Chapter 1 

*Blaire*

I hate Mondays.

All my life I've hated Mondays. I remember when I was in kindergarten I would hide under my desk on Mondays. Not even the really good Play-doh could tempt me out. I'm talking about the Play-doh that's never been opened, never been mashed in with other colors Play-doh. For some weird reason, I felt safe under my kindergarten desk, like the wrath of Monday couldn't get me.

But now I'm too mature to hide from Monday.

Yeah right. And I'm the pope.

So I started Monday the 1st of December under my desk, wishing I had a cappuccino and a coloring book.

"Dr. Whitney?" I heard someone call out my name above me. I soon saw my receptionist's feet in front of my face.

"She's not here, Lola! Go away!" Lola Roberts bent down and stared at my 5'11 frame trying to fit successfully under a three-foot high desk. It was not quite successful.

"Child, you better get out from under your desk!" Lola said. "Your 9:30 checkup is here."

I groaned. "Do I have to?"

"Dr. Whitney, I will come down there to get you. It won't be pleasant for you or me."

I crawled out from under the desk. I figured it wasn't too smart to tempt anyone who hadn't had at least three cups of coffee on a Monday. I brushed off my khaki cargo pants and straightened my shirt. The green one with dancing dogs. I love that shirt. Lola handed me a clipboard.

"Mrs. Jamison is in room two." I strolled out of my office and walked down the hall going over the clipboard.

"Blaire, darling... those are bitchin' shoes, doll. Absolutely bitchin!" I grinned and stuck my head in the doorway of the office the voice came from. Muffin Chaney, my partner and one of my best friends, stuck her head out from behind her computer. I looked down at my yellow boots I had had since I was a teenager.

"You are definitely the shit," Muffin said, throwing me a thumbs up.

"Thanks, Muff. You have no idea how much that means to me."

"Don't worry, I know."

"Listen, I have Mrs. Jamison in room two, and I'm looking to dump her on someone else. Where's Jack?"

"Doing a necropsy with Andrew."

"Unh! Luke?"

"It's his day off."

"Is anyone here?!"

"Nope. Everyone is either sick or off. Mondays are always slow." Muffin grinned. "Guess you're stuck." I groaned and continued on my way.

"Hi Mrs. Jamison," I said cheerfully. "How's Mitzi doing today?"

"Oh she's doing fine, really, I don't see any need in this..."

"Why don't you just set her up on this table for me?" I said as kindly as I could muster.

Mrs. Jamison leaned down and picked up Mitzi. She carried her over, her fluff of gray hair waving and her cellulite wiggling and set her on the table. I stroked Mitzi's head and the Scottish terrier licked my hand.

"What is this?" you ask. "A Scottish terrier?" You're darn tootin'. I am one of the doctors that practices at the Tulsa Animal Hospital. I graduated from medical school last year, just as Dr. Smith was retiring. Muffin and I, and two other friends that we roomed with at Texas A&M, Jack Monroe, and Christian Ian, took over the hospital.

One thing that I've noticed is the lack of trust that we are getting. Even trying to do a normal checkup, like on Mitzi, gets raised eyebrows and questions from the owners. Some people actually ask to see my degree. I feel so trusted.

After Mrs. Jamison left, I wiped down the table, straightened the room up, and added notes to Mitzi's profile. Muffin walked in as I was adding the weight problem into the files.

"I have to jet, Blaire," she said, adjusting the hat that covered her dark blue hair. "We don't have anyone else until one, and I have a lunch date. Might as well change into something that doesn't smell like dog for Riley, eh?"

I glanced at the clock. It read 11:33. Wasn't it just 9:30?

"Was I with Mrs. Jamison for 2 HOURS?!"

Muffin smiled slyly. "Yep. I could hear it all while I was fixing Maude Maynard's dog, Frisky. 'No Mrs. Jamison, don't touch that! No it's not hurting her, she's fine. No, wait! Stop!' It seemed like she kept messing stuff up."

I groaned. "She kept touching stuff, asking whether the thermometer was hurting her, not letting me take her temperature...I hate that."

"Gotta go, Blaire-bear," she said, slipping on her jacket.

"Don't call me Blaire-bear."

