Sempre redemption, p.46
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.46

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 46

 

  After saying their good-byes, Kelsey headed to the lab the next floor up while Haven left the building. She strolled down the street, in no rush to get anywhere, and made the walk toward the library. Her mind wandered as she fell in with the bustling crowd, and before she realized it, she had already passed her destination. She looked around in confusion, catching sight of the closest street sign: Sixth Avenue.

  A substantial construction site stood near the corner across the street, spanning about an acre and surrounded by tall buildings. The frame of a structure was built, metal beams stuck together like an elaborate maze. Dirty and chaotic, it looked a lot like she imagined a construction site would look.

  Curious, Haven’s feet carried her across the street for a closer look. Most of the workers were busy, operating equipment or scaling the structure, but a few guys in yellow hard hats stood around, chatting. One or two looked her way, someone even letting out a low whistle, but she ignored it as she walked through the lot. A trailer sat along the side, the low hum of an air conditioner buzzing from it. Something told her if Gavin was at the site, that was where he would be.

  Haven felt out of place, her eyes locking on the ground as she headed straight for the trailer. She had come that far and figured it would be silly to leave without at least saying hello.

  A thick man in scruffy jeans and a black tank top leaned against the corner of the trailer, tossing rocks at something in a nearby patch of dirt. Haven chanced a peek at him, her footsteps faltering when she heard a small squeal. Her eyes darted to the source of the sound, seeing a small white kitten. It could hardly walk, its fur matted with a bit of blood.

  It squealed again as the man threw a rock at it, smacking it in the side.

  “Stop that!” Haven said, the words flying from her mouth in horror. “Why are you doing that?”

  The man looked at her with dark bloodshot eyes, no flicker of acknowledgment on his face. He turned away and grabbed another rock, striking the kitten again. It stumbled from the blow.

  Haven’s eyes burned with tears. “Don’t do that anymore!”

  “Mind your own business, sweetheart,” the man grumbled. “Go on back to wherever you came from. You don’t belong here. ”

  He grabbed another rock, but Haven wasn’t having it. She lunged for the cat, grabbing it as he threw the rock, smacking her with it instead. It stung as it struck her ankle, but she barely winced as she shielded the cat in her arms.

  “What the hell are you doing?” the man spat, pushing away from the trailer. He took two steps toward her, his big stride closing the distance between them. Haven instinctively took a step away from the man.

  Before she could say anything—or rather, run—the door of the trailer opened and laughter cut through the air. Two guys stepped out, one an old bald man in a black suit with a walking cane. He tipped his head in greeting to the other before heading to a waiting town car. The second man Haven recognized immediately, wearing freshly pressed khakis and a blue button-down shirt: Gavin.

  He turned to them after the older man was gone, the smirk on his lips disappearing when he spotted Haven. His brow creased, his eyes darting between her and the worker. “What’s going on here?”

  “I’m wondering the same thing!” the man exclaimed. “I’m over here taking my afternoon break, you know, just hanging out, and this broad walks up and starts telling me what to do! Can you believe it?”

  Gavin’s expression darkened, his blue eyes clouding to a furious gray. Haven’s heartbeat quickened, the cat meowing as she instinctively gripped it tighter.

  The Gavin she knew was friendly, playful. She had never seen him angry before.

  “Get back to work,” he barked at the man.

  “But—”

  “But nothing. Go. Now. ”

  The man hesitated for a fraction of a second before storming away. Gavin took a few brusque steps toward Haven, eliciting a small retreat from her, but he wasn’t deterred in his approach. “What happened?”

  “I, uh . . . the kitten was hurt, and he was throwing rocks at it, and I told him not to but he wouldn’t stop, and the kitten yelped, so I couldn’t just stand there. I had to help! He got mad, then you came out, and he told you what happened, and uh . . . ”

  “And here we are?” he guessed.

  Haven nodded, avoiding his eyes. He reached toward her and she flinched, but he seemed not to notice as he grabbed the cat, taking it from her.

  “It looks pretty messed up,” he said, checking it out. “There’s a shelter a few blocks over. I can drop it off there. ”

  “And they’ll fix her?” she asked.

  “Maybe,” he replied. “And it’s a him. ”

  “Oh. ” Her brow furrowed. “What do you mean maybe?”

  “I mean they’ll either fix it up or put it to sleep. ”

  Haven recoiled as if he had struck her. “Why would they do that?”

  “The city’s overrun with stray animals, so I’m sure the shelter gets more than it can keep. Might not be worth saving. ”

  Horrified, Haven ripped the kitten from his hands, taking it back. “They can’t just kill it! That’s not fair! It did nothing wrong!”

  Gavin let out a sudden laugh of surprise as he held up his hands defensively. “Geez, all right, relax. There are other options. ”

  “Like?”

  “Like you can let it go and hope it can fend for itself. ”

  Out of the question. “Or?”

