Entering the house he hears Neal and Clare battling galaxies in the living room.
“Clare,” he says, “Your horse told me she’s hungry.”
Clare ignores him, honing in on a fighter craft. Neal groans as she blows it apart.
“Clare. Feed her soon. It’s getting dark.”
“Horses can’t eat in the dark?”
He spies a long, red welt along her jaw. “The point is not equine visual acuity but rather the fact that she’s hungry. Shall we feed you tender goslings at eight, nine, ten or whenever we get around to it?”
“God, dad. Don’t freak. I’ll get her in a minute. Just let me wipe out Neal’s federation.”
“In your dreams,” Neal gloats, wizardly manipulating his game stick.
“What happened to your face?” Conner asks.
Clare juts her jaw. “Oh, nice, huh? DaFoe got me. It’s got a certain Bride of Chucky appeal to it, don’t you think?”
“Did he hurt you?”
“Uh, uh. We were just fooling around and he caught me with a claw. He didn’t mean to.”
“Be careful with him, Clare. He’s a lot of dog.”
“Ye-es, Father,” Clare says in the voice that informs him he’s being doltish.
“I’m going to see about a basement with chains set into the walls,” he calls back, heading to the wet bar. Conner refills his glass before heading out for DaFoe’s bowl. The dog woofs and dances at his approach, but Conner stands outside the fence, just watching. Finally he steps inside and wrestles with DaFoe hard enough to make the dog wince. When he pins the massive chest against his, he warns, “You know if you ever hurt her I’ll kill you. Right, old man? Agreed?”
He shakes the dogs head in a “yes” motion and DaFoe executes an enormous wiggle out from under him. The dog leaps away, watching Conner from a crouch, ready to pounce at the signal. Conner doesn’t respond, just pats his leg. DaFoe hops to the side, encouraging his master to pursue, but Conner refuses the bait. He picks up DaFoe’s bowl and leaves, only to have DaFoe reenact the whole ritual when Conner returns with his kibble. DaFoe doesn’t even glance at the food. As Conner shovels the daily turds DaFoe butts his flanks against Conner, almost knocking him down. His dog’s ardor touches Conner, who laughs, “Hey! Cut it out,” and shoves back. DaFoe comes in for another swipe and Conner leaps away. DaFoe jumps on him, planting his forepaws in Conner’s chest.
“Dime a dance, Old Man?”
DaFoe bounces on his rear legs and Conner says, “Not a Lindy, Old Man, a dog trot.”
Conner leads DaFoe, who hops gamely along.
“Terry you’re not,” he tells the dog, dropping him to the ground. DaFoe tries to jump back up but Conner raises a knee. They tousle for a half a minute and Conner rakes the heavy fur. When he steps through the gate DaFoe hurls himself against the fence and howls.
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