Just a palpable presence on the other end of the line.
Despite the warmth of the early May breeze wafting through her kitchen window, an icy shiver snaked down Alison Taylor’s spine.
She glanced at the number displayed on caller ID. Compared it to the one thumbtacked to the small corkboard beside her phone. The one she’d jotted down after the second call.
It didn’t match. But it looked vaguely familiar.
She grabbed a pen and wrote down the new number.
“Who is this?” She tried to sound poised. Unruffled. In control. But the tremor in her words betrayed her.
A sudden click as the line went dead was the only response.
I do not need this!
As she slammed the portable phone back into its holder, a startled yelp at her feet summed up Bert’s reaction to her frustrated—and futile—gesture.
Bending down to pick up the fourteen-pound mutt she’d rescued from the animal shelter last summer, she winced as a twinge of pain radiated down her leg. Lately she’d begun to forget about the steel rod inside. And that was a positive sign.
It meant her recovery was progressing. But moments like this reminded her it wasn’t yet complete.
And maybe never would be.
As Bert wriggled and stretched his neck to lick her face, his unrestrained affection helped chase away her sudden dejection— and uncoil the knot of tension in the pit of her stomach.
“Missed me while I was at work, did you, big guy? How does a walk sound on this beautiful St. Louis afternoon?”
The word walk set off another round of ecstatic slurping. Chuckling, she set him on the floor again, moving more carefully this time. “Okay, okay, I get the message. Let me grab your leash and we’ll—”
The phone rang again, cutting her off mid-sentence.
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