Broken Wings is the winner of Best Romance in the Winter 2012 NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards. Finalist in the 2012 Reader's Favorite Book Awards for Contemporary Romance. Finalist in the 2012 USA Book Awards for Romance.
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“What’s your name?”
“Daniel, Daniel Phillips.” He hung his sunglasses on the neck of his white T-shirt as he looked her up and down. “You don’t have a stable hand or someone to clean up around here?”
Pamela noticed that his round, dark brown eyes appeared almost black and had a seductive quality to them. She nervously cast her eyes to the ground. “I’d have to pay for help. This facility runs on a shoestring budget already. To hire someone would break me. Besides, there’s not much to it.” She noticed his expensive-looking leather boots. “You ever worked with wild animals before?”
Daniel laughed as he took a step closer to her. “Only the human kind. I deal with a lot of wild people at work.”
Pamela glanced up at the man before her. He was dressed in old faded blue jeans and stood a good bit taller than she. He had a slender build, muscular arms, a broad chest, and long legs. His face was rectangular with a wide forehead and chiseled jaw. He did not look any older than his early thirties. A scar under his left eye made him appear more sinister than innocent, making Pamela suspect that this was not the first time Daniel Phillips had found himself under the direction of the courts and a probation officer.
She quickly checked her disconcerting thoughts. “Where do you work?” she asked, trying to sound more confident than she felt.
“Pat O’Brien’s in the Quarter. I’m a bartender there.”
“You’re a bartender in the French Quarter?” Pamela asked, raising her brows at him.
“Yeah, I’ve worked at a couple of places in the Quarter. The Voodoo Lounge on Decatur, Muriel’s on Jackson Square, and even did a few months at The Dungeon.” Daniel carefully examined the slender woman before him.
Pamela found his dark eyes disturbing. She knew from experience that her slim figure and shoulder length dirty blond hair made her an easy target for a man’s overactive imagination. But it was the way Daniel looked at her that rattled her so. It was almost as if he were sizing up her potential as a meal rather than a quick roll in the sheets.
He turned his eyes away from her and browsed the facility surrounding them. About a hundred yards from the rear of the house was an old battered blue barn with a few other smaller out buildings to the right of it. Located close to the barn, at the edge of the cleared property, were several tall wood-trimmed cages. Each cage was covered with wire, had a tin roof, and a water faucet attached right outside of the entrance. Majestic oaks were scattered about the property as well as next to the blue and white house. An open shed to the left of the property had a tractor, a white Ford pick-up truck, and two ATVs inside of it.
“You told my probation officer you needed someone to help out around here,” he said as his eyes continued to scan the property.
“Yes, with spring finally here we will be swamped with babies soon. I’ve already gotten quite a few baby squirrels. The cages you will be cleaning are where I wintered several different animals. They have all just recently been released.”
“What kind of animals do you usually get here?” Daniel kept his eyes on the trees along the edge of the clearing beside the house.
“Fox, rabbit, skunk, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, raccoon, opossum, bats, nutria, and an occasional river otter. But I have rehabbed chipmunks, beaver, a few owls, and once, a baby coyote.”
“What about deer?”
“As a permitted wildlife rehabber, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries does not want us working with deer. There has been an increase in a certain kind of wasting disease in the Louisiana deer population and most injured deer are put down, along with any fawns. Deer are also very hard to return to the wild once they have bonded with humans.”
Daniel turned back at her. “So is this all there is to the place?”
“Why? What did you expect?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, something like the Audubon Zoo maybe.”
Pamela focused her gray eyes on his. “This is not a zoo,” she responded, indignantly. “It’s a wildlife rehabilitation facility. We care for orphaned and injured wildlife and do not keep animals for display to an indifferent public. If more people knew about what we do here, they would, hopefully, be less willing to support zoos and more apt to make donations to a cause that puts animals back into their natural habitat.” She gave the man another going over with her eyes as he stepped closer to her side. “What were you convicted of? I often have volunteers on the site and I want to make sure—”
“I’m not a serial rapist, Ms. Wells,” Daniel proclaimed in a perturbed tone of voice. “I hit a guy in the bar where I work for roughing up his date. He filed charges and I was busted for assault and battery. My sentence was one hundred hours of community service. Satisfied?”
“Did they throw in any anger management classes with that community service?” she quipped.
Daniel smiled, cockily, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth. “No, the judge didn’t seem to think I needed any.” He stared into her face for a moment as if trying to figure her out. “So am I to call you Ms. Wells the entire time I’m here, or will Pamela be all right with you?” he questioned.
“Pamela is fine. We don’t stand on formality around here.” A loud sniff came from around Pamela’s feet. She looked down at the ground to see Rodney standing behind her legs, staring at the stranger
“One of the rehabilitated returned to the wild?” Daniel asked as he nodded to Rodney.
Pamela leaned over and picked up the overweight ring-tailed creature from the ground. The animal cuddled against her chest and warily watched the man standing next to her.
Pamela shifted the heavy animal in her arms. “This is Rodney. He was rescued from a hawk when he was about two weeks old. He’s over a year now and I can’t get him to leave. He thinks he is one of the dogs.”
Daniel reached out to pet the raccoon, but the animal growled at him.
“He doesn’t like strangers,” Pamela quickly added. “All of the animals in this facility are wild. Do not pet them or try to treat them like a cute and cuddly lap dog.”
“And are there any more like him?” he asked as he motioned to the raccoon nuzzling up against Pamela’s neck.
“A few. You’ll meet them later. For now, I’ll show you to the cages that need cleaning.” She turned away and started toward the row of cages and sheds located a short distance from the back of the house.
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