Happy Friday, readers! And it's the first day of autumn to boot, which brings us just that much closer to the release of Fall Into Romance. Are you excited? I know I am! Today I have Raine English with me to share her favorite scene from her novella, At Second Glance.
USA Today bestselling author Raine English always wanted to be a writer. She began her career as a journalist, but writing romance novels was her passion. Her books have won many awards, including finalling in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart and winning the Daphne du Maurier Award. When not behind her computer, you can usually find her reading. She lives in New England with her family and two French bulldogs, Bailey and Dolly.
When asked why she picked this particular scene, Raine said, "There’s a lot going on in this scene, and it sets up a couple of major plot points. I love the way Claire and Julian interact with each other over his wanting to adopt Tank. And then there’s the part where Claire sees Gracie with another man and questions whether her sister’s marriage is in trouble."
So what is At Second Glance about? It can be summed up in one sentence:
Can an ornery French bulldog help a mismatched couple find love?
Claire was so glad it wasn’t raining. Whenever you went to an outdoor event in Romance, you ran the risk of getting wet. Luckily, that wouldn’t be the case today at the town festival. It was partly cloudy and cool, but there was no rain in sight.
The event was a big deal, and people were already lined up outside the entry gate, even though it wasn’t due to open for another thirty minutes. The smells coming from the nearby food booths were making her mouth water, and she knew she’d wind up eating more than she should today. Add that to the fact that she overindulged last night when she went out to dinner with Gracie, and there was no doubt that she’d need to go on a diet by the time she headed home. But she considered this time in Oregon a vacation, and she intended to enjoy it.
Claire was happy that Gracie had agreed to come today. She didn’t know how long her sister would stay, but at least she was here and out of the house, even if only for a while. She’d left her at the craft booths, where Gracie had been looking at some handmade jewelry.
The animal adoption station was under a large white tent. Brent had pulled up all the sides in order for there to be a full view of the animals’ kennels. She’d been able to convince him to bring Tank, as long as she promised to keep watch over him. Although he wasn’t near ready to be adopted out, she hated to leave him behind. This would give him the opportunity to be around a large number of people and for her to see how he reacted.
She’d put his kennel at the back of the tent, not wanting to draw attention to him. Tank seemed perfectly content chewing his bone, and as long as Claire sat next to his cage, there was no growling. Brent had a large number of volunteers, all determined to find homes for as many of the animals today as possible, so she was more than willing to take a backseat and let them deal with the public. She’d stay with Tank and make sure all the animals had enough water and that their cages were clean.
Once the gate opened, she settled back in her chair with a hot cup of coffee and watched the parade of people flow by. It didn’t take long for a number of the smaller dogs to get adopted. Even a large hound went to a young couple within the first hour. At this rate, there might not be any dogs left for her to take back to Doggie Town. She glanced over at Tank, who was asleep on his back with all four legs up in the air. His future, though, was yet to be determined. He might not be the easiest dog to find a home for, especially, after she was gone. It was very apparent he needed tons of attention, which wasn’t unusual for the breed. But it took a special kind of person to commit the time required to keep a dog like Tank from developing a whole host of behavioral issues.
Claire was just about to go get a refill on her coffee when a familiar face entered the tent. Her breath hitched in her throat when Julian Barnett’s clear blue eyes locked with hers. He made his way through the crowd that packed the tent to stand in front of her.
“Looks like the Finding Forever booth is the hit of the festival,” he said, flashing her a brilliant smile.
“Rightfully so. These animals deserve to be in good homes, not in kennels.”
His gaze shifted over to Tank, who had flipped over onto his belly and was eyeing Julian with uncertainty. His curled lip was back as was his grumble. “Who’s this guy?” he asked, placing his hand on the top of Tank’s cage. Big mistake, as the dog leapt up and let loose a full-out snarl.
He quickly pulled back his hand. “Are all the dogs this friendly?”
“Tank has some emotional issues.”
“I can see that,” he said with quiet emphasis.
“He was given up by his family just the other day, so it’s going to take him some time to get over losing his home,” Claire replied, sticking her hand in the kennel so that Tank could lick it.
“He likes you well enough.”
“It’s a case of understanding the breed. Frenchies need lots of love and attention. They’re not the kind of dog you can leave home alone all day. If you do, you’ll find that they can become very destructive.”
“I want to adopt him.”
Claire’s brows shot up “What? As you can see, he’s not ready for adoption, and I haven’t even given him a temperament test yet.”
“I don’t care about that. I’ve already seen what his temperament is.”
“T-today’s not a true indication of what his true temperament is,” she stuttered, completely at a loss as to why Julian would want Tank. “Look!” She pointed to the other kennels. “There are plenty of dogs you can adopt. Just not this one.”
“But that’s the one I want.”
“Why?” she asked, not trying in the least to keep her annoyance from showing.
“It’s obvious he needs to be with someone who can give him lots of affection. You said that yourself. I can do that. I can even take him to work with me. I’ll bet with your help, before long Tank and I will be great buddies.”
