People Zoo

Sweet Tooth Bakery 
When it came to humans, Theophania had made up her mind a century ago that there were only two types: the tolerable and the intolerable.

Among the latter were parents ignoring their children throwing loud fits in public, men who stood too close on public transport, and bad musicians.

Among the former were people with a gift for inspiring speeches, twenty-four hour clerks who didn't care about her duck slippers, and good musicians.

Most weren't noticeable, otherwise.

The woman that walked in, however, sported a most unique scent, reminiscent of a shifter fresh from animal form. Theophania tried to subtly protect her nose and inspect the woman for the characteristic quick pulse of a shifter.

"Welcome," she said. "What can I get you?"


Riley had a long day at work. Like... really long. She wouldn't trade it for the world though. What she wanted most in the world was to get something to eat and to go home to her beloved (pup) Jasper.

Animals were her one true love in life and she had given up all hope for an actual human to fit that role. It made her more content and happy. Less pressured to fit some sort of American mold.

She figured she'd try out that new bakery in North Portland, considering it wasn't too far away from her house. Something light would do her in since all she planned on doing was watching an episode of trash TV and heading to bed. Perhaps they had dog-friendly treats as well. The idea had her smiling as she opened the door.

Oh... it smelled absolutely wonderful. Instantly, her mouth started to water. Riley stepped up to the counter, a young woman not much taller than her greeting her. "This all looks so good!"

A small smile was given as she pointed to a scone through the glass, "Are those triple chocolate scones?" she asked, eyes widening with anticipation. Chocolate breading, chocolate morsels and chocolate frosting... she could get on board with that even if they gave her a bad case of acne.

Theophania preened under the praise. She had no idea how her confections tasted; save for faint memories of wheat loaves and honey buns, she could only guess based on smell, which her undead tastes warped. The same could not be said for her patrons. Most came, noses in the air like hounds, for the scent. Most stayed, for the taste.

As the woman scanned the displays, Tiffany discreetly inspected her. Her pulse was even and leisurely--compared to a shifter’s, anyway--and there was no startled moment between them where the customer’s head tilted to one side as if listening for a particularly elusive sound. Not a shifter, then, but still inexplicably stinking of animals. It seemed to be ground into her skin and hair. Maybe she was a devoted pet keeper. Theophania didn’t see the appeal of keeping something that would live such a short life. Even compared to the piteous span of a finite human lifetime, the lives of cats and dogs were painfully brief.

“Sure are,” she replied, cheerfully, already reaching beneath the glass with tongs to slide out one of the chocolate scones. Her body violently rejected anything that wasn’t blood, but she still knew there was no such thing as too much chocolate. “On the house, if you promise to give me feedback. Sweet Tooth is still in its infancy, afterall.” She was already sliding the scone into a paper bag.

For someone with expensive antiques, varied royalties, and negligible living expenses, it didn’t matter the profit at the end of a day (or, in this case, a night). Especially when the owner could, in a pinch, simply compel an unreasonable landlord or gullible investor to give her what she wanted.

Theophania offered the scone up.

Riley glanced up at the pixie-like woman. She seemed so young to have already started her own bakery! It most made Riley feel like she was behind the curve on that aspect of life. All she did was work at a zoo and yet, her life felt complete. She wasn’t worried about getting married or having kids. None of that was on her radar. In fact, if it had been then she failed, miserably. With only a few boyfriends to count on one hand, her options were slim.

She smiled at the young woman, the idea of something free was enough to entice anyone. "Oh I couldn’t! Since it’s so new, let me at least give you a tip?" she said in an attempt to pay for something. She would have felt bad if she took it for free. In fact, as she was reaching for the scone, she was already starting to dig into her messenger bag for her wallet. She was still in the lavender colored scrubs she wore to the zoo. Dirt, blood and slim was evident, but she didn’t care.

This was Riley’s normal look. Her hair was up in the slowest bun ever, natural and complete with a possible twig or two from cuddling animals post anesthesia. She clutched the brown back in none hand as she reached into her wallet and pulled out a five dollar bill. "Here. I insist. Please?" Riley was hardly in a position to not take “no” as an answer seeing as she looked completely pathetic and possibly homeless. The young woman was probably took pity on her.

Theophania smiled and accepted the tip.

“Thank you,” she said, tucking it into the tip jar which went to her and only her, thanks to a lack of employees. Oh, maybe she could give some to her taste-tester. Slip a five over for each compliment to her baking and create a pavlovian response. She resolved to angle for more tips, to give herself a little pocket change.

She cocked her hip, leaning against the counter.

“Now, I have to ask. Do you work in a hospital?” Riley wore scrubs which had clearly survived an intense shift of some sort. Theophania didn’t have the nose of a bloodhound, but she did have the nose of a bloodsucker, and even just this step closer had offered up even more animal-and-viscera smell.

Riley's smile brightened as the woman accepted the tip. Good. Now it wouldn't make her feel guilty for indulging in one of her favorite treats. Fingers tightened around the bag, eager to take her treat home and eat it before she crashed for the evening. Well, maybe watch some trash TV then crash. She also needed to play with Jasper. She couldn't forget about that.

She was about to turn away from the counter when the woman's question caused her gaze to raise, brow echoing the movement. "Um, no not really," she said with a small laugh and reach up tucking a few strands of stray hair behind her ear. "I work at the Portland Zoo. I'm a veterinarian there and they are a little short staffed right now so I've been pulling extra hours," she said by way of explanation on how rough she looked.

Extra hours in extra exhibits did not make her looked like a hard worker. If anything, it made Riley feel like she was inadequate for not being able to keep up ... and always forgot to bring a spare change of scrubs. "Have you ever been?" she asked automatically.

A zoo. That explained the smell.

Theophania was getting out of practice, wasn’t she? As a fledgling vampire, she wouldn’t have been caught dead confusing the scent of a shifter with that of a stablehand or dogmaster. Good thing her mentors weren’t here to see her.

“Never been,” she said, mouth quirking. “I worked nights even before I opened this bakery, so I usually restrict myself to things open at night.” Oh, to be a human, free to be awake whenever they wanted, rather than falling comatose at the first kiss of sunrise.

Oh, to be a human like the one before her, with no idea she was being sized up as a meal.

“Did you just get off, then? I’m thinking more than a scone will do you good.”

The logistics were fuzzy, when it came to her clientele. She couldn’t leave her bakery unattended to catch them before they strayed too far; and even if she did, if her persuasion failed, they would recognize her as more than a vague set of features written down by police. Better to try and lure them back repeatedly, bide her time, and, well, as was often happening these days--accidentally adopt them as pets, of a sort.

Riley’s mouth fell open in shock. Her lips curling into an “O” fashion, her head tilting as if she heard the woman wrong. She glanced down, trying to see if the woman had a nap tag. It seemed like the woman was you g to have opened a bakery. Riley was never good at figuring out age or sexual orientation. Usually she was all wrong.

"You should go sometime. In October they offer night events in the spirit of Halloween and Christmas. They decorate and everything. It’s pretty cool," she said, not trying to geek out about it. She’d live at the zoo if she could.

Riley shifted, a yawn already threatening to pry her jaws wide. "Yeah. It was a really long day. I don’t want to eat too much before bed though. I might wake back up with a stomach ache," a small chuckle was given, reaching up and swiping an imaginary strand of hair behind her ear. "But for future reference, do you serve food here other than... you know... pastries?"

Riley thought about Jasper, knowing that she had to get home soon if she wanted to spend some time with him before bed. Thank God for roommates, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to put in long days like this one.

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