Eva looked at me serenely. “He’s an anniversary gift from your wife, you have to keep him.”
“We’ve been married a month.” She leaned back into the sofa and gave me the fuck-me look. “I was thinking we could go to the beach house and celebrate.”
I readjusted my hold on the wriggling dog. “Celebrate how?”
I was hard instantly, something she didn’t fail to notice.
Her gaze darkened as it caressed my erection where it tented my pants. “I’m dying, Gideon,” she breathed, her lips and cheeks flushing pink. “I wanted to wait, but I can’t. I need you. And it’s our anniversary. If we can’t make love then and have it be just you, me, and what we have—with no bullshit—then we can’t make love ever and I don’t believe that’s true.”
I stared at her.
Her lips curved wryly. “If that makes any sense at all.”
The puppy licked my jaw frantically and I hardly noticed, my attention focused on my wife. She just kept surprising me, in all the best ways. “Lucky.”
Her head tilted to the side. “What?”
“That’s his name. Lucky.”
Eva laughed. “You’re a fiend, ace.”
By the time Eva went home, I had new dog crates in my bedroom and home office, and fancy water and feed bowls in my kitchen. Puppy food in an airtight plastic storage container sat in my pantry, and plush dog beds took up space in every room in the house. There was even a patch of fake grass, which supposedly Lucky would urinate on—when he wasn’t relieving himself on my priceless rugs, as he’d done not long ago.
All the items, including treats, toys, and enzymatic sprays for accidents, had been left waiting in the foyer outside the elevator, telling me that my wife had enlisted Raúl and Angus in her plan to foist a pet on me.
I stared at the puppy, who sat at my feet, looking up at me with soft, dark eyes filled with something akin to adoration. “What the hell am I supposed to do with a dog?”
Lucky’s tail wagged so hard, his back end shifted from side to side along with it.
When I’d asked Eva the same question, she’d laid out her plan: Lucky would ride with me to work, and then Angus would drop him off at doggy daycare—who knew there was such a thing?—and pick him up in time to ride home with me.
The real answer was written in the note she’d left on my pillow.
My dearest Dark and Dangerous,
Dogs are excellent judges of character. I’m certain the adorable beagle you now own will worship you nearly as much as I do, because he’ll see what I see in you: fierce protectiveness, thoughtfulness, and loyalty. You’re an alpha through and through, so he’ll obey you when I don’t. (I’m sure you’ll appreciate that!) In time, you’ll get used to being loved unconditionally by him and me and everyone else in your life.
Yours always and forever,
Rising up onto his back legs, Lucky pawed at my shin, whining softly.
“Needy little thing, aren’t you?” I picked him up and tolerated the inevitable face licking. He smelled faintly of Eva’s perfume, so I pressed my nose into him.
Owning a pet had never been on my wish list. Then again, neither was having a wife and that was the best thing to ever happen to me.
Holding Lucky away from me, I eyed him consideringly. Eva had put a red leather collar on him with an engraved brass plate. Happy Anniversary. Next to that was the date of our wedding, so I couldn’t give him away.
“We’re stuck with each other,” I told him, which made him bark and wiggle harder. “You may regret that more than me.”
Sitting alone in my bedroom, I can hear Mom yelling. Dad pleads with her, then shouts back. They turned the television on before they slammed their bedroom door shut, but it’s not loud enough to cover their fighting.
Lately, they fight all the time.
I pick up the remote to my favorite radio-controlled car and drive it into the wall, over and over. It doesn’t help.
Mom and Dad love each other. They look at each other for a long time, smiling, like they forget anyone else is around. They touch each other a lot. Holding hands. Kissing. They kiss a lot. It’s gross, but it’s better than the screaming and crying they’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. Even Dad, who’s always smiling and laughing, has been sad. His eyes are red all the time and he hasn’t shaved the hair off his face in days.
I’m scared they’re going to split up, like my friend Kevin’s parents did.
The sun goes down slowly, but the fighting doesn’t stop. Mom’s voice is hoarse now and scratchy from tears. Glass breaks. Something heavy hits the wall and makes me jump. It’s been a long time since lunch and my stomach is growling, but I’m not hungry. I really feel like throwing up.