Jeff finished the cream and let out a loud meow, indicating something else was needed. I doubted there was a litter box near, so hopefully the young cat was adept at finding his own facilities until I could rectify the lack of proper supplies. He padded over to the fridge and tapped the side. Ruby laughed at the antics of Eddie inside Jeff's cat form. I knew the sweet cat I'd discovered wasn't that clear on his needs, while Eddie loved being fawned over and all the attention.
"Aren't you the most clever of creatures!" Ruby exclaimed, opening the door to the well-stocked shelves. The cat sprang back on the counter so he could peer over Ruby's shoulder into the fridge. I bit back a strangled burst of laughter just barely while Jeff tapped Ruby's hand down a shelf. She'd been going for eggs, and the cat guided her right to the shelf with prepackaged foods that she'd picked up for me. I rolled my eyes as I saw precisely what the cat wanted. Ruby chortled again and said, "You are hungry! Fine sushi it is."
She pulled out a container filled with thick slices of sashimi with a variety of raw fish and sauces to dip. From the sticker on the package with the name of the store she'd gone to, I could guess that little tray was around twenty or thirty bucks, but it didn't slow Ruby down. She pulled a small glass dish from the cupboards and began to tear the tuna, salmon and halibut into tiny morsels. The cat began to inhale the fish nearly as quickly as Ruby dumped it into the dish.
"Jeff-baby here is the absolute sweetest thing!" Ruby gushed while cleaning up after the cat. The cat dropped from the counter and went to the backyard door and tapped on the glass with a slight scratching sound. I flew to the door and opened it up allowing Jeff, tail high, to go outside. Once I closed the door I found Ruby had finished the quick clean up and was leaning against the counter and looking at me with a decidedly upset face. I guess she wasn't letting me off the hook now that Jeff had left the kitchen.
"Delilah, now where did you go?" Her face was both worried and a tad pissed off. The scent of magic still lingered, but with Jeff outside keeping Eddie occupied it wasn't as laden with danger. Eddie was not going to disappear anytime soon -- I knew that without question. His star was hooked to my finding the four missing kids. But I wasn't even sure how old the 'kids' were, given how long ago the tale had seemed, but time traveled differently in my world and theirs.
Growling slightly I said, "I told you I went out. I was trying to see if Archie had sent that assassin."
She didn't call me an outright liar but her face told a different story. She'd used her darker spells looking for me and somewhere found a few strands of my hair. Any wonder she'd been condemned to the outer reaches of the United States? She tended to play fast and loose with the rules, and her use of dark magic to seek me only served to paint another target on her back and mine. I sighed softly and dropped my backpack to my ankles.
"Okay, I was going to head back to the open road to keep Archibald from finding me at your place. He's going to stumble onto our connection at some point, Ruby." I used my soft tones and ducked my head so she couldn't easily read the slight deception in my eyes. We'd known each other far to long to easily lie to the other.
At that moment Jeff scratched the door to be let back in, so I let Ruby let the tricky cat back inside; of course he immediately rubbed up on her and tilted his face far too cutely to be a typical cat behavior. It worked because Ruby dropped down and picked the cat up and held him to her chest. He threw me a look with softly glowing green eyes, removing any doubt who was in control. I wagered that he let the actual cat do the 'dirty work' and just came back to the front when he scratched the glass. I shook my head while Ruby was dipping hers and giving the cat tons of kisses.
"I understand now why witches keep familiars. Can I keep him?" Her eager face turned to me with a childlike awe. I watched Eddie's eyes go wide as I tapped my right hand forefinger against my slightly smiling lips.
"Before I leave I may very well gift you this feisty cat." I watched Jeff's head spin to me with a decidedly non-feline expression. It was great to see I could shake up the supposed deity. Living with Ruby would be his just desserts for messing with the lives of those four. Before they were 'rescued and returned' or whatever the symposium had decided to be their fates, I was going to get my licks in where I could. Ruby let out a very youthful squeal and I barely resisted covering my ears.
"I'm exhausted, Ruby. Give me a few hours to nap and we'll talk then okay?" I didn't give her a chance to reply, but went back to the room she'd put me in earlier.
Shutting the room's door, I then went to the closet to get out a pair of sweats. I noticed immediately that my full suitcase had been rifled through when I opened it up to get the clothes. I was particular in how I packed and Ruby wasn't nearly as discerning. She must have got the hairs from my coat folded into the bag as I didn't wash it after every wearing. Biting back yet another sigh, I knew I'd have to bring a lint roller to remove hairs and bits from my clothing going forward in my travels. Learn to live another day was always my motto. Sam had taught me that one and he was right. That I wasn't in this world was something Ruby had nearly figured out. If I didn't outright tell her, she would only suspect, but I had absolutely no control over what if anything that Eddie would tell Ruby. I could no longer lie to myself that Eddie would end up staying only in cat form for long. Ruby and he were sparking off each other with a rapidly growing hunger that spelled trouble for me.
