16.21% Talia of Animalistic / Chapter 6: Close Call

Chapter 6: Close Call

Richy and Talia awaken before the dawning sun and make love. Or at least Richy hopes he's making love to her. He's had sex, mated, banged and tapped, but he never even wanted to make love to a woman before. He hopes he's kissing Talia enough, caressing her enough and holding her enough. They talk and laugh as they shower together and wash each other. Breakfast is very interesting for Richy because Talia spends so little time in this house, she doesn't have anything that will spoil. He's never eaten powdered eggs before. And besides the powdered eggs, Talia has powdered milk, deer jerky, jars of nuts, rice, dry beans, dehydrated fruits and vegetables. Talia expertly makes them scrambled eggs from the powdered egg mixture, makes fried corn bread and adds a side of nuts and a slice of deer jerk to their plates. Not a fancy, four star breakfast, yet Richy really enjoys it.

He walks Talia to the garage which he's sure once held at least four vehicles at one time. There are four skylights in the garage roof to allow sunlight in to keep solar powered vehicles charged. And when Richy sees her car, he's surprised for a moment by how practical it is when she can afford any vehicle she desires. Then he thinks for a moment about Talia and her choice in a vehicle makes sense. The five passenger, solar powered, mid-sized sedan makes sense because she is practical, conservative and thrifty. She's not a wasteful person, nor a glory hound looking to be the center of attention.

Richy kisses Talia deeply and request of her, "Call me later. I'll meet you for lunch tomorrow."

Talia responds with a simple nod of agreement because there's something she needs to say, except she doesn't know what it is. And when Richy opens her driver's door, she slips behind the driver's wheel feeling like she should say something, but not knowing what it is she needs to say.

She turns in the direction of Megalopolis as she pulls out of the driveway and Richy turns in the opposite direction to head back to Bayberry Falls. And when Richy's vehicle disappears from her review mirror, the silent tears start to flow from her eyes. She doesn't know why she's crying, just that she is.

By the time she reaches Megalopolis two hours later, Talia's fine. She has regained her composure and is ready to get to work. Arriving at Devonshire Tower is very different experience from showing up for a visit at one of her tribe's sites. The valet has a crush on her, so he always blushes when he greets her. The doorman always has a warm welcoming hug for her. Here, Talia gets lots of hugs and most of them are genuine. But a few are just for show to keep up social appearances.

Devonshire Tower is one of the few major corporate buildings that doesn't have a no shirt, no shoes, no service policy in Megalopolis. Besides the three floors that hold Devonshire World Law's headquarters, a number of other companies have offices or stores located in Devonshire Tower including a major phone company, a family practice clinic, an eye-care facility with two optometrists on duty seven days a week, a twenty-four hour fitness center, a twenty-four hour daycare center, several floors of hotel rooms and the top several levels of the building are apartments: efficiencies to penthouse suites and Talia has her own bedroom in her Uncle Bob's suite. If you live and work in Devonshire tower, you almost never have to leave.

Talia is well received in the accounting department, not that anyone in their right mind that works for Devonshire World Law would dare be rude to her. But everyone in accounting genuinely misses her while she's gone. They've all learned to keep track of the moon's cycles and get excited when they know she's coming, and they don't slack-off while she's gone. Talia's not a slave driver, but she has an eye for detail and wouldn't miss it if they were behind. And if the books are error free, Talia will give the whole department a bonus in their next paycheck.

Talia is in her office sitting behind her desk by 8:30am. The accounting department hours are from 9am to 5pm. And normally she would have been here by 8am. Her administrative assistant, Jude, brings her a cup of pero just the way she likes it, heavy on the cream and sugar.

"Good morning," Jude greets Talia as she sits the mug of pero heavy on the cream and sugar down on Talia's desk.

"Good morning, Jude," Talia returns her greeting without taking her eyes off the numbers scrolling up the monitor screen as she picks up the pero and takes a sip. "Thank you, it's perfect."

"How are the numbers looking," ask Jude.

"Good," answers Talia as she pushes a length of her hair back over her shoulder.

With the length of hair pushed back, Jude notices a mark on Talia's neck. "Ms. Devonshire," she reaches out to touch the mark concerned, but just as she actually touches it she realizes surprised, "you have a hickey."

"What," asks Talia putting her hand over the spot Jude touched.

Jude rushes out to her desk and comes back with a compact from her purse. She holds the mirror out to Talia. "You have a hickey," she states with decisiveness.

Talia takes the mirror from Jude and looks at the mark Richy left on her neck. Talia gasp as she remembers the sweet suction Richy used on her neck there.

"What do I do," Talia asks Jude. She's never had a hickey before.

"Nothing," Jude explains, "it'll fade on its own like a bruise. If you don't want anyone to see it, you could wear a turtle neck sweater."

Talia opens her mouth, shuts it, opens it and shuts it again. She finally says, "I don't own a turtleneck sweater."

"I didn't mean to upset you. I was just surprised." Jude smiles at Talia. "It's your first, isn't it?"

Talia blushes embarrassed as she nods yes.

Jude sits on Talia's desk and pats the space next to her. "Tell me about him. Anyone I know?"

Talia gets up from her chair and slides on the desk next to Jude. She shares, "He's from a small town not far from my home called Bayberry Falls. I only met him quite recently. I think it's highly unlikely you've ever met him."

"Is he good looking," asks Jude.

Talia answers, "I think so."

"Good golly, woman, getting info from you is like pulling teeth. What does he look like? What does he do for a living? Give me details," insists Jude.

As tears begin to well up in Talia's eyes, she takes Jude's hand and says apologetically, "I don't mean to be tight lipped. This all brand new for me… Richy's my first… everything basically."

"Everything," says Jude in disbelief.

Talia nods yes as she confirms, "Pretty much, yeah."

That just seems impossible to Jude as she tells Talia, "But you're so amazingly beautiful and intelligent. You dated that jerk, Lance, for years. None of us could figure out what you ever saw in him and were greatly relieved you were smart enough not to marry him."

