#3 General Fluffington
“You’re in an exceptionally foul mood today,” Delilah says, leaning over her reception desk to squint at my face. “Have you been crying?”
“Please, bitch, I don’t cry,” I reply automatically. I know I look like shit. I hardly slept, tempted to text Michel all night long. I need something or someone to take my mind off him or I’ll be back in his bed in less than a day. I can feel my resolve to stay away from him crumbling already.
My boss, Peter, calls me in to do post-op care for a cat he just performed surgery on, and I work alongside him for the better part of an hour. I like Peter. He’s in his late fifties, perpetual bachelor, who lives for his work. He doesn’t treat me like I’m less than him just because I’m only a vet tech. If anything, he treats me like his equal. He’s kinda like my work-dad, you know, just like some people have a work-wife or something. We don’t see each other outside of work, but he’s still a vital part of my life. Today, he looks just as crappy as I do.
“Tough weekend?” I ask, nudging him when we’re washing our hands.
“Yeah,” he sighs. “I met this woman last week, but she’s not into me, I guess.”
“Oh.” I don’t know what to say. I thought Peter was single by choice, to be honest. He likes things done a certain way in both his private and personal life, bordering in OCD. He told me many times how happy he is that he lives alone, without anyone waiting for him to get home. He likes the quiet, the peace, the lack of commitment. He doesn’t even have any pets, even though he’s a vet. Even a bunny or a cat seems like too big of a commitment to him.
“Why are you crabby today?” he asks, not elaborating on his own problems. “Did Michel dump you again?”
“Yeah,” I confirm, hating that everyone can always tell exactly how I feel, even though I try to keep a poker face plastered on at all times.
“I’m sure he’ll come back,” Peter assures me, patting my back. “He always does.”
“Nah, I think it’s final this time.” I take a deep breath and roll my shoulders back, trying to get rid of the tension in them. “If we haven’t been able to make things work after so many tries, it’s probably never going to happen.”
“Hmm.” He looks at me with a frown. “Never thought I’d see the day you’d give up on you and Michel.”
I shrug. “Today’s the day, I guess.” In fact, I promised myself this morning to put myself back out there, get back on the horse, or whatever the saying is. Normally I don’t go on a date or sleep with someone new after breaking things off with Michel, but this time, I need the split to feel final. In my head, I know it’s truly over, but my heart doesn’t see it that way yet. The best way to get over someone is to get under someone new, so it’s about time I put the good old apps on my phone and start looking for my rebound. It’s been five years since my last time with anyone but Michel. It’s time to move on and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to find someone new and hot.
Peter heads out to take a break, and I walk into the reception area, seeing if there are any walk-ins. There aren’t, and my appointment hasn’t arrived yet, so I chat to Delilah for a moment. She’s two years older than I am and she’s been here way longer than I have. I started working here about a year ago, when the vet I worked back then retired and handed his practice to his son, who was a douchebag who I didn’t want to work for. He was handsy and the pay was shit, so I applied here and I’m way happier working with Delilah and Peter than I ever was with my old boss. It’s a small practice, just the three of us, and Peter should probably hire so more help soon, but he prefers to keep our team small. We’re very in tune with each other, and he’s a good boss who pays both of us well, so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.
The bell above the door jingles and I glance up, expecting to see old Mrs. Cassini with her big fat bunny in her arms, but instead a tall guy with long blonde hair rushes in, holding a bleeding furball that is probably a cat. It’s hard to say with all the fur, blood and grime.
“I need some help,” he says in a deep, gruff voice, looking at me with deep blue eyes that take my breath away for a moment. Even though his pet should be holding my attention right now, I can’t help but notice that this stranger is exceptionally hot. I’m not usually into long hair, but it doesn’t make him look feminine at all. If anything, he looks rugged, with the dark blonde scruff on his face a shade darker than his hair, and his torn black jeans.
“Tracy,” Delilah hisses, nudging me.
“Right,” I realize, rushing over to him. It’s in fact a cat he’s holding, and the poor little thing definitely has some broken limbs. “Hit by a car?” I guess, motioning for him to follow me.
“Yeah, I left the door open for second and he snuck out.” The guy sounds guilty, like he personally messed up his cat. I get that. I’d feel the same way if it was Snoopy or Pumpkin.
“Put him down right there.” I point at the examination table and grab my phone, texting Peter to cut his lunchbreak short and back the hell back here. I scrub in quickly and start examining the cat, checking how severe his injuries are.
“Will he be okay?” the guy next to me asks, sounding like he’s crying.
I look up and realize that he actually is. Oh wow. Am I the only person who never cries? “He’ll probably be just fine,” I assure him. “What’s his name?”
I snort, unable to help myself. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, my friend named him. I’m just the cat sitter.”
Ah, so that’s why he’s feeling so guilty. He has to tell his friend that he messed up their cat. That’s gotta suck.
“I’m gonna need you to head back to the waiting room,” I tell him while I check the cat’s vitals. Not bad. He’ll he okay. “I’m Tracy by the way, and I promise to take good care of General Fluffington.”
“Will he be okay?”
