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Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 6

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series.

Year of the Dog serial novel

by Camy Tang

Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year.

While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier.

Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Aunt Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Christian home. What’s more, his brother Dusty also needs a place to stay after being kicked out of his apartment—with a dog in tow. And guess who the dog’s owner is?

But then Ashwin gets a request from an old friend, Edytha Guerrero, a private investigator who also runs a day spa on O’ahu’s north shore. A strange bit of “vandalism” at Marisol's facility had led her to find a purse belonging to Edytha’s sister—who had disappeared three years ago. Worried that Marisol might be in danger, and finding out that security expert Ashwin already knows her, Edytha asks him to covertly keep an eye on the busy young woman

Ashwin is reluctantly attracted to the lively, easy-going dog trainer. She reminds him too much of his happy-go-lucky mother, whose betrayal had caused him to keep people at a distance. Marisol sees past Ashwin’s cold exterior to a man who is loyal to his family, unlike her own mother and sister, who only criticize her career choice.

In the midst of Marisol’s disjointed family and Ashwin’s disruptive home, danger begins to circle around them from people who want the past to remain there. Can they shed light on the secrets moving in the shadows?

All the posted parts are listed here.

***

Chapter 6: Pink Slip

The fresh air was supposed to clear her head, not fog it up more.

“Puffy, down!” She corrected the nine-month-old German shepherd puppy with voice, body language, and a firm tug to the leash. Puffy stopped trying to walk up her body with his muddy paws.

The four other dogs were also antsy—probably picking up on her unwired emotional state. But she had a job to do—she was hired to run these dogs every morning, and she hadn’t failed yet.

She started at a light pace down the beach, breathing deep of the spring air, scented with kelp and kiawe bushes. This early in the morning, the beaches were dotted with fishermen, although this particular stretch was a bit less popular—once, a weathered man about the same age as her uncle tried to explain something about the reef that made it hard for shore fishing, but she wasn’t really listening at the time. So only one or two joggers and a handful of fishermen were out, but otherwise she had the sands mostly to herself and her five clients’ dogs.

The events of last night still boiled inside her. The more she remembered, the madder she got. Why was William’s infidelity her fault? What did Jenessa’s strange marriage have to do with Mari's personal failings? Why did it always come back to that?

Why did she want to please her family so much when it was obvious they’d never be pleased with her the way she was?

“Poi Dog, heel.” She corrected the puppy as it tried to wander into a patch of nasty-smelling seaweed that had washed up some time ago.

What was she doing? She wasn’t even paying attention to the dogs. She picked up her pace, forcing the other dogs to keep up and not have time to sniff around.

They’d run on this beach often—it was one of several runs she did with the dogs—but they always found something fascinating to distract them: dog markings, a dead jellyfish, feral cat poop. Today, they didn’t stay obediently behind her as they usually did. Her inner turmoil was leaking out through her pores, and the dogs picked up on it and sensed weakness in the Alpha Dog of their pack.

She breathed deep, trying to assert calmness and strength to the dogs.

And then she would remember Jenessa’s slap and everything would go to pieces.

Her gut churned, spitting burning bile up into the back of throat. Her sister hated her. Her mother blamed her. And it wasn’t even her fault.

Mom and Jenessa. She was always trying to please both of them.

One of the dogs whined, and her attention jerked back to the rocky sands in front of her. Focus, you mento! You can’t lose control of the dogs. This is probably the only thing you’re good at.

After all, she had majored in electrical engineering not because she was passionate about it, but because Mom had wanted her to get some kind of science degree.

But she was passionate about dog training. And a year after she graduated college, she had alienated her family by defying her mother and getting her certification. It didn’t matter to them that her side business was successful. According to them, dogs were nasty and a dog trainer was demeaning. She embarrassed and disappointed them.

It seemed like she was always disappointing them.

And if that's the case, why shouldn’t she take Uncle Richard’s idea for her dog facility and run with it? One of the reasons she shied away from going full time into training was because her family would blow a gasket, but why should she care anymore?

They obviously didn’t care about her, no matter what lies she told herself about their relationship with each other. That had been clear last night.

But … unemployment was high right now. How could she quit a stable job? Granted, her company branch wasn’t doing so well and she might be in danger of getting laid off, but for now, she still had a job. And until the threat of unemployment became reality, why throw that away?

