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One Careful Owner: Love Me, Love My Dog

Jane Harvey-Berrick

  One Careful Owner

  Copyright © 2016 Jane Harvey-Berrick

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you do, you are stealing from me, my family and my dog. I only distribute my work through iBooks, Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Create Space. If you have gotten this book from anywhere else, it is a pirate copy, it is illegal, and you’ve really spoiled my day. Just saying.

  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

  First published in 2016

  ISBN 9780957496149

  Harvey Berrick Publishing

  Editing by

  Kirsten Olsen and Trina Miciotta

  Interior design and formatting by

  Christine Borgford / www.typeAformatting

  Cover design by

  Hang Le /

  Cover photograph by

  Michael Anthony Downs/

  Cover models, Tyler Gattuso and Tanner



  The Education of Sebastian (Education Series #1)

  The Education of Caroline (Education Series #2)

  The Education of Sebastian and The Education of Caroline (Education Series combined edition)

  Semper Fi (Education Series #3)


  Slave to the Rhythm (Rhythm series #1)

  Luka (Rhythm series #2)


  The Traveling Man (Traveling Series #1)

  The Traveling Woman (Traveling Series #2)

  Roustabout (Traveling Series #3)

  The Traveling Series Boxed Set

  Standalone Titles

  One Careful Owner

  The New Samurai


  Dangerous to Know and Love

  Playing in the Rain

  The Dark Detective

  At Your Beck & Call

  Summer of Seventeen



  Audio Books

  One Careful Owner (read by Seth Clayton)

  Table of Contents

  One Careful Owner

  Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick



  Chapter 1—Beginnings

  Chapter 2—Rendezvous

  Chapter 3—Obsession

  Chapter 4—Kindness

  Chapter 5—Empathy

  Chapter 6—Nightmares

  Chapter 7—Energizing

  Chapter 8—Resolving

  Chapter 9—Sustaining

  Chapter 10—Uncertainties

  Chapter 11—Retribution

  Chapter 12—Release

  Chapter 13—Endings

  Chapter 14—Changes

  Chapter 15—Trials

  Chapter 16—Inquisition

  Chapter 17—Obstacles

  Chapter 18—Neo


  One Careful Owner—Audio Book

  Dog Fighting is Real

  Tanner—The Canine Cover Model!



  To Pip—one of the little big-heart tribe.

  This one here <<<br />
  Of course you do! My acclaimed novella PLAYING IN THE RAIN was featured in Huffington Post’s list of Top Ugly Cry Reads! Click here to see the whole list.

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  SNOW WAS FALLING in thick, soft blankets, coating the roads, the buildings, the few cars that passed down the street.

  Shuddering from the cold, he stared up at the sky, but dark clouds hung heavy and low, obscuring the stars.

  The wind lifted his tie, slapping it against his damp cheeks, the icy blast a reminder to keep walking.

  Hands shoved deep into his pockets, he trudged along the sidewalk as his body slowly numbed.

  He walked or ran most days, but the sub-zero temperatures and the storm closing in meant he’d taken the car today. He didn’t remember that until he was halfway home.

  He’d left his jacket, too, and now his thin white shirt was transparent, sticking to his back and chest, no protection against the snow swirling around him.

  He thought about calling Charlotte to come for him, but then she’d ask why he wasn’t driving, why he was walking the snow-slick streets, and he couldn’t tell her. He couldn’t.

  He’d forgotten his car, he’d forgotten everything because Carl had been killed. His brother was dead.

  No, he wouldn’t tell her, not over the phone. He couldn’t. Because then it would be real.

  So he plodded through the snow, his office shoes soaked and the cuffs of his suit pants dark with slush.

  Snowflakes caught on his eyelashes and shoulders, whitening his hair. He was slowly freezing and yet his lungs burned with every breath.

  As he neared the house, dazed and reluctant, his steps grew slower. And then he stopped, staring across at the ultra-modern white box with a sleek aluminum front door.

  Feeling both relief and horror, he dragged his feet up the last three steps to his home.

  And nearly tripped over Stan.

  His tail acting as a muffler for his nose, Stan was shivering, tied to the top step, curled into a tight ball.

  His eyes opened as the man bent down to stroke him, sinking his frozen fingers into the thick fur and immediately feeling its warmth.

  “What are you doing out here, buddy?”

  Stan whined softly then stood up slowly, his movements awkward, and he pressed his heavy head against the man’s legs.

  A hot jet of anger cut through the ice in his heart.

  What kind of person put a dog out in this weather? He knew Charlotte didn’t like Stan, but this was going too far.