Claire’s jaw dropped open. “What do you mean, with my help?”
“I want to hire you to help me work with Tank.”
Claire’s face grew hot, and her temper was rising. She made a concerted effort to keep her voice low. “This isn’t about what you want. It’s about what’s best for the dog.”
“And you don’t think I can provide a good home?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what did you say?”
“Look, Tank’s not ready to go anywhere yet. He needs lots of work.”
“Exactly why I want to hire you. Why should Tank have to spend more time in a cage when he can have the run of my house? I’ll bet that’ll make him feel better in no time. Besides, there’s no one there but me. And if he bites me, I take full responsibility.”
“I don’t want him biting anyone. Not even you.”
“I’m glad to hear that your feelings for me are improving.”
For the first time in ages, Claire was at a loss for words. Julian Barnett was the most incorrigible man she’d ever met.
Unfortunately, this was the moment that Brent decided to come over to say hello. “Hey, Julian! How are you? Looking to adopt today?”
Julian’s glance shot from Brent over to Claire and then back to Brent. “As a matter of fact, I am.”
“Fantastic. I’ve got a great lab mix over here.”
But as Brent started to walk across the tent, Julian stopped him by saying, “I’ve been talking to Claire about adopting Tank.”
Brent ran a hand through his hair. “And what did she say?”
“That Tank needs a temperament test first, but I really don’t care about that. I want to hire Claire to help with the dog’s adjustment to me and my home.”
To Claire’s horror, Brent grinned. “That’s great. I was worried about being able to place Tank, but this seems like the perfect solution.” Brent turned to her. “Thanks so much for agreeing to do that.”
Claire opened her mouth to protest, but snapped it shut as she thought better of it. This wasn’t the time or place to get into an argument. Best to wait until later to voice her objections. But then things went from bad to worse when Brent and Julian went over to the table and began doing up the adoption papers. A few minutes later, they were back.
“Since you’re not going to be in Romance that long, why don’t you do the temperament test tomorrow, Claire? And if all goes well, you can bring Tank over to Julian’s and begin training. How does that sound?” Brent asked.
“Fine,” she replied through gritted teeth.
“How’s one o’clock?” Julian asked, looking like the cat who’d just swallowed the canary.
“That’s fine too,” Claire replied, shooting him a tight-lipped smile.
“Good! You know how to get to the Barnett Winery?”
“Of course,” she said sourly.
“My parents’ house is right next door. Mine is next to that. It’s the tan one-level home. You can’t miss it. Well, guess I better get back to my booth.” Before he left, he leaned toward Tank’s kennel. The dog let out a low growl. “See you tomorrow. Before long, we’re going to be great buddies.” Julian whistled a happy tune as he walked away.
Claire wished she felt as confident that Tank would bond with him, but right now, she had no way of knowing if that would happen. All she could do was hope and make sure that she did all that she could to integrate the dog into Julian’s home.
The crowd in the booth had thinned a little, so she went to Nicole and said, “I’m going to take a quick break and go grab something to eat. Will you keep an eye on Tank?” What Claire really needed was to walk off some of this stress.
“Sure.” She set down the clipboard she’d been holding and stuck her hand into her pant pocket, pulling out a five-dollar bill. “Would you mind stopping at the doughnut booth on your way back and getting me an apple caramel one?”
“Of course, and I don’t need your money. It’s on me. My thanks for watching the grumbler while I’m gone.”
“Claire, you don’t have to do that. Here, take it.” She held out her hand, but Claire pushed it away.
“I’ll see you in a bit.” She wound through a crowd of people watching a pumpkin-pie baking contest and wondered if Gracie was in among them. It would be nice to have lunch with her. Having company might help to take her mind off Tank’s adoption to Julian Barnett.
She found an empty spot next to the photo booth and took her cell phone out of her pocket, but as she began dialing her sister, she caught a glimpse of hot pink—the same color as the shirt Gracie had on—and turned her attention to a couple about twelve feet away. She quickly hung up her phone. It was Gracie, and she was with a very attractive man. Claire recognized Tim Hayden as one of the guys her sister used to date back in high school. He didn’t look much different from the prom picture she’d seen of him last night that Gracie had on the bedroom floor.
A huge, painful knot twisted inside her. They were standing awfully close together, and Gracie’s face held an expression that Claire hadn’t seen since they were young. It was full of life, and she looked exactly like that beautiful teenager everyone in Romance had adored.
She quickly looked away as a heaviness settled in her chest. Was Gracie’s marriage in trouble? Was that what had been bothering her? She prayed that wasn’t the case, but from what she’d just seen, it appeared likely that it might very well be.
Could this day get any worse, she thought as she headed over to the doughnut booth. What should have been a perfect Saturday, had turned out to be anything but… “I’ll have two apple caramel doughnuts,” she said to the heavy-set man working the booth. What the heck. Her diet had been shot the moment she set foot in Romance.
Poor Claire sounds like she's got her work cut out for her! Have you ever found yourself cornered into doing something you really didn't want to?
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius