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Page 23 of A Beautiful Mess (Beautiful Mess 1)

“Miss Adler. Why do we keep running into each other here?” he asked, standing up to meet Olivia.

“Alexander. I’m starting to think that you’re stalking me,” she joked, taking in his nice navy blue suit that he made casual, foregoing the tie. He looked amazing as always. “You are a professional stalker, so my point is valid.”

“I prefer the term security consultant,” he replied smoothly.

“I’ve heard it both ways,” she smirked playfully.

He grinned at her. “Touché, Miss Adler. You have quite a smart mouth on you.” He leaned in, closing the distance between them. “I can’t wait to have that mouth on me,” he whispered, his warm breath sending shivers up Olivia’s spine.

She gasped.

“Well, who do we have here?” he continued as if he didn’t just tell Olivia that he wanted her mouth on his body. How did he expect her to react to that? She could barely form a sentence in response, all her thoughts going to places that were probably not appropriate to be talking about in a public park with people walking by.

Alexander bent down and let Runner smell his hand. Runner obviously approved of him so he let Alexander scratch his head. Olivia was floored. That man had on a rather expensive looking suit, but he seemed to have no problem petting Runner, getting dog fur all over him. Alexander Burnham was a conundrum.

“This is Runner,” Olivia said, finally finding her voice. “I was just tiring him out before having to take him back to the shelter,” she explained, gesturing to the dog that was leaning into Alexander’s hand, obviously enjoying the attention he was getting.

“To the shelter?” Alexander asked, straightening up and admiring Olivia’s obvious affection for the dog.

“Yeah,” she replied as Runner rolled over, hoping to get a belly rub. “He’s been at the animal shelter for the last few months. No one has adopted him yet. Everyone always wants a puppy. No one wants a four-year-old hound. It’s sad, really.”

“So you work at the animal shelter, too?” He took a step closer, surprised at the many different layers of Olivia.

Olivia’s breath caught, the proximity of Alexander to her overwhelming her once again. For a minute she forgot all about the dog rolling around in front of her. “I volunteer there,” she finally replied, returning to the present. “I take the dogs on walks, play with the cats. Stuff like that. I just love spending time with all the animals. Speaking of which, I really should be getting on. It was wonderful to see you again, Mr. Burnham,” she smirked as she gave Runner a biscuit.

Alexander grabbed her soft hand and kissed it as he always did. “The pleasure was all mine. I look forward to tomorrow evening, Miss Adler.” Olivia started to walk away. “And I do hope you can find a good home for Runner.” He winked.

“So do I.”

Alexander watched as Olivia walked away from him, her hips swaying in a way that excited him. When she disappeared from his view, he grabbed his cell phone, needing to make an important call.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Thank goodness you’re back!” Bethany shouted at Olivia as she walked through the door with Runner. They took their time returning to the shelter, mainly because Olivia’s head was in the clouds after her chance encounter with Alexander.

“Sorry it took so long. I ran into a friend at the dog park. What’s up? Is something wrong?” Olivia was worried they had gotten an order to destroy some of the animals due to lack of space. That was always her biggest fear.

“No. Nothing’s wrong. Someone called a little while ago. They saw Runner on the website and asked to see if he was still available for adoption. They’ll be here within the half-hour to fill out the paperwork.”

“That’s fantastic,” Olivia replied, her lack of enthusiasm showing. She was a little disappointed, knowing that she would miss her Runner. He had been in the shelter the longest out of all their dogs. Olivia and Runner had formed such a strong bond.

She grabbed his leash, pulling him along behind her down a long corridor toward the kennels. “I’ll go get him cleaned up then. He should have a nice bath so he looks good for his new family.”

“Libby,” Bethany said, placing her hand on Olivia’s shoulder. “This is a good thing for Runner.”

“I know, I know. I’m just going to miss him,” she replied, her sadness about never being able to see Runner again evident.

Olivia took Runner into the back and started to run him a bath. Most dogs hated baths, but for some reason, Runner loved them. He loved water. He would make a good dog for any family, Olivia thought. She just hoped that whoever adopted him would be active.

Ten minutes later, she put the finishing touches on Runner’s bath, tying a cute doggie bandana around his neck, when Bethany peeked her head in.

“He’s here, Libby. And wow is he handsome.” Bethany fanned herself. Olivia couldn’t help but laugh. Bethany was pushing seventy, but she had no problem flirting with any good-looking man who came in.

“I’ll bring him out in a minute,” she replied. After giving Runner one last hug, she took a deep breath and walked down the hallway toward the large doggie playroom. As Olivia approached, she could see Bethany speaking to Runner’s potential new owner through the large glass windows. The man was tall and dressed in a pair of jeans and yellow polo shirt. His silhouette looked rather familiar to Olivia. Surely, it couldn’t be…

“Here’s Runner,” Bethany said as Olivia entered the playroom, nearly tripping over a squeaky football. The man turned around, causing Olivia to stop dead in her tracks, a look of surprise across her face. Her stomach fluttered as she took in his beautiful body yet again. She didn’t think she would ever tire of looking at him, even with his clothes on.

“Libby, this is Mr. Alexander Burnham. He’s looking to adopt our Runner here.” Olivia just stared at Alexander, unable to form any coherent thoughts. She snapped out of her daze when Runner darted for Alexander, pulling her with him.

“I see that you two will get along famously!” Bethany exclaimed, clapping her hands. “Well, I’ll leave you to do the paperwork with our Olivia here,” she said, walking out of the room.

When she heard the click of the door, Olivia turned to Alexander. “What are you doing?”

“I’m adopting Runner. I’ve been wanting to get a dog for a while and there’s something about Runner that I love.” He bent down to give Runner a quick scratch on the head. Olivia unclipped Runner’s leash and he immediately rolled over, giving both of them an open invitation to rub his belly.

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