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“Stupid cat,” Beca said softly as she stroked her unhappy feline’s head. “Not feeling great, huh?”

Bella scowled in the way only cats could and mewled pitifully, green eyes staring at her mom and willing her to understand what the issue was. She got up then and hobbled around Beca’s legs to rub against them, favoring her front, right paw.

“Can I see, Baby?” Beca asked as she gently picked the orange tabby up. “Let me see your paw.” She rubbed her thumb over the pads and between Bella’s toes, noting how the cat tried to pull away and squirmed in her arms. “Got a little bit of swelling there, huh?” Beca kissed the cat’s nose and then set her on the couch. “Let me call the vet and see if they can fit us in.”

Bella mewled in agreement and sat down, licking her painful paw and scowling again.

The brunette nodded and fished her phone out of her back pocket to dial her regular office.

“Perfect Paws Animal Hospital, how can I help?!” answered the cheeriest voice Beca had quite possibly ever heard.

“Hi, this is Beca Mitchell, my cat is favoring her front right paw and licking it a lot. It seems swollen. Can I bring her in this afternoon?”

“Hi, Beca,” the voice on the other end of the phone enthusiastically greeted. “Awwww… I’m sorry your fur baby isn’t feeling well. Our scheduler just stepped away for a moment, but let me see if I can figure this application out… hmm…”

Beca waited patiently. “I can bring her in any time this afternoon,” she prompted after some quiet muttering from the woman who’d answered the phone.

“Ok…” the woman replied. “Do you have a preference for any particular vet?”

The brunette nodded to herself. “Bella normally sees Doctor Schafer.”

“Ah…” the woman replied. “Doctor Schafer isn’t here today but… if it’s ok with Bella, I have some openings this afternoon? I’m Doctor Beale and I just joined this practice.”

“Oh,” Beca replied, surprised. “Vets don’t normally answer the phone.”

Doctor Beale chuckled softly. “Honestly, I’m just manning the desk for a minute while Aubrey’s taking a bio break. Ok, I don’t know how this works, so why don’t you just bring Bella by now? I’m free for the next couple of hours.”

“Sure, that’d be great,” the brunette smiled. “Thanks, Doctor Beale.”

“My pleasure… and since the appointment totes won’t be on the schedule, just tell Aubrey that you spoke to me on the phone when you get here.”

Did she just say totes?

“Ok… thanks again,” Beca replied. “We’re on our way.”

Xx

Bella was very unhappy, and she cowered right back from the door of her carrier as Beca sat it on the reception counter. “Hi,” she said. “Beca Mitchell and Bella to see Doctor Beale.”

“Hi, Beca,” Aubrey said with a smile. “Let me just get you checked in.”

“Oh, you won’t find us on the schedule,” the brunette replied. “I spoke to Doctor Beale on the phone, and she told me to bring Bella in. She didn’t know how to put the appointment in the schedule.”

Aubrey chuckled softly. “She’s a sweetheart but she hasn’t learned our systems yet.”

“How long has Doctor Beale worked here?” the brunette asked.

“Here, just since Monday,” the vet tech replied. “But I’ve known her a long time. She’s very experienced and amazing at her job.”

“Why thank you, Aubrey” a perky voice exclaimed and Beca turned, only to have her breath stolen right out of her chest. “Hi, I’m Chloe Beale. You must be Beca.” The woman focused on the carrier sitting on the counter. “And THAT must be Bella. Hey, Beca and Bella, that’s cute!”

Beca was staring. She knew she was staring. Like staring embarrassingly badly. But she couldn’t seem to stop herself. “Y-yeah,” she stuttered.

For some unknown reason, Aubrey was sniggering.

Doctor Beale was not at all what Beca had been expecting. The vet was on the shorter side… but still a couple of inches taller than Beca, which frankly wasn’t difficult… slender and gorgeous with twinkling blue eyes and wavy, red hair that spilled over her shoulders. She was wearing navy scrubs over a white, long-sleeved shirt and her smile was the largest, most perfect thing the brunette had ever seen.

Beca gave herself a mental shake and held out her hand. “Hi, Doctor Beale. Beca Mitchell.”

