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It Happened at the Park


by Ryan Jo Summers

It Happened at the Park

Practical city planner, Cassidy Grant, just inherited her sister’s beloved dogs. Except she’s a career girl into heels and matching accessories, she’s not a dog mom. Worse, she’s required to take the furry darlings to the dog park.

Jilted, Ethan Sheppard finally got a dog. And he loves their bonding trips to the dog park. He’s also the secret cartoonist whose drawings poke fun at the city leadership.

After they meet, Ethan learns Cassidy’s going to be fired if she can’t identify the cartoonist, but telling her will cost his job.

 


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Release Date: June 20, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance | Novella


Excerpt

Chapter One

 

“Promise me.”

Just hearing the urgent concern threaded through Cindy’s voice made Cassidy cringe. Vainly she tried to push off her sister’s earnest request with a laugh. It didn’t work, falling pitifully flat.

“Promise me,” Cindy persisted.

Sagging, Cassidy relented, bowing her head in quiet defeat. “Yes, of course. It won’t be necessary, but I promise.”

Satiated, Cindy leaned back, a peaceful smile on her face. It was the first one Cassidy had seen in days. Cindy was the realist of the family, whereas Cassidy refused to believe in any other outcome than the one she wanted. Hence the reason this whole discussion, and promise, were unnecessary. Except it made Cindy smile. That was enough.

 

Looking back now, their conversation had been something she overlooked the significance of. She’d missed it by a mile. Cindy had requested to see her, saying it was urgent, so she rescheduled the day’s calendar and sandwiched Cindy in between two important meetings. Now, she had to admit she hadn’t been willing to give her sister’s concern the attention it deserved. Turns out, it was more important than her meetings.

Now, seated with her other sister, Karen, and Cindy’s lawyer, and gazing at the thick file, she could not suppress the shivers claiming her. Despite the climate control of the room, goosebumps peppered her skin. Cindy had been the baby, youngest of the three sisters. How was anyone expected to think she would be the first to leave?

Cassidy thought back, before the meeting where she was obligated to make that promise. Cindy was the free spirit, the happy-go-lucky and most extroverted of the trio. She seldom had as much as a cold. No one imagined her getting sick, seriously sick. Least of all, Cassidy.

She still clearly pictured the day the three of them went to the beach for a weekend. Last year. Cindy had begged Cassidy and Karen to put their lives, jobs and family on hold to accompany her to what she called fulfilling her bucket list. She’d won the trip as part of a magazine sweepstakes prize and didn’t want to go alone.

She sighed. That weekend at Rainbow Beach was as vivid in her mind as the beach’s picturesque name. She closed her eyes, still seeing Cindy laughing and splashing in the waves in her new striped bikini, bought just for the trip. She’d thought the water too cold for swimming, but it never stopped Cindy. Cindy always laughed at life. Cindy’s gift was the ability to see the humor in anything and bring others to see it as well.

Like the time Cindy made them rent horses and go riding. It was supposed to be fun, she’d promised, a gleam in her eye. It wasn’t too bad until Karen got bucked off and landed in a big mud puddle. She’d only hurt her pride, lost the horse and had to ride back behind Cassidy. By the time they reached the stable, Karen’s horse was waiting and they were laughing. The stable man thought they were crazy.

Karen said it took three washings to get all that dried mud out of her hair and clothes.

“So now it’s settled,” Higgins said, closing the file and breaking through Cassidy’s memories. He gave her a long study before continuing. “It was quite simple and clean how Cindy wanted her assets dispensed and her remains handled. Do either of you have any questions?”

Yes, she had countless, but only one this guy could answer. She cleared her throat. “I still don’t understand why I have to take them. Personally, Karen is much better suited for this.” She flicked a wrist at her older sister. “She’s already a mom so what’s a couple more?”

Higgins pulled his glasses off. “That may be, Miss Grant. However, your sister determined you were the better guardian for them.”

“Allergies,” Karen cut in. “Don’t forget about the allergies.”

Like she could. What a convenient excuse. “But I work crazy long hours. They will never see me. I’ll never see them. And it’s unfair to expect me to do all that stuff Cindy listed.” Truly, the promise was the short part. The following laundry list was exhaustive. She’d seen business contracts and budgets that were shorter.

Higgins eased out a sigh. “That may be as well, but unless you want to contest the will, and turn it over to probate to eventually decide upon, your best option really is to fulfill your promised obligation to your late sister.”

That stupid promise, made under duress, on a tight schedule, in Cindy’s room. What had she been thinking? Like normal, she hadn’t been. Cindy had a penchant for making her brain freeze like she was eating ice cream too fast. “Fine. So where are they?” She was acutely aware of Karen’s quiet smirk and Higgins’ satisfied mile. She thrust her hand out for the records of her new charges.

“Happy Days Daycare. Directions are on that top page.”

Half an hour later, and still lamenting silently over the legal facts, and that stupid promise, Cassidy pulled her BMW convertible into the Happy Days parking lot. Looking around, she felt dismay, and a little disgust, filling her. Picking up her phone, she dialed Karen’s number.

“I’m here at Happy Days. Did you know what this place is like? And I haven’t made it out of the car yet. The noise is deafening. Everyone here is running around, drooling and carrying on. I swear they all have rabies.”

“Yes, I took them there, remember? Just take a big breath, march in there and claim them. I mean, they are your niece and nephew.”

“Very funny, Karen.” Why was she the lucky one to have all the allergies? Entirely too convenient.

“This is only a primer of what is ahead, Cassidy. Just think of all the things you will have to do now.”

Cassidy had done nothing since she left the lawyer but think about her laundry list. Eyeing the building, she felt her brows pull up into a scowl. That would only add wrinkles. “You’re no help. Good bye.” Dropping the phone in her bag, she clutched both it and the file from the lawyer and pushed the door open with the toe of her heel. For Cindy, she would do this. Primer? Ha, she’d show Karen. Really, how hard could this be?

Within moments of introducing herself, Cassidy gazed in dismay. Squaring her shoulders, she studied the situation analytically. Okay, the smaller one was Tessa, and the larger one was Remi. She was positive of that before it was pointed out to her. Once the ponytailed daycare employee removed them from the mats in their play pen, they settled down and gave her a curious exam. Were they missing their mommy? Were they wondering why she was here instead of Cindy?

Another employee told her about their recent escapades and yet another brought out their stuff. Endless stuff. Toys, beds, clothing, food, snacks, where did it all end? She would have to put the top up on the convertible. Two bouncing ponytails helped her take it all to the car, both offering their condolences for Cindy. Cassidy could see Cindy had been a favorite mom at Happy Days Daycare.

She filled the BMW’s trunk with as much of their stuff as she could, cramming more in the narrow back space. That left only the front seat for Tessa and Remi. She cringed as she pictured the mess they were going to make on the upholstery and glass.

Watching the Ponytails kneel and give final hugs and kisses to Tessa and Remi, and their own eager interactions, Cassidy was struck by how little attention she ever paid them. These were the loves of Cindy’s life and she knew next to nothing about them. Did that make her a bad sister? Or as Karen put it, a bad auntie?

“Okay, guys, let’s go,” she said, holding the passenger door open for them. She shook hands with the Ponytails, thanked them for their excellent care and assured them she would fill in for Cindy the best she could. Leaving the deafening thunder of Happy Days in her rear view, she glanced at the two subdued dogs huddled on her seat.

 

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