Cat Scratch Fever by Sophie Mouette

Cat Scratch Fever by Sophie Mouette

Cat Scratch Fever

by Sophie Mouette

Little Kisses Press

eBook ISBN: 9781301593804
Print ISBN: 978-148933442

What Felicia doesn’t need: Someone sabotaging the make-or-break benefit that could mean the future of the sanctuary. She especially doesn’t need ultra-sexy Gabe Sullivan from the Zoological Association sniffing around, wielding the authority to close the cash-strapped exotic cat breeding facility.

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Chapter One

Felicia DuBois was at a critical moment when her cell phone started ringing—the critical moment when Bob (or was it Rob?) had finally extricated her from her skirt and silk knit tee shirt and tossed her, clad only in a blue satin bra and Brazilian-cut panties, onto the flowered hotel comforter.
She sent a mental message at her phone—Go away—and tried to keep her focus on the tall, blond man exploring her body for the first time.
“You’re not answering that, are you?” It might have been a question, but the way his big hand stroked at the damp satin crotch of her panties as he said it made it purely rhetorical. In response, she growled under her breath and raised her hips to encourage his touch.
Bob-or-Rob grinned smugly. “So wet already. What a bad girl.” His fingers circled slowly, not moving under the thin fabric of the panties, teasing her engorged clit.
Desperate was more like it, but Felicia wasn’t about to say that. Desperate not just for sex, although it had been far too long, but for the momentary oblivion it offered, the distraction from work-related worries.
Like the cell phone relentlessly ringing on the hotel nightstand. It had gone to voicemail once, but the caller, apparently as desperate to reach her as she was to avoid being reached, must have hit redial right away.
Yes, she was desperate all right, desperate enough that when a broad-shouldered stranger with a Texas drawl had hit on her at Brennan’s, she’d said yes. He hadn’t talked to her much before making an offer; she figured he’d gotten as far as long legs, green eyes, and wavy brown hair and decided that was enough. He hadn’t even asked what she did for a living—and that complete lack of interest in her real life, in anything beyond a quick fuck, seemed to offer the temporary oblivion she craved in a more interesting way than overpriced Sauvignon Blanc would.
If only he (Bob—she was pretty sure the name was Bob, not Rob, but, to be on the safe side, she mumbled and ended up with “Ob” when she felt the need to moan a name) would stop toying with her and get down to business.
“Lick me,” she begged, spreading her legs wider, raising one leg to allow him better access.
“Relax!” he said playfully, continuing to stroke her through her panties. “We’ve got all night.”
Actually, they didn’t. She had a hot date with an event press release and a grant proposal, because heaven forbid a day at the office should actually give her enough uninterrupted time to write anything.
But he didn’t need to know that. Not now, not when the phone had finally stopped ringing and the movement of his fingers was driving her crazy.
He pushed aside the thin strip of fabric that covered her smoothly waxed sex. The touch of the air alone made her arch her back and mewl. That was a good thing, because for a second the air was the only thing that was touching her. She writhed on the bed, heard herself making incoherent pleading noises.
“Don’t worry, honey—I’ll take good care of you.”
“Then do it,” she hissed. A part of Felicia’s brain that was still functional and detached realized that normally his smugness would have turned her off. Then again, she supposed that, if she hadn’t been close to losing her mind, she wouldn’t have picked up a smug stranger at Brennan’s. She usually preferred playing with friends.
Alas, she was just clean out of fuck-buddies at the moment.
There were some interesting prospects amongst her co-workers at the Southern California Cat Sanctuary, but the fact that they also worked there meant they were as stressed as she was, and not everyone would consider wild no-strings-attached sex with a co-worker to be a good stress-management tactic.
No. No thinking about work. Must get back into the moment. Back to a place where all rational thought disappeared and there was nothing left but a throbbing sex, sensitive nipples, the spiral toward orgasm.
She took his hand, guided it where she needed it to go.
The phone rang again.
She cursed and then said, “Could you hand me that damn thing? I’m going to shut it off like I should have in the first place.”
When he did, though, she saw the number: the security office at SCCS.
“Shit!” She scrambled upright. “I’ve got to take this.”
*
Felicia ran toward the ocelot enclosure, her high heels clicking on the pavement. After a warm day, the temperature had dropped abruptly. The cool desert night air felt good on her heated skin, but not so good on her sopping panties.
