01 | EYES ON ME

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She watched me from within her pen.

"Ready?" Owen asked, his hand hovering over the red button. 

I huffed out a breath. "Yup."

His eyes lingered on me for a moment, eyebrows raised. "You know she hasn't seen you in over a month right? You can do this from behind bars."

I swiped the sawdust off of my pants, squinting up at the sunlight trickling into the arena. "Where's the fun in that?" I replied, a grin spreading across my face. 

He shook his head, chuckling to himself. I adjusted my ponytail, huffing out another nervous breath to get me into the zone. "Do it," I instructed.

The metal pen across the arena clattered open, silencing the audience I'd obtained above. The sound of her claws scraping the bark pounding in my ears. I was focused, my gaze centered on the menacing yellow eyes staring back at me. Her sensory claw skittered across the surface of the bark, observing, familiarising.

Click, Click, Click. Click, Click Click.

My frame moved towards her, not phased for a second. With each step, I felt her grow unsure of my presence. The muscles in her neck began to prickle under her scales, sniffing the air. Breathe in, breathe out.

Flat palm, bent knees, low voice, you are in control.

Another piercing shrill hiss rang through the metal arena, catching me off guard with the slightest flinch. 

"Laura-"

"I got this," I growled at Owen, planting my feet into the bark.

"Hey," I pressed, my tone firm. "Eyes on me."

She glared at me, her claws at the ready. I could just make out the rows of snarling, sharp teeth poking out from underneath her snout. I paused, letting her know I wasn't planning to venture any further forward.

"Laura," I said, taking a small dip. I locked eyes with her.

"Delta."

Delta softened her gaze, her head tilting microscopically. She wasn't entirely convinced, and neither was I. The velociraptor shrilled. 

"Easy," I warned, taking a step back.

"Watch it," Owen said from behind me. I didn't dare take my eyes off of her.

I bowed slowly once more, repeating our names. Her tail stopped swinging at the sound of my voice. I nodded to myself, sucking in a breath.

Slowly, we cautiously made our way towards the middle of the arena, stopping a metre apart. I swallowed at the giant creature in front of me, forgetting this feeling. It was a thrill I hadn't felt in the longest time. The compelling, awe-inspired, terrifying thrill. My heart was being choked with fear, hot fingertips quivering no matter how hard I clenched my jaw. She blinked at me.

She was so fucking intimidating.

Gently, I outstretched my hand, eyes still locked onto her. She arched her neck ever so hesitantly to sniff it, a cloud of hot breath tingling my palm. The entire arena held its breath.

"It's me girl," I whispered, eyes still locked onto her. She inspected my hand. Calculating. Sniffing. Blinking.

Until a soft cooing noise came from the back of her throat as she nuzzled her head into my palm, and a relief spread through me so rapidly I thought I'd buckle at the knees. Cheers rang out from the above, a smile spreading across my face. My girl was back. She looked so much better.

I stroked her gently on the tip of her head, scratching the reversed scale just behind her eye. "I missed you," I whispered to her quietly so only she would hear me, lightly tracing the mustard yellow scales. Delta bumped her head into my side, earning a laugh from me. I guided her back to the other section of the arena before the chatter above began to agitate her, scratching her chin before I bolted the gate shut.

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