The redhead shook it. Her hand was soft, but her grip was firm. “So nice to meet you. Why don’t we get Bella into an exam room and take a peek at her paw?” Beca turned to pick Bella’s carrier up by its handle, but Doctor Beale put her hand gently on hers to stop her. “I’ve got her.” She carried Bella to the waiting room door and looked back over her shoulder with a grin. “C’mon, Mom, Bella’s gonna need moral support dealing with the scary vet.”

Beca found herself grinning too and trailed along after the redhead. She sighed softly then. Doctor Beale had a really great ass too. “Um… cool.”

They got situated in an exam room and the vet set the carrier on the floor, then sat next to it, legs crossed underneath her as she opened its door. Then she just waited. “So…” she said. “When did you first notice that Bella was favoring her paw?”

Beca took a seat on the floor opposite her. If Doctor Beale was surprised, she gave no sign. “Last night. I noticed she was limping a little. Then this morning, it seemed swollen, and she’s been licking it a lot.”

“Thanks for bringing her in so quickly,” the vet said softly, side-eyeing Bella and grinning a little as the cat peeked out of the carrier and meowed. “Hi Bella,” she said in a high, encouraging voice. “Aren’t you the prettiest girl… just like your mom.”

Beca blinked. Did she just say…

Bella meowed again and came further out of the carrier. Doctor Beale slowly held out her fist and waited again. “And she’s been eating, peeing and pooping normally?”

The brunette nodded. “Yeah, I haven’t noticed any changes at all.”

“Ok,” the vet smiled. “It’s probably an ingrown nail or abscess of some kind.” Then her smile broadened as the cat slowly crept closer and bumped her head against her knuckles. “Good girl, Bella. We’re going to be the best of friends.” She scooped the feline up and got up herself to place her on the examination table. Then she offered a hand to help Beca up too. “It’s cold down there.”

Beca let herself be pulled to her feet. “Thanks,” she said a little shyly. Then she groaned as Bella suddenly coughed and hacked a hairball up on the table. “Dude! Noooo!”

Doctor Beale laughed softly as she reached for some paper towels and cleaned it up. “It’s ok. It’s just a stress reaction. She’s fine.” Then she picked up the cat’s paw to examine it, holding it firmly as Bella protested. Beca began stroking her head and the cat relaxed a little. Then she mewled pitifully as the vet squeezed her paw to extend her toes and nails. “Hmmm… it doesn’t seem to be an ingrown nail.”

“I trim them once a month,” Beca mentioned quietly.

“You take really good care of her,” Doctor Beale replied softly as she eased the paw over to check for problems with the pads. “She’s in perfect condition and I can tell she’s very well nourished. Her weight is pretty perfect.”

“Wish I could say that about myself,” Beca chuckled but, as her dark blue eyes met twinkling light blue, the vet tilted her head.

“I dunno, Beca, I’d say you’re in pretty perfect condition yourself.”

Beca withdrew, pulling her eyes away and sitting on the bench on the other side of the table as her anxiety suddenly spiked. Doctor Beale cleared her throat softly. “So… since there are no signs of external trauma, I’m going to do an x-ray. Is Bella a house cat or does she go outside?”

“She’s a house cat,” the brunette replied. “And please, do whatever you need to, to make her feel better.” Beca’s chest suddenly felt tight, and she shook her head as she realized she was about to be hit with an anxiety attack. “Sorry… I…” She closed her eyes and pressed her hand to her chest as the attack crashed over her.

But then gentle hands were on her shoulders. “It’s ok, Beca,” the vet said softly as she crouched in front of the bench. “Open your eyes and look at me, ok?”

Beca tried but her brain was having a hard time processing signals. “I… fuck…”

“Just breathe,” Doctor Beale said. She took Beca’s hand and pulled it to her chest, stroking it’s back soothingly with the pads of her fingers. Beca managed to make eye contact and the vet’s gaze just froze her in place.

