Long tendrils of brown hair still wet, I was rather reluctant to answer the door of my large rental home in the heart of rural Maine. As a general rule, anybody that I would have expected would have called well before they arrived, leaving me to wonder just who could be summoning me now.
I pressed the intercom button and asked, “Who’s there, please?” in my obvious Bostonian accent.
“Dr. Walsh?” said a man’s voice. “I’m the chauffeur of a car that’s been sent for you on a matter I’m not at liberty to discuss. I would be pleased if you’d join me outside, as I’ve already taken the liberty of pulling up to your door.”
“What on earth?” I gasped. “Who let you through the gate?”
“The proper identification does wonders regarding such details, ma’am,” he replied. “If you will?”
“Very well, then,” I agreed. “If you’ll just wait for me to finish getting dressed, I’ll be with you shortly.”
It wasn’t as though I was unused to cars suddenly showing up to whisk me away, it was just that usually they were expected cars. But for some reason, I had a feeling that something important was about to happen.
My palms began to sweat a little as I ran a brush through my hair and pulled on a blouse, deftly buttoning it and tucking it into a skirt. I grabbed a blazer to match, and then marched outdoors to see what was going on.
The man who awaited me was dressed in a black suit, and was himself a black man. He was so starched he reeked of government-level importance, and I raised an inquisitive brow.
“Ma’am, if you’ll please step into the car, I believe you’ll be pleased by all of this. I’m only at liberty to say you’re being offered a job.”
“But I already have one of those,” I scoffed. “I’ve been cataloguing the local flora and fauna here for the last six months, ever since I finally earned my doctorate degree. Surely anyone who is seeking to hire me must already know that.”
“Ma’am, I believe you may want to hear about this offer,” he replied. “If you’ll just come along with me? The facility is only a half hour away.”
“Very well, then,” I agreed. I suppose it was curiosity more than anything else that caused me to get into the black limousine with the darkly tinted windows. I wasn’t too worried about my safety, since I had my little Derringer stuffed inside my purse, and a mace can right next to it as well.
Besides, this guy didn’t seem like he’d be any sort of trouble. I simply would need to sit back and enjoy the ride, and eventually my questions, of which there were now many, would be answered.
We sped along the small back road that was the only access into the greater part of the forest. The untold acres of protected lands we passed were undisturbed by almost all humans, and I was as pleased as ever to be a part of keeping it that way. We went further into the trees than I myself had ever been before, and I was quite surprised when we came up to a fenced area. The tall, wooden enclosure stretched as far as the eye could see in both a vertical and a horizontal direction, which confused me greatly.
“I thought this area was completely undeveloped,” I said to the driver. “What is this place?”
“I’m not at liberty to say, ma’am,” he replied. “In fact, I don’t even have the clearance to step inside through this entrance. I’m to deliver you to the other driver here. He’ll be waiting just beyond the gate. And don’t look so worried. No one here wants to harm you in any way.”
“Thanks,” I said with a shaky smile as he helped me out of the back. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
The driver opened the gate. I could see another car waiting just inside. Screwing up my courage, I stepped through and managed not to wince when I heard an immediate clang of metal on metal behind me as the lock was reengaged. Obviously, nothing in, nothing out was a thing here—wherever I was.
“This way, Doctor Walsh,” said another driver, just as black and dressed just as blackly as the other one. The car, however, was a light gray, and its seats were as well. I almost thought that was weird, after being in the other car, though I couldn’t really say why.
We traveled along a narrow dirt road which took us to a large building with plenty of windows. All the glass was crystal clear, and when we stepped inside I noticed it almost seemed like we were still standing in the trees. At the center of a large reception area, a spiraling staircase led to somewhere up above. To one side of the room, a huge waterfall cascaded down into a pool built of stones.
Whoever had built this place, they had a mighty impressive architect, I decided.
To another side of the area was a reception desk, behind which a lone, blond woman sat working on a computer. She smiled as I approached her and said, “Good afternoon, Dr. Walsh. Won’t you have a seat until it’s time?”
“Yes, of course,” I said politely. Time for what? I wanted to ask.
A few minutes later, a man in gray Dockers and an Oxford shirt stepped out from behind the prominent double doors behind her.
“Her government clearance checks out, sir,” said the secretary as he rounded one corner of her desk.
