“And the dolphins play a lot because?” Brent asked. “Us lay-people need more coaching in the science side.”
Jessica snorted. “Speak for yourself, Mr. Hollywood. It’s because really smart animals, just like humans, are always thinking. They can get bored, and if they get bored, eventually it can lead to them getting depressed and doing bad things to alleviate the boredom. They need to be healthy, so they need to play.”
“Bingo,” the trainer said. “Now, we have some games here. I have some fish, and if you want, Cara, I’ll teach you how to get Dinah to really jump.”
“Please! Can we?” Cara asked.
Brent sighed and looked down at himself. “But I was so dry.” Cara glared at him, and he winked. “Don’t worry. We’ll get sorted out after the training. I should have worn a T-shirt to start with.”
Jessica tried not to lick her lips at the thought of Brent in a wet T-shirt, something tight and mainly white clinging to him after a dolphin soaked it. Damn, if that wasn’t a good image.
“Anyway,” the trainer continued. “Everyone stand up very carefully.”
They each complied, although with her coordination, even with the sneakers doing their job to grip the surface, Jessica was wobbling. If they got much wetter, she’d slip into the pool and join the dolphins up close and personal.
The trainer handed Cara a moderate-sized fish that maybe was just a bit bigger than a sardine. Then she nodded toward an eagerly watching Dinah. “Okay, just hold it up, say her name, and then lift your hand palm up.”
Cara bit her lower lip. “But I’m not a trainer… Will she really do it?”
“She’s well-trained, Miss Sanderson.”
“Besides, you’re the coolest kid here, Cara,” Jessica said.
“I’m the only one.”
“You also have fish, and I bet that’s very convincing,” Brent said.
Cara nodded, stood up as tall as she could, and copied the motions from the trainer. Just like something out of Free Willy, the dolphin took a massive leap and was able to crest over all of them on the bridge and slide into the other side of the pool. As soon as Dinah surfaced, a soaked Cara (she matched the rest of them), tossed the fish toward the dolphin, who caught it eagerly in her wide mouth. Then, the trainer clapped Cara on the back of the shoulder.
“You did a great job. We might have a new junior trainer here someday.”
Cara smiled and hugged Jessica. Warmth shot through Jessica as she watched Cara then hug a dripping Brent. She couldn’t help but smile; they were adorable together, such a tight-knit family unit. Clearly, Brent would do anything for his daughter. The least of it was some dolphin splashes. There was no way he’d ever really jeopardize the happiness having a nanny was bringing her, this new outlet of friendship that Cara was forming with her.
Jessica just needed to forget about it.
“Okay, so color me confused,” Jessica said.
Brent pointed to the largest complex at the San Diego Zoo, which hosted the main visitors’ center, the food prep kitchen for the African and South American animals, and probably a few staff offices too. “Look, Alex and his daughters are sitting with Cara getting ice cream right now.”
Jessica smirked at that. “It was really nice for you to let the driver bring his family and enjoy a day at the zoo, too.”
“Pointless to have him sit out there, and Mandy and Rebecca are younger than Cara, but I figured they’d love this place, too.”
Brent narrowed his eyes a little at his neon-colored shorts and T-shirt, with a cartoon shark and playing card suits on it that was simply labeled Card Shark. “I might have liked it a bit better with a poncho.”
“Good point,” she said, wringing a few more drops from her hair and snuggling into the blue whale sweatshirt she’d picked up to stay warm. “But we don’t have to wander off…” She stopped when they sidled into the building to be greeted by a smiling woman in a tan jumpsuit, something she probably wore over her real clothes to protect them. On her shoulder, sat a ring-tailed lemur with its distinct black and white tail arched high over his back and head. “Wow.”
“You’re Jessica, right?”
She swallowed hard and stood in front of the trainer. “I am. I… Who are you?”
“I’m Marjorie Stinson, and I’m head of the Lemur Biology and Breeding Program here. Mr. Sanderson mentioned that you had been keenly interested in our internship program.”
Jessica was so surprised, and her mouth had suddenly gone so dry that she could only nod and grunt a bit. “Uh-huh.”