Ride Me Sweetheart (Sweetheart, Colorado) by Jordan Marie



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Finley





It’s Colorado.

We’re supposed to be cold this time of year, but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature about that. Clearly, she’s hot flashing—which explains why I’m sweating like a hooker in church at altar call. Still, I can’t complain. I get to wash up all my babies and make them presentable—in hopes of getting them adopted to their forever homes this week.

Valentine’s Day is a mere six days from today and though the traditional gift is usually diamonds, chocolate and flowers, I’m hoping the flyers I’ve given out along with the ad I’m running on the local radio station will encourage people to give the gift of adopted fur babies instead.

“Come on, Stinker! It’s just a bath!” I grumble to the giant—mostly Saint Bernard—doggy, which has been in the shelter for three weeks now. He’s adorable, but he’s also older. He’s at least five or six, and his hopes of being adopted are slim at best. “You’ve got to help me help you!” I encourage him. Stinker—yes, that’s the name I gave him, but purely out of affection—just whines. His paws and head are lying flat on the cement, refusing to budge.

I’ve bathed every single dog here, but I saved Stinker for last because I know he hates baths. I also knew he would fight me. What I didn’t know was that he would lay down on the cement and somehow flatten his body out so that his normally overweight body at two-hundred-fifty-eight pounds is now dead weight, feeling more like a thousand. I have a guy that helps me with this kind of thing, but he’s off sick today. I thought I could handle it all on my own.

Clearly, I was an idiot.

I could just wait until tomorrow, but I really want this done. If there’s any hope at all for Stinker to get his forever home, I want to do everything I can. I’d really like to keep him with me, but I don’t think I’m going to stick around. I took the job with the Sweetheart Animal Shelter, because I wanted to help the abandoned pets find forever homes. It was an added bonus that the shelter gave me a place to stay while I figured things out.

Sweetheart is a great town, I guess. I just don’t feel like I belong here. I keep trying, but I don’t think this cheerful town that seems to have overdosed on Cupid is for me.

It’s not that I’m depressed or even sad. I just don’t believe in happily ever after and Sweetheart, Colorado definitely does.

I work for thirty minutes trying to get Stinker to the tub. Pushing him in that direction only succeeds in frustrating me and making Stinker whine while letting out a big wave of gas.

Yep, that’s how he got the name.

I swear when this dog lets gas out, it smells bad enough to raise the dead. I try holding my breath, but some smells can’t be blocked. I decide to move to the front of the dog. Stinker’s breath isn’t great, but anything is better than what I’m currently getting. I bend over and secure my arms around Stinker, doing my best to pull him toward the water. It takes me a bit and a lot of effort, but I finally get a little movement.

“Jesus, Stinker, we need to put you on a high protein diet or something,” I huff, still tugging away. Stinker, for his part, just breathes out and manages to sound annoyed with me. I tug and tug, but Stinker resists. My legs hit the back of the tub, which startles me. I really didn’t think I’d made that much progress. It must surprise Stinker, too, because he jerks backwards. The movement of his head somehow dislodges my hold. I’m already off balance because I hit the tub of water and it splashed out on my pants. When Stinker moves like that, I fall backwards so abruptly that I can do nothing but cry out, landing into the tub of soapy water. I blow soapy bubbles out of my face, scrunching my nose up and wiping the rest with the back of my hand.

Suddenly, I hear laughter and look up to see a really tall guy standing over me. He’s wearing a leather vest with a plain white undershirt. His arms are bare except for the worn sleeves. He’s got sunglasses on. His hair looks like it was more on the dark blonde side of life at one time, but now has grown more brown with a hint of gray here and there. He’s tall, but not overly so, maybe somewhere around five-eleven to six foot. Of course, I’m five-nine, so that could just be my opinion. He has obvious muscles, but he’s not a gym rat, which I can definitely appreciate. I’d probably enjoy the show he’s offering if I wasn’t soaking wet and cold—not to mention the fact that Stinker is walking away and going to the old willow tree where he likes to lay when I let him run free in the fenced-in yard of the shelter.