Crash (Crash & Burn Duet #1) - Grahame Claire

Chapter One

Pepper

“Did your dog just piss on my truck?”

Muffy lowered his—yes, his—leg and wagged his tail as he blinked up at me. I glanced at the mud sliding down the tire where Muffy had pissed like a racehorse instead of a greyhound.

I winced before I turned around to face the music. Holy . . . My arm went limp, and I almost dropped the leash. Dark boots. Worn jeans. FDNY T-shirt. Stubbled jaw. Lips in a flat line. Keep going. Skip the lips, Pepper.

Reluctantly, I forced my eyes to continue their perusal upward.

Granite jaw. Blazing brown pools. Whoa, he was mad. Mussed dark hair. Had he just rolled out of bed? No, it was almost dark. He couldn’t have. Unless . . . someone else he’d rolled out of bed with had done it . . .

Muffy nudged my hand.

I stared at the fireman, the George Strait song spinning in my head.

Lick.

I looked down.

Muffy nosed my pocket.

Jolted, I dug out a treat and offered it to him. “Good boy.”

“You praised your dog for pissing on my truck?” A dark eyebrow rose.

I wanted to sink into the snow-covered sidewalk. Instead, I motioned toward the jacked-up pickup. “He cleaned half your tire. You’re welcome.”

Inwardly, I cringed. That was so not what I meant to say. I’m sorry would’ve been the correct response, yet I still couldn’t find those words.

Lightning flashed in his dark eyes. I inched my neck toward him. Are those gold flecks in his irises? Damn, too far away to tell.

“Excuse me?”

I circled my finger in the air toward the tire. “It’s filthy. A wash in any capacity is a step in the right direction.”

He glared.

I glared back, despite that he could snap me in half with those arms. Why had I turned down the last fireman who’d come by Grey Paws to sell a fundraising calendar? I’d bought a couple, I just hadn’t taken the calendars.

You thought it was degrading to men.

Well, I was wrong. Because if he was Mr. January—or any month—I’d sorely missed out.

“Are you justifying what your dog did?” The biceps I’d been admiring bulged when he folded his arms.

“Muffy doesn’t see a difference between your tire and that tree.” I gestured toward the Callery pear tree on the edge of the sidewalk.

“She should—wait a second.” He tilted his head. Muffy mimicked him as they stared at one another. “That’s not a she.”

“No, he’s not.”

Muffy wagged his tail, and I patted him on the head.

“You named him Muffy?” Mr. January asked incredulously.

“What’s wrong with his name?” Why didn’t I just explain how Muffy came to be Muffy?

“He’s a greyhound. He’s a male. He shouldn’t be named Muffy.”

“I’ll let you tell that to Benjamin.”

“Who’s Benjamin?”

“The six-year-old who was volunteering with his mother the day we rescued this dog.”

At least if I’d had this man in a calendar to ogle he couldn’t have talked back. Benjamin had been thrilled to name the dog, like it had been Christmas and his birthday at the same time. Who was I to tell him he couldn’t call him Muffy?

Mr. January held up both hands. “Look—”

“No, you look.” His lips parted and even Muffy blinked up at me in surprise. “It’s freezing, and I don’t like cold weather. I give him a treat when he comes outside and does his business fast. All he did was what I asked.”

“You told him to piss on my truck?” The tension ramped up another notch instead of diffusing.

“I told him to be quick. It’s not like he meant it as a personal insult. He just picked a spot and went.” I shrugged. Muffy wagged his tail even faster.

Mr. January scowled. “Don’t let it happen again.”

He shouldered past me and opened the driver’s side door.

“The chances of that happening are about zero, considering you’ll never get this parking spot again.”

It was right in front of the rescue. I’d worked there twelve years. Never seen the truck before today. Wouldn’t ever see it or Mr. January again.

He smirked and pointed at Muffy. “Find another spot to go.”

Muffy swiped his big tongue over his finger. Mr. January kept his hard gaze on the dog, but I swore one corner of his mouth lifted.

When those piercing eyes met mine, they were all fire. Nope. The man was a grouch.

“Want us to wash it?” I asked sweetly as he climbed in the cab.

“That would be a start.”

Seriously? That truck looked like he’d been driving in a muddy cotton field all day. And by the way, there were no cotton fields in this city last I checked.

“I’ll let you know when I want it done.”

“The tire. That’s—” Slam. Did he just shut the door while I was talking? “All I’m washing,” I yelled as he cranked up the diesel engine.

Muffy jumped at the noise, and I crouched to comfort him.

Mr. January gunned away from the curb. Just as he swerved into traffic, I caught a glimpse of his license plate.

I

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