Uses the prompt words: chocolate – movie-tickets – cactus – eyepatch – strap-on – poopastrophy – fluff – dead rat – grumpy – yuck
Told from Gordie’s 3rd-person POV:
“Oh fu…er…yuck!” Definitely not what Gordie had intended to say when Kenton opened his front door, but damn, the wall of stench hitting him smelled like there’d been a dead rat rotting for weeks. “Holy moly. What did you feed that cat?”
“Nothing I’ll ever feed him again, that’s for sure.” Kenton winced and held up a pair of rubber gloves and an assortment of cleaning products. “I was just about to deal with the poopastrophy, so…good timing?”
Gordie laughed. “Of course I’ll help. Trust me, with my job I’m a pro at this.” He lifted the box of chocolate truffles he’d bought for Kenton. “Want me to put this in the kitchen?”
“Thank you! Yes, that would be great.” Kenton leaned across his armload of spray bottles to kiss him. Unfortunately, the cat poop pong permeating the air blocked Kenton’s sexy scent, but the feel of those lips gave Gordie a familiar zing despite the repugnant reek.
“Mmm…Happy Valentine’s Day,” Gordie said.
Kenton grinned. “Captain Jack left you a…present.”
“How thoughtful of him.” Gordie laughed and headed to the kitchen. “Got another pair of those gloves?”
Kenton’s voice drifted from his bedroom. “I think there’s a new pair under the si—oh my god! Jacky, you didn’t need to roll in it!”
Gordie groaned. Good thing he hadn’t bought their movie tickets in advance. The likelihood of getting through their meal in time to make the start of the show was becoming questionable. In fact, they would probably have to cancel their dinner reservations.
In the bedroom, Kenton had his gloves on, holding the wayward kitty at arm’s length. The horror-stricken look on Kenton’s face told Gordie all he needed to know.
“Why don’t I give him a bath while you handle the carpet?” Gordie pulled on the spare gloves and reached for the grumpy, yowling lump of poo-cactus. All the kitten needed was a strap-oneyepatch and he’d make the perfect side-kick for his namesake.
“Would you?” Kenton gagged and turned his head to the side. “Seriously, I’ll love you forever if you handle Jacky.”
Kenton’s body stiffened. Obviously, he hadn’t meant to drop the L-word-bomb in that fashion. Question was, did he regret using the word at all, or only the method?
Gordie straightened his shoulders. Screw it. It was Valentine’s Day, and he had resolved to say the words before the night was over anyway. The feeling had been growing steadily since they’d met shortly before Christmas, and he finally felt comfortable verbalizing it. Maybe—hopefully—he just needed to diffuse the awkwardness of Kenton’s unintentional blurt.
“Challenge accepted.” Gordie smiled widely as he reached for the cat. The tightness in Kenton’s face relaxed, and his return grin reached his eyes.
Captain Jack caterwauled as Kenton passed him over. Gordie raised an eyebrow. “Just wait until you’re in the tub, if you think this is bad, bucko.”
In the end, Gordie wasn’t sure who had the worse time, him or Captain Jack. Or possibly Kenton. Judging by the sounds coming out of the bedroom, he’d had to run a carpet shampooer to finish the job.
At least Kenton had a sprayer option in his spa tub, so that had made it a little easier. He’d set the water pressure low of course, but still, the kitten was…less than pleased.
“All done. Now you smell like the ocean, just like your daddy.” Gordie wrapped the wet kitty in a big towel. “Let’s fluff you back up, Jacky. You’ll be back to normal in no time.”
Kenton was lighting the fireplace when Gordie entered the living room.
“Good idea,” Gordie said. “Jacky could use that extra heat while he dries off.”
Kenton looked up sheepishly. “It means we can’t go out, though. Sorry.”
“I know.” Gordie shrugged as he rubbed Captain Jack. “I figure we’re going to miss our dinner reservation anyway. We can order pizza instead. Netflix and chill?”
“Absolutely. Hold on a sec.” Kenton disappeared into his office and returned with a bouquet of a dozen red roses. “For you.” He set the vase on the coffee table since Gordie still had his hands full of damp kitten.
Gordie sucked in his breath. Did Kenton know what a dozen red roses meant? “They’re beautiful! Thank you so much.”
Kenton moved Captain Jack to a cat bed beside the fireplace, and the kitten promptly began licking his fur. They sat on the sofa facing the cozy blaze, and Gordie put an arm across the back of Kenton’s shoulders.