Bella meowed worriedly and jumped off the table onto the bench next to her mom, standing up on her hind paws to rub her head against Beca’s face. The brunette took a shuddering breath and then nodded. “Ok… I’m ok,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”

The vet smiled and backed off a little. “Don’t apologize. I know it’s scary when your fur baby isn’t feeling well.” She picked up the cat again and went back to the exam. “I definitely feel some swelling, so yeah, I’ll do an x-ray. I’m also a veterinary radiologist, so I can read the images right here.”

“Ok,” Beca agreed shakily.

Doctor Beale carried Bella to the exam room door and paused to look back with a reassuring smile. “We’ll be back in a jiffy. Won’t we, Bells?” She kissed the cat’s nose and then took her away, closing the door behind her.

Beca groaned and covered her face with her hands. “Dude, could you have embarrassed yourself any worse?!” she muttered.

Xx

Chloe was sitting at a computer, with Bella in her lap, rolling the wheel of the mouse back and forth as she examined the x-rays. She sighed and shook her head. There was something inside the paw, and it seemed to be filled with fluid, so she decided she’d try to extract some and have it tested. But she needed the owner’s permission for that. “Let’s get you back to your mom, huh?” she murmured as she rubbed Bella’s ears. “Are you her emotional support cat, Bells? She loves you very much.”

It wasn’t the first time Chloe had seen a pet owner have an anxiety attack and Beca’s had passed quickly, but she had a feeling it was because the brunette had had a lot of therapy. She recognized the signs of someone employing learned skills and wondered what had happened to the woman to leave her in need of help like that.

Chloe stood, carried the purring cat back along the hallway and ducked back into the exam room. She’d taken Bella’s measurements and weight before the x-ray and was very pleased with her condition overall. “Hey, Mom,” she said as Beca got up worriedly. “Bella did great.” She eased the protesting feline back into her carrier and closed the door. Then she went to sit on the bench.

“Is she ok?” Beca asked, a little breathlessly as she retook her seat.

“I think so,” Chloe smiled. “The x-ray showed something inside her paw, but it looks to be an abscess so, if you’re ok with it, I’d like to bring her back tomorrow and draw a sample of the fluid while she’s sedated.”

“But, Doctor Beale, what could have caused it?” Beca asked, totally blaming herself for her cat’s painful state.

Chloe realized what was happening and tilted her head. “It’s Chloe,” she said gently. “And it’s not your fault, Mom. It’s most likely just a small infection. When can you bring her back in tomorrow?”

“Um...” Beca thought about that, mentally reviewing the meetings and calls on her schedule. “I have to work during the day but depending on your schedule, I could bring her in after? I only live ten minutes away. I could be here by six-thirty, if that’s not too late?”

“That would be perfect,” Chloe replied immediately. “I can do the sedation, take the sample and then maybe we could... um... while Bella is waking up...” She looked down at her sneaker-covered feet. “Go get a coffee or...?”

Beca felt another wave of anxiety rise in her chest. “I... I’m not sure I can...” she admitted.

Chloe’s smile was beaming though. “Tell you what, how about I go get the coffee and bring it back here after I finish? We can hang out together.”

“You’d want... want to do that?” the brunette whispered, dark blue eyes peeking at the vet. Chloe was gorgeous and for the first time in a very long time, Beca found herself insanely attracted to someone.

“Totes!” the vet replied, still beaming. “But you know... no pressure or... like… anything weird.” She blushed a little and shook her head with a sigh. “I really need to grow a filter, Beca. It’s a problem.”

And Beca laughed. It was a full out, chest deep laugh of the kind she hadn’t heard from herself in longer than she could remember. “Um... well... you don’t have to pressure me to have coffee with you, Chloe. I’d… I’d like that.”

Chloe’s smile grew wider, if that was even possible. “Great... coffee... I’ll...” The vet stood and shook herself a little. “I’ll walk you out, Mom.” Then she stopped and went back for Bella’s carrier. “Almost forgot you, Fur Baby,” she murmured.

At checkout, Chloe hovered, holding the carrier as Beca settled the bill, then handed it over to her. “See you tomorrow at six-thirty,” she said.

“See you then,” the brunette replied. “Thank you, Doctor Beale.”