Don't you love when childhood nicknames come back to haunt you?

I walked up to the front room. Lola was just walking out the door.

"Where are you going?"

"Lunch break," she said quickly. She hitched her purse up on her shoulder and the door swung shut behind her.

"Great," I said aloud. "All alone. Again. Why am I always the one here while everyone else eats? I NEED LUNCH TOO, YOU KNOW!" I told the walls.

The phone rang behind the desk. I eyed it warily before lowering myself in Lola's chair and picking up the phone.

"Hello, Tulsa Animal Hospital, this is Dr. Whitney."

"Dr. Whitney? Yes, this is Juliana Marshall. I need to make an appointment to get Prissy fixed."

"Okay Ms. Marshall, just a minute." I rooted around Lola's messy desk for the schedule book. How can one person be so messy? I asked myself.

Yeah, like you're Mrs. Clean, myself told me.

Oh, shut up.

"Aha!" I grabbed the book from under a stack of magazines. I faintly heard a car parking outside, and loud shouts. I opened the book to this week.

"Alright Ms. Marshall, what day is best for you?"

"Well, I was thinking a Wednesday, but then I remembered my PTA meetings, so then I thought maybe Thursday, but that's Mikey's scouts, and..."

I tuned her out and focused my attention to drawing neat little doodles in the margin. I heard the door open and feet clatter inside.

"I need the Doctor," someone said panicky.

"Ms. Marshall, why don't you think about it some more and call back, okay? Bye," I said quickly and hung up. I stood up and hurdled over the desk. I knew high school athletics would come in handy sometime. The voice had disappeared, so I ran outside as fast as I could without tripping over my long legs.

"What's wrong?" I yelled, shivering in the December air. Two blonde men were standing by the bed of an F150 and attempting to haul something out. They looked up and stared at me.

I almost wet myself. There stood before me the two most handsome hunks of flesh I have ever seen.

"Where's Dr. Smith?" The one with blue eyes asked.

Okay, Blaire here's your chance. Don't blow it!

"Um... retired. I'm Dr. Whitney."

Notice my astounding wit and impressive vocabulary.

Brown Eyes looked at me with tears streaming down his face. "My dog...she got hit and...and..."

"It's okay," Blue Eyes murmured. He wrapped his arm around Brown Eyes and I immediately got disappointed. Please don't be gay... please don't be gay, I thought.

"Bring her in," I said. I ran back to the building and almost killed myself running to the operating room.

"That's enough exercise for me today, thanks," I muttered, as I almost killed myself as I skidded around a corner. Brown Eyes and Blue Eyes came in carrying a huge blanket soaked in blood. They set it gently on the stretcher we have up front for emergencies.

"I'm going to take her into X-rays," I said grabbing the bars. "What's her name?"

Brown Eyes was sobbing on Blue Eyes shoulder as Blue Eyes answered. "Cujo."

Cujo? As in...man-eating dog Cujo? Oh god.

I pulled her into radiation and shut the door. I threw back the blanket and stared in horror at what I saw.

A Great Dane. A Great Dane the size of a horse. Whose brown fur was matted with blood, mud, and tears. And its front shoulder was sticking out at a weird angle.

I hate Mondays.

.

Chapter 2

*Blue Eyes...erm, Taylor*

This is a fine way to start the week.

I was sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair, my ass slowly becoming numb. Have you sat in a chair, where no matter how you move you just can't get comfortable? Well, this so-called chair was worse than that. Zac was sitting next to me, his head in his hands, sobbing quietly. Cujo meant so much to him. He had saved her from our neighbor who was abusing her when she was 6 months old. Now Cujo's 3, and almost part of the family. I rubbed the heel of my hands down the armrests on the chair and watched Zac.

His long blonde hair was falling out of the rubberband and falling into his face. His jeans and T-shirt were stained with the dog's blood, and his scuffed up black shoes were stained with mud. He seemed like he was 10 years younger all scrunched up in the chair like that. When he was 13 and actually smaller than me, instead of the Incredible Hulk that "little" Zac became.

"She's been in there for a long time," Zac finally said, breaking the silence. "Do you think something's wrong?"