She’d expected Alan, the night security guy, to be there waiting to show her the damaged lock that had allowed several of the adventurous little cats to escape.
She hadn’t expected to see José Martinez, the zoo’s vet—or the small, spotted form stretched out on the grass.
“No!” She stopped so abruptly she almost tottered over, not daring to move closer to what might be a dead or gravely injured animal.
“It’s all right, Felicia.” José stood up, and stepped toward her. He reached out his hand as if to touch her reassuringly, then noticed the blood on his gloves and pulled back. “Magnolia just has a cut paw, nothing serious. I’ll be taking her inside to stitch her up in a minute.”
“But she’s so still.” Seeing the usually alert Magnolia motionless, yet with her eyes open, made Felicia queasy.
“I had to trank her. She was panicking and wasn’t going to let me near her otherwise.”
José’s deep, gentle voice had a hypnotic effect on her, much the same as it would have on a nervous animal. As he spoke, she could feel some of the adrenaline draining from her body.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was easy to look at: a dark-skinned, broad-shouldered man with salt-and-pepper hair and soft brown eyes. He was definitely older, but not old enough to be her father—maybe her naughty young uncle, the one she would have had a crush on when she was a girl. The uncle who wasn’t really a blood uncle, so she could act on the attraction.
What was she thinking?
It wasn’t the first time she’d noticed her colleague was handsome. Looking at him had allowed her to wile away many a boring staff meeting, back when SCCS still had boring staff meetings instead of ones that were heart-pounding in a “Will we be able to stay open another month?” way. But what was racing through her mind now was several steps beyond her previous idle fancies. This was not the time to start speculating about what José was like in bed.
Even though her underwear needed to be wrung out after her earlier adventure and she was so on edge she’d consider jumping him—or just about any other attractive male—on the spot.
Breathe deeply and concentrate. “Did any of the other ocelots get out?”
“Captain did,” Alan chimed in. Thank goodness for his solid, middle-aged presence—and his homely face and slightly crossed eyes, which she made herself focus on. “He was up a tree. I thought we were going to have to call Mel.”
“But you know Captain,” José added. “A little bit of meat and a little wheedling and he’ll go to anyone.”
Captain had been an illegal pet, rescued and brought to the Sanctuary, and he still wanted to crawl into people’s laps. Captain was one of her best fundraising tools.
José turned back to check on the cat. “Magnolia’s completely out now,” he said softly. “I’ll go take care of her.” He scooped the limp ocelot up in his arms, cradling her gently, and headed off to the medical center.
Felicia felt an unworthy flash of envy for the creature about to receive close, loving attention from José. Even stitches might have something to recommend them if José was doing the stitching.
Okay, she’d draw the line at actual stitches, but playing doctor with José would be fun. She imagined herself spread-eagled on the big steel table in the medical center while he “examined” her in loving detail.
The image went straight to her clit, jolting her with a force that made her rock her hips forward.
This needed to stop. She had work to do. Taking a deep breath to steady her voice, she asked Alan, “So, what happened?”
Alan glanced away briefly, watching José fading into the darkness, then looked back at Felicia. “I did my usual rounds after closing time to make sure all the visitors were gone. Everything was fine. All the enclosures were locked up and no one was on site except Mel and one of her volunteers finishing up the evening feeding. I walked with them on the last bit of that and locked the main gate behind them.”
“About what time was that?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t notice. It was twilight, so maybe seven.”
About the time she was starting to chat up Rob/Bob.
“Then I took a look at the Pallas’ cat kittens. They were just waking up for the night and I must have lost track of time watching them. They’re so cute—like an alien tried to re-create a house cat and didn’t get it quite right.” Alan looked away, as if embarrassed to be caught in his fascination with the nocturnal Central Asian cats.
Despite her worry, Felicia smiled at that. Alan, a retired cop from a neighboring town, had taken the job to supplement his retirement pay, but obviously cared for the animals now as much as any of them did.
“The next time I passed the ocelot enclosure again it was around eight-thirty. That was when I saw it was open.”
“Did you actually see Mel lock it after feeding? The ocelots are smart enough to push the door open if it was just closed over.”
Alan closed his eyes as if trying to reconstruct the earlier scene. After an interval that seemed longer than it actually was, he opened them again and shook his head. “I didn’t see her, but we’re talking about Mel. She’s always a hundred percent where the cats are concerned. Even if security has had to let her into her own office more often than the rest of the staff put together.”