“I don’t know how I’d have made it through this evening if you hadn’t been here,” Kenton said. “You met that ‘challenge,’ and then some.” He snuggled into Gordie’s side. “Not that it was needed for me to…love you. I already did.”
Gordie turned and pulled Kenton fully into his arms. “I love you, too.”
Kenton’s eyes glimmered above his wide grin. “Despite my date-spoiling kitten?”
“Ah, but without Jacky, I’d be nothing but an unpleasant memory—if you remembered me at all—from that charity auction two months ago.” Gordie kissed the corner of Kenton’s smile. Besides, he felt a special affinity with the wayward kitten that picked the most inopportune times to throw a monkey wrench into the works.
“Makes me doubly glad I adopted him.”
Warmth that couldn’t be explained by the fireplace alone spread through Gordie’s limbs. He answered Kenton’s words with a kiss, for long minutes until his stomach interrupted with a loud rumble, and their laughter broke the lip-lock.
“Pizza first?” Kenton asked with a snicker. “And Netfix?”
Kenton cast a glance at the cute guy with the light brown hair who was bidding against him, then again at his watch. Fifteen minutes was long enough. It was time to place another bid.
Typically, he’d wait until closer to the end of the auction to snipe a last-minute bid rather than jack up the price this early, but his reasoning was twofold. One, this silent auction was a charity event so at least the money was going to a good cause, and two, Cutie-Pie was pinging the hell out of his gaydar even though he was here with a woman.
The pair seemed more like friends than a couple, and the way Mr. Delectable drooled over Captain Jack Sparrow in the Dead Men Tell No Tales framed and signed poster he and Kenton were both bidding on went far beyond what a straight fan would display.
So yeah, he was upping the bid again this early in the game in hopes of catching the man’s notice and using their shared pursuit as a conversation starter—at least see if Mr. Milk-Chocolate-Brown-Eyes might be interested in him, too. He placed his auction identification sticker on the paper and wrote in a ten-dollar increase to the current bid. Judging by the guy’s well-worn although still respectable business-casual wear, his budget might be limited, so Kenton didn’t want to knock him out of the running before getting the chance to connect.
Kenton pointedly avoided looking in the cute guy’s direction as he walked back to where a group of his customers stood talking. He didn’t want to be too obvious, but he stood so his peripheral vision would alert him to activity near the coveted poster.
It didn’t take long before Mr. Floppy-Hair and his gal pal wandered back to it. He seemed relieved at the low increment, but didn’t place a new bid yet. Apparently, he didn’t share Kenton’s interest in a flirtation. The pair wandered away, but Kenton didn’t doubt they’d be back for an eleventh-hour bid.
He put it out of his mind while he schmoozed with customers and made a couple new contacts. Neither Pretty-Boy nor anyone else placed another bid on the Pirates of the Caribbean poster until ten minutes before the end of the auction. That’s when Mr. Adorable-but-Completely-Uninterested slinked back over to make his final bid.
Or at least Kenton hoped it was the man’s final bid because one way or another he was going to win that poster. Mr. Thought-He’d-Outsmarted-Kenton looked up and scanned the room after placing his bid.
No reason Kenton couldn’t be good-mannered even if the guy was obviously not attracted to him, so he beamed a friendly smile when the guy’s gaze landed on him and zig-zagged around tables laden with all manner of self-indulgent extravagances and a plethora of potential holiday gifts as he headed over to take back the top bid.
That’s when Mr. Good-Lookin’ turned into Mr. Sour-Puss. Apparently, he really wanted that poster, but had reached his limit, because after the childish scowl, he turned and stalked off. Kenton huffed and straightened his back. At least he no longer felt apologetic about outbidding the poor-sport.
The bid had only been upped by twenty dollars, and Kenton tacked on another fifty to discourage any potential last-minute casual bids. He glanced over the room after stepping back. Mr. Pouty-Face stood about fifteen yards away and had turned back to face him. The man offered up a weak smile, so at least he seemed to regret his petulant frown. Eventually he mouthed, “Good luck,” then turned and walked away.
Whatever. So the guy wasn’t completely irredeemable. He’d probably gotten his hopes up and Kenton had come along and dashed them. Welcome to life, Buddy.