"I'm sure she's fine," I said, using the voice reserved for younger siblings when they fell down and scraped a knee. "Jo's really big, and it's probably taking awhile for the X-rays."

As soon as I finished talking, Dr. Whitney emerged from the back, wearing a lead vest and a medical mask hanging around her neck.

Zac stood up quickly. "How is she? Is she okay?"

"I took the X-rays on Cujo, and there are only a few minor injuries, nothing to be worried about."

"So...she'll be okay?"

"She'll be fine! She's not in any pain now, I gave her a shot to hold her over until we can fix her up. Is it okay if we hold her over night?"

Zac smiled slightly. "Thank God! You can hold her for as long as you need to. She was bleeding so much, I thought for sure..."

"Danes are always bleeders," Dr. Whitney laughed.

I was just standing there, staring. I'm sure I looked like a huge idiot, but that's all I could get myself to do. I couldn't think of any intelligent remark to say. I'm sure if I opened my mouth, I'd say something like, "My monkey's uncle is blue", or something that made just as much sense.

Dr. Whitney handed me a clipboard. "If you could fill this out, it'll be great."

"Huh? Oh, yeah." I tore my eyes away from her. I felt a little bad. Here Zac is grieving, and all I can do is check out the doctor. But she was beautiful.

She turned back to Zac. "I have Cujo cleaned up, if you'd like to see her before you leave."

"Yeah." He and Dr. Whitney went to the mysterious beyond behind the doors.

I sat down in the uncomfortable chair again. "This is great..." I muttered to myself. "I don't think my ass will ever be the same." I started filling out the paperwork for Cujo.

It all started when we left Los Angeles. Isaac, Zac, and I had decided we were tired of working under other people and developed our own record company, Hitz Records. Original, I know. We had other artists under our label as well as ourselves. We were coming home to Tulsa for Christmas, to spend time with our family. Jess, who had turned 20 over the summer, was coming home from her sophomore year at Julliard in New York, and we were all going to be together for the first time in a very long time. Dad had taken Mac and Zo� to Grandma Hanson's to visit so she could see her "little grandbabies", Isaac had gone to see his fianc�e, Jill, and Mom, Jess, and Avery were going Christmas shopping. Zac and I were going to hang around the house, and take Cujo for a walk to have some brother bonding time. Zac had just let Cujo out of the back yard, and I was standing on the other side of the street. Jo saw me and ran straight to me, neither of us noticing the van coming down the street...

I squeezed my eyes shut and pushed the thought out of my head. I'll admit it, I'm not really convinced that dog is man's best friend. Any animal that licks itself and drinks out of toilets, and then comes to lick your face to wake you up at 4 in the morning to tell you it has to go out is not on my good list. But I had grown fond of her, and I've recently been known to stand outside freezing to death while the monster sniffs for a place to take a leak.

Zac didn't need this. None of us did. We were going through a lot of stress right now, with finishing our album, and running the record company. Most of our problems revolved around a snot-nosed brat we had signed, who was really not cooperating. Zac had convinced us to sign her because he had a thing for her, but even he is going nuts with the things she demands. So you can see why we really needed this vacation.

My eyes shot open to the sound of the door opening. Zac and Dr. Whitney came out, Zac looking a little better, but not much. His face was still pale and his eyes blood shot, but a slight smile accented his face. I stood and handed her the clipboard I had just finished and was drawing doodles on.

"I'll call you when Cujo's ready to be picked up." Dr. Whitney put her arm around Zac's shoulders. "Are you going to be okay?" Zac nodded slowly.

He looked up at me. "I'm going out to the truck."

I watched him ramble out the door.

"So...Taylor Hanson," Dr. Whitney said slowly, checking the paper. I winced and waited for the usual recognition, the gasps, and bug eyes staring at me to make sure I was real. Nothing happened. "I'll call you."

"Great. So, Cujo will be okay, right?"

"Right." She smiled brightly at me and I almost melted.

"Bye," she said as I went out the door.

"Bye." I sighed as I headed to the truck. I am definitely going to have to come here more often.

.

Chapter 3

*Blaire*

Be still my furiously beating heart.

That was Hanson. Hanson was just in my hospital.

Please excuse me while I scrape lint off the floor and create a semi-shrine.

