“AND THAT WAS John Michael Montgomery, with ‘I Swear,’ ” Callie Jacobsen said into the microphone. “For all you Little Big Town lovers, this one’s for you.”
Turning on the next track, Callie stretched her arms above her head and yawned, groaning silently that it was only Monday. As the morning DJ for Kat Country 106.1, she was at work from four in the morning until noon, even eating breakfast while on the air. The small radio station had three on-air DJs during the week, and two part-time on the weekends. Although it might have been nice to sleep in and take the afternoon shift, Callie enjoyed the early morning callers.
Well, one caller in particular. He went by Rhett, which probably wasn’t his real name, but who cared? He’d been calling in for over a year now, the same time every day, but what had started out as simple song requests wound up striking a chord with her every time—mostly because every one of the songs he chose was a favorite of hers.
Plus, he had an amazing voice. A rough, deep rumble that made her toes curl every time she heard him on the line. It reminded her of Deacon Claybourne’s voice from Nashville, her favorite show, and maybe that was what had her so infatuated with Rhett. She loved her some Deacon.
It was crazy, really, but each time she heard his voice over the line, the butterflies he woke in her stomach fluttered like crazy. And it had been a long time since she’d had butterflies. Not since high school.
Not since Tristan, her high school and college sweetheart. They’d met sophomore year and seemed perfect for each other. When he’d asked her to marry him after their last year of college, she had imagined a future filled with happiness and babies.
Absently, Callie rubbed her chest and felt the bumps and ridges of the scars under her plain T-shirt, a constant reminder of how good love could go bad. Really bad.
Which was why she usually steered clear of romantic entanglements. It was hard enough to trust anyone, let alone someone looking to get into her pants. She’d had a few stress-relief partners over the years, but no one she’d felt even a zing of interest for, besides the initial getting-her-rocks-off impulse.
Kicking off her shoes, she rubbed her feet over Ratchet’s belly. The 130-pound Anatolian Shepherd went everywhere with her but usually found that sleeping under her DJ table was the best way to get belly-rubs. She’d jokingly called him “Killer” to a few folks when she’d first moved to town five years ago, and word had spread pretty quickly that there was a crazy new girl in Rock Canyon with a vicious beast of a dog.
In actuality, Ratchet was a trained therapy dog, but no one knew about that except for Gemma and Caroline. She didn’t like talking about her past or her two years of insomnia that could only be cured with a bottle of Jack. Even now, nightmares left her filled with terror, soaked in sweat, and trembling like her muscles would explode.
But when she’d seen the ad in the Sacramento Bee for a litter of Turkish guardian dogs, she’d felt compelled to go see them. After what happened to her old dog, Baby, Callie hadn’t thought she’d ever have another dog, but the minute she’d looked into Ratchet’s soft brown eyes, she’d felt calmer. It was as if he’d understood that she needed him, and when she’d taken him home, she’d immediately started researching therapy-dog certification programs. She wasn’t going to spend thousands of dollars just for a shrink to tell her she’d suffered a trauma but was “lucky to be alive.” She didn’t need to talk, not with Ratchet, who would crawl up onto the bed with her and snuggle close and who could sense her fear and loneliness. He made her feel safe.
No one else needed to know her problems. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, she just kept the huge sheep dog as a deterrent for criminals. And Callie liked it that way.
Little Big Town’s latest hit came to an end, and Callie leaned forward to speak into the mic. “Coming up after the event calendar, we’ll be taking requests for our ‘Crack of Dawn’ hour, so all you early birds can listen to your favorite hits as you start your daily grind,” Callie said. She smiled, then, as their station intern, Dalton, held up a coffee cup in the control-room window with the Local Bean Coffee Shop’s logo on the side. “And speaking of grind, try waking up at three-thirty and still being as entertaining as me. Let me tell you, it takes work and a lot of coffee, so we’re going to take a commercial break. Callie Jay will get herself a little java pick-me-up, and you stick around for more of today’s hottest country on the Kat.”
Turning off the mic, she waved Dalton in. The kid was a big improvement over the little bastard the University of Southern Idaho had sent her last semester. Despite having known what kind of station he’d signed up for, the intern had been into punk rock and had sported an attitude about everything from the music to the people who came in. And instead of putting his whole heart into the job, he’d blanched at every task. Callie had sent him packing shortly after he’d given the concert tickets Justin Silverton had won to another winner who was supposed to get a singles’ weekend package. The intern hadn’t even bothered to apologize. Callie had put in a call to his professor about the kid needing a work ethic before being placed in another internship.