Violet unlocked the door to her home, chuckling at John's stories. "So you traveled to Tibet and climbed Mt. Everest…wearing a Stetson?"
He nodded. "Until it got cold about three minutes into the trip. That's downright cold over there. Somebody's gotta turn up that heat."
He was so pleasant to be around, but she had to get this job done so she could get back to work.
She opened the door and ushered him inside. "Ignore the cheap furniture."
"Cheap?" He walked inside and looked into the living room, to the left. "I wouldn't say cheap. I'd say…eclectic. I like it. It's homey."
Violet stared into the living room at her mismatched furniture, all hand-me-downs. Even though she owned an old brown couch and a light blue chair, she'd tried to make things nice. But with the dogs, the bottom of the couch had been chewed. "More power to ya," she said. "With four dogs, old furniture is a given, even if it was new at some point."
"Not to worry. Now where are those dogs?"
She headed through the foyer and into the kitchen. "Follow me." She unlocked the back door and opened it. "Team, come here!"
The door to her parent's house opened from across the other lawn and four small Boston terriers came running on their tiny legs.
"Will you look at that," John said. "They look like tiny calves."
Violet chuckled. "Yeah. But they grunt like pigs, sometimes. And I have to warn you, they really smell. I think they're the gassiest dogs around."
John shook his head, appearing amused. "I grew up on a ranch until I was about six. Nothin' can smell worse than that."
"You just wait."
All four puppies bounded up the stairs to the porch and jumped up on Violet. "Hey, guys. I missed you all." She knelt down and they licked her chin.
Bear turned and jumped up on John, panting with a smile. John picked up the dog and stroked his back. "Which one's this?" Bear licked the side of his cheek.
"Bear," Violet said, straightening up.
The dogs all began jumping up on John's legs. "Wait, guys," he said. "I can only hold one at a time."
"Good luck," she said, and headed back inside. "Want something to drink?" She opened the refrigerator and two of the dogs put their paws up so they could see inside. "I have water, juice, soda, and it seems, too dogs trying to climb inside."
"No. I'm good." John put Bear down and moved all the dogs toward the living room. "Never a dull moment."
"You have no idea. I've had them since they were six weeks old. Their mother was hit by a car, and they needed someone to take them. So no, there are no dull moments at my house."
"Let's get this done before they start destroying your home."
She shook her head. "Too late for that. Now where do you want them to be for the pictures?"
He pointed toward the living room. "Some place I can corral them in one spot." He pointed toward the fireplace. "There. But I want you in the middle."
"Yeah. You'll bring in the sex appeal for the men and the cuteness factor with the dogs for the women. It's a win-win."
"And better than porn stars wearing greeting cards."
John laughed aloud. "You heard that?"
"I saw it. But that's a different issue." She knew better than to tip her hand. She headed for the step in front of the fireplace and sat down. The dogs jumped up on her and licked her cheek while she laughed. John was clicking pictures, but Violet didn't care. Her team loved her.
John kept taking pictures of her and the dogs while they all laughed. They even went outside to get more photographs. After about an hour, the dogs cuddled together on the couch, and John took more pictures. He even had Violet lay among the puppies.
"I think they're out," she finally said, standing beside him. "That was fun."
He turned toward her and stroked her cheek. "You're covered in dog slobber. You can't go back to work like that." He moved his hand away. "I have to get back and turn in these pictures. But I have a request. Go to dinner with me."
She backed away. "Coworkers shouldn't date."
"I'm not your coworker. I work at your business, but not with you. Does that make it better?"
"Maybe." She sighed. "You're just such a nice guy, too." She looked over at the dogs. "What will I do with them? Dad and Mom had them all day long. I hate putting them in cages for more than an hour."
"Hmmm…" John thought for a moment and then smiled. "Okay, let's do this. Because you helped me out more than you thought you would, you go get a shower." He inched toward the door. "I'll be back." He winked and left the house.
She went upstairs and took a quick shower, dressing in jeans and a red polo shirt. As soon as she applied a bit of makeup, the doorbell rang. She knew to take quick showers, because of the dogs, so she ran back down the stairs. All the dogs were barking at the door. "Just a minute." After running toward the kitchen, she opened the doggy door and they all ran outside. She then headed back for the front door and opened it, seeing John in front of her, holding a pizza box.
"Dinner?" he asked, and lifted the box.
"Sure. Sounds good to me." She took the box from him and ushered him inside, closing the door behind him. "The dogs are outside playing, but I'm sure they'll be in soon."
"When they smell that pizza, they will be." He chuckled. "Oh, and I have to have you sign some forms, since you and the dogs were in the pictures. Company policy, you know."
"Not a problem. It was actually fun. I know it wore the dogs out." They sat at the table and after signing the forms, she got some soda from the refrigerator, along with two glasses filled with ice, and plates with forks for the pizza. They both dug in, talking and laughing while eating. Violet enjoyed his company so much, she wished the night would never end.
After they ate, they decided to play backgammon while having a dessert of an ice cream sundae. The dogs played among themselves until finally, they started bugging Violet and John. So, they took the dogs outside and played fetch until it got dark.
"I guess I should be going," John said. "Back to work tomorrow." They headed inside with the dogs following behind them, but getting tired. Packer collapsed on the wooden foyer floor and fell asleep, snoring before he even lay down.
"Yeah. So do you think some of those pictures will work?"
"I think all of them will. I suspect they're going to be our best sellers, if the wording's right." He sighed as he headed for the door, turning before he opened it. "I had a great time this afternoon. Can we do this again, soon?"
Her heart leaped. "Sure. When?"
He winced as if he was going to be shot down, but Violet smiled instead. "Sounds good to me, but I do have the dogs."
"You can go out for an hour, right?"
She nodded. "That's about my limit."
He thought for a moment. "I can work with that. Jeans. Easy and casual."
He took her hand and pulled her closer. "You're such a good sport. But I have to know. Have you ever dated before?"
Her cheeks heated up and she shook her head, but no words came forth.
"Now it makes more sense." He leaned up and kissed her forehead. "I'm not going to do anything to make you feel uncomfortable. I just like hangin' out with you, even though you think I'm hot."
She laughed, backing away slightly as she dropped his hand. "You figured that out?"
"You tipped your hand when I first met you, darlin'." He winked. "But it's all good. We're buddies first, except when you play cutthroat backgammon. Then it's war."
She laughed again and he gave her a hug.
"You're a great person, Violet." He backed off. "Until tomorrow." He opened the door and was gone before she could even ask what he was talking about.