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Authors: Shelly Alexander

It's in His Touch

BOOK: It's in His Touch
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Also by Shelly Alexander

It’s In His Heart: A Red River Valley Novel

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2015 Shelly Alexander

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503948075

ISBN-10: 1503948072

Cover design by Laura Klynstra

This book is dedicated to all who have fought the good fight, and to Dr. L. A. Smith because she does remember my name.

To my husband, who never let me give up.

And to the real Kimberly, the best friend a gal could ever ask for. Every new adventure on our list is a hoot. (But I’m still not jumping out of a plane—not even for you.)


“Drop the panties, or the octopus gets it.” Angelique Barbetta held out the plush doggy toy, a bottle of bitter anti-chew spray pointed at its overstuffed head. She used the predatory tone usually reserved for courtroom opponents as she glared at her four-legged adversary.

A soft breeze whispered through the trees, wrestling autumn-hued foliage to the ground. The draft of cool air caught the silky neckline of her robe and sent a chill racing through her. Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the shedding branches, and a silhouette of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains glittered in the background. Her long black hair was up in hot rollers, and a sudden gust pulled a thick tendril loose. She blew it out of her eyes, refusing to lose a staring match to a dog.

The ten-pound weenie dog’s posture tensed, his tail wagged a fraction, and his jaw clamped tighter around the black thong panties he’d snatched from her suitcase while she was unpacking. Hence, the reason she’d scurried outside half-dressed and sporting curlers so big they could pick up a radio frequency from three states away.

Why’d she bring skimpy panties on an extended vacay to Red River—population 475?
. Insulated long johns would’ve been a more practical choice.

She shivered against another nippy gust of autumn breeze.

It wasn’t like she’d ever wear the string bikinis currently lodged between her dog’s teeth. They’d been part of the risqué honeymoon trousseau given to her by her best friend, Kimberly, and the horde of female Barbettas. Of course, that was before she caught her fiancé, Gabriel, cheating.
Angelique was recovering from breast cancer.


Come to think of it, she should let the dog have them. Let Sergeant Schnitzel chew up the underwear and every last memory of what she’d thought she had with Gabriel.

Just like she’d
let the dog chew up Gabriel’s Armani jacket. And his Tumi briefcase. And the crack in his brand-new fifty-five-inch widescreen—a testament to his insecurity and belief that size really did matter—may or may not have been an accident. Golf clubs sometimes slipped out of one’s hands mid-swing. It happened.

Sergeant Schnitzel whined, his tail wagging at lightning speed.

“Come on, Sarge. Drop ’em.

Jeez, she was pathetic. Had she really been reduced to begging a dog?

Okay, admittedly, destroying Gabriel’s personal property had been a vindictive reaction, but her momentary lapse in emotional restraint was understandable. While she was in the process of moving out of their rented condo, Gabriel announced his shotgun wedding to her legal assistant, whom he’d knocked up. Now with the wedding just a few weeks away, he actually expected Angelique to attend, along with the rest of their law firm, because
look good for the junior partnership he’d just landed. So much cruelty at once probably would’ve pushed Mother Teresa over the edge. That was Angelique’s story, anyway, and she was sticking to it, because Gabriel deserved it times ten.

She drew in a tremulous breath, the familiar sting of loss pinging off the walls of her stomach like a pinball.

Now instead of standing toe-to-toe with a skilled criminal prosecutor, she was throwing down with a weenie dog. Definitely pathetic. She glared at him.

The cocktail-sized wiener growled, enticing her to give chase.

“Sergeant Schnitzel, don’t you dare run off again,” she warned, eyeballing him with her best menacing look. That stare wilted even the most seasoned district attorneys and brought witnesses to tears on the stand. Unfortunately, it didn’t intimidate this little pilferer of women’s underpants. “I swear, no more satin pillows to sleep on, and no more fancy chew toys.” She shook the octopus, its legs flouncing in the air. “And no more bacon-flavored treats either.”

Sergeant Schnitzel whined and cocked his head to one side.

Victory within her grasp, Angelique stepped closer and slipped the spray bottle into the pocket of her red silk kimono—another installment of her intended honeymoon wardrobe. When she stretched out a hand to retrieve the slobbery undergarment, the dog charged, making a quick circle around her
Sesame Street
slippers. The dark-brown dachshund’s lightning-fast movements stirred up a cloud of dust and autumn leaves around her legs and made the hem of her robe flutter. Sergeant Schnitzel darted across her toes, his collar snagging the hem and pulling the front loose.

“Hey!” She grabbed at the gaping front and cinched it closed to hide the black lace camisole and matching panties. What the heck. She might as well get
use out of all those lingerie shower gifts, even if no one but her and Sergeant Schnitzel would ever see them. “That’s it! You’re the main course at my next weenie roast!” Angelique yelled after the dog as he raced across the vacation property and disappeared over the wooden footbridge that joined her one-acre lot to the next.

“Maybe he won’t come back.” Kimberly, her closest friend since law school, emerged from the cabin and sauntered over to Angelique, orange and yellow leaves crunching under her steps. “I still can’t understand why you didn’t give that demon dog to Gabe the Douchebag.”

Clad in leopard tights, Kimberly stood next to Angelique. Kimberly pulled her hot-pink mohair cardigan tighter, folding both arms across her well-endowed bust. A petite gal with spiked bleached-blonde hair, her excessive bust line didn’t exactly match her five-feet-two-inch frame, and when she wore a fitted shirt . . . well, armed and dangerous was the only way to describe her. Really, many a man had never been the same after seeing her in spandex workout clothes.

“Sarge isn’t a demon dog. He’s just a little spoiled,” Angelique said, as they both stared at the empty footbridge, Sarge long gone.

And who could blame her for that, really? He was the closest to a child she’d ever have, now that she planned to keep her body to herself and focus solely on a career.

