A dark-brown dog turned the corner of the kitchen, coming at her as fast as his little legs could carry him. Unfortunately, when he tried to stop in front of her, his feet kept going, slamming himself into the wall.
Grace reached down, picking up the small, wiggling dog.
“You never learn. You need to slow down.”
The eager dog licked her face over and over until she held him away from her, staring at him sternly. The dachshund always took several minutes to calm down when she arrived home.
Another larger dog turned the corner of the kitchen, coming into the room more slowly. The giant schnauzer lazily walked forward, rubbing against her side. Grace rubbed his furry head.
“You two hungry?” She went into the kitchen with both dogs following her closely. Setting her briefcase down on the counter, she went to the pantry and grabbed their bag of food. After feeding them, she made herself a can of soup before sitting down at the table, watching as her animals ate. Not very hungry, she managed to force down three bites before she stopped.
Her schnauzer came to her, laying her head on the table.
“What am I going to do, Daisy?” The dog just raised her furry eyebrows at her, not answering.
Her cell phone ringing had her pulling her phone from her pocket.
“Why haven’t you called?”
“I just talked to you two days ago.”
“You know I like for you to call every day.”
Grace grimaced at her mother’s over-protectiveness.
“I’m fine. What are you doing?”
“Making your dad some cookies.”
“He’s going to get fat.”
“Too late; he’s already gained ten pounds,” her mother replied smugly. She had been trying to fatten up her father for years. Her mother loved to cook and make her husband special treats; a fat husband meant a happy one. Her father, a health fanatic, just worked out longer to keep his weight under control.
“How’s he adjusting to retirement?”
“You would know if you bothered to come home for a visit.” Her mother’s less-than-subtle set-down had Grace biting her lip.
“I told you I had to teach this summer. It was hard to get away.”
“We miss you, honey.”
Grace swallowed hard at the tears she heard in her mother’s voice. “I miss you, too, but I’ll be seeing you at Thanksgiving.”
“That’s a few months away. We want to see you before then,” she complained before giving in. “All right, but you better make your sweet potato casserole.”
“I will,” Grace promised.
“Will you at least promise that, if you get any free time, you’ll come up for the weekend?”
“I’ll try,” Grace said without making any firm promise.
Her mother gave a deep sigh before going on to tell her about her brother Dax’s new job. It took half an hour before Grace could hang up.
She stood up from the table, doing the few dishes she had before taking the dogs outside to her fenced-in backyard, carefully disarming then re-arming her security system when she came back inside.
She took a shower before slipping on her nightgown. She then turned down the covers on her bed and made herself comfortable before turning on her computer to go through her emails. Opening the one sent from Ross, she looked at the course syllabus Mattie had made before she had fallen. Reading over it, Grace decided to keep it, seeing no need to change the schedule she had laid out.
She scrolled down the pages of information, coming to her class list, reading over the list of names of the men. It gave their names, educational history, a brief background description, and also their nicknames with the offense they had committed. Grace’s eyes widened as she read through the class roster.
Wyatt Brown, aka Ice.
West Cohen, aka Jackal.
Silas Thomas, aka Buzzard.
Fred Everett, aka Max.
Jarrod Craft, aka Fade.
Grace snapped her computer closed. She was going to get fired. There was no way she was going to be able to walk into a closed room and teach those men for an hour and a half three days a week. She didn’t want to teach them how to get a job on the outside; they deserved to stay behind bars. She hadn’t read their background details, not wanting to know why they were incarcerated because their nicknames alone scared the crap out of her. She was too afraid that, if she knew the actual reason they had been convicted, she would never be able to work up the courage to enter the classroom.
Grace laid her computer on her bedside table then turned off her light, feeling her feet go numb from Daisy lying on them at the bottom of the bed. She moved them, prompting Daisy to get up and lay sprawled out next to her. Bear took Daisy’s place on her feet.
The dogs she had rescued from the animal shelter wanted to remain within touching distance of her. Daisy would sleep throughout the night while Bear would stay awake and guard them while they slept.