Kenton hovered near the poster as the final minutes wound down, then smiled and executed a subdued fist pump when the bell rang ending the auction. That poster was going to look fantastic alongside the rest of his Pirates of the Caribbean collection.
Kenton blew out a deep breath before knocking on the door. Was he really prepared to handle being accountable for another life? A tiny kitten so young he should have had another week or two with his mama?
But, the mama was rejecting her kittens early, and he’d already agreed to take one, so he didn’t have much choice. He wanted a pet—a cat in particular—he’d just expected to have a couple more weeks to get used to the idea before taking on the responsibility.
He mentally ticked off the list of items he’d purchased at the pet store before heading over. Kitten formula—although a bottle wouldn’t be necessary, he could lap it up out of a bowl. Canned kitten food, bowls, litter and a box to put it in, a few toys, and a carrier. Hopefully he hadn’t forgotten anything important.
The door opened, and Marc stood there with a wide smile. “Kenton, come on in. Captain Jack just finished eating, so he’s ready for you.”
Leading with the plastic pet carrier in front of him, Kenton followed Marc to the family room where Marc’s wife and their three kids sat playing with five tiny balls of fur. “The question is, am I ready for him?”
Marc chuckled and gestured toward the kittens. “You’ll do fine. They’re holding their own with this lot.”
Kenton crouched and was immediately drawn to the blue-eyed little cutie he’d picked out on an earlier visit after his brother Davis—aka Marc’s best friend—had first given him the idea of taking in one of these kittens. He’d already named the little guy Captain Jack, and if the way the tiny furball was tumbling around and playing with his littermates was any clue, he was as wayward as his namesake—either of them…Sparrow or Harkness.
“He’s adorable.” Kenton delicately petted the back of the kitten’s head, and Captain Jack immediately sprang into mock battle mode, spinning and latching onto Kenton’s finger.
“He’s got a lot of personality, that’s for sure,” Marc replied.
“Hey, Jacky,” Kenton cooed as he lifted the kitten. In reply he got a few licks with a rough tongue, a steady purr, and a heart that threatened to melt in his chest.
Kenton’s fingers stretched through the holes in the steel wire door of the carrier, moving in time with the beat of Eartha Kitt singing Santa Baby. Captain Jack was none too happy about being trapped in the carrier as they waited to be called back to an examination room at the vet’s office.
“It won’t be much longer, Jacky,” he cooed. The kitten would like the exam, which included an immunization shot, even less than his confinement in the carrier. “Don’t worry, we’ll be back home in no time at all.”
Captain Jack wasn’t buying it, and he continued to mew pitifully.
The music switched over to Amy Winehouse’s I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and Kenton looked up when a male voice coming from the door to the reception office announced, “Kenton and Captain Jack?”
He blinked twice, which was at least better than effecting a double take, but no doubt his surprise was evident. As was the look of astonishment on Mr. Adorable-but-Completely-Uninterested from that charity auction, who was apparently a veterinary assistant.
The man’s face quickly morphed from startled eyes over a professional cheery smile, to a more relaxed “Wow, it’s a small world” grin. Kenton instinctively returned the smile.
“Hello, Kenton. I’m Gordon Triggs—Gordie—and I’ll be assisting Dr. Dalton with Captain Jack’s examination today.” He gestured toward the scales on the other side of the room. “Let’s get the little guy weighed, then we’ll head back to an exam room.”
It would seem that Mr. Delectable, aka Gordie, was over his auction loss. And the man had supplied an apologetic gesture for his fleeting transgression so Kenton was willing join Gordie in putting the incident behind them.
“Nice to meet you, Gordie.” Kenton relaxed as he realized the truth of his words. He picked up the pet carrier and followed.
“You can put the carrier down here.” Gordie patted the countertop next to a scale, and Kenton did as directed. Kenton popped open the latch and cooed as he peered into the carrier. He pulled out the kitten and held him, nuzzling his fuzzy little face to calm the incessant meows before gently handing the tiny furball to Gordie.
Gordie lifted him to eye level and tutted, “Look at those beautiful blue eyes. He’s adorable. Where’d you get this little guy? Shelters don’t usually give them away this young.”
“A friend of my brother took in a pregnant homeless cat. They were going to wait a few more weeks before giving away the kittens, but the mama started rejecting them.”
Gordy set Jacky on the scale and the meowing recommenced. “So, ‘Captain Jack,’ huh?” He flashed Kenton a grin and picked up the kitten.
