The rules were simple—don’t fall for the handsome vet. Oops! Some rules are meant to be broken.
The light turned red and suddenly my whole life changed. I found myself lying in the middle of the street with two little yellow eyes staring at me.
Then he appeared. Logan. Tall, sexy, built. I’d prayed that Superman would show up to save me, but Logan’s even better. Except that he seems more interested in saving the cat I almost ran over.
Since I can’t pay the vet bills for my unwelcome new guest, I’m forced to accept a job in his veterinary clinic as a receptionist. Not a great fit for someone who’s known since childhood that all animals have it in for her. And Logan seems to be more on their side than mine.
Of course, there’s nothing that says I can’t also unfurl my claws and be a sex kitten for the hot veterinarian. He’s got just one rule: don’t get emotionally involved.
Not when the damn test comes back positive.
What can I say? Someone’s in trouble . . . and it’s not the cat.
Oops, my bad.
I hate orange. I hate the cold. And I hate this stupid scooter.
Don’t get me wrong; usually I’m a sunny and positive person, but right now, with my butt frozen and a nose that’s redder than Rudolph’s, my positivity has vanished. Died. Disappeared. Been sucked into a big black hole. Or maybe been flushed down the toilet like the dead goldfish you have to quickly replace in order not to traumatize your little brother.
Not that I ever did that, you understand. Okay, maybe something like that might have happened once—or actually, ten times. I mean, it’s not my fault those dumb goldfish kept coming up to the surface with their creepy little mouths open. I thought they were hungry! Later I realized they’d decided on their own to put an end to their miserable little lives when they realized the grave error they’d made ending up in a bowl on a shelf above the dining-room table in the house where I also happened to live. So many tiny red Samurai soldiers committing seppuku, except with food instead of swords.
It was even kind of poetic. Except for the ending, where all that poetry ended up flushed down the toilet. The life of a goldfish is truly miserable. After the tenth suicide, my parents threw in the towel, something I would probably have done after the first one, and confessed to my little brother the tragic fate of his beloved pet.
I’m pretty sure he threw a thank-God-she’s-gone party when I finally left home to go to college. Now he has a whole aquarium full of multicolored fish. Oddly enough, none of them have ended up in the toilet.
Anyway, going back to the things I’m not happy with in my life, the color orange is probably first on the list. I mean, in what universe would a sane person willingly wear orange clothing? Stranger still, who came up with the idea that a pizza-delivery person should dress like a carrot that’s been regurgitated by Bugs Bunny? I admit I’ve looked worse, though. The Little Caesar’s uniform probably isn’t even one-tenth as hideous as the chicken costume I had to wear to advertise the chicken wings sold by—wait for it—El Pollo Loco! Quite an original idea, you must admit—dressing up as a chicken to promote the wings at Pollo Loco. Needless to say, I was fired before the end of my first week.
Anyway, now I’m a new version of myself. Now I’m a pizza-delivery person with a frozen ass and a stupid orange hat under my helmet. But as long as it pays the bills, I guess I can’t complain.
I have one last delivery to make and then I can finally go home, burrow under the covers, and sleep like a rock. If I manage to keep this job long enough to pay off my overdue bills, maybe in a couple of months I’ll even be able to take a shower with hot water! Or eat something that isn’t Cup O’Noodles. My mouth is watering already at the mere thought of getting to savor some real food. Maybe I can even splurge and buy myself a bottle of wine. I can already imagine myself lounging in my teensy bathtub submerged in bubbles, sipping a glass of Two-Buck Chuck.
With this comforting image in mind, I twist the accelerator and continue down Madison Avenue. The streets are almost deserted because there’s a blizzard blowing in right now, but the rich snobs on the upper East Side still want their pizza. They don’t care about the poor pizza delivery people, even though it’s January, for fuck’s sake, and cold as a witch’s tit.
What the fuck are they ordering pizza from Little Caesar’s for anyway? If I had enough money to afford an apartment in one of the most expensive areas of Manhattan, I would never order pizza from a place like Little Caesar’s. I’d have my own chef and eat delicious gourmet dishes every night. Shit, just thinking about food is making my stomach growl and my mouth water.
With a sigh, I accelerate even more. I’m not going to worry about speed limits on a night like this. Not that this scooter can go very fast anyway. At least I have my own transport—that is, during my shift. If I get a good tip on this last delivery I’ll go home on the subway. Otherwise I’ll walk from the pizza place to my apartment in East Harlem. Five blocks on foot, in January, at night, in New York City. The thought sends a shiver down my spine, literally.
Don’t make that face. I know I don’t exactly live in the most upscale neighborhood, but by this time you should have gotten the idea that I’m . . . probably poorer than the homeless man I just passed, sleeping on Fifth Avenue. The only difference is that I have a roof over my head—as long as I manage to keep this job, anyway.
