Home > Baal

Author: Laura Greenwood






It was about as busy as it ever got on a random Thursday at The Coven Copy Shop and I eyed up the back room, hoping that I could find an excuse to slip back there and work on my potion that would develop photos in a more interesting way. I’d already managed to figure out how to make focus sharper, but there were so many other things I wanted to try, including making photos move. I knew I’d only be able to sell the service to paranormal clientele, but it was still something I wanted to work on.

“Hey, Chelsea, your favourite client is here,” Anise called from the customer service station.

I looked over in her direction and she nodded towards the door. I followed her gaze, my heart skipping a beat at the sight of the handsome black man about to make his way inside. As much as I knew crushing on the customers was a bad idea, I couldn’t help it whenever Baal was around. I wasn’t sure whether it was the calm collected tone in his voice, the obviously toned chest under his shirt, or his love of animals that had started the inappropriate thoughts, but there was certainly no doubt that I had them. He was everything I’d ever wanted all rolled up into one smoking hot package.

No doubt he’d never look at me twice, and with good reason, there was nothing special about me.

The bell rang and he stepped inside, a bright smile flitting across his face the moment he saw me working. That didn’t help my crush either, but at least it made him easy to deal with, unlike some of our other customers.

“Hey,” I said with a lame wave. I should really try harder if I ever wanted him to notice me.

“Hi, Chelsea.” The way his voice curled around my name made my heart flutter. And something else, but that was especially off-limits given that he was one of the copy shop’s regular customers.

“So, I’m guessing you’ve been off shooting some wildly exotic animal this past week,” I said. “What was it?”

“Don’t you want me to leave it as a surprise for when you develop the photos?” he asked with a bemused smile. He pulled out a memory card and put it on the desk in front of me.

“And miss you telling me about it? Don’t you realise that’s the highlight of my job.” It was only partly a lie. I didn’t mind what we talked about.

He chuckled. “Then it wouldn’t be right for me to deny you. It was sharks this time.”

“Sharks?” I was pretty certain my eyes lit up.

“Is that a good one?”

“Okay, so no word of a lie, sharks are my favourite fish.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Not overall animal?”

“No, I had to split them into categories or I’d never have been able to pick one.”

“So what’s your favourite land animal?” He leaned on the wall beside my desk and looked at me with an intensity that made me think he actually wanted to hear my answer.

I shook my head. “Land-based mammal.”

“Nice distinction, though I don’t think there are many flying mammals, are there?”

“Just bats.”

“Not even flying squirrels?”

“They don’t fly, they glide,” I pointed out. “It surprises me that you haven’t seen any on your travels.” A pang of jealousy spread through me. Baal’s job as a wildlife photographer was my dream job, but I was very far from getting to it, I needed a lot more experience before anyone would even consider hiring me.

“I haven’t had a chance yet, but if I ever do, then I’m going to think of you the whole time,” he promised.

A small thrill went through me at the admission.

“So, why do bats deserve their own category?” He leaned on the counter, bringing us close enough that I could smell his aftershave.

Why did it have to smell so good? It was going to be hard to concentrate if this continued.

“Because bats are almost as cool as sharks. Do you know much about them?” I asked, finding it hard to keep my thoughts focused.

“Only that they’re on my bucket list of animals to photograph,” he responded.

“Oh, you’re going to love it if you do. I hope you get to photograph the lesser long-nosed bat, they pick up pollen and can sometimes carry so much that they turn yellow.” I could hear the excitement in my voice and had to wonder whether I was making myself sound a little too crazy.

Thankfully, Baal’s smile grew wider. “That does sound cool, I’d like to see that.”

“I’ve never seen them in person myself. It’s not like working in a copy shop comes with enough money to travel and see animals.”

“Have you been to The Horus Sanctuary?” he asked.

“No, why?”

“I don’t think they have any of your lesser long-nosed bats, but they do have some other species there.”

“Huh, I didn’t know that.”

He nodded. “My friend runs it, he has all kinds of animals there, mostly those kept as illegal exotic pets, though there are others that come from zoos that got closed down. It started as a bird of prey sanctuary, hence the name, but it’s grown since then.”

“And it’s open to the public?” I asked.

“Only certain parts of it, some of the animals aren’t well enough adapted to be able to interact with people. But if there’s something that you want to see, I’m pretty sure Horace will take you back there to see them as a favour to me.”

“Horace works at The Horus Sanctuary?” I asked, amusement sparking within me.

Baal’s lips quirked up into a bemused smile. “He owns it.”

“That’s so cool.”

“You never told me your favourite land-based mammal,” he prompted. “What is it?”

“Promise not to laugh?” I tucked a strand of curly red hair behind my ear.

“I swear I won’t.”

“The Hampshire pig,” I said. “It’s the one...”

“With black faces, but pink stripes.”

“I wouldn’t really call them stripes, but yes, those are the ones. You know them?” I had to admit to being surprised. Most people had no idea what different kinds of pigs looked like.

“I’ve photographed lots of different animals, including several on farms. When I got started in animal photography, I did a lot of photo shoots at farm fairs, you get to know a lot about different livestock there,” he said.

“So that’s where to get started? Farm fairs?”

“It’s one of them,” he responded. “But actually, I had a project I wanted to talk to you about, we should grab coffee sometime and talk about it.”

“Coffee?” Was he seriously just casually asking me about going for a coffee?

He nodded. “You know, dark, black, bitter unless you add a tonne of sugar.” The sparkle in his eyes revealed that he was teasing.

“I know what coffee is,” I assured him, trying to find the right way to say that going for one was something I was definitely interested in without seeming too overeager.

The bright trill of his phone ringing filled the air and he grimaced, pulling it out of his pocket. He looked at the screen and let out a loud sigh. “I’m really sorry, Chelsea, I have to take this. But we’ll talk when I come back for the photos?”

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