Talia shares what she saw in Lance, "I never saw any type of a future with Lance. I just needed someone for social events: charity dinners and balls. I always knew all he saw when he looked at me were dollar signs, his ticket to the sweet life since his family basically cut him off. Only there hasn't been much sweet to my life until now. Everything with Richy is so brand new and I have no real experience. I feel like I'm drowning. I've never been so scared, confused and excited before in my whole life."

Jude smiles empathetically as she tells Talia, "It never occurred to me that your life could be difficult or lonely. People seeing dollar signs when they look at you instead of you, no wonder you don't want to live here full-time. But look at you now, honey, you're in love."

The notion of being in love surprises Talia. She hadn't considered it. It just may explain why she cried part of the way as she drove here this morning. She hears some footsteps and a couple of voices. She looks over her shoulder and out through her office door. "We should get back to work. Order lunch for everyone on me, whatever they want."

Jude heads for her desk just outside Talia's office door, "You got it, boss."

Talia was expecting to have lunch with her staff in their lunch room, when her uncle steps into her office. Talia looks up from her facts and figures and says, "Yes, sir?"

Uncle Bob gets right to the point. "I'ld like you to join me for lunch, please."

"Yes, sir," she responds affirmatively. Then her hands dance over her keypad for a couple more moments. When she's finished, she stands and joins her uncle. She informs her administrative assistant as she passes her desk, "Jude, I'm going out for lunch."

"Yes, Ms. Devonshire," Jude responds respectfully. But she's disappointed that Talia won't be having lunch with them after she was nice enough to treat them.

"I'm sorry to drag you away from your staff," Uncle Bob apologizes as he takes Talia's hand as if she were still a little girl. "I know they miss you while you're gone."

"Actually," admits Talia relieved, "you saved me from a game of twenty questions during lunch."

"Really," says Uncle Bob curious as he activates the down arrow for the elevator.

Talia informs him in a whisper, "I have a hickey. I didn't know I had it until Jude noticed it this morning. Now they all want to ask me a bunch of nosy questions."

Uncle Bob chuckles amused. He tells the elevator after they step inside, "Ground Floor." Then he reminds Talia, "That one young man on your staff, Craig, runs in some of the same circles as your ex-beau, Lance. It'll be interesting to see how Lance reacts to the news that you are officially seeing someone else. He stopped by here last week and asked for you. After you walked out on his proposal, he stopped by every week for a while looking for you. Now we won't see him for a couple of months if he's seeing someone. But when that ends, he'll stop by trying to catch you in."

"Whatever for," asks Talia as she steps off the elevator with her uncle.

"I know Lance mostly sees dollar signs when he looks at you," Uncle Bob leading the way to the Asian cuisine restaurant in the tower, "but, I think in his own way he actually cares for you too."

"How many," asks the host for the restaurant.

Uncle Bob answers, "Two, please. A quiet spot, please."

"Yes, sir," the host responds, "follow me."

Talia and her uncle take their seats at a small table at the back near the kitchen. They thank the host and look over the menu. The waitperson brings glasses of ice water and takes their order.

"You look like something's on your mind," Talia tells her uncle.

Uncle Bob nods yes. "This probably could wait until this evening, but Kershaw and Brown know you're in town. They saw you pull up in front of the tower this morning and plan on swinging by to pick you up for dinner. They're undoubtedly extremely grateful they didn't have to face us in court."

Talia sighs, "They always want to go somewhere that requires shoes."

Uncle Bob smiles at her. "You'll survive their attention. They respect and admire you. And following your advice has helped them win a number of cases."

"So what's on your mind," ask Talia.

"When I saw your young sheriff has the gift," Uncle Bob explains, "I remembered a conversation I had with your grandfather shortly after he lost your grandmother. He was so heart sick because he believed she could have saved herself. He said if she had used the gift, most of her injuries would have healed instantly…"

Talia and her uncle are quiet as the waitperson places their meals on the table. They thank the waitperson and wait until they're alone again to resume the conversation.

Talia leans over her food and she says in a whisper, "Perhaps… I only know what I was taught by my parents and grandmother. Some things, very minor things may have healed almost instantly. But the severity of the injury… if severe enough, it could make using the gift difficult, impossible or uncontrollable."

Uncle Bob is also leaning over his food. His voice is soft and low as he tells her, "Reynold believed she would have lived if she used her gift."

"Here in the city, in a car accident surrounded by domesticated on lookers." Talia shakes her head. "Even if she could have used her gift to help herself she wouldn't have. Too many domesticated people fear us as it is. Something like that would cause a panic. They would go back to trying to wipe us off the face of the earth."

Uncle Bob knows what Talia is saying is true but his concern is her. "I'm just worried about you. That Wilson woman is unstable. She's been after your young sheriff for years, and then you appear from out of nowhere and snag him. Domesticated men may not be sensitive to scents, but they all know what a hickey is. He made sure every man you come in contact with while you're here knows you're seeing someone.

Mrs. Wilson will be stewing in her juices when she realizes she's about to lose the man she's been using to stay near the one she really wants. And she's going to blame you. Unstable people like her can be dangerous. My ex-wife made our two sons worthless by over indulging them. They both dropped out of college. Neither is capable of taking on the responsibility of this corporation after I'm gone."

Talia can't stand the thought of losing her uncle. "Uncle Bob, don't talk like that."

Uncle Bob takes her hands. "Don't be afraid to use your gift to protect yourself or help yourself heal if you're injured. I'll make sure any domesticated person that sees knows to keep their mouth shut or I'll have them institutionalized in the looney bin for the rest of their natural life."

"Well," says Talia sitting back in her chair, "let's hope it never comes to that."

Uncle Bob can see Talia is uncomfortable with the conversation even if he can't smell it. He redirects the conversation to business. "I'm having the Notice of Divorce delivered to Sheila Wilson either tomorrow or the next day, within the next couple of days at least."

"She wasn't home when Richy took Cougar to get his things," Talia informs her uncle. "So it'll probably be a shock. And Cougar told Richy he's worried about losing his house. His mother left it to him."

