My Boyfriends' Dogs (Tales of Adam and Even and Shirley)

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9780142417775: My Boyfriends' Dogs (Tales of Adam and Even and Shirley)

When Bailey Daley shows up at a St. Louis diner soaking wet, wearing a prom dress, and leading three dogs in tow, the owner figures there's a story behind all this. But what a story it is! Bailey wants what every girl wants from her boyfriend: enthusiasm, loyalty, and unconditional love. And Bailey is always falling in love-with boys, and with their dogs. Each of her dogs came from a relationship that didn't quite work out. But don't worry: In this fun, clean romance, true love is never far away-it just waits until you stop looking for it.

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About the Author:

Dandi Daley Mackall is the author of numerous books for children, including Larger-Than-Life Lara. She lives in West Salem, Ohio, with her husband and their three children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

St. Louis—The Present

“My mother says that falling in love and getting dumped is good for you because it prepares you for the real thing, like it gets you ready for true love and all, but I’m thinking it’s more like climbing up the St. Louis Arch and falling off twice. Does that first fall really get you ready for the second?” I shiver a little, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the idea of jumping off the “Gateway to the West.” I admit I’ve been pretty depressed for the past twenty-four hours, but not that depressed. I’m shivering because apparently rain in St. Louis is colder than rain in rural Missouri. Not to mention the fact that my soaking-wet prom dress—and this dress is a fact I’d rather not mention—is sticking to me like wet fur.

On either side of me sit my three dogs, still on leashes. Adam, the restless terrier, wags his tail and tries to break free to greet the three strangers I’ve joined in this dimly lit downtown café.

I glance toward the door, where the sign facing us says OPEN because it says CLOSED to the rest of the world. All three dogs shook themselves the second we stepped inside. Telltale puddles lead across the black-and-white linoleum floor straight to my table. “Sorry about the mess. I’ll clean it up before I go. I promise.”

The man who let us in, the old man who I think owns the place, pulls down one of the upside-down chairs from my tabletop and sits himself across from me. “Climbing up the Arch to fall off,” he repeats in a scratchy voice that sounds like he just woke up, but I’m guessing his voice always sounds like this. “Got to admit I never looked at falling in love in just that way.” He gazes out the rain-streaked window as if he’s mulling over how many steps there might be in the Gateway to the West. Maybe on a clear day, which this is not, you can see the Arch from here.

I glance at the other two people inside the café, but they don’t seem interested in me or my dogs. The big man behind the counter is scrubbing down the coffee machine, and the younger guy at the back table doesn’t look up from his newspaper. It’s pretty quiet in here, except for the humming of the fluorescent light overhead and the soft groans from the Dalmatian sleeping at my feet. Rain on the roof sounds like somebody’s throwing handfuls of pins at us.

When I turn back to the older man, he’s staring at my hair, which is still in its prom-night updo.

I reach for the arsenal of bobby pins holding on bravely. As soon as I touch my hair, I discover that massive hairspray plus rain water equals sticky glue. Nice.

“Just so you know,” I offer apologetically, “this isn’t how I usually wear my hair.”

I look over to the counter, but the big guy in a white apron is still cleaning the coffee machine.

I slip the dog leashes off my wrist and start to work un-bobby-pinning my sticky hair. My dogs don’t stir, not even Adam. They’re pretty worn out from our late-night walk that turned into a run when the downpour started. We must have banged on twelve doors before this one opened.

The rain picks up and batters the large front window, turning the world outside into a blur of light and motion. Wind makes the whole room creak.

The man across from me keeps studying me as if I’m under a microscope, the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen. He has an air of quiet kindness, so I’m thinking he’d be a golden retriever if he were a dog. He’s older than my grandfather, with skin darker than my coffee, which is thick and black and without a doubt the worst cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted. I’m not complaining. It’s cold outside, and the coffee shop was closed up tighter than a muzzled pit bull when the dogs and I showed up. This man didn’t have to let me in.

“Thanks again for opening up for me and pouring me your last dregs of coffee. I don’t even know your name.”

“Louie,” he supplies. “Just Louie.” He smiles, and it takes up half of his worn face.

I smile back. “Louie of St. Louie?”

He nods. “That’s the name of this place, Louie of St. Louie’s.” The way he says it lets me know this café belongs to him and he’s proud of it.

