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“I can put him outside,” Flynn said quickly. “But we really need to talk.”

“He’ll dig up my flowers.”

“He doesn’t dig.” Please God, don’t dig. “I’ve got a—I can’t say the C word, or he’ll get excited. But I’ve got one in my pocket. I’ll just put him out there, out of the way.”

“I don’t—” Moe’s nose arrowed straight into her crotch. “Christ.” In defense she skipped back, which was all the invitation Moe required.

He was through the door, dragging Flynn merrily over an antique Turkish carpet, barely missing slapping his lethal tail into a Deco vase filled with late-summer lilies.

Terrified, Malory made a dash for her patio door, yanked it open. “Out, out, straight out.”

It was a word Moe knew. And he objected to going out when he’d just come in to so many fascinating scents. He simply dropped his wide butt on the floor and dug in.

With dignity no longer an option, Flynn hooked both hands in Moe’s collar and dragged him bodily across the room and out the door.

“Oh, yeah, that was charming.” Out of breath, Flynn looped the leash around the trunk of a tree. And as Moe began to howl, he dropped to his knees. “Stop it. Have you no pride? Have you no sense of masculine solidarity? How am I going to get my hands on that woman if she hates us?”

He pushed his face into Moe’s. “Lie down and be quiet. Do this for me, and the world is yours. Starting with this.”

He pulled out the cookie. The howling stopped instantly, and the tail began to thump.

“Screw this up and next time I leave you home.”

He stood up and sent what he hoped was an easy smile toward Malory, who stood warily on the other side of the door.

He figured it was a major victory when she opened it and let him in.

“Have you tried obedience school?” she demanded.

“Ah, well, yeah, but there was an incident. We don’t like to talk about it. This is a great place.”

Stylish, arty, and female, he decided. Not delicate-little-trinket female but bold-unique-fascinating female.

The walls were a deep, rich rose, a strong background for the paintings. She favored antiques, or reproductions that looked enough like the real thing to pass. Soft fabrics and sleek sculpture.

And everything tidy as a shiny new pin.

It smelled female, classily so, from the lilies and the dried flower petals that women were forever putting in bowls. And, he supposed, from the woman herself.

She had music on low. What was that . . . Annie Lennox, crooning slyly about sweet dreams.

It seemed to Flynn that the entire place spoke of very specific, very high-toned taste.

He wandered over to a painting of a woman rising up out of a dark blue pool. There was a sense of speed about it, of sexuality, and of power.

“She’s beautiful. Does she live in the sea or on the land?”

Malory arched her brow. At least he’d asked an intelligent question.

“I think she has yet to choose.” She pondered him as he wandered around. He seemed more . . . well, male, she supposed, here in her place than he had on the sidewalk or stalking around the largely unfurnished room in his own house.

“What are you doing here?”

“First, I came because I wanted to see you again.”

“Why?”

“You’re really pretty.” Because he found it both relaxing and entertaining to look at her, he hooked his thumbs in his front pockets and did just that. “You might think that’s a shallow reason, but I like to think it’s simply basic. If people didn’t like looking at attractive things, we wouldn’t have any art.”

“How long did it take you to think of that one?”

His grin was fast and appreciative. “Not long at all. I’m pretty quick. Have you had dinner?”

“No, but I have plans. Why else are you here?”

“Let’s do this part first. You haven’t had dinner tomorrow night yet. Would you like to have dinner with me?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Because you’re annoyed with me? Or because you’re not interested?”

“You’re pretty annoying.”

Those lazy-river eyes flirted. “Not once you get to know me. Ask anybody.”

No, she had a feeling he wouldn’t stay annoying. He’d be entertaining and interesting. And trouble. Plus, however attractive he was, he was anything but her type. “I’ve got enough on my plate without dating a man who has terrible taste in furniture and questionable taste in pets.”

She glanced toward the patio as she said it, then couldn’t stop the laugh as she saw Moe’s ugly face pressed hopefully against the glass.

“You don’t really hate dogs.”

“Of course I don’t hate dogs. I like dogs.” She angled her head to study the furry face. “I don’t think that is a dog.”

“They swore he was when I got him from the pound.”

Her eyes went soft. “You got him from the pound.”

Aha, a chink in the defensive wall. He stepped over so they could study Moe together. “He was a lot smaller then. I went in to do a story on the shelter, and he sort of came, well, gamboling up to me, looked at me like he was saying, Okay, I’ve been waiting for you to show. Let’s go home. I was a goner.”

“What’s does ‘Moe’ stand for? ‘Mountain’?”

“He looks like Moe. You know, Moe Howard.” When her face stayed blank, Flynn sighed. “Women, they don’t know what they’re missing when it comes to the courageous comedy and wit of The Three Stooges.”

“Yes, yes, we do know what we’re missing. We miss it on purpose.” Realizing they were standing close, she took a deliberate step back. “Was there something else?”

“I started running down these people you guys are tangled up with. Liam Pitte, Rowena O’Meara. At least those are the names they’re using.”

“Why shouldn’t those be their names?”

“Because when I used my incredible skills and talents, I found no record of anyone under those names that jibes with the new owners of Warrior’s Peak. No social security numbers, no passport numbers, no driver’s licenses, business licenses. No corporate paper trail for this Triad. At least none that connects to them.”

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