One Summer with Autumn
There’s a tap, tapping on my shoulder.
“Excuse me, Ms. Teslow?”
I whirl away from my sister and bump a broad, plaid covered chest. Annoyed, I step back and crane my neck up several inches. Whoever he is, he’s a good six feet against my five foot two—with heels. “Yeah?” I snap.
Feet apart, the guy has a confident, almost cocky stance. His face is mostly hidden between a full, copper beard and the cap pulled low over his eyes. The tanned skin of his arms shows where his sleeves are rolled back. The guy could pass for the centerfold in a lumberjack calendar, if you’re into that sort of thing. Which I’m not.
“What do you want?”
“Uh … ” He glances at Sydney and back to me. “I was told you like working outdoors and might be interested in a job?”
Wait, zoo guy?
My cheeks blaze as I realize what’s happening. Sydney said if I didn’t try, I’d regret it, though this set-up is elaborate, even for her. I don’t know where she found the lumber-clown standing in front of me, but with a few empty promises, my sister can make any boy her puppet. Well, she’s gone too far this time.
“Really?” I say. “And what job is that, exactly? Cage scrubber, chief dung shoveler? No, thank you.”
“What?” he asks, eyes widening. “I don’t think—”
“That’s obvious.” My finger pokes his very firm chest. “I’m sure you two think you’re clever, but if this is some sick way of sucking up to my sister, it’s pointless. Gorillas aren’t her type.”
“Hey! Now wait just a—”
“My sister swaps guys like other girls change their days-of-the-week panties. Now, if you want to keep your balls intact, I suggest you get out of my way. I don’t need your fake job, or to work for some hairy Duck Dynasty wannabe, too dumb to know when he’s being played.”
The idiot blinks once as I push past him. Through the silent crowd I walk, head held high, toward the gym’s double doors. And freedom.
Did she just call me a Duck Dynasty wannabe?
Okay. Now, I’m pissed. Unwilling to give this girl the last word, I pivot to face her and see nothing but a rigid back. “Hey! Wait a minute. You can’t just … Don’t hate on the beard!” No reaction from the angry creature storming away from me. Brilliant comeback, by the way, I tell myself.
Maybe she does have my balls.
Caught between insulted and twisted fascination, my mind tries to unravel the chain of events where I definitely missed something. Clearly, the girl thinks I’m her enemy, but I have no clue what I did.
Also, she’s insane.
The room’s gone quiet. As I glance around, I notice a fairly large crowd has gathered. Not surprising after that show, I guess, except they’re full-on staring at me. Some expressions are obviously amused, while others seem sympathetic. Most turn away, shaking their heads or looking embarrassed as I meet their gazes. My face is too warm and my heartbeats won’t slow. All of it makes me feel like a first class chump. Like I need pity for being bested by some shrieking, pygmy-girl. Pride tenses my shoulders, stiffens my neck. I glare at the closed double doors, tilting my head until my neck bones release a satisfying crack.
Oh, it’s on.
The girl is going down.
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