Home > Flipping Love You(3)

Flipping Love You(3)
Author: Erin Nicholas

“I didn’t know that penguins didn’t need ice and snow until I met A.J.,” Mathias said.

So Mathias had known about the penguins. She assumed Christine had as well. She took care of the house, after all. Not that Christine looked to be the type of woman who probably routinely got into the penguin enclosure. Plus knowing A.J., he’d done all the hands-on work. This wasn’t just a penguin paradise, this was an A.J. paradise.

Then what Mathias said truly sunk in. Of course, Jill knew not all penguins need ice and snow. In fact, there were more species of penguins that lived in warmer climates than cold. But these penguins were specifically Galápagos penguins. Not only were they tropical penguins, but they were one of the most endangered species on the planet.

She knew they were A.J.’s favorites. These penguins were the reason he’d traveled to the Galápagos Islands the first time. He and Jill had talked at length about his trips.

But he’d never brought up the fact that he actually owned Galápagos penguins.

How did that even work? How did a guy come to own an endangered species and keep them in his house?

She looked at William. “A.J. is leaving me his penguins?”

“All eight of them.”

Her eyes widened and she looked back out over the penguin enclosure. She only saw three now. “There are eight?”

“Six adults and two juveniles.”

“Are any of them breeding pairs?” Jill asked, perking up. Penguins mated for life. If the penguins had laid viable eggs and hatched new penguins in captivity with A.J., that was huge.

“Yes, three pairs.”

“And the babies are theirs?”

“No.”

Jill deflated slightly.

“But A.J., and all of this, is part of a program where some wealthy investors with interest in wildlife conservation have each taken in a group of penguins. They are experimenting to see what private sanctuaries can do for preservation and propagation.”

Jill blew out a breath. “But what am I going to do with them? Am I leaving them here?” She looked at Christine. “This is your house now. Are we working together to keep the penguins here in this sanctuary?”

That was her immediate reaction and her first concern. These were not just eight horses. They really weren’t even just eight penguins. They were a penguin species that was vulnerable and threatened. All penguins needed protection, but the Galápagos penguin population in particular had dwindled.

In the back of her mind, Jill understood why A.J. had left the penguins to her. It was rare to come across someone who shared such a passion for penguins. She knew that well.

She’d been in love with the bird since she’d been eight years old and A.J. was the first person she’d found, including other veterinarians, who truly felt the same love and dedication to the birds she did. She understood now why he had been so excited to meet her and why he had continued their relationship over the past four years. But why hadn’t he told her about these penguins? Why hadn’t he told her he had a whole sanctuary here? Why hadn’t he warned her that he would need someone to care for them when the time came?

Okay, the last part wasn’t such a big deal. He had to know that there was no reason for her to turn down the request. Now that she knew about the penguins, even if she didn’t know exactly how this was going to work, there was no way she would let anyone else take care of them. Even the other veterinarians at the zoo wouldn’t do as well as she would.

Jill knew that she was kind of a mess. She never showed up on time for social events. She needed her mother to dress her for important professional engagements—or any engagement other than work, really. She ate cold cereal three nights a week—okay sometimes four, and she ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the other nights. She liked other animals and would certainly care for them if needed, but she always preferred penguins over other animals. Always.

She knew who she was and she owned it.

She was a damned penguin expert.

It was the one thing she was good at. It was the one thing she’d focused on and concentrated all of her time and energy on.

And it had paid off.

Veterinarians and zookeepers from around the world called for her input. She wrote papers and taught on the subject. She’d led scientific expeditions to the Galápagos , Antarctica, and Argentina. She was part of two different world-wide teams working on the problems causing declines in penguin populations globally. And none were more threatened than the Galápagos.

And now she owned eight of them personally.

But Christine was shaking her head. “I’m really hoping to turn the house into a bed and breakfast. I intend to live in the west wing of the house and use the main section in this east wing as the bed and breakfast. As much as I love the penguins and have always found them fascinating, I have no desire to help take care of them. And I’d really rather not have them here.”

Jillian understood that. They were wild animals after all. They were adorable, of course, but they were not something that a typical person would want in their house. They weren’t pets.

In fact, the more she thought about it, if Christine didn’t have the passion and knowledge that A.J. had had, then she wasn’t the best one to care for these birds. And if she was going to have a lot of people in and out of the house, that wasn’t good either. Who knew what people might do to the penguins?

They’d had an incident a year ago at the zoo where a little boy had somehow slipped into the penguin enclosure. They’d found him wet, sitting by the side of the pool when his class had discovered him missing. His mother had come to pick him up and when she got him home and into the bathtub to clean up, she’d unzipped his backpack and found a baby penguin inside.

Jillian had almost had a heart attack. She’d also almost lost her job for yelling at the child’s teacher and the parent chaperones for the trip.

She’d been called into the director’s office and had had flashbacks to when her friend Griffin had been fired from the zoo for a similar incident. That had been the start of her issues with the zoo director. But it hadn’t been the end of her issues.

“And A.J. didn’t want to just donate the animals to the zoo?” Jill asked William.

That seemed the obvious choice for someone who had a group of wild animals that needed care, but she was so glad A.J. hadn’t chosen that option.

William was watching her closely. “He actually considered that, but apparently as he got to know you better, you shared with him that you had some…issues with the zoo director. A.J. realized that you may not be employed at the zoo for the rest of your career and it occurred to him that if he wanted you caring for the penguins, the only way to ensure that was to actually give the penguins to you and let you decide where they would live.”

Jill was touched by that. She really was the best choice. She, by far, would take the best care of these animals.

But she certainly didn’t have a huge enclosure that included everything from sand to waterfalls for them to live in.

“If I don’t give them to the zoo, what will I do with them?”

“Each penguin comes with two million dollars,” William told her. “So you have a total of sixteen million dollars to work with. Of course, that money has to be used directly or at least indirectly for the penguins’ care. But that can be used to relocate them, of course, as well as to care for them long-term, including food, shelter, medical care. It can also be used to house you, since you are essential for their well-being. If you need to build a new house or move to a new place, that money can certainly be used for that.”

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