Sample The Vet's Christmas Pet

Sunday, December 4, 2022

The fact that Jade thought she had to put on a brave face saddened me. No five-year-old child should have to pretend something didn't matter just to avoid upsetting her parent.

I swallowed my sigh and walked through the doorway, carrying one glass of Otaheite apple juice and one glass of water. "The patient is okay?" I asked.

Matthias nodded. "He's fine. Totally recovered." He slipped Jade a sideways glance and tugged her plait. "He'll be in good health if he sticks to doggie food."

She leaned her head back and smiled. "I already promised not to give him any more cake."

Tipping his head at the fish tank, Matthias said, "I hope you haven't been giving Phyllis cake either."

Jade rolled her eyes. "Of course not."

The phone rang, distracting Jade. She jumped off the sofa and picked up the handset, which she always did since she loved answering the phone.

I handed Matthias the glass of water, leaving the other on the table for Jade and paid attention when she said, "Hi, Daddy."

Her gaze slid sideways and then she said. "Yeah, me and Doc."

A few beats went by before she smiled. "He fixed up Ridley."

A hand went to her side. "Ridley is my dog."

When her brows crumpled, I wanted to take the phone from her. She put one hand across her stomach, reminding me of the way I stood when answering the phone—especially when I was in defensive mode.

"Mommy said I could have him."

Jade's tone pulled my head out of the clouds and I moved to where she stood and took the handset. "Dane. What's up?"

"Who's Doc and when did Jade get a dog?"

"We found him, and Doc—"

"You allowed Jade to keep a stray dog? How d'you know—"

"Calm down. Ridley isn't a health risk."

"When did you find time to go to veterinary school?"

This was the way it had been between us in the last few years. I'd had enough of him so I sighed, turning away from Matthias, who was too still to not be listening to me.

"What d'you want?"

"I was calling to let you know I'll be out of town this weekend, so I can't have Jade over on Friday."

"So what's new?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"This is the third time in a row you've cancelled your weekend—no, the one day you're supposed to spend with her."

"You know the job—"

I lowered my voice and stepped away from Matthias and Jade. "Whatever. Your job isn't supposed to be more important than your child."

"You're just trying to guilt me and by the way, who is that man you have over there?"

"That's none of your business and by the way, that's not me making you guilty. It's what's left of your conscience. Don't worry. I'll tell Jade you can't see her on Friday. Just like the last two times."

While he sputtered, I hung up the phone.

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