Chasing Bailey

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Chasing Bailey (A Lake Harriet Novel)


Deanna Lynn Sletten


First we met Kristen and Ryan in Walking Sam. Then we met Mallory and James in As the Snow Fell. Now, we'll meet two more residents of the Lake Harriet neighborhood and a wiley dog named Bailey in the sweet romance, Chasing Bailey.

Book Description:


A Lake Harriet Novel

In the charming Lake Harriet neighborhood where we first met Kristen, Ryan, and their dog Sam in Walking Sam, two people are struggling to put their lives back together with the help of a rambunctious dog named Bailey.

Lisa Evan’s life has been in turmoil since her husband, Andrew, left her nine months earlier. With two-year-old Abby to care for and a new full-time job as a school nurse, she’s just trying to keep her head above water both emotionally and financially. It didn’t help that her ex-husband gifted a rambunctious puppy to Abby for her second birthday. But Abby instantly fell in love with Bailey, so Lisa didn’t have the heart to say no. Even though Lisa’s quiet neighborhood is a great place for kids and dogs, there’s one neighbor who isn’t thrilled about Bailey—the hermit across the street. And try as she might, Lisa can’t keep the dog from digging his way out of the yard and running to the hermit’s house. But after one particularly nasty clash with the hermit, Lisa discovers that maybe the man across the street isn’t as terrible as she’d once thought.

Avery McKinnon moved to the quiet neighborhood to hide out after an extremely nasty divorce. In one year his entire world has fallen apart. His wife left him, he lost his house, and his novels are no longer selling as well as they used to, taking a bite out of his income. He’s bitter and angry and the last thing he wants is to become chummy with all the annoyingly happy people in his neighborhood. When the puppy across the street keeps running over to his house and digging up his yard, Avery explodes. Can’t that annoying woman across the street control a puppy? But when he finally sees Lisa for who she is, he realizes that maybe he’s been angry long enough. Maybe it was time to let someone back into his life. And then her ex-husband comes back into the picture and ruins everything.

Contemporary Romance
Sweet Romance

Release Date: October 8, 2019

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Enjoy the first chapter of this heartwarming romance.




Chapter One



Lisa Evans stepped up on her front porch as she juggled her two-year-old daughter, Abby, in one arm and a heavy bag in the other. She clumsily unlocked the front door, stepped inside the refreshing coolness of the living room, and set Abby down while also dropping the awkward bag to the floor. The bag tipped, spilling out Abby’s toys, extra clothes, diapers, and snacks—all the items she needed for a full day at day care. At the same time, Abby ran down the hallway toward the back of the house hollering, “Baywee” in her little girl voice.

Lisa sighed. Another day completed.

She knelt, shoved all the items back into the bag, and turned to set it in the entryway closet. As she did, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her long blond hair was falling out of its ponytail and her scrub shirt printed with playful kittens had a big red stain on it. Thankfully, it wasn’t blood like all the kids at school had thought when they’d stared at her with frightened faces. It was juice that had spilled as she’d poured some into Abby’s cup at lunchtime. She was thankful that Abby’s day care was next door to the school so she could eat lunch with her every day. But the stain was just another mishap that Lisa hadn’t planned for.

Lisa walked across the room and dropped onto the sofa. She could still hear Abby pattering around the back of the house, calling out for Bailey. Lisa still had to make dinner, feed the dog, give Abby her bath, and put the little girl to bed. Then tomorrow it would start all over again. Only two weeks into being a working single mother and Lisa was already drained.

Abby came back into the living room and ran toward her mother. “No Baywee!” she cried, her tiny rosebud mouth drooping into a frown.

Lisa couldn’t help but smile at the toddler’s expression. Her round, little face and button nose were framed in silky auburn waves and her big green eyes were what drew the most attention from everyone who saw her. Normally, Abby was a sunny, happy child, but her favorite part of the day was coming home to her fluffy Border Collie. Not having him come running to her as they entered the house had obviously been a disappointment.

Then it hit Lisa. Bailey hadn’t come running with excitement to see them.

“Crap!” She scooped up her daughter and headed to the back door that led to their fenced-in backyard. “I’m sure he’s here somewhere,” she said, trying to convince herself more than trying to comfort Abby. She stared out the back door into the yard. Bailey had a doggie door that allowed him to go in and out as needed. But the yard was empty. No dog. Then, Lisa saw the hole.

“Crap!” she said again. Bailey had dug another escape route under their chain link fence.

“Cap!” Abby repeated.

Lisa grimaced. “Abigail Evans. Don’t copy Mommy.”

Abby grinned. “Cap!”

“Oh boy,” Lisa said under her breath. She hurried toward the front of the house again with the intention of putting Abby in her wagon and walking the neighborhood in search of Bailey. But as she entered the living room, there was a pounding on the door. She almost said “crap” again but refrained. She was almost certain she knew who was there.

Setting Abby down on the floor, she went to answer. Sure enough, there stood the hermit from across the street holding her runaway dog by the collar and glowering at her.

“Baywee!” Abby yelled, arms wide open. Bailey pulled away from the man and ran to Abby. She wrapped her arms around her furry friend.

“I’m so sorry,” Lisa said quickly to the man standing in front of her. His expression didn’t soften in the least.

“He was digging in my yard again,” he said. “What is it about my yard that he comes over there to dig? Why can’t he run off to someone else’s yard? This is the third time this month!”

The hermit looked really angry this time. The crease between his brows was deeper than normal. Of course, Lisa had never seen him do anything but scowl, but this was the worst one yet.