Blue eyes gazed back steadily at her. “Most definitely my pleasure, Ms. Mitchell.” Beca felt her cheeks heat a touch and swallowed as she turned and headed for the exit. The blue eyes watched her all the way out.

Chloe sighed softly and leaned on the reception desk, propping her chin up on her fist. Aubrey watched her for a moment and then chuckled softly. “She’s kinda hot, right? Did you ask her out?”

The vet sighed again. “Yeah...” she breathed dreamily but then she straightened. “She’s bringing Bella back tomorrow evening. I asked her to have coffee with me while we’re waiting for sedation to wear off.”

“Chloe?” Aubrey said. “You know it’s your day off tomorrow, right?”

But the redhead just smiled. “I know.”

Xx

It had been a long day of getting pretty much nothing done between her calls. Beca had sat in front of her piano for hours, trying to come up with a decent melody for a new song, but every time she thought she had something, her mind had wandered away and she’d finally just slammed the fallboard shut over the keys and moved to the couch to flop onto it, face down.

Bella limped to her and jumped up onto the couch to sit affectionately on her head. “Thanks, Baby,” the brunette muttered through fish lips. “How’s the paw?” The cat licked her paw and then mewled. “That good, huh? Well, Chloe’s gonna fix it, ok?”

Chloe.

Beca lifted Bella off her head and rolled onto her back to set the feline on her stomach. “She’s nice, right? You liked her. She’s pretty and kinda sweet.” The brunette chuckled softly. “Who am I kidding? She’s hot as fuck. And those eyes... Wow.”

Just then her phone dinged a reminder and she nodded to herself as she went to her laptop and logged into a special website. She waited a few minutes and then smiled as her therapist popped up in the video chat window for their daily therapy check-in. “Hi, Beca,” the woman said. “How are you?”

“Hi, Elise,” the brunette replied. “Up to yesterday evening, I would have said I was the same old but...”

Elise smiled. “Oh? What happened yesterday evening?” She chortled a little then. “And why the heck are you blushing?”

“Ugh...” Beca groaned and pressed her face into her hands. “I... I met someone.”

The therapist leaned forward. “Someone...?” she prompted with raised eyebrows.

The musician nodded slowly. “She kinda... asked me... on a kinda date?”

Elise pursed her lips. “Was that a statement or a question, Beca?”

The brunette sighed. “I think she asked me on a date. I mean... she suggested coffee and...”

“You said yes?”

“I was honest with her, like we talked about, Elise. I told her I wasn't sure and she... she said she’d get the coffee and bring it to me so we could hang out.”

The therapist smiled and tilted her head. “What did you say?”

Beca’s ears turned pink. “I said yes. I... I wanted to...”

“And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is progress!” Elisa exclaimed.

The musician laughed softly. “I guess I’m not a lost cause after all.”

The older woman’s face gentled. “Oh Beca, I never thought you were. The assault took your feet out from under you... left you with severe trust and intimacy challenges, but you’re also a strong, and dare I say stubborn, woman. I knew this day would come.”

Beca nodded slowly. “Thank you... but what... I know is just a first date but… what if she like... tries to kiss me or something.”

The therapist leaned back in her chair this time, tapping her pen somewhere off-screen. “You’re in full control of what happens, Beca. Let me ask you… what if YOU want to kiss HER?”

Dark blue eyes widened. “Uh...”

“Life doesn’t have to just happen to you. You can make what you want to happen, happen... if you want to kiss her, kiss her, with permission of course. If she gives any indication of wanting to kiss you, meet her halfway... or... kiss her first... or don’t, it’s your choice.”

“My choice,” the brunette murmured. “Yeah, yeah, it is.”

“Tell me more about her?” Elise asked.

“Well... she’s a vet. I met her when I brought Bella in. She’s sweet and very experienced... and she was amazing with Bella. You know how prickly she can be, but she took to Chloe right away.”

Elise nodded thoughtfully. “She sounds like a caregiver personality.”

“She recognized and helped me through an anxiety attack...” Beca smiled a little. “Which she actually caused by flirting with me. I was totally mortified but she played it off like it was no big deal... and asked me about coffee anyway.”

