Home > A Spot of Trouble

A Spot of Trouble
Author: Teri Wilson

 


Chapter 1


   For as long as Violet March could remember, Turtle Beach, North Carolina, had been a one-Dalmatian town.

   Not entirely true, because until the day Violet found Sprinkles at a pet rescue fair in nearby Wilmington and adopted her on the spot—pun intended—there had been zero Dalmatians in her hometown. None whatsoever. A Dalmatian drought, so to speak.

   But now Violet had Sprinkles, Turtle Beach’s total Dalmatian population. Everyone in the seaside town knew the spirited black-and-white dog belonged to her. Violet and Sprinkles were inseparable. If Sprinkles had been a person, they might have been soul mates. But alas, Sprinkles was a dog. An adorable, spotted sweetheart of a dog with an unfortunate penchant for getting into trouble, which made it all the more baffling that someone would have the nerve to try and dognap her in broad daylight.

   “Hey! Hey, you, stop it right now!” Violet flailed her arms and screamed. Sea foam swirled around her ankles as she jogged from the shallows onto the warm, dry sand.

   Bringing Sprinkles to the dog beach, the island’s small dedicated stretch of shoreline for dogs to romp and play, had become something of a ritual on the mornings Violet taught yoga. After an hour or so of chasing a tennis ball and barking and jumping at the waves, Sprinkles could almost sit still until final relaxation pose. Of course, Violet never imagined the dog beach could be a hotbed of canine crime.

   Violet called out again, but the dognapper didn’t even flinch. He just kept walking in the opposite direction with Sprinkles tethered to his wrist by a long red leash. She glanced around, half-expecting her dad or one of her brothers to jump out from behind a clump of seagrass and come to her rescue. They had a tendency to hover. A lot.

   But for once in her life, her personal protection squad was nowhere to be seen. She was on her own, not a blue police uniform in sight. On any ordinary day, this would have thrilled Violet to pieces. Now, not so much.

   “Let go of my dog!” she yelled, sprinting and kicking up sand in her yoga clothes.

   A few heads turned her way, but the early morning crowd at the dog beach skewed older. Geriatric, mostly. The senior citizens of Turtle Beach were well-acquainted with Violet and therefore accustomed to the chaos that surrounded her on any given day. Naturally, they seemed more amused than alarmed when she darted past.

   Their dogs, on the other hand, sprang into action, quickly giving chase. Within seconds, there were half a dozen dogs nipping at Violet’s heels. By the time she made it to the far end of the dog beach, someone had taken a bite out of the hem of her lululemons. Mrs. Banks’s corgi, most likely.

   Perfect. Just perfect.

   “Hey,” she yelled again. “What do you think you’re doing?”

   This time, the criminal stopped. He turned around and arched an amused brow as he took in the sight of her bent over, breathing hard, with a random collection of dogs milling about her feet.

   So he thought dognapping was funny, did he?

   She glared at him, and that’s when she noticed the letters stitched onto the pocket of his charcoal gray T-shirt—TBFD. Turtle Beach Fire Department. Violet felt her eyes widen in horror.

   The dognapper was a fireman, because of course he was.

   Not that Violet had anything against firefighters and their kitten-saving skill set per se. It was complicated, that’s all.

   The fireman’s brow furrowed. “I’m, ah, walking my dog. This is the dog beach, is it not?”

   “Walking your dog? Very funny.” Sprinkles was the only Dalmatian in town. Again, everyone knew that.

   She punched three numbers into her phone.

   “Did you just dial 911?” The fireman cocked his head, and Sprinkles instantly mirrored his movement. They looked rather adorable together—the dognapper and the traitor.

   “Of course I did.”

   “You really don’t need to do that.” He pointed at the silver badge sitting right below the letters stitched onto his shirt pocket. “I’m one of the guys who comes when you make that call. Is there something you need help with?”

   Violet ignored him—manly wide shoulders and all—and gave the details of her whereabouts to the 911 dispatcher. The operator, Patty Jenkins, knew Violet by name. It was a small town, and Mrs. Jenkins sat at a desk approximately ten feet away from her father’s office.

   “Send my dad…or Joe, or Josh. Send anyone, but please tell them to get here quickly. Someone is trying to kidnap Sprinkles.” Violet’s gaze flitted from the top of the fireman’s head to the tips of his polished black boots. “A firefighter.”

   “Oh, dear,” the operator said.

   “Exactly.” Violet would have identified which fireman in particular was trying to abscond with her four-legged best friend, but she didn’t recognize him. So she ended the call, crossed her arms, and pinned the offending man with a glare. “The police are on the way. Don’t even think about running.”

   “I wouldn’t dare,” he said drolly.

   His utter shamelessness after being caught red-handed was really beginning to get on her nerves. As was Sprinkles’s nonchalance. Didn’t she realize she was in danger?

   The dog let out a squeaky yawn and plopped into a down position at the fireman’s feet. Violet sighed as Sprinkles closed her eyes and rested her chin on the toe of his boot.

   Seriously?

   Sprinkles had developed Stockholm syndrome in a matter of minutes. Maybe it was a Dalmatian–fireman thing. Or maybe it had something to do with her kidnapper’s charmingly mussed dark hair and his startling green eyes. Bottle-green, like corked glass floating in the ocean with a secret love note hidden inside.

   Not that Violet had noticed those things.

   Much.

   The dogs that had joined her on the chase down the shore definitely seemed to notice. They sniffed at the fireman’s feet, wagged their tails, and in general fawned all over him. When he crouched down to pet the corgi, the collective tail-wagging went into overdrive.

   Honestly, the whole tableau was beginning to look like a page from one of those sexy firefighter calendars. Violet was aggressively annoyed.

   “Just give me my dog, okay?” She sighed, hating the tiny hint of desperation in her voice. Clearly this man had no idea how much she loved her pup. “If you do the right thing now, maybe you won’t get arrested.”

   “Arrested?” He stood, much to his canine fan club’s disappointment. Tails drooped. A poodle mix sporting pink bows on its ears let out a mournful whine. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”

   Good grief, he was smug. She couldn’t wait for her dad or one of her brothers to show up and slap a pair of handcuffs on him. His perp walk was going to be a thing of beauty. Maybe she’d video it and put it on YouTube. Or TikTok, or Instagram stories, or whatever social media site the kids were using these days.

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