Suddenly Royal - Nichole Chase Page 0,1

through the cages to make sure there were no problems, I moved to weighing and measuring the birds. When I got to Dover, an owl who had been hit by a car, I cooed softly. She had lost an eye, so tended to be nervous when people approached her mew.

“Hi, sweetheart. Time for some food.” I unlocked the cage door and stepped in slowly. I untied the string that held her to her perch and gave her a good look-over.

Once I had her in the office, I weighed her, careful to note the exact amount in our logs before getting her food.

“Eat up. You know you want it.” I lifted the mouse to her beak but she turned away. “Aw, c’mon, Dover. It’s yummy mouse guts. Your favorite.”

She ruffled her feathers and sighed. Dover was beautiful, but getting her to eat was always a frustrating process. I lifted the mouse to her beak again, making sure she could see the food out of her good eye. Delicately, as if she was doing me a favor, she took a small bite.

“That’s it,” I hummed. “Eat up.”

Slowly she lifted her claw and grasped the mouse. I sighed in relief. She needed to eat to keep her weight up. It was also how we administered her medicine. Dover was a smart bird and I suspected she knew we were putting something in her food.

Once she was done, I took a few measurements and took her back to her mew. I checked the cage quickly and then cleaned up any mess she had made. I checked all our log books to make sure nothing had been missed, made a few notes about a Harris hawk with an injured wing, and closed up shop.

I felt much better by the time I was ready to leave. The annoyances from earlier didn’t seem like such a big deal and I was looking forward to getting home. After double-checking the medicines and the food for the next day, I flipped the lights and headed out the door. I fished out my keys to lock the gate as I neared the entrance. No one else would be in until the morning.

“Samantha Rousseau?”

I looked up at the man standing just outside the gate to my research center. Dark pants met with a black blazer and an equally boring tie. The only thing remarkable about him was the expensive pair of sunglasses sitting on his nose and the little gizmo tucked into his ear, complete with a curly cord running down into his shirt collar.

“Yeah?” I finished locking the bottom of the gate and stood up. He wasn’t a very tall man, possibly my father’s age, but he radiated power. Since I tend to have issues with authority, I immediately disliked the guy. He hadn’t really given me a reason to not like him, but people that think they’re better than you or know more than you make me itch.

“Are you Samantha Rousseau?” he asked again. He didn’t introduce himself or make an attempt to appear friendly. No offer to shake hands.

“Who wants to know?” I slung my bag over my shoulder as I headed toward the old pickup I drive. Authority dude followed close behind, making my hackles rise even farther.

“If you are Samantha, I need to speak with you privately.”

I threw my bag into the back of my truck and turned around to look at him. I didn’t bother to keep the annoyance off my face when I realized how close he was standing to me. “Well, if I was Samantha, you’re in luck. There isn’t anyone else around.” I motioned toward the unoccupied parking lot. We were the only two people.

His frosty expression seemed to crack a little and he gave me something that could almost pass as a smile. “Miss Rousseau, I would like to ask you to accompany me. I have someone who would like to speak to you downtown.”

“Uh, yeah. That’s not going to happen, Mr. Uptight. Look, if you’re here about my father’s medical bills, I made a payment today. If he could make any more payments, then we would, but since he can’t work I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon.” I yanked open the door to my truck and started to climb in. A hand landed on my shoulder and I reacted without thinking. Grabbing his fingers, I twisted as I turned and swung my other arm around in an attempt to clock him. Unfortunately he seemed to be expecting this