Uncle Bob reminds her, "Items left to one whether before or after the marriage are not community property unless left to both spouses. She has no claim on his mother's house."

Talia nods her agreement with her uncle. "I told Richy to tell Cougar not to worry about it. He won't lose his momma's house."

"But this does give us the opportunity to be generous to her. We could insist she vacate the property immediately. Yet because of the pregnancy, we'll give her until the birth of the child to vacate. That's more than enough time to find herself a house or apartment. We don't want to seem cruel or uncaring. And he won't need to find his own place because he already owns a home. He can stay with friends or family until she vacates the home they've been sharing," says Uncle Bob. "I'll need to amend the Notice of Divorce slightly before it's delivered."

"He'll be at Richy's," Talia informs her uncle.

Uncle Bob nods his understanding. "I've been looking into their finances. Sheila Wilson is financially well off. I'll be able to get child support and alimony for your friend. In the meantime, she has plenty of time to procure a place of her own nearby if she wants to visit their child, supervised of course. I wouldn't leave that woman alone with a dead cat, let alone a helpless infant or child."

"At least it won't take long," says Talia relieved. "I can't believe proceedings like these used to take years."

"It must have been terrible," says Uncle Bob sipping his ice water, "dragging a divorce out two, three, four years, sometimes longer. A divorce is painful enough without dragging it out forever. But if one spouse was uncooperative, refusing to sign paper work, trying to hold pets or children hostage, trying to take their spouse under financially, ruin their reputation with false allegations of abuse, goodness it must of seemed hopeless to some people."

"Cruel and unusual torture," says Talia shaking her head. "I don't like law. It's an ever evolving ever changing thing. The rules aren't constant. What we agree on today, we may not agree on tomorrow."

"Well, hopefully things continue to improve as it evolves," responds Uncle Bob.

The rest of the day is business as usual. Talia leaves the office at 5:30pm and heads up to her uncles penthouse. Kershaw and Brown ring the bell at six and Talia slips on a pair of shoes. They drag her to Club Class A, a combination bar and restaurant with a nice dance floor. Talia thinks it might be a nice place to visit with Richy. The food is good, but over priced in Talia's opinion. The dining tables are situated so you're not over whelmed by music or people walking to and from the dance floor while you're eating. Plus, Talia loves music and dancing. She would love to go dancing with Richy.

By eight o'clock, it's obvious to Talia that Kershaw and Brown plan to make a night of it. Kershaw has already had too much to drink and is getting a little to touchy-feely with her on the dance floor. By 8:30 she's calling for a cab. And by nine, she's on her way back to Devonshire Tower. The best part of the day is her phone call to Richy during her cab ride.

Richy sounds anxious as he answers his phone asking, "Is everything alright?"

The cabby watches the lovely lady fare smile as she says into her phone, "You miss me."

The anxious worry flees Richy and he smiles as he says, "You don't have to sound so happy about it."

"How do you want me to feel about it," asks Talia with an amused pout. "It's not like I don't miss you." She slips her shoes off as she sits on the back seat of the cab and places them on her lap.

"Good," responds Richy happily, "I'm glad you miss me. You just might miss me as much as I miss you."

"Well, however I'm feeling," Talia tells Richy, "I try not to torture my staff with it. Although, they did find the hickey on my neck quite interesting, it kind of ruins the business woman look I portray while I'm here at work."

The cab pulls in front of Devonshire Tower and the cabby announces, "We're here, Miss."

"Just a minute Richy," requests Talia. She passes her check card over the cabby's scanner and over tips him. The evening doorperson opens the cab door for her and she climbs out. Then she thanks the doorperson for holding the building door for her.

"OK," she tells Richy, "heading for the elevators."

"What was that about," asks Richy curious.

Talia answers as she passes her hand over the up arrow, "Just paying the cab driver and thanking the doorperson."

"Where were you," ask Richy a little concerned.

Talia steps onto the elevator and calls out "penthouse." She explains to Richy, "Kershaw and Brown dragged me to a place called Club Class A. I had to wear shoes."

"My poor baby," Richy sympathizes. "So other than having to wear shoes, how was Club Class A?"

"Expensive," answers Talia, "I'm glad I wasn't paying. I despise wasteful spending. But the food was good, nice dance floor and good music. Still, it would have been more fun if I had been with you." Talia steps off the elevator onto the penthouse floor. At her uncle's door, she scans her hand to let herself in and shuts the door behind her. She goes straight to her room as she's telling him, "If you had been with me, it would have been worth wearing shoes."

Richy realizes he has yet to take Talia on a date. "Me and you are just gonna have to make sure we go out for dinner and dancing after you get back."

"Are you going to make it out here for lunch with me tomorrow," asks Talia missing him badly.

"Margie has gladly given me tomorrow off," Richy informs Talia.

"That poor woman must hate me already," Talia says as she stretches out on her bed.

"Naw," says Richy. He knows Margie likes Talia very much.

Talia sighs, "I don't know how I'm going to get any sleep tonight."

"What's wrong," ask Richy.

"Your scent isn't on anything here," complains Talia. "At least you have my scent in your bed."

"Maybe we can fix that while I'm there for lunch tomorrow," Richy says suggestively.

Talia smiles because she knows just how he wants to share his scent with her. But she's tired. She's had a long day. "In any case, I need to get off this phone and try to get some sleep. Sleep well, Richy."

"I'll see you tomorrow Talia," and Richy reluctantly ends the call. He knows Talia will be fighting to get to sleep. He was relieved to hear her voice and know she's fine.

Talia didn't sleep very well. She tossed and turned and slept very little. She's at her desk in her office with a mug of pero and a sausage egg and cheese whole wheat bagel working by eight am. Her administrative assistant Jude arrives at 8:30 am. And it's obvious to Jude that Talia didn't sleep well. The rest of her staff begins filtering in about 8:40 am. Talia concentrates on her work and ignores the clock. Watching the clock won't make Richy arrive faster.

