Hi, my name is Bentley.
I'm a mutt with a dash of pit bull in the soup, and I have issues. I'm not likely to win any beauty pageants, and I'm afraid of cats. But my human, Norah Kent, thinks I'm the greatest despite all my shortcomings.
The problem is Norah won't go out with anyone who doesn't like me. Norah says she's perfectly happy being single, and that in God's time she'll marry Mr. Right. But I think God's time may be right now, and Mr. Right may be Officer Nick Haley -- the one guy who's afraid of a kitten-fearing basket case of a dog like me! I'll do just about anything to bring Norah and Nick together, even if I have to go . . . gulp . . . woof!
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Judy Baer is the award-winning author of over sixty-five books, including the bestselling Cedar River Daydreams series, The Whitney Chronicles, Million Dollar Dilemma and Be My Neat-Heart. She lives near Minneapolis.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
WELCOME TO NORAH'S ARK HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR IGUANA TODAY? Norah Kent, owner-operator of Norah's Ark Pet Store and Doggie B and B--Bed and Biscuit
I stood back and studied the sign I'd placed in the window. Creative marketing for a pet store has its own unique challenges. It's hard to know, really, if an iguana will lend itself the same "isn't that cute" factor as my Cuddle A Puppy Tonight! campaign had. It would help if I had an extra dime to spend on professional advice, but I usually have at least a hundred and fifty extra mouths to feed and that adds up. Granted, the fish and birds don't take much, but the mastiff puppies I'm currently housing make up for it. "New Monday-morning promotion, Norah? What will it be next, Grin At Your Guppy or Tickle Your Toad?"
I didn't have to turn around to know it was Joe Collier from the Java Jockey, the coffee shop and hangout across the street from my pet store.
"What do you think?"
"Makes me think I'd rather hug you."
"Get a grip, Joe, this is important business." I didn't turn around to look at him because I knew he was serious and didn't want to encourage him. Joe's been pursuing me ever since the day my menagerie and I moved into the storefront near him two years ago.
I left a perfectly nice, secure, decent-paying job managing a veterinary clinic and being a veterinarian's assistant to pursue a dream of owning my own business, and not even hunky, persistent Joe is going to derail me now.
"When are you going ease up, Norah? Norah's Ark has as much walk-in traffic as my coffee shop. You do as much business as anyone on the street."
I turned around to look at him. Joe is six feet two inches tall, has curly black hair, pale blue eyes and the best muscles a lifetime membership at the sweatiest gym in town money can buy. He always wears a white, long-sleeved shirt with the cuffs rolled up his forearms, jeans and loafers without socks. That's no easy feat in Minnesota during the winter, but Joe's a guy for all seasons.
"There's no time for a small business owner to 'ease up." You know that." I waved my arm, gesturing at the rows of businesses housed in quaint, former Victorian homes flanking both sides of Pond Street. Pond Street was named, tongue in cheek, because it runs directly into Lake Zachary, one of the largest, most populated and popular boating lakes in the city. In fact, every street in Shoreside runs directly toward the lake, like spokes on a bicycle. The avenues, which would normally run in the opposite direction, are more in an every-man-for-himself pattern. The slightly rolling terrain and difficulty of finding one's way around town only made it more appealing to people. Over the years, Shoreside has become an exclusive and trendy--if confusing--place to live.
"None of us would be here if we 'eased up." The summer traffic here is great but winters can be slow. We have to work when the sun shines--literally.
"So just slip out for a couple hours this Saturday night and I'll introduce you to this great Italian restaurant I know. Think of it as an opportunity to pay tribute to my maternal ancestors. What do you say?"
Joe has a smile so beguiling that it can melt ice cubes. If I don't give myself some space to think, I succumb to it every time.
"I'll let you know later."
"Not much later, I hope," he teased. "I have a whole list of other beautiful women to ask out if you turn me down." His dimples dimped--or whatever it is dimples do--but I still resisted. "I'll tell you after I close the store tonight, okay?"
"You're a hard sell, Norah. Maybe that's why I like you." He chucked me under the chin as he does my dog Bentley, a mixed breed Staffordshire terrier, beagle and who-knows-what-else, and sauntered back to the coffee shop.
If he thinks my hard-to-get persona is attractive, that means that saying "no" is only going to fuel his fire. I'll have to think of a new tactic to keep him at bay.
It's not that I don't like Joe. I do. Almost too much. The problem is that I'm just not ready for Joe. He wants a serious girlfriend, someone with marriage potential who is ready to settle down, and I'm not that girl--yet. Sometimes I worry that he might not be willing to wait.
