She pressed back the flaps of the box as far as she could and took another look inside. Bony. Matted. And they smelled of their own urine and feces. But beneath all that, she could see beautiful calico markings. They weren’t big, though she couldn’t tell if their size came from malnutrition or youth.
“Okay, babies,” she murmured, “we’re going to give this a try.” She waited a moment. They didn’t hiss up at her or lay their ears flat, all signs of feral cats. They didn’t do anything at all. She touched one of them. It flinched, its coat rippling with the effort of trying to move away from her. She touched the other. No movement at all. Slowly, she ran her fingers down its spine. Then again. It blinked at her and opened its mouth without making a sound.
Becca slipped both hands under the cat and lifted it out of the carrier. It didn’t wriggle or fight or do anything at all. She sat on the edge of her desk chair and continued to pet it, ignoring the greasy mats in its coat and the horrible stench it gave off. After a moment, the other cat poked its head out of the carrier to see what had happened to its companion.
“Curious, baby?” she said. “You’re safe now. Nothing’s going to hurt you here.” She kept her voice low. She continued to pet the cat in her lap. A minute passed. Jultio returned with the heating pad and lamp. “Can you set up one of the cages in the back room with those inside? There are some clean towels and blankets in the hall closet too.”
He nodded. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know. They’re malnourished, for sure, and probably have worms and mites, but they’re not as bad as I thought they would be.” Janet would be here soon, she hoped, and she could turn over the medical stuff, the serious stuff, to her. “They’re just so cold, both of them.” The one in her lap had started to shake, though whether from nerves or a low body temperature, she couldn’t tell.
Julito left, and Becca reached toward the cat in the carrier. Its head ducked down again, but she reached for the soft spot behind its ears. “I ended a date early for you two,” she said aloud. “An honest-to-goodness date, with a guy that’s hotter than anyone I’ve ever gone out with, and who was about this close—” she stopped petting the cat long enough to make an inch sign with her thumb and forefinger, and the animal looked reproachfully up from the box, “—to taking off my clothes.” She bent close to the cat in her lap. “Am I crazy?” Yes, she answered herself. I am most definitely crazy. Ella would never let her hear the end of it.
Then, at exactly the same time, both animals started purring. Rusty, broken, as if they hadn’t made the sound in a long time—maybe ever—the rumble broke from both their throats. Becca started to cry.
If you'd like to read more, Winter's Wonder is available on all major retailers. I hope you enjoy! It's the perfect beginning to the upcoming holiday season....
Barnes & Noble