I'm one of the fourteen authors with a novella featured in the upcoming boxed set, Valentine Pets & Kisses. https://www.goodreads.com/…/…/27887192-valentine-pets-kisses The set has not yet been released but I would love to share my story (free of charge) in return for a short review. It's called Lost and Found (PG rated). Please comment below if you're interested and I'll send a copy.
Here's the blurb:
Lexi is so distraught after long-time boyfriend, Josh, dumps her she has to take a leave of absence from her job as an English teacher. Josh leaves behind the French bulldog he bought for her just before things fell apart. Lexi is not a dog person and contemplates giving the pup away. However, it’s all she has left of Josh and so she gives the little mischief-maker a little more time.
While at puppy obedience school, Lexi meets Tommy, a handsome, happy-go-lucky type she could easily give her heart to if only she was ready. Still pining over Josh, Lexi gives Tommy the brush off and they lose touch. As much as she doesn’t want to admit it, Lexi comes to realize that in the short time she and Tommy spent together, he’d left more of an impression on her heart than she cared to admit.
A winding road of unfortunate events brings Lexi and Tommy together again, but are they meant to be, or does fate have another plan?
“No! Bardot, no!” Lexi said with an exasperated sigh as she scooped up the chubby little pup. It had been chewing on the wooden legs of one of her kitchen chairs and now turned its needlelike teeth to the flesh of her wrist. “Ouch!” Lexi yanked her arm away but the puppy quickly turned its head and chomped down on her other arm, all the while, its stubby tail motored from side to side.
Clearly, the dog was oblivious to the pain it was inflicting. Though just five months old, the French bulldog was heavy in Lexi’s slender arms as she speed walked over to the corner she’d set up for the pup—a kind of puppy jail. It was all she could think to do in order to keep the little fiend from ruining her house.
Lexi settled Bardot into her dog bed, then tossed in a handful of toys over the plastic railing of the “jail” in the hope the dog would turn her attention to them and eventually grow to realize the toys were okay to play with, and the furniture was not. Bardot’s preferred chew toys for the past four weeks had been anything at puppy eye level, chair legs being her favorite. However, the little scoundrel had also chewed a floor mat and three pairs of her mistress’s shoes.
Lexi had placed a crate inside the perimeter of the jail, beside the doggie bed. Did she dare lock the dog up? She thought on it for a moment as she watched Bardot climb easily from her bed and jump at the plastic baby gates Lexi had used in constructing the puppy compound. Bardot yipped and yelped as she continued to try to climb the gate. It didn’t take much until one of the walls fell to the hardwood with a clack and the puppy was free.
Bardot made a beeline for Lexi and her toes; sharp baby teeth easily penetrated her socks. This time, it was Lexi who yelped as she hopped around, trying with all her might to suppress a swat. That was the last thing she wanted to do. After all, Josh had given Bardot to her just before… She cut the thought off before heading down Desperation Avenue, which she knew from recent experience stopped at the dead end of Depression Street.
Part of her hated him, but another part still loved him despite how he’d crushed her. She wished he were there with her now, to help her and to teach her. She had no idea how to train a puppy. Bardot was her first pet ever.
Lexi once again plucked up the pup and this time put her into her crate. As soon as the door closed, the dog threw her head back in a howl. Bardot could howl with the best of ’em and it was likely to go on for hours, but it was either let her run around the house chewing on furniture and toes, or live with the bedlam of a howling pooch.
Lexi drained her glass of Merlot, her third of the night. She’d been drinking too much lately but it was all she could think to do to ease the pain of heartbreak. Before Josh left her, she hardly drank at all—just the occasional glass of wine with dinner. How had she gotten to this point? She’d been a well-adjusted, seemingly happy woman, working and enjoying life, until Josh stole it all away. Stripped to the bone, that’s how she felt.
With cell phone in hand, she checked the time—almost midnight. She headed for the bedroom, leaving a remarkably loud puppy crying and howling in the living room.
Her stomach did a flip-flop when she came to the entrance of the bedroom. It had once been her sanctuary and was now a chamber of horrors. Sleepless nights spent alone made her dread bedtime. Her bed, their bed, was now a source of anxiety.
Instead of entering the room, Lexi closed the door and made her way to the spare room. It had been set up as a study of sorts where she would grade papers at her old wobbly desk and Josh would sometimes spend time working on his music.
Now, his guitar sat silently in the corner. Another reminder of his absence and of the fact he would probably never again pick it up and play her a song. Sometimes she wanted to snatch it up, not to play it but to smash it to pieces. She eyed it now. It was so pretty, made of some expensive, polished wood. Josh’s name was hand-painted in script on the body. Why he’d left it behind she had no clue, but deep down Lexi hoped he’d come back for it one day and maybe he’d come back for her, too. No! She scolded herself. She couldn’t let him weasel his way back. He’d done that before and things had only worsened.
