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Wrong Side of the Dragon by Rinelle Grey, Bachelor Party Puppies (1)

Chapter 1

Nate stared at the phone for a few minutes, his heart pounding. His brother’s number was still clearly visible. The line was still open. They hadn’t been cut off.

He put it back to his hear and listened, his hand shaking.

The whole conversation had been surreal. He’d been shocked enough when his brother had told him he had a daughter. Before he’d even had a chance to truly take that in, Brad had mentioned something about the mother going off somewhere.

But all of that seemed normal and everyday compared to the moment when a woman in the background started screaming.

It had sounded like she was saying, “Get the shotgun.”

Surely not. Nate’s heart beat loudly, in sharp contrast to the silence on the other end of the line.

“Brad?” Nate said.

His tone of voice must have sounded urgent. His puppy, Lily, lifted her head and stared at him.

Brad didn’t respond. Something was wrong.

Maybe he should ring the police.

Still, Nate hesitated. For all he knew, Brad was busy making out with the girl whose rejection had stung him so much last year. The police were busy enough, they didn’t need to be checking up on his brother for him.

“Brad?” he tried again, louder this time.

No response.

That was when he heard it. The sharp crack of a shotgun.

Nate’s blood ran cold. His heart seemed to stop for a moment, and then it started hammering painfully hard.

What had Brad gotten himself into?

A few seconds later, it was followed by another one, and an unearthly screech that sent Nate’s heart racing.

He put the house phone on speakerphone while he pulled out his mobile and dialled 000 with shaky fingers.

“What is the nature of your emergency?” a female voice asked.

“I was on the phone to my brother, then he went silent, and a few moments later, I heard a gunshot,” Nate explained.

The woman took the address and promised to send someone out straight away.

But Nate wasn’t reassured. He stared at the phone that was still connected to his brother, not quite willing to cut the only link he had.

Was Brad okay?

What was going on out there in Mungaloo?

His brother had come over from America to deal with the house Uncle Henry had left him. Nate had offered to do it for him, but he was pretty sure the real reason Brad had come was to see the mysterious woman again.

Had his twin brother bitten off more than he could chew?

“What’s he up to, hey, Lily?”

He stared at the puppy he’d adopted, and she stared back, her head on one side. She had no idea what he was saying, but Nate needed to say the words anyway.

Worry for his twin brother ate away at him, even though he’d done everything he could. He was miles and miles away from Brad. It was lucky he was even in the same country.

He’d moved to Australia five years ago when his career had first begun to take off. He loved the freedom here, and the huge amount of beautiful scenery to photograph.

But Australia was a big place, and he wasn’t even in the same state as Brad. It would take him twelve hours of straight driving to get to the house where his brother was.

And he was seriously thinking about doing it.

His twin was clearly in trouble. Nate was never going to be able to sleep anyway, he’d just be lying awake worrying. Might as well go do something about it.

“What do you think, girl?” Nate asked, ruffling the pup’s fur. “Do you want to go on an all-night road trip with me?”

Lily whined softly.

Nate was pretty sure she was saying she was hungry, not agreeing with him, but he was going to take it anyway. “Okay, let’s go then.”

She looked up at him with mournful eyes.

“Don’t worry, I’ll feed you first,” Nate promised.

In the six weeks since he’d brought her home, the little pup had wormed her way into his heart. He hadn’t been too excited, when they’d found the pups at the bachelor party. The others had all been so keen to take one home.

He’d been travelling a little further than them. He’d been happy enough flying out to America for the wedding. He still had a soft spot for Kenny and his bride. It was kind of amazing, that he’d been there when they’d first met. The sweet story of Kenny falling in love with her after helping deliver her baby, always made him sentimental. He loved the fact that he’d taken photos of the baby, and then at their wedding.

He just hadn’t expected to come home with a dog.

It would make his next trip home to America a hassle too. He’d have to plan far enough in advance to find someone to take care of Lily while he was gone.

But he couldn’t regret it.

He hadn’t realised how nice it would be to have someone to chat to. Even though she didn’t answer back, Lily always listened intently, putting her head on one side and staring at him, just like she was doing now.

Nate patted her on the head, then went to throw some clothes in a bag. By the time the puppy had eaten, he was ready to go. He packed up her squeaky toys and a rug, and carried her down to the car.

The activity kept him distracted a little, but his heart wouldn’t settle at all. He kept hoping the phone would ring, and the police would tell him everything was okay. Or even better, that Brad would.

But the phone remained painfully silent.

Nate drove off into the darkness, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t arrive to find something disastrously wrong.