Learning to Trust

Max hopped up and ran down the porch steps, then skidded to a stop in front of Justin. Sara followed more slowly, wiping her sweaty palms on the hem of her shorts.

Max stuck out a hand. “Thank you, Mr. Reed, for training Jett to be my dog.”

Justin shook Max’s hand. “You’re very welcome. I hope you can be patient. It will take a few months.”

“Are you sure?” Max asked. “He’s already so good.” “He’ll have to learn some special skills beyond simple obedience,” Justin said. “And we’ll have to work with him until those skills become automatic.”

“I wish I could have him now.”

“Good things are worth the wait.” Justin’s eyes met Sara’s.

“Yes, they are.” She struggled not to fall into those dangerous depths. She could so easily fall for Justin’s arresting features, his thick black hair that begged for someone’s fingers to comb through it, his beautifully expressive mouth that didn’t want to smile but sometimes couldn’t help it.

But Justin had proven himself to be a liar, and even if he hadn’t, she had no time for dating or hooking up or indulging in any sort of romantic relationship. Max’s seizure disorder meant that he had to be closely monitored, day and night, and Sara couldn’t trust just anyone to babysit him. She lived close to her parents so they could help out in a pinch, and her friend Heather offered to help too, but the reality was that none of them knew what to do for Max as well as Sara did.

She held a hand out to Justin. “Thank you.”

He took her hand, enveloping her fingers in his. “You’re welcome.”

His warm fingers around hers felt like an embrace. His hot-chocolate eyes below his thick black lashes wouldn’t release her gaze.

She pumped his hand vigorously, turning the intimate-feeling palm-to-palm embrace into a businesslike handshake. “I appreciate your offer more than I can say. I can’t afford to pay you what it’s worth to Max and me, but please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”

One of the shelter workers walked up with Jett. Justin released Sara’s hand to take Jett’s leash. Then he shifted his gaze to Max. “Jett and I have to get going, Max. I’ve got to work, and Jett’s going to get his first lesson in waiting patiently.”

Max dropped to his knees and hugged Jett fiercely.

“Sooner we get started, sooner we’ll be finished.” Justin’s voice was deep, soft, compassionate. It was so easy to imagine that Justin could be the kind of guy she could allow into her and Max’s life. But she knew from experience not to trust her imagination when it came to a man’s potential.

Justin knelt down and put a hand on Max’s back. “I’ll bring Jett back to see y’all this weekend, I promise.”

And yet how did they know he would do that?

Sara drew in a breath as an underhanded motive for Justin’s seeming generosity hit her. Had Justin seen that Sara and Reva didn’t trust him then made up this whole training-Jett-for-Max thing so he could take Jett despite not being officially approved to adopt him?

Was this all a big scam?

“You know what?” Sara took out her phone. “Let’s exchange numbers in case you have trouble getting back here this weekend. Because as I said before, if you can’t come here, we can go there.”

She wasn’t about to let Justin wiggle out of his promise now that he’d gotten her son’s hopes up.

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