  His hands were shaking with cold, his fingers had long ago become numb. It took three attempts to fit the key in the lock and open the front door.

  He shuffled inside, feeling his skin prickle, the warmth trying to reach the coldness that was part of him. Stan hobbled behind, an uneven gait, his legs stiff, and the man listened to the familiar click of his nails as Stan crossed the wooden floor.

  Charlotte wasn’t in the living room and he wondered if she’d gone to bed, even though it was still early. Stan followed him to the bottom of the stairs, whining softly when the man climbed them slowly. Stan knew that he wasn’t allowed

  Perhaps the man should have called out, but he didn’t know what to say, so he walked into the bedroom.

  Reflected in the enormous mirror that Charlotte had hung above her dresser, he saw his wife.

  With another man.

  Fucking her from behind. Balls deep.

  And not just any man. His best friend and partner.

  “W-what . . . ?”

  He stuttered for the first time since he was 14 as fury, shock and rage burned his voice to ashes.

  “W-what . . . ?”

  He couldn’t get the words out, but blind hatred turned his vision red, and that was enough.

  “Alex!” Charlotte screamed and tried to cover herself with the sheet, leaving Warren to face him.

  He raised his hands in surrender, and Alex saw fear and guilt in his friend’s eyes.

  His friend. His best friend. His Best Man. But now he didn’t have any words for him. He didn’t have any words at all.

  So he punched his friend in the face with his numb hand, and didn’t feel anything when the knuckle broke.

  Not a thing.


  Eighteen months later . . .


  TANNER’S HOOVES KICKED up small spirals of dirt as he ambled through the forest, picking his own path. It was peaceful and a deep sense of calm spread through me. It had been too long since I’d come out for an early morning ride. I rarely had the chance anymore—life always seemed to get so busy.

  Even though it wasn’t more than half-an-hour after sunrise, humidity was beginning to climb. I felt sweat trickle down my back and armpits, but I didn’t care. It was too beautiful out here to worry about anything.

  The lake’s surface was quiet, stretching glassily toward the horizon, and I watched the tiny ripples reach the muddy bank as lazy clouds drifted across the sky.

  As I rode into the small clearing, the quality of the light changed from the deep green of the forest to the soft glow of the rising sun.

  I breathed deeply, enjoying the muted sounds and sense of being utterly alone. It was a rare moment to be carefree.

  But as Tanner neared the lake, I spotted a bundle of old rags on the ground. God, I hated that! How could people toss their trash somewhere so beautiful? Sadly, I was used to seeing discarded bottles, cans and sandwich wrappers on the trails.

  I was going to pick them up and dump them in the garbage at home, so I dismounted and poked my riding crop through them. But they weren’t rags exactly—instead, I found a tattered pair of jeans, a faded t-shirt and a washed-out plaid shirt.

  That was odd. Who would have left them here? Someone camping maybe? I sighed wearily and picked up the clothes. I hated people littering in this beautiful forest.

  Suddenly, Tanner shifted next to me and the hairs on the back of my neck prickled. I had the unpleasant sensation of being watched, and when I looked up, my breath stuttered in my throat.

  A man was standing in the lake, waist-deep in the water, and he was glaring at me. Instinctively, I tightened my grip on Tanner’s reins.

  “Oh, crap! You startled me!”

  He didn’t reply, and his icy stare made me nervous.

  He was a big man, tall and strong, with broad shoulders and clearly defined muscles. His unkempt beard was thick, and long tangled hair matted against his skull—he looked like one of the fabled Mountain Men.

  He made no attempt to speak and his eyes narrowed as anger rolled from him in heavy waves.

  I swallowed nervously and took a step back, but then my heel caught in a pile of leaves, and I dropped the clothes I’d been carrying.

  He glared, his lips peeled back so he was baring his teeth.

  It took everything in me to keep calm while I mounted. Tanner’s large presence was a huge comfort. I borrowed him from my employer and he was usually a skittish horse, but right now he stood happily chomping on grass and ignoring the stand-off.

  “I’m going now,” I said weakly, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “Yes, I’m riding away.”

  The continued silence was unnerving, but at least he hadn’t come any closer. I began to wonder if he understood English.

  Close up, he seemed younger than I’d first thought. His hair was dark blonde, his beard a light brown tinged with red. I couldn’t tell what color his eyes were from this distance. Maybe he was Eastern European?

  Finally, the man spoke.


  I blinked, surprised.


  He screwed his eyes shut, took a slow breath and tried again.


  I stared back, not having a clue what he was talking about, then my eyes dropped to the pile of clothes on the ground.

  “Oh, these are yours?”

