“Oof!” Dev placed his hand on the roof of her Jeep as it hit another pothole.
“Sorry, the road to the release point is rough.” She laid her hand on his knee, enjoying the connection before putting both hands back on the wheel. If he rode it as often as she did, he’d get used to it. She could brace for each pothole, but bringing that up felt like touching a live wire. Dev had agreed to stay for a few weeks.
That was three weeks ago. Few meant so many different things.
And the kisses they’d shared…
If she wasn’t riding this road, her fingers would run across her mouth. “Get ready. There is a dip in the road just before the release point. In three, two, one.” The Jeep’s wheels dipped, and the ocelot in the back let out a growl.
“Not sure Juniper thinks much of this road.” Dev chuckled and laid a hand on her knee.
“Yeah, sorry the potholes are pretty epic out this far.”
“The path out to the release point shouldn’t be easy to get to. Finding it, caring for the cats. You really are amazing Charlie.” She knew his eyes were hooked on her, but she didn’t dare turn her head.
Amazing. It was a sweet compliment, but part of her was waiting for the but. For the backhanded identifier that so many others attached to their compliments. She knew it wasn’t coming, but her mind still waited.
“How is Juniper?”
Dev shifted, looking through the grate she’d installed in the Jeep to monitor transports. “Fine. Her temperature was normal this morning, and she tested negative for canine distemper on her last three tests. All things you know, Dr. Anderson.”
Her lip twitched up. “Dr. Anderson. I never tire of hearing that. Even when my—” Her mind locked up. She’d nearly said boyfriend, which wasn’t accurate. They’d shared a few kisses. Great conversation. But Dev was passing through…and he certainly wasn’t her boyfriend.
However, vet partner didn’t work, either. “Even when my seatmate is using it to poke fun.”
Seatmate. In the world of descriptors, that was what her brain had chosen. Wow.
“Charlie, you are amazing.”
There was that word again and still her body locked up. “Almost there.”
“Stop doing that.” Dev’s voice was rougher than she’d ever heard.
“What?” Charlie risked a glance to him. His dark eyes were locked on hers as she pulled the Jeep to a stop.
“Take the compliment, Charlie. You’ve earned it.” His fingers ran along her cheek, then he dropped a soft kiss on her lips.
Juniper growled, and he pulled back. “I think Juniper is ready to go home.”
“Yep.” She kissed his cheek, then opened her door and walked around the Jeep and let the back down. Juniper growled. They’d covered the cage, but her nose could recognize home.
Dev helped her get the crate to the release point. He attached the cord that would open the cage door, then joined her about three hundred yards away. His body was warm as it pressed next to hers. After a minute, he pulled the cord and Juniper took off.
The cat didn’t look back. This was the moment Charlie treasured most.
“I could install a mobile release point. Then you can ditch the cords.” Dev’s dark eyes held hers.
“Are you staying long enough to do that?” Charlie could hear the hope in her words. She’d never worked with someone so easily. Never enjoyed someone’s presence. Dev seemed to see her as just Charlie. His compliments were real… Even her mind had a hard time adjusting after a lifetime of only hearing backhanded ones.
It was something she’d miss forever once he was gone. She’d miss him forever.
“It’s an afternoon of work, Charlie.” Dev kissed her nose.
Of course it was. Projects that took others weeks took him hours.
And she still didn’t know how long he was staying. But he was here now. That was what she needed to focus on.
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