Good Girl Page 52

I can’t explain it, but I need Noah.

I start to head upstairs to grab a bag, intent on taking a bottle of wine, some popcorn, and my raciest lingerie over to the caretaker cottage, when I remember that Dolly’s waiting for me outside the door.

I walk to the screen, my steps slowing when I don’t see her familiar little pointy face.

“Dolly?” I push the screen door open. “Dolly!”

My eyes scan for a sign of the tiny puffball, waiting for her to come bounding through the weeds, but there’s nothing.


Blindly I shove my feet into the flip-flops by the door as I burst out into the late dusk, still calling for my dog.

I try to contain my panic at first. She’ll come. Any minute now I’ll hear that high-pitched little bark, see her short legs coming toward me as she does the little run that looks sort of like a bunny hopping through the grass.

But no matter how many times I call her name, my voice getting a little louder and more frantic each time, there’s nothing. The crickets seem to grow louder, the fireflies brighter, but there’s no dog. Nothing rustling low in the weeds.

Not even an alligator.

My hand goes to my mouth as I realize the magnitude of what it means for a five-pound Pomeranian to be lost on a bayou. I haven’t seen a gator yet, but I rarely stray from the house. And I absolutely believe Noah when he says they’re out there.

“Dolly,” I whimper.

And then I’m running, ignoring the way the occasional twig jabs at my bare foot around the flimsy flip-flops, not bothering to stop for the damn crocodile stick, because Dolly doesn’t have one, and she’s the one the alligators could eat with a single snap.

I run and I run, maybe wishing I’d worked out just a little more since I’ve been in Louisiana, and then I’m at the caretaker cottage.

I don’t bother to register whether lights are on, I just slam my hand once on the door before barging in. “Noah!”

I hear Ranger’s bark, and then I see him.


I put a hand on the door, gasping, as he turns to me in confusion, a frozen dinner in his hand that looks an awful lot like the one I just ate.

“Dolly,” I say, my voice breaking. “I can’t find her. I let her out to go to the bathroom, and I can’t…Noah, I can’t find her.”

Without a word, he tosses the plastic tray aside and moves past me toward the door, giving a quick whistle for Ranger.

“What are you—”

“We’ll find her.”

“But Noah…” I follow him onto the porch, and he’s all blurry through my tears.

“Hey,” he says, catching my chin in his hand. “We’ll find her. Take Ranger,” he orders, bending down and picking up a stick that he hands to me. “Walk to the south side of the property.” He points. “I’ll take the north side.”

“We should leave Ranger here,” I say, my hand touching the big dog’s silky head. “If there are alligators…”

“He’ll be fine,” Noah soothes. “You see one coming, make a shit-ton of noise. He’s too big to be worthwhile prey for a gator.”

“But Dolly’s not,” I say.

“We’ll find her,” he says firmly.

I nod, wanting to believe him—needing to believe him—as I adjust the stick in my palm and go running in the direction he indicated. Ranger somehow understands and follows me, and over Ranger’s mad barking I hear Noah calling my dog’s name, his voice growing fainter as he moves in the opposite direction.

I lose track of time. I lose track of where I walk, how far I walk, or even how I walk in these stupid flip-flops.

Over and over I call her name, my voice growing hoarse as my vision gets blurrier.

I’ll find her. I have to find her.

But as dusk settles into full night, there’s no sign of her, and the sound of the bayou at night is all around me now. I hear a rustling noise to my left, and for a moment hope soars. I spin around. “Dolly!”

My heart is in my throat.

Not Dolly.


It’s smaller than I expect it to be, but no less terrifying. It’s frozen just like I’m frozen, and its wide-set eyes are creepy as hell. I can’t tell if it’s looking at me or at Ranger. I can’t tell if my poor little dog is in its belly, and for a heart-wrenching moment I wonder if the reason the gator’s not charging at Ranger is because it’s no longer hungry, satisfied by Dolly.

Am I supposed to run? Charge?

Too late I realize I should have asked Noah for more information. Out of the corner of my eye, I look at Ranger, and he’s frozen, the fur on his back standing up as he growls low and mean at the gator.

Instinctively I know that he’ll protect me, that he’d die for me.

I tighten my grip on the dumb stick. “Don’t worry,” I tell Ranger. “I’ll protect you too.”

In the end, I don’t have to.

The gator looks at the two of us for a moment longer, seeming almost bored, before slithering away into the darkness.

I drop my stick with an exhale, relieved not to be fighting off alligator teeth, but no more reassured that the beast didn’t just devour Dolly.

My eyes fill all over again. “Come on, boy,” I say with a sniffle. “Take me home.”

I let Ranger lead the way back, watching as his brown tail bounds a few feet in front of me, his head with its floppy ears turning back frequently to make sure I’m close. All the while I call Dolly’s name.

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