Kenton’s face heated, and much as he didn’t want to appear overeager, he couldn’t stop a return smile. “Yeah. I guess you already know I’m a huge fan.”
“Actually, I’d convinced myself you were trying to win it for one of your kids or something.”
“Me?” Kenton laughed as Gordie handed back the kitten. Had Gordie really thought that or was he fishing? He hadn’t shown any interest during the heat of their auction battle, but the glint in his eyes now sure pointed toward a cautious attraction. Restrained, no doubt, due to the fact he was working, and Kenton was a customer. “Heck no, I don’t have kids. I’m…uh…single.”
Kenton held Gordie’s gaze as he said those last three words. Might as well be obvious.
The slant of Gordie’s eyebrows conveyed that he got the message loud and clear, and the curve of his lips indicated his pleasure in that communication. Gordie stared straight into Kenton’s eyes. “So am I.”
Kenton burrowed his face into Captain Jack’s neck after Gordie got them settled in an examination room. They didn’t have to wait long before Dr. Dalton joined them. He glanced at the information sheet on the clipboard and chuckled. “I’m a Torchwood fan, too.”
Kenton looked up and nodded. “I loved that show.”
“Oh yeah,” Gordie said. “Captain Jack Harkness. I was thinking Sparrow, but they’re both cool.”
“Both worthy of the namesake,” Kenton said. He handed the kitten over to Gordie’s waiting hands after one last snuggle and coo. Their fingers brushed along one another, and their eyes locked for a few seconds. The moment was brief, but the tingle solidified Kenton’s interest.
Captain Jack mewed pitifully when Gordie placed him on the table.
“They’re an eccentric pair, that’s for sure.” Dr. Dalton got busy probing and assessing the kitten as Kenton hovered nearby. The doc checked inside Jacky’s mouth, looked at his eyes and ears, and listened to his heart and lungs. When he finished, he nodded at Gordie, and Gordie turned and prepared the vaccine.
Kenton leaned down and made soothing noises in the kitten’s face as Gordie carefully held him in place. Somehow the little guy didn’t even seem to notice when the thin needle slipped into his hindquarters.
The appointment was over in a flash. Dr. Dalton bustled out while Gordie disposed of the used syringe. He wiped the counter as Kenton quietly petted Captain Jack and slipped him into his carrier.
What should he do? Gordie wouldn’t be able to hit on him while he was at work. Kenton would have preferred a natural opening in a social setting to an awkward date request while Gordie was working.
“Um.” Gordie cleared his throat and smiled, although he seemed a bit stiff. “Well, it was nice to officially meet you, Kenton. Have you hung your poster yet?”
“Yeah, I’ve got the whole series now.” Kenton paused with his hand on the carrier and regarded Gordie with his head tilted. Regardless of what he would have rather done, this setting was likely to be his only opportunity to ask Gordie out. He was pretty sure he was reading the man correctly. Gordie’s inquiry seemed as much a request for Kenton to make a move as it was actual interest in the poster. “Would…um…would you like to go out to dinner with me?”
Gordie’s optimistic smile transformed into a cheery grin, and he visibly relaxed. “That’d be great. Yeah, I’d like that.”
Kenton pulled out his phone. “What’s your number? I’ll text you later tonight and we’ll set something up.”
Out in his car, Kenton stretched his fingers through the holes in the carrier’s steel wire door and tickled the kitten. “What do you think, Jacky? He seems nice, right? You liked him.” He’d been gentle holding Kenton’s precious pet, and how people treated animals said a lot about them. A lazy smile stretched across Kenton’s face. “I’m thinking the Urban Grill in Urbandale. What do you think?”
Captain Jack licked his finger, which might or might not have been an endorsement of his plan.
Kenton raked his fingers through his short blond hair for about the hundredth time that afternoon. How could he have been so stupid? He should have known he couldn’t handle the responsibility for such a young and tiny life.
Gordie would be here to meet up for their date shortly, and Kenton still couldn’t find Captain Jack. He took off his coat after a final trip around the back yard, searching in vain.
“Jacky!” He called. Then he stood silently, listening for the slightest sound. Nothing.
He eyed the middle poster in his Pirates of the Caribbean collection. It was as if Jack Sparrow was so disgusted with Kenton’s negligence the good captain couldn’t even look at him. Kenton couldn’t blame him. He was sick with worry and appalled at his carelessness.
