The instant she stepped outside, she stopped dead. There was the regal and magnificent Rowena sitting on the ground with a mountain of dog sprawled over her lap.
And she was giggling.
“Oh, he’s wonderful. Such a big sweetheart. What a good boy you are.” She bent her head and nuzzled Moe’s fur. His tail beat like a jackhammer. “What a kind, pretty boy.” She looked up at Flynn and beamed. “Did he find you or did you find him?”
“It was sort of mutual.” One dog lover recognized another. Tucking his thumbs in his pockets, Flynn scanned the expansive lawns, the slices of woods. “Big place like this, lots of room to run. You could have a pack of dogs.”
“Yes. Well.” Rowena lowered her head again and rubbed Moe’s belly.
“We travel considerably.” Pitte laid a hand on Rowena
’s hair, stroked it.
“How long do you plan to stay here?”
“When the three months is up, we’ll move on.”
“That will depend. A ghra.”
“Yes. Yes.” Rowena cuddled Moe another moment, then with a wistful sigh got to her feet. “You’re very lucky to have such goodness in your life. I hope you treasure him.”
“I see you do, yes. You may be cynical and suspicious, but a dog like this knows a good heart.”
“Yeah,” Flynn agreed. “I believe that.”
“I hope you’ll bring him if you come back. He can run. Good-bye, Moe.”
Moe sat up and lifted one massive paw with unaccustomed dignity.
“Wow. That’s a new one.” Flynn blinked as Moe politely allowed Rowena to shake his paw. “Hey, Mal! Did you see—”
As he said her name, Moe’s head swiveled, and he was off at a sprint in Malory’s direction, bringing a distressed yip to her throat as she braced for the onslaught.
Rowena called out, a single indecipherable word in a calm, brisk tone. Moe skidded to a halt inches from Malory’s feet, plopped onto his butt. And once more lifted his paw.
“Well.” Malory expelled a relieved breath. “That’s more like it.” She reached down, obligingly shook the offered paw. “Good for you, Moe.”
“How the hell’d you do that?” Flynn wanted to know.
“I have a way with animals.”
“I’ll say. What was that, Gaelic?”
“Funny that Moe would understand a command in Gaelic when he mostly ignores them in plain English.”
“Dogs understand more than words.” She held out a hand for Flynn’s. “I hope you’ll all come back. We enjoy company.”
“Thanks for your time.” Malory walked to the car with Moe trotting happily beside her. The minute she sat, she tucked her purse on the floor like a guilty secret.
Rowena laughed, but the sound was a bit watery as Moe stuck his head out of the backseat window. She lifted a hand in a wave, then leaned against Pitte as Flynn drove away.
“I have real hope,” she murmured. “I can’t remember the last time I felt real hope. I—it frightens me. It actually frightens me to feel it.”