Chasing Stanley (New York Blades)

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9780425214473: Chasing Stanley (New York Blades)

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.

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About 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.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

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,...

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Book Description Berkley Books, United States, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780425214473

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Book Description Berkley Books, United States, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780425214473

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