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If this is your first time checking out Lynda's serialized novella, you can catch up on Lynda's Facebook Page. Read today's section:
“The meeting will come to order,” Old Tom calls. “Bernard, you have the floor.”
I do a quick head count. Everyone is gathered here in the basement, including the Calico twins, a testament to Old Tom’s dogged determination. If you’re familiar with the phrase ‘herding cats,’ you’ll appreciate the daily challenges I face as leader of this colony. Ophelia’s death has made everything that much more complicated. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone, her body twisted and motionless upstairs in the foyer. Grief threatens to swamp me at every turn, but the survival of this colony is my responsibility. And with all the doors locked and no idea when rescue will come, the hard work is about to begin.
“I’ll start with a few words about Ophelia and our colony. In recent months our population has grown to nine –”
“Ten if you count the Newcomer,” Scruffy calls, referring to the black cat crouching in a darkened corner.
“You can’t count him,” one of the Calico twins says.
“Because he killed Ophelia,” the other one adds.
“With a lot of help from Boots,” says Old Tom.
The co-accused peeks out from his own dark corner. “It was an accident.”
“You were under her feet,” Tom growls. “How was that an accident?”
“Because there was no intent,” Fluffy says. “That’s why neither Newcomer nor Boots can be held responsible.”
“As I was saying,” I shout. “This colony was everything to Ophelia, a woman with a lot of love to give. Our tribute to that love will be our survival, but to manage that we need a plan for food, water and sanitation. Annie has inventoried all of the food and will give us her recommendations. Annie, please.”
“I honestly thought there was more,” she says. “But I can only find one bag of crunchies and a few bags of tuna treats. It’s not a lot, but if we limit ourselves to one small meal a day, we can make it last a while.”
“Hold on,” Scruffy says. “How small is small? And who gets to decide?”
Scruffy has always been rough around the edges, but this confrontational side is new, and disappointing.
“We’ll leave that to Annie,” I say. “We don’t know how long this situation will last, but we do know that we can trust Annie to be fair.” I look over at Sneaky Manx. “Which brings us to the matter of water.”
“I can flush,” she says. “We’re good.”
“As long as the bill is paid,” Newcomer puts in.
“So what if it’s not?” Tom says. “They’ll come to shut the water off, see Ophelia, and bang, instant rescue.”
“Complete with instant animal control trucks,” Newcomer says.
“Moving on to sanitation,” I say. “Scruffy, what are your recommendations?”
“We got three wading pools full of litter. Ophelia cleaned them all the night before the accident, so we started from a good place. If we all use the same one till it’s full, and then we all move on to the next, we’ll have clean litter a while longer.” He looks up at me. “Course if no one’s eating much, it could last forever.”
“Are you looking for trouble?” Old Tom says and smacks Scruffy in the head.
Scruffy arches his back in response and I would be happy to let Tom take that ragamuffin down a peg, remind him where he sits in the grand scheme of things. But Newcomer leaps out and puts himself between them.
“Food rationing is our only option,” he says to Scruffy. “Conserve your energy for important things.”
“Newcomer’s right,” I say. “We need to work together, not fight each other.”
Tom backs down because that’s what I want. But if Scruffy steps out of line again, it’s unlikely Newcomer will be around to help him out.
“Scruffy, I like your idea,” I continue. “Let us know which pool to start with and we’ll get the system rolling. As for the food rationing, Annie will create a schedule so everyone knows when it’s their turn.” I get to my feet. “That about wraps things up.”
“What about a way out?” one of the Calico twins asks.
“Newcomer opened the window,” the other says.
I glance over at Sneaky Manx. “Why wasn’t I informed?
“Because the twins exaggerate,” she says. “He only got the window down a little bit. Nowhere near enough for anyone to get out.”
“But my idea is solid,” Newcomer insists. “I just need more bodies.”
“What he needs is food,” Fluffy says. “And so does Boots. I assume they’ll be included in the feeding schedule.”
I sigh. “Unfortunately, not until we establish their guilt or innocence.”
“When will that happen?”
“It’s on my list—”
“You want Newcomer’s help, yet you’re starving him.”
“We could give them both a little each day,” Annie offers. “Just to keep–”
Tom shakes his head. “Nothing until after the vote.”
“So let’s vote now,” Fluffy says. “All who agree it was an accident—”
I leap in front of her. “Do you want to be left off the schedule too?”
“No.” Newcomer nudges her aside and stands toe-to-toe with me. “I’ll keep you up-to-date on my progress. But I’ll need that help.”
I motion to Boots. “You’re with Newcomer. Everyone else, see Annie about the schedule.”
Annie heads up the stairs to the kitchen and the rest follow, the Calico twins bringing up the rear.
“Girls,” I say softly. “I’d like you to come with me.”
I lead them along the hall to my private quarters in the rec room. They don’t need to be told to wait at the door. It’s the first thing you learn when you get here – no one gets into my quarters without an invitation.
Grabbing a bag of treats from behind the La-z-boy, I head back out to the hall. Rip open the bag and let snacks spill onto the floor in front of me. “You girls interested in doing a little undercover work?” I slide a few treats toward them. “Quietly, of course.”
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.