The Year of the Rabbit Blog Hop!

sexy easter bunny
Greetings, blog hoppers! Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit Blog Hop. Once again we have our awesome tour bar at the top of the page (courtesy of our awesome tour guides—thank you Alanna and Michael). Simply follow the bunny trail for hot reads and a chance to win some fabulous prizes.

If you stumbled upon this tour by accident (or if you happen to fall off along the way) not to worry! Just visit http://justromance.me/bloghop/ to start at the beginning. And please try and join us for our end-of-the-bunny-hop chat, Sunday 7 p.m. EST in Gem Sivad's chat room 

And now for the fun part. My story takes place at a Hollywood Premier party. The characters are Doc, a drunk veterinarian; Jim, an anxious bounty hunter; and Candy, a picky stripper. Enjoy!

The Year of the Rabbit: A Tale of Two Girls and a Bunny

Bloody footprints. What a way to start the weekend. As I made my way up the footpath that led into LA’s Hancock Park, better known to tourists and the world in general as the La Brea Tar Pits, I couldn't help but shake my head at the irony. Unlikely as it sounds, being here was actually an improvement over the way I’d previously been working on getting the weekend started.

Up until twenty minutes ago, which is when my office switchboard finally got through to me with the message that a veterinarian was needed here STAT, I was down at the Sunset Grill, getting shitfaced in an effort to forget the shameless gold-digger who'd so recently broken my heart. And, I gotta tell you right now, the couple of rounds I'd already gone with Jose Cuervo hadn't come close to doing the trick. But a job's a job, right? And unless I decide to blow my pay for tonight's gig on new Manolos, I’ll actually be putting money into my bank account this weekend, instead of drinking the sucker dry. So, yep, definitely an improvement.

I hadn't gone more than a couple of yards before I ran into an impediment in the form of a plush, red velvet rope that had been stretched across the path. I swayed to an only-slightly-unsteady stop and stood there, blinking up at the two ginormous security guards, somewhat incongruously dressed in tuxedos, who were stationed on the other side of the rope, effectively blocking my way.

“Can I help you?” one of them inquired, staring down at me in a distinctly unblinking way.

Inquired—that’s an educated way of describing the grunting sound that issued from his cavernous mouth. But, that's the kind of gal I am. Educated. And I got a wall-full of diplomas to prove it.

I pulled myself up to my full five-foot-four—inches, five-six, if you count the heels, I guess, and flashed my ID badge in his face. “I got a page. Someone paged me. I’ve been called in on a...ooh, whatchacallit again? Oh, right, on a consult. I'm here to consult.”

The big guy frowned dubiously as he snatched the piece of plastic from my hand. “Says here you’re a veterinarian,” he said, stating the obvious and glinting suspiciously at me at the same time. I tried to look impressed because, hey, for a guy like him, I figure that probably counts as multi-tasking. I may have overdone it, however because his glint quickly morphed into a leer as he looked me over, idly flicking my card with his finger. He wasn't my type—not by a very wide mile—so I pretended not to notice. “So what kinda business is it brings an animal doctor to a premier anyway?”

“That's for me to know and you to find out,” I answered, but that didn't exactly get the response I was hoping for either. “Take me to your leader?” I suggested next. Still no response. I sighed. “Okay, look, you've got bunnies here, don'tcha?” I waved my arm in the general direction of the park. “Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus? Well, apparently, someone saw a trail of bloody footprints and figured one of the little critters musta gotten hurt.”

“Cunni…what?” He was lookin’ at me now as though I’d grown an extra head in the last two minutes and, to be honest, I couldn’t really blame him. How anyone in the movie biz could think it a good idea to host an opening night party in a place synonymous with slow, sucking death was a mystery to me as well. Why they’d then choose to compound the event confusion by adding two dozen live rabbits to the mix…well, even sober I’d have a hard time with that one.

“Rabbits,” I said, taking my card back and reinserting it into my wallet on only the third or fourth try. I repeated the word for emphasis, drawing it out nice and slow in hopes of igniting a spark of recognition. “Raaaa-biiiits. You know, like Peter? Bugs? Roger? Little Bunny Foo Foo? Tell me, is there even an outside chance of any of this getting through that cranium of yours?”

