Must Love Dogs: Bark & Roll Forever, book four of the bestseller-turned-movie-turned-series by New York Times bestselling author Claire Cook is here!
Sarah and John are finally going to move in together. But where? And what’s up with Sarah’s ex enrolling his twins at Bayberry Preschool and Sarah’s wasband’s wife trying to sell Sarah’s house right out from under her? Sarah’s new teaching assistant has a secret, her niece Siobhan has a boyfriend who could be trouble, and her dad has a new job working for the Bark & Roll Forever ladies as well as plans to date at least one of them!
PRAISE FOR MUST LOVE DOGS:
“If you’re looking for the perfect novel to throw in your beach bag this summer, Must Love Dogs: Bark and Roll Forever is it.”—Stephanie Burns, Book Perfume
(5 stars!) “Claire Cook has done it again. Must Love Dogs: Bark and Roll Forever is another fun visit with the irrepressible Sarah Hurlihy and her family. Sarah is such a wonderful main character, with all of her quirks and personality flaws, she is so likable and real.”—Laurie WJN, Looking on the Sunnyside
“You’ll want to start this series at the beginning with the original ‘Must Love Dogs’ so you don’t miss a minute in the lives of the characters. Be careful: You might become hooked. Reading about how life goes on for this wacky but marvelously lovable family becomes as addictive as Frango mints.”—Pamela Kramer, National Book Reviewer, Examiner.com
“Must Love Dogs: Bark & Roll Forever is the fourth installment in the Must Love Dogs series, and this edition is sure to please. Cook displays uncanny humor and draws the reader into this uproarious family. This totally delightful novel reads like a Hallmark movie.”—Nancy Carty Lepri, New York Journal of Books
Excerpted from Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later
Copyright © 2014 Claire Cook. All rights reserved.
John Anderson and I were actually going to move in together.
“Don’t forget,” I said from the passenger seat of his car. “We can’t breathe a word about this to anyone in my family until it’s too late for them to mess it up.”
He nodded, shifted his hands on the steering wheel. “Got it.”
We had a few other things to work out, too. For starters, I needed to stop thinking of him as John Anderson. But referring to him by his first name only, even to myself, somehow seemed overly optimistic. Like admitting out loud that I hoped he’d be the only John for me, forever and ever. I was pretty sure that I was afraid I might jinx the whole thing if I dropped the Anderson.
I flashed back to visiting my grandparents when my siblings and I were still kids. In the middle of a rowdy game of hide-and-seek in the alley behind my father’s parents’ triple-decker, my grandfather appeared on the third floor porch and looked out over the petunias that tumbled over the edges of the window boxes. “And what are you little hellions looking so happy about down there?” he said, the lilt of Ireland in his voice. “Don’t you know that happy is for the next life?”
I didn’t want to wait for the next life for happy. “John, John, John,” I whispered.
“What’d I do?” John Anderson said. John.
“Nothing,” I said. “At least not yet.”
“Good to hear.” He took his eyes off the road just long enough to give me a smile. My heart did the little flip flop thing it did when we made eye contact.
We also had to get his Boston condo rented, sell my Marshbury ranchburger, and find a house to buy together. There would be three of us, since John-not-Anderson and his dog Horatio were a package deal. Horatio was the product of a dalliance between a Yorkie who’d briefly lived in John’s building and a runaway greyhound, though he’d somehow come out looking like a scruffy dachshund. I’d worked hard on my relationship with Horatio, and though he wasn’t exactly my new best four-legged friend, he’d gone from hating my guts to finally accepting the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere. At least I hoped I wasn’t.
“So,” I said. “Shall we hit one more open house before we brave Sunday dinner with my family?”
John checked his dashboard clock. “Do you think we have enough time?”
“Sure. I’m always late. That’s why they make me bring dessert. If I showed up on time for a change, my family would totally know something was up.” I turned to make sure the two bakery boxes we’d picked up at Morning Glories hadn’t skidded off John’s backseat. The chocolate chip hazelnut cookies would probably be okay a little crumbly, but the fresh fruit tart might not survive a fall.
John shrugged. “Okay, then. Maybe we’ll get lucky this time. I didn’t feel any chemistry at all with those first five houses.”
“Ha,” I said. “You make it sound like we’re looking for a house to date.”
“More like a long-term commitment.” John put on his blinker and pulled into the beach parking lot, which was almost full on this perfect fall day.
We found a parking spot, climbed out of the car to stretch our legs and gulp down a breath of salt air. Then we both leaned back against his car and pulled up the lists of open houses we’d made on our phones.
“How about this one?” John said. “Won’t last long. Spacious home with peek-through water views. Four bedrooms, three baths, central heat and air, certified ghost-free.”
“Ghost-free is good,” I said. “And you don’t always find central air in New England either, especially in older houses. Ooh, listen to this one: I have new paint and appliances, hardwood floors, open floor plan, dual sinks in master, attached two-car garage. Wow, and get this—a huge dick for entertaining.”
I held up my phone so John could see the listing.
“Great typo,” he said. “There’ll be a line a mile long for that open house.”