Still, I love owning my own business and being independent and I want to have that experience for a while longer. I'm a throw-myself-into-something-with-total-abandon kind of girl. When I marry, I'll be the most enthusiastic wife and homemaker ever, but right now I am focused on the shop. Besides, although I've never admitted it to another living soul, I'm waiting for bells to chime, to feel the poke of Cupid's arrow as it lands in my backside or sense a shimmery-all-over feeling that I imagine I'll have when I fall in love. It's my personal secret. Everyone thinks I'm a sensible realist. Hah! Nothing could be further from the truth.
I decided to leave the iguana sign up for a day or two to test the response and was about to reenter the store when Auntie Lou came out the front door of her store to sweep the sidewalk. Surreptitiously, I watched as she tidied up the front of Auntie Lou's Antiques. Her name is actually Lou-ella Brown and her age is--well, somewhere over a hundred and fifty, I think. Auntie Lou is the oldest antique in her shop, cute as a bug and wrinkled as a raisin. She also dyes her hair a fire-engine red-orange that makes Lucille Ball's and Carrot Top's tresses look anemic. This morning her distinctive hair was tucked under a cloche hat and she wasn't wearing her upper plate so she looked especially raisinlike. Still, I found her smile appealing when she waved me over for a visit.
"How's my pretty today?" Auntie Lou asked. She always says that. When she does, I immediately flash back to Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. If I had a dog named Toto, I'd grab him and run.
"Great, how are you?"
"Arthur kept pestering me all night and Ruma-tiz, too. Those boys are pure trouble."
Translation: her arthritis and rheumatism are acting up again.
"Sorry to hear that."
"Oh, to be young and pretty like you!" Auntie Lou reached out and touched a strand of my long, dark hair, which is currently in one of its wilder stages.
I inherited my naturally curly hair from my mother who, no matter how hard she tries, can't get those kinks and waves to settle down. Mom's blond and beautiful and has settled for an upswept do that tames it fairly well. I, on the other hand, have let my dark hair grow as long as it will and usually harness it in to a whale spout sort of ponytail that erupts from the top of my head and hangs to somewhere between my shoulder blades. People--especially kids--always want to touch my hair to see if it's real.
My mom also has remarkable gray-green eyes which, happily, I also inherited. As a child, I would look into her eyes and feel as if I could actually see her tender heart en-shrouded in that smoky gray-green haze. My dad says I have the same eyes, "only more so." He insists I actually wear my heart on my sleeve and it's my entire soul that is on display in my eyes. It's an interesting concept but I try not to think about it. I'm not sure there's a good mascara sold to enhance one's soul.
I am a big softy. This much is true. I'm a total pushover for children, the elderly and anyone who is an underdog or down on his luck. I am also a complete and total sucker for anything with four feet, fur, gills, wings, claws, tails or webbed feet. I volunteer as a willing midwife to anything that gives birth in litters, broods or batches. I love tame and wild, pedigreed and mutt alike. I've been this way since the first time I grabbed our golden retriever Oscar by the tail as a tiny child and he licked my face instead of giving me the reprimanding nip I deserved.
My parents still remind me of the Christmases I'd cry when I saw a doll under the tree instead of stuffed animals and the bucket of oats and toddler swimming pool I kept filled with fresh water in the backyard "just in case a pony came by." I rode the back of our velvet floral print couch like it was a bucking bronco until my plastic toy spurs shredded the pillows and I was banished to pretending to ride a horse around the backyard. I must have looked deranged, now that I think of it, whooping and slapping myself on the butt to make myself go faster. Good thing I didn't own a riding crop or whip.
My dad is a veterinarian and my mom a nurse, so there was usually something with wings or paws bandaged up and living at our house while it mended. In fact, I assumed that everyone had a pet snake until I took mine to my friend's house to show her mother how pretty he looked now that he'd shed his old skin. That, I was quick to discover, was a very bad assumption. She did forgive me, however, as soon as the paramedic revived her.
Anyway, I'm a softy for all the unique characters on Pond Street, too.
"You got a good mouser over there?" Auntie Lou inquired. "I'm in need of a shop cat, a working feline. How much will it cost me?"
"Not much. I'll drive you to the animal shelter tonight and we'll find something perfect for you. I think a calico kitten would be a great accessory for your antiques. He'd sleep on that soft cushion on the platform rocker in the window...."
"How do you make a living, Norah? I want to buy a cat from you."
"Let's adopt a kitten and I'll sell you a kitten bed, food, toys, catnip and a scratching post instead."
Auntie Lou shook her head helplessly. "And I'll make you sign a paper saying you'll buy him a lifetime supply of food from my store, if that will make you happy."
"Done, you silly child." Auntie Lou patted me on the cheek and turned to reenter her shop.
I like to consider myself an adoption agency, not a pet store. I place animals in homes. I spend time with prospective pet owners helping them decide what type of pet is best for them and then help them find the perfect one. I've even considered adding "pet consultant" behind my ...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Thorndike Press, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0786295643