Kendra arrived early at the wildlife clinic. Being out of the office on Friday afternoon and the entire weekend had put her behind on her paperwork. She hated to think about the stacks of lab results she had to go through and the calls that needed to be made to anxious animal owners. She put on a pot of strong coffee in the clinic’s tiny kitchen and headed out back to the wildlife enclosures. The sun was barely up and the air was crisp and cold.
She checked on the raptor aviary that held a couple of injured hawks before peeking in on a barn owl that was fast asleep. It was the job of the first person who arrived at the clinic each morning – to walk around all of the outdoor pens and aviaries to make sure a predator hadn’t dug under or squeezed their way in during the night.
All of the enclosures were wrapped in 1/8-inch chicken wire to prevent predators from digging under, but occasionally a snake would manage to squeeze through the tiniest opening, usually a crack around the door or underneath a shingle. Unfortunately, once they got inside the enclosure and ate whatever prey they were after, the snakes were then too fat to go back out the same way they came in.
Whoever was unlucky enough to be working the first shift would have to pick the snakes up with a shovel and carry them out to the far edge of the property to be released unharmed. The snakes were never killed of course. It would defeat the whole purpose of the wildlife clinic to kill an animal that was only trying to stay alive.
After everything she had been through over the weekend, Kendra was grateful to see that at least all of the animals were safe, though hungry and eager to be fed. She hurried back inside the clinic and pulled out a few frozen mice from the freezer to be prepped for the raptor’s breakfast. The paperwork would have to wait a little bit longer. There were too many hungry mouths to feed, and that always came first.
She smiled to herself as she made up the different bowls of food. It felt good to be back at work where she belonged and doing normal everyday things again. To not have to worry about crazy, violent men with guns. Or dead bodies. Or crimes to cover up.
In the middle of the night, Flint had told her about Leah’s murder and what the MC planned to do about the Liberators. After hearing how they had killed Leah, any remaining shred of remorse over shooting the Liberators disappeared. They didn’t deserve her guilt, not after everything they had done.
It was difficult not to dwell on the situation. She had to trust Flint, Jesse, and the rest of the crew to take care of the Liberators. At this point, there really wasn’t anything left for her to do but try to be careful and pray for the MC’s safety.
Kendra forced her mind to think about something else. After a long night of being curled up close to Flint and talking about anything and everything, he had kissed her goodbye and slipped out of bed well before daybreak. The day had started out well and she felt good. She wouldn’t dare let herself wonder how long it would last.
She was a tad worried though about something silly. Flint had casually mentioned an upcoming cookout at his house on Sunday and had invited her to attend. He’d explained it was a monthly social event for members of the Steel Infidels and any friends or family they wanted to bring along. Everyone was welcome, from the crew to family members to the groupies who hung around the clubhouse.
While normally she would be thrilled to meet a new boyfriend’s family and friends, this was a completely different situation. She didn’t know how to act around Jesse or the crew after the incident with the Liberators on the mountain.
She wondered what the proper protocol would be in a situation like that. Was she not supposed to say a word and pretend it never happened? Was it okay to talk about her doctoring Flint up at the cabin but not the shootout and murders of four men?
The whole idea made her nervous and uneasy. She didn’t like secrets or covering stuff up. It went against everything she believed in. Honesty was important to her. In this case though, the alternative was much worse.
She also didn’t know what Flint had told the other members of the MC about her, if anything. If he wanted her to go to the cookout, she would, even if deep down inside she was dreading it.