Daily Prompt: Tender

Tender

Gabriella tenderly stroked her dog’s fur.  Her beautiful lab had been at her side loyally for years, and she loved that dog more than she liked most humans.  Libby her yellow lab had chased off snakes, growled at strangers in her yard, and crawled into her bed each night to keep her company.  Yes, she could honestly say she loved her dog with all of her heart.

She came home early today from work only to hear obnoxious barking in the back yard.  Libby must have treed a squirrel again, and her neighbors were not going to be happy.  She tossed her things aside and made her way to the back yard which Libby guarded well, thankfully fenced in to give her freedom to run during the long work week.

Instead of running into her arms like normal, Libby continued to bark, only she was barking through the fence at whatever was on the other side.  The home next door had just sold, and she figured with her luck the new neighbors had a cat that would drive Libby insane everyday, being able to see and smell it but not chase…

She lovingly chided Libby, and coaxed her into calming down.  She patted her back and told her to fetch the ball.  Libby ran off to find the old Kong tennis ball, and instead returned with a dirty old stick, still slimy apparently from a day’s worth of drool and hard lab labor.  “Ew!” she playfully shrieked and skirted out of the way, unintentionally goading Libby into a wrestle.

Eventually they both ended up lying in the grass, Libby tucked under Gabriella’s arm, watching the clouds drift by.  Gabriella’s curiosity got the best of her, and she wanted to see what was on the other side of that fence.  Hopefully it was just a pet cat, and not some weird pet lizard or something.  Maybe the new neighbors had a thing for armadillos or opossums or some other creepily amazing animal.  She crawled over to the fence to peek between the boards, but she couldn’t see anything of interest.

She stood tall, grabbed the top of the fence and attempted to make a quick jump high enough to see over.  No such luck as her 5’6″ frame could barely reach the top cupboards in her kitchen.  She took another peek and didn’t see anyone in the back yard, so she decided to sneak to the front yard and peek around the fence, real quick, just to get an idea of what was going to drive her baby crazy for the next who knows how long.

She told Libby to stay as she slipped through her own gate.  She tip toed to the border of the neighbors’ yard and still saw nothing.  She could just bring over fruit cake or something else later in the day and make formal introductions, but curiosity got he best of her.  She took one last look around and saw nobody in sight, so she sprinted to the back yard and took a peek behind the house.

Surprised by her disappointment, there were no armadillos or boa constrictors or pet kangaroos in the back yard.  It was plain and simple and boring.  She caught herself sighing and shrugging her shoulders as she turned around.

And screamed!

Oh she had been busted big time by the most handsome man she had ever seen.  He stood there, easily over six feet tall, with a smile on his chiseled face, and told his husky to heel in a voice so deep and sexy she would be dreaming about for ages.

Her screams had sent Libby straight into another barking fit, and she couldn’t be invisible if she tried due to the lobster red that she knew was covering her face at the moment.

Well, shit.  How was she going to recover from this one?

His calm demeanor settled her enough to regain her bearings.  “I was, ah, just, uhm, checking out the new neighbor,” she said, feeling her face go straight back to red.

His smile broadened as he patted the husky’s fluffy head.  “So what do you think of him?” He asked her.

Oh shit again.  Maybe she would attempt some humor.  “Well, I was disappointed to not find an anaconda in the back yard, honestly” she managed to choke out, wishing she could just dive into a hole and disappear for a while.  She watched his eyes dilate and widen, his smile just widening all the more.  He seemed perfectly content to let her go on, and she found herself mumbling some more,  “but things seem to be looking up” she finished.

“I would agree,” he replied.

Unable to bear any further embarrassment, she attempted to forego the conversation completely and slink back to her house.  She put her head down and attempted to barge past him to reach the privacy of her own back yard.

***

Harrison couldn’t believe his luck.  He returned from walking his dog just in time to see a delightful, sweet little body slink around the fence and dash to his back yard.  He wasn’t expecting anyone to be home at this time of the day, and he was further delighted that it was such a gorgeous female body.

