“Stop that rabbit!”
James blinked. “What?” he asked as he turned to see a rather large white blur race past his sneakers.
James had two seconds to decide if he wanted to help. Sighing, he jumped into action by sticking his ice cream bar between his teeth and chasing after the blur. It streaked left before slipping under a stone park bench.
Dropping to his hands and knees, ice cream melting between his teeth, James reconsidered his heroism. He was only in the park because he had wanted to treat himself after his disastrous job interview. He made a beeline to the tantalizing ice cream truck. One delicious lick of his ice cream bar and now he was kneeling on the ground in his best suit. The hot day meant chocolate was dribbling down his chin as he peered under the bench to see one large brown eye. He let the ice cream drop in favor of being able to call the animal.
“Hey, come here you silly bunny,” James murmured.
The bunny thumped a back leg loudly against the concrete. James scooted back a bit in alarm. Someone dropped to the ground beside him and he caught the scent of strawberries. The hands on the ground next to his were delicately tipped in shiny red nails. He wanted to look but he was afraid to take his eye off the prize, erm bunny.
The same voice that had shouted at him, now whispered, “I’ll come from the left if you go from the right and we should be able to catch her between us.”
“Am I going to get bit?” he whispered back, thinking that a rabies shot would be the cherry on top of his terrible day.
“No, well, you might get scratched,” she told him, sounding amused. “Strong guy like you can handle it,” she teased.
James snorted and chanced a look at her. He was rewarded with a flash of sparkly hazel eyes and a smirk before she moved to catch the bunny. James held his hands wide to keep the bunny from escaping. The scared little ball of fluff frantically searched for an opening and kicked out, but the woman was faster and caught the animal in her arms with minimal fuss. James on the other hand, bonked his head on the bench as he moved out from underneath it.
A giggle escaped the woman beside him.
James sat back on his heels. “Well, that was exciting!”
He turned to face her and was stunned by the gorgeous woman beside him. She was dressed simply in jeans and a fitted tee with cartoon animals on it in the shape of the word, “Pets.” Her long auburn hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail. The rabbit looked content to rest in her arms and James felt a pang of jealousy. He took a breath to say something charming or clever when she burst into gales of laughter.
“I am so sorry! But have you seen yourself?”
James ran a hand over his face and it came away covered in chocolate and nuts. She subsided into giggles as he licked his palm and just made things worse. She stood up and reached for his cleaner hand. He let her drag him to his feet and over to a water fountain.
“Stay here,” she told him and disappeared for a minute.
James rinsed his face off the best he could in the water fountain. The woman returned with the rabbit safely tucked into a crate and a handful of napkins. She wet a few and instead of handing them to him, she tugged him down by his tie, gripped his chin, and cleaned his face.
“Thanks for helping me,” the woman said as she tossed the napkins into the trash. “Lulu was in to get groomed and she made a break for it. Her mom is one of my best clients.”
His face still tingled from where her fingers had touched his chin. James grinned at her. “Lucky I was in the park today,” he told her.
She grinned. “Very lucky for me,” she agreed. “I’m Sandy.”
“James,” he replied.
“James, I’m sorry about your suit and your ice cream,” Sandy told him.
“What’s wrong with my suit-Oh!” James looked down to see chocolate, mud, grass stains and a tear up the right leg and the left was worse. “No problem. I won’t need a suit anytime soon. It’s fine.” He was thinking of tossing the suit anyhow. This was the third interview he had bombed and he had to blame something, so why not the suit?
“It’s not,” Sandy argued. “You’re a mess because of me.” Sandy touched his arm. “Let me make it up to you?”
“You don’t have to do-” James trailed off. What was he doing? If he said it was nothing and she left, he might never see her again. He was hardly in this part of the city. “Well, alright.”
“Great,” Sandy said. “I’ll start by buying you a new ice cream.”
James grinned. Today was looking up. “And then?”
“Got any pets that need free grooming?” she asked.
No, but by tomorrow, he would.