Verona turned away from the accounts spread across the table. “Well, let me see it… My God, what’s that?” She pulled off her reading glasses and stared as the fifty pounds of red muscled beast bounded in, tail wagging, and explored her kitchen.
Rae ran after it. “It’s my dog! It’s my dog!”
“That’s not a puppy. You were going to get a puppy!” Verona’s horror was palpable.
Max wandered in, hands in his pockets. “Rae and that dog looked at each other, and it was love at first sight.”
“What is it?” Verona demanded.
“It’s a dog!” Rae said.
“According to the animal shelter,” Max said, “she’s half Australian cattle dog, half full sized poodle.”
“And half some other breeds. That is a mutt!” Verona turned in her chair and watched the dog race into the living room, nose to the ground. “How old is it?”
Rae ran after it.
“About eighteen months. It’s a stray.”
In a goaded voice, Verona said, “Maximilian, you promised you were going to get a small dog. A puppy! A Pomeranian or a…a Puggle.”
“On the bright side, she’s housebroken.”
From the living room, they heard a crash and Rae yelling, “It’s okay! Nothing’s hurt. It was her tail!”
“House broken is exactly the term I would use,” Verona said ominously. “We won’t be drinking wine in the living room any time soon.”
The dog ran back into the kitchen and for the first time seemed to notice Verona. It stopped, stiff-legged, and stared her full in the face.
Verona stared back.
The dog smiled. It actually smiled, pranced over in a display of delight and affection, leaned against Verona’s leg and put its head in her lap. And smiled some more. “Oh, no,” Verona said. “It likes me.”
Max and Rae exchanged smirks.
“She loves you, Grandma,” Rae said.
“Of course it does.” Verona sighed. “What’s its name?”
“We don’t know. What do you think we should name her?”
“She’s part French poodle, so how about Fifi?” Max laughed at his mother’s expression, laughed hard.
His laugher warmed Verona’s heart. He hadn’t smiled for so long… “How about Luna, like the moon… and lunatic?” she asked tartly.
“I could call her Bella Luna. Beautiful moon. That’s a great name!” Rae said.
Max got a mixing bowl out of the cupboard, filled it with water, and put it on the utility porch. “She looks like a Sadie.”
“Calamity.” Verona absentmindedly scratched the dog between the ears.
“Or a Mabel,” Max said.
“Since she’s half cattle dog and half poodle, how about Canoodle?” Max grinned at his little girl.
“Daddy, that’s a funny name. I like Cara Mia.” Rae crooned to the dog in a perfect Italian accent. “My beloved.”
With a sigh, the dog subsided onto Verona’s feet.
“Ramona, like Ramona in the Beverly Cleary books Rae is reading now,” Max said.
“But Daddy, Ramona’s always in trouble!” Rae protested.
“How about that?” Verona muttered.
“She’ll be a superhero like Mommy and me, so — SuperNova!” Rae stretched out on the floor, her head on the dog’s side. “When Mommy comes home, she’ll be so excited to meet my new dog!”
“Yes.” Max took a painful breath. “She will.”
The Cape Charade series includes:
#1 HARD TO KILL: A Cape Charade Short Suspense
#2. DEAD GIRL RUNNING Out now!
#3 FAMILIES AND OTHER STRANGERS: A Cape Charade Short Suspense
#4. WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER (Had Better Start Running)
#5 HIDDEN TRUTHS: A Cape Charade Short Suspense, Sept. 1, 2019
#6 STRANGERS SHE KNOWS: A Cape Charade Full-length Thriller, Oct. 8, 2019