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Authors: RM Alexander

The Right One

BOOK: The Right One
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The Right One

 

By R.M. Alexander

Kindle Edition

 

 

Copyright 2014 R.M. Alexander

 

 

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends and family to download a copy from Amazon.com. Thank you for your respect and support!

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

 

 

 

You can contact RM Alexander by email at
[email protected]
or visit her at
www.facebook.com/rmalexanderauthor
or
www.rmalexanderauthor.weebly.com
.

 

Editing and proofreading by TJ Loveless of Cliffhanger Editing

Cover Design by Kage Designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

To My Husband and Children

My loves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Cami Lockhart stared out the window at the expanse of the ranch before her, mind clicking with possibilities. It was enough land, and the Smoky Mountains held their own natural barriers, but for the dream to become reality, she was going to need a lot more. More money, security, men. Big dreams required a lot of everything.

She settled down at the kitchen table, staring at the scattered papers. She brushed aside diagrams and business plans to study the budget, sighed, and nodded. Coming from a family with money had its perks. Gaining their approval was not going to be one of them. But some dreams can’t be pushed aside. She pushed a foot into a leather boot and pulled it up by the straps. Employees, volunteers, and even a half billion dollars could be washed through quickly without some careful planning.

Her mare, Nugget, pawed at the ground as she stepped outside. The horse seemed to have a sixth sense about her plans, and Cami guessed the animal wasn’t happy about them. She reached out to pat the horse’s mane. “Sorry girl. I’ll keep you safe, you know that.”

The horse neighed. Cami smiled and patted the horse’s nose, made her way around to the waiting saddle and hoisted herself in fluid motion. “One more ride around the property, and then we’ll turn in for the night. I’ve got a lot of paperwork to prepare for tomorrow.”

Together, they trotted towards the main gate of the fifteen hundred acre property, and stopped short as a black pickup stalled out at the closed barrier. “Whoa, girl.” Cami brought the horse up short at the gate, but didn’t climb down.

The cowboy boots hit the dirt, and a head with sandy blond hair ducked in and out of the car.

“Can I help you?” she called, soft voice hardly intimidating.

He stepped out from behind the metal, and took her aback. A bit office, a bit rugged, nice mouth. She raised an eyebrow and smirked. Too good looking for his own good.

“I’m looking for a Cami Lockhart?”

She narrowed her eyes as she slid from the saddle. “You found her. Can I help you?” Holding onto the reins, she walked to the gate, but refrained from offering a hand.

“I understand you’re building a tiger sanctuary here. I’ve come on behalf of the county to share with you the petition sent into the county government to stop your efforts.”

Cami blinked rapidly with wide eyes. “Come again?”

The man stepped to the opposite side of the gate and handed a piece of paper over the fence. She snatched it and stared down at the petition. “There’s not even any cats here yet. Don’t you think this is a little premature?”

He grinned, eyes twinkling in the glow of early evening. With a tilted head, she studied them discreetly, and realized they were same color of her chestnut mare. Too brown, too clear, too alluring. Even if he wasn’t here on a mission to kill her fledgling dream, she wouldn’t trust him. No bias there.

“Better to stop you now before money is wasted on a project that will be shut down before it opens.”

She flung the paper at him like a Frisbee, and smiled as it fluttered to his feet. “We’ll see about that. You should collect all the facts before starting wars.”

He bent down and retrieved the document, then attempted to hand it back to her. Cami crossed her arms. He shrugged, folded the paper, and stuck it in a back pocket. “The meeting is in less than twenty-four hours. Bring those facts with you and be prepared to defend your stance. You won’t win, but you can try.”

She snorted and climbed onto Nugget’s back. “We’ll see about that.” She clicked her tongue and began to steer the horse away from the stranger, then pulled back on the reins to regard him. “What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t. But the name is Paul, Paul Schotter.”

She nodded, then grinned sweetly. “I’ll see you tomorrow then, Paul Schotter, and will be happy to watch you squirm in your seat.” A gentle kick to Nugget’s ribs and she galloped away. “Jerk. He can’t shut us down, can he girl?” The horse neighed, and Cami pulled gently on the reins to slow and turn the horse around. The pickup peeled out of the drive, Paul Schotter driving too fast down Rickard Road.
Good
, she thought, chest puffed, shoulders dropping. She’d irritated him. The feeling was mutual.

Few people knew of her plans for the sanctuary, and none of them would have leaked the information to hurt her. Liz, Alex. Her parents didn't support her, but wouldn't see her dream ruined. Liz was the BFF from childhood days, and aside from Alex, her closest friend. Ranch hand Alex was best friend, ranch hand, all trustworthy. Cami patted Nugget’s neck. Somehow the plans were made public, and the fight started before she’d expected. That was okay though. Better to get it out of the way and move forward. Already, she’d spoken to a couple of other sanctuaries in other states, and they needed help. The first cats would arrive in five weeks. There just wasn’t enough facilities to house the animals removed from private owners who’d taken them in as cubs, expecting to have a fun and unique pet, and found the beasts too hard to handle as they grew. And then there were the malnourished, mistreated, downright abused cats taken by authorities. If they weren’t put down, they needed a place to go to live out the rest of their lives. Already, Cami wouldn’t be ready in time to save some animals. There was no time to waste.