She looked at the stuffed octopus and tossed it up, catching it again. “No way was I leaving Sergeant Schnitzel with
. Gabriel gave him to me right before I was diagnosed.” Angelique’s hand went to her chest and rested there. “That two-faced . . .”

Angelique caught herself. Gabriel and his new squeeze weren’t worth the energy it would take to stay angry. She drew in a deep breath, and the fresh mountain air filled her lungs and steadied her emotions. “She got everything else that was supposed to be mine—my fiancé, his baby in her womb, even the dream house he and I were building together.” Angelique’s fingers fisted around the fabric at her neck. She tucked the toy into the other robe pocket. “The dog is mine.”

“Not much of a prize, if you ask me.”

“It’s the principle of the matter,” Angelique said, adjusting the flaps of her robe. She cinched the belt tighter and retied it.

“Would’ve been a nice wedding gift. Sergeant Schnitzel could be chewing up the Cheerleader’s undies right now instead of yours.”

Since Gabriel’s new soon-to-be-wife was seven years younger than Angelique and perky from her twenty-four-year-old boobs all the way to her petite size five-and-a-half shoe, Kimberly had officially dubbed her the Cheerleader. Gabriel couldn’t have cheated with someone more different than Angelique if he’d tried. The Cheerleader was blonde, had hazel eyes, and was sweet. Or so she’d pretended to be. A sharp contrast to Angelique’s dark Sicilian features and barracuda personality.

Rolling one foot onto its side, Angelique looked down at her size nines.

“Well, I think he should be skewered and roasted over an open fire,” Kimberly announced. The small diamond in her nose glinted against the afternoon sun as she ran splayed fingers through her spiky hair.

“It’s not that big a deal. I just need to keep my lingerie put away where Sarge can’t get to it.”

“I meant Gabriel.”

Angelique threw her head back and laughed. “That’s why I keep you around.”

“Because I make you laugh?”

“No, because you’ll help me dispose of a body should the need ever arise.”

It was Kimberly’s turn to laugh. “What else are friends for? Just let me know, and I’ll bring the shovels.”

“Maybe I should go after him.” Angelique sighed, her gaze returning to the footbridge.

“Maybe you should relax and let him find his own way back home. You came to Red River to work on an easy case and do some more recuperating in the process.”

“Real estate development cases aren’t my field of expertise, but it’s pretty open-and-shut. The firm was doing me a favor. It’ll be like a three-month paid vacation while Gabriel’s wedding and honeymoon hype blows over.”

“After what you’ve been through, you deserve it.”

Right. The emotional scars of losing both breasts ran deeper than she’d ever expected.

Thank God she didn’t have to go through chemo, too. Losing her hair would’ve added insult to injury and probably pushed her over the edge. Reconstruction had been an even bigger horror. If she’d known how painful it was going to be, she’d never have done it. But she’d been scared to wake up without breasts. Terrified, in fact. And the thought of intimacy with Gabriel if she wasn’t a whole woman nearly
sent her plunging over an emotional cliff.

“Speaking of, I need to get busy and study the case file.” Angelique walked to her pearl-white SUV and opened the door to get her briefcase and a stack of correspondence from the firm.

“Not tonight, sweetie.” Kimberly snatched the bundle of papers from Angelique’s hands as soon as she got close enough. “Tonight we focus on the bucket list.”

Angelique couldn’t stop an eye roll. Unfortunately, neither Kimberly’s annoying bucket list nor reconstruction had been able to replace all that her illness had cost her.

When Angelique looked in the mirror for the first time after the first surgery, she’d cried a river. Now it was time to suck it up, build a bridge, and get the hell over it. Grief and self-pity weren’t going to keep her from the partnership she deserved.

She’d stay in Red River through the holidays, then go back to Albuquerque and kick butt. Cancer and cheating exes be damned. Once she returned to the firm, the C word would never pass through her lips again. A partnership called to her from the not-so-distant future, chanted her name like a chorus. At least that’s what she hoped she heard and not voices that required medication. Some days she’d wondered, because her emotions had been all over the place since the diagnosis.

What didn’t kill her made her stronger.

Her new motto. Maybe she’d have it tattooed across her backside as a reminder that she’d be just fine on her own. Her large, obnoxious family believed it their duty to smother her with love, and she had a great career going. That would be enough to fill the emptiness left inside her by a disease that she carried in her flawed DNA.

Blake Holloway sat on his back porch steps and looked at the bologna sandwich he’d thrown together for Sunday dinner. It tasted like cardboard, but it was better than nothing. With a small grunt of disapproval, he took another bite and washed it down with a long swallow of ice-cold beer.

As he set the glass bottle on the porch, a small dachshund tore into his backyard carrying something in his mouth. The dog stopped about ten feet in front of him, and they stared each other down. Too well groomed to be a stray, it probably belonged to his nearest neighbor, a new renter who’d just moved in.

“Hey, little buddy. Come here.” Blake tried to coax it closer with a kind voice.

The dog squatted like it was about to leap up and run away.

Tearing off a hefty piece of bologna, Blake held it out and laid the sandwich on a plate next to his beer. The dog inched forward, finally snagging the bologna after he dropped the . . . um,
black panties

Holding the tiny strings up for a quick look, he supposed they were women’s panties. He’d used dental floss that would cover more. Probably be more comfortable, too.

He tore off another bite and coaxed the wayward pup into his arms. Blake pulled him closer, giving him a scratch behind the ears. Reaching for the heart-shaped piece of metal that dangled around the dog’s neck, he angled it for a better view. The name “Sarge” and a New Mexico phone number were engraved across the first and second lines. Blake lifted the pup a little higher to read the last line in small script. “Love, G.”

BOOK: It's in His Touch
11.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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