USA Today Bestselling Author
Heading to Ashland, Kentucky, where his ex-wife’s family lives, is not in Jenner’s plans anytime soon. But, given a War Dog is potentially in trouble, well, Jenner will even face his past. Arriving at a small bed-and-breakfast, he meets a woman more interesting than anyone he’d met in a long time. His job to find this missing dog seems like a long shot, until he learns about the B&B neighbor’s son and his pack of dogs, who have been scaring Kellie …
Kellie loves her bed-and-breakfast establishment, as much as she loves meeting new people, particularly when she doesn’t have a great relationship with many of the locals, who judged her harshly for a past mistake. Determined to enjoy life regardless, she tries to move on but finds it hard to leave her past behind. And now there’s her neighbor …
Having Jenner around makes Kellie feel more secure and gives her hope that maybe good people still exist in this world. Yet, before they can truly move forward, there is a canine issue, … and a neighbor with something else on his mind …
Sisco, the War Dog Jenner is sent to find is also where his ex-wife lives in Ashland, Kentucky. He thought to maybe touch base with her, not so much for closure but maybe to take a look at the past and move forward.
He made a reservation at a bed and breakfast close to where the dog was last homed. Kellie the owner of the B&B, knows of the couple but they had died in a car accident. She recently had a scary encounter with the son’s dogs but didn’t report it not wanting issues with her new neighbor. She didn’t like the son and found him to be creepy and had on one occasion rang her bell late at night drunk.
Before dinner that first night, Jenner took a short walk to survey the place, but it just looked empty. In a bit of a twist, while he’s gone, his ex-wife shows up at the B&B looking to reserve rooms for her family when she gives birth. Kellie considers her a sort of friend, in that recommendations are good for business. She didn’t reveal that her current guest was Laura’s ex-husband though.
Jenner returned for dinner and they enjoyed each other’s company over the meal and spoke of both the B&B and his ex-wife, his family and the Navy. Then he called to give Badger an update on the situation with the War dog. After that conversation he decides to take another look at the house.
This is a favorite scene.
He lifted a hand and waved. “I’ll just head back down to take another look.”
She nodded. “Good enough, but remember I lock up at ten.”
“And if I’m later?”
She winced. “Well, hopefully you won’t be too much later, but it’s a typical bed-and-breakfast. I lock up for last time at eleven, but I prefer to lock up at ten.”
“Got it. I’ll try to be back by ten. If not, how about I call you?”
“Do that, please.” She gave him a grateful nod. “I hate locking up if everybody isn’t tucked up in their beds.”
He grinned at her. “I bet you’d make a great Santa Claus.” With that, he walked out and down to the house in question. As he wandered along the roadside, he saw nothing but lots of barns.
The house he wanted to check was blanketed in darkness; no vehicles were parked out front. The residence showed some disrepair, and yet, if the family hadn’t been gone for more than two months, it shouldn’t be showing this much, unless they’d had been living here under pretty rough conditions already.
He walked up to the front door and knocked. When no answer came, he called out, “Hello, hello.”
Still, there was no answer. Frowning, he walked down the full length of the big long veranda and looked in the windows. He saw absolutely no furniture, nothing. Frowning at that, he headed around to the back of the house, wondering if the guy had just gotten up in the middle of the night and had disappeared.
As Jenner walked around to the side of the house, he heard a faint cry. He followed the sound, calling out, “Hello,” and then came another faint cry. He followed it farther into the field and found a man crumpled on his back, down in a ditch. Jenner immediately raced to his side. “Hey.”
“Oh thank God,” the man cried out.
“Jesus. Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay.” He groaned. “I hate to say it, but I need an ambulance.”
Jenner noted that one leg was bent underneath him at an odd angle, but, even more so, he was missing the other leg. “Hang on,” he told him. “I’ll get you an ambulance. I would pick you up and move you, but I’m afraid about that leg.”
“I’ve been through so much already,” the other man said, gasping in pain. “Just get the ambulance. I don’t want to lose the other leg.”
“Got it,” he said. “I’ve got a prosthetic myself, so I understand.”
The guy looked at Jenner and then groaned again. “Jesus, the pain.”
“Can you tell me what happened?” Jenner asked, as he quickly put through the phone call. With that done, he looked at the other man. When he didn’t answer his question, Jenner asked again quite forcefully. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“I came over here to look at my parents’ place,” he replied. “I hadn’t been here for a while. I was in surgery, trying to get the leg fixed, but it’s been a rough couple months since my parents died.” He gasped at the pain again. “There was … some guy here, with a whole pile of dogs. I was supposed to come here and look after and take care of the place, but the surgeries held me back.”
