I’m participating in N.N. Light’s Pot ‘O Gold Bookish Event featuring 15 authors who’ve released stories related to St. Patrick’s Day. Three authors are featured each day and my highlight will be on March 14th. Those who enter have a chance at winning an Amazon gift card . Open Internationally, but you must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
My title is St. Patrick’s Shenanigans, a wholesome contemporary cozy mystery set in Butte, Montana.
The new Butte Chamber of Commerce manager, Mitzi Lambrecht, has to organize the board of directors’ entry for the St. Patrick’s Day float. Her suggested frontier theme is opposed by a handsome but infuriating jokester.
Proud of his Irish roots, charmer Declan Rourke views softening the uptight manager a challenge he can’t resist.
When elements of their float disappear, Declan and Mitzi must work together to discover who is sabotaging their efforts. Can they work together as a team, or will Mitzi fail at her first big assignment?
Mitzi lowered to the edge of the bench, mesmerized by the fluid action of this dog so clearly loving this activity.
The owner swept a hand toward the side of the field, and the dog sped toward a final jump, then turned and bounced on his hind legs, pawing the air, until the owner enveloped the animal’s shoulders in an embrace.
A lump formed in her throat. Seeing that bond between human and canine reminded her of what she lost last year when Sadie, her beloved Beagle, walked the rainbow bridge. After watching a few more performances, she shivered, registering goose bumps along her skin. So she stood and set off toward her car.
Almost at the parking lot, she glanced over her shoulder at the dog activity. If she wore warmer clothes, she might consider staying. She caught sight of a familiar man, his broad shoulders covered by a gray sweatshirt. A billed cap advertising his fly-fishing shop topped a head of wavy auburn hair. Mitzi paused, curious about his presence at this activity and what type of dog he owned.
Dogs revealed so much about their owners. And she’d been intrigued about this particular man since they’re first encounter.
Declan Rourke unhooked a leash from the collar of a cinnamon-colored dog.
Mitzi didn’t recognize this particular breed. The smallish dog, with prick ears and a curled tail, reminded her of a fox.
Using hand signals and snapping fingers, Declan guided the dog over the obstacles while remaining in the center of the course. The alert animal barely looked his way as it maneuvered over and through the various apparatus with certainty and speed.
Her favorite part was when the dogs wove their bodies through eight upright poles, jumping right and left in quick succession. Smaller dogs held a definite advantage in this activity.
For the final ten feet, Declan followed along at a jog as his dog sailed over the last jump. Outside the course, he stood with arms outstretched as the dog circled before launching into his embrace. “Good work. That’s the way, girl.” Grinning, Declan glanced to the side and spotted her.
Mitzi couldn’t drag her gaze from the joy she saw in his green eyes. She’d only met him once, at the December Chamber executive board meeting. After that single session with the ten business owners, she’d labeled him—just like the icy steps leading to her office—as a potential problem. Arriving ten minutes late, he displayed no respect for the starting time of the scheduled meeting. On discussion issues, he always wanted the members to reach consensus instead of going with the more efficient majority vote. The vibe she got told her he expected everyone to find him charming. Although, the man did have a really great smile.
Declan’s eyebrow rose into an arch.
Stiffening, she focused on the tips of her shoes. She’s stared for too long. With a nod, she turned and headed toward the parking lot.
“Mitzi, wait up.”
That deep voice halted her step and tightened her shoulders. But she would not let her attitude show in her expression. Their paths would cross at least once a month. After a deep inhale, she turned and plastered on a smile. “Morning, Mr. Rourke.”
“It’s Declan, please. I thought we were past formalities.”
Everything about you is informal. “I prefer to maintain professional decorum.” She crossed her arms over her chest. The man was too handsome for her sanity with his wide smile, straight nose, and wide-set eyes. Focusing on the cute dog sitting at his feet seemed safer. She crouched and held out a hand, fingers down. “I’ve never seen a dog like yours. What breed is she?”
“Keiko’s a Japanese breed, a Shiba Inu.”
The dog inched forward and stretched her neck to sniff Mitzi’s offered hand. Her curly tail wagged, and she took another step.
“Hey, Keiko likes you. Usually she’s a bit standoffish.” Declan lowered to a squat and ran a hand down the dog’s back.
Being accepted was special. “I believe dogs sense when people are animal lovers.”
“Oh, do you have a dog? What breed?” His hand stilled.
“Sadie. She was a Beagle.” Suddenly, her eyes burned, and she had to blink fast to keep tears from spilling. Sadie had been with her since her high school years, and she missed her every day since her passing.
Declan pressed a hand onto her knee. “I’m sorry for your loss. I didn’t know.”
The gesture was unexpected but instantly reminded her of the personal connection she missed since moving here. Fighting for composure, she focused on Keiko and gave the dog a friendly scratch under her chin. The fur was fluffy and thick. She stroked the dog’s side a couple of times. Such a dear face, with alert black eyes that stared unblinkingly back. Somehow, the simple act of petting this warm body settled Mitzi’s ragged emotions. “Thanks.” Finally in control, she lifted her head. “What’s this activity called?”
“Dog agility.” He reached up to readjust his cap. “Our group gets together a couple of times a week to practice. Some of us attend weekend competitions throughout the state.”
She straightened to a stand. “Well, I’ll let you get back to it.”
Rising, Declan held a flattened hand toward the dog. “Do you jog here often?”
“Most mornings and always on the weekends.” She tugged on the hem of her hoodie, suddenly aware of how different her tight exercise clothes were from her usual business suits.
“Alone?” His eyebrows rose.
“Yes.” His surprise made her pulse accelerate. She narrowed her eyes. “Do you know something I don’t? Is this area unsafe?”
“Just that a woman”—he paused and gave her a long look, head to toe—“looking like you do should take precautions.”
Of course. Leave it to Declan to wreck a pleasant conversation.