She handed a small gray bundle of fur to John. “This is the runt of the litter, and I try to feed her a little more than the others.”
John held the kitten awkwardly in front of him. The young cat’s paws batted the air, looking for something to claw into.
“No, no, hold her against you, like this.”
She settled his hand against his chest and shaped his fingers around the little creature’s bottom. Shannon didn’t even realize how close she had moved to John until she looked up and found him staring at her. Hard. With those heavy black brows furrowed and his dark eyes full of burning emotion.
“Sorry,” she mumbled and pulled away quickly. She snatched another kitten out of the box and tucked it under her chin.
John’s kitten started to purr.
“What’s it doing now?” he demanded.
Shannon laughed at the ferocious frown on his face. “Relax,” she told him gently, “he’s just purring. It means he’s comfortable and he likes what you’re doing.”
John eased back in his chair and eyed the cat.
“Haven’t you ever had a cat?” she asked him curiously.
John’s face lost all expression, and a subtle tension eased into the air. “No, I haven’t. Animals weren’t allowed at the boy’s home where I grew up.”
“Oh.” Shannon felt like a heel as the revelation about his childhood settled into her. It explained so much of who he was.
“I didn’t mean to dig things up,” she told him finally.
John shrugged and stroked the kitten on the top of its head with a huge finger. “No big deal. You didn’t know.”
“So, have you ever had any pets?” she asked finally.
John shook his head. “None. There was a stray dog I used to toss scraps to outside my window at the orphanage, but he wasn’t around very long before the pound caught him.”
Shannon felt her eyes fill with helpless tears. How very sad. No animals in his life at all, and the one small contact he had destroyed by the dog catcher. She couldn’t imagine not having animals in her life. She still had three horses at her parent’s house in Colorado Springs she needed to decide what to do with. And she had always had animals in her life. From hamsters and hermit crabs as a child to horses and cattle she showed in 4-H in her teenage years. Actually, she couldn’t remember ever not having an animal in her life.
John fondled the kitten around the ears, and the little animal purred just as loud as she could, her eyes slitted shut in rapture. Shannon knew she would do the same thing if John handled her that way too.
“She really likes you,” she told him softly.
John made a non-committal grunt, but he continued to run his big fingers gently over her coat.
“You know,” Shannon murmured. “I’m going to have to find homes for these before too long.”
John immediately held the kitten out to her. “No, thank you. You’ll find a better home for it than with me.”
Reluctantly, she took the dangling kitten from his hand. She wouldn’t push him on it. They wouldn’t be ready to wean for a couple of weeks yet anyway. Setting the two gently in the box, she turned back to John.And caught him as he glanced away from her ass.
If you haven't read Embattled Road yet, I strongly suggest you do to get a feel for the men.
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