The spare room was the lesser of two evils. Lexi took down a comforter from the top shelf of the closet and smoothed it out on the floor, then placed a throw cushion at the head of it. She’d sleep in her clothes again. Why not? They were comfy sweats and a T-shirt anyway, not much different than pjs. Tomorrow, she promised herself, tomorrow she’d shower and change her clothes, though she didn’t put much stock in her own goals as of late, minuscule as they were. She had nowhere to go. Not back to work, not yet anyway.
“Come back when you’re ready,” were the reassuring words of her boss—Abby Braxton, the school principal. She’d told Lexi that she understood about things like depression and breakdowns. After all, it had been part of her management training. Lexi wondered if the tall, perfectly coifed blonde even possessed emotions. She was always so…so cold as if made of granite.
Lexi much preferred dealing with the soft-spoken and kinder vice principal, Darren K. Barton. He too was adept with soothing words but his felt real, and there were the sympathetic looks that came with his words, making Lexi believe he really meant them. Although she appreciated the support of both the principal and vice principal, there really was nothing anyone could do to erase her pain or turn back the clock. Being alone was her new normal.
Lexi awoke with a start to Bardot’s high-pitched howls, which had stopped after two hours or so, allowing Lexi to fall asleep for a short time. She checked her phone. It was four in the morning. She was grateful she didn’t have to get up early to go to work. Was this what it would be like to have a baby? she wondered, but heartache quickly pushed that thought from her mind. She couldn’t go there.
The love-hate relationship she had with Bardot was never more evident than in these moments. She’d grown to kinda-sorta love the dog because Josh had given it to her, but she’d never really wanted a pet and had been more than a little annoyed when he’d brought the dog home unexpectedly.
“I bought her for you,” he’d said with a huge grin as he handed the tiny beige and white pup out to her. Lexi just stood there, hands at her sides. She’d never held a puppy before, had she? What if it wriggled away from her and she dropped it?
Josh had laughed and pushed the dog to her chest, her hands coming up automatically to cuddle the warm little bundle. A cold wet nose tickled her neck and slobbery kisses followed.
“Whaaaa…?” was all she could manage with a shake of her head. He couldn’t be giving her a dog, could he? she remembered thinking.
It was a Friday night and their anniversary. The puppy had a big pink bow tied loosely around her neck, which she tried in earnest to pull off.
“Her name’s Bardot,” Josh said with a look of anticipation. He was waiting for her to connect the dots. When she said nothing, he began again, with a few hand gestures as if trying to pull the memory from her. “Because when I first met you, I said you reminded me of Brigitte Bardot but without the blonde hair. And, she is a French bulldog after all. It seemed appropriate. But go ahead and change the name if you like.” His lips thinned and his smile died. He’d been reading her expression, which she was certain was one of horror.
“Fine, fine. The name’s…great,” she’d said with forced enthusiasm, then set the dog down on her new area rug. Bardot promptly squatted and peed. Lexi managed to keep her reaction to a minimum as Josh ran into the kitchen to grab the paper towel.
How could she have told him she hated her gift? It was a puppy for crying out loud! Weren’t people supposed to love animals, especially puppies? What was wrong with her?
Then it hit her. She realized it was Josh who’d wanted the dog. He’d brought up the subject countless times since he’d moved in with her. Lexi had always said the same thing, “Maybe later, hon. Now’s not the right time.”
Bardot was five months old now and still not housebroken, but without Josh around, Lexi was as helpless as a, well, a newborn puppy. She got up slowly from the hard floor. Her back ached and her head pounded. She guessed Bardot had to go outside for a pee—another thing she hated about having a dog. Her small yard wasn’t fenced and so she had to walk the puppy around until it decided to do whatever it had to. Lexi prayed Bardot hadn’t already done her business in the crate. That was not an uncommon occurrence and it always meant she’d have to bathe the dog since she didn’t seem to have the sense not to step in her own waste. Lexi sighed at the thought of it. Bardot did not like baths.
She bent down to open the door to the crate. Bardot already had her little pushed-in snout against the grill of the door, stubby tail wagging furiously. When she opened it, Bardot bounded out and jumped up to kiss her. Even though still just a pup, she was strong and her boxy little skull connected with Lexi’s nose. Blood gushed. Lexi stifled it with a hand while trying to keep the puppy at bay with the other, but Bardot was persistent, jumping and jumping until she knocked her mistress backward onto her butt.
Lexi let her head fall into her hands and cried; a small pool of blood and tears spilled onto the front of her T-shirt. She looked up in time to see Bardot squatting on the rug.
Jeanne Bannon, an international best selling author, has worked in the publishing industry for over twenty-five years. She is represented by the Serendipity Literary Agency.
Her debut novel, Invisible, a young adult paranormal romance, was published by Solstice Publishing in 2011 and was subsequently optioned for film. Invisible is an Amazon bestseller both domestically and internationally and is set for re-release in the coming months.
In 2014, Nowhere to Run, a romantic thriller, was published by Etopia Press. In 2015, Jeanne published the first of a three-part novella series, a paranormal romance titled Beautiful Monster, The Exchange (Book One). She is currently finishing work on the second in the Beautiful Monster series.
Goodreads page for Valentine Pets & Kisses