While I'm Alive

Chapter Sixteen

When I woke up the next morning, I was hit with that fleeting confusion that sometimes happens when you fall asleep in a new place. My eyes fluttered open and Owen's bedroom came into view. The place next to me where Owen had been the night before was empty, just a blank space of navy blue sheets. I suddenly remembered a sleep goodbye a few hours earlier, his lips brushing my forehead before pressing lightly against my lips, telling me to stay as long as I needed. I rolled onto stomach and buried my face into the pillow to hide the embarrassingly giddy grin on my face, even though I was alone. The pillow smelled like him. My heart fluttered in my chest as I replayed the events from the night before in my head...It felt surreal, like an incredibly vivid, sexy dream except it was real and the fact that I was still lying in his bed grinning like an idiot was extremely unlike me.

I rolled over, sitting up and wrapping the blanket tighter around me. The house was silent, the alarm clock on the nightstand reading only nine o'clock. Most of my clothes had made it into a messy pile in the middle of the room, although I had to hunt around for my bra before finally finding it hidden underneath the covers at the foot of the bed. I gathered them into my arms before heading into the bathroom, hoping Owen wouldn't mind me using his shower. His toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste sat on the counter, like he had just left them there moments before, a wet wash cloth hanging over the faucet. I turned on the shower, letting it warm up before stepping under the stream of hot water. Unlike my own shower, which was stockpiled with about five hundred different types of soaps, body washes, shampoos, and conditioners, Owen had one bottle of shampoo and one bottle of body wash. As soon as I opened the body wash, I was immediately hit with the familiar scent I associated with him...something woodsy with a hint of peppermint.

I made the shower a quick one, so I could stop at home and get some clean clothes before work. Once I was dried off and dressed in my clothes from the day before, which still reeked of french fry oil and tequila from work, I meandered into the kitchen. My purse and cell phone sat on the counter where I had left them the night before. I felt my cheeks go hot, finding it completely unavoidable to be standing there and not think about the way he had been kissing me in that same spot the night before. I reached for my phone to check my messages, and wasn't surprised to see when from Claire.

C: 'How was your night? No details needed.'

I smirked, rolling my eyes a little before shoving my phone back into the side pocket of my purse. I grabbed it off the counter and went on a search for my shoes, before finding them in the bedroom near the door. I slipped them on and was on my way out, when the sight of a worn, brown leather wallet on the nightstand caught my eye. I hovered in the doorway, debating whether or not to leave it. I had no idea whether or not Owen intentionally left his wallet at home, or if it had been accidentally. Mostly I was trying not to admit I was just looking for a reason to see him sooner rather than later. I finally let out a sigh of defeat, crossing the room and throwing the wallet into my bag. If he'd ended up forgetting it on purpose, I'd feel bad later knowing I'd just left it.

Outside, the air was already thick with humidity which did nothing for my still damp hair. Before it had a chance to curl into wild waves, I pulled it back into a ponytail, using the elastic on my wrist. I walked down the dirt road, once I was home quickly changing into a clean pair of denim shorts and a dark blue Maragritaville t-shirt. Even better, I did a really good job of not thinking about Owen once until I was on the monorail. His wallet was still in my purse, a small voice in the back of my head question whether or not it was weird to show up while he was working to give it to him. Mostly wondering if it would make me seem overeager. I quickly dismissed the thought, though. I had never been one of those girls, who overanalyzed every little detail when it came to a guy. At least not until Owen came into the picture. I didn't want to be one of those girls, therefore I would drop off his wallet before work. No big deal.

I took the monorail to the midway and flashed my badge to the guy on duty at the staff garage, before taking one of the four wheelers. I took the familiar steep and winding roads to the raptor containment unit, pulling up and parking alongside a Jurassic World park jeep. I climbed off, holding my purse nervously in both hands as my eyes combed the area for Owen. I spotted him almost right away, recognizing his familiar build even with his back to me. I suddenly felt nervous all over again as I looked at him. I wasn't sure what there was even to be nervous about, we'd already slept together. For christ's sake the man had seen me naked. And I'd seen him naked too...The thought popped up into my head, completely unwanted at the moment but totally unavoidable and making me feel like a pervert as I stared at him.

He was in the middle of what looked like a heated conversation with a middle-aged, heavy set man with a graying beard. I didn't like the condescending expression on his face, the way he put his hands on his hips and tried to draw his height over Owen in an attempt to appear intimidating. Owen, on the other hand, looked unfazed. He was shaking his head as he tried stepped around the man and end the conversation.