Richy pulls up in front of Devonshire Tower just before 11:30 am in his own personal vintage vehicle. The Sheriff's vehicle he spends most of his time driving is sitting in his driveway getting the day off.

The valet's eyes light up at the sight of the vintage sportster. He tells Richy, "Sir, this is spectacular." Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com <a href="https://www.webnovel.com">www.webnovel.com</a> for visiting.

Richy grabs the picnic basket and bouquet from the passenger seat beside him. Then he tells the valet firmly as he hands him his key, "Don't get any ideas."

"No, sir, of course not," responds the valet honestly.

The doorman pulls the door open for Richy and comments with a welcoming smile, "Here for someone special I see."

Richy gives the more mature man an affirmative nod and says "Yes. Thank you."

Richy goes straight to the elevators. Talia gave him the floor number and her office location as they ate breakfast the morning she left for work. So he knows where he's going.

When he steps through the accounting department's doors, there's nearly an all stop as they all pause to look at the strange man who looks as if he's lost in his jeans and flip-flops carrying a picnic basket and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. But Richy doesn't pay any attention to their stares. He walks straight past Talia's administrative assistant as she's asking, "Sir, may I help you?" Except Richy doesn't answer her because he has Talia's scent. Even if her name wasn't on the door, he would still know she was behind it. So he doesn't hesitate to open the door, stride into her office and close the door behind himself without a word.

"I'm sorry, I need to go now," Talia apologizes to her caller. She hangs up the phone on her desk and steps out from behind the desk as Richy strides across her office to her.

Richy sets the picnic basket with the bouquet of flowers on the desk as he pulls Talia against himself. He inhales her scent deeply, taste the tender sensitive skin below her ear and is pleased by the shudder that runs through her body as her mouth exhales a soft moan.

Jude sits at her desk in shock for a moment. She certainly didn't miss how beautiful the man was that just barged through and into Talia's office. She considers calling security for a moment, but she remembers Talia mentioning she would be having lunch with a friend today. So she decides to wait on calling security just in case this is the friend and motions two young men over to her from her desk.

As the two young men step over to her, Jude tells them, "Just look tough." It hasn't occurred to her that she hasn't heard Talia scream or anything as she opens the door to Talia's office with the two young men behind her. She takes a step into Talia's office and freezes at the sight of her boss in the middle of an extremely passionate embrace with the beautiful strange man as she unconsciously says softly, "Oh my." He even has a hand under Talia's blouse.

Jude takes a step backward right back out of Talia's office and shuts the door. Her face is red as she shoos the two young men back to their desks. During the years Talia was dating Lance, Jude never witnessed anything but the chastest of kisses. Jude wonders how she ever thought Talia was seriously interested in that idiot.

The office door opening, a person stepping in, back out and the door reclosing barely registers with Richy. The scents of the two young men just outside the door registers enough for him to growl as he continues to kiss Talia. What does register with Talia is Jude's "Oh my." So a moment after the door closes, Talia breaks the kiss and puts a hand over the hand kneading her breast under her blouse causing Richy to groan frustratedly.

Talia's look is soft and understanding as she reminds Richy, "My staff is right on the other side of that door and they're all domesticated. They respect me and I need to keep their respect."

Richy nods his understanding as he sadly removes his hand from her breast and out from under her blouse.

"Are these for me," Talia asks as she picks up the bouquet of flowers.

Richy smiles boyishly as he answers, "Yeah, of course."

Talia inhales the fragrant scent of the flowers. "They're beautiful. You cut them yourself, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did," answers Richy picking up the picnic basket. "I made lunch too, or at least I did most of it myself. I'm not very good at potato salad. I got help from my aunt there."

Talia takes Richy's free hand and leads him to the door. "I'm sure everything is wonderful."

Richy opens the door for Talia. "Of course everything's wonderful. I wouldn't feed you bad food." He closes the door behind him.

"I wouldn't eat it either," as she pauses by Jude's desk and retakes his hand. "Richy this is Jude Lawson. She's my right hand here."

Richy puts out his hand and Jude takes, but her eye contact is weak and her face is red. Richy is thoroughly amused. He just puts on his good old boy smile and introduces himself as he shakes her hand, "Sheriff Richard Griffin of Bayberry Falls, ma'am."

Normally Jude gives a better hand shake, except she's wondering if it's the same hand that was fondling her boss's breast. "Good to meet you, sir."

"Just Richy's fine, ma'am."

Talia smiles as she reclaims Richy's hand and informs Jude, "I'm out to lunch."

Jude responds with a confirmation nod as she says, "Yes, Ms. Devonshire."

As Talia and Richy are leaving the accounting department, they pass the desks of the two young men that were outside the door behind Jude when she opened it. Richy recognizes their scents and emits a low growl at them.

"Richy, don't be rude," request Talia as she pulls him out into the hall.

"I wasn't being rude," Richy insist. "It was just a little warning."

Talia passes her hand over the up sensor and the doors to an elevator slide open a moment later. They step into the elevator and Talia calls out "penthouse." The elevator doors slide closed. She leans against Richy and smells her flowers as Richy smells her hair. He smiles as he pulls her hair back from off her neck revealing the hickey he put there.

Talia tells Richy a little amused, "You deliberately scared them."

Richy is admiring the hickey he put on her neck as he responds, "I just didn't want them getting any ideas."

Talia smiles into her flowers. "Any ideas dancing through their heads occurred when they saw your hand under my blouse."

Richy smiles nefariously as the elevator's doors slide open. He jokes as they step out of the elevator, "My hand was cold."

Talia leads the way to the door of her uncle's penthouse apartment. Richy admires the way her grey skirt suit fits her curves. She looks over her shoulder as she scans her hand to unlock the door and tells Richy sensually, "It didn't feel cold to me."

The door unlocks with an audible click. Richy follows her inside and tells her, "Your bra just kept you from feeling how cold it was…" He looks around the penthouse. "This is some place."

"My uncle's," responds Talia.

"How many bedrooms does this place have," ask Richy curious.

