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|Bad Blood(Blood Coven Vampire,book 4) by Mari Mancusi|
“What is this?” I ask, looking up at Jayden who’s picked up a small white cat and is casually leaning against a small desk, stroking its head, grinning from ear to ear. He’s wearing a pair of thick work gloves he didn’t have on before—
maybe to keep his hands from getting dirty?
“The World Famous Popovich Comedy Pet Theater,” he says, pride in his voice. “It’s a show run by this juggler named Gregory Popovich who used to be part of the Russian circus. He’s a huge animal lover so he incorporates these guys into his show.” A flopsy-looking gray and black dog paws at his leg, a chew toy in mouth. He wrestles it away from the dog and tosses it across the room, causing all the animals to scurry after it. “They’re all rescue dogs and cats—once strays—now Vegas superstars. You should see the tricks they can do.” He looks down at the cat, still nestled in his arms. “And they say you can’t train a cat. Please.”
I watch the dogs wrestle to gain ownership of the squeaky toy. “So how do you fit in here?”
He grins. “I look after them. Feed them, refill their water bowls, play with them. That kind of thing. Gregory does, too—he loves animals—but with fifteen cats and ten dogs on staff, he needs some assistance. So when I’m not acting, I’m usually here.”
I’m so impressed I don’t even know what to say.
“Anyway, that’s why I’m always so broke,” he says ruefully. “If I were a waiter or something, I’d clean up in this town. Money, not dog messes. But I can’t help it. I just love these little guys.”
A wirehaired terrier noses his hand, then looks up at him with pleading eyes.
“Oh, Rex,” Jayden says, rubbing the dog’s head affectionately. “Always looking for food, aren’t you? You little rascal.”
“Aw, he’s cute,” I say. “I wish I had some food to give him.”
Jayden looks at his watch. “The show’s going to begin soon, so these guys have to get ready.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pass. “Here, take this and exchange it for a ticket, then go save us seats. I’ll be in to join you in a few minutes.”
I’m sad to leave the roomful of animals, but I’m also excited to check out the show. So I head out the door and back to the box office. A small line has formed outside so I stand in the rear of it. A few minutes later, I have my ticket and I’m inside the theater with a front row seat.
The curtain rises and the show begins. I watch, amazed, as the show’s star, Gregory, does an amazing juggling act, incorporating the dogs and cats into many of the routines. Some are silly—dogs pushing cats in baby strollers or attending school, sitting at actual desks and seemingly performing math problems—while others are amazing—like when Popovich balances a dog sitting on a platform high above his head, throwing the dog balls and the dog dropping them down a shoot. It’s hard to explain but totally awesome. The best thing is, the dogs and cats seem to love performing. It’s not like going to a regular circus, where the animals look downtrodden and neglected. You can tell these guys adore their master—and he them.
Jayden slides into the seat next to me a moment later, a shy grin on his face. The seats are narrow so his knee casually touches mine, sending crazy electricity running through me. I squirm, feeling both excited and uncomfortable at the same time. I shouldn’t like this guy so much. After all, I already have a boyfriend—a perfect, wonderful, vampire boyfriend who I am deeply in love with. When he’s not being an ass at least . . . I’m just making a new friend, that’s all, I tell myself. There’s nothing wrong with having guy friends. I’m not doing anything I wouldn’t want Magnus to see me doing.
But it isn’t what I’m doing, I realize, that’s making me nervous. It’s how much I like doing it. How simple it all seems. How easy. I’d forgotten how uncomplicated things could be when you’re spending time with humans as opposed to vampires. There’s not this pressure, this enhanced sense of urgency and importance to everything. We’re simply hanging out, watching a show, without a care in the world. And I like that.
I clap along with the audience as one of the dogs performs an amazing jumproping stunt, pushing away my troubled thoughts and forcing myself to just enjoy the show. Before I know it, the curtains close and lights go on. It’s over.
“So what did you think?” Jayden asks, turning to me.
“So amazing!” I cry, my eyes probably shining as bright as the dogs’ were.
“This has to be, without a doubt, the best show in Vegas.”
He laughs. “I’m glad you think so. It’s certainly my favorite.” Glancing at his watch, he adds, “And now it’s time to head back to the Sun. Play practice starts in twenty minutes.”
“Let’s do it,” I say, smiling at him.
“Cool.” He starts to walk.
“Oh and Jayden?” I say, stopping him.
He turns to me, questioningly.
“Thank you for this. For today. It was awesome. I’ve had sort of a rough time since I’ve gotten here and—well, this was exactly the kind of thing I needed.”
He smiles again, his sweet, shy smile. “I’m glad,” he says softly. “I like sharing this. Not everyone understands why I do it. But you do and that makes me happy.”
And I realize, at that moment, I’m feeling pretty happy, too. 12