He must have felt my eyes on him because he suddenly turned around. The huge smile that lit up his face when he saw me standing there made my stomach jolt. I felt myself smiling shyly back as I headed towards him, digging the wallet out of my bag. I held it out to him. "You forgot this at your place." I said. Behind Owen, I saw Barry's eyebrows raise before a knowing smile tugged at his lips. I tried to ignore him, and thankfully, he turned and walked away. No doubt to give us some privacy.

"Oh shit, I did!" Owen said in surprise, taking it from me and sliding it into his back pocket. "Thanks, you didn't have to bring it all the way here."

I shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant even though I knew it'd been the perfect excuse to see him. "It's okay, I figured you would need it. Everything okay with that guy? He looks like an asshat." I nodded towards the man behind him, he had finally stopped staring at us and walked away.

Owen rolled his eyes. "He is. Don't worry about it, though. Just trying to feed me some Ingen bullshit."

I nodded. Owen's expression suddenly turned into an amused one and I realized it was probably because of the way I was nervously twisting the strap of my purse in my hands. "Well, I'll let you get back to work." I said uncertainly. What was the protocol in this situation? We had slept together, yes. So was I supposed to hug him goodbye, or try to kiss him? Or maybe not do anything. I was feeling more and more like an idiot each second and was glad Owen couldn't hear my inner dialogue.

"Whoa, whoa. Hold on a second." Owen said quickly, reaching out to grab one of my hands. He tugged me close to him, his arms easily sliding around my waist. "Am I gonna see you later?"

I couldn't fight the smile that immediately broke out across my face. "I'd like that."

"Good, me too." He smiled. "Also, did you really think you were just gonna walk away without letting me do this?" Before I could ask, he was suddenly leaning down and pressing his lips against mine. I immediately warmed to the feeling, sinking into him. He gripped me tighter as I rested my hands against his chest, deepening the kiss.

After a long moment, I reluctantly pulled away. "As much as I would like to keep doing that, there are other people around." I teased him. "To be continued?"

Owen chuckled, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. "I'm holding you to it." He pulled me closer to his chest, but suddenly paused, his cheek brushing the top of my head. "Did you use my shampoo?"

"Um...is that okay?" I pulled back to look up at him uncertainly.

"Yeah. Just disappointed I wasn't there." He grinned at me deviously and my stomach dropped. He leaned down to kiss me again when a frantic yell suddenly shattered the moment.

Owen whirled around, sprinting towards the cage. I followed after him, and my heart jolted into my throat when we finally reached the iron bars. In the center of the cage, was a person, lying on the ground. I watched as he sat up, looking disoriented before the expression was replaced with one of utter terror as he realized where he was. A bone chilling animalistic shriek cut through the air as all four of the raptors descended on him.

"What the hell happened?" Owen asked, skidding to a stop in front of Barry.

"Fell from the catwalk!" Barry explained, eyes wide. "We have to get him out of there quickly!"

I watched as Owen looked from him back to the cage. The shift in his expression made me feel sick. "Owen..." I said, a warning in my tone.

"I'll be right back." He assured me. Then, before either Barry or I could stop him, he slammed his palm down on the button that opened the cage door and ducked inside.

"No!" The word escaped my lips in a hoarse whisper as I automatically lurched after him. Barry caught me around the waist and dragged me back.

"He'll be fine!" He told me, gripping my shoulders with both hands but I saw the fear in his eyes just as strongly as I felt it. I pivoted back around and pressed myself up against the cage bars, gripping them tightly in each of my hands. I watched in horror as Owen halted to a stop in front of the raptors. All four pairs of yellow eyes turned to face him.

"Hold your fire! These animals will never trust me again if you hit them!" He called out to the half a dozen men on the catwalk above, weapons all trained on the raptors.

He was crouched low to the ground, both his arms outstretched in a warning to the huge carnivores. "Get out of here." He said quickly and the boy behind him scrambled backwards onto all fours, crawling in through the cage door where Barry and I were still watching Owen with horrified expressions. I could hear the kid panting, his fear so tangible I could almost taste it.

One of the raptors suddenly let out a low, guttural sounding growl and lurched towards Owen. A loud, terrified gasp left my mouth in a rush and I clapped a hand over my mouth, willing myself to keep silent. My heart felt like it was trying to make a break for it, the way it was beating against my chest like a jackhammer. My stomach churned, unable to take my eyes off of him.

Owen thrust out his palm in the growling raptor's direction. "I see you, Delta! Don't you move!" He said in a strong, unwavering voice. He kept his eyes trained on the raptors, his head following their every movements as they slowly advanced on him. He was taking, small cautious steps backwards. "Easy, girls, easy...Barry, close the door."

"What?!" I exclaimed, looking wildly towards Barry who looked just as shocked as I was.

"You can't be serious, Owen!" He called back, shaking his head.

"Just do it!" Owen answered, still using that same calm, commanding tone.