"Six," answers Talia stepping into the kitchen, "three on each end."


"Four and a half."

"I really don't smell anybody but you and him. Does he live here all by himself?"

"Yep," answers Talia as she places her bouquet in a vase, "except when I'm here. He let his ex-wife have the house. He didn't have to. He had an air tight prenup. But he wanted his sons to always have a place to live. They're not exactly his pride and joy, but they're still his sons and he still loves them… I have a balcony off my room. Let's eat by it."

She grabs two plates, two glasses and silver wear. Then leads the way. Talia's bedroom here in her uncle's penthouse is huge. Richy has never tried to imagine living like this. Yet it obviously isn't all one would hope it would be, because Talia would rather live free in the forest. So despite the opulence and luxury, Richy knows he couldn't live here either this disconnected from nature.

Richy sets the picnic basket on the table of a three piece dinette set sitting in front the glass doors of the balcony. Then he opens one of the doors and steps out onto the balcony as Talia is setting the table. Then she joins Richy on the balcony.

"I like to come out here at night," she shares with Richy. "You can't see the stars properly, but the lights of the city are pretty… So, what do you have for me besides your aunt's potato salad?"

"Well," says Richy leading her back inside where he opens the picnic basket and begins pulling items out, "besides my aunt's potato salad I have my baked three cheese macaroni and fresh fruit salad. The children picked the fruit yesterday from my fruit trees. And we have mixed nuts with dried berries, again from my trees and bushes, a bottle of fresh berry juice blended last night and chilled overnight. And what picnic lunch would be complete without deep fried rabbit?" Richy begins making their plates. "I don't have much in my kitchen or pantry that's store bought, just stuff that's either too difficult to grow or too time consuming to make myself: whole wheat flour, corn meal, rice, whole wheat noodles, whole wheat bread and stuff like that."

In Talia's guest house at the estate, her kitchen cabinet and pantry are basically the same. She wouldn't dream of having cabinets full of processed canned and boxed foods. And when she buys things from the grocery store, she reads the labels carefully to ensure she's buying as natural and healthy as possible.

As Richy sits next to Talia, she picks up a rabbit leg and sinks her teeth in. The crunch is the same as fried chicken. But for Talia and Richy, the flavor and texture of the meat is quite different from chicken.

Talia looks at Richy and ask, "How dull is the domesticated pallet to think this taste just like chicken?"

Richy shrugs as he slips off his flip-flops under the table. "Doesn't taste anything like chicken to me. Rabbit is way better than chicken. Speaking of way better…" Richy forks up a bite of his aunt's redskin potato salad and requests "Open."

Talia opens her mouth and Richy gently guides in the potato salad. Talia closes her eyes as she savors the flavors of the potato salad. After she swallows, she looks at Richy and says, "That is simply divine."

She takes a few more bites of potato salad. Then she ask Richy, "So, what did you do with yourself yesterday?"

Richy washes down a mouth full of food with fruit juice. "I went straight to work. The good thing about Bayberry Falls is there is very little crime since I took over as Sheriff. An occasional speeder, drunk and disorderly conduct once in a while and once in a blue moon we hold a prisoner that's being transported to another location. We patrol our routes, but I didn't feel like patrolling which means I got on Margie's nerves until she went out to patrol her route."

What Richy doesn't tell Talia is just how badly he irritated Margie or what Margie said before she slammed the door on her way out to patrol. Margie yelled at Richy, "Listen here! I know you been bit by the love bug, and ya got bit hard. But find a more constructive way to keep yourself busy besides hanging around here getting on my nerves."

Richy has never been serious about a woman before in his life. The thought that what he was feeling for Talia was more than simple lust hadn't occurred to him until Margie said it. Many thoughts consumed him the rest of the day. If it was love, was it love at first sight, first scent, was there some kind of destiny at work that he had no control over? That lack of control scares Richy. He doesn't like it. Even as he prepared the food to bring to Talia, he tried to talk himself out of coming here to her today. He tried to talk himself out of it up until the moment he stepped into the accounting department and caught her scent. Then that over whelming drive to touch her, taste her and have her took over.

Now he is sitting next to her at the modest dinette and he's calm and happy. Happy to be in her presence. Happy to be guiding the meal by feeding her little bites of food. Happy to see her, smell her, touch her. And there's a satisfaction from knowing she's eating food he grew, he hunted and that he prepared for her. Satisfaction in knowing he was nourishing her body.

Her body, Richy thoughts become about Talia's body and his need of her body. No other woman's body would do. He spots the hickey he left on her neck yesterday morning and runs the back of his finger over it. He kisses it lightly. Then he locks his mouth over the mark and an involuntary moan escapes Talia's mouth.

Richy pulls Talia up with him as he stands. His chair clatters over backwards. Talia laughs at his anxiousness to have her as she pushes Richy an arm's length away toward her bed. He sees her eyes have already gone liquid black with her desire for him as she starts to unbutton his shirt.

Curious, Richy tips Talia's chin up to have a better look at her eyes. "Is this how my eyes look when they change?"

"I don't know," answers Talia. "I can't see what my eyes look like. I can try to look in a mirror, but mirrors reflect images not heat." She slips his shirt off his shoulders. Then she closes her eyes and concentrates for a moment. When she opens her eyes, they're her normal beautiful brown eyes again.

"Why did you do that," ask Richy. "I like the way they look like black ice."

"I want to see you properly," says Talia running a hand over his broad shoulder as she steps behind him. Then she frowns at the claw marks she left on him their first time together. They stretch from his right shoulder diagonally down almost all the way to his Water Tribe tattoo on his lower back.

Talia traces a finger down one of the angry pink claw marks. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I did this."

"Don't be sorry." Richy tells Talia, "It didn't really hurt. Hell, I bit you."