“Thanks for being so very thorough, Bernie, but if I hadn’t already checked it three times myself, Dr. Marnee Walsh would not even be here,” he said, and gave me a wink as he extended a hand.
I got to my feet and took the hand in both of my own, giving him a squeeze rather than a shake. He got a curious look in his eyes. “Dr. Walsh, I see that you used both of your hands. Is it because of your research with the chimpanzees?”
I cast him a blank, confused stare for a moment before I said, “Yes, our chimpanzees did use both hands when greeting. You’ve most certainly done your research, Mr.—”
“Doctor Melbourne,” he supplied, finally letting go of my hands. “Michael Melbourne. Assistant Director of this facility. I imagine you’re wondering why you are here.”
“The thought had crossed my mind, sir,” I replied with a grin.
“I confess, I hadn’t thought you’d be so young,” he said as he looked me over curiously.
“What, do you mean that my picture didn’t come with my dossier?” I asked him, blushing slightly at his interest. “I’m actually twenty-seven.”
“Your age may well have been in there somewhere, ma’am, but I’m not the one who read your dossier,” he replied. “That particular task went to Mr. Bruin himself.”
“Mr. Bruin?” I repeated, rolling the name on my tongue curiously.
“Undoubtedly an assumed name, considering the nature of this place,” he remarked. “But as he has asked me to leave the pleasure of explaining everything to him, I’m not at liberty to divulge anything more. If you’ll just follow me, Doctor Walsh, the teleconference has already begun.”
“Teleconference?” I repeated, suitably impressed as we headed for the double doors from which he had emerged moments earlier. When we stepped inside, I found that four other women were also seated in the room.
“These are other researchers at the facility who have been asked to sit in, and perhaps answer any questions that you might have as we go along, Dr. Walsh,” he explained. “Please, take a seat there, so Mr. Bruin can see you in his monitor.”
“Sure,” I said as I sat on the lazy boy and looked into the camera. “Good afternoon, Mr. Bruin? I believe you have me at a disadvantage? Am I not going to see your face as well?”
“No one has ever seen Mr. Bruin’s face, ma’am,” said one of the women as she hid her laugh behind her hand. Her nametag said Gretchen on it.
“Quite right, Dr. March,” agreed an amused, almost sensual baritone voice that came from several strategically placed speakers throughout the room. It sent a little surge of heat right down my spine. How interesting was that? I’d never reacted to a voice quite like that before. It made me more curious to see his face than ever, but I supposed I would just have to squash that desire and pay attention. How else was I going to learn more about what was going on?
“Very well then,” I said briskly. “To business. I’d like to know why I’m here.”
“Efficient as well as lovely, I see,” said Bruin’s voice. Again, my body reacted to it like a moth to a flame. It was somewhat disconcerting. “I suppose I won’t waste your time too much, then. Before I explain myself further, you must promise not to reveal anything about what is said in this room, nor tell anyone about this facility, whether you choose to remain or not.”
“You’ve already cleared me, Bruin, you know that I can be trusted with your secrets,” I replied wryly. “You have my word of honor.”
“Then we may begin. Dr. Prescott, if you will?”
One of the other women rose from her seat and moved to the side of a screen at the front of the room. She pointed out the location of the facility on a map as she said, “Good afternoon, Dr. Walsh, the name is Natalie, by the way,” she said, shaking my hand. “This facility and its preserve comprise six hundred acres of forest land. It is a top-secret facility, usually unnoticeable by air and inaccessible by all means but the one road which brought you here. If you will direct your attention to the other screen, you will see a short video which explains the purpose and function.”
More curious than ever, I turned to the other screen. The video showed various different woodland creatures which could be found in the facility. So far, I was unimpressed. But then, it all changed with just one sentence. “The next set of creatures shown are those animals which can shift into human form…”
My eyes went wide. Deer, Moose, Mustang, Eagle, Wolf, Cougar, and Bear? Shifters? At this facility? How was that possible? The science behind shifters had been discussed in my biology classes time and again, and we had come to the same conclusion on every occasion: shifting was biologically impossible. Such a transformation should not be able to occur.
But then again, some bees shouldn’t be able to fly. Some animals shouldn’t exist at all. Many plants also defied logic. So why not this? I longed to get a look at a shifter up close, to ask them how it all worked, maybe even to study the function on a willing specimen. The driver had not been wrong when he’d said I wanted to hear about this! All I wanted to know was what I would be doing and where I could sign up.
