Okay, so it wasn’t really a bordello–I was going for alliteration–but it was a former massage parlor (yes, as in “happy ending” kind of massages) where I did a live reading last night. The lovely ladies of Ravenous Romance, Lori Perkins, Debra Hyde and Celia Tan, hosted author Stella Price and me for an October eve of paranormal erotic readings for the patrons of the Happy Ending Lounge located on Broome Street in NYC’s Chinatown.
Besides the colorful atmosphere accentuated by the red booths and red lights, it was extra fun for me in particular because it was an opportunity to bring out and read from a 2006 contemporary paranormal short that I love–BLACK CAT.
The story behind the writing of BLACK CAT is this–after losing our beloved dog to cancer back in 2001, we’d gone to the animal shelter in search of a new member for our family and while walking through the aisles of cages, a black paw reached out of a bottom cage and grabbed onto our legs. We took him out and found him to be the biggest, blackest, and sweetest tempered adult tom cat we’d ever met. Of course we had to take him home, he’d picked us! But after getting him home, we realized this was no ordinary cat. His habits, his personality, his behaviors all led me to say more than once this was no ordinary cat. It was almost as if he’d been human in a past life and those traits were still evident in this cat incarnation. Now I’m not a ‘woo woo’ kind of person seeing strange things where there are none, but having owned over a dozen cats in my life, I know what normal cat behavior is, and this cat is not normal.
That is what led to my writing BLACK CAT, which began life in a now out of print multi-author, witch-themed Halloween anthology and is currently available as a FREE READ on AllRomance.com. The hero is a warrior who pisses off a witch 1000 years ago and she turns him into an immortal cat destined to roam the world in a feline body but with a man’s mind. That would surely explain the intelligence I see in my own Black Cat’s eyes, and the fact he insists on sleeping in my bed with his body under the covers and his head on a pillow each night.
Bringing the story out again last night for the reading made me remember how much I truly love this short, and since now is the season of the witch, I thought I’d share the prologue I read at the Happy Endings Lounge last night here with you. If you enjoy what you read, download the entire free read and see what happens to my warrior in his cat life, and afterward when the 1,000 year curse finally ends and he wakes up in his female owner’s bed no longer a cat, but a man.
Someone was singing, a woman. Sweet and melodic.
Well, that settled it. He must be in heaven. But then why did his head ache so? His arm, too, now that he thought about it. There shouldn’t be pain in heaven. Then his blurred brain realized. He must be in hell. It shouldn’t surprise him, really. He was a warrior. Killing was part of his life. And even though it was in the name of his king, killing was killing.
He remembered now the battle that had finally ended his life. The sound of horses’ hooves thundering around him, vibrating his skull as he lay helplessly on the cold October ground. The pungent mingled smells of earth, sweat, and fresh blood, his own and that of others, increasing the ever present throbbing in his head. Seeing from his vantage point on the ground other bodies strewn across the field of battle. The slow moving human vultures as they preyed upon the fallen, one by one.
He had tried to push himself up with his one arm that wasn’t broken, but his chain mail was too heavy and his body too weakened from his injuries. Finally, accepting his fate, he had simply closed his eyes. He’d said a quick prayer as the blessed darkness took over and erased his pain…and his life.
But now the pain was back. He was surely in hell. So be it. If he were in hell, he would just have to learn to live with it, so to speak. But that still didn’t explain the singing.
He pried open one eye. Even just the light of the flickering flame of the fire felt like a knife cutting through his brain. If this pain were to be his fate for eternity, it would be extremely unpleasant, to say the least.
His vision cleared enough for him to take in his surroundings. Apparently hell, for him anyway, was a small cottage filled with many cats and lots of herbs hanging from the ceiling. A woman faced away from him, cooking something in a cauldron over the fire in the hearth.
He frowned. Odd. The priests who preached of hell had mentioned fire and brimstone, but not this deceivingly domestic scene. Although, whatever the woman was cooking smelled like it could only have originated in hell. He wrinkled his nose against the foul odor.
She ceased her singing and turned. “Ah, finally he wakes.” She came closer and peered at him. One work- roughened hand grasped his chin so she could angle his face toward the light.
He squinted his eyes against the pain in his head.
“Tell me my fate, oh mistress of hell.” He noted that the neckline of her dress was cut so low he could almost see the tops of her nipples. Hmm… But of course, hell wouldn’t be filled with virtuous women, now would it?
“Mistress of hell? That’s the thanks I get for saving your miserable life? I knew I should have taken the fat ugly one instead.” She seemed to be speaking now to one of the cats instead of to him. “The pretty ones are never grateful. Isn’t that right, Sebastian?” She cackled, seemingly amused at her own jest, the meaning of which escaped him.
He tried to see past the agony in his skull to get a better look at her. The only way to describe her was…ageless. She didn’t seem young, but somehow she was not old, either. Definitely, she was not what he would define as beautiful. Far from it. But yet, he found it impossible to look away. Her eyes appeared as black as her hair and he couldn’t break from their gaze.
Spellbound. That was how he felt.
She ladled some of the foul smelling liquid she had been cooking into a small bone cup and used her breath to cool it. Stronger than she looked, she raised him easily into a sitting position on the bed with one arm and pressed the cup to his lips. He drank in spite of the fact he had no desire to do so.
As he swallowed all of it, the bitter evil brew had the strangest effect upon him. Suddenly, his head no longer ached, and his arm ceased its throbbing, feeling almost as good as it had before he broke it in the battle. He was just thinking that perhaps hell wasn’t going to be so bad when he felt a familiar stirring between his legs. He watched in amazement as the blanket covering his manhood rose. His face grew hot as his hands instinctively moved to hide the source of his embarrassment.
The woman only nodded, looking pleased. “Magic is strong during Samhain. My warrior is stronger than I’d hoped, isn’t he, Sebastian? Perhaps I did pick the right one. And you know I do like them pretty.” She laughed again and pulled the blanket from him, exposing his nakedness. “Time to thank me for saving your life, warrior.”
He watched in horror, unable to move as she raised her skirts and straddled him. “I’m not dead?” he managed to croak as her one hand grabbed him and began stroking him intimately, almost lovingly.
“Dead? No. You are not dead. But you are mine for as long as I wish it. So please me well and live to see another day, warrior.” She turned to the cat again, “Isn’t that right, Sebastian?”
The cat turned and walked away, but the warrior could have sworn he saw a look of human sympathy in its feline eyes.
He lay helpless, as if in a dream world. And though his mind whispered that something was wrong, his cock beneath her touch screamed for satisfaction far more loudly.
His mind and his body warred until something snapped within him, something strong enough to fight the effects of whatever was in what she had given him to drink. Finding strength he didn’t think he had, he flung the woman off of him and jumped to his feet. She landed on the floor with fire shooting from her eyes. She rose slowly, mumbling words in a language he didn’t understand.
Her chant grew louder and stronger until it seemed to vibrate the walls of the cottage. Clay pots fell off shelves while the cats scattered for shelter. Then a pain tore through him the likes of nothing he had ever felt before and he heard a blood curdling scream rip through the air.
He realized the scream was his own as he fell and writhed on the floor.
Then, just as suddenly as it had come, the pain was gone and he could stand again. He rose on four fur- covered feet and stood, eye-to-eye, with Sebastian.