It took me awhile, but once I saw Taylor's name, it hit me like a semi on a dark night.

Okay. I'll admit it. I was a fan back in the day. I went to the concerts, I had the albums, the shirts, the posters. Heck, I was even known to spend my hard earned babysitting money on those Teen Beat magazines that only had one picture of them. But that was back in 1997. It's 2008 now. I've changed. Really. Hey, I saw those eyes roll. I'm insulted. Anyway, after the whole "I-worship-the-ground-you-walk-on" phase, I proceeded to mature and respect them as the kick ass rock musicians they are. The fact that all three of them looked as though they fell out of the Gorgeous Tree and fell into a Hunk Puddle was just icing on the beefcake. Creamy, milk chocolate icing.

I went back to the room I had left Cujo sleeping peacefully, feeling no pain. I had decided to wait for Jack so he could pop her shoulder back in its socket. I'd also decided that he should take the entire job. Because I was still a bit miffed that I was the only one here.

"Hey baby," I murmured to Cujo. I stroked her soft head and monitored her breathing. It wouldn't help me any if she went into respiratory arrest, now would it? I thought I heard the door open and footsteps enter the building.

"HEY! Back here!" I yelled.

A few seconds later, two young men appeared at the doorway.

"Hey Blaire," Andrew said nonchalantly.

"Finally! Someone's here!" I rushed to Andrew and Jack, prepared to hug them for saving me from my loneliness, when I smelled them. I recoiled quickly. "You guys stink."

"Hello to you too," Jack Monroe grinned.

"We just finished a necropsy on Mr. Robinson's old heifer that's been dead for a couple of days," Andrew said. I wrinkled my nose. No explanation necessary.

Jack Monroe was one of the doctors' Muffin and I were partnered with, along with one other man, Christian Ian. We had all been roommates and best friends at Texas A&M. Jack has been one of my best friends since we were playing in sandboxes during elementary school recesses. Andrew, the other stooge, was Andrew Whitney, my little brother. He's still in college at Oral Roberts University, and the cheapskate decided that he wanted to live with me in my apartment rather than get a dorm room, so I made him assist us in all his spare time. He's actually pretty handy.

"Congratulations!"

Jack's eyebrows raised. "What are you talking about?"

"You guys are the first people to arrive! You get to work on Cujo, this fabulous monster of a dog that came in while I was all alone! How I envy you."

I handed Jack the X-rays and grabbed the papers Taylor had filled out. "I have to enter this into the computer." I ruffled Andrew's short black hair and hurried into my office to escape them before they had a chance to tell me all the gory details of the dead cow and the nice things found inside.

I pulled my desk chair up to my ancient blue iMac I had bought when they first came out, and pulled into the program. I skimmed over the information, talking to myself.

"Hmmm...Taylor Hanson. Let's just type you in old Blue here" I muttered to myself. I hummed 'MMMBop' to myself as I entered Taylor into the files. About halfway down the page I found a phone number.

"Hmmm..." I know what I was fixing to do was wrong. I know I shouldn't have done what I did, that he didn't give out this information for me to use, but I couldn't help it. Blame it on hormones. Blame it on memories. Or blame it on the fact that I haven�t had a date in a very long time. You choose.

I tiptoed to the doorway, looked to see if anyone was coming, then rushed back to my desk. I grabbed a pen and wrote Taylor's number on a yellow sticky note. Taylor Hanson: 867-5309. Shame on me.

Just as I finished typing, I heard the front door close and heavy footsteps walk into the waiting room.

I glanced at my watch and decided it had to be Muffin.

"MUFF!" I yelled. I grabbed the paper out of the printer and ran to the front reception area.

"Muff, Muff, Muff, Muff," I chanted as I clodded down the hallway, my shoes squeaking every few steps.

I slid through the door and in my excitement, I accidentally mowed the person down.

I landed hard on the ground.

"Owwww," I moaned, rubbing my head where I had smacked it on a cupboard. "That's gonna leave a mark."

"What's your problem, Blaire?" a masculine voice asked angrily. A voice who was not Muffin.

I sat up and saw that I had bowled over Christian. Oops.

"Sorry, Christian," I said, getting up slowly. "Is your cold better?"

"Not anymore," he grumbled.