Jumbo’s frown turned ugly and I began to wonder if I wasn’t about to be scooped up, like a field mouse, and bopped on the head. Luckily, his partner—the one who’d been passing the time talking into his cufflink, trying to make like he was James Bond, I guess—nudged him in the ribs. “Let her through. She’s legit.”

I tried not to smirk as I weaved my way between them, but I don’t think I was particularly successful.

The museum’s grounds had been transformed for the occasion. Klieg beams swept across the sky. Twinkling party lights shimmered in the branches of the surrounding trees. Colored spots illuminated the life-sized models of prehistoric animals (which had been strategically placed in the tar, just in case you’d missed the point of all that prehistoric death) and shone prettily on the small herd of placidly grazing rabbits—all of them perfectly healthy as far as I could tell.

The movie being celebrated was called The Year of the Rabbit; a psychological thriller set in LA’s Chinatown—which, I might point out, is hell and gone from this neighborhood. I’m just sayin’. I guess maybe it was the reviews that put someone in mind of the tar pits; the ones calling the film “dark and terrifying.” The ones that claimed it, “sucks you in and doesn’t let go.” Still, as far as I know there aren’t any actual rabbits in the film, so it’s still something of a stretch, in my opinion.

The park was packed with the usual premier crowd—beautiful people, dressed to the nines. Waiters in traditional, pre-revolutionary Chinese costumes, bearing trays of dim sum and drinks, circulated. I stopped one to ask the whereabouts of my presumed patient.

“No rabbit,” he said in response to my query. He nodded at his tray. “Only duck.”

Yeah. So not what I was asking. Still, when in Rome, I guess. I helped myself to a coupla dumplings, flagged down a second waiter and relieved him of a flute of champagne and then continued on my trek.

I’d just about finished my circumnavigation of the park—that’s another educated word, in case you’re wondering—when I saw her. My Candy. A drop-dead gorgeous, artificially buxom, platinum blonde dressed in a gray satin bunny costume, complete with gray satin bunny ears, a gray satin bow-tie, fishnet stockings, and an expensive pair of fuck-me heels that I knew from personal experience added a good four inches to her height. She'd been a mid-sized brunette with a much smaller rack the last time I'd seen her—which was about four days ago in the middle of my living room, just before she walked out of my life. Or so we both thought.

She was not the bunny I was looking for tonight. She was, in fact, probably the last person in the world I wanted to see right now, but try telling that to my feet, which appeared to have developed a mind of their own, and seemed foolishly determined to convey me straight to the sexy siren's side.

“Of all the gin-joints in all the world,” I found myself muttering as I drew closer even though, technically, there wasn't a whole lot of gin in evidence here tonight.

The guy she was with looked nervous. Now, that might have been 'cause of the way she was draped all over him, like a cheap slut...I mean suit. Or it might have been the carrot she was teasing him with. I guess she was trying to feed it to him, but it looked more like she was getting ready to poke him in the eye. Then again, the reason his nerves were on edge might have had more to do with the heat he was packing. He looked kind of like a hit man to me, or maybe a mob enforcer—but, then again, that might just have been the tell-tale bulge under his jacket talking. Either way, I guess I probably should have had the sense to keep my distance, but I didn’t.

I was only a few feet away when Candy glanced over and saw me. I didn't like the way her eyes narrowed or the way the corners of her mouth drew down as she said, “What’s up, Doc?”

I have to admit, her question stopped me cold. It’s not like she'd never called me that before—it's been her pet name for me since we met—but all the same, it's just not every night you get to hear that particular line popping out of the luscious red lips of a life-sized gray bunny—satin or otherwise. Laughter began to bubble up inside me, but before I could formulate a suitable answer, she’d stepped away from her gentleman friend and pulled me aside.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded in an angry whisper. “Are you following me?”

I shook my head. “Don't flatter yourself, babe. I'm here on a job. I was called in because one of the bunnies was injured.”

“But you’re a veterinarian!” she hissed. “You treat animals, not people!”

“Exactly.” I pointed at the leporids lounging in the grass. “Animals,” I said, helpfully. “See? There they are.”