“Chances are he will be,” I assure the guy. “I need to get to work now, so…”
“Right,” he realizes, turning around and opening the door. “I’m Thomas, by the way,” he says before stepping out and shutting the door behind him.
When Peter arrives, I’ve already done all the needed tests and scans, set the cat’s paw and gave him pain medication. He’ll need surgery for some internal bleeding, but it’s not too complicated a procedure. Peter could do it in his sleep. He thanks me for getting things started and scrubs in to fix the little furball.
When General Fluffington is out of surgery and slowly waking up, I head into the waiting room to update the hot guy with the messy blonde hair – Thomas. He’s not alone anymore. He’s with a girl with hot pink hair, and they’re huddled together. Hmm. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a guy like him is taken already. It would really have been too much to ask to find my rebound at work the day after losing Michel, I guess. Too bad. Thomas is one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen in my life. He’d have been perfect for some hot rebound sex.
Thomas jumps up when he sees me, the girl following close behind. “How is he?” he asks hoarsely.
I pull my black headband out of my hair to let my hair fall free. That girl with him may or not be his girlfriend, but I’m sure still going to flirt with him. If he turns out to be single after all, I will be all over that tall frame with those wicked biceps. I don’t even care if that makes me a slut. I need something to take my mind off Michel and this guy might just do the trick.
“He’s fine,” I assure him with what I hope is an alluring smile. “A broken paw, some internal bleeding… but nothing all that serious, given the circumstances. He needs to stay for a few more hours, but he’ll be ready to come home with you and your girlfriend before the day is over.”
“Thank fuck!” He steps forward and takes me off guard by embracing me. I hug him back, feeling his strong muscular body against mine. He’s just as tall and broad as Michel, but he smells completely different and he’s got fair skin whereas Michel is a beautiful caramel color.
Stop thinking about Michel, I chastise myself.
“Oh my God,” Thomas says when he pulls back from me. “I could kiss you right now!”
Oh God, please do, I think, but I keep those words to myself. I glance at the girl with the pink hair, who is studying me with a frown on her face. “Hi, I’m Tracy,” I introduce myself to her. “I’m Dr. Randalf’s veterinary technician.”
“Thanks, Tracy,” Thomas squeezes my arm before turning back to the girl. “She’s been amazing. The vet was on his break, and she rushed The General into surgery, calling in Dr. Randalf, and keeping me relatively sane in the meantime. She’s an angel.”
Okay, maybe he’s not in a relationship. His hand on my arm, the high praise… Could he be flirting with me too? “I was just doing my job,” I say, batting my lashes at him. I’m pulling out all the stops now. What have I got to lose?
“Thanks for taking care of my cat,” the girl says, smiling at me. She motions at Thomas with an eyeroll. “And for putting up with his sorry ass.”
“Not a problem at all.”
I lead the two of them to the room where General Fluffington is resting, just waking up from his anesthesia. Thomas sinks down on his knees and starts petting the cat, making the furball purr drowsily. He’s hot and good with animals. God, I hope the pink-haired girl isn’t his girlfriend.
I explain to the both of them how to take care of their cat, what medicine he needs for his injuries, how long it will take for his paw to heal, al that stuff. The girl takes notes on her phone, and I wonder why her cat seems more comfortable with Thomas than with her. She leaves the room when her phone buzzes, and I’m alone with Thomas for a moment.
“He’s a tough little guy,” I say, moving over to pet him as well, scratching the cat behind his ears. “He did really well in surgery. I think he should be back to normal in a few weeks. Might be a little grouchy the next couple of days, though.”
“The General is always a little grouchy,” he says with a smile. “I’m so happy he’s okay.”
I put my hand on his arm, squeezing his bicep tightly. Damn, he’s fit. I wonder what he looks like without a shirt on. “You did well, taking him here right away. He’s going to be just fine.”
Delilah pushes open the door to tell me that I’ve got appointments waiting for me, so I hurry out to give a turtle a check-up and clip a cat’s nails. When I’m done, Thomas and the pink-haired girl are both with The General, and there’s another guy with them. He’s young, blonde, and he’s holding the girl’s hand. Ah, so I guess Thomas is not her boyfriend after all. Good to know.
“You guys should go home,” I tell them, checking General Fluffington’s vitals again. “I will monitor him, and you can pick him up in three hours. He should be good to go by then.”
“I can wait,” Thomas says, looking down on the furry little thing with a fond look in his eyes. “I don’t mind.”
“He’ll mostly be sleeping,” I assure him, loving how much this guy cares about a cat that isn’t even his. I’d never even consider sleeping with someone who isn’t good to animals. The way he is around his friend’s cat has me all kinds of hot and bothered. “Trust me, he won’t even know if you’re here. You’ve done all you can. Pick him up in three hours.”
It takes a few more moments to convince him and his pink-haired friend, but with some help of the blonde guy, I manage to get them out of the clinic.
“That guy with the man-bun is hot,” Delilah comments when I ask her if my next appointment is here already. “I’d do him.”
