Tennessee Rescue(3)

By: Carolyn McSparren

Toss them out to die? Not in this lifetime! The heck with the laws of Tennessee. She’d find a vet to give them rabies shots, then she’d hide them from Mr. Big Lawman if she had to. But what on earth did baby skunks eat?

Inside the pantry, she found the three babies cuddled on the fluffy towel she’d folded up for them and stuffed in a corner. For a second they were so still she was terrified they’d died. Then she saw three furry little tummies rise and fall gently and blew out a breath in relief.

She got a shallow bowl from a kitchen cupboard, half filled it with water and set it carefully beside the towel. One tiny paw waggled at her, almost like a greeting. She had to admit they were about the cutest babies she’d ever seen. Skunks. Who knew?

How long had they been without their mother? Was she dead or trying desperately to get into the house to to reach them? How had they gotten inside in the first place? And, more important, as their foster parent, how was she going to keep them alive and teach them to live in the wild?

She had no intention of living with three skunks with functioning scent glands, but they seemed to have no scent yet. When she finally turned them loose, she wanted to release three skunks proficient in survival skills. Not pets. She’d never owned a pet, and she wasn’t about to start with skunks.

* * *

SETH LOGAN STOOD by his front door and watched his new neighbor march from his house back to hers, then disappear inside. The last thing he needed was a crazy city neighbor with a do-gooder mentality and the practical knowledge of a newt.

At least she wasn’t beautiful. Shoot. On reflection, he decided that when she dried off she might well be beautiful. Not many women reached his six-foot-four-inch height, but she didn’t miss six feet by much, and he suspected she spent hours of city time in a fancy gym to keep what, even in jeans, he could tell was a sleek body.

She might find some yoga classes at one of the churches in the neighborhood, but the closest gym was twenty miles away.

She’d probably brought a treadmill or a stair-climber in the back of that big SUV. Clare had filled his guest room with expensive exercise equipment, but she’d taken it all with her when she walked out on him. He certainly didn’t need it. He got plenty of exercise chasing down poachers and rescuing lost hikers.

He had a sudden vision of his new neighbor in bicycle shorts and a tank top. He felt his face flush and an immediate reaction from other parts of his body that had been underutilized lately.

It had been too long. Much too long. He’d worried last week that Wanda Joe at the DQ was starting to look good to him, even though he and Earl had gone to high school with her children.

What had possessed him to be borderline rude to his new neighbor? She was right to be annoyed. She had no way of knowing that her skunk problem had capped a god-awful day that began at three in the morning with a couple of idiots jacklighting deer on posted property. He’d caught one of them after the guy put a couple of slugs into the stuffed decoy deer, but he’d lost the second one.

Not the woman’s fault, and yet he’d still taken it out on her.

She had no way of knowing what a can of worms she’d stepped into with the skunks. He didn’t want to toss the orphaned kits into the wide world any more than she did. He could stretch the rules for a bit, but rules were made for a reason and he obeyed them. Rules saved lives.

“Heck,” he said, sliding his dishes into the dishwasher. He changed into old jeans and an even older sweatshirt, filled a clean jelly jar with milk, found a couple of cans of dog food left over from before Rambler died, and headed across the road to do what he should’ve done in the first place. Help the woman. He’d worry about a practical solution to her skunk problem tomorrow.

He felt instinctively that having her as a neighbor meant his peaceful life was sliding back down into chaos. Shoot, he was just getting used to peace.


EMMA JUMPED A foot when she heard the knock. She turned on her front porch light and peered through the antique oval glass set in the door. Ah, Mr. Wildlife himself. He swept off his wide-brimmed hat and shook streams of water off it. So she’d recognize him? Not necessary. She didn’t know anyone else within a hundred miles in any direction, much less a giant in a dripping poncho.