Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores January 2022.)

CHAPTER ONE
Griz

"What is she doing in there?"

Tannith's magic lamp draws her so near the glass that her breath fogs its surface. In her perplexed impatience, she's breath- takingly beautiful. Almond-shaped green eyes reflect like gem- stones against the glass, and hair blacker than mine drapes over her shoulders, tantalizing me. Sometimes that hair swings when she moves and I can't take my eyes off it. In bed at night I often reach a paw out to touch its silkiness, though only lightly, careful not to wake her. Nothing angers Tannith more than disturbing her sleep. Seriously. Objects get thrown. She has good aim.

She peers so closely that her nose is almost touching glass. "Why is she just sitting there?"

I gaze at the lamp and the woman visible inside it. She's in the front seat of her vehicle, which pulled into her driveway a full minute ago. The image flits and flickers, unstable, but the woman is also in motion.

"She's not just sitting," I point out. Tannith's powers of inference can be woefully lacking, but that's one of her failings that I, a mere feline, am not supposed to acknowledge. As her familiar, I'm not supposed to acknowledge any of her failings. Holding my tongue isn't always easy. "She's moving."

And not even subtly, but in jerky gyrations. From anyone else this might be considered odd behavior, but I know the woman inside that glass. There's nothing graceful or normal about her. Just the sight of her makes my fur bristle.

Tannith's gaze narrows, then she bleats out a joyful laugh. "You're right! The idiot is sitting in the front seat of her car in her driveway, dancing to..." She angles her ear, and her smile widens as she recognizes a tune that means nothing to me. "Oh my God, that's Barry Manilow!'Copacabana!" She bends, laughing silently but gleefully. Then she leans forward, almost kissing the glass. "Gwen, you pathetic cheeseball."

I don't care for any of Tannith's relations, but I had the misfortune to be stuck at Gwen's apartment once. Every day was torture. Her smothering attention was unendurable, and the food she served me wasn't worthy for the most pathetic alley cat, which I most definitely am not.

Tannith's delight in Gwen's dancing is short-lived. She drums her long, red-lacquered nails on the table. "Damn, this song goes on forever."

"Why are you watching her at all? You said the others reacted just as you expected them to. What is there to see?"

"I just want to make sure Gwen gets her letter, too." Tannith smirks at my skeptical glance. "Okay, I admit it. I'll relish seeing her devastation more than anybody's."

I want to see it, too.

"Dear Gwen." Tannith barely keeps an eye on the glass now as she engages in jubilant speculation. "First she'll open the letter, then she'll read it—twice, just to make sure her eyes aren't deceiving her. She'll have to sit down." Tannith's expression pantomimes every emotion her cousin would be going through. "And then she'll have a little debate with herself. Should she call Daniel? No! That would show a lack of trust in their relationship." Tannith shakes her head, hair shimmering. '"'Gwen is the type who thinks in dorky phrases like that. You know what she'll do instead of calling Daniel?"

I look up at her, blink slowly. "No..."

"She'll run to the other cousins. They'll have an impromptu meeting of their little cupcake coven. Their uncoven. And it will be nothing but confusion, because they're idiots."

Pleasure purrs through me. Tannith's clever, powerful, and devious, and—God help me—I love her. Sometimes I feel I don't deserve her, and other times it seems she doesn't appreciate me. But moments like this compensate for the bad things.

A flash inside the lamp draws our gazes.

"Oh, look! She's finally getting out of her car. Dressed in lumberjack lite, as usual. And there she goes...up to the door...checking her box..."
...

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