The therapist smiled. “It sounds like she’s interested in you. I think we can get rid of that question mark.”

“She has red hair,” Beca went on softly as if she hadn’t heard what her therapist had said. “And the bluest eyes and... she’s totally gorgeous… and like… so sexy. And she has super soft and gentle hands. And I’m attracted to her... like a whole lot. She's so smart too. She’s a radiologist as well and she read Bella’s x-rays right there for me.”

“Beca?” Elise said quietly, almost unwilling to break into her client’s thoughts.

Dark blue eyes came back from a faraway place. “Hmmm?”

“You’re talking about being attracted to and liking someone... and you’re not having an anxiety attack.”

The musician blinked and sat back in her chair in utter shock. “Wow,” she said, slightly in awe.

“Definitely progress,” the therapist grinned. “You should be very proud of yourself. What time are you seeing her?”

“Six-thirty,” Beca replied.

Elise looked at her watch and lifted an eyebrow. “It’s five-ten. How about we end our session now so you can get ready. I have a feeling you might want to dress up a little?”

The brunette blushed again. “Yeah... I think I do.”

The therapist nodded. “Have fun, Beca, and remember, you’re in control of your life. You can make whatever you want to happen, happen. And I want to hear everything tomorrow!”

“Thank you, Elise,” Beca replied with a smile.

Xx

Chloe was pacing back and forth, looking at her watch every now and again as the cleaning staff and vet techs bustled around getting ready to go home. It was six-twenty-five and she’d arrived a little early to prepare the procedure room and supplies for Bella’s... and Beca’s... arrival.

“Listen,” Aubrey said as she tossed her phone into her purse and slung it over her shoulder. “I’ve known Beca a while and she’s kinda... shy and skittish... so be patient with her, Chlo.”

“You mean Bella?” Chloe asked, eyebrows raised.

“I mean Beca,” Aubrey chuckled.

“Oh... well... I know how to handle skittish,” Chloe grinned. “But thanks, Aubrey.”

“Night, see you tomorrow.” Aubrey headed for the exit and then smiled as she met Beca on the way in, carrying a wailing Bella in her carrier. “Hi, Beca. Bye, Beca,” She winked at her and then disappeared out the door. The brunette looked back over her shoulder with a frown, then looked ahead to find Chloe standing in front of her and came to a sudden stop as she almost walked into her.

“Oh... sorry... Hi,” she said, a small smile lifting her lips as she pushed her dark hair back behind her ears. She was wearing jeans, a black leather button up shirt and boots.

“Hi,” Chloe replied softly. “You look... um... wow.”

“You too,” Beca said, her smile growing as she realized the vet looked different than the previous day. She was wearing dark eye makeup that made her blue eyes pop, and her pink lip was very attractive. “How are you?”

“I’m doing really well,” the vet said. Then she took the carrier out of her friend’s hands and lifted it to peer inside. “How are you doing, Pussy Cat?” Her blue eyes landed back on Beca then, eyebrows lifted.

“She’s doing ok. Still limping and licking her paw but she doesn’t seem any worse than yesterday.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Chloe nodded. “Let’s get started. Follow me, Mom.” She carried Bella into an exam room and settled her on the table this time, opening the door and smiling as the orange tabby immediately sashayed to her and rubbed up against her chest.

Beca swallowed, idly wondering for a moment if she could get away with rubbing herself against the vet too. She lifted her eyes from Chloe’s chest to her face and found a slight smirk there, then realized she’d been caught staring AGAIN. Her cheeks colored a little. “So,” she cleared her throat softly. “What’s first?”

“It’ll be quick and totally painless, I promise,” Chloe said reassuringly. “I’m going to give her a little gas and when she’s asleep, I’ll use a syringe to pierce the mass and extract some of the fluid.”