However, I dutifully watched the entire film and then listened to the rest of what Natalie had to say. Then, I turned back to the camera again, realizing that Mr. Bruin must have been observing my reactions the entire time.
“You seem intrigued, Doctor Walsh,” he said in an amused tone. “Have I caught your interest at last?”
In more ways than one, I thought, as I listened to that mesmerizing voice of his. “Indeed you have, sir. What is it exactly that you’d want from me?”
“I understand that you worked extensively with a group of chimpanzees to help them learn to communicate better with humans,” he replied. “Some of the shifters here are better than others in their ability to speak, but I’m sure that all of them might benefit from your expertise.”
“Why would you want to teach them to speak?” I asked. “Are you not here just to study them as they are?”
“Most of them, yes,” he said. “However, we’ve discovered a group of about twenty black bear shifters who have enough intelligence to be a great help to us. They may be able to explain some of the things that the lesser shifters are doing, help us to document, and maybe even tell us stories of their own experiences that might be useful. My main goal here is actually to gain a better understanding between shifters and humans overall. I think it would be well worth undertaking such an experiment, Dr. Walsh, don’t you agree?”
“The concept fascinates me,” I admitted. “I think I’d love to give it a try.”
“Very well then, but there’s just one thing,” he added. “If you agree to take this job, you will need to cut ties with the outside world for the time that you are here. No one must know where you are or what you are doing. I understand that you have no family, and no really important friends in your life, isn’t that right?”
“Sadly, it is,” I said. “But I’ll need to collect all my things from the rental house before I can begin.”
“No need, doctor, all of your belongings can be brought here tonight, and placed into one of the employee units we have available for your use,” he said. “Now, unlike most of the other employees, you’ll be going out into the preserve itself and interacting with some of the animals there. There is an agreed upon area where you will be allowed to roam with them, and as long as you remain in that area there should be no danger for you. I must caution you, however, not to venture out into the unprotected areas alone. Not all of the creatures here are as agreeable as those you will be trying to teach.”
“I see,” I said with a nod.
“Michael will escort you to the cabin that we have prepared for you, if you have decided to stay,” he added. “Tomorrow, one of the employees will take you out to the field, and you’ll spend a few hours there, just to get a feel for the place. Is that agreeable to you?”
“Yes—very,” I said excitedly. “I wish that it was tomorrow already.”
“Very well, Dr. Walsh,” he chuckled. “Welcome aboard. I hope our association will prove to be as lucrative as my expectations would like it to be.”
“Thank you, sir,” I nodded.
“If you’ll just step this way, doctor,” said Melbourne as he headed for a different exit. I willing got up to follow, waving at the camera briefly as I went on my way.
We walked along a long hallway that took us to the back of the building, and then stepped out into a yard. The grass was neatly mowed, and to one side was a small garden and a hothouse. This area clearly reeked of human occupancy. It was lovely, though, with a little section where a few wooden tables and benches were set on some red cobblestones, with apple and cherry trees lining parts of its perimeter.
“We try to produce most of our own food here, doctor,” Melbourne explained as we went along. “The diet is mostly vegetarian, though sometimes we do manage to catch some fish as well. We also keep several hen houses along the protected side, so eggs and an occasional chicken are regularly on the menu. And, on the rare occasion, Bruin will even send in some pork.”
“That’s quite all right,” I told him with a smile. “My diet is mostly vegan already.”
“Very well,” he said with a nod. “Then I won’t have to be worried about you having withdrawal symptoms.”
“From meat?” I scoffed as he grinned at me. “Why is that funny?”
“One of the women here had a lot of trouble with it once before,” he explained. “I had to go to great lengths to satisfy her cravings. You’ve no idea.”
“Oh, really?” I inquired, quite certain he was telling me something naughty.
“Yes, really,” he replied, his lips twitching. “Just let me know if you’re in need of my help as well.”
“Thank you, doctor,” I answered circumspectly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Well then, here we are,” he said as we reached the last cabin in a row of five. “Here is your key. Shall I show you the inside?”
“I think I can manage from here,” I said, and saw disappointment in his eyes.
“Each room is equipped with a phone, and there’s a list of numbers to dial along the side. It goes by unit number, and then the occupants’ names are listed as well,” he explained. “Yours will be added shortly on an updated document, so everyone will know.”
“Very well,” I said with a nod.
