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Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 10

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

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?

All the posted parts are listed here.


Chapter Ten - Red Bougainvillea Bush

“Mari, I’m sorry.”

Mari almost dropped the bag of dog chow as she heard Lana’s contrite voice on her answering machine.

“I know I haven’t been the most supportive friend in this whole dog facility scheme of yours, and you’re right, I should be. So as of right now, I’m turning over a new leaf. No more negativity, okay? And to prove it, I am willing to ask my brother-in-law, who is a contractor, to supply me with recommendations of guys who can help you with renovations. Call me.”

Mari kicked a packing box out of the way in order to get to the phone and dial. “Lana, it’s Mari.”

“You got my message?”

“Yes, um … Thanks.”

An awkward pause. Then Lana said, “So, do you want recommendations for contractors?”

“I’d love some. I really want guys who have a good reputation. Cost is only secondary.”

“I’ll ask him. And Mari?”


“You know I only want what’s best for you, right? That’s why I was so irritable before. I just didn’t want you to do something you’d regret.”

“I know.” She traced the words on a packing box. “But this is my dream, Lana.”

“I know that now.” She cleared her throat. “I’ll get back to you with the contractors’ names in a few weeks.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it.” She hung up.

Now. Only one more thing to do.


From: Lana {}
To: Mari {}
Subject: Re: Pepper?

NO. Absolutely not. I have a husband and a teenaged son. I’d have to lock him up to keep him from barking and biting.

From: Mari {}
To: Lana {}
Subject: Re: Pepper?

Your son?

From: Lana {}
To: Mari {}
Subject: Re: Pepper?



From: Brandy {}
To: Mari {}
Subject: Re: Pepper?

Girl, you must be scraping the bottom of the barrel to ask me to take care of your crazy dog. Sure I live alone, but what if I wanted to bring a guy home? (Don’t laugh, it could happen.)

Seriously, what I know about dogs could fit in a macadamia nut.

Also … um … don’t hate me, but last week I got a cat. I COULDN’T HELP IT. My niece is going away for the summer and asked me to take care of Vally. He’s actually a really nice cat. Talks back to me, sort of.

“How are you doing, Vally?”


“That bad, huh?”


“Did ya take something for that hangover?”

“Meow, meow.”

Now confess, isn’t that cute???

And you have some nerve asking me after abandoning me here in Kaneohe. The move went about as smoothly as you’d expect—the engineers don’t know where anything is and the supervisors can’t understand why things are such a mess. And the outsourced manufacturing engineers in China are still calling the Mililani numbers even though we’ve given them the new phone numbers THREE TIMES.

Still on for lunch tomorrow?




Even if Dusty wouldn’t come through for her, he’d come through for Pepper, right?

“Okay, everybody, see you next week.” Mari dismissed her Canine Good Citizenship training class and glanced around the grounds of the community college. Still no Dusty. Then again, she couldn’t remember an instance when he actually arrived on time.

She roamed through the grass, picking up her small orange cones used for the training. Clients led their dogs away toward the nearby parking lot.

Dusty knew where she held her weekend classes, right? Or would he try to go to the indoor facility where she held her evening weekday classes instead? She hoped not—he’d be likely to burst in on one of the tae kwon do classes held in that multipurpose room on weekends, the reason why she had arranged with the community college to offer her dog training sessions through their catalog and use their grounds for the classes.

Only for a few more months, though. Once her facility was up and running, she could offer her classes there—an improvement over the damp ground of the college south lawn. And much less smelly, especially on days it rained. The perfume of wet dog just didn’t inspire happy thoughts, and that was assuming her students even showed up—attendance was dismal unless it was clear skies.

She finished packing up her training gear and glanced around. Still no Dusty. Now it was getting ridiculously late. Dusty had often been a “skosh” late and “small kine” late and even occasionally “dangerously” late, but never “ridiculously” late. Had he forgotten?


She turned and saw him hunkered down behind a red bougainvillea bush, a bit difficult since the untrimmed bush kept jabbing him in the neck.

“What are you—” she began.

“Shh! Don’t let him see you talking to me.”

“Huh? Who?”

Dusty sprinted to her side, snatched her arm, and yanked her the few feet back behind the bush.

She stood, looking down at him, and put her hands on her hips. “Dusty—”

He grabbed her forearms and jerked her down.

Off balance, she landed on her hands and knees. “Dusty, this isn’t funny.”

“You’re telling me.”

“Who are you hiding from?”

“My brother.”