Talia kisses one of the angry pink claw marks as she reaches around Richy and undoes his pants. She slides his pants and boxer shorts down to the floor and pulls his bare feet through, helping him step out of his clothing. She steps back around in front of him and takes a step back away from him to admire his physique as well as his rising interest in her. She slips off her grey suit coat, revealing the silver blouse is cut tank top style. She hangs the coat neatly over the back of her chair and pulls the silver blouse over her head revealing a crimson bra that makes Richy's eyes pop. She then hangs the blouse neatly over the chair with the coat. Then she pulls down the zipper at the back of her skirt and steps out of it revealing crimson boy-cut panties that match the bra.

Richy's verbal response is "Good golly." His physical response, besides his raging hard on, is a ripple through his skin from his head to his toes.

Talia places a finger in the center of his well-chiseled chest and pushes him back onto the bed. She smiles knowing Richy can't take his eyes off of her as she undoes the clasp at the front the bra slipping it off and tossing it over the back of the chair with the rest of her clothes. Then she slides the panties off and adds them with a toss to the rest of her clothes.

Talia slowly crawls over Richy. Her shoulders do a cat-like roll. She pauses to lick one of his nipples and slides her tongue up his neck, nips his chin and captures his mouth with her own. It's difficult for Richy to be patient while Talia takes the lead. He's done most of the dominating and guiding Talia. But he can't stop himself from guiding Talia down onto him. He just can't wait to be inside her. And as she slides down over him, he pushes up with his hips.

Talia sets a steady rolling pace with her hips. She smiles at Richy as she tells him, "It's not fair the way I crave your body."

"Unfair to you, what about me," he responds and pulls her down by her neck for a devouring kiss. Her slow pace is driving him crazy. He rolls her over onto her back because he can't take her torturously sweet pace anymore.

Richy finds himself lying over Talia propped on one elbow looking down into her eyes. Her legs are still quivering on either side of him. There's something he wants to say, but he doesn't know what it is.

"What's the matter," ask Talia concerned. "You look like you want to say something."

Richy gets to his feet and pulls her up. "Nothing. Let's clean up. I know you need to get back to work."

They take a quick shower together. They tuck all the left overs into her uncle's refrigerator. She won't have to decide what to have for dinner. Then she escorts Richy and his picnic basket all the way out the front entrance of Devonshire Tower. Richy sits the picnic basket on the sidewalk at his feet. As they wait for the valet to return with Richy's vehicle, he embraces Talia tightly, inhaling her scent deeply. On the way down in the elevator, he asked her when she would be heading back, and she assured him she would be on her way by lunch time tomorrow and she reminded him she will visit her brother and nephews before she makes her way to him.

Richy misses her already. He takes her face in his hands and kisses her very slowly and very deeply, savoring her flavor. The kiss makes Talia feel precious and cherished. But the look in his eyes as he straightens up from kissing her makes her heart ache.

The valet clears his throat. "Your vehicle, sir."

"Thank you," says Richy to the valet without taking his eyes from Talia's eyes. Then he tells Talia, "I'll be waiting for you."

Talia nods. "I never over stay my welcome with my tribe."

Richy smiles. "Good." He picks up the picnic basket, takes a step toward his vehicle, then leans back and gets another quick kiss from Talia. She watches him get into his vehicle and they give each other a wave as he pulls away.

The doorman steps up next to Talia and tells her, "That man is desperately and hopelessly in love with you."

"Do you really think so, Mr. Shaw," asks Talia turning earnestly to the doorman.

The doorman smiles at Talia knowingly. "Well look at you, Ms. Devonshire. You're just as gone for him as he is for you."

"I am," ask Talia putting her hands over her heart.

"Don't look so scared," the doorman tells Talia.

"Scared," repeats Talia. "I'm terrified."

Mr. Shaw, the doorman, takes Talia gently by the shoulders and tells her, "Don't be. There's nothing to be afraid of. You just follow your heart. Everything will be fine."

Talia nods. "Thank you, sir."

Mr. Shaw opens the door and Talia steps inside. Mr. Shaw thinks the best part about working here is Talia. People don't censor their conversations as they walk past doorpersons and valets. He's heard all kinds of horrible things about wild folks. And he knows it's all bullshit, because he knows Ms. Talia Devonshire. She must be the most intelligent person he's ever met, and just as kind and thoughtful too. So what if she prefers to go barefooted. He likes to go barefoot himself occasionally. To him, Ms. Talia Devonshire is one of the finest people in existence.

"You don't think that guy's after her money," the valet ask Mr. Shaw concerned as he watches Talia get on the elevator through the glass front of Devonshire Tower.

"Naw," answers Mr. Shaw with a shake of his head. "My hunch, kid, is he's wild too. He's like Ms. Devonshire, one foot in each world… Damn."

"What," ask the valet turning to see what Mr. Shaw sees.

Mr. Shaw answers, "It's that asshole, Lance Drumpt, walking this way… …Mr. Drumpt, good to see you, sir." He opens the door for Lance. "Welcome to Devonshire Tower."

"Yeah, yeah," Lance grumbles as he enters the building not fully acknowledging Mr. Shaw.

Mr. Shaw tells the valet, "Now that one's bad news. He comes from a good family, but he's a gold digger. Best thing Ms. Devonshire ever did was dump him."

Lance Drumpt is in a bad mood. He's sure that he can win Talia back, but he keeps missing her when she's in the city. Someone has finally called him to inform him Talia is in the office and to rub his face in the fact that a tall dark haired man showed up with flowers, a picnic lunch and was seen sticking his tongue down Talia's throat. He slams the doors to the accounting department behind himself. No one was expecting the news that Talia had a male visitor who wasn't a client or business associate to reach him so fast. Obviously someone, somebody in the office called to gossip with felt Lance needed this information ASAP. Jude wonders if he was awake when he got the call, or if the phone woke him up.

Lance stops at Jude's desk and tells her, "I told you to call me when she came in."

Jude is undaunted as she replies, "Mr. Drumpt, you seem to fail to realize that I don't work for you." If Jude worked anyplace else, she would have just gotten herself fired. Lance Drumpt isn't an important Drumpt. He's the current bane of the family. But it doesn't bother him to go running to daddy, and his father is still holding out hope that he'll get his act together and be more like his older brother and younger sister.

