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Read the second part of Lynda's serialized novella:
I’m standing here looking at her, fully aware that she hasn’t moved since landing too hard at the bottom of the stairs, but I still can’t accept that she’s dead.
Ophelia, the woman who took me in when no one else would. Loved me and cared for me, nursing me back to health both physically and emotionally despite warnings that I was too wild, would never change. At first, I did my best to prove them right, hiding from her, fighting her, even drawing blood more than a few times. Yet she didn’t give up, kept offering food and affection, until finally my saner, more rational nature came to life again.
In short, Ophelia saved me. And how did I repay her kindness and generosity? With death, apparently.
“It’s not your fault,” Fluffy says, the only one to come up the stairs to sit with me.
The rest of the cats close ranks around the body.
“Of course it’s his fault,” says Bernard, the giant Maine Coon and self-appointed leader of the colony. “He’s been told again and again to stay out from under her feet on the stairs.”
“I panicked,” I say in my defense. “The noise of the fight was bad enough, but when the stranger leapt out and started hissing and growling, I just froze.”
“Post dramatic stress syndrome,” one of the Calico twins offers.
“Yes, yes,” says the other, the two of them nodding like the bobble-heads Ophelia keeps on a shelf in her room.
The twins haven’t been here long and I’m still not sure of their names. Although from what I’ve seen Tweedle Dumb and Dumber would work nicely.
“I’d say it’s the Newcomer we ought to be looking at,” says Scruffy, taking the attention off me and pointing it squarely at the skinny guy in the back.
Scruffy may be hard on the eyes, but he’s always been a good friend. And once the other heads are turned, I send him a slow blink, letting him know I appreciate the effort.
“Now hold on,” Newcomer says, backing up a step, pressing himself against the front door. “The giant is the one who started the fight. I was only looking for a way out.”
Annie, the creaky Abyssinian gets to her feet. “If that was your goal,” she says, stretching her back slowly, carefully, “then all you had to do was wait until morning. That door behind you opens every day, giving us access to a cat door that lets us come and go as we please.”
The stranger shakes his head. “A cat door? Here?”
“You don’t have to use it,” Fluffy says. “There’s no requirement to go outside at all. But if getting away is what you want, Ophelia would never have stopped you.”
“She’s good people,” old Tom mutters and gets to his feet as well. “Was, good people.”
He’s been here a long time and never liked the fact that Ophelia let me sleep on the bed too. If any of them are going to turn on me, he’ll be the first.
“I know it’s none of my business,” Newcomer says. “But wasting time trying to blame someone for what happened isn’t going to solve our biggest problem. We need to figure out how long it could be until someone comes looking for the old . . . for Ophelia.”
Sneaky Manx, who no one trusts, finally speaks up. “Newcomer’s right,” she says in that silky voice of hers. “When was the last time a human being came to that door?”
“Fifteenth,” Fluffy says. “Her daughter and the cheques come on fifteenth.”
“When is that?” Newcomer asks.
“No idea,” she admits.
Newcomer takes a step forward. “What about newspapers, mail delivery, parcels?”
Bernard shakes his massive head. “She read her news online, got her mail from the big box down the street and liked shopping at the stores.”
“There must be someone,” Newcomer insists. “Friends, sorority sisters, Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
“Ophelia kept to herself,” Sneaky Manx purrs. “It’s something I liked about her.” She leans close to the body, sniffs her hair. “Won’t be long before she starts to turn.” She seems to smile as she straightens. “If no one comes soon, we may have to eat her.”
“I saw that once on TV,” one of the twins says.
“Only it was dogs,” the other adds.
“Polished off the meat in a matter of days,” they say together. “And gnawed on the bones for a week.”
They laugh and high-five and Bernard lurches to his feet. “No one is eating anyone! Do you hear me?”
“What about the birds?” Sneaky asks, licking a paw. “They should be fair game now.”
“Not as long as I draw breath,” Tom growls then turns to Bernard. “I say we set up a watch. Keep eyes on Ophelia and the birds in case someone gets a wrong-headed idea about who we are.”
“I agree.” Fluffy stands, her silky fur brushing my cheek, tickling my ears. “We should also set up a crew to get at the food. Cans are out, but we should be able to rip open the bags.”
“Take Annie with you and get started,” Bernard says. “Manx, you and the twins make sure the toilets are accessible for water. Scruffy you’re on litter box detail and Tom, you and I will head up security. We don’t know when fifteenth is, so for now we take care of Ophelia, the birds and ourselves. Maintaining order is paramount in situations like this. Now everyone get to work.”
