Esther Nelson was an attractive thirty-something woman with cats--three of them to be precise--named Larry, Curly, and Moe. She never intended to be a cat person, but the cats had gravitated to her and she was too kind-hearted to turn them away.
Larry arrived first, a "gift" from a friend who had married a man allergic to pet dander, and the orange-and-white Scottish Fold came prenamed. Curly, a black-and-white cat of indeterminate heritage, had arrived on her doorstep a few months later and refused to go away. Moe she'd coaxed from under her car at work one evening, and Esther had brought him home because she didn't know what else to do with the gray tabby.
Because she had three cats, Esther spent a significant amount of time visiting her veterinarian, a handsome single man only a few years older than her who always had a smile and a warm greeting when they met. Her cats were the excuse for visiting Dr. Joe Kleinfelder, but Esther knew the real reason she kept taking her cats to him was the liquid fire that raced through her veins whenever the good doctor was near.
Even so, Esther realized that her veterinary bills were piling up faster than her cats were coughing up fur balls, and she realized that she couldn't keep seeing Dr. Joe while he was on the clock. If something didn't change soon, she'd have to be a woman with cats, but without a veterinarian.
Late one Saturday afternoon, after a morning of shopping, Esther took Moe to the animal clinic and was pleasantly surprised to find the handsome veterinarian working alone. Dr. Joe's office manager and his veterinary assistant had taken off early that day, and Moe was the only patient waiting for Dr. Joe's attention when he stepped into the waiting room.
The veterinarian smiled when he saw Esther and her gray tabby. "Good afternoon, Ms. Nelson. How's my favorite Stooge?"
"Moe's just not been himself lately, Dr. Joe," Esther explained as she stood and walked toward the door he held open. She put just a little extra swing in her hips, hoping the good doctor would notice.
"So who has he been?" Dr. Joe asked. "Shemp?"
That Dr. Joe knew his Stooges was one of the many things that endeared him to Esther, and she laughed appropriately at the doctor's little joke.
After Dr. Joe led them into one of the examination rooms, Esther put Moe on the stainless steel examination table. It was the first time Esther and Dr. Joe had ever been alone and her heart fluttered.
Unlike Larry, Moe was comfortable in the veterinarian's examination room and didn't require Esther's complete attention. So, while Dr. Joe examined Moe, Esther examined the good doctor. He had dark, curly hair with hints of gray, a square chin with a trace of five o'clock shadow this late in the day, and a light tan. Even though his white lab coat disguised his figure, she'd seen him without it once and knew he had a classic V shape from his broad shoulders to his trim waist. He obviously cared for himself as well as he cared for his patients.
As she examined the doctor, Esther wondered if he had noticed that she had dressed to capture his attention in a sheath dress that accentuated her best assets and masked her self-perceived flaws. She'd purchased the dress just that morning for just that purpose.
After he thoroughly examined the gray tabby, Dr. Joe told Esther, "There's nothing wrong with Moe."
The veterinarian looked up at her, a twinkle in his emerald green eyes. "Then why are you here?"
"To see you," she explained.
"I've been wondering why you keep bringing me healthy cats." He smiled. "I was beginning to think all your cats were hypochondriacs."
"Or that I was just a crazy cat lady?" Esther asked with a self-depreciating smile.
"I never thought that, Esther," Dr. Joe said. "Not even once."
It was the first time he'd referred to her by her first name, and Esther's heart took another tumble.
Moe meowed as if he realized the two humans were no longer paying attention to him. Esther gathered the gray tabby in her arms and held him against her chest.
"I close in less than an hour," Dr. Joe said. "Perhaps the five of us could meet for kibbles?"
Esther answered his question with one of her own. "How about if I leave the Three Stooges at home and the two of us meet for a real meal?"
Dr. Joe smiled again. "I would like that very much, Esther."
As she left the animal clinic a few minutes later, a smile lighting up her face, Esther realized being a woman with cats wasn't so bad.
About the Author: Michael Bracken is the author of Just In Time For Love, a YA romance published by Hard Shell Word Factory. His short romantic fiction has appeared in Sun, True Experience, True Love, True Romance, True Story, and many other publications. Learn more about Michael at www.CrimeFictionWriter.com .