Year of the Dog serial novel
by Camy Tang
Mari 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, Auntie 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 Mari's facility had led her to find a purse belonging to Edytha’s sister—who had disappeared three years ago. Worried that Mari 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. Mari 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 Mari’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?
Chapter Eight - Scary, Pristine White Real Estate Documents
Can’t we all just get along?
Mari tossed a book into a box with unnecessary force. Why was she arguing with everyone in her life lately? Maybe this really was a bad idea.
Except it was a little late for second thoughts. Her house had already sold. She had already qualified for the small business loan. And tonight, she’d sign the papers to buy that abandoned school property.
She had passed the point of no return.
A knock at her front door, then the creak of it opening. “Hello?”
Oh, no. “Uncle, stop!” She grabbed at Pepper’s collar just as he launched forward, barking his head off.
Unmoved by sixty-ish pounds of neurotic dog, Uncle Herbie paused in the open doorway, his hand resting on the doorknob. “You know, you won’t get the property if your dog bites your financial advisor or your realtor.”
Behind him, Auntie Vi giggled as she peered around his shoulder at Mari. “Just put him away, Mari. We’ll wait.”
She wrestled Pepper’s yapping body down the hallway while he strained against her on his hind legs. But once Uncle Herbie was out of sight around the corner of the hallway, he calmed down somewhat and let her put him in the spare bedroom.
“I thought you were training him so he’ll stop that,” Uncle said as she returned to the living room.
“Nah, I think I’ll keep him that way. If he bites someone, I’ll have the pleasure of getting sued for everything I own.”
“He seems like a good watchdog,” Auntie commented as she crossed the living room to set her bag on the coffee table. “Kinda hard to get dates, though.”
“Yeah, it would have been easier if he barked at women instead of men. The next time I rescue a dog from the shelter, I’ll ask for his resume of crazies.”
Auntie smiled but didn’t pause as she set out stacks of pristinely white and rather scary documents. “Let’s get started. Are you ready?”
“Want me to heat some water?” Uncle asked.
“To thaw your cold feet.”
“Uncle …” she admonished, cuffing him on his shoulder. He only laughed at her.
“I don’t blame you,” Auntie said. “Your mother is not going to be happy.”
Mari sighed. “Did she call you, too?”
“Five times today,” she said.
“Really? She only called me once.”
“Never mind your Ma,” Uncle said. “This is your choice, not hers.”
Yes. Yes, it was. It was her decision, not her mother’s and not Lana’s. “Let me get a pen.”
Her aunt walked her through all the places she needed to sign and initial. And before she knew it, it was done.
She sat back on her couch. Things seemed anticlimactic. But then again, had she been expecting a heavenly choir singing the Hallelujah chorus?
Or maybe Darth Vader’s marching theme. That might be more appropriate.
No, she had to be positive about this. Lots of clients had already expressed interest in her expanded services once she got her facility up and running. This new direction of her life would be successful.
Uncle cleared his throat. “So, you have to move out of this house in about a week, but your facility isn’t renovated enough for you to live there, right? Where are you going to stay?” He sounded almost nervous asking her.
“I already talked to a housing manager about renting an apartment that allows dogs. It’s kinda far from the clients whose dogs I take out on runs, but it’s the best I can do, since I have Pepper, but it’ll only be until the facility gets renovated.”
“How about a place in Wahiawa? That shouldn’t be too far from your facility and your clients."
She perked up. “That would be great. Where?” Had her Auntie Vi found something with her realtor connections?
“Um … have you thought about staying with your mother?”
Ba-dum bum. That was her jaw bouncing against the floor. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Just hear us out,” Uncle said. “Things are already rocky with you and your mom.”
“Exactly. So why would I—”
“Think about when you first bought this house.”
One of two times in her life when she had defied her mother. At the advice of Uncle Herbie, using the inheritance she got from her Grandmother for a down payment on a home rather than paying off student loans. Moving out of Mom’s house.
Mom had been more upset about her moving than the way she spent the money.
“I don’t know.” Mari shook her head. “She hates that I’m going full time with my dog business. Do you really think that she would even want me living at home again?”
Uncle nodded. “I think she would. She hated it when you left.” And he would know, being Mom’s older brother.
“And you know how she pays so much attention to what other people think of her,” Auntie said. “Think of how she’d feel knowing her daughter would rather rent an apartment than live with her.”
It might be more hurtful for Mom than her imagined embarrassment at Mari’s profession.
Mom’s constant criticism had worn a hole in her heart, like water against a stone. Could she really move back home and take months of that drip, drip, drip? Or would that dripping be more like a gushing dam when she was under her parent’s roof?
“I know it’s asking a lot,” Uncle said. “But she’s your ma. And deep down, she loves you.”
Actually, Mari could believe that. But along with that drop of love was a stagnant pond of disappointment. “She might want me at home, but at the same time, she won’t.”
“No, you’re wrong,” Uncle said. “She’ll want you at home—but she’ll also want to control you. There’s a difference.”
That made sense. Maybe Mom’s rejection was actually her way of manipulating Mari. And when Mari put it that way in her mind, she knew she’d have no problems resisting her mother’s attempts to control her.
That’s right. Her dogs didn’t control her—she controlled her dogs.
Um … not that Mom was a dog.
She sighed. “Okay. I’ll go ask her.”
“Good girl,” Uncle said.
After all, her mother might do her a favor and say no.