“So, I hear you moved, Tiger,” Jack commented through the enclosure gate, as Misha hand fed the three adult Bengals. She ignored him, concentrating on her task. The cats had only been there for six months after having been rescued from a zoo. They had been living under foul and abusive conditions, and it had taken daily exposure to her for them to finally allow her to enter the enclosure without snarling and hiding. Now, they cuddled her like kittens.
Jack watched her carefully. The Boss would have a screaming fit if he discovered what she was doing. Alex had two strict rules about feeding time—never by hand, and always with a partner. Misha ignored both; apparently the slight woman felt she was above the need for safety. Jack held the door for her as she exited the enclosure, locking it carefully behind her.
“We need to talk, kid. You can’t go treating those cats like they were house pets. You know as well as I do that they could turn any minute, without warning. They’ve been starved and abused, and no amount of cosseting is going to change the fact that they are still wild animals.”
“I know what I’m doing, Jack,” Misha stated flatly as she walked away from him.
He grabbed her arm and gently forced her to face him. “You aren’t going anywhere until I am done talking to you, little girl. I know you are confident in your work and that you are one of the best; but you would never allow me or anyone else to put ourselves in that same situation. You would tell us that it was too risky, and the animals too unstable. It would break my heart if they decided to make you into their next meal. I’ve already been through that scare once with you and don’t want to ever experience that again. Please, promise me that you’ll stop hand feeding them.”
“That event was a different situation,” Misha argued. “The cats like it! You know that no one else can get them to eat like I can, and it’s because they feel safe with me. You can’t stop me!”
Jack’s eyes began to smolder with annoyance. “I can’t? Misha, if you were my daughter, I’d put you across my knee, skin down those trousers, and spank some sense into that pretty, thick skull. Promise me that you will stop this nonsense immediately!” he barked.
Misha’s eyes widened in surprise. Jack was usually pretty laid back, and never asserted his position of supervisor, or long-time friend, on her. “Okay! Fine! I promise. Happy? I’ll feed them through the bars like they were caged animals.”
“They are caged animals. We can’t let them go to the Wild Animal Park if they don’t learn to eat like tigers. And you had better not be telling me what you think I want to hear. I know your tactics; you’ve been using them for years with me. No more lying, hear me? I swear that if I catch you again, I will paddle you raw, and then I will tell Alex and let him deal with you. Trust me, love, you don’t want to go to that place with him. I am serious about this. Am I clear?”
Misha nodded, rolling her eyes. “Men and their testosterone! I promise, okay? Now get off my case and go do your own work. If you’re that bored, I’m sure there is lots of elephant scat to be shoveled, and Scout would love you to clean his enclosure.” “Sassy little wench,” the older man muttered, walking away.
“Oh, you have not seen sassy yet, Jack!” Misha called back.
Jack paused and turned to her. “Just a word of warning, missy. Alex is old-school. He is not the type of man who makes idle threats. He will paddle your backside in a heartbeat if you push him, and he won’t hold nuthin’ back. Watch your tone with him, if ya know what’s good for you.”
“I’m not afraid of anything Alex Hodges does, Jack. And if he thinks he can spank me like
I’m a naughty child, then I say ‘bring it on, buddy’! He hasn’t seen my fangs in action yet.”
“I’ll make sure I tell him that. Cuteness will not work with him like it does on me.”
“We’ll see.” Misha sniggered.