Despite my concerns, I was out nearly as soon as my head hit the pillow. At some point either Eddie flipped to his human form and opened the door or Ruby put him in my room in Jeff's cat form. Either way, I woke sharing a bed with a cat. At least I was hoping it was the cat nuzzling my neck, not an amorous Eddie stretching a paw over my neck while purring. When I glanced over I saw Jeff's softer-colored eyes watching me, and I gathered either Eddie was shoved in the background of the cat's head or actually still asleep. I pondered a semi-theological query if demi-gods slept or simply went into the other world.
I got out of bed slowly and watched the cat stretch awake; I saw the eyes flip to bright green and I turned away, knowing what was coming next. Low laughter greeted my ears and I felt myself begin to blush. Damned if I'd turn to see him naked on the bed. Obviously picking up on my thoughts, Eddie said, "But I liked sleeping with you."
I wondered where the strong voice narrator of the trolls' world had gone. It seemed the longer he stayed in human-like form he was becoming far more naughty -- and decidedly flirtatious. The stiff manner had merged with a player with centuries of time beneath his belt in more than one way.
"Ruby is going to hear you," I hissed while reluctantly turning back towards the thankfully clothed man. I was growing used to his tight jeans and the familiar tighter black t-shirt that cloaked his body; no boots that I could see yet on his feet.
"So?"He arched an eyebrow and rose smoothly from the bedding, not a damn hair out of place. The boots magically had appeared while he stood up.
Shock must have sketched my features because he looked at me closely and said, "Is that a problem?" His voice was softer but he'd stepped closer to me and I was trying to keep from leaping away from him. The waves of raw needy energy were starting overpower me and it was intoxicating -- too intoxicating for my comfort.
I stared straight into his eyes and said, "Not if you feel like finding out that the Council will do with a demi-god from a different universe."
Haughtily he quipped, "Worship me of course."
I wagged a fingertip in his face, back and forth. "No, they are more likely to trap you, drug you, and rip bits off you in any form to figure out how you tick. Ruby is on lockdown here and she'd love to trade up and out. I think you'd be a bigger draw than just me. After all, you are one of the greater creatures roaming Earth, right?"
Something of what I was saying began to sink into Eddie's thoughts. Fury naturally passed over his gaze, but he was actually listening and it gave him pause. Point to me for now.
Now speaking nearly inaudibly, Eddie asked, "Ruby is in trouble? What is this Council you mention? How could they possibly trap and keep me?" The last was somewhat of a statement as I could clearly tell he thought that would be impossible. I don't think Eddie overthought the differences between my world and his before coming into mine. Naturally I answered the last question first.
"Cat-form and a shot of kitty downers and you'd be out for the count." I didn't bother masking my thoughts, but spelled it out in my thoughts rather graphically. I watched Eddie pale and suddenly swallow. If he'd been wearing a collared shirt and tie I swear he would have put a finger in between the collar and his skin while nervously sweating at the apparently constricting tie. Yeah, he'd finally heard me.
Grabbing up some of the clothes from the suitcase in the closet, I waggled my fingers at him saying, "I'm going to freshen up and I suggest you slip back to the cat form before Ruby hears you or simply bursts in to see if I am awake yet."
Without another word I went into the bathroom and locked the door. I didn't want to find out if he was planning on sharing my shower, and the idea of Ruby barging in on him had to be concerning him, finally.
I took my time and came out to find Jeff back on the bedding, and not surprisingly, Ruby had come in with a tray of sealed treats. I knew perfectly well she could use a needle and inject my food with any number of spell cast disasters, or simply something to make me sleep if she wished, but I appreciated the attempt at being a good witch. She was sitting on the edge of the bed mumbling baby talk with her back to me. Jeff's tail was twitching rather ominously, so I was pretty sure Eddie was having to the work the animal movements and the actual cat had backed away from the control of the furred body of the cat. The tail's jerking motion wasn't as smooth and calming as Jeff's usual demeanor. I barely avoided snickering by biting the inside of my bottom lip.
Jeff let out a soft growling purr and I let my lips free of my self-imposed torture when Ruby spun to say, "Well there you are!"
"Hi Ruby. Thank you so much for bringing me something to nibble. You didn't have to, you know," I snagged the bottle of water from the tray and plopped on the other side of the bed with the tray between us. Jeff was half on the pillow and actually stopped twitching his tail. I wondered what Ruby had been saying to him. Something must have caught his attention because he didn't appear to be in the least cuddly at the moment.
"Oh, it's the least I could do. I am sorry I was casting for you last night but I was getting worried something had happened." She fluttered her lashes at me trying to appear innocent, but her words rang off. That was not good. I nodded and sipped more water. I had to find out what she was up to before I could help Eddie on his quest. It looked like another long day was ahead of me.