This is the opening of a short story I’m working on. Set in the Witchward series, it follows on from Child of Crows, which can be found in the anthology Supernatural Streets (and later this year, likely in a standalone setting).
Amaya walked into the big kitchen and paused. Her hostess was nowhere in sight, but a sleek black and white tuxedo cat lay on the table, only the tip of its tail twitching as it stared intently at the open book beside it.
Amaya walked closer to the table and looked down at the book. Merlin’s voice from behind her made her jump.
“What’s the matter, never seen a cat reading before?” The old woman’s gleeful chortle made Amaya smile in spite of her racing heart.
The cat gave both of them an annoyed glance, then leaped off the table and strolled out of the room.
“I’ve never seen a cat read a book about, um,” Amaya looked at it again. “Is that a Chilton’s Manual for motorcycles?”
“EL liked his bikes.” Merlin scooped it up. “I surely hope that cat didn’t get ideas, he hasn’t got thumbs for the accelerator.”
Amaya started to giggle, she couldn’t help herself. “Unless it’s a very small bike, I don’t think he could manage it at all.”
Merlin snorted. “Oh, he’d try. That one has a need for speed. Cain’t tell you how many times we pulled him out of someone’s car or trailer when he was a kitten.”
“I hadn’t seen him before.” Amaya settled into a chair at the table, watching Merlin go through her usual routine of making coffee. Amaya didn’t feel a need for it, not this late in the afternoon, but it was soothing to take part in familiar rituals when life was upset.
“He’s shy. Must have decided you’re family now.” Merlin set a mug in front of her visitor. She hadn’t asked what Amaya wanted in the coffee.
“I…” Amaya decided she didn’t want to address that one head on. In this place, that had ramifications she wasn’t ready for. Not yet. “I came to talk to you about the Mishner place.”
“Not a bit o’workings there.” Merlin plopped herself down in the chair opposite Amaya. “Nice house, built solid.”
“I’m not going to buy it.” Amaya realized that had come out a bit sharper than she’d intended. “I talked to their agent about renting it.”
“Um.” Merlin sipped at her coffee, her face thoughtful. “I could ward it for you.”
“I didn’t want to ask.” Amaya shrugged. “I was going to ask you about something else, though.”
“Spit it out, girl.” Behind the grumbling tone, Amaya saw the concern in Merlin’s blue eyes.
“It’s… complicated.” Amaya lifted her hands, empty palms up, and then let them fall again, framing her mug.
“She’s worried that she won’t be able to get her magic back.”
The tall dark-haired girl who walked into the kitchen was carrying the tuxedo cat. He was stropping her chin while standing on the cradle of her arms.
Merlin got a little wide-eyed. “He bites, child.”
This got her a smile. “Not me, he won’t.”
The cat squinted his big golden eyes at Merlin.
“This,” Amaya half turned in her chair. “Is Corvina, my, er, assistant.”
“Tell her what happened.” Corvina sat down uninvited. The cat leapt from her arms onto the table. “Is he allowed up here?”
“Does he want me to open his book again?” Amaya’s voice trembled on the edge of laughter.
I was prompted by Becky Jones with “The cat lay on the table, reading a book about ________.”
I prompted Leigh Kimmel with “Something scuttled in the shadows.”
You can read other prompt reponses, or take part in the weekly random assignment, over at More Odds than Ends. Enjoy!