“Oh no, I call dibs,” I warn her, grinning. “Me and Michel are over, so I’m free to whatever the hell I want again, and what I want is that hot piece of ass.”
“You can’t just call dibs on a person!” Delilah complains, rolling her eyes. “You and Michel will be back together in a matter of days, Trace, you know that. Let me have… what’s his name?”
“Thomas. And he’s mine, so back off.”
We both grin. Delilah is just messing with me because she saw me flirting like my life depended on it. She’s not really into Thomas. Not like I am. How could I not be? He’s one fine man.
Work continues like away, but I find myself thinking about Thomas and Michel the whole time, comparing the two. They’re both insanely attractive, but in a very different way. Michel is a little more… polished, I guess. A gentleman. He’s into fine dining and fancy red wine and candlelight dinners. I doubt Thomas is like that. I saw a tattoo peeking out of his long-sleeved shirt, and it has me wondering if there are more to discover.
Three hours later, he and his friends show up to pick up General Fluffington. I try to flirt with Thomas some more, hoping to get his number, but he doesn’t even seem to notice me. He keeps cuddling with the cat, and although that’s cute as hell, I wish he’d realize that I’m trying to get him to ask me out. I’m tempted to ask him out myself, but his friends are still here, and I don’t want any witnesses if I strike out with him.
The girl tells both of the guys to head to the car with the cat, and she sticks around to sign the last of the paperwork for the insurance.
“So…” She says when she hands me back my pen.
I look at her expectantly, unsure why she’s still here. I need to get to my next appointment, but I’m curious why she’s taking so long to leave. “Do you want me to give you his number, or should I give him yours?”
“W-w-w-what?” I ask stupidly, feeling my cheeks flush.
“He’s a really good guy,” she says with a small smile. “Good with animals, sweet, funny, caring. And one hundred percent single, in case you were wondering.”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” I bite out while I pretend to type, although I’m just staring at a blank screen at this point. Was I really that obvious? Oh God, I’m pathetic.
“Thomas, the guy you’ve been checking out every single second he was in here.” She’s laughing now. “Like I said… do you want his number?”
Why is she so eager to set her friend up with me? Unless… maybe he’s her ex-boyfriend and they share custody of their cat or something, and now that she’s dating someone new, she wants to find someone for Thomas so she doesn’t have to feel guilty about moving on. “He’s your ex, right?” I ask, studying her face.
“Not really. I mean…” She pauses, making it sound like whatever she and Thomas are, it’s complicated. “No, he’s not my ex. Fact is, he’s single and ready to mingle.”
Hmm. I feel a little weird to get his number from his friend, but I’m not about to say no to the chance of getting with a guy like that. “Okay, give me his number. You’re right, I was checking him out. He’s very…”
“Hot,” she finished for me. “Yeah, he is.”
I grin while I hand her my phone. “Yeah, he’s hot. And very sweet.”
She enters his number and hands my phone back to me with a wink. “Don’t wait too long to text him. He’s never single for long.”
“That doesn’t surprise me at all.” I look down at his contact info. Thomas Riley. Even his name is hot. “Doesn’t it seem a little…” I wince a little. “…desperate to text a guy whose friend just gave me his number without him even knowing? I’m just the vet tech.” Obviously, I am pretty desperate, but this girl doesn’t need to know that.
“Life is short,” she says simply, smiling warmly.
“Thanks,” I say, tucking my phone back into my pocket. “I don’t even know your name.”
“Francesca,” she introduces herself. “You can call me Franny.”
“Thank you, Franny.”
She waves as she walks out to join the guys outside, and I stare after her, feeling my phone burning a hole in my back pocket already. I know that it’s been years since I last did this whole dance with a new guy, but I’m pretty sure that getting his number from his friend and texting him right away is a big no-go.
Oh fuck, who am I kidding? I’ve never had any self-restraint, which is exactly why Michel and I keep getting back together. If I was able to stop myself from jumping into things, we’d have been over a long time ago. I promised myself to get over Michel as soon as possible, and this Thomas guy might just do the trick. Who cares if I come off cheap? That’s what I am right now. I’m not exactly hard to get. It’s just rebound sex, after all.
I pull out my phone and type up a text. Hi Thomas, it’s Tracy. You know, the vet tech from two minutes ago. Would you like go out for coffee or something? Soon? I hit send before I can start doubting myself.
He doesn’t respond right away, so I get back to work, trying to take my mind off his gorgeous blue eyes and fit body. My shift is almost over when I feel my phone buzz, and I rush through the last few charts I have to update, wanting to read the text, praying it’s indeed Thomas.
Coffee sound goods, he says. Cocktails would be even better.
True, I shoot back, smiling to myself. Let’s do that. When?
I’ll hit you up about that later, I’m headed to the gym now, he sends back.
I have to force myself not to send him a list of days that will work for me. The ball is in his court now. I’ve already made it pretty damn clear that I’m into him. I can wait for a day or two to set up a date. Surely I won’t go crawling back to Michel that soon. I usually last about a week before I start calling him when I get drunk. If I stay away from alcohol, I should be good until Thomas can take my mind off my ex. I can make it that far.