Something black and heavy had fallen on her. Angela wanted to scream but the shrill sound was strangled in her throat. I’m going to die, she thought as the beast hovered over her, wet black eyes gleaming...
The solid, imposing weight seemed to be pulled off her roughly and Angela straightened off the pillows, her eyes wide with fear until she saw Shane standing at the foot of her bed with the biggest, blackest dog she’d ever seen.
Keeping his hand on the silent dog’s collar, Shane frowned. “You didn’t lock your bedroom door last night?”
Angela flushed. “I guess I forgot,” she said reluctantly. Now that she’d found her voice she hated that it sounded defensive instead of furious at Shane. How could he let that thing walk free around the house? Surely it was dangerous!
“Well you must not have shut it all the way either, because it had to be ajar for Asgard to have got in. I’m sorry about that by the way,” Shane said. “He’s very suspicious around strangers but he’d never hurt you. He was just smelling of you to check you out.”
“Jesus, Shane!” Angela finally burst out as her senses returned, her hands still grabbing her breasts in fright. “Your freaking...bear scared the shit out of me!” She suddenly realized what she was doing when she felt Shane’s gaze on her chest. She released the satin-cased mounds and pulled the covers up to her chin.
“He’s not a bear; he’s a Black Russian Terrier,” Shane said wryly, stroking the dog’s head. “Not such a popular choice for a pet, apparently - and he’s more a watch dog than a guard dog. Still...he’s very protective, loyal and active, yet controllable. You don’t need to be frightened of him. I promise.”
Angela swallowed, hating his shrewd observation that she was frightened. It was true that dogs scared her witless on a good day, especially ones the size of the imposing Asgard. She’d never grown up with pets and used to like dogs until she’d petted one who’d been dozing and almost had her wrist chewed off as a young child.
But she was twenty-six now, not ten. There was no need to freak out over what was obviously a house-trained pet by the way it licked on Shane’s palm, panting heavily all the while.
“Well, I guess he doesn’t look that aggressive,” she said after clearing her tight throat.
“He can be a little pushy and obnoxious if he likes you,” Shane replied drily. “But he’s perceptive so you shouldn’t show any sign of weakness around him.”
“Oh. Sure,” Angela said with equal irony. Trust Shane to keep a fearsome creature as his domesticated sidekick.
Suddenly, Shane grinned as if reading her mind. “Look, relax, okay? He’s fine and normally not up here in this part of the house. I was taking him for a morning walk when I realized I forgot my phone. He snuck out while I was looking for it and found his way in here. I’ll try to be more careful but please, make sure to keep the door closed completely. Otherwise I can’t guarantee this won’t happen again.”
“I won’t forget next time,” Angela said with a certainty. Though her heart couldn’t help but melt when the dog started to circle around Shane’s legs, sniffing affectionately. That was when Angela noticed the bare patches crisscrossing the beautiful black fur, and the way the big black dog limped on only three legs, one of the hind ones somewhat stunted.
“Oh...what happened to him?” she asked.
Shane went on one knee and grabbed the dog’s big head, and shook it playfully. “Some idiot pushed him under a moving train when he was a puppy. He survived but no one wanted him. Anyway, I found him at the dog rescue I fund and decided to adopt him. You could say there was an instant connection. Somehow he reminded me a little of myself,” he added in a faraway tone, before shaking his head as if to ward off any sentimentality as he straightened again. “We’re just a couple of screwed up guys, aren’t we buddy?”
Asgard licked his hand in agreement, happy for the attention.
“Well, now that you’re up, there’s breakfast if you want it,” Shane said briskly. “And then we’ll meet to discuss the order of the day as well as the coming week.”
“I didn’t really bring anything except a change of clothes...”
“Don’t worry about that; we’ll go over everything when you sign the contract. See you in an hour, Angela,” he said, as usual taking it for granted that she’d obey. She endured one more sweeping look from his penetrating grey gaze before he exited her room, shutting the door firmly after him, Asgard following closely.
Angela let out a shuddery breath and pushed her fingers through her tousled curls. What a way to start the day! Her heart still echoed a faint bass drumbeat. She could almost swear Shane had done it deliberately to scare the shit out of her but an instant later she felt bad for thinking that of him. Still, she hoped he’d keep the creature well away from her. She didn’t hate pets but she sure as hell wasn’t ready to keep worrying if some huge black hairy dog was going to jump on her and rip her to shreds.
Then she had to laugh at her ideas, knowing she was just being silly. Tossing the covers aside Angela headed for the shower, mind already focused on what the new day would bring. She would be signing the contract today, all things considered. Then they could talk about what lay ahead and she could wrap her head around it; prepare herself like she would for any other given role. Angela firmly told herself that the sooner she started the assignment off, the sooner it would get done and she could finally go home.