“I didn’t even know you had a brother.” She peeked around the side of the bush to get a look. During their two brief months of dating, they hadn’t discussed anything family-related. Mari had wanted it that way—if he didn’t tell her about his family, she wouldn’t have to spill about hers.

“Don’t look. He’ll see you.” Dusty grabbed a handful of the back of her shirt and pulled her back.

“Why’s he here?”

“I don’t know. He’s been nagging me to get more hours at work and stop messing around, but I didn’t think he’d follow me to check up on me.”

Right there, the reason they’d broken up—on very friendly terms—about six months ago. “Are you still kitesurfing and trail running and playing video games all the time?”

“Hey, I’m up to fifteen hours of work a week.”

She rolled her eyes. “I guess that’s an improvement.”

Dusty nudged her playfully. “Besides, you liked those watersports and trail running stuff when we were first dating.”

True. Mari had loved Dusty’s sense of adventure. “Yes, when we first started dating. By month number two your deplorable work ethic had started to turn me off.”

He only grinned at her. “What can I say? I only work to be able to play.”

She really couldn’t fault him—he knew what he wanted and he went for it.

And now, she was, too.

“Shh.” Dusty ducked his head lower. “I think they’re coming this way.”

A low pitched voice reached her ear. She knew him. “That’s Mr. Wong. He’s in charge of campus security.”

Fantastic. She’d be caught by a campus security guard hiding behind a bush with her ex-boyfriend.

“Oh.” Dusty’s tension deflated. “That’s why he’s here.”


“Ashwin works for some security-something like that. He came here for work, not following me.”

The voices were moving away, so Mari peeked a look at the retreating backs. Dusty’s brother looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place him. “That’s your brother?”

“Yup. You like good work ethics? He’s Mr. Work Ethics On Speed.”

He did seem a bit uptight—at least from this angle.

Well, she couldn’t pop up from behind the bush while they were still in visual distance, so she sat on the damp ground. “Anyway Dusty, I need a favor from you.”

He flashed that familiar charming grin. “What will you give me in return?”

She hadn’t thought of that. “Undying gratitude?”

“Gotta do better than that.”

“Oh, come on, Dusty. It’s about Pepper.”

His eyes became little pink hearts. Dusty absolutely loved the dog. When they were dating, she often complained that he spoiled Pepper more than he ever spoiled her. “How’s the old Pepper doing?” His voice was bordering on kissy noises.

“About to become homeless.”


She explained about her facility, about selling her house, about moving in with Mom. “And I’ve tried everyone I can think of who could take Pepper, but most of my dog trainer friends have sons or husbands, and no one wants to take in a dog who hates all men.”

“Not all men,” Dusty said smugly.

“Exactly.” Mari gave a wide smile. “Which is why I’m asking you to take him.”


“You are the only male on this planet who Pepper likes—probably because we were dating when I first got him, and he got used to you.”

“But I can’t take care of a dog.”

“You don’t want to take care of a dog. But Dusty, my only other option is to take him back to the shelter.”

His eyes darkened. “No, you can’t do that.”

“It’ll only be for a few months, until I can finish renovations on my facility and move in. Please? Doesn’t your roommate have a dog?”

“My roommate moved out.”

“Oh. But you can have pets in your apartment, right?”

“Oh, yeah.” Dusty then smiled. “Okay, I’ll take him. It’ll only be temporary, anyway.”

Mari pinned him with a stern eye. “Dusty, you have to take good care of him. Don’t forget to run him twice a day or he’ll get antsy and destructive. No, wait, even before that, don’t forget to feed him or refill his water bowl. I’ll try to see him everyday to keep up his training.”

“Is he doing any better?”

“Well, if I have liver, he’s distracted enough that he can spot a man at a distance and not go ballistic.”

Dusty scratched his bran-flakes-cereal-colored head. “I guess that’s better than he was before. I wonder what happened to him to make him like that.”

Mari had wondered that herself, but didn’t want to descend into those kinds of dark thoughts—Pepper was hers, now, and she’d never abuse him the way he was before.

“Thanks for taking him, Dusty. When do you want me to drop him off?”

“I’ll pick him up from your house. Tomorrow? I have to work at eight, but I’ll be done by noon.”

“I’ll be waiting for you at home. Don’t be late.”

Dusty laughed and jumped to his feet. “I’m always late.” He scooted away, probably off for a blistering run up Moanalua or maybe kitesurfing with his friends at Kailua Bay.

Whew. Pepper had a home.

Everything was turning out perfectly.



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