He recognized her from weeks ago.  He had toured the home, which had previously been owned by an elderly couple in their 80’s, and as they sat down to discuss the terms of the purchase, he caught sight of the petite frame next door, attempting to wrangle her over sized, well fed lab out the door and down the street.  It had only taken ten feet or so and they fell into sync with each other, clearly having done this particular routine many times before, and it was a precious sight to see someone so tender with their fur baby.

The elderly couple caught his stare, and they immediately talked her up.  “Oh, sweet little Gabriella,” they began, each taking turns bragging about her kindness and beauty.  He had lived with his grandparents all throughout college, and he had tremendous respect for anyone who could treat the elderly with such thoughtfulness.  He knew before he even met her that he would like her.

However, he never imagined this would be the way the first conversation would go.  He hadn’t meant to startle her, but her scream clearly indicated that he had.  He tried to be as calm and cautious as possible, but her stuttered speech again indicated otherwise.

She really had a way with words.  First, announce that you are checking out the new neighbor, then announce you are disappointed at his lack of anaconda.  He nearly laughed out loud, but judging from the red burning her cheeks, she wouldn’t have appreciated that much.

She finally gave up trying and decided to just run home.  He didn’t want to miss this opportunity to meet her, and he found himself reaching out to catch her arm as she hustled by.  It seemed to startle her yet again, but this time she didn’t scream.  This time she just stopped, took a deep breath, and slowly brought her eyes up to his.

“I’m sorry, we haven’t properly been introduced.  I’m Harrison Ingelkes, and this here is Timber, the world’s sweetest husky you’ll ever meet,” he said, measuring her reaction.

She relaxed visibly, and a smile crossed her face for the first time.  Good, this was progress, he thought to himself.  He didn’t want her to run, he wanted to get to know her.  She thrust out her arm and took his hand, saying, “I’m Gabriella, and the barkaholic in my back yard is Libby, the sweetest yellow lab you’ll ever meet.  Hopefully they’ll become friends so Libby won’t get us both excommunicated from the neighborhood before daybreak.”  He loved the mischievous way her lips curled into a smile and her eyes seemed to sparkle at the mention of her dog.

“Maybe they should meet,” he offered.

She gave him a look that said, “it’s your funeral.”

“OK,” she said, and led him over to her yard.

Trying to ease the tension, he asked about her dog’s name.

“Oh, that’s easy.  My Grandma had a dog named Libby, and I loved her.  She was some sort of mutt, the cutest mutt you ever saw.  This thing had the body of a golden retriever but the legs of  Spaniel.  Her coat was the curliest gold you’ve ever seen, and she was so sweet.  She always let me pet her and when I stayed the night, she would always curl up on the couch with me.  So when I saw this Libby at the pound, my heart just melted.  I knew it was meant to be.  She may be a good ten pounds overweight, but she’s happy.  And she’s mine.”

She looked back at him as she reached the door at the fence.  “I’m sorry, I’m rambling.  How about Timber.  How did you pick that name?” she asked.

“She reminded me of a Timber wolf, and I thought it would be hilarious to stand in the yard calling ‘Tiiimmmmbbbeeerrr’ for my dog, and not for felling a tree,” he said, Gabriella’s smile turning into a giggle, the sweetest sound he had ever heard.

“That’s so great!” she said between fits of laughter.

As soon as she opened the gate, Libby came bounding for them.  Gabriella quickly tamed the wild beast, and the two dogs instantly became friends.  They were off chasing in the backyard, and as soon as Libby could remember, she found her drool laden stick and teased the timber wolf looking husky relentlessly with it.  When the dog brought the stick back to Libby, she did her best not to fuss, and the gentleness she showed with the overweight furball melted his heart.

He loved how tender she could be, but he also loved her curiosity.  The conversation easily picked up once she was back on familiar turf.  She asked many questions, genuinely seeking to know him better, and he was happy to share.

He knew in his heart that purchasing this house was the best decision he had ever made.  He couldn’t wait to see where this instant friendship landed, and he knew he had all the time in the world to make it happen…

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