matter where you’re from. I won’t say anything, but you really need to leave.”

What the hell was she thinking talking to a naked man? He could be a serial killer for all she knew, and the cat his pet. She might be in more danger now than she had been with the jaguar.

“I have to go.” She turned on her heel.

Walk slowly and calmly. Don’t spook the naked serial killer.

She didn’t hear him following, but then, he was barefoot and she probably wouldn’t hear him until he clubbed her over the head. She picked up the pace until she was running.

She was almost out of breath when the door to the employee building loomed in front of her. Every horror flick she’d ever seen flashed across her mind where the victim reaches the door only to have a knife plunged in her back. But nothing happened when she got to the door, not that she wasted any time flinging it open, and falling inside.

“You okay, Callie?”

She screamed.

“Hey, it’s just me, Ben.” He ran to her, putting his arm around her, and leading her to the nearest chair. If she could have picked a father, Ben would have been her first choice. Her heart slowed to a normal thud- thud.

“What got you all fired up?”

“There was a jaguar loose.”

“Sheba?” He straightened, his hand moving toward the tranquilizer gun that was holstered at his side just like a real gun. “Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine, and it wasn’t Sheba. This one was black. But then the jaguar somehow disappeared, and now there’s a naked man running around inside the zoo.” Her words tumbled out.

Ben laughed. “That was a good one. For a second there, I almost believed you.”

She opened her mouth, then snapped it closed when she realized how ridiculous she sounded. A jaguar? Then a naked man? Maybe she was losing her mind. If word got around, she would also lose any opportunity to move up the ladder at this zoo, and probably any other zoo for that matter.

Her smile was weak at best. “Yeah, I almost got you.”

Ben patted her on the shoulder. “You’ll have to get up earlier in the morning to pull the wool over my eyes.”

She sobered. Her story did sound as though she was pulling his leg, but she knew there had been something out there. She couldn’t leave Ben with a naked man and a jaguar running loose in the zoo, except now she wondered if she had actually seen them. She wanted to warn Ben in a way that he wouldn’t think she’d been doing drugs or anything.

“Seriously, I thought I did hear something, and it spooked me. You might want to be a little more cautious tonight, and tell the others, too.”

“When it comes to wild animals, I don’t take any chances. You don’t have to worry about me or the others on duty tonight, but I’ll tell them to keep an eye out for anything strange.”

She knew Ben would be careful. But what had she really seen? The man had felt real. She rubbed her hand over her eyes, knowing she needed more sleep. That had to be it. At least eight hours tonight, and no more staying up late to read another romantic suspense.

After she gathered her things, Ben walked Callie to her car. She looked around, but the night was still, not even a breeze now, not even a hint of fog. “Thanks, Ben,” she said as she unlocked her door and got in.

It took a few minutes for her car to start, but it finally made it past the chugga-chugga stage and the engine fired off. It was cheap, what could she say. It was also paid for, and it got good gas mileage. Of course, it leaked oil, too.

Even her rattletrap car couldn’t keep her from thinking about what had happened with the jaguar and the naked man. Was she losing her mind? She didn’t know if insanity ran in her family or not since there was no one to ask. Maybe that was the answer. As soon as her ancestors turned twenty-six, they all went crazy and committed suicide, and that’s why she was dumped on the doorstep of an orphanage.

She pulled into her driveway and went inside the one bedroom fixer-upper that the landlady never had time to fix up. It was cheap, too. The only thing she regretted was the “no pet” rule. As soon as she had the animal keeper job, her pay would increase, and a lot of things would change, unless she was going crazy. That might possibly upset her plans.

Her imagination had definitely been in overdrive. Now that she was safe, she could look at it a little differently. She loved jaguars, and the black one had been beautiful. The sexy man was an added bonus. She frowned. He’d felt real enough. It would be nice if she could imagine him in her bed tonight. Not in a stalker, serial killer kind of way. More like he wanted to worship her body way.

Man, she really had to get out more.

After a quick shower, she slipped on her comfy granny nightgown. If she had a hottie in her bed, then she would wear something sultry and sexy, like a lacy red teddy. For just a moment she indulged in a fantasy of her zoo man strolling toward her, his heated gaze never leaving her body.

A dog barked, ruining the moment. Not that it made much difference. For now, she chose the old lady look. It wasn’t like the guy from the zoo would show up at her door.

She snorted.

Even her imagination wasn’t that good.

Tiredness spread throughout her body. Staying up past midnight, then getting up at five had not been one of her brightest ideas. Then add the kids, who were particularly obnoxious this afternoon. Today had literally drained her. All she wanted was a bed, and to look at the inside of her eyelids.

Her stomach growled. Food first.

Her cabinets didn’t yield much. A box of cereal, a can of soup, a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread. Even her food supply was pathetic. Soup it was. After opening the can, she dumped it into a plastic bowl and heated it in the microwave, then took it to the living room, and clicked on the television. Rerun, rerun, rerun. She finally settled on watching the end of a movie she hadn’t seen in a long time. The dog died in the end. She really hated when writers killed off an animal, especially after the animal saves the hero’s life.

She sniffed. So what if the dog had been shot. Miracles happened all the time. Especially in the movies. She swiped at the tear that rolled down her face. Great, now she was about to go on a crying jag.

Before that could happen, she switched the channel to one of the reruns, and finished eating her soup. It was so past time for her to go to bed. She glanced at the clock. It was only nine? Not that she really cared. Her body was telling her it was much later.

But when sleep did come, she dreamt of the man at the zoo. He pulled her close, nuzzled her neck. She ran her hands over his body, touching, caressing. He moved closer, tugging her gown over her head, then pressed her body intimately to his. She sighed, letting sleep transport her to a series of erotic dreams where his hands explored her body.

When Callie woke the next morning, she stretched like a contented cat, and opened her eyes.

Then screamed.

The naked man from the zoo sat on the end of her bed, legs crossed as he studied her.

And he was still naked…and so was she.

Chapter 2

This wasn’t happening. Callie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “You’re not real,” she repeated over and over until she could feel herself beginning to relax.

The naked hottie was only the last fragment of a delicious dream she’d been having. Right before she went to sleep, hadn’t she wished he would magically materialize in her bed?

She relaxed and smiled. It had been a great dream. The way he’d touched her, nuzzled her neck, pressed his naked body against hers. It had been one long sensuous dream. That was probably why she’d apparently gotten rid of her hot granny gown sometime during the night. Okay, now she was back to normal. No more

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