"You heard him! Shut the freaking door!" The kid shouted franticly and I shot him a glare that made him cringe. Accident or not, it was because of him that Owen's life was now in danger.

The creaking metal of the cage door lowering forced my eyes back towards the cage. I took a few, staggering steps backwards, both hands balled into tight fists at my sides. My fingernails were digging into my skin, but I hardly felt a thing. The door was almost completely shut now and just as I thought Owen was trapping himself inside, he ducked and rolled underneath the cage door just as it slammed shut. All four raptors lunged at the door, claws and teeth striking at the metal bars.

A relief more potent than anything I'd ever felt suddenly rushed through me. Before I could stop myself, I was stumbling towards him. I fell to my knees where he was still on the ground, trying to catch his breath, and wrapped my arms around his neck.

"Jesus christ, Owen." I whispered weakly.

"You're one crazy son of a bitch." I heard Barry mutter, letting out a laugh of pure relief.

Owen's arms came up to wrap around me, pulling me to him. "It's okay, Ry. I'm fine...I'm fine." He was saying in a soft, reassuring voice that just barely masked the shakiness there. I pulled back to look at him, sweat beading at his temples and his blue eyes still wide.

"Don't do that again, or I swear I'll kill you myself." I breathed, gripping the front of his shirt tightly in both my hands.

Owen smiled and grasped one of mine in his before his eyebrows suddenly furrowed and he turned over my palm to look at it more closely. I hadn't noticed until then, but tiny, crescent moon-shaped indentations pierced my skin. One of them had even drawn just a hint of blood. I'd been digging my nails into my skin much harder than I'd thought.

"You really were scared for me, weren't you?" He asked. I gave him a look that I hoped conveyed how much of an idiot he was for asking. The smile was back on his face again as he tugged me closer. Our lips were centimeters away from brushing, when a voice suddenly broke us a part.

"Still think your animals wouldn't pass a field test? I just watched you take control of a completely unpredictable and potentially lethal situation without using any force."

I glanced over my shoulder to see the man he had been speaking to earlier watching us from behind the cage bars. I untangled myself from Owen, standing up and wiping my hands on the back of my jeans.

"There was just as much of a chance that they could have attacked me, though." Owen spat back at him. "These animals are unpredictable, Hoskins. They aren't going to be loyal to an army commander. They're gonna be loyal to whatever suits their needs."

I held out my hand and helped pull Owen to his feet. He didn't let go of my hand right away, fingers interlacing with mine. He paused to shoot a look over his shoulder. The kid who had fallen into the paddock was still on the ground in shock. "Didn't you ever wonder why there was a job opening here? Don't ever turn your back to the cage."

The kids eyes widened and I couldn't fight back the tiny, amused smile that pulled at one corner of my lips.

"Exactly. They're unpredictable." Hoskins continued. "The enemy isn't gonna know what hit them."

Owen was shaking his head, leading me out of the cage. I glanced up at him curiously. "Enemy?"

"Hoskins here thinks it's a great idea to use the raptors as weapons on a battlefield." Owen explained bitterly.

I felt my eyes go wide. "That's insane. How the hell are they supposed to know the different between the enemy and an ally? Aren't they just gonna attack whatever they want?"

Hoskins scowled at me while Owen smirked at me approvingly. "Exactly. See, she gets it?"

"What the hell would a little girl like you know anyways? A bartender?" Hoskins sneered, eyeing my Margaritaville t-shirt with disdain. I stared at him, shocked at his blatant rudeness, although maybe I shouldn't have been.

Owen was suddenly putting himself between me and Hoskins, tugging me behind his broad shoulders. "You don't talk to her that way. In fact, you don't talk to her at all. Now get the hell out of here."

Hoskin's face reddened in anger but he held his hands up in mock surrender. I could tell by the way his eyes lingered on the cage behind Owen, though, that he was giving up so easily. "Fine, fine. Have it your way. But this is happening with or without you." He took a few steps back before abruptly turning and walking away.

Owen glared after him and I squeezed his hand to get his attention before tugging him to face me. "Hey, forget about that asshole."

He shook off his irritation, eyes falling on me. "I know, I just hate that guy. He comes all the way out there, yet doesn't learn a damn thing about these animals except what he wants to." He ran his free hand through his hair, frustrated. "Then thinks he can talk down to you like he's better than you and he's not. Not even close."

A smile twitched at my lips, warmth spreading throughout me at his words. "Don't worry about me. I'm tough, I can take it."

He finally cracked, grinning down at me. "That's why I like you so much." He pulled on my hand until the distance between us was gone. Hoskins and his crazy ideas, Owen inside that cage, completely vanished from my mind the second his lips touched mine.

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