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Los Angeles, California

When the 907-area code first popped up on Ellis Hunter’s phone, he was busy. The kind of busy that left a guy naked in bed with a beautiful woman, indulging in one of his favorite activities. 

Had he not been otherwise occupied he still wouldn’t have answered because no way in hell would he ever return to Alaska. SoCal suited him just fine, thanks. He loved the year-round sunshine. Loved the beaches. Loved all the lonely, rich women who hired him to train their dogs.

The second time his phone rang, the dog he was supposed to be training let out a squeak that might have been a bark if Peanut the Purse Pooch was any larger than… well, a peanut. He didn’t hear the squeak because he was fully invested in getting her owner, Mrs. Marina Cavendish, naked. 

This was his second training session with Peanut. The first didn’t go well. The Chinese Crested puppy was spoiled, stubborn, and had more attitude than should fit in her tiny hairless body. Mrs. Cavendish thought it was cute, but Peanut wouldn’t be a five-pound puppy forever. Once fully grown, she could weigh up to twelve pounds, which yeah, was still a small dog, but a badly behaved twelve-pound dog could cause just as much damage as a large dog. Sometimes more.

Peanut was going to be a tough nut— ha ha— to crack.

When Mrs. Cavendish called him this morning for a second session, he’d come prepared for war, armed with treats and his trusty clicker. At least until Mrs. Cavendish answered the door wearing nothing but a slinky robe and high heels. She made it perfectly clear she had no interest in more training for Peanut and only wanted to get into his pants.

Who was he to say no?

Christ, he loved his job.

They landed on a cloud of a bed upstairs and he was just about to peel back the robe to get a peek at the intriguing surgically enhanced globes underneath when Peanut’s squeaking became a growl. And then a yip of pain.

Ellis bolted upright. A gray-haired man loomed in the doorway and Peanut shivered under a nearby chaise lounge. Did that fucker just kick her?

He saw red. 

Nobody hurt an animal on his watch. 

Nobody.

He lunged off the bed and caught the man around the throat, driving him back against the wall. “What did you do to her?”

The man, obviously not used to being at the receiving end of abuse, sputtered and clawed at the hand around his throat. “W-what?” 

“The dog. You like kicking around small creatures, huh?” Ellis crowded into him, making sure the scrawny bastard realized how much bigger he was. At six-four he was bigger than most men, but he towered over this guy. “How’d you like it if I dropped you to the floor and kicked you in the ribs until you pissed yourself?”

The man’s eyes darted between him and Mrs. Cavendish, who had also jumped up from the bed and was now tugging on Ellis’s arm. She was little more than a gnat buzzing around him. Ineffective but annoying.

“Stop it. Ellis, stop!” she screeched. “That’s my husband. You’re hurting him!”

“Knew it,” Mr. Cavendish said between gasps. His face was turning an alarming shade of red. He had at least thirty years on his wife and could very easily keel over from a heart attack. 

Ellis loosened his grip. Bastard deserved some pain for hurting a puppy, but no way was he going down for this guy’s murder. Wasn’t worth it.

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