This was a full-on crap burger. George was nowhere in sight. Despite everything, I’d already bonded with him. When he wasn’t running away from me or snatching food off my plate, he was a giant eighty-pound, cuddly lapdog. I fell for him faster than I did my ex, Cole. One look into those forlorn brown eyes at the shelter and I knew he was coming home with me. It was love at first lick.
“Georgie Boy! Where are you?” My pace slowed when I caught sight of a man in the distance wearing a blue baseball hat. Maybe he’d seen him.
I kicked back into a steady jog and called out to him, “Excuse me, sir . . . have you . . .” Before I could finish my sentence, there was George, lying down at his feet, next to a golden retriever like a well-trained canine fresh from obedience school.
I exhaled. “Oh, thank God. There you are.”
George, my lovable lummox, popped up, barreled to me and knocked me right on my butt. Ow!
With the glare of the sunshine hampering my view, all I saw was a large hand offering to help me up.
I accepted it. “Thank you.”
Once on solid footing, my eyes met with the thirty-something-ish man in the baseball cap. Jiminy Christmas. I’d never seen such bright green eyes before. They shined like sparkly emeralds. For a moment, my mouth froze, and the ability to form a single syllable vanished.
Then George’s paws slammed into my stomach causing me to nearly keel over again.
“Sit!” the capped man commanded, and George obeyed.
“What the . . . ? How did you do that?”
“It just takes a firm hand. Gracie, come.”
The beautiful, golden retriever trotted over with the finesse of a blue-ribbon show dog. “Sit, love.” He crouched down to pet her. “That’s a good girl. Shall we properly introduce ourselves to our new mates?”
When he said the word properly, my ears honed in on his British accent. An English import right here in Vegas. He sounded identical to my namesake, Mr. Darcy. Pride and Prejudice was my gran’s favorite book. In vain I had struggled to experience any Jane Austen type romance in my twenty-six years on earth. My break up with Cole felt more like a Stephen King novel.
The green-eyed Brit rose with a crooked smile. Man alive, he was tall. He was at least six feet three with reddish brown locks peeking out of his hat.
His long fingers rubbed the auburn scruff on his face. “So, this is Gracie, and I’m Eli. And, you are . . . ?”
“I’m . . . Darcy,” I said swallowing hard. “Oh, and this is George. I just adopted him from a shelter. We’re still getting used to one another — hey, George and Gracie. You know—”
“Sorry. I don’t follow.”
“George and Gracie? George Burns and Gracie Allen? They were a husband and wife comedy team. I used to watch reruns with my gran.” I acted out my best imitation of them. “Say good night, Gracie. Good night, Gracie. You never heard of them?”
“No. But please continue it sounds quite amusing.”
Was he making fun of me? I shrugged in embarrassment. “I guess you had to be there or seen it. Anyway, I’ve got to get to work. Nice to meet you.” I grabbed George’s leash. “Let’s go, boy.”
“Hang on. Since you and George are still getting used to one another, I could train him for you.” He cocked his head with a smirk. “I’m brilliant when it comes to training.”
“And modest too? No thanks. We’re fine.”
The words barely left my lips when George caught sight of another rabbit and jerked on the leash.
Eli intervened, “Sit!”
George sat with his eyes focused on Eli. How in the ever-loving crap was he doing this?
“So, Miss Darcy, how about now? Something tells me, you’d blossom under my training.”
Something told me he was talking about something other than training George. This was one cocky Brit. I’d had enough of puffed-up, self-centered, know-it-all men to last me a lifetime.
“Nah, I bet you I won’t have any more problems with George.”
“A bet? Shall we shake on that?”
He extended his hand with his feet planted firmly in place. He was going to make me come to him.
I dropped George’s leash, took a couple of steps in his direction, and George followed me.
Eli held up his hand. “Stay,” he commanded in a firm voice.
I halted in my tracks.
Eli stifled a snicker. “Uh . . . I was talking to George. But, that was adorable.”
“I knew you were,” I fibbed. “I was just, you know, keeping it . . . loosey-goosey. That’s me. Unpredictable and fancy-free.” I wasn’t any of those things.
He nodded as if he had me all figured out. “Loosey-goosey? Is that an American thing?”
Now it was my turn to poke fun at him. “Spot on, Governor. Is it not posh enough for you blokes from across the pond?”
“Was that supposed to be a British accent?”
“Supposed to be? It was pip-pip and cheerios.”
“It’s dreadful. That’s absolutely without a doubt the worst accent I ever heard. You should seriously never do it again.”
“I thought it was spot on, Lord Eli.”
His tone turned serious. “You’re a feisty little one, aren’t you? I enjoy — feisty.” He looked me up and down as if he saw right through my clothes. “It’s a shame we have to go through the charade of this bet. I’d like to get right to training.”