They had all tried to suggest to Mrs Latham that a new owner ought to be found for Ben, but still she’d refused to be swayed.

‘He’s already been abandoned once,’ she had told Helen firmly. ‘So traumatic for him, poor boy. Why, when he first came to me he was so frightened of being left that he insisted on sitting on my sofa right up next to me. So sweet...’

Helen had rolled her eyes at the others as she’d related this piece of canine emotional manipulation.

‘So sweet,’ she had scoffed. ‘That dog knows when he’s on to a good thing. Talk about spoiled...’

Smiling to herself now, Georgia picked up her post. A small, pretty girl with dark red curls and huge violet-blue eyes wide-spaced in a creamy-skinned, delicately small-boned face, she had wanted to be a vet ever since she could remember.

Getting this job in such a busy, prestigious practice and within a two-hour drive of her parents’ home had been ideal, and she had soon settled down in the small flat she’d bought and begun to make new friends amongst her colleagues.

There was no man in her life: the years she had spent studying to qualify as a vet had meant that there had been neither the time nor the space for a permanent relationship. She had good friends, though—of both sexes—and enjoyed socialising. Ultimately she wanted to meet a special ‘someone’, fall in love, commit herself to their relationship and raise a family, but she was not in any hurry. Her warm personality and sensual good looks meant that she was never short of admirers. But right now her career was her main priority. Her elder brother often teased her that it was just as well that he was married with a young family because, otherwise, their parents would have had to wait a long time for their grandchildren.

Much as she loved her work, and the animals who featured in it, Georgia had no pet of her own, mainly because of the long hours she worked.

Quickly she checked her watch. Ten minutes to go before the owners and their dogs arrived for the week’s training class.

This was an extra service the practice provided along with access, should their owners wish it, to a pet psychologist—every vet who took the class had to go on a special course themselves to make sure their own training skills were up to the mark. They ran two courses, one for adult dogs and one for younger puppies, and it was Georgia who normally took the puppy classes, which was a duty she loved.

The practice was very fortunate in that, having been established for many years, and initially having been set up by the present senior partner’s grandfather, it owned the large garden to the rear of the Edwardian house which had been converted into its offices, operating theatre and surgeries. In addition to the cattery and kennels, the practice also had a large indoor training area, which was where the morning’s class was to be held. Picking up her box of rewards, and making sure she had everything else she would need, Georgia opened the door and walked into the passageway which led to the training room.


* * *

Piers Hathersage grimaced as he surveyed the back seat of his once immaculate car, now covered in dog hairs and the papier mâché mess which had originally been a magazine he had inadvertently left there.

‘Bad dog,’ he told the culprit sternly.

Ben responded by barking sharply and rearing up on his hind legs. He was a powerful dog, and Piers wondered for the umpteenth time what on earth his godmother had been thinking of when she had decided to give him a home.

It was true that he was a very handsome dog—his coat shone and his eyes sparkled with humour, intelligence and mischief, whilst he bounded impatiently on his lead, trying to pull away in the opposite direction from which Piers intended to lead him.

Piers had arrived at his godmother’s last night intending only to pay her a fleeting visit on his way back from his parents’, but on finding that she had sprained her ankle whilst falling over her wretched dog, and that her main concern about her incapacity was the fact that she would be unable to take him to his weekly training class, he had felt obliged to offer to perform this chore for her.

‘Oh, Piers, would you?’ she had breathed with such evident relief. ‘Do you hear that, Ben?’ she had cooed at the miscreant.

‘Uncle Piers is going to take you to your training class.’

Uncle Piers! Piers had gritted his teeth and manfully resisted the temptation to say what he was thinking.

Five months earlier, when his godmother had first got Ben, his parents had told him how concerned they were about the wisdom of her acquiring such a large, unruly dog.

‘Why on earth has she got him?’ Piers had asked them frowningly.

‘Well, she was a bit vague on the subject,’ his father had told him. ‘However, it seems that he came to her via the veterinary practice where she takes that dreadful cat she’s adopted.’

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