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Chapter 7


Even though our encounter was brief, I could not stop thinking about her. It was like every inch of my mind suddenly belonged to a mesmerizing beauty with the eyes of the ocean and the hair of a raven.

She had caught me completely off guard when she first made her presence known outside Big All’s enclosure, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that I had made a complete and utter fool of myself.

I should have handled things differently, maybe if I had, I would have been able to get her number or at least get her to agree to see me again.

Now, I was stuck with nothing but ghost images of a brief encounter that I knew deep down should have ended differently.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

My phone jerked me rudely out of my thoughts with its shrill tone, which I immediately recognized as a reminder.

Drinks with Rachel at 19h00.

“Oh, man,” I groaned and dragged my hand through my already messy hair.

Not that.

I knew Rachel liked me and she was not bad to look at, but for some reason, the mere thought of going out with any girl except for the beautiful raven, had my insides acting up. My stomach knotted uncontrollably, and I felt positively nauseated.

What the hell was wrong with me?

I had indulged Rachel in the past whenever she invited me to go somewhere with her, which was usually when she needed someone to accompany her to a wedding, birthday party or some other event, but lately, she has been inviting me to more casual stuff like drinks after work and a movie over the weekend.

I never really minded this but going out with her in the state of mind I was already in, just felt wrong.

Should I just text her and ask to cancel?

Was it too late to cancel now?

I glanced at the clock; it was already 18h20.

Damn, can’t cancel now.

With that, I reluctantly dragged myself out of the kitchen chair and into the bathroom for a quick shower.


“Conner, are you ok? You seem so distant?” I heard Rachel asking in a sugary sweet voice while sliding her slender fingers gently over my forearm.

She was slightly leaning onto the table trying to stare deep into my eyes, but that was the last thing I wanted.

Trying once again to avoid her gaze, I cleared my throat and fumbled with a napkin laying close by, “I-uh, just had a rough day,” I mumbled in response.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked, obviously not satisfied with my answer.

“Uh-no, not really,” I replied while pulling my arm out of her grasp and acting like I was searching for something in my back pocket.

To my disappointment, the only thing I could find in that pocket was my wallet, so I guess I would have to pull it out.

“Another round?” I asked while getting up, not really waiting for her to answer.

“Sure, thanks,” I heard her say as I was walking towards the bar.

Luckily, the bartender was quite busy, and I had to stand and wait until he finally served me about ten minutes later.

Playing for time was all I could think of right now.

I didn’t understand why I was so put off by Rachel all of a sudden. I mean, it wasn’t like she had done anything in particular to offend me, yet all I wanted to do was run away from her and go straight home, ALONE.

“Thanks, man,” I nodded towards the bartender as he slid two ice-cold beers over.

Quickly grabbing our glasses off the counter and tipping the bartender, I made my way back to our table and propped her glass down, while taking a large gulp of my own.

“How is Rowan doing?” She asked innocently after a moment of silence, looking up at me and taking another reluctant sip from her drink.

I slowly sat down and took another huge gulp of my own, “fine, he is almost fully healed and should be ready to be introduced back into the troop by Monday.”

“That’s great,” she replied with a warm smile playing across her face. I quickly averted my gaze immediately.

Rachel was also an employee at the zoo, but she worked in the ticket office, which meant that most of the time she knew exactly what was going on inside the park, but never really got her hands dirty with any of the practical stuff.

“Are you going to miss him?” she asked again, trying to keep the conversation going.

“Nah, I’ll still see him every day,” I answered with a smirk.

“Sure, but you won’t be able to get into the cage with him anymore,” she replied, although it sounded more like a question.

Rowan was a fairly large, mentally challenged, Chacma baboon who ended up in the nursery due to wounds he had obtained from a new dominant male trying to stake his claim as the new leader of the troop. Not that Rowan was the previous leader, of course. I guess sometimes the younger males just bullied him because he was an easy target.

“We’ll see,” I answered with a grin while taking another sip.

“You really have a soft spot for him, don’t you?” She asked sweetly peering at me through her eyelashes.

Without realizing it, a smile has crept onto my face as I thought about the big, hairy goofball. I wished there were more I could do for him, but unfortunately due to his mental state, he would never be able to function out in the wild and will always have to remain in captivity.

“Yeah, I do, he is like a stinky little brother,” I answered jokingly, “with lots of hair.”

I could hear Rachel laughing, “and very bad table manners,” she added, earning a chuckle out of me.

We spent the rest of the evening chatting happily about all the animals under my care and what my plans for them in the future entailed. It was easy to talk about work. To keep it casual and light.

After another two rounds, we finally called it a night and headed back home our separate ways. Even though I did not feel as uncomfortable as at the beginning of the evening, it still felt like a strange weight had lifted off my shoulders the moment I left her side to drive home, alone.

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