Nurturing Britney - Becca Jameson

Chapter 1

Master Davis

When I arrive at Safe Harbor Animal Shelter at seven in the morning, I’m surprised to find an unknown car in the parking lot. I’m expecting to see Charles’s truck because he’s the night manager who’s going to let me in, but there’s also another car—an older model Buick. Sky blue. It’s seen better days.

It’s in my nature to investigate, so I shuffle toward the car. I can’t imagine why. What will I gain from getting a closer look? The most likely scenario is that someone who came to the shelter yesterday looking to adopt a pet couldn’t get their car started and had to leave it behind.

My breath catches in my throat and I stop dead in my tracks the moment I reach the driver’s side. It’s not abandoned. Someone is currently in it. Asleep in the driver’s seat.

It’s a woman, or maybe a girl? She looks awfully young, but maybe that’s just because she’s not wearing any makeup and she’s curled onto her side with her hands under her cheek. She has incredibly long hair that is draped all around her and falling over the center console. Her skin is unblemished and tanned.

She looks peaceful, and I hate to wake her, but I need to know why she’s here. The thought of someone sleeping in their car pulls at my heartstrings. It’s possible she’s homeless and chose this parking lot to get some rest. I hope she’s not a runaway or in trouble with the law.

I tap gently on the window, not wanting to startle her. My attempt is in vain, however, because she instantly bolts upright, huge blue eyes wide and staring up at me. Her mouth falls open at the same time to reveal perfect white teeth. Her full lips catch my attention when she runs her tongue along the bottom one.

I swipe a hand down my face. I should not be attracted to this girl. I don’t even know how old she is. Something in her eyes tells me she has lived some rough years though. Something mistrustful. A combination of innocence and suspicion.

She sits upright, brushing her hair over her shoulders, her gaze on mine. When she reaches for the door handle, she hesitates.

Good girl. I’d be worried if this woman readily opened her door to me—a stranger.

I set my hand on the roof of her car and meet her gaze. “Do you need some help?” The thought of this woman/girl possibly in trouble or without a home makes my chest tighten.

She shakes her head. “No. I work here. I’m just…early.”

I frown. “You work here? At the shelter?” Our voices are raised to hear each other through the glass.

She swallows and glances around. “Yes.” She finally lifts her phone and looks at the time, cringing. “Shit,” she mutters loud enough for me to hear.

“Sorry to wake you. I saw the car and thought maybe it wouldn’t start or something. I’m meeting Cindy here to update the alarm system. Why don’t you come inside?” I don’t know why I’ve suggested such a thing, but I hate the idea of her sitting out here in her car for three more hours. There’s a story here. Probably one that will make me cringe.

A dozen scenarios play out in my mind. She had a fight with her boyfriend and left him. She was out late and didn’t want to go home and wake anyone. Her parents kicked her out. Her car didn’t start when she got off work yesterday and she doesn’t have the money for a tow or a ride home. Then back to my original thought—this is home for her.

I step back as she opens the door. She winces and rubs her neck as she eases out of the car. She couldn’t have been comfortable. When she tips her head back to meet my gaze, she swallows. “Sorry. I...uh.” She doesn’t finish. Whatever her reason for being here so early, she hasn’t had a chance to perfect her story yet, or she didn’t expect to get caught.

In reality, she wouldn’t have been found out if it weren’t for the fact that I arranged to meet with Cindy here at this hour. Coincidence.

I hold out a hand. “Davis Marcum.”

She takes my hand in her much smaller one. “Britney Heath.” Damn, she’s petite. She’s only about five-two. Again, I wonder how old she is. If she works for Cindy, she has to be at least eighteen.

She pulls her smaller hand from mine before I’ve released her and