“You’ll be receiving a call in a few hours to let you know it’s time for dinner,” he went on. “When you get it, just follow this path back to the main building. Someone will be there who can direct you to the dining hall.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Then I’ll see you later.”
Grinning, he said, “I look forward to it, doctor.”
I used the key to unlock the door and went inside, shutting out the man and all his innuendo with a sigh. He was handsome enough, I thought, but he seemed overeager for such a new acquaintance. I preferred a man who was interested in my mind as well as my body as a general rule. Not that I was ruling him out completely, of course. I might be here for a while, and want to deal with other needs at some point.
The interior of my new home was much like that of the main building—though regrettably without the waterfall or the view of the trees through the glass. The walls had stone accents, though, and a small fireplace was inset in a central wall. Wood and tinder boxes, already filled, awaited my desire to light them, and a stack of old magazines had been placed there as well. I grimaced as I looked at a few of the titles, realizing they must be meant for the fire. Unless I wanted to take the love quiz with Doctor Michael Melbourne, of course.
I giggled at the thought, and then decided to light the fire with that magazine just so I would not be tempted to do any such thing. Besides, my mind was still far too fixated on a sensual baritone voice to spare many of my thoughts for the Assistant Administrator.
Mr. Bruin? What would a man with such a sexy voice look like? A girl could fantasize quite a bit about a man with a voice like his.
For example, how could any guy who sounded that good be anything but tall, and muscular, and well worth the price of admission in the pants department? Mm, too bad I was probably never going to find out!
Finished building the little fire and burning the contraband, I decided that after so much excitement I should probably take a little nap. Stepping into the door of the only room I hadn’t yet entered—I’d already found the bathroom, of course, considering how long it had been since I’d gone—I found a huge, four-poster bed dominating a room with plenty of closet space. And just like that, I was in love. Even if I never saw this guy’s face, Bruin was totally my hero!
I curled up snugly under the soft, downy comforter, and soon I’d drifted off, fast asleep. I was so tired, I didn’t even dream. The next thing I knew, I was waking up to the sound of a phone off to the side of my bed. I grabbed it groggily and spoke into the receiver.
“Yeah?” I asked softly.
“Hello, doctor,” said a low, sexy baritone voice. “I thought you’d like to know your dinner is served. And I believe somebody caught a fish just for you. I hope you will enjoy it.”
I giggled. I couldn’t help myself. “You caught me a fish?”
“Now, now, I never said that it was me,” he admonished in a playful tone.
“You didn’t have to,” I said, my tone slightly husky.
“Careful doctor, you might make me think you wanted me to catch it for you,” he said, and I could tell that he was smiling.
“Mm, maybe I did,” I admitted. “Now get off the phone so I can go eat it.”
“Very well,” he laughed, and then he was gone.
“Dammit, Bruin, what are you doing to me?” I grumbled, trying to ignore the way my body had ignited just from the sound of his laughter. I almost wanted to stay in bed and contemplate my condition further, but I certainly wouldn’t want to waste the fish he’d gone out to catch just for me. I could already taste it as I walked out onto the path.
“You must be Dr. Walsh,” said a young woman as she, too, stepped out of a cabin.
“Yes,” I said with a friendly nod.
“I’m Dr. Juno,” she told me. “Candace, by name, actually. I think it gets pretty old calling everybody doctor all the time, don’t you?”
“I’m Marnee,” I told her, chuckling as I shook her hand. “So, I assume you know the way to the dining hall?”
“If you’ll just follow me,” she said with a nod. The two of us continued along, and we were joined by seven other people, mostly women, as well as Dr. Melbourne himself. He cast me a friendly smile, and I smiled in return.
“Michael’s a really big flirt, Marnee,” Candace whispered in my ear. “Careful, he wants us all to become his personal harem. He’s sure to try for you next.”
“Yes, I believe the process has already begun,” I informed her, and the two of us giggled. We saw his brow inch upward and giggled some more, each of us carefully not looking at him again.
“Go ahead and find a seat, Dr. Walsh,” he said as we entered the room with three long tables inside. “There’s no assigned seating—though I do believe you’re to receive a special plate.”
“So I’ve heard,” I said with a little smile.
“Special plate?” asked Gretchen curiously. “A welcome gift?”
“Perhaps,” Michael shrugged. “It isn’t from me.”
“Bruin,” she nodded. “Trying to make sure she’ll stay, no doubt.”