What a whiner.

"Why are you here, anyway?"

"Jack called and said he had some papers for me. Is that okay, or should I ask your permission before I come here again?"

I rolled my eyes.

The front door opened once again. I turned hopefully.

I caught a glimpse of Muffin's blue hair. "Muffin!"

Muffin looked up, her eyes wide. "What did I do?"

"I met a guy! Well...technically."

"You did? I'm so happy for you! Who is it? I want all the details."

"Well, he and his brother brought in a dog, and Jack and Andrew are fixing her up, she just had some little things. And he looks so good! I think I'm going to call him."

"It's about time you had a date," Christian grumbled, still rubbing his head. "Your last date was in college, when we all went out to celebrate our good midterm grades our freshman year."

"Nobody asked you," Muffin snapped.

Christian stuck his tongue out at her.

"Real mature," Muffin laughed.

"Give me a break...I'm sick."

She turned back to me. "So who's the guy?"

'Don't do it,' myself warned me. 'You went through hell when they found those pictures of you at that Hanson concert. Remember all the teasing? DON'T DO IT!'

"Taylor Hanson," I said nervously.

'Stupid.'

Muffin's eyes bugged out. "Taylor HANSON? As in MMMBop?" Christian started laughing.

Jack and Andrew emerged from working on Cujo. "Cujo's done and in your office, Blaire. What was that about Taylor?" Jack asked, pulling off his latex gloves.

Christian had a smug look on his face. I hate that look. I had to live through that look in college when he made better grades than me. Which was a lot.

"Blaire's in love with the MMMBop boy. 'Oh, he's so hot!'" He mocked in a high pitched voice.

I glared at him. "I hate you."

"Don't act like that, Christian," Jack frowned. He tossed his gloves into the neon green trashcan beside Lola's desk. "Tay's cool." All eyes turned to him.

"Excuse me?" Muffin sputtered. "Tay?"

Jack shrugged. "Jill's finance is Isaac Hanson, Taylor's older brother. They've been over to our house a few times. At first, it was weird. You know, all the times we teased Blaire and stuff. But they're all really cool." Like Andrew and I, Jack and his twin sister, Jill, live together.

"Well. Paint me red and call me Billy."

Christian stared at me. "That's a Texas thing, right?"

Andrew snorted. "No. That's a loser thing. A Blaire thing."

I glared at my brother. "You have a lot of room to talk, Mr. My-belt-buckles-weigh-ten-pounds. So...should I call him?" I asked Jack, twisting a pen nervously in my hands.

"Yeah, why not? He's not seeing anyone, if that's what you're asking."

"Yes!" I pumped my fist in the air. "I'm on my way to getting a social life!"

"Blaire, before you combust with excitement," Andrew interrupted my victory dance. "You still have to call him. And he still has to say yes. And we all know that the probability of that happening is..."

"Unless you want to take up a career singing soprano in the Vienna Boys Choir, I wouldn't say anything else."

"Sibling love at its finest," Christian sighed.

I glared at him. "Bite me."

"Now Blaire, that's not very ladylike. You won't get any dates acting like that."

"It's times like these I wish I had become a nun."

"You'd look sexy in a habit," Christian said suggestively, wiggling his eyebrows.

"Shut up."

.

Chapter 4

Taylor

"Where have you guys been?" Jess came running out the door to our family's house as we drove up.

The car ride home had been completely silent, with the exception of an old Aerosmith c.d. blaring out of the stereo. Zac had been occupied with thoughts of his dog, and I had been occupied with thoughts of his dog's doctor.

Zac slowly slid out of his seat, only to be embraced by Jess. "We got home from the mall and no one was here. The doors were unlocked, the back door was wide open, and there were bloody towels all over. Mom thinks you've been killed by some psychopath."

Zac twisted out of her embrace and headed silently to the house. Jess stood watching him, her mouth wide open from the shock of his dismissal of her.

"Jess?"

"Taylor!" She turned and ran towards me. "What's with Zac?" she asked.

I wrapped an arm around her thin waist. "Cujo got hit by a car," I said quietly. Jess gasped. "We just got back from taking her to the vet."

"Poor Zac," she murmured.

