Today I am so excited to welcome N.R. Walker to Joyfully Jay. She is here to share an exclusive excerpt from her new book, Finders Keepers (which I reviewed yesterday and loved). Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
The photo of Wicket on Griffin’s sofa kind of hurt to see, I couldn’t lie. There he was, so far away from me, with someone else. And it was stupid, really, but I felt like a dad whose kid had gone to school on the first day and I was left behind while they were being all grown-up.
Like I said. It was stupid.
But then I noticed something else in the photo.
Wicket was sitting up on a brown leather sofa, his front foot on Griffin’s thigh. Wicket’s eyes were big, brown, and curious, looking at the phone as the photo was taken, and like Griffin said, his head was tilted in that cute way he did. He looked happy and healthy enough, safe and well-fed. None of that was a concern to me.
Griffin had his free hand on Wicket’s side, probably patting him or giving him a scratch, and that was all fine too.
But he wore a bracelet that caught my eye. A dark leather bracelet that had a small silver clasp with small bands of colour. The gay pride colours, to be exact.
My heart did some weird, tight-skipping-swoop thing. He could have been oblivious to the whole rainbow pride thing, though I was pretty certain that particular bracelet was only for sale on LGBT sites. Which meant one thing. He was LGBT, or somewhere on the LGBT spectrum. Maybe.
Jesus, Dane. Get a grip.
It didn’t mean anything. I didn’t know if he was single or even looking or even remotely interested. The fact I could talk to him like no one else didn’t mean anything either. Just because he understood my job didn’t make me the poster child for everything right and wrong in the telecommunications industry. I loved my job, and I hated that it became an issue when brought up in conversation with some people.
But not Griffin.
He understood the whole concept of being the face of a brand was wanting our customers to be happy. Sure, guys were okay with it only after I’d explained it, but Griffin got it from the get-go.
And he was so kind to Wicket. Above everything else, that’s what I liked the most. He didn’t just treat him like a dog. He treated him exactly the way I did.
Jesus, Dane. Get a grip.
I told myself that a hundred times; getting ready for bed, lying in bed. Even in my dreams, dream-me told me to get a grip. I was slipping down a slope of puppacino froth and my brain kept telling me to get a damn grip, Dane. Just get a goddamn grip. I woke up with a start, just before my alarm went off. I had a shower, got dressed, forced some breakfast down, all the while telling myself to get a bloody grip.
And I kind of did, until the first message made my phone beep just after nine a.m. It was a photo, of course. Of a now-slightly-green Wicket rolling in fresh grass clippings. Those grass stains weren’t coming out of his fur anytime soon, but the smile on his face was ridiculous.
There was a laughing emoticon and a caption. Little bugger. Good thing he’s cute.
I couldn’t reply because we were in the middle of open discussions, though I was sure a few people noticed I was sneaking a look at my phone. Either that or my smile gave me away.
About an hour later, my phone buzzed again. Another photo. This time, a very wet Wicket was standing on a boogie board, floating in ankle deep water with Griffin’s bracelet hand holding the board. Wicket’s tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth, and it looked like he was smiling up at, not the camera exactly, but more at Griffin.
A caption followed it. Swim and surfing lesson 1:Grass stains 0
Was it absurd that, along with missing Wicket like crazy, I was also feeling a bit jealous? Not of Griffin getting to spend time with my dog. But of Wicket getting to spend time with Griffin. I couldn’t help but think it was unfair that Wicket knew what Griffin looked like and I didn’t.
Jesus, Dane. Get a grip.
This was getting ludicrous, but the more I didn’t want Griffin to send me any more photos, the more I couldn’t wait.
And he didn’t disappoint.
They were at the beach. Coolum Beach, if I could tell correctly. The photo was of a sleeping Wicket on a beach towel, flat out on his back, his little feet in the air. He usually slept that way when he’d had a busy day… but he was kind of lying against Griffin. Well, I assumed it was Griffin. Lean, a little pale, I could see a glimpse of skin above his bunched-up blue board shorts, then long legs with dark leg hair and long feet, then a stretch of golden sand and white-capped waves on the aqua blue ocean.
The caption read Battery recharge complete in 4… 3… 2…
The scenery, one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, paled in comparison to the body shot. It wasn’t even provocative in any way. He didn’t send the photo of him. He sent it of Wicket, sound asleep after a fun morning doing crazy things. But I couldn’t stop looking at him. At Griffin, that is. His skin looked cool from the water and warm in the sun. I could see a dusting of salt and sand, and his thigh looked lean but strong and defined. His feet… he had really big feet, and those too-cute toes I’d seen in an earlier photo of him barefoot in the grass…
God, I was in trouble.
Needing a change of scene, Griffin Burke moves from Brisbane to Coolum Beach to start a new job. The beautiful white sand, aqua-coloured ocean, blue skies, and summer breezes are everything he longs for. What he finds is a mud-covered dog, lost and hungry, with a nametag and a phone number.
Dane Hughes is stuck in Surfers Paradise at a week-long work conference when he gets a phone call from his distraught mother. His dog, his fur baby, Wicket, has run away. Unable to leave and feeling helpless and miserable, he gets a text from a guy. “I think I found your dog…”
Griffin and Dane start talking, and Griffin agrees to look after Wicket until Dane can collect him. With a few days left before his new job starts, Griffin takes Wicket on some coastal adventures and sends Dane photos of their fun, and so the start of something new and kind of wonderful begins.
Griffin might have moved to Coolum in search of a new life, but what he finds is so much more. What he gets to keep just might take some four-legged help.