ADOPT THE UNADOPTABLE CAT
I pick up my cat from his perch on the window ledge before I open the front door to check my mailbox. Since I’m not dressed yet, I stay inside and reach one hand out while I hold Mouse’s small wiggling body firmly against me with the other. I flip the lid and start to reach into the box but stop and wrap my arms around him when he squirms to get down.
“No way, sir. Not today.” My hold on him tightens, but it’s not enough. He slips from my grasp, and I watch in slow motion as he lands on all four paws, takes off across my porch, and then heads down the three steps into the yard. “Mouse!”
He stops to look at me over his furry gray shoulder, like he’s asking, What?
“Come on, baby. Come here.” I start toward him slowly, hoping that if I’m slow I can get close enough to grab him. He tips his head to the side, blinking at me, before he takes off again toward the house next door. “Mouse, get your furry butt back here!” I yell, rushing across the cool grass in my bare feet and wearing nothing but a tank top and plain panties. I glimpse his tail as he runs to the back of the house next door, and I pick up speed, only to stop suddenly once I turn the corner and spot him sitting on the ledge of an open window, licking his paw.
“Please don’t do this,” I beg him, taking careful steps in his direction. “Please, just stop.” I hold up my hands like I’m dealing with a terrorist set on detonating a bomb instead of my stubborn cat. I take another slow, calculated step and then cry “No!” when he turns and hops through the window, disappearing inside.
“This cannot be happening.” I run a hand through my knotted bed head hair and look around for something to use to get my ass up and through the window. If my old neighbors, Margret and Ethan, still lived here, I would’ve just knocked on their door and had them get Mouse for me, but they moved six months ago. Since then, the house has been empty.
A large bright-orange bucket near the back deck catches my eye, so I dump out the dirty water that’s settled in the bottom, then carry it to the window. After setting it upside down, I place one foot on it, testing its stability, before doing the same with my other foot and lifting the window up completely. When I poke my head in, I look around the dimly lit empty room and narrow my eyes on Mouse, who’s sitting casually by an open door like he’s been waiting for me.
“Get a cat. They aren’t much work, and you need company.” Why the hell did I listen to my mother . . . again? I grumble to myself as I pull myself through the window, grouching and wincing as the old dry wood and paint scrape my belly, my thighs, and my shins. I cry out, more from shock than from pain, as I land on the floor with a loud thud.
“Just so you know, I’m totally rethinking our relationship,” I say, turning my head toward Mouse. I freeze when my eyes catch the glint of a gun aimed in my direction.
“What the fuck?” is growled as the overhead light is flipped on, and I scream like a chick in a horror movie who’s being chased through the woods by an ax murderer. “Jesus, I’m not gonna fucking shoot you,” a deep voice says, and I peek out from between my fingers, which are covering my face. I freeze again for a completely different reason once I see the guy standing over me.
I blink, trying to clear my vision to make sure I’m not imagining him. Tan skin, dark, almost-black hair that curls around his ears and neck, a strong jaw, full lips. Add to that broad shoulders and six-pack abs that are visible because he’s totally shirtless and totally right in front of me, wearing nothing but a pair of gray sweats.
“What the fuck are you doing breaking into my house?” he barks, and I pull my eyes away from his and look around for the reason I broke into his house. “Hello . . . ?” he calls when I don’t respond, sounding annoyed.
“Umm.” I frown when I don’t spot the reason for me being in this stupid mess.
Feeling heat hit my legs and chest, I look up, and my eyes flare when I notice his gaze on me . . . all of me. I quickly pull down my tank top as far as it’ll go, then hold my hand to my chest to cover my exposed cleavage.