The Soul Mate Page 13

“Strapped to the train tracks of parenthood, my friend. No thank you. I can’t wait until they come out with a pill for men. There aren’t enough condoms in the world to make me feel safe after all this.”

I rolled my eyes. “I might be having a baby. I’m not enlisted in a war.”

“Oh, but you are. It’s a field of land mines and pitfalls waiting to happen, my friend. I wish you the best of luck with your little situation, but I wouldn’t trade lives with you for all the money in the world right now,” he murmured, tipping an imaginary hat in my direction.

We reached the parking lot and said our good-byes, and I made my way to the zoo, thinking over Trent’s words. In truth, I’d never seen parenthood as an obstacle or a curse like so many of my male friends. To me, it seemed like a gift. Something to look forward to—so long as you were sharing the load with the right person.

Again I thought of the envelope sitting in the drawer of my bedside table. The night before, I’d held it in my hands, staring at it for at least an hour while I thought about the rest of my yogurt date with Bren. She was funny, smart, beautiful. Everything I’d want my child to be.

But she was still, in so many ways, a stranger.

And that needed to be fixed.

I pulled up to the zoo and snagged a space in the front row of parking before making my way through the gates. When I reached the ticket desk, I said, “I’m looking for Bren Matthews?”

The thin man behind the counter nodded but tapped the buttons on his keyboard all the same. “Twenty dollars, please.”

I reached in my wallet and fished out a bill before slapping it on the counter and waiting for my wristband. The man handed it to me with a too-wide smile, and I nodded.


“Enjoy your visit.”

I walked through another set of gates and glanced at the directory, trying to remember what Bren had told me about her day. Though now that I thought about it, I remembered that she’d hardly told me anything at all.

No, she’d mentioned only the cheetahs—which meant I had only one place to look.

When I got to the exhibit, a man stood on the outside of the glass-enclosed cage, writing on a clipboard as he surveyed the animals. He was a tall, handsome kind of guy with slicked-back blond hair and a square jaw. Almost like the villain from any ’80s movie ever made.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know where I can find Bren Matthews?”

The man looked at his watch, then nodded. “Carlisle went into the nursing enclosure about twenty minutes ago. If I were a betting man, I’d say she’s there.”

I frowned, not sure what Carlisle had to do with anything or who he was, but I nodded and gave him my thanks before following the signs that led to the nursing enclosure.

When I got there, I found a tunnel of leaves and a big, hand-painted sign announcing the newest babies at the zoo—Nancy the koala, Ferdinand the wombat, Henry the baby orangutan, and Daisy the baby gorilla.

I stepped inside the little space and spotted Bren immediately. Nestled in her arms was a baby animal. Bren fed her a bottle with the gentlest expression on her face, nodding as the man beside her spoke.

This guy, too, was blond and handsome, though less tall and tanned than the one I’d just met.

“The thing drives like a dream,” he was saying. “You’ll have to come out with me and try it some time. I’ll even let you drive.”

Bren nodded, lips curved into a smile. “Maybe sometime.”

I raised my eyebrows and cleared my throat, fisting my hands at my sides because I felt like throat punching him. In my heart, Bren already belonged to me and this guy’s blatant flirting irritated me to no end. “Hey.”

She looked up and her cheeks flushed a pretty pink, although she didn’t take the bottle from the tiny pink creature. “Oh, hey. What brings you here?”

I resisted the urge to hand her the clearly marked prenatal vitamins from my pocket to get her colleague to stop drooling over her but instead forced a grin. “Just thought I’d stop by to see you in action.”

She cocked her head and nodded to the baby pig in her arms. “Well then, welcome to my world.”

Her companion glanced from me to Bren and back again, his face falling a little. “You want me to take over?” he asked, gesturing to the pink.

Adorably dressed in a diaper, the pig was nestled in close to Bren’s chest and she leaned to press a kiss to its nose. “It’s okay, sweetie. I’m not going yet.” She turned her attention to the man in front of her. “I’m good from here, actually, if you want to go punch out.”

“Oh, uh, yeah. I was gonna get going anyway.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and skirted from the little enclosure. “I’ll see you on Monday, Bren.”

“’Kay, see ya,” she said to the other man, who hesitated and spent one moment too long staring at her.

Yeah, see ya, chump.

The guy, I could only assume was Carlisle, looked so deflated as he trudged away that, for a second, I almost felt sorry for him.


I pulled the bottle from inside my jacket and handed it to her. “Actually, the other reason I came was that I thought you could use these. Just as a precaution.”

“Oh, uh, thanks.” She went a little pale as she balanced the formula bottle and pig in one hand and snatched the bottle of pills with the other. She shot a look around before quickly shoving it in one of the many pockets of her khaki cargo shorts.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” I said.

“No, no, we’re just finishing up for the day. It’s time to punch out, but I like to feed the babies before I go.”

I shot a glance at Carlisle’s retreating back in the distance and then faced Bren again. “How long has he been after you?”

“What?” she scoffed. “Carlisle? Are you serious?”

“He was asking you to go for a ride, and I’m pretty sure his car is option B. Option A was a ride on his d—”

“I get your meaning,” she cut in, her cheeks turning red. “But Carlisle isn’t like that. We’re just friends.”

She set the baby pig back in its pen, treating me to a glimpse of her firm ass as she bent over.

“Trust me, when it comes to women like you, all men are like that.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh, yeah? Even you?”

“Especially me.”

A sizzle of tension rolled down my spine. Damn it all if I could figure out how she even made her lime-green zoo polo look like the sexiest thing in the world. Her pretty golden hair was pulled back in a ponytail, emphasizing the crystal clearness of those bright eyes, but when I spoke, she looked away from me, focusing instead on the baby in her arms.

Which, of course, made her look all the more irresistible.

As she stared down at the little lump in the pen, she practically glowed, and when she smiled, it seemed like she was grinning with all of her body. Like she was truly, blissfully happy. Like she loved her job more than life itself.

And that was a feeling I knew all too well. But even more than that, I couldn’t escape the very real feeling that she would be just as enamored of our own baby…if we were having one, that was.

Bren cleared her throat, pulling us both from the tense moment my reply had created. “Tell me, Mr. Baby Expert, have you ever fed a baby pig?”

I cocked an eyebrow. “Can’t say that I have.”

“Then I think it’s time you learned.” She motioned for me to join her and I followed her instructions, standing so close that our skin brushed as I reached for one of the pig’s siblings. “This little guys is special.”

“I thought you weren’t supposed to have favorites.”

“Oh, I have favorites in every enclosure. Like the new koala baby’s mom, Sheila. I love her.”

“And what makes a koala so special?”

She shrugged a single shoulder. “She just is. She has the most personality of any of the other koalas, which is why all the males try to imprint on her.”


She laughed. “You really don’t know much about animals, huh?”


Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies