Suddenly Engaged (A Lake Haven Novel Book 3)(5)

By: Julia London


“What’d I tell you yesterday?” he asked.

“To stay on the other side of the fence.”

“Then why are you over here?”

“I forgot.” She rocked back on her heels and balanced on them, toes up. “Do you live there?”

“No, I just stand on the porch and guard the fence. Yes, I live here. And I work here. And I don’t want visitors. Now go home.”

“My name is Ruby Kokinos. What’s yours?”

What was wrong with this kid? “Where is your mother?”

“At work.”

“Then is your dad home?”

“My daddy is in Africa. He teaches cats to do tricks,” she said, pausing to twirl around on one heel. “Big cats, not little cats. They have really big cats in Africa.”

“Whatever,” he said impatiently. “Who is home with you right now?”

“Mrs. Miller. She’s watching TV. She said I could go outside.”

Great. A babysitter. “Go home,” he said, pointing to Number Three as Otto wandered over to examine Ruby Coconuts, or whatever her name was. “Go home and tell Mrs. Miller that you’re not allowed to come over or under that fence. Do you understand me?”

“What’s your dog’s name?” she asked, petting that lazy, useless mutt.

“Did you hear me?” Dax asked.

“Yes.” She giggled as Otto began to lick her hand, and went down on her knees to hug him. “I always always wanted a dog, but Mommy says I can’t have one now. Maybe when I’m big.” She stroked Otto’s nose, and the dog sat, settling in for some attention.

“Don’t pet the dog,” Dax said. “I just told you to go home. What else did I tell you to do?”

“To, um, to tell Mrs. Miller to stay over there,” she said, as she continued to pet the dog. “What’s her name?”

“It’s a he, and his name is Otto. And I told you to tell Mrs. Miller that you are supposed to stay over there. Now go on.”

She stopped petting the dog, and Otto, not ready for the gravy train of attention to end, began to lick her face. Ruby giggled with delight. Otto licked harder, like she’d been handling red meat. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise Dax if she had—the kid seemed like the type to be into everything. She was laughing uncontrollably now and fell onto her back. Otto straddled her, his tail wagging as hard as her feet were kicking, trying to lick her while she tried to hold him off.

Nope, this was not going to happen. Those two useless beings were not making friends. Dax marched down off the porch and grabbed Otto’s collar, shoving him out of the way. “Go,” he said to the dog, pointing to his cottage. Otto obediently lumbered away.

Dax turned his attention to the girl with the fantastically dark red hair in two uneven pigtails and, now that he was close to her, he could see her clear blue eyes through the round lenses of her blue plastic eyeglasses, which were strapped to her face with a headband. She looked like a very young little old lady. “Listen to me, kid. I don’t want you over here. I work here. Serious work. I can’t be entertaining little girls.”

She hopped to her feet. “What’s your name?”

Dax sighed. “If I tell you my name, will you go home?”

She nodded, her long pigtails bouncing around her.

“Dax.”

She stared at him.

“That’s my name,” he said with a shrug.

Ruby giggled and began to sway side to side. “That’s not a real name!”

“It’s as real as Ruby Coconuts.”

“Not Coconuts!” She squealed with delight. “It’s Ruby Kokinos.”

“Yeah, okay, but I’m pretty sure you said Coconuts. Now go home.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m a lot older than you,” he said and put his hands on her shoulders, turning her around.

“I’m going to be seven on my birthday. I want a Barbie for my birthday. I already have four. I want the one that has the car. The pink car with flowers on it. There’s a blue car, but I don’t want that one, I want the pink one, because it has flowers on it. Oh, and guess what, I don’t want a Jasmine anymore. That’s my favorite princess, but I don’t want her anymore, I want a Barbie like Taleesha has.”

“Great. Good luck with that,” he said as he moved her toward the fence.

“My shoes light up,” she informed him, stomping her feet as they moved. “My mom says they’re fancy. They’re my favorites. I have some sneakers, too, but they don’t light up.”

They had reached the fence, thank God, before the girl could give him a rundown of her entire shoe collection. Ruby dipped down, apparently thinking she’d go under again, but Dax caught her under her arms and swung her over the fence, depositing her on the other side.

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