Felicia nodded slowly. She’d thought that herself, but Mel was a close friend and it was good to have confirmation from someone more neutral.
“I didn’t want to bother you at first,” he added. “But obviously I had to get José. He said I’d better contact you or the director, and the director…” He didn’t finish his sentence, but Felicia could fill in: The director needs the stress right now even less than you do. The Sanctuary was Katherine’s baby. The rest of them risked losing their jobs if it closed down; Katherine would lose her purpose in life. “And then, when we were waiting for you, I noticed this.” He beckoned her closer and shined his flashlight on the lock.
It was badly scratched around the keyhole.
It took Felicia a few seconds to take it in. Her brain was still swimming, sex and stress hormones and the long-ago glass of wine she’d had at Brennan’s conspiring together to make clear thought difficult. “You think someone picked it?” she finally asked.
Alan nodded. “It sure looks that way. The main gate was locked—José had to unlock it because he’d gone out to grab dinner—but that could have been someone covering tracks.”
At the idea of a police investigation and the inevitable publicity, Felicia’s head cleared abruptly. “Don’t call the police,” she ordered.
“But…” Then Alan’s eyes narrowed with understanding. “It’s the fundraiser, right? You don’t want a ruckus this close to the fundraiser.”
“I want to talk to Katherine and the board chair before getting the police involved. Bad publicity would kill us right now. And this may be nothing. Maybe Mel thought the volunteer locked up and the volunteer thought she had. The scratches could just be from years of opening and closing the cage in the dark.”
“Could be.” Alan didn’t sound convinced.
Felicia wasn’t either. Even without the police background that made Alan notice the forced lock, she could smell something fishy. But the local media had already been having a field day over the Zoological Association investigating their financial problems. She didn’t want to throw any more fuel on the fire.
“The Zoological Association! Shit!” she exclaimed and darted off toward the medical building, as Alan stared after her in bewilderment.
Despite her precipitous dash over, she entered the building quietly, not wanting to disturb José at a delicate moment. He didn’t even look up as she entered, intent on his small patient. Stretched out to her full length on a table big enough to accommodate a tiger, absolutely limp, but with her eyes open and staring at nothing, Magnolia looked like road kill.
The surge of protective anger that went through Felicia astonished her. She might not be able to call the police right now, but she was going to get to the bottom of what happened. If it were deliberate vandalism… Oh, payback would be sweet.
Finally, José finished with the ocelot, looked up, and acknowledged her presence. “Open the cage door, please,” he asked. Felicia complied and held it as he settled the sedated cat comfortably on a pile of towels.
“She’ll be fine,” he said as he stripped off his gloves and washed his hands. “She only needed a few stitches. I’ll just keep her here a day or two so she stays off the paw.”
“I knew she was in good hands, José.” Very good hands indeed. She found herself studying them as he washed them, wondering what those deft dark fingers could do to her.
The vet stifled a yawn. “I’ll do my reports in the morning. It’s not that late, but I’m exhausted.”
“Could you hold off on the reports a while longer?”
He turned to stare at her. At first, he looked uncomprehending. Then he chuckled softly. “You mean ‘lose’ the copy that’s supposed to go to the Zoological Association? I’d love to. I still don’t understand where they’re getting off, sending someone to check up on us. They say themselves that our animal care is first-rate; who cares if the buildings are shabby?”
“If they want us to repair the facilities so badly, they should give us the fucking money. Nice shiny buildings won’t do much good if we have to shut down.” And to her horror, Felicia felt tears coming to her eyes.
God, she really was overtired. There was no way she was going to do any work at home tonight. A hot bath and bed.
When he put his hand on her shoulder, though, she had to steel herself to keep her face impassive. The touch, merely friendly as it was, resonated right through her.
“It’ll be okay,” he said in his soothing voice. “You’ve got a great committee for the fundraiser. We’re all behind you.”
“The Barbery Foundation isn’t.” She sent a curse in the general direction of their former largest funder, who had cut them off without any warning. “The Zoological Association isn’t. Whoever let the ocelots out and hurt Magnolia isn’t.”
“That’s one thing we don’t need to worry about. No one hurt Magnolia. She stepped on a sharp bit of gravel—it was still in the cut when I got here. And she’s going to be fine.” José made a movement as if he wanted to hug her against his broad chest.
