“Slow down, babe,” he says, and my heart stops, and a shiver slides down my spine from the tone of his voice.

I shake off his hand and turn to face him, trying to be casual, even though my heart is beating so hard I swear it’s going to pound right out of my chest. “Did you need something else?”

“Can you tell me a little about some of the dogs you have here?”

No! I mentally scream, but my stupid head nods up and down. “What would you like to know?” I ask, and am proud my voice sounds normal and not breathy like I expected it to.

“Are any of these guys here known to be good guard dogs?”

“Yeah, Capone,” I tell him, walking toward the kennel at the end of the hall. Capone needs a home. He’s been with us for over six months, but no one wants the poor guy. He’s ugly, but very sweet. If my heart weren’t still broken from losing Beast years ago, I would have adopted Capone myself.

“This guy here is really vicious; he would kill someone if they looked at him the wrong way.” He looks at me doubtfully. “Don’t be fooled. He would rip your face off if he was given the chance,” I tell Wes, crossing my arms over my chest while stopping in front of Capone’s kennel. Capone sits up, his large bulgy dog eyes looking between Wes and me, the hair on top of his head sticking up in every direction and his long tongue hanging out the side of his mouth where a few teeth are missing.

I look from Capone to Wes and see his eyes are on me, and there is something in his eyes that causes my lungs to freeze.

“Three,” he says in a tone that is so deep that the space between my legs tingles and the breath I was holding whooshes out.

“Three what?”

“Three times you’ve fucked with me.”

“Capone is a badass,” I insist, and his hand runs over his mouth and his eyes travel leisurely over me from head to toe.

“Three times you’ve made me want to fuck you or fill that smart mouth of yours.” He steps towards me, his body pressing me into the wall behind me, and his large hand takes hold of my waist. I get lost in his eyes and words for a moment, but then I remember where we are and who he is. His head dips towards mine, and I do the only thing I can think of—I cover my mouth with my hand.

His head pulls back and his eyes search my face as his brows pull together. “That’s a first,” he mumbles, but doesn’t exactly sound disappointed. “You don’t want to kiss me?” he questions, running his nose over the back of my hand that’s still protecting my mouth. My mind screams, “Yes!” but my head shakes no.

“So sweet.” He skims his nose along my hand until he brushes my ear. “Bet once I’m in there, I won’t want to leave,” he murmurs, and I swallow hard, fighting the instinct to remove my hand, turn my head, and kiss him like my body is begging me to. “Bet you’d go wild for me the minute my hands were on you.” The fingers of his hand at my side press in. “Bet you want it as badly as I do.”

He inhales at my neck and his tongue touches the skin behind my ear, making my knees actually shake. I have been in love; I’ve been in lust too, but this is something new, something that makes me feel like every cell in my body is fighting to pull me closer to him, and that scares the shit out of me. I duck down and slide under his arm then walk backwards until there’s at least twelve feet between us. Only then do I remove my hand from my mouth.

“So what do you say? Do you want to adopt Capone?” I ask, ignoring whatever the hell it was that just happened.

His brow that was furrowed after I stepped out of his embrace smooths out and he smiles. “I’ll take him,” he says, looking at Capone then me.

“Really?” I whisper as my heart flutters in my chest.

“I still need a guard dog, but I’ll take him too.”

“Why do you need a guard dog?”

“I have a shop, and around back, there’s a lot with cars. The last couple weeks, someone’s jumped the fence and broken into cars, stealing stereos or other parts out of them.”

“You can’t leave a dog outside.” I frown at him.

“Didn’t say I was going to. You can even come check it out for yourself.”

“That won’t be necessary,” I mutter as he smirks.

“So do you have another dog? One that is actually dangerous?” he asks, and I frown.

“Dogs are not dangerous. Stupid dog owners are dangerous.”

“Okay…do you have a dog that’s protective?” He shakes his head, and I let out a breath then lead him to the back of the shelter, where Max is kept. Max was the only dog from the fighting ring that I was able to save. He is blind out of one eye and mean, but I love him and just couldn’t bring myself to put him to sleep.

“This is Max.” I crouch down in front of Max’s cage and press my hand through the bars, rubbing his dark head.

“What happened to him?” Wes asks, crouching down next to me. I expect Max to growl, but he just looks at Wes then me. Wes slowly presses a finger through the cage, and Max starts licking him, making my heart feel lighter. I hate that Max is here and stuck in a kennel all the time.

“He was here one morning when I got into work. He was almost dead, his eye was missing, and he couldn’t walk. I realized then that he had been fought and obviously lost.”

“Normally when dogs are fought, they kill them for losing,” he tells me, something that causes tears to pool in my eyes.

“I know,” I whisper, petting Max’s head. “He was the first to be brought to me, but every few days, I get to work and there’s another. Max is the only one I have been able to save.

“What the fuck?”

“I don’t know.” I stand up, walk over to one of the visiting rooms, and open the door. “Wait in here. I’ll bring Max in so we can make sure you guys get along,” I tell him. I wait until he’s in the room then shut the door and get Max, taking him into the room with me.

“Hey, bud,” Wes mutters, petting Max’s head when he comes to sit in front of him.

I watch them for a few minutes, and then ask, “Do you want to see how he and Capone get along, or were you just saying you wanted them both in order to earn brownie points?”

His head tilts back to look at me. “Go get Capone, babe. I need to make sure my boys are cool,” he mutters.

“Be right back,” I mumble and head out of the room.

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