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Read today's section of Lynda's serialized novella:
It was Ophelia who first called me Sneaky Manx, even though The Girl told her my real name before handing me over. “I call her Lola,” The Girl said, “like the song.” And then she smiled because she used to dance me around whenever it played. But then she met The Guy with Allergies and he said, “Choose,” so here I am.
The Girl cried when she drove off and I was dumb enough to think that meant something. Like she was going to change her mind. Say, “Get a shot,” to The Guy and come back for me.
Took a while to admit that wasn’t going to happen. Time spent avoiding the other cats, refusing to let Ophelia touch me and eating anything except what she put in the bowls.
“You Sneaky Manx,” she said when she found me licking plates on the counter. And again when she caught me fishing leftovers out of a pot.
She must have liked the sound of it because even after I turned my back on The Girl, Ophelia kept it up.
“Sneaky Manx, what are you doing up there?” after I claimed the top of the fridge as my own.
“Sneaky Manx, are you spying on me?” when I crept out of her closet after a close encounter with the biggest cat I’d ever seen.
But the worst was when I finally ate her stupid crunchies and she had the gall to say, “Sneaky Manx, what are you doing in Scruffy’s bowl?”
How was I supposed to know the scribbling on the side of the bowls meant anything? And how hard would it have been to call me by my real name for a change?
I tried everything to prove I wasn’t a sneaky Manx. Sitting in her lap, letting her brush me, but it was never enough. She kept right on calling me that horrible name and once Bernard, the leader of the colony, picked it up, there was no going back.
I was Sneaky Manx. The thief, the spy, the bad girl. The one no one would trust.
Is it any wonder I’m happy Ophelia is gone? Thrilled to see her lying at the bottom of the stairs, dead as a doornail.
No one knows how long it will be before someone comes looking for her, but unlike the rest, I don’t much care. Let them hold meetings and make plans. I’m happy to watch Newcomer search for a way out, something he’s been doing since he arrived last night.
My job is to keep tabs on him, report any suspicious behaviour as well as any success he has with an escape route. As an added bonus, Bernard promised me treats for every secret revealed. Sometimes it pays to be Sneaky Manx, but I have no loyalty to Bernard or anyone else. If by some miracle Newcomer does find a way out, I will shut that boy down faster than you can say, “Sneaky Manx, why are your teeth in that cat’s throat.”
You see, Ophelia’s body is safe at the moment, protected by the colony’s love of all things Ophelia. But let this nightmare drag on a while. Let the food run out and we’ll see how sacred the old bat is then, how insistent they are that we shouldn’t eat her, or her stupid birds. That’s the moment I’m waiting for, and an early escape doesn’t fit the plan. But Newcomer’s determination is amusing to watch, and he’s surprisingly energetic for a cat who doesn’t know when his next meal might be, if ever.
“Where are those love birds I heard about?” he asks as we climb the stairs.
“In Ophelia’s office.”
“It’s odd that I missed them last night.”
“They’re covered and quiet at night. Easy to miss in the dark.”
He pauses when we reach the top. “Seems kind of cruel to keep birds in a house full of cats.”
“Ophelia had her moments.” I direct him to the end of the hall. “Down there, on the right,” I say and he darts ahead.
When I reach the doorway, he’s sitting on the desk, staring at the cage while the birds hop from perch to perch.
“Go away,” one of them squawks. “No cats allowed in here.”
“It’s a new day, folks.” Newcomer sniffs the box of seed beside him. “And you’re going to starve unless you get out of there.”
The other one kicks gravel at him. “We’re fine. Now buzz off.”
“Your funeral.” Newcomer peers around the cage. “Hold on. Is that window open?”
Ophelia liked filtered air so the windows were always closed tight. But he’s right. For some reason she left this one open a little at the top.
Newcomer leaps onto the sill. “I believe I’ve found our way out.”
“Through that tiny opening?” I stroll over to the window. “Good luck.”
“We just need to open it more.” He springs up and grabs the top rail, but his claws find no purchase and he falls down hard. “Maybe if I start up higher.” He leaps onto a bookcase, lines up the window.
I stretch out under the cage. With luck I won’t have to do anything at all. The fool will take himself out for me.
He’s about to go again when Fluffy pokes her little air head into the room. She doesn’t see me and whispers, “I was hoping to find you alone,” to Newcomer.
He stares at her, apparently tongue-tied, so I sit up and answer for him. “Actually, he’s not. Can we help you?”
“No, it’s fine.” She draws back a step. “I’m just going around, seeing if anyone needs help.” She looks up at him. “Call if you need me.”
He nods mutely.
“Well, well,” I say when she’s gone. “Looks like someone has a crush on the pretty kitty.”
Newcomer ignores me. Lines up the window and jumps.
Unfortunately this time, he holds on. And damned if that window doesn’t move.
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!
Buy the book at Amazon.