Out of the corner of her eye, Felicia could see the big steel operating table. Despite wanting very much to have hysterics, José’s closeness, the heat of his body, and the table that had been the setting of her earlier fantasy were affecting her. She could see herself stepping into his arms, rubbing herself against him, reaching for his cock.
“That’s a relief!” she said, pretending not to notice his body language. Instead of leaning into the hug and anything else it might entail, she angled herself away from him so she could scratch Magnolia through the bars of the cage. “This is sad; I’d almost rather have her trying to bite me like she usually would. But her fur’s so soft. I can’t resist stealing a chance to touch her.”
Felicia could still feel her clit pulsing and her nipples straining against her bra, but the critical seconds had come and gone. She’d maintained professionalism.
Barely, anyway. And that, she told herself, was more important than a hot fling.
Her brain believed it, even though parts of her were chiming in with another opinion.
*
By the time she was partway home, she was wishing she’d taken the risk. Now that the immediate crisis had passed, horniness seemed to have taken over all the brain cells it had been occupying. Her whole body ached with frustrated desire. Fantasies were coming between her and the road—Bob-from-Texas, José, various ex-boyfriends, Antonio Banderas, Jude Law, and that guy who’d played Spike on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer doing her in every possible way and some which might not be possible but were pretty hot to imagine.
Finally, on a lonely stretch of Desert Canyon Road, Felicia pulled over, turned off her lights, and opened her moon roof to let in the cool, piñon-scented night air. Heart pounding, she raised her skirt over her hips and wriggled out of her soaked panties. She hiked up her shirt and unfastened the front hook on her bra, letting her over-sensitized breasts pop free.
Exposing herself to the stars, she clasped both nipples and began to twist and knead. Sometimes a slow, light build-up was good, but overheated as she was, she craved the kind of stimulation she liked when she was about to come, a little harsher and more direct; an edge of what might be called pain, except it felt too damn good.
The good feelings flowed down her body, pooling between her legs. Her hips began to rock as if she were fucking thin air, but she continued to concentrate on her nipples, first twisting them like taffy, then caressing them more gently. Her juices had been flowing before, but she could feel herself getting wetter.
Faces, bodies, cocks flashed through her mind. She couldn’t settle on one so she conjured up an imaginary gang-bang: Antonio Banderas in her mouth, Bob-from-Texas caressing her clit with excruciating skill, José fucking her hard but tenderly, and an ex-boyfriend who’d been particularly good at such things doing her up the ass. And what the hell, Mel playing with her breasts. Felicia considered herself “straight though not narrow,” but Mel, with her cool, pixie-Asian looks and short-cropped black hair, was cute enough to nudge her toward “mostly straight,” at least in her fantasy life.
Her posse of imaginary lovers in place, Felicia moved one hand between her legs. Two fingers plunged inside while her thumb worked on her clit. Oh yes, good, but not quite good enough. She relinquished her nipple, used the freed hand on her clit, and adjusted the other so she could caress her ass as well.
Her mouth worked as if she had a cock in it.
Picturing the scene with as much detail as she could—José’s warm, spicy smell and deep voice; the noises her ex used to make when he was buried deep in her ass; Antonio Banderas’ sexy accent; Mel’s small, calloused hands—she worked herself over. Her internal muscles milked at her fingers and she tried to imagine how José would move faster when he felt that, pound into her to bring them both over the edge.
That image was doing it. She was so close…
The gunning of a motor jerked her back from the edge of the abyss. Startled, she saw headlights in her rear-view mirror.
The truck slowed as it got to her, probably wondering why she was at the side of a deserted road and whether she needed help. She motioned him by.
It was only after he’d passed that she realized she hadn’t pulled her skirt back down.
Well, if he’d gotten an eyeful, more power to him.
Once her heart rate got back to normal, she cleaned herself up with some paper napkins she’d found in the glove box and rearranged her clothes into something resembling propriety. As tempting as it was to continue, that had been too close a call. Getting herself arrested for indecent exposure would most definitely not help SCCS’s publicity.
Grinding her teeth, she slammed the car into gear. Now her only goal was to not get arrested for speeding on the way home.

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