Dev watched the pinpoint lights move across the board in Charlie’s command post. All the pumas, bobcats, and the handful of jaguars and ocelots who’d wandered a little farther north than typical. A week after arriving, and he was still learning about her system. It was cobbled together, and that was the kindest thing he could say about whatever tech person set it up.
Still, it worked.
“Good evening, Dev.”
He turned and smiled as Charlie held up a picnic basket. He knew the image of her in that pink tank top hugging her breasts would feature in his dreams tonight.
“It’s easy to sneak up on you in here. You get so focused. It’s like your mind is lost in the wires.”
“You aren’t the first to say that.” But that wasn’t why he spent more time here. Charlie visited in the morning and evening, and if an alarm went off. But when he needed a few minutes to gather his thoughts, to push away his attraction to the vet, this was where he came.
“I brought dinner.” She tapped the basket and sat in the center of the concrete floor. “I enjoy this time of night. The desert is waking, and you can see it.”
“It was kind of you to bring me dinner.” Dev sat next to her, not as close as he wanted, yet too close to ignore the subtle scent he’d come to just call Charlie.
She laid a hand on his knee, her eyes wandering to the appendage like it had grown a mind of its own before pulling it back. How he ached to pull it back, to touch her.
“Sandwiches and fruit. Nothing special.”
“Sounds special,” Dev pushed. In the week he’d been here, she’d deflected every compliment, every thank-you. The woman was always on the go, but sometimes it felt like she was running from something, too.
Her fingers brushed his as she laid a sandwich in his palm. Fire. That was the only descriptor for the heat cascading across his body. Color rose along her neck. Did she feel the connection, too?
“Figured out how to improve my system?”
“Oh.” Dev pulled at the back of his neck. “I…”
“That’s why you’re in here so much, right?”
Charlie’s blue eyes sparkled—with a dare? Was she calling out the connection he thought was between them? Or daring him to find weaknesses in her tech?
“It’s a hodgepodge system.”
“It is.” She shrugged off words that would have infuriated his tech friends. “Did the best with what I had.”
“You did great.” Dev grabbed her hand, squeezing away her frown.
Her eyes looked at the connection he should drop, but she didn’t pull away.
What would she taste like? Sweet with a blend of fire?
The alarm sounded before she could finish that sentence. In an instant, the woman shifted to rescue mode.
“Where?” Dev looked at the tracking system, seeing nothing.
“It’s cage six. An ocelot brought in by a hunter who found it lethargic. We’re treating him for canine distemper. Can’t release until it’s cleared, or it could infect other cats. But he is an escape artist. Let’s go find him!”
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