If you haven't read Oz's book yet, this might spoil who he ends up with.
Yes - you've met his girl already in the Roller series. So it's up to you if you want to read.
This is unedited, and copyrighted material. Not to be copied, used, or reproduced in any way without written consent from Emilia Finn.
Gravel crunches out front and draws my gaze away from the Cubs game on TV. I turn to Ben with a sneer and shake my head.
Ben isn’t my enemy anymore. He’s not even my competitor. He’s my brother in arms, we’re the men of the house, and the only thing standing in the way of Lindsi and Livi’s world domination when they go on a tear with bad moods and worse PMS.
He brushes mid length hair out of blue eyes and huffs. “Are you ready for this, pig? This weekend is gonna suck hairy deer balls.”
I toss the TV remote aside and drop my feet off the coffee table. The girls bang around the house; Lindsi in the kitchen making some strawberry dessert, and Livi wanders around with a paperback book in her hands and a goose egg on her forehead because she walks, reads, and smacks her head on the walls. “I dunno. Can we survive this? He’s pretty damn high maintenance about that thing. I shouldn’t have agreed to this.”
“No, you fuckin’ shouldn’t have. Dumbass.”
“Say fuck again, and I’m gonna ground your stupid ass.”
He scoffs. “You can’t ground me, pig. You ain’t my dad and I’m not a child.”
“No, Sasquatch, but I’m the po-po and I might just misplace the keys to the tank at work. Wanna go for a field trip? I can show you around the station, get you in there, drop your head in the toilet, lose my keys.”
“Can you two shut up and get the damn door,” Lindsi snaps. “And don’t swear. Both of you!”
Alex’s patented ‘I’m commander of the world and smug as hell’ knock sounds on my front door.
I shouldn’t have agreed to this.
I should’ve told my best friend to go fuck himself when he asked.
“Fuck…” I’d step in front of a bullet for him. I’ve been his wingman for years, and his scapegoat at work for just as long, but this bullshit right here was not in the contract when we became best friends in elementary school.
Grunting, I climb off my L shaped couch and move toward the door, and despite his animosity, Ben follows close behind. He acts badass, but I get the feeling that after all this time, he kinda likes me. I married his mom. I take her to bed each night. I’ve yet to wake with a knife at my throat, so that’s basically a declaration of love from the not-so-little asshole.
I stop on the inside of the door, close my eyes, and draw a long breath. “Lord help me.” I swing the door open to reveal my boss and best friend in his weekend best – jeans, boots, smug arrogance. “X. Trixie.”
“Her name is Bowser, idiot.” He pushes through my front door with a large cooler and sets his miniature freaky dog on my tile floor. I think she’s part chihuahua, part female demon.
And we know the female kind are the worst.
“Alex! We gotta go.”
I lean around my boss and flash a smile at Alex’s blonde bombshell wife as she rubs her supremely swollen belly in the front seat of his cruiser. “Jules.”
She winks. “Oz. I’d get out, but Alex promised he’d be less than one second, and I can’t see my feet these days. This is safer.”
“No problem. I hope you have a good time.”
“I’m gonna push a fat head outta my cooch. I don’t think it’s gonna be good at all.”
“Still.” I turn to Alex. “You’re gonna be in so much trouble when you get to the business end and she realizes what you’ve done to her body.”
He rolls his eyes and pulls a wad of folded legal paper from his inside pocket. With the dog’s leash in one hand and the paper in the other, he meets Ben’s eyes, then mine, then clears his throat.
“Alright. Jules and I appreciate your agreement to look after Bowser while we’re in the hospital. She’s a special dog, and as such, comes with a few small requests to make these next couple days as comfortable for you all as possible.”
“Fuck me, you’re making a speech.”
“Shut up and listen.” He clears his throat and ignores his demon dog when she latches onto Ben’s jeaned ankle. He yelps and attempts to dislodge her without slamming her against the wall.
“Bowser likes to play with soft toys only, but you can’t leave her alone with them or she’ll chew them apart and leave the mess everywhere.” His eyes meet mine. “She doesn’t like mess. It overwhelms her. So keep that in mind.” He glances at Ben’s flailing leg. “She doesn’t like roughhousing, Ben. So quit it.”
“Me quit it? She’s got her teeth in my fuckin’ bone! Get her off!”
“At seven in the morning, she’ll wake up. You need to take her right out to pee or poop.”
I lift a brow. “Poop?”
“Yeah. She normally does one each morning. If she doesn’t, you might need to massage her stomach to get it all moving along.”
Ben’s eyes flare open and snap up to me as if to ask is this asshole serious right now?
Yes. Yes, he’s very serious. The chief of police is always serious.
“Once she poops, you may give her a treat. We keep those in–” He roots around in the cooler he brought along and lifts a Tupperware container. Not even a foil package we buy from the local store, but a fucking container that implies homemade food “–from here. Give her one. She’ll gobble it up fast, so she can’t just have free access to the container. If she sits and asks for another, she may have it, but only if her poop wasn’t too firm earlier.”
“You want me to check her shit? Alex! Get the fuck out.”
“Yeah, hold on.” He shrugs toward Jules, as though my ‘get the fuck out’ was a gentle ‘your wife is in labor. Better get going.’ “Once you’ve peed, pooped, and done the treats, it’s time to prepare her breakfast. You’ll want a bowl half full with warm water. Scoop kibble in, but only enough that the water covers the top, then let it sit for five minutes so it gets nice and soggy so her sensitive bowels can process it.”