Why, oh why hadn’t he paid closer attention when he’d stepped outside to bring in some firewood? If he could only reassure himself that Jacky was safe somewhere inside the house he could relax.
As it was, he wasn’t going to be able to leave for his date. What if Jacky showed up at the door as the temperature dropped, freezing, shivering, mewing pitifully? Kenton shuddered at the thought.
He hung his head. He was going to have to ruin his date. Would Gordie understand? He was a veterinary assistant. He loved animals.
In the kitchen he pulled out the pouch of kitten treats the ornery little guy loved and shook it. Again, he stretched his head as if that would help him hear better. Still nothing.
Would Gordie think less of Kenton for losing his young charge? Or would he understand how things could be with a wily kitten? Maybe he would have some ideas and could help.
Kenton jumped when the doorbell sounded and rushed to the door. He was about to find out the answer to those questions.
The wide grin on Gordie’s face fell when his gaze landed on Kenton’s. No doubt Kenton was projecting the agitation he felt. “Everything okay?”
“Yes…no…well, probably? Sorry…” Kenton stepped back and lifted an arm to the side. “Come on in. I’ll explain.”
Gordie pushed the door closed behind him. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Actually, yeah, you probably can. Here, let me have your coat.” He hung it in the foyer closet and turned back to Gordie. “I’m worried about Captain Jack. I can’t find him anywhere.”
Kenton held his breath as he waited that short second for Gordie to reply. This was the moment of truth. Would Gordie understand, or wouldn’t he?
“Ah.” Gordie’s expression and posture both seemed relaxed. Maybe this wasn’t unusual. But the words that followed chilled him. “Is there any chance he got outside?”
“That’s why I’m a little freaked out. I went out back early in the afternoon to bring in some firewood. I didn’t notice him getting out, but he’s never gone into hiding like this before. I’ve looked everywhere. I can’t figure out where he could be.”
Kenton wanted to kick himself for running on so nervously. What must Gordie think? Gordie remained silent as Kenton led him past the kitchen and through the living and dining room area to the sliding glass door.
A security floodlight lit the backyard, and the six-foot high wooden privacy fence enclosing the space was clearly visible. Gordie craned his neck, presumably trying to get a peek at the front portions of the fencing. “Are there any gaps, or dips under the fence he could fit through? An older cat—especially one with claws—could easily get over it, but I don’t think Captain Jack would yet.”
Kenton blew out a heavy breath. Partly in relief that Gordie, who had far more expertise in the area of kitten behavior had taken away one of Kenton’s biggest fears, and partly because Gordie didn’t seem to be judging Kenton harshly for losing his kitten. “Good. I wasn’t sure. I checked all around and don’t think he could squeeze out anywhere.”
Gordie gestured to the left. “You looked behind that wood pile?”
“Yeah.” Multiple times, in fact. “And I pulled off the cover to make sure he wasn’t up in there somehow.”
“Good.” Gordie pointed to some evergreens to their right. “And you probably checked around those bushes.”
“Yes.” Looked behind, under, shook the darned things. You name it, Kenton had done it.
“Okay, odds are he didn’t get out in the first place, and it sounds like you’ve checked it pretty thoroughly.”
Kenton nodded, but furrowed his brow. Much as he appreciated Gordie’s reassurance, and it really was helping knock his worry down a notch, part of Kenton couldn’t shake the image of the poor kitten huddled and scared outside in the cold.
“But,” continued Gordie. “You’re not going to be able to enjoy yourself if you leave the house before he surfaces.”
Tension drained from Kenton’s shoulders at the understanding timbre in Gordie’s reply. He pressed his hands against his thighs to keep them from visibly trembling. “I need to be here in case he’s out there and comes to the door.” Hopefully Gordie could hear the apology implicit in his tone. “He’s never gone into hiding like this before. I’ve tried everything, even shaking the bag of kitty treats he loves.”
“Do…um…do you want me to go, or would you like some company?” Gordie tensed, and Kenton wasn’t sure which potential reply Gordie dreaded. “Maybe I could help you take another look around the house?”
“Would you?” Kenton placed a hand on Gordie’s arm. Gordie’s last sentence seemed to indicate he’d like to be invited to stay. It was all Kenton could do to hold back from throwing himself into the man’s arms for a big comforting hug. “Stay, that is.”