She ran for about an hour before circling back to her SUV and popping the pooches into her folded-down back seat. She returned them to their owners’ homes along the North Shore—since it was seven a.m., most of the clients had left their dogs in garages or backyards and given her a key so she could collect them and return them there without waking the family.

It took her only twenty-five minutes to slide into a parking space at her day job, Global Dynamics, in Mililani, a few minutes before 7:30 a.m. At least with her engineering job, she could work on autopilot and not be distracted by all her family drama. It was a relief after her angsty thoughts on her run.

She used the company facilities to take a quick shower, but then at her desk, the first thing she saw in her email Inbox was “Emergency all hands meeting 8 a.m. today.”

Her shoulders tightened. More layoffs? Her idle thoughts on her run might have been a prophecy. She was stupid to have tempted fate by even thinking the word unemployment. Why not slap a huge “Fire me!” sign on her forehead?

At eight o’clock, the tension in the meeting room stank. Until Milton, the site supervisor, stood up and said, “Before you all start panicking, we are not laying anyone off today.”

The collective sigh wafted stale coffee breath throughout the room.

“But we are announcing a change. The rent on this property in Mililani is going up, so Global Dynamics has decided to relocate to Kaneohe. This site will completely shut down as of next month.”

Kaneohe? Marisol didn’t join in the buzzing around her.

“I’m relieved, aren’t you?” Brandy whispered to her.

Marisol stared at her.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t work in Kaneohe.”

Brandy’s brow wrinkled. “With light traffic, it’s only about half an hour from Mililani to Kaneohe.”

“It’s not the distance from my house—it’s the distance from my clients.”

“Your dog clients? What do you mean?”

“My runs with the dogs every morning and evening.”

“Oooh.” Brandy’s eyes widened. “You get up extra early to pick up your clients’ dogs and run them before work, right? Kaneohe is twice the distance from the North Shore."

“And I’d have to leave work an hour earlier to pick up the dogs and run them in the evening.” And she’d certainly hate the longer commute, stuck in her car every day. With her SUV, the gas alone would cost an extra arm at the gas pump. “And then I have dog training classes right after my runs four days a week, so I can’t move the runs later an hour.”

“Can you move the classes later?”

“Naw, I’m only renting the space, and I have to be out of there by ten o’clock."

"You have three one-hour classes each night, don’t you? You could cut the earliest class and run the dogs during that time.”

“I would, except that last week, I started several eight-week intermediate level training cycles. I can’t just tell the fifteen clients in each class, ‘Ooops! Even though you paid in advance and we already started the class, your cycle is gonna be cut short. Suck it up!’”

“Okay, well, your clients might not like that, but how about not running the dogs?”

“It’s almost the same thing—my clients depend on me. They pay me to run their high energy dogs because they don’t have the time to do it themselves, and high energy dogs without proper exercise—xxx”

Brandy made a squawking hand gesture. “Yes, yes, they become monsters when they’re cooped up at home. I know all that—you’ve vented about it to me enough times.”

“The point is that if I cancel classes or stop running the dogs, either way, I’ll lose clients who will feel betrayed or gypped. My reputation will suffer.”

“But you don’t have to do dog training, right? It’s only a side gig?"

“Well …” She loved it. How could she explain to kind, analytical Brandy that she’d rather spend time being slobbered on than updating manufacturing specs? 

Brandy sighed. “You already know the answer to your question.”

“What question?”

“Whether or not you should quit.”

Milton had started speaking again, but the room was muted to Marisol’s ears. Quit. Not work in an office anymore. Not commute to Kaneohe. Work with dogs full time.

Quit.

She hadn’t wanted to throw away a good job. But what if that job had suddenly made her life more difficult? Not just the extra hours of commuting, but damaging the dog training business that she cared so much about?

Uncle Richard seemed to believe she could do her dog training business full time. And hadn’t he been the one to advise her to buy her Haleiwa home which had happened to be going for a steal at the time, and now it was worth ten times what she bought it for? Hadn’t he always looked out for her best interests, not investing her money in stocks that were too risky? He’d have told her if this was too financially unsafe, right?

She’d do it. She’d quit Global Dynamics.

She’d start her own dog facility.

***

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