Lance's face turns red with anger. He skirts Jude's desk and enters Talia's office unannounced slamming the door behind him.


Talia leans back in her chair and unenthusiastically responds, "Hello, Lance."

Lance's angry scent fills the room. "Hello, Lance… I propose, down on one knee and everything in front of all those people: my parents, your grandparents, my grandfather, and you walk away without a word. Not even a 'Can I think it over?' You don't return my calls, emails or texts. And your secretary was just rude to me."

Talia finds it amusing that Jude was rude to Lance and a demure little Mona Lisa smile sneaks onto her face. "I'll have a talk with my administrative assistant about her behavior. As for your proposal, I thought my answer was obvious when I walked away from you without a word and didn't come back, no. And as for not returning your messages, there was no reason for me to do so. There's nothing to discuss. It's not like we had a real relationship."

Talia can smell Lance's anger rise as he comes toward her desk. "What do you mean 'not a real relationship'? We'd been seeing each other for four years!"

It was actually six plus years, but Talia's not going to correct him. "And how many other women did you see while you were seeing me? If you can't remember, I'll tell you."

Lance is thrown off. "Did you have me followed?"

"No." Talia taps her nose. "I could smell them on you, even after you showered and brushed your teeth. The smell of sex lingers for up to three days afterward."

Lance suddenly feels stupid. He knew wild people had an acute sense of smell. But Talia's not a hundred percent wild, she's a quarter tame. Still, he had no idea her nose was that sensitive. "If you were upset about the women, why didn't you say something? It's not like they meant anything to me. I was just sowing some wild oats."

Lance has moved too close for comfort, so Talia gets out of her chair and steps away. "What was I supposed to say? 'Damn, that one smells nasty. You're gonna need a shot of synthocillan behind that one.' Besides, it wasn't the sowing of your wild oats that bothered me. It was the fact that you lied about it to me, as if I can't smell a lie."

"You can smell when someone's lying," ask Lance shocked.

"Yes," answers Talia rolling her eyes. "If you had really taken the time to get to know me, you'ld know that. The only person you managed to lie to successfully was yourself. Your other mistake: all the public areas in this building are monitored by digital cameras with microphones. You weren't exactly discrete in some of your conversations in the elevators and halls. So I know exactly what you think of me, my family, my heritage, my money. My money has been the important part for you."

Lance reaches for Talia, and she steps out of his reach. "Listen," insists Lance, "maybe in the beginning it was true. And when guys get around other guys, they talk shit. Every man wants other men to respect him, to think he's The Man. All men do it."

"You believe that." Talia shakes her head. "You believe all men go around lying like that all the time… You're wrong. I know too many honest men, including your own father, to be dumb enough to think something like that. And if the males you choose to hang out with are like this, you need new friends."

Lance thinks Talia's right about him needing new friends. But about his father, "My father is the biggest liar I know. I'll never be good enough for him."

"That's not true," Talia tells Lance, "Your father loves you. He believes you have the potential to do something wonderful with your life. He's not looking for you to be like your ancestor, Dommond. But here you are, thirty-three years old and still caught up in your blind, selfish teenage rebellion. You got yourself kicked out of the best schools and universities…"

"He just wanted to get rid of me," responds Lance upset. "That's why he kept sending me away."

Talia can't believe how blind Lance is to his own father's love. "He was trying to provide you with the best education that money could buy. He was trying to set you up for a successful, happy life. It doesn't matter to him if you join the family business or whatever as long as you're not wasting your life, wasting your talents, like you've been doing for years. Now tell me, what woman in her right mind would accept a proposal from a man who drinks too much, cheats on her, lies to her and steals from his own family?"

Lance knows the answer to her question, but he's not going to answer her question. "Okay, I have flaws. Nobody's perfect. But you just threw away four years like it was nothing. You're not perfect either. Drumpt men have been known for marrying tall gorgeous super models. You're short and when I proposed, you were fat."

Talia was a good fourty pounds heavier when Lance proposed. Domesticated living hadn't been good for her waist line, lack of physical activity and domesticated food had made her over weight. But she wasn't obese. It wasn't a jiggly jelly kind of fat. On Talia the extra weight had been shapely. But the extra pounds had left behind some stretch marks on her upper arms by her underarms, on her hips and upper thighs, on her bottom and a few on her calves at the back of her knees.

Yet Lance calling her fat still hurts Talia's feelings and she retaliates with, "I didn't throw away anything. We never even had sex Mister I'm Sorry I've Creamed My Jeans Again. All you were good for was to have as an escort on my arm at charity events, formal dinner, etc. You got to brag about pulling the wool over my eyes, or talked shit about me to your friends, or whatever made you feel like 'The Man,' fine. But there was never anything significant between us, not even sex. You were doing that with every female you got near except me."

Lance finally manages to get Talia by her wrist and tells her, "Damn it, Talia. I was hoping to get past that with you. You don't know how shitty it makes a guy feel when he has an accident like that. Half of the women I cheated with were just to prove to myself there wasn't something wrong with me."

"So what were the other half," asks Talia, "practice?"

"Bad decisions," answers Lance shaking his head as he holds on tightly to Talia's wrist. "They were all bad decisions. I was drunk at parties with friends. So drunk I don't even remember their names if I even asked their names. You're the only woman that's ever insisted I be sober to touch you. I don't think I've ever done it sober."

"Well, you couldn't hit the hole drunk. And my nose is sensitive. I couldn't stand to kiss you with the smell of alcohol on your breath. Now, let me go, Lance," says Talia as she circles back toward her desk and stretches away from Lance.

"I know I wasn't satisfying you." Lance tightens his grip on Talia's wrist and tries to pull her close. "I'm sorry. I know you had to find someone else to take care of your needs. But I'm not mad about it or anything. I understand. At least you knew how to be discreet so I never heard anything." He tries to touch the hickey on her neck and she shoves his hand away with her free hand.

"Is he someone new," asks Lance. "I always figured you were getting it on with some wild guy in the woods near your estate."

