We tried to whet your palate for our veterinarians in Cornwall with this weekend’s blog by letting our characters introduce each other…now here’s a taste of the real thing along with some pictures of my pets (who have definitely met the vet)! I hope you enjoy this opening scene from The Vet’s Secret Son xxx Annie O’
ELLIE LIFTED THE small ball of fluff up in front of her face and gave it a nuzzle. Puppy time after a difficult surgery was always curative. ‘Who’s the best little-bitty puppy?’
The pitch-black Labrador put its paw on her nose then gave her a tiny pink-tongued lick on the cheek. Even though she’d had a million puppy moments like it, Ellie’s heart strained at the seams.
‘You’re definitely the cutest.’
As if in protest, the other puppies—a mad mix of golden, red, black and a solitary chocolate one—began tumbling up and over her legs, vying for cuddles.
Four weeks old and full of life. A perfect litter of ten, spanning every colour of the Labrador spectrum. It was the last litter Esmerelda, Ellie’s beloved Lab, would have, and even though she knew she wasn’t entirely objective, she was certain it was the best.
“She picked up another one and breathed in the sweet, scrummy puppy scent. Mmm… Perfect. She couldn’t wait for Mav to get back from surf school. Her son’s giggles of delight combined with puppy cuddles…sheer heaven.
‘Having a bit of puppy therapy, are we?’
Ellie looked up and saw her long-term mentor smiling down at her. ‘Ha! You caught me, Henry.’
‘Very.’ She told him about the golden retriever who’d been injured when he’d tripped whilst carrying a big stick.
‘And the oropharynx?’
‘There was a truckload of splinters in his tongue and his mouth. A huge one was lodged in his throat, the poor lad. He’s in Recovery now. I don’t know who’s feeling worse. Him or his owner.’
Henry gave a sympathetic shrug. ‘It’s a tough call sometimes. I just had a woman sob the entire time I clipped her cat’s nails!’
Ellie made an empathetic noise. ‘Mrs Coutts?’
Henry grinned. ‘You clearly know your patients’ owners well.’
‘One of the keys to our success here in Dolphin Cove.’ She patted the newspaper-covered play area where she was stretched out, puppies using her like a climbing frame. ‘Join me?”
Henry, who’d valiantly stepped in to be her emergency locum vet over the last few months, grinned and sat down opposite her. ‘How could I resist?’
The puppies climbed and tumbled over him, vying for cuddles. For someone with a puppy tucked in the crook of each arm, her mentor didn’t look all that chirpy.
‘You’re looking serious. Got a new surgery you need to brainstorm?’
Henry shook his head, his white hair flopping across his forehead as he did so. He looked every bit the mad professor. Semi-retired and as smart as a whip, he was also her hero. Who else in the whole of the UK would’ve given up their summer holidays to come down to Cornwall and take over the roster of complicated surgeries her business partner had lined up?”
“She shoved aside the niggle of discomfort the question elicited and smiled at him. Just about no one, that’s who. No one she cared to lay eyes on, anyway.
‘It’s not that,’ he said, easing yet another puppy into his arms.
Ah. So there was something.
Ellie gently extracted her insanely curly ponytail from one of the puppy’s mouths. One day she’d get her hair under control. She snorted. And one day pigs would fly. ‘Not a pull toy, little one,’ she cooed, easing a final golden coil out of its gummy mouth.
She inspected Henry as the pup he was holding scampered away and he pulled one of her favourite pups, the only chocolate Lab in the litter, into his lap. He was looking awfully serious.
The chocolate pup put both of its paws on Henry’s beard then slid back down into the nook of his arm and instantly fell asleep.
Ellie laughed. ‘I guess that was enough playtime for him.”
“Guess so.’ Henry cupped the little pup’s head in one of his big old hands. His tone was much more reflective than a vet with over forty years of experience might be. He must have seen thousands of puppies curl up into sleepy little balls of fur and puppy snorts over the years.
‘C’mon, Henry. Out with it. There’s something playing on your mind. You rescued me in my hour of need. If I can do anything to help you in yours, just say the word.’
She wasn’t kidding. When Drew, her business partner and her bestie, was in a horrific car accident, Henry came right down. Drew’s long stint in hospital was coming to an end, but there was still ample rehab and healing to keep him away from the surgery for at least the next eight to ten weeks. More if there were any setbacks.
Uh-oh. Drew hadn’t had a setback had he?
Henry readjusted the puppy and something about the look in his eyes made her scoop one up into her own arms. She gave it a nuzzle as Henry began to speak. When he’d finished, she could hardly hear for the buzzing in her ears.”
It wasn’t Drew. It was a favour. And not just any old favour. He was asking her to do the one thing she’d promised she would never do. Let Lucas Williams work at Dolphin Cove.”
Excerpt From: Annie O’Neil. “The Vet’s Secret Son”.