“This is just bullshit. I told you the other day: it's over between us.”

I couldn't help but grimace. “I know. I remember.” She'd been real clear about that. And I can't say she didn't have her reasons—all of which I heard about. In very. Great. Detail. I think my favorite part was when she claimed that my idea of foreplay was telling a girl, “Why don't you take off your shirt?” Which was completely unfair, by the way, and she knew it too.

It wasn't foreplay, okay? I'd been flirting with her. It was a stupid line and I only tried it the once and, even then, I kind of meant it as a joke. Also, I may have been a little bit drunk at the time. Which was the other thing that hurt. If she'd broken up with me because occasionally I hit the bottle a little too hard, that I could have dealt with. But I tend to babble when I'm nervous and, even when I'm not, it's still a whole lot easier controlling what goes into my mouth than what comes out.

“Trust me,” I told her. “If I knew you were going to be here, I'd have told them to send someone else. But, what the hell are you doing here anyway? And why are you dressed up like that? Not that I don't appreciate the view, but it's a little late for Halloween, isn't it?”

She tossed the carrot she'd been holding into a nearby bush, fisted her hands on her hips and glared at me. “For your information, I'm here to audition. I can't strip forever, you know. That's why I’m trying to break into film.”

“Yeah, but...why the bunny costume?”

“ It's obvious, isn't it? This movie documents a year in the life of a Playboy Bunny, right? And that man over there—” she said, waving over my shoulder in the unhappy hit man’s direction. “Is a studio big-wig. He could give me the break I need.”

“I don't think he's with any of the studios,” I felt obliged to point out. “And, even if he is, he's carrying a gun, so probably not that big a wig.”

“It's not a gun,” she corrected, smiling coldly, making what I can only assume was a badly misplaced reference to one of Mae West's more immortal lines. “He's just happy to see me. And you’re jealous.”

“He's wearing a shoulder holster!” I snapped, getting really angry with her now. She knew my insecurities all too well—the bitch. “What the fuck are you talking about? And, just FYI, the movie? Year of the Rabbit, right? Not a documentary.”

“Oh, what do you know?” she asked, looking slightly uncertain for the first time that night.

“More than you, apparently.”

“Everything all right over here, Candy?” a deep voice asked anxiously from behind me.

I glanced around in surprise. Shit. For a moment, I'd forgotten all about Mr. Big-wig-Studio-Hit-Man.

“Everything's fine, Jim,” Candy replied, batting about ten pounds of false eye-lashes in his direction. No joke, she could end a heatwave with those things. Somewhere in South America, I thought irrelevantly, a butterfly just got blown to pieces by a freak windstorm. Candy continued to smile sweetly at her hit man. “Doc was just leaving. Weren't you, Doc?”

Suddenly, I was feeling ornery. “Good to meet you, Jim,” I said as I turned 'round to face him. I grabbed his hand and pumped it with enthusiasm. “Candy tells me you're with the studio. Is that right?”

“Studio?” Jim repeated, sounding mildly puzzled. “No. I'm not with a studio. I'm a bounty hunter.”

“A bounty hunter—no shit?” I stared at him in surprise. At least the gun was explained. “Wait, don't tell me, let me guess. You're hunting wabbits—right?”

“Well, actually...”

“I don't believe this.” Candy rolled her eyes in disgust. “Thanks for nothing,” she muttered, glaring at both of us in turn. Then she spun on her heel and flounced away. I'll admit I watched her go with more than a touch of regret. It was just before Easter and she was my Candy-Bunny. I wanted to nibble on her ears. I wanted a piece of her tail. I was, in fact, completely mesmerized by the sight of that fluffy, white cotton-ball swinging back and forth with each sway of her hips. The cottontail, by the way, is a specifically American rabbit and is in no way related to the domesticated or European rabbit. Just in case you were curious.

“So...are you really a doctor?” Jim asked, his voice breaking through my Candy-induced trance.

“Yes, I am really a doctor,” I answered. I get just a little tired of all the people who assume that only people with the initials M and D after their names qualify as “real” doctors. “What's it to you?”