“Undoubtedly,” he agreed. Then a man dressed in a chef’s hat stepped out and spotted me where I had taken my seat, and smiled warmly as he brought out my meal in a silver tray. I could already smell the food before he lifted the lid. It smelled heavenly, and looked even better once he took the cover out of the way.
“Wonderful,” I said appreciatively as everyone else also stared. The man had outdone himself, making certain the entire plate of food had been finished to perfection.
“Wow,” said Gretchen, rolling her eyes.
“Looks like you’ve become Bruin’s pet,” chuckled Natalie as she came to sit next to me. “I’ve never seen him send out a plate this good for anyone, and I’m one of his favorite workers.”
“Oh?” I scoffed, blushing hotly. “Surely not.”
Candace grinned. “If he decides to pursue Marnee, maybe the rest of us would finally get to see his face! I’ve always wondered what the man looks like. I mean, he’s so brilliant and charming, isn’t he? He simply must look good too.”
“Not a bit smitten yourself, are you Candace?” I teased her.
“I believe I might be,” she admitted. “But he’s never encouraged me. Not like this.”
“Nonsense, all of you,” I said. “He’s simply done this because he values his dream of communications between the humans and shifters so highly. And who can blame him? It’s incredible enough that the shifters even exist, but for them to be able to communicate with us? That would really be something.”
“It’s because you’re so excited to share his vision that he prizes you so highly,” said Melbourne speculatively. “But the ladies are correct. I’ve never seen him do anything like this either. It bears watching. I’d like to observe more data before I make my own hypothesis.”
I laughed. “So now I’m an experiment?”
“Yes, Marnee,” Natalie said. “Everyone here is. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it in time.”
I decided not to ask the woman what she meant by that. Instead, I enjoyed every single bite of my meal. Especially the fish.
When we were finished eating Michael showed me where to put my dishes in a little pan at the back of the room. Then he said, “You’re to be ready to go around ten in the morning, doctor. There’s an alarm on the phone which you can set. I’ll be showing you out to the field personally, and explaining all the rules. And please be ready, won’t you? My time is very specific, and I don’t wish to miss any part of the schedule due to tardiness. You understand?”
“Certainly,” I nodded. “Well, I think I’ll be heading back if there’s nothing else for now.”
“Your belongings,” he said. “They’ve just arrived as we were eating, and they’ve all been set just inside your door. You really do travel light, don’t you?”
“Yeah, you could say that,” I nodded. “Though it’s more that I just hadn’t bothered to settle in at the rental. Most of my things are in storage in Boston. I paid the unit up for a year, so it’s still got about five months before I need to pay again.”
“If you like, I’ll see to it that it continues to be paid, or send a couple men to bring your things here,” he offered.
“Let’s hold off on that for now,” I said. “I think we should see if this little experiment looks like it’s going to work before we do any of that. Who knows if Bruin would even keep me around if his hopes don’t get fulfilled?”
“Oh, no, I’m pretty sure he will,” the man smirked. “You have pleasant dreams, Dr. Walsh.”
“Good night,” I replied, and headed for the door.
I couldn’t be sure why, but it seemed like everyone there was convinced that I was Bruin’s special pet now. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. In school, the teachers had always singled me out, recognizing my brilliant mind. I was used to such attentions as a result. But the difference was, none of those teachers had affected me the way Mr. Bruin did. None of them had made me so hot just from the sound of their voice that I turned completely to mush.
None of them left me wanting to tame my beast before I settled down to sleep.
All curled up in the bed with one of my hands down there, I grabbed one of the pillows and hugged it, pretending I was holding him instead. “The fish was lovely, my dear. You’re so very good to me.”
And the pillow said, “Anything for you, my pet. Shall I tame your beast?”
And I replied, “Oh yes, I really think you should.”
And then, even as I did just exactly that, I chuckled that a grown woman over the age of twenty-seven was lying in some bed talking to herself using her pillow like a puppet. As gratifying as the release might be, wouldn’t it suck if Bruin was recording the whole thing?
Then again, if he was recording it, wouldn’t that mean he was watching as well? Mmm, Bruin, go ahead and watch. See exactly what you do to me!
I decided to get up a little early so I could arrange my belongings in my new closet, so it was almost time to go when I remembered that I needed to get dressed while I was at it. I threw on something comfortable and warm, since it was late September and I was meant to be outside for a few hours in the middle of the forest. Sure, there was likely to be sunlight hitting the field, but I would rather be too warm than too cold any day.