“The m-mass?” Beca said in shock. “Like a tumor?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just a medical term,” the vet soothed, putting a hand on the musician’s shoulder and squeezing gently. “I still think it’s just an abscess.” Then she took Bella’s paw and gently turned it over to examine it. “Ah... there.” She showed Beca a tiny bump on one pad. “I suspected that we might see that develop overnight,” she said. “It’s the head of the abscess... like the head of a pimple... and is most likely the entry point for the infection. Bella probably stood on something.” She picked the cat up and cuddled her, kissing her face. “I think draining the pus and a course of antibiotics is totes going to clear this right up.”

Beca laughed softly. “You know there’s no other adult in the entire world who says totes,” she teased.

Chloe winked. “There’s no other adult in the world like me, Beca.”

And Beca was inclined to agree as she let her eyes roam over the gorgeous vet. Then she realized that Chloe was wearing Levis with her scrub top... Levis she was poured into… and as she turned away to grab a paper towel, Beca’s mind almost derailed. God... her ass is… EPIC!.

“Ok, follow me. There’s only a skeleton staff here for emergency cases so no one will mind if you come into the procedure room with me.”

“I get to see you in action, huh?” Beca replied, her tone almost purring, and Chloe’s eyes shot to her, widening a little as she swallowed.

“I... um... yeah... it’s...” The redhead cleared her throat. “It’s a simple procedure.” She led the musician into another room and sat a not-very-patient Bella on the table. Then she quickly sized a gas mask and slid it over the feline’s nose and mouth. After a moment of struggling, Bella’s movements grew sluggish. “Good Girl,” Chloe murmured, stroking her fingertips along the cat’s head and rubbing her ears gently. “Just relax and sleep.” And in a count of ten, Bella was out cold. “See? Nice and easy,” she told Beca with a smile.

“Yeah, that was ok,” the brunette nodded.

Chloe eased Bella’s tongue out and to the side, then replaced the mask. She took a moment to pull a pair of nitrile gloves on and went to grab a kidney tray off the sideboard. She set it on the table next to the sleeping cat and lifted a cloth off to take out a syringe. “Feel free to look away if needles aren’t your thing,” she said gently. But she smiled as Beca’s eyes remained firmly on her cat. Then she paused, tilting her head thoughtfully. “Actually...” She set the syringe down, picked up two pieces of gauze and held them to Bella’s paw as she squeezed gently. “Maybe we can avoid the needle extraction altogether.”

Beca gasped as the little bump on her baby’s pad grew slightly bigger. “Wow.”

“Oh yeah,” Chloe chuckled. “We’ve got a popper here.”

“Wh... a what?”

The vet quickly listened to the cat’s heart with a stethoscope, then grabbed a different instrument and inserted its tip into the bump. She set it down to pick up the gauze again. “You might want to step back,” she advised. Then she squeezed Bella’s paw and the brunette grimaced as pus erupted from the pad.

“Lovely...” Beca said as a horrible aroma drifted to her.

“I know, right?” the vet laughed softly. Chloe wiped the pus away, grabbed some fresh gauze and squeezed again, watching more pus appear. She continued squeezing and wiping until finally, there was no more yellow nastiness, then used a saline solution to irrigate the area. “There,” she said, nodding in satisfaction. “Good as new. I’ll write a prescription for an antibiotic for her. A week should do it.” She took a moment to wrap a light bandage around Bella’s paw. “We’ll let it keep draining. She should keep this dry as much as possible.”

“Chloe... thank you so much,” the musician said. “I was so worried it was something really bad.” Tears rose in her eyes, and she wiped impatiently at them, but Chloe just came around the table, pulling her gloves off and tossing them into the kidney tray.

“Hey,” she said, squeezing the musician’s shoulder. “We have a saying in the medical community. When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras.”

Beca blinked and then offered a watery smile. “You’re so weird, Dude.”

The vet laughed softly, tossing her red hair back over her shoulders. “Are you complaining, Ms. Mitchell?”

“Definitely not, Doctor Beale.”

Xx

Bella was still groggy when Chloe came back with two coffees and a bag of cake pops from her favorite coffee shop. Beca was waiting on the couch in her tiny office with the feline in her lap and she whiled the time away looking around at the knickknacks and pictures that littered the room. One picture caught her attention though. It was Chloe with Aubrey, and they were hugging each other. The blonde woman was kissing Chloe’s cheek. Beca suddenly wondered if Aubrey was the vet’s girlfriend. Shit, what if she is and I’m totally reading things wrong!