He dismisses the troops with a flick of his tail. Tom takes first watch on Ophelia and Bernard heads up to the second floor to check on the birds.
“What about me and Newcomer?” I ask.
Tom looks from me to Newcomer and back to me. “You boys should find a place to hide,” he says at last. “Before I kill you both myself.”
A moment of madness. That’s all muralist Sunny Anderson expected when she donned a glittering mask and a fabulous gown to crash the gala at Manhattan’s newest boutique hotel. Project manager Michael Wolfe has no idea that the beauty staring up at the mural on the ballroom ceiling is also the artist who painted it. He’s captivated and she’s willing, but when their moment of madness on the sofa in his suite comes to an abrupt end, his princess is off and running, leaving nothing behind but a pair of earrings. He’s determined to find her again, but all he has to do is look closer at the woman painting the mural in his office to see that the one he needs is standing right in front of him.
Enjoy an excerpt:
Sunny’s feet moved of their own accord and she stared straight ahead, horrified and thrilled at the same time. Wondering what she was playing at and not at all surprised when he fell into step beside her.
This was why she wasn’t ready to leave, she realized. She was enjoying herself too much. Enjoying the fact that as Sonja she could do anything or say anything. Be shocking and sexy, and make Michael Wolfe sit up and take notice.
She glanced over at him as they walked, feeling beautiful, powerful, but most of all desirable. Because if that wasn’t hunger she saw in those dark eyes, then she’d been out of circulation for far too long.
Which was a distinct possibility given that her last sexual encounter had been almost a year ago in the back of Vince Cerqua’s convertible when the top wasn’t the only thing that wouldn’t go up. She’d spent the drive home assuring him that it happened to men all the time; at least that was what she heard in the tearoom.
She felt her face warm, knowing instinctively that Michael’s top would never let him down. Not that she wanted to find out. Not really. Not now, at any rate.
“Where will you be going in the morning?” he asked.
He drew his head back and she laughed. “There’s a theater group I’m rather fond of. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I’m just a wanderer. Never in one place long enough to plant a garden as they say.”
“Is that what you’d like to do? Plant a garden?”
“Yes,” she said, slipping in a touch of Sunny, but staying true to Sonja. “Of course, with so many emerging artists, I’m not thinking about that right now.”
He stopped and took her hand. “What are you thinking about?”
Trouble. And sex. Mostly sex. For all the good it did her.
Truth to tell, Sunny wasn’t the kind to have a one-night stand. She was conservative in her thinking and cautious when it came to matters of the heart. She was the kind who delivered hampers at Christmas, painted faces at the community center on Halloween, and made sure her organ-donor card was signed. No question about it, she was Sunny the good: Balanced. Friendly. And utterly predictable.
But Sonja? Now there was a real vixen. A woman who traveled the world, took risks every day, and was never, ever predictable. It seemed a shame to make her leave the ball so early when she was only in town for one night. And Sunny had the rest of her life to spend being good.
Michael ran his thumb across hers and the pull was stronger than ever, bringing her back a step. After all, it wasn’t as though he was a total stranger, some masked man she picked up at the sushi bar. This was Michael Wolfe, Beast of Brighton, Terror of the Tradesmen. And she already knew he looked good without a shirt.
Maybe Hugh was right. Maybe a moment of madness was good for the soul.
The music changed again, the singer launching into a slow, sultry torch song that begged an answer to the question women had been asking for centuries: what is it with men and commitment?
Sunny had wrestled with that issue herself for years, convinced that the boy she’d loved too much would come back for her one day. Pale and contrite, wanting nothing more than to love her the way he should have all along. But commitment wasn’t on her mind at all when she twined her fingers with Michael’s and gave him Sonja’s best come-hither smile. “I’m thinking we should go to your place,” she said, and was sure she was floating as they headed for the door.
About the Author:
With two daughters to raise, Lynda and her husband moved into a lovely two storey mortgage in Burlington, a small city on the water just outside Toronto. While the girls are grown and gone, Lynda and her husband are still there. And yes, there is a cat - a beautiful, if spoiled, Birman.
When she's not writing or teaching, Lynda gives serious thought to using the treadmill in her basement. Fortunately, she's found that if she waits long enough, something urgent will pop up and save her - like a phone call or an e-mail or a whistling kettle. Or even that cat just looking for a little more attention!
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Lynda-Simmons/e/B001KI3Z4O
Buy the book at Amazon.