I roar, or rather, putt up to an intersection. The light’s red, but there’s no one on the street and I really, really want to get this damn pizza delivered on time and possibly get a nice tip, so I floor it. Wouldn’t you know it, at that very moment a car appears out of nowhere. I jerk the handlebars and swerve, somehow managing to avoid crashing broadside into the door of the expensive SUV and becoming a large meatball squished against the window. There must be some invisible superhero watching over me.
The driver of the vehicle honks, shorthand for Look where you’re going, stupid bitch! Under other circumstances I might even apologize, but I really need that tip. So I turn my back on the big black SUV and putt-putt away.
The cold is making my eyes water and the scooter tires are skidding on the icy road. Right when I think I’ve finally arrived at my destination, two small yellow eyes suddenly appear out of the darkness right in front of me. I scream at them—to no avail, since the little beast doesn’t move. Instead, it sits down in the middle of the street and begins to lick a paw. Of course I’m driving too fast, and when I try to brake, I lose control and skid. Though I try to steer in the direction of the skid, I lose my balance and fall. I can’t tell if I hit the damn cat or not. All I know is that there’s a big rip in my uniform pants at the knee. I’m afraid to look; I’m pretty sure there’s a bad cut there as well. One side of my body is pulsating with pain, but at least my helmet served its purpose and protected my head. I’m alive, thank goodness, but I don’t see the cat anywhere. I can’t have the death of that poor feline on my conscience as well when I’m already haunted by the specters of those ten goldfish.
I feel tears pricking my eyes. I didn’t want to kill him! I’m not an animal-hater, really! I have nothing against them. They’re the ones that hate me. Still on the ground, the scooter lying on top of my leg, I begin to sob.
Then I hear it. A little meow right behind my head. It sounds mocking, contemptuous. The stupid cat is making fun of me. He’s safe and sound, while my ass is probably one big black bruise and I’ve got at least a dozen other scratches and bruises. “Aaarrgghh!” I scream like someone possessed. I have to get this fucking pizza delivered if I want to keep my job.
I need a miracle. Where’s Superman when you need him? I look around me and notice to my horror that the pizza box has opened up and spilled its contents onto the icy New York streets. Maybe if I can manage to get up and move my ass fast enough, I can shove it back into the box without anyone noticing that the bell peppers have flecks of asphalt on them.
Slowly and painfully I move the scooter off my leg. I can’t feel my toes, but I’m sure that’s more because of the cold than the accident. As I prepare to hoist myself to my feet, I see that the idiot cat has decided to sit down on top of the pizza. It starts to lick off the cheese, its little muzzle turning bright red from the tomato sauce. I realize I’m well and truly fucked.
Superman, where are you when I need you?
As if by magic, I’m suddenly bathed in light. A post-Christmas miracle? Either that or I’m dead, and this is the light at the end of the tunnel everyone talks about. Fuck, I’m going to die like a cat squashed on the highway, I think, because I know neither of those two possibilities describes what’s really happening. A hysterical laugh bursts from my chest. The irony of the situation doesn’t escape me as I sit there watching the car bear down on me. After all, I am lying in the middle of the street in the heart of New York City—what else did I expect?
Then something totally unexpected happens. I say a silent thank-you to my horrible orange uniform. I hate it, but I have to admit, it’s got the visibility of a neon sign in the darkness. I hear the sound of brakes, followed by a car door slamming shut. Turning my head to look, I blink and my jaw drops.
Oh. My. God.
It’s taken twenty-two years, but He finally heard my prayers.
He’s here! Superman is here!
Okay, maybe I hit my head and didn’t realize it. I must have hit it really hard because I could swear that standing before me is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. Besides Superman, of course. This guy’s hotter than all the Marvel and DC superheroes put together.
“My hero,” I whisper as tears begin to fill my eyes and my heart rate accelerates.
“Poor kitten, are you okay?”
“What?” I guess I don’t mind that he’s already using a pet name for me, but isn’t it a little soon? I mean, we barely know each other.
His large green eyes rest on mine and he runs a hand through his thick dark-blond hair. A small wrinkle appears in the middle of his forehead and his eyebrows draw together.
Is he worried about me? My heart beats wildly as a dumb smile appears on my face. I can’t quite decipher the expression on his face, though. Is it fear? Concern? I blink a few more times, trying to focus. Then the truth dawns on me. He’s not concerned about me, he’s really pissed off at me. Superman . . . I think sadly.
“What the hell?” he barks suddenly. His voice is deep and masculine, one of those voices that makes you melt as soon as you hear it. “Be more careful next time!”
