You’re fired. Manhattan workaholic Hayley Weaver is out of work, out of money and out of luck. Facing eviction, she grabs the first job offered, house-sitting movie star Paulette Stone’s New Jersey home. Hayley swore she’d never go back to Jersey but she’s hit rock bottom. The job sounds like a snap and the answer to her prayers. She should have known Jersey would throw a curve ball. Paulette neglected to mention her exotic menagerie and more critters than the Beverly Hillbillies in residence. Small town Jersey veterinarian Jake Marx is desperate to meet a woman he hasn’t known since kindergarten. Animal phobic Hayley has Jake on speed dial and the whole town is backing Hayley as their candidate to solve Jake’s love-starved life.
Hayley gritted her teeth. Darn that lady cop who had the build of a Sherman tank. How was she supposed to know the stupid rooster was hers? To top it off, that bulldozer of a woman was the Chief of Police, too. The way she carried on, it was pure luck the cop hadn’t shoved her in the local slammer.
After the police station fiasco, Hayley marched across the train tracks to Animal Crackers to confront the veterinarian who thought everything was so funny last night, because even if he was hot, she was hot, too. Burning up she was so livid.
Some old lady peered through bifocals at her and tsked. What a nerve. Who was she to be judging anyone? First that cop, now a woman who looked like Sophia on The Golden Girls making a sour puss.
“Are you the house sitter?” the old lady asked.
“You’ll pardon my saying so, but you could do with a visit to Andre.”
Andre. Maybe that was a goat. Or a horse. Wasn’t there a movie about a seal with that name? God knew what else was running around. The whole town was Animal Crackers as far as Hayley was concerned. As for Andre, with that French name, for all she knew, he could be a cousin of that foul-mouthed parrot, Antoine.
Just that second, Jake poked his head out of a room. A huge smile brightened his freshly shaved cheeks. Hayley staggered. Why did he have to be so cute? She didn’t like him; he’d laughed at her, and he thought she was a neurotic idiot after last night. Plus, she hadn't forgotten her sneaking suspicion he had something going on with that bimbo actress Paulette Stone.
He was dressed in worn jeans and a T-shirt that said, “Have You Kissed Your Vet Today?”
No matter how she tried, Hayley couldn’t seem to avoid studying his lips. Kiss A Vet. In his dreams before she’d kiss him. Never mind that she’d dreamed about exactly that, and he’d been dynamite. She had more pressing problems, and the last thing she needed to do was kiss a veterinarian.
“Henry is loose. I don’t know how he got out of the yard. I got a ticket for him leaving, uh, deposits.”
Jake ducked his head to hide a smile.
“There must be a gap in the fence. I’ll ask Ed to have a look, but Henry wanders. He has a fairly regular routine and usually heads to the same place. He’s safe there. If Henry can’t get out, he might become distressed.”
“He’s right behind me.”
Hayley turned around and stared. No Henry. He was gone. The monster beast had been right behind her, dogging her steps like a lovesick teenager only two minutes ago.
“I lost him! I can’t wait to get out of here, and now I’ve lost him!”
Jake shot a glance at the older woman who kept staring at her. The vet had a funny look on his face, as if he was trying not to laugh. What the hell was so hilarious?
“Um, not that it looks bad, but your hair is different. Kind of shorter on one side.”
Hayley fumed. As much as she detested the mess she was in, she was doing her best to be responsible, warning him that a deaf dog was lost, and all he could talk about was her hair. Wise guy.
Shorter on one side. The nail scissors on the floor. Pansy. Please, please, not that!
Hayley let out a screech that would have rivaled Wilbur’s decibels and sunk down into a plastic chair. Her fingers threaded through her hair, and she began to hyperventilate, gasping for air.
Pansy had scalped her. No wonder the old lady was staring.
“Calm down, or you’re going to faint. Nice, slow deep breaths. I’ll get you some water.”
Jake handed her a plastic cup of cold water. Hayley gulped it down. “I guess you’d rather have another drink, but we don’t keep alcohol around the clinic.”
“A mirror.” She barely managed to rasp the words.
Dread rose in her heart. It sounded as if he didn’t want her to see the damage. It must be awful, and she’d walked around town without even knowing. People had stared at her, but she thought it was because of Henry trailing her everywhere. That hardware guy, Ed, had offered her one of those dumb Lemur baseball caps, and she brushed it off like an annoying fly. His snickers made a lot more sense now.
"Aunt Tilly, have you got a mirror for Ms. uh, what is your name?”
“Weaver. Hayley Weaver.”
Tilly handed Hayley a tiny mirror from her handbag. Despite its miniscule size, it was big enough to get an idea of the damage Pansy had inflicted. Hayley gasped and snapped the compact shut. She couldn’t bear to look at it again.
“My hair! That no good Pansy scalped me!”
No more. She couldn’t take anymore. She’d put up with a nasty French parrot, a deaf dog, and now a chimp who thought she was Phillippe, the snobby Manhattan stylist.
Hayley burst into tears. Yesterday had been the worst day of her life. Nothing could have been worse, and then today happened.
Jake crouched down in front of her and held her hands.
“Hey, it’s not so bad. Hair grows back.”
She sniffed and blinked at him.
“I paid a fortune to get it exactly right. I can’t go on job interviews like this!”
“It’s not terrible, just a little uneven with those ends sticking up like a Mohawk on one side. It’s asymmetric, but that could be trendy,” the old lady said as if that helped and handed her a tissue.
Asymmetric? Whole chunks were gone. It looked like a blind man had savaged her hair.