Melanie will do whatever it takes to save her grandfather’s ranch and the wild tigers she keeps there, including participating in a nude protest. Little does she know Thomas Livingston is in the crowd. Livingston likes what he sees and makes Melanie an offer she can’t refuse to travel to India as a consultant on a documentary film.
The trouble is, Thomas has a less than stellar reputation and Melanie struggles to make the right decision. Thomas has seen right through her, but is there more to him than meets the eye and does he deserve a chance to win her heart?
Melanie Harper sat in the passenger seat of her friend Kat’s blue Ford pickup and gazed at the gathered crowd in front of the shopping mall gritting her teeth. “I can’t go through with this.”
“Sure you can,” Kat insisted. “Why not? We might as well do something meaningful with our lives.”
Melanie wasn’t sure nudity had meaning. Besides, she already thought her life had meaning and plenty of it. At age twenty-nine, she owned and operated one of the largest game reserves in the entire state of Texas and was known by dignitaries all around the world for her work in breeding tigers in captivity, a skill her grandfather had passed on to her with his ranch prior to his death only two years earlier. Life had been good to her. She’d given up her day job to run her ranch full time.
Kat had founded Living Things, a group dedicated to the wellbeing of furry and feathered friends, and wanted Melanie to do the unthinkable, go naked in support of animal rights.
“What will the media say? It will be bad for business.”
Kat adjusted her cowboy hat. “From what I hear, all publicity is good.”
The group was protesting in front of a store in the mall that proudly sold a new line of armadillo handbags. Outraged, Kat and the rest of the group had decided to stage a publicity stunt to garner attention for the cause and put a stop to the sale of the handbags. Humanitarian reasons aside, the ridiculously ugly bags were hollowed out bodies with handles atop the little scaly creatures. Nobody should carry one of these. Period.
Only a diehard Texan would buy armadillo accessories anyway. Nevertheless, mortified Kat wanted to make a difference in the world the only way she knew how.
“A picket line would be okay, but this?” Melanie gestured to a group of wrinkled old people wearing nothing but signs covering their private parts.
Kat began unbuttoning her flannel shirt. “Nobody wants to see that, I agree, but you and I? Well, maybe we’ll meet an oilman or two.”
“You’re disgusting, you know it? I don’t parade around to get a date.”
“Which is probably why you haven’t had a date in a while.”
“What would my grandfather say? He’d probably roll over in his grave if he saw me flashing people.”
“It’s not about your naked body, Mel,” Kat said. “It’s about the animals, you know, saving animals from being tested and being turned into fur coats. It’s for a cause, not just because you’ve suddenly decided to become an exhibitionist.”
Melanie had many thoughts about ethical and humane treatment of animals. She’d learned from her grandfather, an avid hunter who fought for the humane treatment of animals and who, shortly before his death, allowed her to transform their game preserve into a wildlife sanctuary.
Her grandfather had made no apologies for his hunting expeditions all around the world over his seventy-eight years. He’d donated generously to overseas conservation projects and believed hunting helped prevent overpopulation.
He taught Melanie about the benefits of hunting to keep animal population levels down to prevent pestilence and disease from killing the animals instead. He believed hunting a necessary part of life.
Her grandfather had been one of the first in Texas to breed tigers in captivity and had pioneered processes for their care in the United States. Because of his efforts, Texas now had a larger tiger population than anywhere else on earth with the exception of India.
A featured expert in the media, Melanie became a welcome guest on programs in the North Texas area. Because of her growing celebrity, Kat wanted her there today to draw greater media attention to the event.
As they approached the southern entrance of the mall, where the protest was set to begin only moments later, Melanie and Kat saw the news trucks and a rather large crowd gathering, including the local police.
I’m going to be arrested, she told herself as they parked and began to walk up to the group.
“I don’t know about this.” Melanie told Kat again as they walked inside the mall.
“It’s now or never baby.” Kat dropped her dress and stepped out in all her natural born glory.
Lord have mercy, Melanie thought as she did the same, throwing her tank top and bra in the pile and stepping out of her shorts and panties, covering herself instead with a sign that said The Fur Stops Here.
“We’re here today at North Glen Mall where dozens of people are gathered in the flesh…” a TV reporter said into the camera.“ The PETA organization is here in the wealthiest part of our city, to protest fur by shedding theirs, and believe me folks, you’ll want to get here right now to get in on the action, because Dallas police are already gearing up for what might be the largest arrest of its kind in recent history.”
Melanie listened to his report with disgust. The media always found ways to sensationalize any event, although she had to admit in this case, there was something sensational going on here. While she eavesdropped and leaned in, trying to hear what he said, he caught a glimpse of her instantly recognizable face.