Forever and a Day(3)

By: Jill Shalvis

“Your flyer lists your qualifications, but not how long you’ve been doing this.”

That was too bad because she’d sure like to know that herself. She’d never actually had a dog. Turns out, rocket scientists and renowned biologists don’t have a lot of time in their lives for incidentals such as dogs.

Or kids…

In fact, come to think of it, Grace had never had so much as a goldfish, but really, how hard could it be? Put the thing on a leash and walk, right? “I’m a little new at the dog walking thing,” she admitted.

“A little new?” he asked. “Or a lot new?”

“A lot.”

There was a pause, as if he was considering hanging up. Grace rushed to fill the silence. “But I’m very diligent!” she said quickly. “I never leave a job unfinished.” Unless she was asked how she felt about giving blow jobs during lunch breaks… “And I’m completely reliable.”

“The dog is actually a puppy,” he said. “And new to our household. Not yet fully trained.”

“No problem,” she said, and crossed her fingers, hoping that was true. She loved puppies. Or at least she loved the idea of puppies.

“I left for work early this morning and won’t be home until late tonight. I’d need you to walk the dog by lunchtime.”

Yeah, he really had a hell of a voice. Low and authoritative, it made her want to snap to attention and salute him, but it was also…sexy. Wondering if the rest of him matched his voice, she made arrangements to go to his house in a couple of hours, where there’d be someone waiting to let her inside. Her payment of forty bucks cash would be left on the dining room table.

Forty bucks cash for walking a puppy…


Grace didn’t ask why the person opening the door for her couldn’t walk the puppy. She didn’t want to talk her new employer out of hiring her because, hello, forty bucks. She could eat all week off that if she was careful.

At the appropriate time, she pulled up to the address she’d been given and sucked in a big breath. She hadn’t caught the man’s name, but he lived in a very expensive area, on the northernmost part of town where the rocky beach stretched for endless miles like a gorgeous postcard for the Pacific Northwest. The dark green bluffs and rock formations were piled like gifts from heaven for as far as the eye could see. Well, as far as her eye could see, which wasn’t all that far since she needed glasses.

She was waiting on a great job with benefits to come along first.

The house sat across the street from the beach. Built in sprawling stone and glass, it was beautiful, though she found it odd that it was all one level, when the surrounding homes were two and three stories high. Even more curious, next to the front steps was a ramp. A wheelchair ramp. Grace knocked on the door, then caught sight of the Post-it note stuck on the glass panel.

Dear Dogsitter,

I’ve left door unlocked for you. Please let yourself in. Oh, and if you could throw away this note and not let my brother know I left his house unlocked, that’d be great, thanks. Also, don’t steal anything.


Grace stood there chewing her bottom lip in rare indecision. She hadn’t given this enough thought. Hell, let’s be honest. She’d given it no thought at all past Easy Job. She reminded herself that she was smart in a crisis and could get through anything.

But walking into a perfect stranger’s home seemed problematic, if not downright dangerous. What if a curious neighbor saw her and called the cops? She looked herself over. Enjoying her current freedom from business wear, she was in a sundress with her cute Payless-special ankle boots and lace socks. Not looking much like a banking specialist, and hopefully not looking like a B&E expert either…

Regardless, what if this was a setup? What if a bad guy lived here, one who lured hungry, slightly desperate, act-now-think-later women inside to do heinous things to them?

Okay, so maybe she’d been watching too many late-night marathons of Criminal Minds, but it could totally happen.

Then, from inside the depths of the house came a happy, high-pitched bark. And then another, which seemed to say, “Hurry up, lady. I have to pee!”

Ah, hell. In for a penny…Grace opened the front door and peered inside.

The living room was as stunning as the outside of the house. Wide-open spaces, done in dark masculine wood and neutral colors. The furniture was oversized and sparse on the beautiful, scarred hardwood floors. An entire wall of windows faced the late summer sky and Pacific Ocean.

As Grace stepped inside, the barking increased in volume, intermingled now with hopeful whining. She followed the sounds to a huge, state-of-the-art kitchen that made her wish she knew how to cook beyond the basics of soup and grilled-cheese sandwiches. Just past the kitchen was a laundry room, the doorway blocked by a toddler gate.

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