Reaching back, she pulled the blonde ponytail into two parts and in opposite directions, tightening the holder in place. She didn’t have time for makeup, rarely left her waist long hair free, and almost never was out of her jeans, cowboy boots and button down, form fitting shirts. Caring for tigers wasn’t a sexy job, it would be time-consuming, tiring, dirty, a sometimes dangerous lifestyle. She didn’t care. It was all passion, Cami trained for the dream her whole life - studying veterinarian and animal management classes, managing finances to every dime. Planning every nuance of the sanctuary, how to make it bigger and better, ensure the animals would be happy, healthy, safe. As well as the people outside the sanctuary. Never giving the animals a chance for escape, never allowing the public near the big cats, never allowing her staff or volunteers to risk their lives in unnecessary chances. Preparing for even the most unexpected occurrences, and knowing she couldn’t plan for everything.

Now, after fifteen years of preparation, and being this close to realization of a dream and passion, no one was going to stand in her way. Especially not some office worker whose hands were probably soft as a baby’s bottom. She was too close.

Cami clicked her tongue, and gently kicked Nugget, driving her forward. Twenty-four hours was plenty of time. A PowerPoint presentation was already prepared, along with file folders full of documentations and blueprints. If Paul Schotter wanted a fight, he would get one.

And he would lose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

City hall was an ugly grey brown building, aged with cracks and mountain dirt ground into the façade. Two stories of bureaucratic red tape and stuffed shirts. Not Cami’s kind of people. She liked the ranch hands, horse friends and country folks who understood the world didn’t require pork barrel spending to get things done. She wrinkled her nose as she climbed the wide low steps, briefcase curled within long fingers. The heavy scent of aged mustiness. Recognizable from her days as an intern, back before she realized working as a lawyer was not her calling. It’d only taken a week as a secretary to change her mind, and direction in life. Paperwork fudged to hide its true intent, something she couldn’t stomach.

They’d done her a favor. Her passion had always been with the animals, the cats, and, as it turned out, the obvious dishonesty simply pointed Cami in the right direction. Now they were trying to stand in the way of her dream and, with grinding teeth, her anger ignited.

"Hey Cam, hold up."

She twisted to face her ranch hand and friend, Alex Reynolds, take the wide concrete steps by twos as he jogged to her side. Brows furrowed, she tapped the briefcase against a thigh. "What are you doing here, Alex?"

He motioned to the cold building with a sideways nod. "Like I was going to let you go into a pit of vipers alone."

She smirked. "I guess that's where I'm headed, isn't it? Still, you didn't have to come. I can handle them."

"I'd never doubt that, but it never hurts for someone to have your back."

They turned up the steps. "No, I guess it doesn't. Thanks for coming."

He reached for the chrome door handle and pulled. "No where else I'd rather be. Let's go get 'em, tiger."

She laughed despite the turmoil within. She didn't expect to lose, it wasn't an option. The battle didn't bother her. She expected it. The criticisms of the safety of her plans, for the public, ranch workers, tigers, her personally, crawled under her skin in the worse way. Cami’s hand tightened around the thin pleather handles of the briefcase. Somehow, she would make them listen.

Placing the briefcase on the metal detector conveyor, Cami crossed under the plaster archway and glanced at a guard as he nodded her through. She waited for Alex to pass scrutiny, and then walked alongside him down the hall to the second door on the right. No directions or signage needed, this visit wasn't the first. She suspected it wouldn't be the last, either.

A group of two dozen men and women occupied a space not larger than ten by ten, a distinct surge of claustrophobia pulsated through Cami as she eased to the nearest set of open chairs.
Definitely prefer the open spaces of the ranch
, she thought, settling the briefcase on the floor between the two chairs where she sat next to Alex.

"Enough stuffed shirts here today." He eased the white Stetson onto a knee. "Nervous?"

Cami wrinkled her nose, layers of golden hair brushing her back as she shook her head. Ponytails didn’t work for bureaucrats. "No. Just aggravated. They don't know the first thing about what we're trying to do, the tigers, the need, all they see is dollars, or lack thereof."

Alex flicked the cowboy hat, "They're concerned about safety, Cam. You know that." He held his hands in surrender at the scorching fire Cami’s eyes met him. "Unjustly, yes. But the concern, for them, is real. You just have to prove how misguided they are." Chuckling, he ruffled her hair. "You know you can do it, so stop trying to roast me."

She smiled, relaxing against the cold metal of the folding chair, then sat forward as Paul Schotter entered the room, nodding in her direction. She nudged Alex. "That's him."

Alex's eyes followed Paul around the room. "The one you said came to the ranch yesterday?"

"Hmm-mm."

"Know who he is?"

