"Oh, no shit?" Reggie asked. "Wow."
By this time, Brandon was nearly to where they were, a look of concern tinged with anger on his face. Goldie sighed. "Don't give him any more jerky," she said to Reggie. "He's a vegan."
"He ain't vegan," Reggie said, shoving the jerky into his back jeans pocket. "What kind a dog is vegan?"
"The celebrity kind," Goldie replied. "If my fiancé sees you feeding that stuff to him, I'll never hear the end of it."
Brandon jogged up to them, the tails of the white lab coat he insisted on wearing every day flapping behind him. "What in the hell happened?" he asked, looking first to Brutus and then to Goldie. "Mrs. Griswold is beside herself, Romy may need to go to the ER, and Brutus's handler thinks you're trying to steal him."
"I'm fine, thanks," Goldie muttered, shoving her broken shoe into Brandon's chest. She turned her back on him and gave a small smile to Reggie, who released the grip he had on Brutus's collar and sidled away with the rest of the construction crew. "Obviously, I'm not trying to steal the dog. He escaped through the front door, and I had to chase after him. We're both lucky we weren't run over in the process."
Brandon leaned down in front of Brutus and clipped a leash onto his harness. When he straightened up, he turned his attention back to Goldie. "Did you roll around in a dirt pile?"
Goldie thought she might strangle him right there, in front of God and yoga. "I tripped," she said through gritted teeth. "Trying to save this dog 'and' our asses."
"Romy said you made her do the gland expression," Brandon continued, as if he hadn't heard her. "What were you thinking, Marigold? You know better than to have a brand-new vet tech anywhere near Brutus on expression day."
Goldie touched her tongue to the roof of her mouth and tried to remain calm. "I'm sorry," she said, finally. "I didn't know we were calling your twenty-year-old girlfriend a vet tech."
A flicker of shock passed over Brandon's face before he regained his composure and replied, "That's not fair."
"Fair?" Goldie snatched the leash away from Brandon and kicked off her remaining heel. "You want to talk about what's fair?" "What's gotten into you?" Brandon asked. "Don't make a scene,
babe. Come on. We can talk about it later. 'In private'."
Goldie stared at him. "You want to talk to me about being private, when you literally brought the woman you're sleeping with into our clinic?"
"It's my clinic," Brandon replied, looking away from her and toward the construction workers, who were pretending not to be listening to their argument. "You just work there."
Goldie felt as if she'd been punched in the gut. For nearly the past decade, she'd been a part of every single decision made at the clinic. She'd been there during the hard days and late nights. She'd sat with clients after their pet died and they needed comfort. She'd not taken a salary for a year after they'd been sued by a client angry about the untimely death of their cat, because most of the money was tied up in lawyers. She'd celebrated with Brandon when they'd won the suit, largely in part due to her father's connections.
But as far as Brandon was concerned, she just worked there.
Goldie guessed she'd known it all along.
"Here," Goldie said, returning Brutus's leash to Brandon. "I don't work for you anymore." She turned around and began to walk back toward the clinic, trying to keep both her dignity and her one working shoe intact.
Brandon stood there for a moment processing what she'd just said. After a few seconds, he started off after her, but Brutus wouldn't budge. Brandon pulled on Brutus's leash for a second before sighing and picking him up.
"Goldie," Brandon called after her, breathless after a few seconds of carrying the weight of the sixty-five-pound Brutus. "Goldie, come on. Wait. You know that's not what I meant!"
Goldie pretended not to hear him. She knew if she turned around and looked at him, she'd go back. She knew if she said another word to him, she'd go back. She didn't want to go back. It was too late to go back to anything—to Brandon, to their relationship, to the life she'd thought they shared.
It was over.
It wasn't until much later that evening, after ordering more wine than she needed for herself alone at Alex's house, when Goldie saw it—a listing for a veterinary clinic for sale. It had been posted in one of the veterinary groups she'd joined on social media. There were veterinarians from all over the world, sharing stories and pictures from their lives spent working with animals. Even now, she interacted with people from all over. She had virtual friends in nearly every area of the United States and a good friend in Belize with whom she exchanged Christmas cards and birthday gifts. Brandon hated it, but Goldie liked the internet.
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book THE TWO LIVES OF SARA by Catherine Adel West.