  “Or you can take it to the vet. ”

  She glanced at the cat before looking back at him. “Do you know a good vet?”

  “I might know of a place,” he replied, eyeing her curiously. “Why are you here, anyway? I mean, don’t get me wrong—it’s a pleasant surprise, but still a surprise. I was actually about to head your way. ”

  “My class got cancelled,” she replied. “I was going to the library and kind of just ended up here instead. ”

  Gavin stared at her with disbelief. “You just ended up here?”

  “Yes. And since I was here I thought I would say hey, so . . . hey. ”

  A smug smile formed on his lips. “You must’ve missed me. ”

  “Why would you think that?”

  “Because you didn’t see me yesterday and you wouldn’t see me today if you didn’t have class. It’s the weekend, so that means you’d have to wait until Monday to see me again. That’s a long time. ”

  She rolled her eyes at his cocky tone. “It was nothing like that. ”

  “Admit it,” he said. “You missed me. ”

  “No. ”

  “You like me. ”

  “No. ”

  “Not at all?”

  “Well, maybe just a little,” she admitted.

  “I’ll take it,” he said. “It’s better than nothing. ”

  “But just as a friend,” she clarified. “Not more. ”

  Gavin shook his head as he took a step away. “Stay here and I’ll get the address for the vet. ”

  He disappeared back into the trailer as Haven strolled farther away, petting the kitten. It stared up at her, bright blue eyes alive with excitement, mismatched from its dull and lifeless exterior.

  “Snowy,” she whispered, the word popping in her mind. “I’ll call you Snowy. ”

  Gavin came back out, pausing on the steps of the trailer as he hollered for someone. The firmness was back in his voice, the hard edge once again etched in his expression. The man from earlier jogged over, and Haven watched as Gavin said something to him. He spoke too quietly for her to hear but the man’s head dropped low, his shoulders slumping in defeat. He gave a slight nod before turning, and Haven tensed as he approached her.

  “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he muttered, refusing to meet her eyes. “I hope you can accept my apology. I ain’t mean to hurt the cat or anything. I was just messing around. Send me the vet bills. Mr. Amaro can take it out of my pay. ”

  Haven stammered with surprise, only abl
e to get out an “okay. ”

  Gavin walked over when the man scurried back to work. He handed her a scrap of paper with an address and phone number scribbled on it.

  “Thanks,” she replied. “What did you say to make him apologize?”

  “I just told him who you were. ”

  She tensed at those words. “Who am I?”

  Gavin’s eyes met hers. He stared for a moment before answering, his eyebrows raised as if that question surprised him. “A friend of mine, of course. ”

  “Oh. ”

  “Anyway, you want me to go with you?” he asked. “It’s not far, just about a block back the way you came. We can walk. ”

  She glanced at the address on the paper. “I don’t want you to have to leave work. ”

  “It’s fine,” he said. “I was about to leave anyway. ”

  * * *

  A few hours later, the two of them sat in flimsy blue plastic chairs in the busy waiting room of a walk-in emergency animal clinic. Haven fidgeted anxiously, her backside starting to hurt from the hard seat.

  A nurse eventually called Haven’s name and she jumped up, not bothering to wait for Gavin as she made her way to the back.

  “The kitten’s going to be fine,” the lady said. “We’ve cleaned him up and dressed the wound—just a small gash that should heal right up. He had a horrible case of fleas that we’ve taken care of, but there was nothing majorly wrong. You can take him home now. ”

  Smiling with relief, Haven signed the heap of paperwork before taking the cat and rejoining Gavin. They left the clinic, the animal fast asleep in Haven’s arms as they headed back out into the street. The sun had started to set, most of the day having faded away.

  “So what are you going to do with the cat?” Gavin asked. “Keep it?”

  She frowned. “I don’t think I’m allowed to have pets. ”

  “You can try to find it a home,” Gavin suggested. “Put out an ad. ”

  “But what if someone bad responds, like that guy you work with?”

  Gavin sighed. “I don’t know. I’m out of ideas short of me taking it home. ”

  Haven’s expression lit up. “Would you really?”

  He blanched. “What?”

  “Would you keep him?” she asked. “I know you’ll be nice to him. ”

  Gavin stammered, opening and closing his mouth a few times, before shrugging and letting out a deep sigh. “Fuck it, why not?”

  Haven smiled, holding the kitten up and waving its paw at Gavin. “Snowy thanks you. ”

  The clinic was near her art building, the students all gone for the weekend when they strolled past. “So it’s kind of a long walk from the construction site to my school,” Haven mused. “What in the world do you do up here all the time?”

  “It’s not that long of a walk,” he said. “Ten, fifteen minutes at the most. I came up here that first day to hit up a deli nearby. ”

  “And what about every other day?”

  He shrugged. “I come for the company. ”

 
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