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“So it was a shock to me to realize I liked having a life away from my practice. It showed me I didn’t have a life outside my practice and I needed to change that.”

“We want to give you the opportunity. And I know I sprang this on you first thing after a long vacation, but it’s something we’ve been discussing for almost a month.”

His eyebrows rose. “Really?”

“Don’t know that all of us have ever been in a room together when we weren’t tossing out diagnoses. We clicked that night and everything we’ve come up with since makes good business sense. We’ve set up a tentative meeting a week from Saturday night at the Cattleman’s Club. I’ll warn you it’ll be more involved than a discussion over dinner. I suspect it’ll go on for a few hours. We’re serious about getting this under way. And if we come to an agreement it will impact you—either way.”

“Because your operation would have a lock on large animal care for three hundred miles.”

“Animal care wouldn’t suffer under a merger of four practices. In fact, it’d improve being more streamlined. Plus, the fees would be standard. And no offense, Fletch, but you aren’t charging enough for your ranch calls. Trust me, with the near worship I’ve seen from your clients, they won’t balk at a price increase. Regardless if you join with us or not.”

Fletch stood. “I appreciate the information and the invite. I’ll give it serious consideration before we meet.”

“This stays between us,” Jet warned. “Until we’re ready to go ahead, we’re not mentioning it to our spouses.”

“That’ll be easy for me, since I don’t have a spouse,” he joked.

“You come into practice with us, you’ll have time to go looking for a wife.” He laughed. “And with that . . . all visits, case histories, are on a thumb drive in a priority envelope on my receptionist’s desk.”

“Thanks.” Fletch fought a groan. Cora hated dealing with technology. She was an old-school office manager, which meant paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.

If you joined their practice, your records would be more manageable.

Records, heck. His life would be more manageable. He hated that he couldn’t discuss this opportunity with anyone. Normally he’d pick his dad’s brain. But since he’d gotten involved with Cora, he might have a different slant on it.

Back at his office that night, he turned on his computer and scrolled through his schedule. The way it looked, he’d definitely be playing catch-up all damn week.

Chapter Thirty

The following weekend, they were naked in Fletch’s gigantic bed, entwined together, half watching TV, half dozing, when Fletch’s cell phone buzzed on the nightstand.

He reached over, picked it up and muttered under his breath.

“Is it an emergency call?”

“No. It’s Tilda.”

“Tilda of the Mud Lilies? What does she want?”

“Probably a ride home from the bar.” Fletch answered with, “Tilda, darlin’, are you out tearing it up again?”

Tanna snickered. The Mud Lilies cracked her up.

Fletch disentangled his legs from hers and sat up. “Slow down and start over, okay?”

Uh-oh. Fletch was using his vet voice. Not good.

“Last time he ate?” he asked gently. He listened and said, “I can’t diagnose over the phone so it’d be best if I came over. Hey, Miz T, I promise it’s no trouble. See you in a few.” He hung up and stood.

“What’s goin’ on?”

“Tilda’s dog is sick.” Fletch slipped on his athletic shorts. He pulled his T-shirt over his head. “So I’m going to check him out.”

At eleven o’clock at night. “Do you do that a lot?”

Fletch shrugged. “Not really. But Tilda doesn’t have family around here to call, so I don’t mind.”

Such a sweet, sweet man.

“Plus, she’s a little bit of a thing. Although she’d whap me upside the head if she heard me say that.” He smiled softly. “Tilda dotes on Ripper. When he’s healthy, it’s not an issue. But when he’s sick . . . she struggles with his size.”

“What kind of dog is he?”

“A Newfoundland.”

“Holy crap.”

He perched on the edge of the bed to put on his socks and shoes. “I don’t know what time I’ll be back.”

Tanna debated all of four seconds before she tossed back the covers and dragged on her bra and underwear. She slipped her sundress over her head and moved to stand in front of him.

Fletch quirked a brow at her. “That doesn’t mean you’ve gotta go home.”

“I’m not. I’m coming with you.” She stepped between his thighs and ran her fingers through his hair. Damn. She’d really messed it up earlier when he’d gone down on her.

“Tanna—”

“I’ll stay out of your way. Or I’ll help you if you want. I know this is par for the course in your practice—you headed out at all times of the night. It just makes me sad thinking about you bein’ alone.”

His eyes turned that beautiful liquid brown and he pulled her mouth down to his for a thorough kiss. “Thank you. I’d love it if you came with me.”

Neither said much on the drive to Tilda’s.

Even in the dark Tanna could see the gingerbread cuteness of Tilda’s house that fit her personality.

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