“You are the son?” Jenner asked.
The guy looked at him and said, “Yeah. My parents owned this place since forever. I was raised in this house. But some asshole was living here, and, when I confronted him about it, we ended up in a hell of a fight, which I, of course, completely lost. It was stupid. Emotions got the better of me, but he knocked me out. What I should have done was to just bring in the cops and have him arrested.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jenner muttered. “I’m staying at the B&B up the road. She thought the other guy was the son though.”
“I haven’t been here in years,” he explained. “I don’t really have a whole lot to do with this place, since I went into the military and got injured. Now I was hoping to come home and to look after it and to have a place for me that maybe, if I could get it wheelchair accessible, … I could actually live here again. It is mine, but this squatter took over the place, and then he dumped me in the back here.”
“And it looks like he’s buggered off too.”
“Good,” he muttered, “although I would sure as hell like to know what the heck he was doing here.”
“I gather he’s been here for quite a few weeks too.”
The guy stared at him in shock. “Jesus. I sure as hell hope he didn’t cause any damage, and, if he’s gone now, that’s great.”
“I looked in the living room window, and it looks like all the big pieces have been cleaned out. Saw some papers on the floor. Don’t know whether that was wrapping paper to move the stuff or some documents. How long have you been here in the ditch?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Overnight for sure.”
“Jesus, well, I’m glad I found you now.”
“I tried to drag myself forward,” he noted, “then I kind of slid into the ditch. The damn leg.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine now,” Jenner told him.
“The squatter might have been moving out already,” he guessed. “I don’t know. When I saw him, he had a big truck here.”
Jenner nodded. “It looks to be cleaned out right now. Let’s get you fixed up, and then we can sort it out.” He asked him gently, “So your parents?”
The guy nodded. “Yeah”—gasping in agony—“what about them?”
“I understand that they died in a car accident.”
“Yes,” he confirmed, “that’s what I just said.”
“Right, and they had a War Dog, didn’t they?”
The guy looked at Jenner and then nodded slowly. “Yeah, they did. Why?”
“Because I’m here on behalf of the war department, wondering what happened to the dog. Somebody did a welfare check, and there was a problem.”
“Yeah, my parents died,” he snapped, “but I’m not even sure what happened to the dog.”
“Apparently the bed-and-breakfast owner, Kellie, didn’t see one like it around.”
“It may have taken off on its own, without my parents here. Maybe one of the neighbors stole it. I don’t know what happened, but I’ll find out. I am so sorry. I didn’t realize that they had any animals left to even look after, and I was caught up in the hospital, so I wasn’t exactly doing much about it. The sheriff did say that he didn’t see any animals on the premises.”
“Interesting,” Jenner murmured.
“Right,” the son noted. “Honestly, I have no clue. One more thing to get to the bottom of, while wondering if I can get back on my feet.”
In the distance Jenner heard the sirens. “Or first off, you need to look after you. Once I point the EMTs in your direction, I’ll take a look around, see if the War Dog’s here, if you don’t mind.”
“Yeah, please do.” He hesitated and then added, “I don’t know if you’ve got a few minutes, but could you do an inventory, let me know if there’s anything to come home to?”
“Sure will. At least I’ll go in and take some photos.” He quickly got the guy’s phone number, so he could tag him later. “Let’s get you taken care of first.” With that, he raced to the driveway, directed the ambulance to the back, where they came and found him. Jenner asked the son, “What’s your name?”
“Jim. Call the sheriff too, will you?”
“Will do,” Jenner replied. “Where’s your phone?”
“No clue. I think I lost it on the ground, where I started dragging myself, and I didn’t have the energy to get back there.”
“I’ll go take a look.” Following Jim’s rough directions, even as the ambulance drove closer to Jim, Jenner found the phone by ringing it with his own. It had been left out in the elements, but it was still here. He raced back to the ambulance and handed it to him. “At least now you have a phone.”
“Great, I’ll call the sheriff myself.”
“You do that, and I’ll contact you after I’ve been through the house.”
Dale Mayer. Jenner (Kindle Locations 504-570). Valley Publishing Ltd.. Kindle Edition.
Finding the real owner of the house in a ditch adds a real big twist to this tale. The Sheriff is also a piece of work as he confirms he hadn’t seen the dog when he checked on the house after Jim’s parents died.
More of a concern is when Jenner does locate the dog, and it appears he’s attached to a pack. He’s protective of one of the dogs but seems to be very watchful of the leader.
There are more than a few twists in this book and I love the way things turn out for everyone involved.
I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Dale!
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Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).
She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!
To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.