The Labrador jerked on the leash and Ricky stumbled.
Kalila watched with cool curiosity. “Tell me,” she said, “what exactly does one get out of this relationship?”
Ricky started walking, struggling to bring the eager dog under control. “What relationship? Yours and mine?”
She sighed in exasperation. “Humans and dogs.”
“Oh.” The dog stopped to nuzzle an empty takeout container, but Ricky pulled him away. “Friendship.”
“I see,” she said, as the dog dragged Ricky down the street again. “And this is the sort of companionship you enjoy?”
“Not me. My brother. Believe me, as soon as he’s back in town, he can have this animal back. I’m just doing him a favor.”
“But your brother doesn’t like you. Why do him any favors?”
Ricky didn’t have a good answer. Mike’s request had been a little brazen, but Ricky had a soft spot for animals and it wasn’t the dog’s fault he had an arrogant bastard for an owner. “I like to think I’m doing the dog a favor. Shit!” The dog gave a mighty heave and the leash slipped from Ricky’s hand. He ran after the animal, cursing.
In a vacant lot, the dog stopped, panting and defiant. Every time Ricky tried to get close, he let out a happy yip and bounded away.
“This is not a game.” Ricky glanced over his shoulder as Kalila approached, serene and unconcerned. “Can’t you do something to help?”
She raised her eyebrows. “What on earth do you expect me to do?”
“A calming spell, maybe? If he runs away or gets hurt, my brother will kill me.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. You humans have laws against murder, remember?”
Ricky gave her a baleful look.
“Fine.” With a gesture, she conjured a thick porterhouse steak at Ricky’s feet. The dog hesitated only a moment, then fell to.
While the dog ate, Ricky picked up the leash and felt his stomach growl. “Uh, Kalila?”
“Any chance you could conjure another of those when we get home? On the grill, though, not on the ground.”
“Why should I do that?”
“Yours and the dog’s?”
“Yours and mine.”
Kalila offered to hold the leash and hesitantly patted the dog's head. “It’s a bit odd to be friends with an inferior species.”
“You and the dog?”
“No, silly. You and me.”
They started walking. The dog was calm now and trotted at Kalila’s side. Ricky remained silent, not sure what to make of Kalila’s casual insult. Was she teasing him on purpose, or did she really not know she had given offense?
When they got to the house, they turned the dog loose in the back yard. “Do you want that steak now?” she asked.
“Because nothing’s too good for an inferior species?”
Kalila flashed him a mischievous grin and gave him a slow, sultry kiss. Then she clipped the leash to his shirt collar. “Because nothing’s too good for my pet, of course. And my friend.”