First, my ds turns 29 February 8th. Last evening he asked me when his party will be. I was hoping to have it Sunday, until my friend K reminded me that Sunday's the Super Bowl. Oops! I won't be able to drag his dad away from the TV on Super Bowl Sunday. I think we'll have to have the party Friday or Saturday.
Next is the Whipped Cream Valentine's Day party February 12th and 13th. You bet I'll be there. My assigned day is the 12th. Be sure to join us there at: http://wcguest.blogspot.com/
On the 12th, I'm also attending roller derby to cheer on my boss's daughter and her team. Several people from my office will be there, so another party. :)
We all know what the 14th is. It's the big V day. Lately, when my family hears me say that, they know I mean "V" for the Visitors, my favorite show. However, this time, that's not what I mean.
ALSO on February 14th, my erotic paranormal romance story "Pussyfooting Around" releases at Ellora's Cave. What a cool day for a romance release. Am I on a roll or what?
When Diamond gives her life in a selfless act, she is granted her most fervent wish—to become a human female so that she can win her beloved master's heart. But becoming a human isn't as easy as it looks. Pitfalls and traps lie in wait everywhere as she struggles to overcome her inner nature. If she fails this test, she will be turned back into a cat, and worse, lose Eddie's love forever.
Publisher’s Note: Originally available in the Sex Kittens anthology.
An Excerpt From: PUSSYFOOTING AROUND
Copyright © ASHLEY LADD, 2004
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Diamond rolled in a patch of her favorite grass, the South Florida sunshine warming her belly. Spreading her paw wide over a four-leaf clover, she grabbed it with her extra finger. A polydactyl cat, she enjoyed her special paws.
A child’s strangled screams rent the air, nearly deafening her, chilling her soul. Hideous grunts mortified her, freezing her blood. Then she smelled it. Mildew and death. The neighborhood fiend had returned, mercilessly hunting new prey.
Alarm flooding her, she crept closer to the sound, her heart in her throat. The terrified cries belonged to the child who lived next door, the one who liked to cuddle her until she almost suffocated.
She didn’t know what a cat could do to thwart a ravenous alligator, but she couldn’t stand by and let the ogre hurt the little boy.
Screeching as loudly as she could, she called for reinforcements, hoping it wasn’t already too late. As long as the child screamed, he was still alive. As long as there was life, hope remained, however slim.
Streaking across the lawn, she leaped to the top of the fence, bounded down, and stared at the horrifying scene, her fur standing on end. The lethal creature chased the child at an amazing speed. It was much more agile than a bulky leathery being had any right to be. Huge jaws opened wide, and Diamond knew the young boy had no defense against its filthy, razor-sharp teeth. The gigantic creature would swallow him whole. The child’s only chance was if someone took his place—now. The seconds of his life ticked away.
No one else was in sight, human or animal. Where was that pesty dog Napoleon when she needed him? He never missed an opportunity to make her life miserable, but at least he could help her in a dire emergency. Eddie must have put him inside.
Terror engulfed her. Praying she would be reincarnated and elevated in her next life, Diamond darted between the boy and the monster, her claws sharp and ready to shred his soulless eyes. “Fight someone who can fight back, creepazoid.” Baring her fangs, her back arched, and her ears flattened against her head.
“An appetizer before the main course,” the disgusting creature taunted her, thrashing his long tail.
“Run!” she screamed to the catatonic kid, frustrated that he couldn’t understand her. Why, oh why, couldn’t humans understand her? She understood them.
Mustering her courage, adrenaline surged through her body. She screeched to distract the monster, her reflection in its black, soulless eyes valiant. Her tail pointed skyward stiffly. Her white fur bristled on her arched back. Her normally sunny eyes glittered almost as dark as the gator’s.
Snarling, her claws fully extended, her fangs ready, she swiped the monster’s long snout as she hissed, “Leave him alone!”
Long, deep scars engraved the leathery snout. With a pained grunt, the fiend whirled around on her, its huge maw snapping. Never had she seen such an enormously horrifying mouth. The beast could almost swallow the boy whole. He’d surely ingest her in one gulp.
Gnashing teeth ripped her flesh apart, and excruciating pain flooded her. Relief cut through the agonizing pain when the child’s father ran up and pulled his son to safety and then tried to pry her from the creature’s jaws. Wanting to be brave, she tried not to cry, but to no avail. Never had she dreamed such excruciating pain could exist. Finally, blessedly, darkness descended.
* * * * *
“You did well, my precious Diamond. Your noble sacrifice saved the child.” The most beautiful honeyed voice Diamond had ever heard wrapped her in silk.
She opened one eye and peered in the direction of the intoxicating voice. Her blurry vision slowly cleared. The loveliest human she had ever seen smiled serenely at her. The angelic being seemed to be floating on white fluffy clouds. Spears of sunlight pierced her transparent, sparkling body. Raven locks curled over her shoulders to her slender waist.
Diamond’s memory returned in bits and pieces. Flashes of the young child terrified, trying to escape from a monster, stabbed her. Then she saw a huge throat cavity and rows of horrific teeth. Shuddering, she squeezed her eyes shut against the frightening images that bombarded her.
“Don’t be scared, little one. You’re safe here.”
Diamond chanced another glance at her airy surroundings and realized she, too, floated on mere wisps of air. Startled, she clawed for purchase, her paws slicing invisible air. Oxygen filled her lungs but she couldn’t exhale. Gasping, she asked the woman, “Where is here?”
“You’re in Heaven, my pet. I’m called Venus, Goddess of Love. I brought you here.” A sunny smile curved the goddess’s beautiful lips and lit her exquisite features.
Where were all the golden mice? The golden goblets of fresh milk? The raw meat cut into bite-sized chunks?
