I don’t often write pets into my books, like kids, I feel like they need to be an actual character with wants and needs and it’s always a challenge to add any new characters and to do it right. But when I wrote Tri Mates, I felt like Tracy needed a dog, and Milton came into the series. He’s one of my favorite secondary characters of all… I’m also going to cheat a little and include two of my favorite scenes from the book. Because I want to.
Cascadia Wolves: TRI MATES by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2006, Lauren Dane
Milton, her chocolate Labrador retriever, was happily waiting for her in the front windows. Those big front windows looked out toward the Ballard Locks. The water could look green and murky, black and cold or bright blue and glittering beneath the sun depending on the day and the season. The small porch had a glider swing and plants that were tended to by Nina. Even in the cold of winter, she’d had colorful plants. Nina planted some stuff that looked like cabbages and they were a vibrant purple. Tracy had no freaking idea just what it was, but she couldn’t argue that it made the house look nice with a bit of color to break the monotony of the gray Seattle skies.
The house had been built in the Forties. Architecture of that type was dying in the area, where old houses were being bought and demolished and new ones replaced them. She preferred the old-style charm of the place, the curved doorways and big common areas and small bedrooms. Heck, the house still had the original hardwood floors. Tracy had stripped them down and refinished them herself a few years before.
She smiled to herself as she unlocked the front door and turned the alarm off. It was hers, this place. Filled with memories of weekends walking to nearby Woodland Park Zoo and having picnics. Time spent digging in the dirt with her grandmother, planting bulbs each November. Her father’s life had been consumed with the Pack and her grandparents had been a more tangible part of her life than her parents had been for a very long time. More than a few nights of her life it had been her grandfather who’d tucked her into bed and her grandmother who’d baked the snacks for her classroom celebrations. Her mother had been miserable without the presence of her mate and had retreated into herself and into community work for a great many years. Until her father had handed over the leadership of Cascadia to Cade.
Shaking her head to dislodge the memories, she grinned instead at what greeted her. A big overstuffed couch sat across from the fireplace and currently held Milton, who was giving her his lopsided grin, tongue peeking through his front teeth. She rolled her eyes at him and laughed at the sight he made.
It was odd for her to have a dog. Some werewolves didn’t have animals because they felt owning animals was exploitative or they were uncomfortable that they too were close to dogs on some level. But Tracy had found Milton at the animal shelter when he was a puppy. She’d fallen in love with him immediately. Most people wouldn’t adopt a dog with three legs. But Milton sure wasn’t affected by it and she couldn’t find a reason not to bring the goofy dog home with her. She hadn’t regretted her choice once in the four years he’d been with her.
“Hey, dude.” She leaned down and smooched the top of his head. Suppressing a smile, she scratched behind his ears until he made that growly moan, nearly falling over because his one back leg thumped in response.
She laughed and opened up the back door to let him out, tossing his tennis ball for him. She knew the dog walker had been by but he did love a good run out there while she made dinner.
Tossing her coat and scarf on a chair, she put her bag on the hook and took a quick look into the mirror, running fingers through her curly hair.
Big green eyes looked back at her, and an eyebrow ring that should have overwhelmed her face but really just enhanced the pixieish nature of her features. A dusting of freckles sprinkled over her nose and cheeks, the juxtaposition of the eyebrow ring and the row of piercings up each ear and that tiny nose and freckled face worked for her. There was an air of wicked innocence about her. Of mischief.
After a quick change into jeans and wooly socks, she poured food into Milton’s bowl and made sure he had fresh water and cooked up a quick stir-fry before she went out to Nina’s. She loved these quiet evenings when she wasn’t expected at the Pack house, time that was hers alone. She did admit to herself that it would be nice to have a man around. It wasn’t like she never dated. She’d just gotten out of a six-month relationship a few weeks prior. The problem was, wolves tended to not get into long-term relationships while they were younger and looking for a mate. She pitied the poor human men she’d dated. They’d gotten the scare of their lives once they’d met her family.
When her phone rang, she looked at the caller ID and was relieved to see it was Nina and not her mother.
“Articulate. All of that money on a college education and that’s the best you can do? What am I going to do with you?” Nina said this dryly and it made Tracy laugh.
“What do you want, old woman?”
“Hmpf! Well, I was calling to warn you that we’ve just had a visit from a certain furry mother-in-law who mentioned stopping by your place, but if you have that attitude…”
“Yes. Well. I hear that there’s a nice werewolf boy who’d love to take you to dinner at Canlis and woo you. Because, you know, if I’m not going to breed a few puppies for her for a few years, you have to.”
“Milton and I are on our way.”
“Bring a bag and stay over.”
Tracy grinned. “Okay, twist my arm. Thanks, old woman.”
“You’re welcome, dog girl.”
She hung up and slid into her sneakers. Quickly, she tossed her dirty dishes into the dishwasher before running to toss some clothes into a bag.
Going to the door, she whistled. “Milton? Let’s hit it. Wanna go for a ride over to Auntie Nina’s?”
Hearing Nina’s name, Milton barked and ran to wait by the front door, tail wagging gaily. Nina was as goofy as the dog and they got along famously.
She finally let out a relieved breath as they drove away from the house. She really had to deal with this situation with her mother or consider transferring Packs to keep from going insane.
(and the second one, this one follows the one above)
Tracy bounded up the stairs from the garage and Milton blew past her and straight to where Nina was standing in the kitchen.
“Stinky!” Nina grinned and knelt down and hugged the dog. Straightening, she tossed him a chunk of cheese and tipped her chin at Tracy. “Yo, Stinky’s mom, what’s up?”
“I’ll just go put this in the guest room.” Tracy held up the bag. “Don’t steal my dog and don’t feed him tofu dogs, blech!”
“They’re tofu corn dogs and he loves them.” Milton barked to underline his love of the tiny corn dogs.
Cade wandered into the kitchen, distaste clear on his face. “Bad enough she’s got a three-legged dog, you’re feeding him those nasty things?”
“Shut up, fur butt. He’s just fine. Your steaks are on the grill as we speak so you don’t have to sully your oh-so-manly stomach with tofu pups.”
“Werewolves are not tofu eaters,” Lex said as he came into the room.
“Is that from the official how-to manual?” Nina raised her eyebrow at him. “And he’s not a werewolf, he’s a dog. I know there’s not a huge difference and you both have that blank, slightly dazed look around food, but still.”
Tracy snickered as she came into the kitchen and kissed Nina’s cheek. “Thanks for the heads-up. Close call.”
“She’s just trying to help. She wants you to be happy.” Cade drank a beer and checked the steaks on the large indoor grill.
“Yeah and isn’t it nice she hounds me instead of you?” Tracy dug in the fridge and pulled out a beer of her own.
“Well, that is a bonus. I’ve tried to put her on Nina and Lex. If they gave her grandchildren she’d really back off.” Cade grinned at Nina, who threw a potholder at his head.