I resigned myself to carrying Raine’s clothes again as I continued her tour of the house. Cosette was happily carrying her, since Raine wasn’t inclined to change back from her cat form.
“A large number of these rooms aren’t really used frequently, at least to my knowledge. Considering that I’m continually finding out about new hidden doors, someone might be ducking into another secret lab for all I know.” I explained. Realizing Mila wasn’t going to chime in to verify the assertion pained me. I really hoped Aaliyah was fixing her.
Raine was on her back, swinging her paws at Cosette’s fingers as they tickled her belly. Most people would have perked up at the words “hidden doors” or “secret lab”. Maybe this was pointless at the moment. Of course, Raine was born superhuman. Therianthropes were all faster and stronger than humans. Their senses seemed to be heightened also. She might well be able to listen while playing with someone easily. I needed to give her the benefit of the doubt for now.
I was amused to find that Raine seemed more and more alert as we approached the kitchen. I had been smelling the incredible aroma wafting down the halls as well. The girl had just lost everything. Maybe she hadn’t eaten yet?
When we reached the kitchen, Marco was busily working away while some of the “dolls” were scrubbing a counter across from him. The dolls ducked behind a tile they pulled out as soon as I was noticed.
Marco looked up, smiled, and said, “Ah! James! I am just a fixing the dinner. Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta con burro e salvia for the pasta, and then black angus cooked just a right. I felt tonight we needed a taste of home. There will also be potatoes, which I using a recipe I got in northern Italy from this woman… bellissimo. Is magnifico. There is also meringue, though this recipe is from French girl I met in Prague. Perhaps you will approve, Cosette? Is French.” As he spoke, he walked over to the fridge, took out a cooked sausage, and offered it to my little fairy friend.
Despite being smaller than the sausage, she easily grabbed it and started devouring the meat. Her appetite was amazing, and Marco always kept something on hand for her these days.
“Of course. I’ve been delighted by everything you’ve made.” she replied, returning his smile.
“Is that a new pet? I can’t say I prepared anything for il gatto, since I did not a know.” he explained, looking a touch embarrassed.
“Oh. No-no. Marco, this is the newest member of Best Friend For Hire, Raine. She’s a werecat, and Cosette had wanted to see her cat form.” I informed him as Raine sunk behind Cosette’s arm.
“Ah! This is good then, assuming she like a what I fix…?” he commented, questioning me.
Nodding, I said, “I have no doubt. Hopefully, you’ll get to meet her as a girl for dinner, so you’ll know I’m not crazy.”
He brushed off what I said and told me “I see wonders daily here, so you speak and I believe.”
I was taken aback by the sincerity in his words. I felt the truth that Marco would believe whatever I told him. I couldn’t imagine ever having to lie to Marco, and I hoped such a day would never come. I didn’t want to betray his trust in me.
Making myself smile, I said, “If you’ll excuse us, I’m going to finish giving Raine here the tour.”
“You’re the boss. If you have time, dinner will be ready in… twenty minutes. I’ll send notice.” he told me.
“A quick tour for now then.” I replied, smiling now at the thought of eating.
I didn’t bother giving more than a quick explanation for the next couple rooms, knowing she probably wouldn’t use them. The ballroom, however, would interest Raine if anything would. She did, after all, play Ancient Tribes of Earth, so I was certain she’d enjoy seeing our gaming setup.
Upon entering the room, I realized we were actually short on seats. Typically, someone was out on a job when Aaliyah was here, so there wasn’t a problem. Well, Alma often played from her wing while working. All residents, save for Marco, were here now.
“James, why is that one out of her clothes again?” asked Alma without looking up.
“Why would clothing matter when she’s a cat?” inquired Cosette.
“A girl undressing in front of James always matters. We can’t allow ourselves to act like animals, even if such behavior is in our nature.” claimed Alma.
“She shrinks into them, really.” I explained.
Looking from me to Alma, Cosette then said, “If you must know, I asked Raine to change out of curiosity, and I feel she makes a most adorable cat.”
“I already have Alberich, so I don’t need another cat.” replied Alma.
“But she’s so adorable! Why didn’t you tell me she’s this cute?” asked Emma, hopping out of her chair to approach us and bending down to see Raine.
Portentia and Brenna came over as well, while Raine attempted to hide herself in Cosette’s arms.
“Aww.. can I pet her?” asked Brenna
“Such a pretty kitty!” exclaimed Portentia over Brenna.
“She’s a bit shy.” I told them. Glancing at Raine, I decided to rephrase, saying, “Okay, she’s more than a bit shy, so some space would be nice. Does anyone have cat allergies? I just realized that may be an issue. Do werecats produce allergens?”
“Yes, they do.” stated Alma.
With no one admitting to cat allergies, I felt I might be in luck for now. I’d have to be careful about informing new hires later. “Marco said dinner will be ready in twenty minutes. I suppose that was a few minutes ago though, so seventeen-ish.” I informed everyone. I really missed MIla. She had kept us all on schedule.
Marco’s meals had been a great deal less punctual without her assistance, not that I blamed him at all. All of us had been a bit off from normal since we lost her. Even now, her absence could be felt in the room. By the looks my announcement had brought, I was certain most of them were thinking about her.
“At any rate, I was giving Raine here the tour and felt she should see how we like to game, since she’s in our guild.” I told them.
“She plays Ancient Tribes of Earth?” asked Jarod.
“Yes, she’s Nekopawpaw.” I replied.
Emma’s eyes widened. Then her smile grew and she said, “You! I’m your general! This is so cool! You need to log in ASAP. People have been worried about you, since you haven’t been on lately.”
Raine peeked up to look at Emma, but she obviously wasn’t ready for Emma to grab her from Cosette. I almost protested, since Raine wasn’t really a cat. She seemed too shy to stick up for herself very well, but I didn’t actually know how she liked being treated when taking the form of a cat. She had obviously been fine with Cosette playing with her. Emma slipped by Portentia and Brenna’s outstretched arms and hopped into her seat.
My worries left for the moment as I saw Raine react to the game. Emma announced to her section that Nekopawpaw was with her in person, and the text box flooded with excitement ― well, excitement and a bit of jealousy. Raine sat up on Emma’s lap and stared intensely. I was certain she’d fit in perfectly with us.