Boundary Haunted by Melissa F. Olson Read Online (FREE)
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“Come on, guys,” I urged, patting my leg. “One more mile.”
Cody was panting too hard to even acknowledge me, but Chip shot me a sideways look as if to say, You’ve got to be kidding.
It was the first Thursday in March, and I’d decided to take advantage of the warmer weather—and my unconventional work schedule—to bring two of my rescue dogs into Chautauqua Park in downtown Boulder to run the trails. March is too early for actual spring in the mountains, but the barren-looking landscape was softened by bright sunlight, which warmed the sleeves of my dark hoodie.
I hadn’t been sleeping well lately, but for the first time in ages, I felt awake and content. Chautauqua was one of my favorite places in the world, and this was the best time to be there: a weekday morning while most of the CU students were busy cramming for midterms. The dogs and I had the place . . . well, not quite to ourselves, but close.
For once, though, Chip and Cody didn’t seem to share my enjoyment. They had a special pass to run the trails off-leash, but for the last two miles, it had been a constant struggle to keep them from slowing down or wandering off. It felt more like I was herding them than anything else.
Chip was in the lead, but now he began to drift to the side, like he might go lie in the shade by himself. “Come on, Chip,” I called. “Keep going!”
I was trying to encourage him, but it backfired: when he heard his name, the big dope trotted into my path and slowed to a stop right in front of my knees.
“Dammit!” By some miracle I managed to jump over the dog without falling on my ass, but I had to plant my arms on the ground and push off. It was damned close to being a cartwheel.
Okay, fine. It was more or less a running handspring. I stumbled to a stop and turned to face the dogs, who were skulking after me, looking embarrassed. “What is with you two today?” I muttered, dusting off my hands and resting them on my knees. At least this particular trail was deserted, so I didn’t have to worry about ending up on YouTube.
They wagged their tails, still panting hard. I sighed and looked around. There was a little outcropping on the path just ahead of where we’d stopped, where a scrubby tree created some shade. I led the dogs toward it, pulling my sling backpack around so I could reach my water bottle and the collapsible dog bowl.
The bag was just big enough for the water, a cell phone, and my Beretta M9 in a nylon holster. I didn’t go anywhere unarmed anymore, although I’d left my shredder stakes in the car for this daytime run.
I set the bowl in the shade and filled it with water, then straightened up to watch the dogs gulp it down like we were in the Sahara. Only a year ago, we’d run this whole trail without so much as a water break. Now that I really looked at them in the bright sun, though, I could see flecks of gray in Chip’s muzzle, and Cody flopped tiredly onto his side in the shade, still panting.