I gave a bit of a yelp when the soggy tennis ball landed in my lap. The drool that had been soaking the felt started seeping into my pants. I looked up, shocked, to see a huge white dog sitting in front me me, it’s mouth stretched in a wide grin, a pink tongue lolling out the side as it panted. I cast my gaze around the immediate area, trying to see if I could discern to whom the dog belonged. But it didn’t appear that anyone else had intruded on the quite corner of the park where I had chosen to have my lunch.
I stared at the dog. It stared back. I gingerly picked up the ball. The dog bounced to all fours, it’s entire body practically vibrating with anticipation. I couldn’t quite suppress the smile that threatened my mouth as I levered my arm back and threw the ball as hard and as far as I could. The dog took off, a blur of white, chasing after it’s toy. I shook my head, a little amused, and picked up my book again. It hardly seemed like any time had passed before the ball once again landed with a soggy plop in my lap. This time, I didn’t hesitate. I threw the ball.
When the ball appeared a third time, I marked the page, shut my book with a quiet snap, and resigned myself to playing fetch with the animal until it’s owner showed up or the dog failed to return.
The panicked shout broke the quiet. Birds in a nearby tree squawked and took off. I’d been lost in the quiet rhythm of the act of fetch and it startled me too. I looked up as a man jogged closer.
“Artemis! Where are you, boy?”
The dog had been returning with the ball for about the twentieth time when it heard the shout. It dropped the ball in my lap but instead of waiting for me to throw it again, it took off toward the man at a breakneck speed. Even at a distance, I could see the relief in the man’s features as he dropped to one knee to receive the dog. I chuckled, picked up the ball and my now empty lunch sack, and ambled over.
“I believe this belongs to you?” I said softly, holding out the ball.
The man started as if I’d surprised him. He took the ball and looked down at the dog, “Artemis, you silly boy. You’re not supposed to interrupt other people just to play fetch.” The man clipped the leash that was dangling off his wrist onto the dog’s collar and stood up.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said, his face turning slightly pink. “He usually doesn’t run away from me when we’re playing but every once in a while–”
I held up my hand, cutting him off. “It’s no problem, really. I enjoyed Artemis’s company.”
“Still,” the man said, with a shake of his head. His smile was a little chagrinned. He held out his hand. “I’m Brandon, by the way. This lump of fur is Artemis.”
“Mark,” I responded, shaking the proffered hand. Brandon sucked in a breath when our skin met and I knew he felt that jolt of electricity too. I let my hand linger in his bigger one, not wanting to pull away. He was so warm. His smile was brilliant. I wanted to thank Artemis for his antics, because it allowed me to have this moment with a pretty man.
“Well, Mark,” Brandon said slowly, his gaze traveling up and down my body. I imagined I could feel it like a touch. “Can we make it up to you? Maybe with coffee at kiosk over there?”
I barely suppressed the happy dance I wanted to do. He wanted to prolong our time together. I was so on board with that. I had to take a second before I answered so that I was sure my voice would be steady. “Thanks. That’d be nice.”
We started to walk in that direction, silence falling between us. I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t often that I gained the attention of a good looking guy. Nerves made my tongue thick. I cleared my throat and cast my mind for something, anything, to say.
Before I could, Artemis lunged in front of me, then dashed behind, effectively winding his leash around my knees and causing me to crash into Brandon. Only some fancy footwork on his part kept us both from tumbling to the ground. I turned beat red, embarrassed even though it wasn’t my fault. Brandon let out a soft chuckle, untangled us, and made sure I was standing.
“You okay?” Brandon asked. I nodded and willed the blush to leave my cheeks.
Brandon looked down at the dog that was now sitting patiently by his side. “Are you trying to tell me something?”
The dog gave one bark and appeared to be smiling again. Brandon shook his head. When he turned to look at me, his gaze heated. “Artemis likes you. I happen to know he’s an excellent judge of character. After we get coffee, you maybe want to meet me for dinner? I promise to leave the meddling dog at home.”
He was asking me out? That never happened to me. It seemed too good to be true. A hundred responses ran through my head but what came out of my mouth was, “Far be it for me to ignore the matchmaking abilities of a dog.”
That seemed to be the answer both Brandon and Artemis were looking for because they both smiled at me. I ducked my head and smiled too. I’d never imagined I’d end up with a date when I’d decided to enjoy my lunch in the sunshine. And I’d never had a clue that dogs were such good matchmakers.