Chapter Eight

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"For the love of God, Charlie! If you thump up those steps one more time, I'm going to break your ankles!" Dorothy hollered as the heavy clump-clump-clump went through her for the umpteenth time.

She wouldn't say she was having a bad day. She was busy, but the small accomplishments made her feel good. After she'd done her wash and hung the clothes from the veranda, she'd heated what was left of the hash she'd made Charlie for breakfast. Once Charlie had bolted off to wait for Robbie on the sidewalk, she took her breakfast in bed.

It was an indulgence she refused to feel guilty about after the week she'd had. Dirty floors could wait until the afternoon, which was precisely how long she lounged and read adventure magazines before getting up to bathe and do the dishes.

She hissed through her teeth as the heavy tread grew closer, but instead of the rattle of the doorknob came five sharp knocks.

Dorothy went stiff. Everyone else banged on the door. She had only ever had one visitor who rapped so politely.

"One minute!" she called, already flying into the bedroom. She still wore her housecoat and slippers, and her hair was loose and wild around her shoulders. As quickly as she could, she slipped into a skirt and blouse, then threw Ian's heavy sweater over it.

He knocked again and she prayed her stockings didn't roll down to her ankles without any garters. There was no helping her hair, so she just tied it back.

After what seemed like a lifetime, she scooted to the door and opened it. "Don't tell me he never showed."

Robbie chuckled. "Hello to you, too. Can I come in? This step is pretty narrow and I'm a little afraid of heights."

Dorothy opened the door a little, then stopped. "No, you can't. I have underthings hanging up. You'll have to wait here a minute."

Robbie opened his mouth to speak, but she closed the door in his face. Even quicker than she had dressed, she collected every bit of clothes she'd forgotten about in her mad dash and tossed them into her bedroom.

"All right, come on in," she said back at the door, and Robbie sauntered in with an amused smile. She walked ahead of him, not looking back even though she wanted to, and offered him a seat at the kitchen table. "So, where is he?"

"I left him on a corner down on Agricola Street. He wanted to show off to a friend." With her puzzled look, he sank down into the chair and grinned. "We went out in my Ford."

"He must have gotten a thrill out of that. Tea?"

"Yes -- no, don't make a fresh pot."

She ignored him. She wasn't about to serve him up the slops in the bottom of the pot. "How did it go?"

"Good. The pups aren't weaned yet, but I found one that likes me. The loudest of the bunch."

"I'm sure that will go over swimmingly with your mother."

Robbie's laugh tickled her as she stoked the fire. "It will be after Christmas before I can take him, and then Mother won't have to worry about the noise of some beagle-terrier mix."

"How do you suppose you'll manage that? Dogs will bark."

"This dog can bark all it wants in Port Williams. I'm headed there before New Year is through."

"What's in Port Williams?"

"Quiet." The chair creaked, and when she glanced back at him, he had leaned forward and that smirk was back. "In spite of the way she snipes, I think my mother would be sorrier to lose you than she would me. At least you're useful to her. She might just be furious with me if I have my way,"

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