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Fish is still pretty new to his patch and has those moments where he still wants to respond to the odd bellowed ‘prospect!’ but he’s damn sure coming into his own. Great job, fully patched, decent apartment, and all his goals have been reached… all except one. A love of his own. He figured that would come in time but when he saw the scared and injured kitten dart into the roadway, he had no idea that time was now.
Kinzleigh Johnson had no idea what to make of the biker that brought an injured kitty cat into the twenty-four-hour animal hospital she worked at. She made out pretty quick that he was hot, and the fact that he was willing to throw down his credit card and see to the poor fur baby without a second thought? Well, that told her he was at least good enough for a ride.
Save a horse, ride a biker?
Why she didn’t mind if she did.
She had no idea it would end up more than she bargained for.
A whole lot more.
Was I attracted to this?
I hung up the handset on its cradle and shook my head, mystified at my non-response to his request – no heavy-handed demand for – for what? A date?
Usually, I told a motherfucker to fuck right off if he pulled that kind of shit with me, but then I flashed back on him standing there in dripping leather, extracting this tiny half-murdered kitten out of his coat and how he hadn’t hesitated to throw down the cash to take care of the little guy.
The wet hair, the clinging leather, and the lean physique under it all, in combination with those piercing steely blue eyes of his as they’d looked me over.
Ugh… I needed to get laid.
“Kinzleigh, the doctor needs you back there for a blood draw.” I turned around to Kirsten holding her hand wrapped in a bloody paper towel.
“Better get some Betadine on that,” I said dryly, fighting not to roll my eyes. She was horrible with cats, and I never really trusted anyone that wasn’t liked by either a dog or a cat, maybe especially a cat. Unlike dogs, they had more discerning tastes.
I forgot all about Saul Masters and his little Nemo until Jake stuck his head in the back and said, “Uh, Kinz… there’s a biker out here says he’s here to pick up his cat but won’t leave until he talks to you. You want me to call the cops?”
“What? No! Good God, Jake. We don’t get to pick what the clients look like – don’t be a bigot!”
The man was a nervous boy at heart, and I did roll my eyes at him. He was being utterly ridiculous.
I went out front and found Saul Masters, hands in his jean’s pockets, hair mussed from his helmet, waiting expectantly. He looked up at me, his head stooped, and fixed me with a smoldering look that set butterflies off in my stomach.
“Jake, go get Nemo. Orange cat, one eye, giant cone of shame – can’t miss him.”
“He come with a carrier?” Jake asked in that tone of voice that said he was more than a little miffed at me, but spoiler alert – I didn’t give a flying fuck about what Jake thought or felt. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
“Okay, he really should have a carrier—”
“Jake!” I snapped, cutting him off before he could go full-blown raging Karen queen on either me or Mr. Masters.
“Sorry, Kinzleigh.” He ducked his head, tucked tail, and went in the back. That’s right, you little bitch, I thought and yeah, it was surly and again no fucks given. Jake annoyed the fuck out of just about all of us at the clinic.
I shut off the tap and Kinz made a noise of protest.
“What about you?” she asked, and I smiled and shook my head.
“It’s not about me tonight,” I told her, and she stared at me open mouthed. I got out and said, “Wait right there,” and she obliged – hugging herself and trying not to shiver.
I dried myself off quickly and grabbed a couple towels for her, holding the first one out so she could wrap her hair. She did and then I stepped in to wrap her in the second, rubbing her down briskly through the cloth.
“You’re spoiling me,” she accused softly, and I lifted one shoulder in a shrug.
“What of it?” I asked.
“I don’t deserve it,” she said, and I snorted.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” I declared. “You deserve to be happy. Hell, you deserve the world if I could give it to you.”
She stared at me, wide-eyed and the look radiated such an innocence and shock I realized that no one had ever treated Kinzleigh like the precious and beautiful soul that she was.
She was such an interesting dichotomy – so pure and loving, kind and giving… but holding herself in such guarded reserve behind so many jagged edges. Like a beautiful stone garden wall topped with broken glass yet covered in flowering vines and ivy, bountiful fruit tree branches hanging low over the wall and yielding such a bounty. If I had to describe her, it was the best way I knew how.
She worked herself to death at that clinic. Bent over backward to help their clientele, and had even told me she’d reached into her own pocket to pay for an animal’s care on more than one occasion and simply told the pet’s owner that the service had been gratis.
I mean, for fuck’s sake – she bought and boarded a whole ass horse that she couldn’t even fucking ride and could barely afford just to save it from slaughter and give it a twilight years’ retirement because… well, just because.
Nobody honestly fucking did that. She was incredibly generous and kind, and softhearted. She’d just been hurt so fucking much and I didn’t know why except… except when we’re let out into the world, whether it was a shitty upbringing or not, we oftentimes seek out a love that feels like home. I was beginning to get a clear picture that her homelife had been exceptionally rough.
I couldn’t be sure about any sex abuse, but there was certainly abuse and heaps of it by the sound of things.
There was certainly neglect – mostly emotional, but that could be the most devastating kind. And here she was struggling to find her place in the world and the best the world had to fucking offer her was me…
So yeah, at this point, I wasn’t entirely sure what made me so lucky, but I was here for it. Here to see her smile, because when she did? She literally transformed into something trans-fucking-scendant. Something, at least to me, that was almost too beautiful to be real.
I understood her love of animals more than humans when it was clear that humans hadn’t done anything but let her down.
Text Copyright © 2022 A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, event, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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