Coop whined and Mick looked down at the twelve-year-old golden retriever, ball in his mouth. Coop panted happily and dropped the ball at Mick’s feet, his rheumy brown eyes ever hopeful. Mick shook his head. “Last time I threw it, you decided you didn’t mean it.”
Coop gave a talkative “woo woo woo.”
Translation: Mick was full of shit. “I had to go get it myself,” he reminded the dog. “Remember that?”
This bought him another “woo woo woo.”
“Okay, okay.” Mick picked up the ball, and because there was a lot of old-man dog pride on the line here, he gave it a dramatic throw, making sure it went only about twenty feet.
Coop gave an energetic leap. A single energetic leap. After that, he eyeballed the sea of sand ahead of him, huffed out a sigh, and sat. Then he craned his big, fuzzy golden head and gave Mick a sad-eyed look.
“Are you kidding me?” Mick asked him.
Coop lay down, set his head on his front paws, and stared forlornly out at the ball that his brain wanted to chase but his sore joints and tired body wouldn’t allow. It was a daily reminder for the dog, who in his own mind clearly wasn’t elderly, forgetful, or more than half deaf. Nope, in Coop’s opinion, he was still a rambunctious, energetic puppy.
Mick blew out a sigh and fetched the damn ball. When he came back, the dog sat up, eyes bright, tongue lolling.
“Not a chance,” Mick said on a laugh. “I’m not throwing it again. This was about your exercise, not mine. I already had my run today.”
A Lexus pulled up. A woman sat behind the wheel and stared out at the dunes and the ocean. All Mick could see of her was a cloud of whiskey-colored waves of hair and a pale face. She stared at the water and then set her head to the steering wheel and banged it a few times.
Then, head still down, she went utterly still.
Coop whined about the ball and nudged Mick’s knee, eyes pleading.
With a head shake, Mick threw the ball five feet.
Coop happily pounced on it.
While his dog pranced around proudly, ball in his mouth, Mick turned back to the car. The woman hadn’t moved. Had she knocked herself out? Was she still breathing? “What do you think?” he asked Coop. “Stay out of it, or ask her if she’s okay?”
Coop, who’d never been impressed by a single one of the women in Mick’s social life, yawned.
“Right,” he said. “Stay out of it.”
But the woman suddenly sat up straight and fumbled her way out of the car, falling to her knees on the rough gravelly asphalt, gulping in air like she was suffocating.
Realizing she was hyperventilating, Mick rushed to her and crouched at her side, having to push Coop back from making her acquaintance—which he tended to do with a rude nose push to the crotch. “Stay,” he ordered and looked the woman over.
Young. Late twenties maybe. Definitely having a panic attack of some kind. Not touching her, he spoke quietly and calmly. “Take a deep breath through your nose.”
She had to quiet herself to hear him, but she did as he said. She took a deep breath, shuddery as it was.
“Good,” he said, still holding Coop back from trying to say hello. “Stay.”
“What?” she gasped.
“Sorry, not you. My nosy-ass dog. Keep breathing. That’s it,” he said when she worked at it.
When she had it under control, she met his gaze, her own eyes hooded and clearly embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”
Coop, tired of being held back, shoved his big old head between them and licked her from chin to forehead. Mick palmed the dog’s face and pushed his head away from the woman whose shoulders were now shaking.
Aw, hell. He patted his pockets—for what, he had no idea. It wasn’t like he carried tissues or napkins on him to offer her. He rose to his feet to go search the truck, which was when she lifted her face and he saw that she was shaking with laughter, not tears.
She was laughing at his ridiculous dog.
from LOST AND FOUND SISTERS.