Chapter 7

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It got later and later and still I sat pointlessly at the table on my own. I'd heard Noah leave about an hour before, his huge wings carrying him out to sea, but there was no sign of Keira.

Even just the internal sound of her name inside my head was enough to trigger a physical reaction in my body: sweaty palms and a racing heart, a giddiness that couldn't be explained. I couldn't pinpoint exactly when these feelings had begun. They'd started the first time she dropped into my arms, but they grew with every new moment: holding her wing, making her breakfast, buying her clothes. It was as I found myself hunting for candles in the back of the pantry that I realised I was feeling something beyond friendship. I have a crush on her. Shame we met because my brother chased and crippled her, but whatever, I had a crush.

I'd cooked and plated up and sat and waited, and waited some more. No Keira. Oh well, what did you expect, dude? She's recovering from a broken wing and shock. Let her rest. Let it go for the night. I covered the plates with foil and blew out the candles and tried not to feel stupid. It had been a while since my last official date, I wasn't even sure it was a date, but if it was, I had just been stood up.

With Buster on my shoulder, I walked into my clinic. I had records to organise; tomorrow was a work day and clients would be in. My practice had been doing pretty well for the last year. I had carved out a niche for myself as the best avian vet in the state.

When we were little, we found out Pop had become a doctor because of what happened to Gran, but he didn't know a lot about wings. Part of the reason I became a vet was so we'd know more about our wings, ourselves. We figured Noah with his brilliant mind would go on to become a doctor as well, then we'd always be covered. Unfortunately, my brother being weird and all, that didn't happen.

Still, my knowledge of all things feathered had come in handy many times since I completed my vet course. I could look after my brother and myself if we got hurt. Earning my own money felt good and I genuinely liked looking after birds. My white coat had a large pocket sewn into it that hid my wings perfectly as I met with clients; old ladies with beady eyed parrots, family budgies, injured wildlife and even a guy with his own flock of homing pigeons.

I was flipping through x-rays when Keira appeared at the doorway, stunning in yellow. Her face was flushed as if she'd just stepped out of the shower and her eyes were lowered as she said, "Sorry I missed dinner."

I brushed it off. "You didn't miss it," I said lightly, "It's still on the table, cold and soggy."

"I'm sorry," she said again, her sweet face burning. "I'm not really hungry right now."

"It's okay, don't worry about it. I'm catching up on work anyway." I indicated the stack of papers in front of me.

Keira stepped around the clinic. "So... you look after birds?"

"Yup. Just call me the bird whisperer."

She stopped and scratched Buster on the neck and I watched him lean into her fingers, groaning with pleasure. Keira grinned and stroked him lovingly under his wings, his favourite place to be rubbed, and a primal envy rose in my throat to watch him enjoying her touch. Holy Ganesh, I'm actually jealous of a parrot...

"So, how much do we have in common with these guys?" she asked, still massaging Buster.

"More than you probably realise," I started, trying not to be distracted by her slender fingers in Buster's feathers. "Our wing span is a similar structure and size to body ratio as birds. The muscles and tendons are all the same too. We're also incredibly light, just like birds."

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