Talia is finally back within reach of her desk. She hits the intercom button and shouts, "Jude, call security."

Jude obeys immediately. But this pause to communicate with Jude cost Talia. Lance grabs a hand full of her hair at the back of her head with his free hand. He lets go of her wrist to grab her waist and pull her against him. He has an erection. It's not a Richy size erection, but Talia doesn't like it any more than she did six years ago. Her dilemma is she could easily defend herself against Lance. It wouldn't even require her to alter her form in any way. Despite her petite stature, she possesses the strength and skill to easily over power Lance. She could snap his neck like a twig if she chose to. Lance has no idea exactly how much danger he is in.

Problem is, if Talia defends herself too vigorously, it could cause a lot of trouble. If the police are called, it would be bad publicity for Devonshire World Law. Hurting Lance would be bad for business because they handle nearly all of Drumpt's legal affairs. Then there's the matter of bad publicity for her people. The wrong action could cause a wild people attack panic. Talia's only option is to just barely hold Lance off until security arrives.

Talia evades Lance's attempt to kiss her and he says, "Come on Talia, just give me a chance. I've been sober for over a year."

"Let me go, Lance."

Lance only tightens his grip on Talia and manages to lick her collar bone. Talia's small hands are balled into fists and she pushes against Lance's chest gaining a valuable few inches. Except Lance isn't giving up, he slides the hand round Talia's waist down and gets a good handful of her bottom.

"Talia, don't fight me," insist Lance, "I know we can be good together. I don't drink any more. I won't cheat on you. You can even keep your little boyfriend."

Talia grits through her teeth, "If my 'little boyfriend' were here, he'd rip you a new one."

Talia's uncle rushes into her office followed by two big beefy security guards. Uncle Bob commands Lance, "Release her this instant."

Lance releases Talia and is pushed back several steps by Talia. Uncle Bob embraces her and she gladly clings to him. He asks Lance outraged, "Have you lost your mind?"

"Mr. Devonshire, I…" but Lance doesn't get to finish.

"I don't want to hear your excuses for manhandling my niece," Uncle Bob tells Lance. "You are no longer welcome in Devonshire Tower. These two gentlemen will escort you out."

"Talia," Lance implores, "I really believe we could have something special together."

"You had your chance to establish something special with me," Talia tells Lance. "And just for the record, I never cheated on you."

Lance feels like a total asshole. It was stupid of him to assume that if he was cheating, she must be cheating too. He knows Talia doesn't lie. He shakes his head defeatedly and apologizes, "I'm sorry. I'll show myself out."

Uncle Bob nods to the two security guards and they follow Lance out. Then he asks Talia concerned, "Are you alright?"

Talia leans back against the edge of her desk as she answers, "I'm fine. He didn't hurt me." She takes a deep cleansing breath and exhales, "What a jackass."

Uncle Bob sits next to Talia on her desk and puts an arm around her. "A much bigger jackass than I realized. I wonder what set him off."

Talia shrugs and leans her head on his shoulder. "Someone must have called him and told him I was in. He was already angry when he came through the door uninvited. He saw the hickey on my neck. So he knows I'm seeing someone… Uncle Bob, this could have been something really ugly and horrible. Richy just left less than fifteen minutes before Lance showed up."

"Really," says Uncle Bob surprised. "Did you two have lunch?"

"Yeah," answers Talia with a smile. "He brought a picnic lunch for us. And he brought me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. I can't wait for you to see them. They're in a vase in the penthouse."

Uncle Bob is delighted to see Talia so happy. "Do you know if your young sheriff has a tux?"

"I don't think so," answers Talia. "He didn't have one in his closet, but he might have one stored somewhere in his house."

"Well," Uncle Bob goes on not discouraged, "tuxes are easy enough to obtain. Listen, I know you've never been fond of attending formal dinners and such, but we've been invited to a charity ball at the Dommond. It's in four weeks. Seeing you and Richy together would reinforce for Lance that you're unavailable."

Talia sighs. She hasn't attended a formal social event since Lance's proposed. "I'll discuss it with Richy. But I'm not promising anything."

"You'll have to forgive my selfishness," Uncle Bob tells Talia. "I like having you around. If Richy will escort you, you could both come out a day or two before the event. It would give me a chance to get to know Richy better. If he doesn't have a tux, I could take him to pick one out. Jude and Sally could help you pick out a dress."

"And shoes," adds Talia unhappily. "I hate shoes."

Uncle Bob chuckles amused. "Do you think that officer, Margie, might be available to go with me?"

Talia shrugs. "It can't hurt for you to call and ask."

Uncle Bob nods his head decisively. "I'll do just that." He stands up from the edge of her desk. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Talia nods affirmatively as she answers, "Yeah. I'm just glad Richy was already on his way back to Bayberry Falls. I don't think he could have kept his cool. When he first got here he growled at a couple of the guys on my staff."

"He's a little possessive," comments Uncle Bob concerned.

Talia smiles wryly. "Not any more possessive than I am apparently. The misunderstanding between me and Cougar's wife, Sheila, where I mistook her for a home invasion intruder (sigh)… I didn't mistake her for a home invasion intruder exactly. When I grabbed her, I checked her for Richy's scent."

Uncle Bob asks surprised, "Why?"

Talia looks a bit distress as she answers, "I'm not sure exactly. I just know it would have been bad if Richy's scent had been on her."

Uncle Bob asks concerned and curious, "What would you have done if Richy's scent had been on her?"

Talia looks down at the floor away from Uncle Bob as she answers guiltily, "Something bad… Not because I wanted to, because I wouldn't have been able to stop myself… I don't know how to explain it. When I grabbed Sheila, I wasn't driving. Instinct was driving and I was just along for the ride."

"It doesn't sound like a fun ride," comments Uncle Bob trying to imagine what it felt like.

Talia shakes her head and shares, "It's disturbing."

Uncle Bob nods his understanding to that. "So are you going to head out tonight?"

Talia shakes her head no.

"Then I'll see you at dinner tonight," he tells her as he exits her office.

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