"Well, she's okay, no real damage. Just some flesh wounds. The only real danger is going to be fending off Mom."

"Good luck," Jess giggled. "She was going crazy worrying about you two. Avery and I could barely convince her to wait until Dad got home before she called the police. Avery noticed Jo was gone and pointed that out, but it didn't help her much. She was sure one of you was in the hospital."

I groaned. Once Mom got over her worry, Zac and I were going to be in big trouble. I know it seems funny that I'm 25 and I still worry that my mommy's going to be mad at me, but it's true. She has a piercing look that makes you wish you were never born. You can't imagine the amount of trouble both Isaac and I got in last year when we took Zac partying for his 21st birthday. I suppose coming home at four in the morning holding Zac up by his arms as he slurred old country songs about lovin' and leavin' wasn't a very good example of what responsible young men we are. By the time we had cleaned the house about five times and brownnosed to the best of our ability did she even begin to contemplate letting us return to California.

Try telling producers and artists that you can't begin to record a new album yet because your mommy won't let you.

"Hello?" I said hesitantly. "Mom?"

"Jordan!" Mom came running in the living room, flour on her hands. When Mom gets into a major emotion, she cooks. From the smell of the house, we'd be eating well for awhile.

"Jordan Taylor Hanson, I was so worried about you! The door was wide open, there was blood everywhere." Mom wrapped her arms around me and squeezed hard, starting to cry.

"Mom...I can't breathe..." I gasped. Mom's arms were beginning to rival a boa constrictor about to go in for the kill. She loosened her grip and looked around.

"Zachary's not here. Oh my God! It's Zac, isn't it? He got hurt?!"

"No Mom, he came in right before me, didn't you see him? We're both fine. Honest."

Mom looked into my eyes, decided I wasn't making it up, and ran as fast as she could up the stairs.

"Zac!" she yelled as she went up. Mom must be part mountain goat. I have never seen her move so fast. Not wanting to miss any action, I followed her. She swung open the door to Zac's room and entered. Zac was sitting cross-legged on his bed, staring at the floor. Mom flew to the space beside him, embracing him tightly.

"Oh, my baby! Are you okay?" she murmured into his hair.

"Cujo got hit by a car," Zac said dully.

Mom gasped. Seems to be the popular Hanson family reaction. "Is she okay?"

"She's in the hospital," he said in the same monotonous tone. Zac never cries, but I could see tears forming in his eyes again.

"They're just minor injuries," I added quickly. "She'll be fine, Zac. Dr. Whitney will take good care of her." I thought back to Dr. Whitney, her shiny brown hair, long legs, tanned skin, beautiful face, wonderful smile, and her deep blue eyes. And the fact that she was almost as tall as me was pretty sexy, too.

Zac sniffled. "I know she'll be okay, but I want her to be okay here."

"You heard Dr. Whitney say she'd probably be able to come home tomorrow. She knows how much Cujo means to you, Zac."

"The girls and I are making cookies, Zac," Mom said. "Would you like one?"

"No. I just want to be alone for awhile."

"Okay honey. We'll be downstairs."

Mom got up and left the room a lot more slowly than when she came in. I glanced at Zac and resisted the urge to punch his shoulder and say 'Suck it up, babyface.'

As soon as I got downstairs, I followed my nose into the kitchen. Avery was decorating sugar cookies with frosting. It amazes me to watch how much my family has grown. We don't see each other very often, but the last time I remember seeing Avery, she wasn't like this. Whoever was standing before me wasn't my sister. Avery is the one who teams up with me to pull practical jokes on Zac and Ike, not this beautiful young woman who this year finally convinced Mom to let her take her senior year of high school in public school with her friends, along with Mac as a freshman, and Zo� in 6th grade. I sighed and Avery noticed me sitting at the counter.

"Hey Taylor. How've you been?" That was it. No hysterical 'We were so worried!' Just 'How've you been?' Sometimes Avery amazes me.

"Oh, just great. We had to take Cujo to the vet, in case you were wondering. You know, I wouldn't want you to be sick with worry or anything over little old me."

Avery grinned. When did she get her braces off? "I figured as much. Mom and Jess were freaking though. Don't worry, Tay, you're still loved."

"I know."