The door opened and the vet ambled in, shoving it closed behind her with her foot. “Hey... sorry it took so long. There was quite a line for this time of evening.” Chloe set two travel cups and a paper bag on her desk and went to a small locker to find a fresh t-shirt. She turned her back to the musician and pulled her scrub shirt off over her head. Beca couldn’t look away from the muscled back with smooth, tanned skin, broken only by the lacy straps of a sky-blue colored bra. When she didn’t say anything, Chloe looked over her shoulder, pulling the t-shirt down over her torso and twitching it straight. “You ok? You’ve gone quiet on me. Did the pus gross you out?”

Bella stirred in the brunette’s lap, breaking her revery, and she nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Sorry, I’m just not real chatty sometimes.”

The vet crossed the room, bringing the coffee and paper bag with her and taking a seat next to Beca. The musician suddenly caught a tantalizing aroma of light perfume and shampoo, and it made her head spin a little. “Double shot with vanilla creamer, right?”

“Thanks,” Beca said, accepting her cup and then grinning as Chloe took a cake pop out and shoved it unceremoniously into her mouth.

“I smove mese fings,” she mumbled as she chewed and then swallowed. “Too damn much. I swear I eat about a pound of these every day. I’m pretty sure I’ve already gained weight since I started working here.”

“I dunno, Chloe, I’d say you’re in pretty perfect condition,” Beca replied, offering Chloe’s words from the previous day back to her and making her swallow. There was that tone again and it sent a little shiver of pleasure through the vet’s body.

“You may not be much of a talker,” the redhead replied softly. “But when you do speak, you seem to know the right things to say.”

The musician blushed a little and looked down, taking a sip of her coffee. Then she pointed at the photograph, curiosity getting the better of her. “Is Aubrey your… um… girlfriend?” she asked, accepting a cake pop from her new friend and taking a delicate bite.

“Oh...” Chloe shook her head. “No... I mean... we used to date years ago in college, but we figured out we were better as best friends. I... um... I’m not seeing anyone right now...” She cleared her throat, light blue eyes lifting hopefully. “Except... if this coffee date goes well... maybe... you?”

Beca pursed her lips, navy eyes twinkling a little as Chloe finally set the record straight. “It’s going pretty well so far but it’s early yet. Don’t get your hopes up.”

The vet laughed softly. “You’re funny,” she said. “And adorable... and kinda beautiful.”

Beca took a breath as a wave of anxiety began to rise. “Oh no,” she murmured, pressing her hand to her chest. “Shit, Chloe... sorry, I...” Her breathing was elevated, and she shook her head, setting her coffee down on the floor.

Chloe was suddenly on her knees in front of her. “Tell me what you need,” she said quietly.

“I feel so stupid,” Beca panted. “I can’t even be in the same room with a gorgeous woman without fucking hyperventilating.”

“You think I’m gorgeous?” Chloe asked with a grin.

Beca froze and then couldn’t help but laugh at the wide-eyed delight on the vet’s face. It helped to dispel the anxiety and she slowly calmed her breathing. “You really are such a weirdo,” she said, but with an affectionate smile as she reached out a hand and pressed it to the vet’s chest. “And yeah, I do think you’re kinda gorgeous.”

“You’re ok though, right?” the redhead asked, shuffling closer on her knees. “You look a little pale.”

“I’m ok,” the musician nodded. “Thanks, Chloe, for being chill about my being a psycho.”

“I’m not complaining,” the vet replied. “But... if you’re comfortable sharing why you have anxiety, I’d like to know.”

Beca looked down and her hand fell away from Chloe’s chest. “I don’t talk about it,” she said.

“Ok,” the older woman said gently.

And Beca closed her eyes. She couldn’t say it. It was too hard, too much and she didn’t want to cause her anxiety to worsen. She also didn’t want to see sympathy or sadness in Chloe’s eyes, so she just nodded.

“Thanks for understanding.”