Then a much more poignant thought struck her full in the chest, making her heart ache unbearably. “I’ll never see my master Eddie again? But he’ll be distraught! What will he do without me? Who will guard his house? Who will he cuddle up to at night?”
“A truly noble soul.” Venus beamed satisfaction upon her. “Your concern is still with your master.”
Diamond wasn’t sure exactly how noble her feelings were in regards to her master, so she veiled her eyes from Venus’ discerning gaze. She’d wished nightly that she could be in his bed, in his arms in a totally different manner—that she could be a human female…
Venus scooped her up in her silky arms and played with Diamond’s extra finger. She whispered in her ear, her breath warm and ticklish, “I can read your thoughts.”
Diamond’s eyes widened. She curled her paw around the woman’s finger. Her whiskers twitched as her tail wrapped around her body. Never before could a human read her mind. Of course, she had never been able to converse in human before, either. This Heaven was the strangest place she’d ever seen, and that included all the moving pictures she’d watched in that little box in Eddie’s living room that transported her to faraway destinations.
Venus said, “Heaven’s beyond your dearest dreams. We’re in the reception area. But I wonder…it wasn’t your time to die. You were due several more years on Earth.”
Diamond sucked in her breath. Did that mean the goddess might send her back to her master? How wonderful.
Venus rubbed behind her ears, making her purr. “Um…can I send you back?” The beauty stared into space, her gaze cloudy.
Diamond held her breath hoping with all her soul. Please! She wanted to see Eddie so badly she ached.
After several long moments Venus looked down at her. “Would you like to return to Earth as a human?”
Diamond blinked. She’d forever hoped she could be a human female so she could love Eddie, but she hadn’t dared dream her fantasy could ever become reality. She’d have jumped into an alligator’s maw sooner if she’d known. “I would love it and be eternally grateful. But where will I live?”
“Wherever you want to live, of course. As a human, you’ll have the freedom to choose for yourself.” A soft breeze swished Venus’ full skirts about her legs.
“With Eddie?” Diamond’s heart beat a suffocating drumbeat at the idea of living with Eddie as a human female.
The goddess brushed stray wisps of dark hair away from her eyes. “That I cannot guarantee. But I can return you to his neighborhood, and then you must make your own way. Hurry and decide—I have another pressing mission awaiting my attention.”
“Yes!” Diamond leapt for joy. Any chance was better than none. She missed Eddie so very much, she could barely breathe.
“Find a way to make Eddie love you, little one. Be your sweet, gentle spirit, and he’ll see what a treasure you are. Do you still want me to change you into a human? Say the word.”
“Yes, please! I’ll use all my wiles to make Eddie fall in love with me. I’ll rub his head and curl up on his lap. I’ll lick him all over. I’ll hunt for him. My master won’t be able to resist.”
A slight frown tugged at Venus’ lips, marring her flawless face. “Word of warning, my Diamond. Once I transform you, you’ll be human on the outside and you’ll have many human traits, but your heart and soul will always be part feline. If you want to fit in and take your new rightful place, you must guard against your old nature. In time, it will get easier, but you have much to learn. The human world is a complex one.”
Diamond’s hopes crashed. “You don’t think I can adjust? But I’ve lived with humans my entire life. I know humans so well.” She had paid much more attention to humans than her siblings who had thought her obsession with her master and his kind demented.
“Yet you speak of hunting for food and you call him ‘my master’. Humans rarely hunt, especially not today’s females…”
“Females are born to hunt.” It was her duty to catch food for her family.
The raven-haired goddess shook her head. “Not in the human world. Human females open boxes and cans to eat, instead of gathering food. They order in food from restaurants. You have much to learn.” Venus tapped her finger against her lips and paced in front of Diamond. “Perhaps I was too hasty with my reward. Perhaps cats cannot fit into the human world. You won’t even know how to read, or write…or cook.” Venus nibbled her lip and knelt down by Diamond’s side.
No! She couldn’t change her mind now.
Alarm slamming through Diamond, she rose on her haunches to pat Venus’ cheek with a gentle paw. “You can’t promise me the moon and stars and then yank it away from me thus. I know I can learn. Please give me a chance. No one could love my master the way I do.”
“And you won’t blame me if everything isn’t perfect? If Eddie does not fall desperately, irrevocably in love with you? If you don’t find the human world as much to your liking as you dream?” Indecision flickered across Venus’ worried eyes.
Diamond held up her paw somberly. “I shall not hold anything against you, your grace. I will be grateful for a second chance at life, to merely be with my master, whether he chooses me as his true mate or not.”
Indecision flickered across Venus’ darkened eyes. “Your emotions will intensify. Your heart will swell and be capable of holding much more ache than you ever imagined.”
“I’m sure. Please make me a woman. I am anxious to see how I shall look.”
An indulgent smile lit the goddess’s face. “You won’t miss your exquisite fur?”
Diamond shook her head emphatically. “It will be easier to keep myself clean, and I won’t be as warm in the hot time of year.”
“You won’t miss your whiskers?”
“I won’t try to squeeze under beds and into tight places.” She wouldn’t need to.
“You won’t miss your agility? You won’t be able to run as fast or jump as high.”
“But I’ll be able to soar to the heights of love and acquire knowledge beyond that of any other cat since the inception of the universe.”
Venus’ lips curved upward at that, and she nodded approvingly. Then she sobered again. “You won’t have nine lives anymore.”
“Did I have nine lives when the alligator swallowed me? I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Yes, my little Diamond. You have a point.” The goddess tapped her finger against her curving lower lip. “I must make a condition of my own. I will give you six months in which to win the love of a human male. If in that time, you fail, you shall revert to your former self and live out the rest of your days as a cat. Do you agree to my terms?”
Pussyfooting Around will be available at Ellora's Cave February 14, 2011.