His and Hers Dalmatians by Grace Tyler
Callie and Hayden James have nothing in common, other than their last names and a pair of Dalmatians. Their relationship was just as volatile after their divorce, so they split up the dogs to maintain the peace. After two years apart, attending the wedding of mutual friends forces Callie and Hayden to see each other again. Can this event lead to a truce and sharing custody of the dogs?
“Don’t worry about calling your shots,” Hayden said, stepping back.
“All right.” Callie bent over the pool table, holding her cue awkwardly under her left arm. “Help me?”
He groaned mentally. Standing behind her to guide her shot fit in perfectly with his mid-dinner plot of getting her to stay the night. It wasn’t so perfect for his post-dinner resolution of chivalry and self preservation.
He took a step closer, daring no more. Her citrus-clean fragrance tempted him to take another step forward. “Grip the end of the stick lightly.”
“All right.” She loosened her hold on the cue and then propped the stick across the knuckles of her right hand.
“Like this.” He lifted the cue off her table hand. “The stick needs to glide lightly across your skin. This hand is just to steady the stick while you push and aim with your left hand.” He repositioned her cue so that it rested between her right index finger and thumb. “Use your other fingers for stabilization.”
“Now I remember.” She flashed him a brief smile before taking the shot. The cue ball bounced harmlessly off the bumpers. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Come on. Try again.”
Callie walked along the two free sides of the table. The other two sides were hemmed in by the corner of the room. “I’ve got a shot,” she said, taking aim from a new location. “I’m going for the thirteen. Maybe it’ll get into the pocket if I hit it just off center.”
“Remember your table hand is just a guide. The power comes from your shooting arm, so judge how hard you need to hit the ball.”
“Watch thirteen,” she said, sparing a look at him before returning her focus to the table, her short sable hair fanning against her cheek. She pushed the stick forward in practice a couple of times, and then she made her shot. Her aim was true, but she’d hit the cue ball too hard, and the thirteen ball bounced off the rim of the pocket.
“Great shot!” He meant it. She’d never played well when they were dating, but she never let her discouragement show. “You want to go again?”
“No, it’s your turn. I’ll watch and try to pick up some pointers.”
Hayden took his shot, and the cue ball smacked against the three-ball, which tumbled into the right center pocket.
“Go again,” Callie said. “No need to give me extra turns.”
“Practice is the only way to get better,” he protested, but he had lined up his next shot the moment she urged him to take another turn. “Four-ball.” He took one of the short sticks down from the rack and went to the far side of the table next to the wall. “I should have gotten a smaller table,” he lamented. “It would have been easier to play in here.”
“But it wouldn’t have been what you wanted,” she responded.
She seemed to understand him, maybe for the first time. “Right. This was what I wanted.”
Hayden’s shot was true, and number four went directly to the pocket next to Callie on the outside of the table. But it didn’t sink all the way, didn’t rumble down the ball track to the retrieval area. “What’s up with that pocket?” he asked.
She plucked the ball out of the hole. “There’s something stuck in here.” Her hand disappeared into the table, and she started laughing. “You missing something?”
Before he saw what she had found, he knew what it had to be. The unmistakable ring of keys sounded as she jiggled them in his direction. “Who keeps their keys in the pool table?”