Promptly at ten, I heard a rap on my door, and I stepped outside to join Dr. Melbourne. He smiled at me as he always did, and I returned the smile warmly. It seemed like now that he’d gotten it into his head that Bruin wanted me for himself, he’d backed off on the whole harem bit and was treating me more like just a colleague. His demeanor was kind but not over-friendly, and he did an admirable job of not asking me if I needed his ‘help’ as we walked together today.
“I cannot emphasize enough to you, doctor, that you should not stray beyond the perimeter of this field while you are out in the preserve,” he said for the third time as we reached our destination. “The forest beyond that point is shifter territory, and they have their own set of rules which you do not yet understand. I’m only saying this out of concern for your safety. Some of the creatures do not like the fact that you’re here.”
“Why can’t the lessons be conducted inside the compound?” I wanted to know.
“Shifters don’t like to be enclosed inside of four walls,” he shrugged. “They can’t remain connected to the forest while they are indoors, and that—disconcerts them. However, I’m sure you could attempt to convince some of them to take short classes there once they’ve become more accustomed to your presence. For now, however, just abide by the rules and you should be fine. As for me, I have things to do this morning, so I’ll have to leave you all alone. Are you certain you’re ready?”
“More than ready,” I replied excitedly. “Bring them on.”
“Don’t worry, Dr. Walsh, they’ll come to you in their own time.”
Then Dr. Melbourne turned and walked back the way we had come. It occurred to me at that point that I had no idea how long he was going to be gone, or if it was even him that intended to walk me back to the compound again. But I was determined not to worry about it as I began to walk around the edges of the field, curiously peering into the trees.
What seemed like an hour passed with no contact of any kind, and I was starting to get bored. How was I supposed to communicate with the shifters if they didn’t even come out? I sighed deeply and laid down in the middle of the grass.
A bird flapped into view and landed beside me. It was a crow.
“So beautiful!” it squawked.
“Excuse me? You think I’m beautiful?” I asked as I glanced at it curiously.
“Not me,” the bird chuckled. “Him! Over there. He said it.”
“Him?” I repeated, and followed the bird as it flapped over to the forest edge. I saw a man hunkered down behind one of the trees.
When he realized he was caught, the man laughed and jumped nimbly to his feet. I couldn’t help but feast my eyes on my Peeping Tom, since he was such a fine specimen. He was wearing a white lab coat with a couple of pens and a little paper tablet in the breast pocket. Underneath that, he wore a skin-tight, black t-shirt tucked neatly into the waistband of his black leather pants.
“Sorry if I startled you, Dr. Walsh,” he said then. His voice was a low, husky baritone, and my body reacted immediately to its sound. When he saw my eyes widen with recognition his grin turned wry. “You weren’t supposed to see me, you know.”
“The bird says you called me beautiful, Bruin,” I teased him. “Are you hiding back there just to have a look at me?”
“Perhaps,” he chuckled, his lips curving up into a sensual smile. “Actually, I came here to see if you were having any luck.”
“Is it true that none of your employees has ever seen your face?” I wanted to know, because I was certainly enjoying the view.
My fantasy didn’t do this man justice, I decided as I looked him over more thoroughly. His hair was long and black, and pulled into a braid at the back of his head. His face was handsome in an exotic way, with tanned skin, and eyes set slightly wider than the norm, featuring a strong nose and chin. Rugged. It was also covered in a fine sheen of stubble, like he hadn’t shaved for a couple of days and probably needed to shave twice a day to keep it clean.
He was much taller than I’d imagined, obviously well over six feet, and his sculpted muscles bulged in all the right places. I had to try very hard to resist checking out what he might be hiding in his pants. He would probably notice if I did.
“So, am I anything like what you expected?” he inquired, his golden-brown eyes dancing with a playful mirth.
“You don’t look like a fisherman,” I replied.
“Well, not exactly,” he shrugged. “I prefer to catch fish with my bare hands.”
“No wonder I’m the only one who got one last night.”
“No, doctor, that was very much by design,” he told me. “You’re right in thinking I want you to stay here, and be a part of my ultimate goal.”
“I see,” I said, feeling suddenly shy. I looked down at my hands, so when he took one of them I saw the contact even before I felt it. “What are you—?”