“Yeah, maybe we should skip that one in the interests of time.” I batted my eyelashes at him. “Especially since we’ve already got the perfect deck for entertaining.”
“Why, thank you, ma’am.” He leaned in for a kiss.
I was just about to suggest we blow off both the house hunt and Sunday dinner with my family and head back to my place when a text jingled in to my phone.
“Damn,” I said. “How to ruin a moment.”
“Ah, technology,” John said. “Can’t kiss with it, can’t live without it.”
I started looking around for my phone, realized it was still in my hand. The text was from my older sister Carol’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Siobhan.
Hey where r u babe? my fam only gone couple hrs xo
I shook my head, thought for a moment, typed a reply.
Thanks for the invite. I’ll be right there! xo Aunt Sarah
“So in a nutshell,” John said as we climbed back into his car. “Your niece accidentally texted you instead of her boyfriend, and you’ve just ruined her home-alone rendezvous because now she’ll be too worried about you showing up to enjoy it?”
“Exactly,” I said. “Wow, you’re really catching on.”
John turned the key in the ignition. “So that means we don’t have to actually go over there, right?”
“Relax. Of course we don’t have to go over there. But Siobhan doesn’t know that, which keeps the boyfriend out of her house, and you and I still get to go to one more open house. It was actually a fairly genius move on my part, if I do say so myself.”
John’s Heath Bar eyes, a circle of toffee surrounded by a darker ring of chocolate brown, looked at me with concern. “On some level, do you think she was trying to get caught?”
I reached for my seatbelt. “I don’t think so. I think she’s being seventeen. There aren’t necessarily a lot of levels at that age—mostly just a whole bunch of raging hormones.”
“And the ever-present, though not necessarily realistic, hope that your teenage deck will finally get to do some entertaining.”
I laughed, tried not to remember my own painful teenage years, which mostly consisted of having mad crushes on guys who had absolutely no interest in me. And completely ignoring the ones who were interested, because I mean, seriously, what was their problem?
John turned the key in the ignition. “And now you’ll tell your sister Carol about the text so she can take it from here?”
I shivered at the thought. “Oh, God, I hope not.”
. . . . .
I played copilot, giving John directions as he drove. Since the open house we’d decided on was in Marshbury, I didn’t even need to type the address into his GPS. I’d spent most of my life here, so I could probably draw a street map of the entire town from memory if I had to.
It was the perfect little beach town. Small enough but not too small, tree-lined streets, wide sidewalks. Marshbury, Massachusetts had all the charm of that old TV show, Mayberry RFD, but with the added perks of great restaurants and trendy shops, all conveniently tucked in next to an ever-changing and endlessly spectacular ocean.
We’d been house hunting for over a month now. John was making the big sacrifice by moving out of his Boston condo, which was close to his job, because I didn’t think I could survive, let alone thrive, living in the city and commuting to my Marshbury teaching job at Bayberry Preschool.
John ran the accounting department at a digital gaming company called Necrogamiac. He didn’t think he could handle the hellish daily commute from the ‘burbs to the city, so he’d talked his boss into letting him work remote most days once we’d found a place. John wasn’t planning to sell his condo. Instead, he’d found a short-term executive rental company, his idea being that we could occasionally use the condo ourselves between tenants as an urban getaway.
In my least secure moments, I wondered if John was keeping his condo as backup, just in case things didn’t work out between us.
I hit the button that turned on John’s radio. Gloria Gaynor was belting out “I Will Survive.” This seemed like a decent oldies omen, maybe not quite as good as The Beatles singing “We Can Work It Out,” but a helluva lot better, as far as fortune telling via radio went, than tuning in to have Elvis serenade us with “Heartbreak Hotel.”
John and I tilted our heads toward each other and sang the last chorus along with Gloria. Then he reached over and turned down the radio. “We’ll get through this. We just have to take it one move at a time so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.”
I sighed. “But they’re all connected. You know, like dominoes. If you let that company rent your condo and you and Horatio move in with me, it’ll be hard to put my house on the market because we’ll be crammed in there like sardines. And if we both pack up most of our stuff and move it all into a storage unit, we won’t be able to find the things we need when we need them. And what if we rent your place and sell mine, and then we can’t find a house we both like? And what if my house doesn’t sell? And . . .”
A wind-battered bouquet of blue and white helium balloons attached to an open house sign greeted us at the corner of the street.
John put on his blinker, made the turn, found a space in a line of cars that edged one side of the road.
When I joined him on the tree-shaded sidewalk, John was writing the address of the open house at the top of a fresh page on his house-hunting clipboard. He devoted a page to each house we visited, a vertical line dividing the page exactly in half, pros on the left side, cons on the right. This kind of systematic dorkiness was part of John’s charm. And besides, who was I to say anything, since I’d used the exact same system when my family had pushed me, kicking and screaming, back out into the dating world after my divorce.
Which had led me to John Anderson.
He rested the hand not holding the clipboard on my shoulder. “It’ll all work out, Sarah. Worst case scenario, maybe your dad will let us camp out with him for a month or two.”
“Ha,” I said. “That’s really funny.”