Chapter 10 –Tea Time

Zay had bitten down hard on the human’s thumb as the man had extended a tentative hand in his direction. Instinct kicked in. Reluctantly he released his grip when the creature named Cyrus screamed. The high-pitched noise had stung at Zay’s sensitive ears and he ran— fleeing what might have been an unpleasant first contact.

Jane’s voice rang out over the confusion, “Are you all right? I think you had better be leaving. I won’t have you suing me for your own stupidity,” she seemed no longer enamored of her two house guests.

“Calm yourself,” Cyrus had climbed to his feet gingerly holding his bloody thumb. His words appeared silly to Zay, since it had been Cyrus screaming. “Jake…my glasses…do you see them?”

“Right here, Professor,” the younger man plucked a broken pair of spectacles off the light fixture where they had landed mid-flight on a trajectory for the doorway. He planted the glasses at an angle on Cyrus’ face.

“Now, madam…” Cyrus turned his head in Jane’s direction tilting it at an absurd slant to view her through the broken trifocals. His voice held a calm note as if none of this had been at all out of the ordinary. “Please, don’t dismiss us out of hand…”

“Professor?” They all watched Jane’s face as she picked up on the clue. “You are a professor?” She squinted her eyes in an evil expression that Zay felt very glad was not directed toward him. “I thought you were here for a magazine article!”

“I am. I assure you.” Cyrus backed toward the door, still holding his thumb tightly to stop the cut from bleeding. “Please we need the photos. My editor may fire me.” Jake nodded profusely to accompany Cyrus’ words.

“If I find out that you are with that property company…..” The woman’s anger seemed to fade and Zay thought he saw a look of pity in her eyes. “I’ll get you a bandage for the finger…Don’t go climbing on any more furniture while I’m out of the room.”

The two men sat down unsteadily and Cyrus turned an angry eye on his assistant. “Why did you let me fall?” Before the boy could answer, he waved for silence. The professor turned around and began to scour the spaces under the heavy seating. “Did you see that cat?”

“What cat?” Jake had been otherwise occupied.

“…..the strange animal that bit me. Help me find it.” Cyrus had bent low examining everything at rug level.

Sheldon shot a quick glance in Zay’s direction and then pranced into plain view of the two men with a loud meow. The cat sat down comfortably across from them and smiled widely, almost laughing.

“The grey striped cat?” Jake gestured with a tea-cup in his hand and grabbed for a cookie.
Cyrus stared at Sheldon, his mind not quite connecting with the thought that this was indeed the horrific creature that had bitten him. Frowning in confusion he sat back on the sofa and reached for his own cup.


Jane retrieved a small bandage and a cotton swab dabbed in alcohol from the bathroom cabinet. She bit her lower lip. Those two men seemed nice enough–if a bit unusual—-albeit they were hiding something. The threat of attack still loomed in recent memory. It had only been last year…

She loaded the supplies on a small tray and returned to the living room to find her guests munching cookies and looking apologetic. She sat near Cyrus and examined his wound. Peeling the plastic covering off the flesh-colored band aide, Jane took his large hand into hers and gently sterilized the thumb. Their eyes met as she applied the dressing and Jane could feel herself flush.

Cyrus was a very alluring man…for his years and Jane could sense the mutual attraction. “There we are,” she smiled into his eyes as she felt her heart race. Maybe she should have avoided eating those spicy shrimp last night–Jane tried to tell herself that her pulse was the result of her appetite for food rather than a long unstated physical need.

The three sat quietly sipping for an inordinately long time until Jake cleared his throat loudly and asked to use the bathroom. Left alone with Cyrus, Jane fidgeted nervously. It had been a very long time since she had thought of herself— much less anyone else— as sexually interesting. She stared openly at the man who made her feel young.

“The hats…” he began as he waved away her offer of more tea.

“Oh my …yes. With all the excitement, I almost forgot them,” her laugh held a note of nervous anticipation. “I’ll get them.”

“Would you be so kind as to model them?” Cyrus grinned in her direction.

“You want me in the pictures?” It would mean being seen in a national magazine.

“I can’t think of anything more lovely–if you would please,” he wiped at the cookie crumbs on his chin and Jane thought that his eyes held a wild sort of fire. She hurried to collect the hat boxes and was interrupted by the flash of a camera light. Jake had followed her into the bed room and was collecting shots of everything in sight. “Lovely,” she heard Cyrus’ encouraging words.


The spill had cost Cyrus an excessive amount of dignity and Jake had almost given away their secret calling him ‘professor.’ The animal bite on his thumb pounded, but he needed to follow through with the charade. When they were able to resume the pretense, he had sensed that the hat woman was very lonely.

She sparked a bit of empathy in the dark recesses of his heart. Cyrus Walsted had been alone for what seemed like all of his life. It would hurt nothing to pay the woman a little attention and it might indeed further his cause.

“Lovely,” he had followed her, uninvited into the bedroom with his assistant at his heels. “How does your husband feel about the hats?” Cyrus had noted the king sized bed and frowned.

“Oh my!” Jane’s cheeks were red with an embarrassed humility at their unexpected attendance in her private rooms. “I’m afraid that I never married…” she blushed again.

“I thought from the pictures of your children—“Cyrus hesitated, some idea stirring in his mind like a stale breeze.

“I adopted a little girl years ago now and I have a granddaughter,” Jane beamed clearly very proud of her family.

“Wonderful!” Cyrus smiled as Jane pulled a broad-brimmed hat from its paper warehouse. “Let’s go out on the enclosed porch for the light.”

Chapter 9 —

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