“I’m really sorry. I don’t know why he’s running to your yard either. He keeps digging a hole under the fence and I can’t seem to stop him,” Lisa said, which was true. Since she’d started working full time as a grade school nurse, Bailey had begun digging under the fence. Each time Lisa filled in the holes and placed large rocks over the area, he’d find a new spot to dig. She was at her wits’ end trying to figure out how to solve the problem.

“Yeah. So you’ve said before,” the man grumbled. He turned around and headed down the porch steps. “People who can’t look after pets shouldn’t have them,” he said. It was more of a mumble but loud enough for her to hear.

Lisa’s shoulders sagged as she shut the door. She already felt bad enough leaving the dog home alone all day. It didn’t help to be told she was a bad pet parent too.

She turned and there sat Abby and Bailey, side-by-side, both smiling up at her. The sight of them warmed her heart, reminding her why she’d kept the unwanted dog in the first place. When her ex-husband, Andrew, had gifted the black and white puppy to Abby last May, Lisa had adamantly said no. There was no way she could care for a toddler and a puppy all by herself. “All little kids need a puppy in their lives,” he’d told her. And after only minutes, it was obvious that she couldn’t make him return the dog. Abby fell in love and she and Bailey were best pals from that moment on. But now that he was a gangly five-month-old dog and Lisa was working, Bailey had become more of a nuisance than a playmate. Still, Lisa didn’t have the heart to take Abby’s dog away from her.

“Why can’t you be more like Sam?” Lisa said, shaking her finger at the dog. “He never tries to run away. Sam, short for Samantha, was the beautiful, well-behaved golden retriever next door owned by Kristen and Ryan. Of course, she was also nine years old and well-trained, and poor Bailey hadn’t had the benefit of training yet. Lisa felt lucky he was house-broken.

Bailey cocked his head and stared at her with that silly doggie grin. Lisa sighed. It was difficult being angry at Bailey.

“I know. I know. It’s my fault you’re not trained.” She scooped Abby up as the little girl giggled with glee and headed toward the kitchen. Bailey followed, tail wagging. “Come on, you two. Let’s eat dinner.”

***

Avery McKinnon grumbled all the way across the street to his house. “Stupid dog. Why can’t he just leave me alone?” He strode around the side of his two-bedroom bungalow and grabbed the shovel that stood against the back of the garage. Coming back out front, he began shoveling the loose dirt off the grass and back into the hole Bailey had dug.

“Annoying neighbors and their dumb dogs,” he complained, growing more irritated with each shovelful of dirt. A car door slammed, making him turn to see who it was. The woman who lived next door to the annoying woman with the runaway dog was getting out of her car and lifting a toddler out of the back seat. She looked up, saw him staring, and waved. Avery quickly went back to his shoveling. He didn’t know her name and didn’t want to. He didn’t have time for these bothersome people who had neighborhood parties and barbecues. When he’d moved here a year ago, he’d told the real estate woman that he wanted to live in a quiet neighborhood. No sooner had he moved in than neighbors were knocking on his door, welcoming him. He didn’t want to be welcomed. He just wanted to be left alone.

After he’d shoveled and patted down the dirt, he returned the shovel to its place and went inside his house through the back door. Walking in the kitchen, he stopped at the refrigerator and stared inside it. There wasn’t much there. He grabbed a cola and shut the door. It looked like tonight would be another pizza night.

As he passed his bedroom on the way to his office, Avery saw his reflection in the dresser mirror. Ugh! He looked awful. His hair was shaggy, and he hadn’t shaved in several days. He glanced down at the flannel shirt he wore over his t-shirt and frowned. What was that stain? Yesterday’s pizza? The stain brought to mind the woman across the street. He was sure he’d scared the daylights out of her with how he looked when he’d dragged her dog over there. Her blue eyes had been wide, and she’d talked in that nervous, high-pitched way women spoke when they were uncomfortable. And talk about stains. What the hell was that red splotch on that silly kitten shirt she was wearing? Did she perform surgery on someone? She’d looked a mess.

A quick stab of remorse hit Avery. No, the woman hadn’t really looked a mess. She’d looked frazzled and tired. She’d probably worked all day and had just gotten home and still had the little girl to take care of all evening. And then there he was, right in her face, complaining about that dog. That sneaky, hole-digging dog that pulled a Houdini and escaped the backyard despite the chain link fence.

“Stop feeling sorry for that woman,” he told himself as he entered the front bedroom that he used as an office. “She should find a way to keep that dog in her own yard.”

He sat at his desk where he’d left his laptop open, the Word file staring back at him. “Now, where was I?” He scowled at the page, trying to remember his train of thought before he’d glanced out the window and had seen the dog digging. Running his fingers though his thick, dark hair, he studied the words he’d written half an hour ago.

“This story stinks!” he declared to the empty room. How on earth was he supposed to write a romance when he was still so angry over that crazy dog?

Taking a deep breath to clear his mind, he let his fingers start typing. Big, blue eyes filled with tears as she gazed up at him. Her long, blond hair had come loose from its ponytail, and her shirt had some unknown stain on it, yet he hardly noticed. All he saw were those full, pink lips on that perfect face and he wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her.

Avery stopped typing and glared at the words on the page. “What the hell is that?” He quickly backspaced through the paragraph, stood, and headed for the front door. He needed to take a long walk and get some fresh air. Maybe then he could sit down with a clear head and get back to work. The last thing he wanted to think about was some blond-haired woman with big blue eyes and pink lips. In fact, the last thing he needed in his life was any woman with any color of eyes or lips. He’d already had a woman in his life and been burned once. He didn’t need to be burned again.

Slamming the front door, he stalked down the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets and his head down. He didn’t want to see any neighbors or smile and wave to them. He just wanted to take his walk in peace.



Copyright 2019 Deanna Lynn Sletten

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