Wait. Was this Raine or was Aaliyah disguised as her again for some reason? There was a strange feeling of movement in my arms, and Raine slipped out from them. I looked down and found a large amount of residual energy being absorbed into me. Raine’s clothes were piled on the ground below the energy. What was happening? A small cat with light yellow fur crawled out of the cloth and rubbed up against me. Raine Vance was a were-… kitten?
She jumped up, and I easily caught her, holding her with one arm as she rubbed her head against my chest. Could this really be another prank of Aaliyah’s? If so, what was her game?
My phone buzzed in my pocket, so I grabbed it with my free hand. I had received a text from Aaliyah, explaining that the real Raine Vance should be arriving shortly for a job interview. I needed to get her inside. Why would she have brought luggage to a job interview, and why was Aaliyah wanting me to handle it? She had taken care of Brandon and Brenna without me.
I created a spell to gather Raine’s belongings and have them follow me inside, but I stood in the entry hall without a clue how to handle this. How was I going to get Raine back into her human form now? My magic was obviously affecting her. Furthermore, how was I going to get her back into her clothing? Great. Two people were coming out of the ballroom, I heard their footsteps approaching the door. I could run for now, but where?
“Heya, boss. Umm… Isn’t that luggage a bit girly for you?” asked Brandon.
Smirking, Jarod said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure James just has his hands full with a new hire. Didn’t you say you were dating Alma now?”
“Yes, I…” I started replying, realizing that Jarod had figured out my situation already. Her clothes were in plain view. I felt hot and was likely flushed. “There’s an explanation for this.”
“I don’t doubt.” laughed Jarod. “Make sure to tell me later. Brandon and I are going to watch a movie in the theater if you want to catch us when you’re free.”
“Jaaaaaaarod!” exclaimed Ai and Mai in unison, coming up behind him.
“What? I said you two were invited.” he told them.
“But we want your input on the house.” whined Mai as she pouted at him.
“You know this is for all of us.” claimed Ai.
“House?” I inquired.
“Oh. We’re building a house next to the guildhall in Ancient Tribes of Earth.” explained Jarod.
There were numerous guild members who had decided that a house for storing trophies was desirable.
“Lady Pendreigh won’t approve of that luggage.” stated Ai as she looked at me.
“You should replace it, and she already has a cat.” added Mai.
I saw their eyes widen almost immediately after she finished speaking and felt increasingly uncomfortable as they scrutinized my surroundings.
“WHO IS SHE?” they yelled.
“You can’t possibly be thinking of hiring a therianthrope.” stated Ai.
“James, that’s ridiculous.” claimed Mai.
Ignoring them, I turned around as I felt Alma’s magic. She had returned home.
Smiling with no mirth, Alma said, “I’m more concerned about why she’s out of her clothing, and in your arms, dear.”
Brandon guffawed, earning a glare from Alma.
I sighed and explained, “Look, she’s a cat. There’s nothing happening here. I think she’s reacting a bit strongly to my magic is all, and I didn’t want to leave her belongings outside.
“Oh, I’m sure.” stated Alma.
She believed me, but she didn’t look remotely pleased.
“James, should I be expecting more of the girls you dated to be moving here? Even your home might start feeling… crowded.” she suggested.
OH. I had forgotten that Alma was tailing me throughout most of my dates. She probably recognized Raine’s jacket, since it was rather distinctive. Raine had tensed up as Alma spoke.
“There’s an explanation for that as well.” I told her.
“Let’s get moving. I think we’ve seen enough here.” claimed Jarod.
“You kidding? This is great! She’s probably hot.” argued Brandon.
I turned to them and said, “Guys, really. Raine’s here for a job interview. That’s all. Speaking of which, I’m going to let her use a room to get sorted out. Please, excuse me.”
Not waiting for a reply, I ran toward the employee’s wing with Raine’s belongings in tow. Aaliyah must have told Raine to stay here for tonight. Otherwise, I couldn’t see any reason for the luggage. Unless… Did Raine not have anywhere to go? Surely, she did. Maybe Aaliyah considered the interview to just be a formality. The paperwork was probably prepared already.
I put Raine’s luggage in the room across from Portentia and carefully detached her from me, claw by little claw. “Please, get dressed, and we’ll discuss everything when you’re done.” I told her before shutting the door.
“James, I’m sorry for getting angry.” stated Alma.
I nearly jumped, despite knowing she had followed me. Alma just apologized and seemed quite sincere.
Continuing, she said, “I realize you couldn’t have planned for this girl to be here, given that we’re supposed to be out on a date. I’m certain you can understand my surprise, since you had dated her. I must say that I hadn’t even realized she was a therianthrope.”
“What do you call her species?” I asked.
“‘Werecat’ in England. There are some other names floating around the UK, and obviously more in the rest of the world. Are you certain about allowing one into your home?” she asked.
“I really haven’t had much time to think things over. She was at the door when I arrived home, turned into a kitten, and you saw most of the rest.” I replied.
“Did Aaliyah hire her then?” she inquired.
“No, actually, but I received a text just before coming inside, saying to expect Raine for an interview.” I explained.
As the door opened, Alma said, “Just to be sure you know, werecats are dangerous, James. Their animal form can be disarming, but they are powerful predators.”
The door slammed shut.
“She’s attempting to escape out the window. Shall we?” asked Alma, running before I could reply.
I followed her, and we easily caught up to Raine, who didn’t even bring her luggage.
“Murdered someone recently?” asked Alma.
“ALMA!” I exclaimed. “That’s enough.”
She rolled her eyes at me, but didn’t say more. Raine had collapsed on the ground and was crying.
“Raine, sorry. Alma can be a little suspicious is all.” I told her, tentatively placing my hand on her shoulder.
She leaned into my hand and kept crying.
I frowned at Alma and asked “When will you stop jumping to conclusions?”
“What? I simply gave you fair warning. You can’t possibly hold me accountable for how someone chooses to take my words. If she stays, you should have her show you her hybrid form. She’d easily take Brandon down, despite his training.” she replied.
“Could you just… give us a minute?” I asked.
“As you wish, but I do wish you’d remember that we’re supposed to be having a date.” she replied.
“Yes, but that was ruined when I was shot. Thank you.” I told her.
She sighed and left. I still needed to talk with Alma about what had happened, but I was not going to leave a crying girl in my yard, especially not one I was supposed to be hiring. I sat down next to Raine and attempted to calm her down, but the tears kept coming. There was nothing to be done but wait for her tears to be spent.