She shook her head. "No, just some pompous jacket thinking he can run me over.”

“Doesn’t know you well.”

Cami grinned. “No, I guess not.” The gavel sounded against the podium and she stiffened in the chair.

Alex leaned against her shoulder. “He’s about to learn.”

“Let’s hope so.”

The buzz in the room silenced and Cami flinched with expectation, well aware the only friend in the room sat next to her, arms crossed against a broad chest, muscles setting the button down flannel into defined curvature. They’d been friends since grade school, Alex played the role of bodyguard, friend, business associate and idea board. Breath held, smile suppressed, she was fully aware there was no better friend.

“This meeting will be called to order. We are here to discuss Lockhart Sanctuary for Tigers. There are many concerns within our community about the safety of both the public and sanctuary employees, as well as welfare of the animals. As you all are aware, a petition has been submitted to city council in attempt to halt the future plans of this sanctuary. We will hear from all parties concerned, in a polite and orderly fashion, and hopefully be able to reach a decision today about the future of Lockhart Sanctuary.”

Cami watched in silence as neighbor after neighbor rose up in accusation of neglected safety precautions and fearful trepidation, and fought the urge for a good eye rolling. Uneducated, uncompassionate, so many un – words, Cami’s blood curdled. Not one person protested with any knowledge of what Lockhart Sanctuary was planning, or the security measures being taken.

That’s my job, to educate them
, she corrected herself. It was one of the reasons she was building the sanctuary, secondary as it was. She better get used to unfounded accusations – they were going to frequent for as long as she had the five hundred plus pound carnivores on the property. People weren’t going to like it, were going to be scared. Cami’s passion wasn’t going to be enough to quell fears.

She stood, strode to the podium and turned to stare out at the sea of closed minds and angered eyes, and shook off the chills running down her spine. Hatred penetrated the space, suffocating air swelling her lungs.

Cami drew in a breath, pushed long layers of blonde over a shoulder, opened the briefcase and retrieved maps, diagrams and business plans, passing out Xeroxed copies to a reluctant audience.

Her eyes locked on Alex, stomach settling with his encouraging nod. A deep breath filled the void inside. “Before you are the plans my team has put together in preparation of housing fifteen to thirty cats.”

A voice shot out from the men and women in the crowd, harsh and indignant. “These ain’t house cats you’re giving homes to. These are tigers, and they kill.”

Kill. The word sent shivers down Cami’s back and she drew in a steadying breath. “You have a far greater chance of getting killed driving home tonight, or getting struck by lightning, or winning the lottery. If you look over the plans, you’ll see there are going to be two perimeter fences built around the property, followed by an outer and inner fence where the cats will be housed. Even if a mistake is made, and that’s a huge improbability because my people are trained well, the cat would have to get through all four enclosures to find its way loose. Besides that,” she paused, hanging a poster on the board behind her. “If you look here, here, and here,” she pointed out each location, “we are initially building three guard towers. These will be manned anytime the animals are outside of the indoor enclosures with a two men armed with tranquilizer guns. If there is a problem that cannot be contained, they will be able to act quickly.”

“You sound like you know the risks involved. Maybe you’re just being too stubborn to admit the failures in your plans.”

Cami turned, face flushed, towards the voice and saw Paul Schotter’s smugness staring hard back at her. Jaw tightened, and she remembered again why she preferred the company of animals over humans. “I’m realistic and aware, Mr. Schotter. And if you were half as aware, you would have come talk to me before initiating this petition.”

A gavel rapped a desk to the left and Cami rolled her eyes. “This meeting will remain unconfrontational, Ms. Lockhart.” Mr. Bradley, a city councilman, said, the thin reading glasses sloping low on his nose.

Her jaw tensed again. One sided, generic red tape. “Forgive me, I wasn’t attempting to be confrontational. I was stating a fact. These animals are going to be treated with the utmost in care and respect, all the while keeping in mind public safety.”

Mr. Bradley relaxed, round stomach easing an inch or so away from the desk. “Why don’t you go over the larger picture for us all, Ms. Lockhart?”

 

Three hours later, Alex helped Cami gather the last of the materials together as the room emptied out.

“You won. Congratulations.”

She sighed, closed the briefcase and slid it off the table to hang at her side. “They didn’t make it easy, did they?”

“You didn’t really think they would, did you?”

“No.” She smiled. “I didn’t. Thank you for being here with me. It was nice to glance over to a friendly face.”

Alex reached up to the Stetson and absentmindedly tilted it forward to shadow his chocolate eyes. “I’ve been there every day since that kid tried to steal your ball in the playground when we were five. Why stop now?”

She laughed, shoulders easing. Could always count on Alex. “I’m hungry. Want to grab some dinner on the way back to the sanctuary? A couple burgers at Joan’s?”

“Sure. My treat.”

She knew better than to try and argue with him, and allowed Alex to guide her out the room, hand on the small of her back.

Victory felt good.

 

 

 

 

BOOK: The Right One
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