The billionaires wife, p.4
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       The Billionaire's Wife, p.4

         Part #2 of An Heir At Any Price series by Holly Rayner
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  Cecile tried to push him out from behind her and said, “Mark, talk to him.”

  “It’s okay; he hasn’t seen me in a really long time. Let’s let him ease into it.”

  I paid their admission and Mark ran in excitedly ahead of us. I caught up to him and said, “Which animals are you excited about seeing?”

  “I like the giraffes,” he said.

  “Cool! Giraffes are my favorite too!” I told him.

  “Can we feed them?” he asked.

  “I don’t know, let’s go find out.” I picked him up and swung him up on my shoulders and he squealed with delight. I could literally feel my heart speeding up in my chest at the sound of it. I almost forgot Cecile was there.

  “You two look really good together.” Hearing her say that made me angry. She was the sole reason that we weren’t together. I wasn’t going to let her ruin this time for me though. I didn’t know when or if I’d ever be able to see him again. I still needed to talk to Holly about it and I was well aware now of how fickle Cecile could be. I ignored her and concentrated on Mark.

  We fed the giraffes long shoots of leaves the zookeepers gave us and Cecile insisted that he and I pose for a photo in front of them. We went to see the sea lion exhibit next and by that time Mark had warmed up to me. He was holding my hand and talking excitedly about everything he saw around him. I loved how inquisitive he was. He asked questions that made perfect sense, and I could see the wheels turning in his head when I answered them.

  We took a walk through the lush tropical gardens where we saw a Caribbean flamingo. There was a sign that said it was the National Bird of the Bahamas. Mark wanted to know then if we had a national bird.

  “We do,” I told him. “It’s the bald eagle.”

  “Why is he bald?” he asked.

  Trying not to laugh I said, “He’s really not, they just call him that.”

  “Why?”

  “Because he has a white head that contrasts with the rest of his body so it makes him look bald.”

  He nodded, for now, he was satisfied. We went in further and ran across an African Gray bird. Mark seemed to be relieved that he was gray since a lot of the animals names didn’t seem to go along with their general descriptions. He was a lot like me in that sense, biology or not. He liked things to add up.

  “What’s that one?”

  “It’s a cockatoo,” I told him.

  “Cool name,” he said. We heard an announcement then that they were beginning their bird feeding session. “Can we watch them eat?” he asked.

  “Of course,” I told him. “This is your day; you get to do what you want.”

  We went over to the seating area with Cecile still following along. She tried to sit next to me and I picked Mark up and plopped him down in between us. Over his head, she looked at me and mouthed, “I don’t bite.”

  “That’s a matter of opinion,” I said. She smiled, tightly.

  The bird keepers passed out small pieces of apples to volunteers in the audience. Mark’s hand was one of the first up when they asked who would like to feed them. While the birds landed on the hands of the children and they fed them the apples, the bird keeper told them about parrots and where they were from. They said that these particular parrots were from Eastern Australia and Tasmania. They said that they were different from most parents in that they required pollen, nectar and fruits to survive. Mark was fascinated and I loved watching his face as he learned.

  “What’s that one?” Mark asked me when we were back on the trail.

  “Can you read the sign?” I asked him.

  Mark looked at it and scrunched up his face. “No, it says something weird.”

  I laughed and told him the bird was called a, “Swainson Rainbow Lory.”

  “He’s so pretty,” Mark said. He was right; the bird was one of the most brightly colored ones I had ever seen. “I want a parrot,” he said. It wasn’t like he was asking for one, he was only making a statement, but my wheels began to turn at once. When we started walking again and Mark stopped once more to look at the flamingos, Cecile stepped up to me.

  “Don’t think about it,” she said with a smile.

  “I’m thinking about it,” I told her. “What do you have against birds?”

  “They’re noisy and messy, for starters. He won’t take care of it, which will end up being my job,” she said.

  “You’re the mom, that’s your job,” I told her, only half-kidding. She shoved me in the arm and before I realized what I was doing, I shoved her back. It was a small gesture, but as soon as I did it I realized how flirty it seemed and I reminded myself that she quite possibly had ulterior motives here.

  Mark found the Capuchin monkey next and then an Australian Black Swan and then a ring-tailed lemur. Suddenly, he had gone from wanting a parrot, to a monkey.

  “See, he’s already replaced the parrot,” Cecile said with a smile. I had to admit, she was right. I didn’t know much about seven year old boys except what I could remember from my own childhood. As we wondered along, Mark realized we were being followed by a peacock. He was strutting along behind us and when Mark got close to him, he fanned his beautiful tail. He giggled and chased it until the next thing caught his attention.

  “Is that a dog?” he said, looking at the funny animal.

  “The sign says it’s called a Caotis. They’re from the Netherlands.” Mark was right, their heads did look like dogs except that they had long, pointy noses.

  “Ooh! It’s a giant rat!” he said. Cecile made a face.

  “That is what it looks like.”

  “What does the sign say it is, Mark?” I asked him.

  “A Cap-e-burra,” Mark said.

  “Wow, good job! Very close,” I told him. “It’s a Capybara. It says that he’s the largest rodent in the world, so you’re right, he is a giant rat.”

  “He’s disgusting,” Cecile said. I went on reading.

  “It says their incisors can grow to six inches long.”

  “What’s an incisor?” he asked.

  “These two teeth,” I said, showing him.

  “How big is six inches?”

  I showed him with my hands and he said, “Yeah, Mom’s right, disgusting!”

  After a few more stops and a lot more questions, we took a break at the little snack shack for lunch. Mark woofed down his hamburger and fries and wanted to go play so while Cecile and I ate, Mark dug for “dinosaur” bones in the exhibit the zoo had set up for the kids to play in.

  “He’s gotten so big,” I said, not even aware I’d said it aloud until Cecile responded.

  “Yeah, too fast. It’s mostly what prompted me to leave Jake.”

  I looked at her strangely wondering what she meant by that.

  “When he was little, I think Jake found him more tolerable. Now, he likes to talk…a lot. I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

  I laughed and said, “Yeah, I did notice that.”

  She smiled and said, “It’s nice that you enjoy it. It’s sad, but it annoys Jake and when he’s home, he can get very verbally abusive to poor Markie about it.”

  “Verbally abusive, Jake?” Jake had been my best friend and I didn’t recall ever hearing him even raise his voice. I had a hard time believing that he could be that way towards an innocent child.

  “Yeah and not just verbally, eventually he started spanking him as a punishment for things. Sometimes, when he was in a really bad mood, he’d take it too far and I’d have to step in and tell him that was enough.”

  “The first time anyone raises a hand to your son is enough, Cecile,” I told her. “Father or not.”

 
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