"Tay...if that ego of yours gets any bigger, it'll suck up all the oxygen in the room."

"Everyone's a comedian," I muttered. I grabbed a snowman of the plate of cookies Avery had finished and bit off its head. Avery frowned.

"Don't eat them all."

"I just had one! Why do you think I'll eat them all? I just had one!"

"Taylor, no offense, but if you didn't eat for one day, two third-world countries wouldn't be starving anymore."

"God, what is it, Pick On Taylor Day?"

"Yep. You should check your calendar."

"Well. If that's the way I'm going to be treated, I might as well just leave. Just forget that you haven't seen me in 4 months. Ignore the fact that I have yet to do my Christmas shopping, and I could easily just forget to buy you anything. Oops, sorry, Ave, I guess I just overlooked you."

Avery rolled her eyes, and set the plate in front of me.

"That's better."

"Yeah, yeah. Mom wants these done before Isaac and Jill come home. I think we're having Jill and Jack over for dinner."

"Great, that's all we need. Ike and Jill making goo-goo eyes at each other during dinner. Then your third-world countries will have a lot to eat."

"They are pretty disgusting, aren't they?"

"You said it. Ave, if I ever get like that over a girl, hurt me."

"No problem. I shall enjoy it."

As Avery and I decorated snowmen, trees, and candy canes as eccentrically as we could, we continued to make fun of Ike. Spending time with Avery, making fun of Ike, and a kitchen full of cookies. Life just doesn't get any better than this.

.

Chapter 5

Blaire

"Ouch! Why, you ungrateful little shit!"

I was giving Cleopatra, the O'Bryan's Siamese cat, a flea bath. But apparently the little fleabag doesn't like water. Who knew?

I glanced at the wall clock. Sometimes I wish I could speed up time. Just snap my fingers and hours go by. The clock is going extra slow just to annoy me. As I willed the clock to speed, Cleopatra took another swipe at my arm.

"HEY! THAT HURT!" I roared. I hurriedly finished spraying her with the hose that connects to the faucet. Rotten cat.

"It's not fault you have fleas," I scolded the sulking feline. "You should be happy I'm helping you. But noooo. You try to kill me. Fine. I'm finished anyway." I grabbed the towel lying next to the tub, wrapped Cleopatra up in it, and picked her up. Holding Cleo to my chest, I walked to the examining room and plunked her down on the table. I started rubbing her down with a fluffy pink towel when the phone rang.

"Is anybody gonna get that?" I yelled. Somehow, I wasn't surprised I got no answer. Sighing, I picked up the phone.

"Hello, Blaire's House of Pain."

"Blaire? What are you doing answering the phone?"

"Well, howdy Jill. I don't know. No one else picked up, so I figured, 'Hey, since I'm the only one doing any work around here, why don't I just do Lola's job, too?'"

Jill laughed. "Is Jack anywhere around?" Jill is Jack's twin sister. Get it...Jack and Jill? Mrs. Monroe wasn't the most creative person when it came to picking names for her kids.

"I don't know. I'm sure he's avoiding work somewhere around here. JACK!" I yelled. Jack's head popped in the doorway.

"You rang?"

I held the phone out to him.

"One of your many lovers wants to know what time tonight's orgy will be." Jack smirked at me and grabbed the phone. "Hey Jill."

Darn. I thought I had him fooled.

"Yes, I remembered," Jack said as I dried Cleopatra and ran the flea brush through her fur.

"Of course. You've only been talking about it since forever...YES!...okay, fine." Jack glanced at me and a mischievous smile distorted his face. Uh oh. This can't be good for me.

"Hey Jill, why don't we bring Blaire?"

I knew it.

"Bring Blaire where?" I asked warily. It's not that I don't trust Jack okay, I don't trust him.

He put his hand over the receiver. "Jill and I are going out with one of her friends and his family who are back in town. You're coming."

"Maybe you two should go without me. I mean, if they're just back in town, they don't want me tagging along..."

"Of course they do. Come on, it'll be a chance to meet some people. And Andrew has some study group at Oral Roberts, so you'll be all alone. Come on, Blaire, it'll be fun."

"They don't want me there..."

"Yes they do. And what's more important...I want you there. Come on Blaire-bear. You know you want to."

