“Come here… That’s it. I won’t hurt you.”
I knelt on the ground, reaching my hand out toward the hound as it inched closer. It sniffed and shook as it stepped close, scurrying away when my hand moved to try and pet it.
“Come on, it’s okay. You’re okay, come here.” I clicked my tongue and whistled, reaching out half way this time.
The mud-covered hound sniffed, creeping close enough for me to touch it, so I scratched it behind the ears, urging it closer.
“That’s it, fella, come on. Come on… girl.” A quick peek also got me a glimpse of a low-hanging belly. “Let’s see you, pretty girl.” I ran my fingers over her belly, but she wouldn’t let me touch for long before wiggling away.
I urged her back in a second, grasping the scruff of her neck as she panted and wagged her tail. I led her away from the hedges and through the maze of flowers as she sniffed at the unfamiliar area. A few more steps, and I shut us both in my workroom, trying to calm her down.
“Such a good girl, not fussy at all, are you?”
She continued wagged and panting, so I got her to sit long enough for me to get some water. She sniffed at the air, whining when she reached the closed door. I put a dish of water on the floor for her, and she lapped up some before going back to sniffing and nudging the door with her nose. The door cracked and she bolted down the corridor, heading straight for the library.
“No, don’t go in there!” I raced after her, hearing a shriek as she entered.
I called her over to stop her from running all over the room, exploring the rows of bookshelves. She came back, wagging and panting, unable to sit in one spot. I scratched her head and back once more before catching Alexandra’s eyes.
“Why is there a hound in my library?”
I put my hands up. “I can explain, but first, isn’t she cute?”
She crossed her arms, refusing to look at the mound of furr that’d worked her way into my lap. “Adorable, now answer the question.”
“She wandered in through the garden. I didn’t want her to get lost, especially if someone’s out looking for her.” I worked on petting the hound as she settled half on the floor half in my lap. “I brought her in, but she got out of my workroom.”
“I see. And you don’t happen to know her? She seems very… comfortable around you.”
“She seems like a good girl. Anxious at first, nothing but energy now.” I scratched her back, revealing rust colored fur. “Reminds me of a pup I used to take care of, yes you do…” I scratched her ears as her tailed thumped on the floor.
“And who might that be?” Alexandra stood behind me, peering down at the panting hound.
“A pup my father and I found when I was young, little Ember.”
Her ears perked and she whimpered, nudging my face with her nose before licking my cheeks. I froze, gazing at her amber eyes before tracing her paws with my thumbs to reveal matching crimson flame markings.
“Zinnia?” Alexandra grasped my shoulder, backing away when the hound sprung up from my lap.
I picked myself up off the floor, reaching my hand down to her. “Ember?”
She howled and wagged her tail as she lapped at my outstretched hand. The sparkle in her eyes said it all.