Cat Shining Bright
65 стр.

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Автор Ширли Руссо Мерфи

Dedication

For Amanda, Ellie, and Sophie

Epigraph

When a young cat dreams, what far lands and ancient times does he bring alive once more?

Does his wild spirit brighten again the fading road he once traveled, embrace again those he knew upon his endless journey?

Does man’s own past, if cherished and observed, tell us where we have been, and, perhaps, where our own untrodden road might lead?

—Anonymous

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

Prologue

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

About the Author

Also by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Copyright

About the Publisher

Prologue

On this early May evening in Wilma Getz’s stone cottage, the tall, older woman kneels by the hearth, the blaze reflecting from her long silver ponytail as she adds another log to the fire. Around her, cat friends and humans sit in the flowered chairs and couch but no one is at ease as they usually are in Wilma’s welcoming home. All are rigid, waiting. Wilma’s slim, redheaded niece, Charlie, holds Joe Grey securely on her lap, the tomcat struggling to get free and go to Dulcie, so nervous he can hardly be still. Hearing his tabby lady’s cries, he has tried twice to claw Charlie, shocking them both. Beside them, blond, beautiful Kate Osborne waits restlessly, as do Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw. The elderly couple snuggles tortoiseshell Kit between them, stroking her fluffy coat, trying to calm her fidgets as well as their own. But Kit will not be calmed, and she does not want to be petted. Rising irritably, she drops to the floor and settles stoically before the hearth beside red tabby Pan, the tomcat straight and solemn, attempting in his own stern way to show no unease. Kit, beside him, tries hard to hide her own nerves, intently listening.

They hear no more cries of pain—but when, from the bedroom, Dr. Firetti calls Wilma, Joe Grey starts to fight Charlie again trying to break free, trying to go to Dulcie, the vanished echo of his lady’s whimpers still striking deep through him.

But John Firetti’s voice is cheerful. “Could we have the warm blanket now? While Mary and I clean up?” At the pleasure in his voice, everyone relaxes, worried faces turn to smiles. From the bedroom there is only silence, no more cries of pain from Dulcie. As Wilma rises to get the blanket, soft footsteps come down the hall; the doctor’s wife appears, Mary’s brown hair mussed, her brown eyes aglow with pleasure. “The last kitten has been born. Oh, so beautiful. Three fine kittens,” Mary says, “healthy and strong. And Dulcie is just fine,” she says, looking deep into Joe Grey’s worried yellow eyes. “Let’s give her a little while before we go in. Except you, Joe,” she says, reaching to pet the tomcat. “You can go see your new family.”

Joe leaps off Charlie’s lap and heads for the bedroom, shy suddenly, nearly electrified with uncertainty. He has never seen newborn kittens, not his own kittens. He slips up onto the bed where he can look down into the kittening box.

There they are, three tiny, beautiful babies. So little and naked, wriggling weakly against their tabby mother: the two buff-colored kits are boys, he can tell by their scent. And, oh my, the girl is going to be a striking calico, he can already see the faint patterns on her tender skin. Dulcie has cleaned them up; she lies resting. The tiny ones squirm close to her, pressing at her, nursing hungrily against her striped belly.

Dr. John Firetti, kneeling over the box, looks up and nods. “Come, Joe. Come down and see your babies.”

Joe Grey eases off the bed, approaching warily. He crouches very still, looking into the birthing box at his new family, breathing in their intriguing kitten scent—but he is fearful. Even now he is afraid of how he might respond, he is too aware of the ancient instinct of some tomcats to ravage their own young. Would this age-old urge surface in him? Shivering, he is ready to turn and run before he hurts his helpless kittens—and when Dulcie lifts her eyes to him, he sees for an instant the female’s equally primitive response, the inborn ferocity of a mother cat to protect her babies.

But then her look softens, her green-eyed gaze is content, loving their kittens, loving him. Joe Grey purrs extravagantly for her. Watching Dulcie and their three beautiful newborns, he knows only wonder; he knows they have made a fine family. Three infants so tiny and perfect that Joe can’t resist reaching his nose in, breathing deeper of their sweet kitten aroma.

“Courtney,” Dulcie says, licking the calico and looking up at Joe. “You can hardly see her markings, but she will grow into them.” She licks the boys. “What kind of lives will these three make, our three tiny mites?” Powerfully the moment holds them, holds the little family in the hands of gentle grace.

1

Those first weeks were idyllic, Dulcie caring for the kittens, washing and nursing them, Joe Grey with them more often than not, galloping over the rooftops between his house and Dulcie’s. If he swung by Molena Point PD for a moment to read police reports as he lay casually on the chief’s desk, if he worried about the car-theft ring that was working closer and closer down the coast toward Molena Point—already the cops had readied extra forces—if Joe knew in his wily cat soul that it wouldn’t be long before the thieves hit their village, he kept his concerns to himself. Dulcie didn’t need to fret over a possible new crime wave, all she and the kittens needed was their cozy, safe home, quiet and secure. Wilma kept the TV and radio off, and the newspaper out of sight; nothing of the outer world intruded to disturb the little family’s tranquillity, only soft music on the CD player, or a little easy jazz, or Wilma would read to Dulcie, something bright and happy.

Two weeks after the kittens were born their eyes were open and their tiny ears unfurled. Another week and they could see and hear very well and were toddling about their pen. Courtney’s colors were clear now, the bright orange and black markings along her back, her white sides and belly, her little white face with orange ears and a circle of pale orange and darker freckles around her muzzle, the three perfect black bracelets circling her right front leg. Now, when the kittens heard Joe Grey come in through the cat door, they squealed with delight. When Joe jumped into the cat pen that Wilma had set up in the kitchen, ...

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