He should be proud. Now that I take the time to notice, I can see what a great place this is, old and full of atmosphere. Pockmarked paneled walls, great tables with silver chrome rims right out of the fifties—my mom would go nuts over them—and wooden-backed chairs with round stool seats like you’d see in a classic ice cream parlor.

The guy at the back corner table flips the page of his newspaper, but he doesn’t look our way.

I turn back to Louie. “This is a fantastic café, and I’d say that even if you hadn’t saved me from being washed away and flushed down the gutters of St. Louis in the middle of the night. What time is it anyway?” I spot a small round clock on the wall by the coatrack. “Wow. After eleven? I’ve got to bring my mom back here. During regular hours,” I add quickly.

I reach across the table and shake Louie’s hand. “I’m Bailey.” I thought my fingers were still numb, but when we shake, I can feel every bone in his hand. “I appreciate you letting my dogs come inside, too. If you can just give me a couple of minutes to warm up, and maybe for the rain to let up a little, we’ll all get out of your hair.”

“Louie!” The big guy behind the counter nods like he wants Louie to join him for a secret conference . . . about me.

But Louie isn’t going for it. He leans back in his chair and crosses his legs at the ankles. His worn black boots must be at least a size 14. “You got something to say?” Louie asks the counter guy.

Identity-Crisis Guy. That’s what I think when the man at the counter finally faces me. This guy has got to be smack in the middle of an identity crisis. The left side of his head is shaved and beardless. The right half has longish brown hair and a full beard, if you can call half a beard “full.” I can’t tell what dog he’d be if he were a dog. Some people are like that.

Louie raises his scratchy voice. “I asked if you got something to say to me, Rune?”

“Rune?” I repeat. Rune is a name I’ve never heard before, but somehow it fits this man, who’s keeping that counter between him and me, guarding his distance.

“Rune,” I say again, confirming the sound of it.

Louie gives me a tired nod, then shouts back to Rune the Identity-Crisis Guy. “You go ahead and have your say, Rune. My friend here won’t mind.”

“Your friend?” Rune shouts. “Your friend? ” He scowls at my three dogs. They’re curled on top of each other, being as good as I’ve ever seen them be. Rune points at us, and the tattoos circling his gigantic arm bulge. He sputters, but no real words come out.

“My new friend,” Louie answers calmly, the tiniest grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Rune reaches around to untie his apron, then throws it to the floor. “Okay then. Your friend’s dogs are going to get this joint shut down. You got any idea the kind of fines that health inspector will slap on you for having three dogs—three wet dogs—in your restaurant?”

I hadn’t thought of that. “He’s right, Louie. I’m really sorry.” I shove back my chair to get up, but Louie reaches across the table and pats my hand.

“You stay put, young lady,” Louie says. “It would be worth a whole heap of fines to hear what such a pretty young woman as yourself, dressed in just about the finest gown I’ve ever seen, is doing in a café in St. Louis with her three dogs at this time of night.”

“Technically, they’re my boyfriends’ dogs,” I admit.

“You steal them dogs?” asks Identity-Crisis Guy. “From your boyfriend?”

“Boyfriends. Plural,” I correct.

“She didn’t steal these dogs,” Louie insists, rushing to my defense. “Do these dogs look stolen to you, Rune?” He turns to me. “You tell him, Bailey.”

I glance at the back table, where the younger guy is still sitting alone, studying the Dispatch in the dim light of the closed café. When I don’t answer Louie and Rune right away, this guy looks over at us, and I think, Ha! You are so listening. I’ll bet he’s been listening all along.

“Well, it’s a long story, about the prom, and me being here with the dogs and everything.” I’m explaining all this to Louie. Only I’m still looking back at the corner guy, and he’s still looking back at me. It feels a little like the stare-down contests Amber and I used to get into in elementary school.

“Long story, you say?” Louie asks. “Well, we got time for long stories at Louie’s. Contemplating that storm outside, I’d say a long story might be the best thing on the menu right about now. Wouldn’t you say so, Colt?” He hollers this last part to Staring Corner Guy.

“Can’t argue with that, Louie,” replies Colt the Corner Guy. “But then I know better than to argue with you about anything.” He gets up and strolls across to the other side of the room, where he lifts a green sweater from the coatrack. He shakes it out and carries it over to our table. He’s alm...

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