"Jaaaaack..."

"Blaaaaaire..."

"Argh!" I threw my hands in the air. I knew Jack would pester me into submission. To avoid a big battle, it was better to give up now. I would just end up going anyway. "Fine...I'll go. Are you happy now?"

"Extremely." He got back on the phone with Jill. I picked up Cleo and took her back to her holding cell in the kennel.

Jack was just hanging up as I returned to the examining room to clean out the tub.

"Jill and I will pick you up around 7, is that okay?"

"Whatever."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Blaire, stop whining. It won't be that bad. I promise you it'll be fun."

I sighed, and grabbed a paper towel out of the dispenser and pressed it to one of the cat scratches.

"It's better than sitting at home," he added. "Maybe you'll meet someone."

I turned around and glared at him. "Jack, what are you talking about?"

He smirked and waltzed out. "I know something you don't know!"

I hate my life. Knowing Jack for as long as I have, I was sure he was fixing me up with a guy with a field goal between his front teeth.

I walked down the hallway to my office. The building has tons of hallways, so walking around requires much skill, or else you'll get lost in the maze. Cujo was curled up on a cushion in the middle of the floor in my office. Her shoulder had been popped back into its socket, her scratches were bandaged, and her gashes were stitched. She was looking pretty good. I studied her for a while. She looked like a pretty average Great Dane. She was about 30 inches tall at the shoulder. Her hair was a beautiful fawn color, light brown with black ears and muzzle. Her ears stood erect as she snoozed. If she was entered in a dog show, she would probably win Best of Show. I scratched her head and she looked lazily up at me.

I had decided to take her home to my apartment. There wasn't a cage that was big enough to hold her in the kennel, and Jack wanted to make sure her shoulder would support her.

I caught myself thinking back to Taylor. I had his phone number written down. It was burning a hole in the back pocket of my jeans. It gave me a cheap thrill to know that Taylor Hanson's phone number was resting on my ass. Now the only question was whether or not I'd use it. I know that tons of women would jump at the chance to have Taylor Hanson's phone number, but now that I had it, it actually scared me. I'm afraid of rejection. I rarely dated in high school. I mostly went out with a group of friends, and in college I either went out with Christian, Jack, and Muffin, or some of the other friends I had made. I've never made the first move in getting a date. And Taylor's so handsome. And he's famous. What would someone like Taylor want with ordinary old me?

I glanced at the clock. 4:48. Close enough to 5. Time to head on home. I scratched Cujo one last time and stood up.

"Time to get Andrew to pack you up in the Abyss." The Abyss is the nickname my parents gave my 2001 Ford F-150. It has so much junk in the cab, you could go in there and never be seen again. It runs like new for an 8-year-old car. Andrew loves working on it when something in it goes apeshit.

"Andrew!" I yelled.

"What?" came his muffled reply.

"I'm in need of your buff body for a brief moment, dear sweet brother of mine."

This was going to be good. I couldn't wait to watch Andrew try to lift Cujo up by his self. She was still pretty dopey, so it was going to be like lifting a dead weight. And I was going to enjoy reveling in his failed attempts.

He appeared at my door. "Yes, Sahib?"

"Can you take Cujo out to the truck for me, you big strong man, you?"

"Uh, sure." Andrew went over to Cujo, wrapped his arms around her and lifted. A healthy female Great Dane weighs up to 120 pounds. Cujo looked like she'd had a few too many doggie treats, so I'd say she'd weigh about 150. Andrew is a pretty strong guy, but it takes a lot of manpower to lift a Great Dane. He finally lifted her up, and slid her onto the stretcher that was still outside my office.

I couldn't help myself. Watching Andrew strain and struggle brought out my "Bash the Brother" side. Because we all know that that side rarely gets to stretch its muscles.

"You've been working out, haven't you? Now don't try to lie to me, I can tell."

"Shut up, Blaire."

"No, I'm quite serious. How much can you lift now...5? 10 pounds?"

He shot me his patented �go to hell and rot� look. I am very familiar with that look. "Do you want my help or not?"

"Take her to the truck."

I snickered softly. Blaire, one, Andrew, nothing. Who said boys are better than girls?