Her Secret Protector(7)

By: Roxanne Snopek



“Good boys,” he murmured, gesturing for them to remain down. “Good stay.”

Amanda gave up chasing her son, turned back to Ethan and crossed her arms. “We shouldn’t have to be afraid to take our children to the park.”

Arguing the finer points with her was hardly the way to improve his social standing in the community.

“You’re absolutely right about that, ma’am.” He squatted down on the grass to be at eye level with the so-called traumatized child. “Maybe you can meet them another time, okay, buddy?”

The blonde woman sniffed. The kid looked more curious than anything.

The brown-haired woman glanced at her. “No real harm done then, right Amanda? Well, we should be going then.”

“If anyone should leave-” began Calloway.

Ethan straightened up and held out his hand to the brown-haired woman, cutting off Calloway’s comment. “We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Ethan Nash. Those are my dogs, Ashur, Mars and Gun.”

Both womn looked from his hand to his face, and back again, as if not comprehending his words. It was almost humorous, watching small town courtesy wage war with unfounded suspicion.

Finally, the brown-haired one reached out.

“Sherry Hagerson,” said Calloway, before the woman could speak. “And those little cuties are Nicole and Hannah.”

“Anna,” said Sherry.

“Right, Anna,” said Calloway, with another of his too-wide smiles. “Nash, those dogs should be leashed.”

The blonde woman’s lips were tight. She kept her hands firmly on the stroller. “Amanda Frankel. George, my three-year-old, and the baby, Rosie.”

“I’m happy to meet you all.” He stepped back. “I’m going to call my dogs. They’re going to come running to me. Not to you, to me. Then they’ll sit and politely say hello, after which I’ll put them back in my truck and go home.”

He whistled and gestured. Instantly, all three dogs leaped to their feet and galloped across the grass.

Calloway twitched. Amanda snatched hold of Georgie and held him tightly against her legs and body. Sherry also held tight to her daughters, but interest accompanied her caution.

That was good.

“Boys, sit.”

The dogs sat.

“Say hi.”

Each dog held up his right front paw and waved the air with it for a moment.

“Shake hands.” Ethan went down the line and shook each one.

“Now, down.”

Each one flopped down onto his chest, sphinx-like.

“They look,” said Calloway, “like wolves.”

Ethan clenched his fists.

“Look at the funny doggies, Mommy,” said the girl, Nicole. “Can we pet them?”

“Not this time,” said Ethan, before Sherry could respond. “I’m going to tell the doggies to jump up into the truck so I can take them home. Okay?”

The blonde woman frowned, but nodded her assent.

He snapped another command and once more the dogs sprang to attention. They flew past him and leaped into the open back of the truck, grace and power in every move, one after the other, smooth as salmon swimming upstream.

Ethan closed the tailgate, then turned back to the little group, now standing at the edge of the park, watching open-mouthed.

“Once more, I apologize for disturbing your children’s playtime,” he said. “Have a good afternoon, ladies. Children. Mayor. It’s been… educational.”

He got into his vehicle, started the engine and was almost out of town before he realized he’d forgotten the leather leashes lying out on the grass.

*

Carrie turned down the long driveway, following the directions Ethan Nash had grudgingly sent her. He hadn’t been particularly enthusiastic, suggesting his were not the services she was looking for. Must be nice, she thought, to be able to pick and choose your work.

Tall cedars lined the long drive on either side, making it dark despite the bright late afternoon sunshine. She opened and closed her hands on the steering wheel, nervous not just about showing him the images but about meeting him, period.

She’d asked around but while nobody really seemed to know the man, many people seemed to know of him.

Her mom, who made a point of knowing as much as she could about everyone, had lots to say. A rich guy from back east, according to her, who’d bought the old Lewis placefrom Carrie’s Uncle Robert, then proceeded to demolish it all and put up a McMansion, complete with privacy fences. Privacy fences! And guard dogs!

Carrie smiled. Cathy Logan didn’t like it when she couldn’t see into people’s backyards.

The road was narrow and would probably be impassable with the first snow of winter. She wondered if Mr. Nash had his own plough. Or perhaps he really did just wait it out, not worried about being cut off from the rest of the world.

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