The sound of David Cole’s voice rang out like a satin-coated shot. Charles du Seine, maitre d’ of the posh establishment le Chateau d’ Bon Bon, felt the wine glass shatter in his paw. How he hated that bastard Cole. He clenched his fist tightly, ignoring the pain of the intruding shards of glass.
“One moment, please,” he muttered as he grabbed a linen napkin from the table, blood sullying the dazzling whiteness of it.
He turned to walk to the table where Cole, the mayor, and Callie sat.
“How may I help you, monsieur?” he asked dryly, pretending to be shining a glass with the cloth.
Callie saw a blob of red drip down to the floor. Her mouth formed an involuntary expression of disgust. Cole, who hadn’t taken his eyes off her, now looked over to the waiter’s paw, seeing, sure enough, the warm spreading redness.
“Good God, man! Your paw!” he gasped.
“C’est nothing,” said Charles. “May I help you.”
“Yes, yes, we would like some wine, the best you have, and for the love of God, see a doctor!”
“Very good, monsieur. I will have Pierre bring some wine to you.”
‘Not that he doesn’t have enough *whine* already.’
Far be it from Cole to admit that he and Charles had been childhood friends, playing on the championship team in All-City Little League. No, Cole would never admit to friends, rapport with whom did not mean elevated status.
Cole watched du Seine go and wondered fleetingly where he had seen him before. Then he turned his thoughts back to Callie, mentally undressing her, and impatiently waiting for the arrival of the wine.
“Are you all right, Mayor?” Callie asked. “Is something the matter?”
The mayor looked at her, feeling somehow paternal.
“Nothing at all, Cal-lay. I was think-ang of what a lovely cup-pal you and Mr. Cole make.”
Callie sighed. She was somewhat disgusted. Why was it that everyone seemed to believe that such an arrogant, selfish, stuck-up, pompous jerk was her Mr. Right? She was furious.
Just a few days before the mayor had been treating her so well, she was sure she had landed the nomination. He had called her several times just to talk, and several more to beg her advice or assistance. He had even had her deliver the speech traditionally delivered by the mayor at Enforcer graduation. Then suddenly, somehow, David Cole’s name peppered the conversations, and she no longer held that place of honor. She felt as though she were sitting on the tip of a pyramid with life, work, Cole, and herself on each side, biting at her, out of spite for forgetting them.
For how could one forget one’s pursuers?
Cole had her paw in his now and was caressing it gently. He had moved his chair in close to hers and leaned his head in to whisper in her ear that “tonight… should [she] desire… the world would be [hers]… if she would only be [his].”
Callie looked away. Surely there was somekat out there whose come-ons weren’t so blatant, whose idea of romance was not a pill in her sherry and a lock on the door. She never fell for those tricks. She recognized them much too easily for that. But someday she hoped to meet someone who could make her happy, make her pulse quicken, and at the same time keep her safe. Somekat to watch over her but stand beside her.
Somekat with striped fur and a jet?
The bottle of red wine arrived at the table and was poured into the three ready glasses. It reminded Callie of that poor kat’s paw and she took the glass gingerly, letting the stem dangle between her fingers. She swirled the drink as the mayor made some nonsense toast to both of them and to an abstract notion of continued success. When he was done, they clinked glasses and Callie took her sip, letting the burgundy slip down like liquid fire into the knotted pit of her stomach.
Cole still had her paw in his. The waiter came over and they ordered, or rather, Cole ordered for all three. It didn’t matter, as Callie was already bored with the place, and even Cole’s feigned accent, oft corrected by the waiter, failed to amuse her.
“Is something bothering you, my pet?” Cole asked.
“I am not your pet.”
“You are holding out on me. There is no need – I understand that you wish to save youself for marriage. Never fear. I shall eliminate the wait.”
Callie suddenly felt ill. She excused herself and went to the ladies’ room. There, she spent some time scrutinizing her appearance, trying not to think about the dogged pursuits of her by toms, with which she was thoroughly disgusted.
History seemed to be repeating itself once again. She really hadn’t needed the reminder of the day before last. Derek Whitepaws – what an unpleasant memory. It was not that he was unattatractive – that, he most certainly was not. She thought that it was perhaps his manner. He was an enigma to her. They never spoke, yet she felt a sincerity from him unlike all the others. When she saw him again she meant to ask him if he was doing well. Yet he seemed so vacant. He didn’t even notice that she was there.
Were the wings that important?
Could it ever be the kat inside who mattered?
Callie didn’t know. She leaned over the sink and cried a little, tearlessly, then shook it off, powdered her nose, and strode back into the main dining room, where the most eligible bachelor in MegaKat was waiting for her, watching with a look in his eyes unmistakable as yearning.
The food came as soon as she sat down. Her plate was set before her, a miniscule portion of steaming fowl artistically placed in the center of what she was not sure was garnish or edible.
“What is this?” she asked a smiling Cole.
“Just taste it,” he implored.
Callie cut a small bite with her knife and ate it. It proved to be a chicken dish of dubious preparation.
“Do you like it?” asked Cole. “To my mind French cooking is so frighfully unimaginative sometimes, and so often the imitators ruin the surprise of the best dishes – this, so far, is the only one not polluted by the MegaKat school of hackery.”
Callie pushed the plate away from her.
“I never cared for chicken,” she told him.
“How you bemuse me!” he exclaimed. “You are thin enough; you do not need to watch your figure so scrupulously.”
Apparently he was too dense to waste repeating herself. Callie merely smiled and said something to the effect of how he flattered her. Then she spent the rest of the hour avoiding his or the mayor’s attempts at conversation, nursing her wine like a beloved child.
At length the chamber orchestra began to play, and Cole would have asked Callie to dance with him except that the mayor finally looked at his watch, realizing that they were late for their meeting with Commander Feral and his detectives down at Enforcer HQ.
* * *
Charles du Seine watched as his childhood friend strode confidently out the oak doors of the Chateau. He watched the girl on Cole’s arm stiffen to his touch, and walk as far from him as possible. He watched as the puffy little mayor bounced after them, watching them, hopping along on two dainty feet. Du Seine remained in the shadows, eyes on the door, until it slowly shut behind the trio. His last sight was of the limousine door opening, and of Cole stooped to help the she-kat in.
“How I detest you, Cole,” he muttered. “And yet…”
He silently stepped over to the guestbook, thumbing through the pages to find Cole’s signed entry.
And surprisingly enough, Cole had left the requested address.
He was staying at his beach house, and would likely as not be there that very night. It had been too long, du Seine realized. Much too long for either of them. So Cole would be there that night?
Well then, he decided, so would he.
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