seal and read the note.
Time to come home.
-yours always, Me
He’d found her again. Like a relentless wolf tracking a scent, or a feline stalking its prey, he was edging closer. Worst of all—he wanted her to know he was coming for her. Jenna felt a chill run down her back and shot a surreptitious glance at Griff to see if he’d noticed. He did. She spoke quickly before he could question her.
“So, Griff. What’s the boss ladylike?”
…boss lady?” Griff turned slightly, his brows drawn
“Yeah, owner of this grand upstate estate. Ha—that’s funny. Upstate estate, sounds funny, right?” Jenna laughed alone. Griff raised an eyebrow at her.
Okay, note to self.
good-looking, no sense of humor.
“What, may I ask, makes you believe the… boss is
Jenna had a smart retort ready, then realized that all along she’d just assumed it was a woman. She halted. From her purse, she pulled the printout of their last email. It stated confirmation of her employment, details of the job, and the address. Signed: G. Pierce.
If I piqued your interest, you'll be happy to know this anthology featuring five intertwining stories is only