She sidles up beside me as I step through the doorway and slips her arm under mine. I resist the urge to pull away—best just to grin and bear it.
“What’s your name, hon’?” she asks, touching my arm with her other hand as Brennan steps in behind me and shuts the door.
Up close, her breath is ripe with alcohol.
“Um, Tiergan?” I reply, turning a bit to the left for some fresh air. “And you?”
“Oh, you can just call me Sky, sugar—all my friends do.”
“That’s right, sugar!
“Why don’t you all just follow Tiergan and me,” she adds, nodding back to Brennan as she pulls me forward, down the wide stone and oak corridor. The smile in her voice is audible, even when I can’t see her, but it feels entirely false.
“Are you expecting Torrin back soon?” Keely asks, stepping up beside us as we walk. The dog follows closely at her heels.
“Well, aren’t you just the perkiest little thing,” Sky exclaims warmly—but I feel her hand tighten ever so slightly on my arm. Nails, not pads.
“Garvey!” she barks at the dog. “I thought I put you outside!” Then to Keely, all soft and smiling, “Be a dear and take him back out, will you?”
She pulls me forward again, but I’ve had enough.
“Keely,” I say, extricating my arm from her grasp. “You go. I’ll take the dog.” She reaches out to grab my arm again, but I step out of her reach and head down the hallway, calling, “Come on, boy!” Brennan scowls at me as I pass, though whether in agreement or in opposition, I can’t tell. Garvey hesitates a moment—perhaps to shoot a withering glance at Sky—and then turns reluctantly to follow.
“Oh, fine,” Sky protests, ”he can stay.”
I stop and turn—she hasn’t moved from where I escaped her. Garvey bumps up against my hip. I wait silently for her to make up her mind.
“Oh, Tiergan, you’re so serious!” she says, grinning—but even in the dim light, I can see tension around her eyes.
Garvey licks at my arm, wagging his tail, and I rub his head in return. He turns and trots, clattering, down the hall—pushing indifferently past Sky—then stops to wait for us to follow.
“I swear!” Sky says, laughing nervously. “Torrin treats them like they’re people, sometimes. Teaches them horrible habits.”
Are you talking about his dogs? Or his guests?
She waits a moment longer, but finally seems to realize I won’t be returning to her side, and she turns. “Well, come on, then,” she calls without looking back, and we follow her following Garvey down the hall.