My eyebrows rise so high they collide with my hairline. “Are you talking to me?” I stammer, looking around like an idiot as if someone else might be there. Of course there’s no one. It’s just him, me, and the stupid cat. The cat that at this precise instant is rubbing itself against the ankles of my hero. What the fuck?
I watch as he bends over and tenderly gathers up the little monster in his big, capable hands. I’ve never hated anyone as much as I hate that cat right now. He strokes it, then lifts it up and examines it carefully. The crease in his forehead deepens. Taking a deep breath, he holds the cat tighter, turns around, and heads back to his car.
“You can’t just leave me here!” I yell after him. He ignores me. My tears are threatening to spill over now. He opens the gate of his SUV and carefully puts the cat inside.
Then I hear him fiddling around with something. I close my eyes. What’s the point of looking? I just lost my Superman to a cat.
“Can you get up?” His voice is severe. I blink and see him standing in front of me again. So now he’s finally worrying about my health. I glower at him, cross my arms, and nod. “Well, come on, then.” My jaw drops again. “Hurry!” he barks over his shoulder as he heads toward his car.
He stops, one foot in midair. “No?” He turns back toward me. It’s clear he wasn’t expecting that answer. His frown deepens. “Would you prefer that I call the police?” he says challengingly. At the word police the blood freezes in my veins.
“Um, what?” I stammer, hoping I’ve heard wrong.
“I’m sure they’ll have something to say about the fact that you were speeding and running red lights. Oh, and that you hit a poor animal on the street.”
“I didn’t hit him!” I reply indignantly.
He shakes his head and exhales an impatient sigh. “You’re either coming with me or I’m calling the police.”
For a few minutes we engage in a Mexican standoff. I feel like I’m confronting one of those alpha males I’ve read about in my romance novels. I know that the first one to look away will be the loser. I have to be strong.
He raises an eyebrow in a silent challenge. He’s clearly telling me I’ve already lost. The fact that I suddenly sneeze, getting snot on the collar of my uniform shirt—as if I hadn’t humiliated myself enough already—proves that it’s not my fault I can’t win. The universe is clearly against me.
Heaving a defeated sigh, I wipe myself clean—so elegantly—using the sleeve of my jacket. I see him wrinkle his nose in disgust, then look away. He turns around again and heads for the car. “Let’s go,” he orders.
With a snort I throw my arms in the air. “All right,” I say peevishly as I pull myself to my feet, staggering a little for dramatic effect. I feel like a fragile little fawn entering the big bad wolf’s cave. And yes, I know I’m an idiot. “Wait a minute, I can’t leave the scooter here!”
He stops again and slowly turns back to me. I can see a vein pulsing angrily in his neck. I swallow. Maybe I can leave the goddamn scooter here. But then Mr. Animal-lover passes me without a word, walking over to my scooter. He plucks it up off the road as if it weighs nothing and heads for his car again.
“Anything else, your Highness, or do you think you could finally get into the fucking car?” he asks, his tone curt as he maneuvers the scooter into the back of the SUV.
“Um, I don’t think it will close now,” I babble, pointing at the back gate of the SUV. All I earn for my concern is another annoyed look.
“Get. In. The. Car.”
I hasten to the passenger side and climb in. A glance behind me shows me the cat is in a carrier in the middle of the back seat. It seems weird that a guy would just drive around with a cat carrier in his car, but I’m too intimidated to ask him why.
From the corner of my eye I see that he’s left the back gate open. I told him it wouldn’t close! My lips curve into a small smile of triumph—which rapidly morphs into a grimace of terror when Mr. Animal-lover climbs into the driver’s seat.
“Fasten your seat belt,” he barks in his usual tone which is somewhere between a dog growling and a lion roaring.
I swallow. My palms are sweating and the hairs on my arms slowly rise. I must have hit my head really hard, though, because instead of curling up in the corner of the seat and beginning to cry—something I’m quite good at—I turn toward him, raise my eyebrows and ask, “Are you always this much of an asshole or is it just me?”
I see his jaw go rigid, but he doesn’t respond. Instead, he turns the key, presses on the accelerator, and we drive off. With an irritated snort, I look out my window and watch the city lights slide by. All this time waiting for my very own Superman only to discover that he’s actually a complete asshole.
Angela Camilla Pontone is a USA Today bestselling author. She lives in Italy, in a town between Rome and Naples. She’s been an avid reader since childhood. She prefers romance, but will gobble up pretty much anything that’s available. She’s always loved history and literature, so she obtained a Master’s Degree in the fields of Italian and Romance Languages, Literatures and Philology, Historical and Musicological Studies, Latin Languages and Literatures, Ancient History, and Archaeology.
Camilla’s secret desire was always to be a writer, but she never had the courage to pursue her dream until her life experiences led her to seek a way out of reality. Now, her dream is to continue to create great stories that her readers will love.
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