Ben yelps and slams into my back when Trixie takes another chunk out of his ass.
“Ben. Quit fucking around,” Alex snaps. “This is important. While you wait those five minutes, you can work on training her. Sit, stand, roll over. Each time she does it, she gets one of these–” another Tupperware container “–treats. But only one per action. Keep doing that until your five minutes are up. By then, the kibble will have expanded by double and become super soft.”
My boss is super fucking soft.
“This is the same routine we do every day. Seven in the morning, seven at night. Don’t be late. She’s only little, so half an hour doesn’t seem like much to you, but her little stomach will be empty by the time seven rolls around. Acknowledge.”
I snap a hand up in salute. “Seven and seven. Soft shit. Yes sir.”
“Good. After she’s eaten, and done her training, she’ll be tired, so let her rest. I know you got kids, so keep them under control. Don’t let them run her ragged.”
Ben’s fiery glare snaps up. “I’m sixteen, asshole. Not six!”
Alex looks at me. “See what I mean? Zero impulse control. She needs to rest. Let her. By midday, she might want another snack–” another Tupperware container “–This container here. She can eat until she gets bored with this. I didn’t bring her crate, so your bed will suffice. Let her have access to your room, she’ll let herself in and out when she wants.”
“Motherfucker. I’m not giving her my bed!”
“You will if you don’t want to clean the bathrooms all week, deputy.” He leans down and snags the dog when she releases Ben’s jeans.
No way in a million years would I let her so close to my face, but Alex brings her in so she licks his nose. “She can get a little anxious without us, so keep a close eye on her. Let her out to potty, but don’t let her out free. Your place is surrounded by the forest, and she won’t know how to defend herself in the wild.
“If you sit cross legged on the floor, she’ll come sit with you. In fact, do that a lot. That’ll help with her anxiety. Acknowledge.”
“Anxiety. Running with the wolves. My bed.”
His bright eyes sparkle with annoyance. “This ain’t a fuckin’ joke to me, Franks! Pull your head out of your ass and stay focused.”
Ben chokes on a laugh and hides behind my back.
“If you take her for a drive, she needs to use her seatbelt. Window down, let her get the wind in her ears, but keep that seatbelt on. Actually, you know what? No driving. Just don’t leave the house till we get back. You don’t have stairs, so those aren’t a problem. If she bites you, do not, and I repeat, do not snap at her. Don’t snatch your arm away. Man the fuck up, wait for her to get bored, and simply say ‘ouch’.”
He nods. “Ouch. That’ll show her you’re hurt. She’ll be ashamed of her actions, which will exacerbate her anxiety, so don’t let there be too many biting incidences.”
“Because her biting is my fault?”
“Exactly. If she does something that displeases you, do not grouse at her. We use positive reinforcement, not negative. Yes, Bowser. Good job, Bowser. Pretty Bowser. Never No, Bowser. If you want her to come running to you, say her name fast and in a high pitched kinda BowserBowserBowserBowser.”
Ben howls behind me. “BowserBowserBowserBowser.”’
“Yeah.” Distractedly, Alex lets his dog lick his face. “Exactly. She loves that.”
My chest bounces. Alex is fuckin’ clueless. “Alright. Is that it?”
“Yep. Here.” He thrusts the paper into my hands, and with a kiss on her wet nose, puts the dog in my arms.”
“Alex!” He turns to Jules’ contraction filled grunt. “Shake your ass!”
“Alright. I gotta go. You got my number.”
“Yes, X, I’ve had your number for at least two decades. We’re good.”
“Call me if you need me. Call me if she starts to cry.”
“Yeah, it’s like a soft whimpering sound.”
“How does it go?” Ben asks. “Like, sound it out so we’d know.”
Alex nods like it’s a totally legitimate request. “Yeah, it’s like mewpmewpmewpmewp sound.”
Fuck me. The end is here. My boss is an idiot.
I set the dog on her feet and snatch my hand back when she spins to latch on with glistening white teeth. Ben cackles and slams his shoulder against mine.
“Alright. We got it, X. Go, before you wife crowns in the car.”
He hesitates when the dog runs out of sight, but when Jules screeches again, he turns on his heels and snatches the door handle. “Okay, I’m out. Wish us luck. We’re gonna have a baby.”
“Luck, X. Call me when he or she is here. Wish us luck, because I already lost your dog.”
“I’m kidding!” I laugh. “Go.” I step around the pile of shit he brought over and push him out the door. “It’ll be fine. Have fun. Give Jules a kiss for me. Trixie will be fine.”
“Her name is Bowser!”
“You’re right. Sorry.” I slam the door in his face and turn to a red-faced Ben. “Trixie. You chew my furniture and I’m kicking your ass into the woods out back.”
“Oz!” Lindsi screeches and drops something noisy to the tile floor.
Ben and I sprint. Rounding the wall that separates entrance to living space, I slam my hand over my nose. “Ugh!”
“She shit on the floor!” Ben gags and drags his shirt over his mouth and nose. “She left a trail of shit everywhere!”
“Out!” I point toward the back door. “Get her the fuck out of my house!”