“I just thought of something,” Fenlin said, glancing over at Rahlen and the two pups in his lap. She’d just pulled onto the small side street where her little rental place was nestled. She didn’t live ‘in town’ per se, and she liked it better that way. Quieter, less people, she could step outside and breathe in the winter air whenever she needed to center her thoughts.
From behind them, Chessie the mabari whined.
“That you want a puppy?” Rahlen asked, lifting up the dozy of the two in his lap and waggling one of it’s front paws at her. “I mean look at them.”
“Well, no, I meant I’m not sure which of the two town garages the tow company will bring him to,” Fenlin said, making an effort not to look at the puppy’s adorable face. It yawned, all pink gums and sleepy eyes. “Also I can’t afford a mabari puppy. They cost … money. Probably a lot of money to buy, and that’s money that I don’t have right now.”
She pulled into the little driveway by the cabin she was renting and turned the car off. Looking over at Rahlen and the puppies he was holding, she wasn’t sure which the puppy or the ice-prince looked sadder.
“Pee break for the dogs, and, well, if you need one,” she said, putting the car into park and turning it off. “I’ll grab a blanket or two for the pups and we can head back into town centre and wait to see where the tow truck heads. Do you want to drop your stuff off here? I uh…” she faltered, halfway out of her seat. “I mean unless you’d prefer to stay in one of the hotels,” she said.
“And miss out on staying in an honest-to-Andraste log cabin?” Rahlen asked. “Pfft. Nah, I’m good staying with you so long as the offer hasn’t changed.” Carefully he got out of the car, setting down the puppies on the snowy lane. The sleepy one immediately fell over into the snow bank, while the more awake of the two started sniffing at the ground.
“Just giving you an out in case you can’t handle the rustic-ness,” Fen said with a small smile.
Opening the back door, she picked up two of the last three puppies and carefully set them down, watching their momma closely. Chessie seemed content enough to let Fen do most of the work, and gently picked the final puppy up by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and clamboured out of the car. The puppy was set down next to it’s sibilings and Chessie trotted off to the nearest tree, checking over her massive shoulder every few steps.
“Hey, Fen?” Rahlen said, walking over to the trunk of her small car. The same that had given up the first night she’d spent with him. Well, morning, of, technically.
“Sorry, it’s still locked isn’t it,” she said, stepping around puppies to meet him by the back of the car. “Sorry-”
He cut her off, pulling her up against him into a hungry kiss. They both smelled like coffee and puppies now, but it was the taste of his warm lips on hers that drowned out most of Fenlin’s other senses. She felt her hips bump back into the car’s trunk, and Fenlin reached out a hand to steady herself against the car, her other holding onto her keys and a handful of Rahlen’s coat.
“I forgot how good you taste,” Rahlen murmured, nipping at her lip. “Like a cup of fresh coffee. I’d be surprised if your lips weren’t half caffeine.”
Fen couldn’t help but laugh, warm and giddy despite herself. “I Should start charging for kisses then, she said. “I mean, I’ve gotta fuel my coffee addiction somehow, right?” She let out a slow, unsteady breath. She was no calmer afterwards.
“After we get Bannwyn’s dogs back to him, I think we should grab some takeout, preferably something that can be reheated easily,” Rahlen said, watching her with that insufferably attractive smirk. “Maybe tomorrow you can show me the lookout, once you’re done practice?”
On cue, Fenlin felt something tugging at her boot. Looking down, she saw one of the puppies had taken one of the pompoms of her boots laces and was now tugging at it with the smallest of growls.
“I think he likes you,” Rahlen said, abscently trailing a finger along the edge of her earlobe. “You said something about a blanket though, right?” he asked, reluctantly pulling back. Fenlin felt the cool winter air rush into the space he’d just heated against her, and she had to resist a shiver.
“Y-yeah, I’ll grab it. Keep an eye on the puppies?”
“Yes Ma’am,” Rahlen said with a mock salute, scooping up the puppy that had been licking his hands on the drive into town. Carefully unbuttoning his coat, Rahlen slipped the pup inside so that only a squishy face peered out at the world. “Oh, Fen?” He added, catching her before she’d gotten the door open. Looking over at him, Fenlin had to bite her lip to keep from smiling at the sight of the puppy peering out of Rahlen’s coat.
“Yeah?” she asked, brushing stray hairs back from her face.
He destroyed whatever composure she had left with the next sentence.
“I hope you don’t have early ice time tomorrow, I don’t plan on letting you sleep until I’ve had you howl my name to the stars so loud the aurora spirits hear you.” He smiled, as though he’d just said it was going to snow in the morning, and Fenlin felt the blush start deep in her belly, spreading up her neck to her face and ears so hot that she was sure she’d melt any snow that came near her.
“o…oh,” she said, voice almost a squeak. “I’ll….blanket. Puppies. Kay.”