Bryce is a rabbit shifter recently kicked out of his nest because he’s gay. Not the best way to start a life on his own, especially when he’s caught and brought to an animal shelter. He supposes it’s better than becoming rabbit stew, but still. He wants to be free.
Then in comes the boy.
Jess’ son Taylor wants a pet, and for some reason, he picks the angriest rabbit Jess has ever seen. Jess isn’t sure it’s a good idea, but they bring Thumper home, and the rabbit settles down.
Then Jess wakes up to find a naked stranger standing in his living room.
“So? What do you have in mind?” the woman asked.
Jess looked down at Taylor. “I’m not sure. I don’t think you’re ready for a dog just yet. Maybe a cat?” He wanted his son to have a pet, but he wasn’t looking forward to having to take out a dog every day, multiple times a day. He didn’t have it in him.
Taylor shook his head. “No.” He paused and frowned. “I like cats. I just don’t think I want one.”
Please, don’t say you want a dog. “What do you want, then?”
Taylor was still looking at the cages. He looked uncomfortable, and Jess couldn’t deny he felt the same way. Maybe coming to the pet store hadn’t been a good idea. It had been the most obvious one, but Jess was already starting to regret it.
He didn’t like the thought of buying a pet. He was sure it was okay for some people, but he didn’t want to buy a life. He didn’t want to buy one of those puppies that would no doubt find a home easily. Maybe he should have suggested going to the shelter, but this was the first time he’d ever got a pet, and he hadn’t even thought about it.
He was now, but he wasn’t sure how to bring it up, especially in front of the lady who was trying to sell them a pet.
He crouched next to Taylor. “Not a cat, then. That’s fine. Do you see anything else you might want?”
Taylor was still frowning. If it had been up to Jess, his eight-year-old son would never frown. He would always have a smile on his face because he would always be happy.
It was stupid, but Taylor was the light of Jess’ days.
Taylor shook his head. “I don’t like any of these.”
Jess breathed easier. They were cats and dogs, but he’d seen Taylor look at the rodents, and even though they felt different from, say, the dogs, he still wasn’t comfortable with buying one. He was wondering if there was a shelter for rodents, though. Were those abandoned? He didn’t know, but he should look into that.
He rose from his crouch and patted his son’s shoulder, then looked apologetically at the lady. “I’m sorry. We probably should have talked about this before coming. But we’ll be back.” That was a lie, but he didn’t want to tell her there was no way he was buying a pet. He was the one who’d walked in there, after all.
She nodded, not looking disappointed at all. “That’s okay. Buying a pet is a commitment. You should be sure of what you’re doing before you do it.”
At least she wasn’t trying to get them to buy something, anything, just because she wanted to make money. Jess smiled at her, feeling slightly better. “You’re right. It is. And while we have talked about it, it’s obvious we need to have a longer chat. Thank you.”
Jess steered Taylor out of the pet store and toward the ice cream parlor. He bought Taylor’s favorite flavors—strawberry and lemon—and together, they sat on the bench outside, watching the pet store.
“It was a bit sad,” Taylor said.
Jess smiled at how dirty his son already was. He was eight, but he still couldn’t eat ice cream without slobbering all over himself. “What was sad?”
Taylor shrugged. “I don’t know. All those puppies and kittens. I want all of them to have a home, you know?”
“But not ours.”
“I don’t think I want a cat or a dog. Those rabbits were cute, though.”
Rabbits. Of course. “You’re right, they were.” Jess had no idea where to start with a rabbit, but he would learn.
Taylor hesitated. “We don’t have to get a pet if you don’t want one, Dad. I know they’re a lot of work. I promise to do as much as I can, but you know I forget.”
That much was true. Jess was convinced that if Taylor’s head weren’t attached to his shoulders, he would forget it every day. “We can talk about it again, sure. But you want a pet, and I think it’s time. You’re eight years old, and you’re old enough to have your responsibilities and stick to them. It won’t be easy in the beginning, and I’ll make sure that whatever pet you choose always has food and water, but he’ll be your responsibility.” Taylor really wanted a pet, and Jess didn’t want to say no, and Taylor seemed to understand there was a lot more to wanting a pet than buying one. “But if you don’t think you’re ready, we can wait.”
Taylor shook his head. “I’m ready. I’ve been thinking about this, and I couldn’t believe it when you said okay. But I don’t want to take one here.” He paused and cocked his head, still looking at the store. “But I think I might want a rabbit.”
Jess took his phone out. “Let me see if I can find a shelter that also has rabbits, okay?”
Taylor’s eyes went wide. “They have shelters for rabbits?”
“I don’t know. We’re about to find out, I guess.”
He opened the browser and typed a few words in, holding his breath as his phone came up with results.
“Well, it looks like a few shelters in the area do have rabbits,” he told Taylor after a moment.
Taylor’s eyes widened, and he finally smiled. “When can we go?”