Isaiah Wright is broken. So broken he's positive he'll never be fixed again. Surviving every soldier's worst nightmare is enough for him to want nothing more than to give into the blackness that plagues him.
Emma Nicholls knows pain. Four years after the devastating loss of her fiancé, she's set up her own business providing service dogs to veterans in an attempt to put her own life back together.
Circumstance brings Isaiah into her life, but neither are prepared for the fire that burns between them. It's immediate, one broken soul finding solace in another, but it's also... terrifying.
His soldier's heart is surrounded by walls ten feet high. But maybe, just maybe, Emma and her brood of trainee service dogs can break through and be the light he so desperately needs.
“I hope you’re ready soldier, because today, your training begins.”
A wide grin spreads across Emma’s face as I approach her, one of the dogs trying valiantly to wriggle out of her arms. I smile back.
“I thought I was here to train. Not be trained.”
“Well, you thought wrong. You need as much— if not more— training than any of these little guys do. Dogs are born with the instinct to learn and perform. Humans…not so much. You need to learn to work with them as much as they need to learn to work with you. Otherwise, the relationship will never fully form.”
I want to tell her she’s wasting her time. I’ll never have a relationship with one of these dogs. But I can see in her eyes how much the idea of my ‘training’ excites her. So I’ll play along. For now.
She hands me a whistle and a little plastic thing with a button in the middle. The whistle I get, but I have no clue what in the hell this other thing is or what I’m supposed to do with it. Without any explanation, she turns and lets all five of the puppies out of the kennel. They bound forward, rushing out into the yard. Maggie slowly walks out behind them and settles in the shade of a nearby tree.
Emma stands in front of the dogs like a military drill sergeant and the picture it paints in my head is laughable. The puppies tumble over each other, forming no semblance of a line. It’s like she’s the drill sergeant at a school for juvenile delinquents. I half expect her to blow the whistle and tell them to fall in line.
Instead, she turns and barks her orders at me, causing the smile to fall momentarily from my face.
“You sure as hell can’t do anything from clear over there, soldier. Get your ass over here.”
When I meet her eyes, my smile returns. All five foot four of Emma smirks up at me, trying to look as intimidating as she can. But her playful stance gives her away. She’s trying to put on a show, impress me with her gruff demeanor. But deep down, she knows she doesn’t have it in her. She’s too damn sweet to be mean.
I slap my arms straight at my sides and march over to her. I turn when I reach her, giving her a quick salute.
“Sir, yes sir.”
She smacks me on the arm. “Excuse me? Do I look like a sir to you?”
No, she sure as hell does not look like a sir. She’s in a tight pair of worn jeans and work boots. But the fitted top she’s wearing hugs all her curves in all the right places, reminding me every time I look at her just how much of a woman she is.
She turns her attention back to the dogs and I follow suit. I still can’t tell which one is which, other than Jasper. I remember he has the black collar. And as far as dogs go, he’s the most tolerable of the bunch. If I have to deal with a dog, might as well be one who isn’t completely fur-brained.
She points to the one with the green collar. “Show me how you’d make him sit.”
I look skeptically at the dog, who’s currently occupied with chasing a butterfly. Make him sit. Right. Like that’s going to happen.
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