“Well, I was thinking maybe you could help me out. See, I have this little problem. My doctor calls them anxiety attacks; says they're a form of PTSD. Sometimes I freeze up, see? It happened with the last two skips I was trying to take in. This'll be my third strike. If I mess up on this, I'll be washed up, out of the business.”

“So what do you want me to do about it?” I asked, frowning at him in no small amount of confusion. Did he think I was some kind of therapist?

“I thought you could maybe give me something. Pills, an injection—anything you got. Just to help calm my nerves, you know?”

I needed something to calm my nerves, too, damn it. Didn't mean I was about to start popping horse tranqs, however. “Damn it, Jim,” I growled at him. “I'm a doctor, not a drug pusher!”

“Sorry I asked,” he said, looking dejected in that way that only a really big, heavily muscled, armed man can. For some reason, I kind of felt sorry for him.

“Tell me about the guy you're after tonight,” I said, by way of apology as I flagged down a waiter and got us each a drink.

Jim shook his head. “Well, first of all, it's not a guy. I'm looking for a woman. An international jewel thief who goes by the name The Rabbit. Word is, she's gonna hit this premier.”

“You can't be serious,” I muttered as I glanced around. Not that there weren't jewels a plenty in evidence tonight, because there certainly were, but... “The Rabbit? Really?”

“No joke. And the price on her head is huge. If I can find her and take her in, I'll be sitting pretty.” Jim gulped down his champagne then stared in disappointment at his empty glass. I passed him mine.

“So what does this thief of yours look like?” I asked, absently scanning the crowd, looking for Candy. Pathetic, I know. But what can you do?

“Brunette, about five-five, slender build.”

“That's not much to go on, Jim,” I pointed out, watching as Candy made nice with her new friend: a vivacious redhead, dripping in diamonds...

I think you had to be really looking for it, to see what happened next. Fortunately—or maybe unfortunately, it all depends on your viewpoint, I guess—I was really looking. It was all I could do to hide my smile as one of Red's earrings went missing.  “You know what, Jim?” I said, as I signaled once more for the waiter with the drinks. “I think I might be able to help you out, after all.”


A short while later, my work done, I was heading out of the park when I heard the clatter of stilettos behind me and a voice I knew well calling after me. “Doc! Wait!”

I turned, more than a little surprised to see Candy trotting down the path with a large, fluffy white rabbit clutched to her heaving chest.

“Is this what you were looking for?” she asked, panting a little for breath as she came to a stop.

There were large, rust colored patches on both of the rabbit's hind legs. Big enough to account for the bloody footprints, but nowhere near life-threatening. Nothing that a good cleaning, some antibiotics and maybe a few tranqs couldn't fix. Unfortunately, I was fresh out of tranqs, at the moment. I'd have to take him back to my office to take care of him. I looked from the rabbit to the girl and back again and smiled sadly. “Oh, yeah. Definitely what I was looking for.” 

“About the other day,” she began, nervously shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “I didn't really mean all that stuff I said.”

I blinked in surprise as I felt unexpected warmth blossom in my chest. “You didn't?”

She shook her head, blonde curls bouncing with the motion. “I was just...I dunno, feeling especially picky, or something. But I thought maybe, if you wanted, we could...try it again?”

“I'd like that,” I said. Then I leaned in close and whispered in her ear, “But, you've been a very wascally wabbit.”

She gasped softly and pulled back, eyes wide. “You know?” A flood of color rose in her cheeks.

I nodded, unable to stop the satisfied smile that curved my lips. “I know.”

“That...that bounty hunter. Is-is he...”

My smile widened. “Sleeping.”

“Sleeping?” She stared at me, forehead puckering up. She's real cute when she's confused.

“Like a really relaxed...horse.”

What can I say? Sometimes a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do to protect what's hers. And don't think I feel even a little bit bad about that.

“Now, let's get that bunny back to my office so I can patch him up,” I said. “That is, if you've gotten everything you came here for?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said smiling slyly. “I think I got even more than I'd planned on getting.”

She looked cold, so I took off my jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders. Then I took the rabbit from her arms and we headed toward the sidewalk, where I'd parked my car. All in all, I had to admit, the weekend was turning out much, much better than I thought it would. Bloody footprints. Who knew they'd lead me to the woman of my dreams?