Love runs wild at the Sagebrush Flats Zoo…
A flicker of softness flashed in Magnus’s blue eyes before they froze over again. “I don’t talk about that isle, lass.”
All of June’s carefully constructed arguments blew from her mind as frustrated anger swept through her. The man was as bullheaded as a groundhog after a fresh tomato. “You wrote an entire book about it.”
“It was a purge.”
“Did you just call your bestseller an enema?”
“You are a complicated man, Magnus Gray.”
“Nay. Just a simple bloke who likes peace, quiet, and a good tattie scone.”
Although June fully believed the man liked solitude and Scottish cooking, she didn’t buy his first claim. The reclusive author had depths greater than Loch Ness that hid mysteries even bigger than a fabled sea monster. Although June excelled at charting a person’s personality within minutes of meeting them, she still couldn’t fathom this man.
“Good day.” With that parting salvo, Magnus Gray started to turn and walk away from June for a fourth time in a row. Before he could take one step, however, everything broke loose in the form of cloven-footed critters.
Honey’s nose twitched as she watched the Giant One and the Blond One. She respected the devious spark lurking in the woman’s green eyes. And she’d been monitoring the hulking newcomer since his arrival. Unlike the careless Fluffy, Honey knew how to conceal her presence. The Giant One had no idea she’d stalked him for days.
He intrigued her. He was not like most weak-willed humans who craved the company of their own kind. The Giant One preferred solitude, just like honey badgers.
Since her arrival at the zoo, Honey had been watching for suitable adversaries. Although the young female cougars had the speed and agility to keep her reflexes limber, they lacked foresight and cunning. The grizzly was elderly and slow. And the rest of the animals did not interest her. Unfortunately, the human keepers did not provide the same amusement as her old biped. They were too pleasant.
But these two were different. They reminded Honey of bees, full of energy as they buzzed at each other. Yes, these two could sting if properly motivated.
Honey smiled as she scurried up a pole of the goat pen. With one swift nudge of her nose, she lifted the latch. Hanging on to the gate, she used her body weight to swing it open. The silly goats immediately bolted for the exit.
Honey shimmied back to the ground. The Giant One was busy tripping over the horned creatures, but the Blond One stood upright. As Honey scampered away, she made sure the female spied her. It was time to make her presence known. After all, what was the point of starting a game if her opponent didn’t know she was a player?
Magnus was not sure what had happened. One moment he was arguing with the barmy lass, and the next, he was surrounded by a blasted herd of bleating, screaming goats. He’d just started to pivot away from June when two kids darted between his legs. The blighted things must have mistaken him for some sort of shelter as they twined about his ankles. Caught off-balance, he felt his massive frame sway. He couldn’t right himself without stepping on one of the cloven beasties. And, as much as goats annoyed him, he didn’t wish to crush them under his weight.
Twisting his body, he managed to avoid them, but he ended up crashing to the gravel path with a painful thump. Since Magnus couldn’t use his arms to brace his fall, his back collided with the ground, knocking the wind out of him. As he lay gasping like a landed sea trout, one of the wee devils climbed on his chest while the other started eating his hair. Magnus could only lie there as he tried sucking air back into his lungs.
Suddenly, June appeared in his vision, her blond hair hanging around her face like a golden curtain. For once, mirth didn’t sparkle in her bonny green eyes. To his surprise, real concern shone there instead. If he hadn’t met her already, he’d say she looked like an angel hovering over him.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “You hit the ground pretty hard.”
He would have reassured her, but that would have required oxygen. Her mouth twisted, and she reached down and lifted a bleating goat off his body. That helped, marginally. Using his eyes, he gestured to the one chewing his hair. She removed that one too. “You just breathe easy now, you hear?”
He had no choice but to listen. As he sprawled spread-eagle on the ground, the lass stood guard, a squirming kid under each arm. A couple adult goats tried to clamber on his body, but June shooed them away. It was odd, he thought, having someone watch over him. His da would have called him a muckle nyaff and left him in disgust for tripping over his own feet.
Finally, Magnus could breathe again. He slowly raised himself on his elbows and then almost plopped right back down. The manky goats were all over the path. How had they escaped?
“A honey badger let them out,” June explained.
Magnus swung his gaze toward her in disbelief. A honey badger had caused all this? What would possess the wee beastie to open the pen?
“By its size, I think it was the female, Honey. I saw her darting away just after you fell.”
“Baws.” Magnus finally managed.
“If you’re okay, I’ll go put these two critters back in their home before we get the rest,” June said, lifting the kids in her arms. They bleated loudly in protest. Magnus nodded. As he heaved himself to his feet, June dropped the two bairns back in the paddock.
Sighing heavily, Magnus took after two of the goats. They screamed like banshees and darted away. Magnus swore. He hated chasing the slippery wee devils. Give him a cow or even a pig.
“I don’t think we need to run them down,” June said.
He swung toward her, irritated. He doubted she’d done much farming. “How do you propose we get them back in the pen then, lass?”
She smirked, that gleam back in her green eyes. “Strategy.”
Then, she reached down and grabbed a metal feed bucket hanging from the corner of the pen. She smashed it against the steel gate, the sound ringing sharply through the air. The fainting goats toppled and hopped everywhere, and Magnus had to admit it made corralling them easier.
She grabbed the wee ones, while he hoisted the adults. They had to bang the gate a few more times, but they managed to quickly clear the path of goats. When the last bleating goat was dumped back in its home, Magnus turned to regard his unexpected helper. The cold and the exertion had brought color to June’s cheeks, making her bonnier than ever. She was as fair and delicate as the fae folk in the German tales, and just as devious. And something about her made Magnus wonder what the price of kissing a fairy would be.
Too steep. Much too steep.
Excerpted from Sweet Wild of Mine by Laurel Kerr. © 2019 by Erin Laurel O’Brien. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.