  He scowled at me, folding his arms across his chest. His body language was screaming at me to leave, but otherwise he was silent, menacing, and that scared me more.

  My eyes followed the movement of his arms as he clamped them across his body, the biceps bulging, an unspoken warning that this man was bigger and stronger than me, and that I was alone in the forest, miles from help.

  At least he wasn’t coming closer.

  Then my eyes dipped to the waterline rippling at his waist.


  My eyes widened with the realization that he was completely naked. The water was clear enough that I’d seen everything. And I mean everything. As I glanced up, shocked, he met my gaze, raising an eyebrow suggestively, the implication that I’d been checking him out. I shot him a filthy look, jerking the reins to get Tanner moving.

  “You’re trespassing on private property,” I snapped over my shoulder, just to show I wasn’t really completely terrified. “You should leave.”

  His lips twisted in a sneer and he took half a pace toward me, his demeanor threatening.

  Sensing his mounting fury, I rode away. I’d get the hell out of here and let Dan know that a crazy guy was camping illegally. I urged Tanner to go faster, only looking back once to make sure that the man wasn’t following. But he was still standing in the lake, watching me.

  My early morning ride left me completely shaken, and I hated feeling so vulnerable. So I was in a foul mood by the time I got to work at Petz Pets, and Ashley’s shrill voice was like a jack hammer in my head.

  I tried to ignore her endless description of a new pair of shoes that were to die for apparently, while I quietly phoned my friend Dan, who also happened to be Girard’s police officer, telling him about the crazy guy at the lake. Then I had to listen to Ashley for half an hour, catching me up on all the gossip that I’d ‘missed’ over the weekend. Mostly it consisted of who’d slept with whom, who was having an affair, and how many Cosmopolitans she’d drunk.

  I was trying not to listen, but it was impossible to ignore her piercing tone.

  “Oh, that’s so sad!” she said suddenly, her voice falling for a moment.

  “What is?”

  “Mrs. Humphries emailed to ask if we’ve seen Missy.”

  Missy—a two year-old black-and-white ball of fur with wicked long claws, as I knew from painful experience. She was also pregnant the last time I’d seen her and the kittens were due any day. Come to think of it, I’d expected to hear from Mrs. Humphries before now.

  “When did she last see her?”

  “Yesterday morning.”

  “She’s probably making a safe place to have her kittens. Tell Mrs. Humphries to check all her neighbors’ outbuildings and any other places that she thinks Missy might go to. She won’t have gone far.”

  Ashley frowned.

  “Mrs. Humphries is out by the State Game Lands. She doesn’t have many neighbors.”

  I shivered, recalling the scary homeless man I’d encountered. I wondered if Dan would have a chance to check into it today.

  Ashley typed something, muttering under her breath and chewing on the inside of her mouth.

  “Oh, you’re going to love this,” she cackled as she wo
rked her way through the overnight messages and today’s calendar. “A new client has emailed to make an appointment. That’s weird—people usually phone. Jeez, he’s sent me his dog’s entire life story! Whatever, but get this—he only wants a male veterinarian.”

  I glanced up, frowning. “Seriously?”

  “Yep. I had to read his message twice to check I wasn’t seeing things. And guess what? His address is Tanglewood. He must be the one who bought Old Joe’s cabin—you know, the place Bob Delaney was going to buy and develop. What do you want me to do?”

  I was surprised. I didn’t know that Bob had wanted to buy the place, but it made sense since he owned the adjoining property along the lake. Sort of. Joe had never minded me riding over his land, but I knew for a fact that Bob wouldn’t like it. Mostly because he hated me. And as for Stella’s opinion of me . . . I didn’t want to think about that.

  I’d ridden past Old Joe’s cabin many times. It was a dreary, depressing place, dank and dark and falling apart, deep in the woods. The kind of place you could imagine in a horror movie, except for its location by the lake, which was beautiful.

  I gazed at Ashley, constantly amazed by the random information she had rattling around in her head. The FBI needed her on their team.

  I redirected my thoughts back to the question. “Does Gary have any slots this afternoon?”

  Gary was our chief veterinarian and also owned the business. He was good with prickly customers.

  “Yes, three o’clock.”

  “Problem solved.”

  Ashley gave me an overly-dramatic look of astonishment.

  “It doesn’t bother you that the new client is a sexist asshole?”

  Yes, the request was irritating, but Ashley was something of a drama queen and I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of a reaction.

  “Not my concern,” I answered, giving a firm look that bounced right off her.

  “I’d be pissed as all hell because he obviously doesn’t think women can be vets,” she said, not willing to let it drop.

  I tuned her out after that, instead prepping the examination room and reading through my list of patients for the day.