Belle’s brain ached from talking. Meowing was so much easier. Humans made everything difficult, even communication. So few words, so many meanings.
“You want to tell me about yourself?” Max asked.
She put a hand on the bruise on her forehead, just like Annette in today’s TV show. “Amnesia.” She’d practiced saying it while watching the show, the mmm sound easier than the nnn. “I have amnesia.”
“Amnesia?” He looked at her with disbelief. “The only people I’ve heard of having amnesia are actors in bad TV shows. If you’re afraid of someone, tell me. I’ll protect you.” His gaze went to her ring. “No matter what. You have my promise.”
She nodded. Of course he’d protect her. She never thought anything different.
“Do you want to tell me?” He moved closer, bending, the same concentration in his blue eyes as when he was reading one of his travel books.
“Pretty eyes,” she said.
He stepped back. “You don’t need to flirt with me. I already told you I’ll protect you.”
“You have pretty eyes,” she repeated. He also had a pretty face and body, but she decided not to say that.
What had she done wrong? Max told her all the time how pretty she was. “Pretty Belle.” “Beautiful Belle.” “Pretty kitty.” She always liked it. Didn’t humans like to be called nice things?
“Well, thanks.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and backed up. “I’ll order the pizza. You like garlic bread?”
She shook her head. She liked meat. Lots of meat.
“We’ll probably eat in about a half hour.” One corner of his mouth flicked up. “Don’t go anywhere.”
She shook her head. Where would she go? This was her home.
As soon as he left, she stretched, holding the position for a long moment. Then she rubbed her cheek against the pillow. It was soft and smelled of Max. Now her smells mingled with his, her cat body and her human body.
A knock rattled the door. A mewl came out of her mouth, the unfamiliar words forgotten for a second. The door opened before she remembered how to purse her lips and where to stick her tongue to tell whoever it was to come in. Unless it was Caroline. Her she would tell not to come in.
“You’re decent? Too bad.” Ted strolled inside, clothes were draped over his arm. “Max said you’re eating with us tonight. I thought you might want a change of clothes.” He tossed his armload of garments on the foot of the bed. “They’re my sister’s exercise clothes. Tory won’t mind if you wear them.”
Belle nodded. Tory liked her. Tory had wanted to take her to New York, but of course Belle couldn’t go. This was her home. Why would she want to live anywhere else?
“I’ll leave now.” Ted glanced at his watch. “You have enough time to take a quick bath or a shower and change.”
Watching him leave, Belle felt sick inside her stomach.
No, no, and no!
She wasn’t going to do it. She refused to do it.
But if she didn’t, they’d smell her. Cats groomed themselves all the time, but they didn’t wash away their scents. Any animal knew scents were good. Water was for drinking. Inside the body, not outside.
Her mouth set. She threw back the covers, rolled out of bed, marched into the bathroom, knelt by the bathtub and turned on the faucets the way she’d seen Max do so often. Anything a human could do, a cat could do–no matter how disgusting and unnatural.
But she’d better find Sorcha and get her body back. Fast.
How many more indignities could she stand?