BY: KATHY BOSMAN
Cat Therapy is a tender and funny women’s fiction and romance novel about healing, love, and cats! Two-times divorcée Cherry Smith is happy with single life. As Cherry is swept away by the trials and joys of her cat therapy hotel, she has to learn what she wants most in life and the true meaning of love and friendship.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS:
REGAN MURPHY SAYS:
Cherry stood in the front doorway of her home, hands on hips and face showing as little emotion as possible. She even resisted biting her bottom lip. Why was she such a softy? Why couldn’t she just say no?
Eddie nearly stumbled as he got out of his car. Gee, but he’d aged a lot since she’d last seen him. Legs skinny and hair a shock of white, he gave off a vulnerability that softened her heart even further. He sent her a quick wave, then opened the back door and grabbed a carrier. He placed it on the ground. She frowned as he reached into the car. Maybe he had some accessories to go with the cat. He pulled out another carrier. Her heart dipped.
Turning away before she said anything she’d regret, she slipped inside and waited for him to come in. He knew he was always welcome and could pop in whenever he liked. She just didn’t know what to say to the fact that he’d brought more than one.
Why hadn’t he said?
Because he knew she would’ve said no.
She even felt guilty for not helping him carry them.
No, he still had decent-sized muscles in his arms and was still strong enough to carry two carriers easily. He’d manage.
Standing in the middle of her living room, she watched the archway that led from the hallway, waiting for Eddie to come, wondering what she’d say to him to turn them away.
The first thing to assault her senses were the pitiful meows. Then three cat carriers were placed by her feet. He gave her a flickering gaze.
“Don’t look at me like that,” was all he said, without a smile or even a guilty look.
“I can’t,” she breathed out.
“You know we can’t keep them.”
“You said so but you didn’t tell me there were three.”
“Four if you count the kitten.”
“Must I take them to the animal rescue?”
“There’s a great one here in Lebanon. They’ll enjoy the best of care and will likely get adopted by a family who only wants one cat and can give them all the attention they need.”
Eddie sniggered. “You’ll give more attention to six cats than another family will give to one, and you know that.”
Cherry sighed. She loved cats—she really did, but she didn’t have the money to feed them all. And Eddie knew that. “You know it’s not easy at the moment. I can’t offer them the best.”
“You can give them a home.” He waved his arms at her house. Yes, she had one of the best. Well, she could say that because it had been her home for the last five years. And it was quaint. And homey. And falling to pieces.
He gave her that look, the one that told her he knew best. And Eddie often did. “I wish I could believe you this time,” she said.
“There’s a reason we have to go away. And I know that you’re the right person to have Blog, Maisy, Donald, and Beppi. Beppi’s the kitten.”
“Blog.” Cherry couldn’t help laughing. “You named your cat Blog? I don’t remember that.”
“It suits him. You’ll understand when you get to know him. And Maisy, she’s the softest heart. She’ll sit on your lap in the morning when you drink your tea.”
“Why?” A smile came involuntarily.
“She likes the milk.”
“Why tea specifically?”
“I don’t know. But she’ll lick the rim of the cup as soon as I’m finished.”
The carrier squirmed. Cherry longed to take a peak, but resisted the urge. “I really can’t have them this time, Eddie. After the second divorce, I don’t have much to live on. I can barely feed myself and Toad, Gus, and Spotty.”
“I’m going to put a lump sum in your bank account.”
“What? No.” Cherry shook her head vehemently. “You can’t do that. It’s not right.”
“With the sale of our house, I have plenty of money and don’t know what to do with it all.”
“Take a tour in Europe with Maureen. She’s wanted it for years.”
“With a toddler?”
Cherry frowned. Eddie and Maureen were moving to the big city to look after their recently orphaned grandchild and to be with their other adult children and grandchildren. She didn’t envy them but couldn’t help thinking it was a good thing as Maureen had a new light in her eyes—a light that had been missing for years.
“I know you think I’m being too pushy this time, but what’s holding you back if you have the financial means to look after the cats? Tell me you won’t enjoy having them around?”
She gave a cheeky smile and shrugged. “It would cost you less to take them to the shelter.”
“And I won’t be able to thank you for all you’ve done for Maureen and I.”
She gaped. “What are you talking about? You’re the couple who have been there the most for me through my two divorces. I wouldn’t have—” She couldn’t speak. The emotions made her lips quiver and her eyes moisten. It shouldn’t still pierce her gut three years after Hank had left her. “Any time I’ve needed someone to fix something in the house…” She had been wondering what she’d do with Eddie gone.
“Maureen could always talk to you about anything. You know that. It’s meant the world to me.” Eddie stared at her, his blue eyes softened with age. She wondered how much stamina he’d have to look after a boy toddler. But as she stared at the man standing in her lounge, the person who’d supported her and advised her through many a financial and emotional hardship, like an adopted father, she knew he’d have the ability to look after the child because he had the heart.
“It’s a gift from Maureen and I. You’ve visited us a couple of times and have always enjoyed our cats.”
“I don’t know Beppi and what’s it? Maisy. I haven’t been there for a while.”
She’d been holed up doing online typing jobs to earn extra income. Sure, she didn’t have to go out every day and could be near her two cats, but it didn’t bring in a whole lot of income.
Staring into Eddie’s eyes, she knew it was the right thing now. He wanted to give it to her. He and Maureen thrived on giving to others. They instinctively knew how to heal hearts with their gentle love and faithful support. And didn’t her heart need to be healed? As she opened one of the carriers and a little ginger-and-black spotted face peered up at her, she had a strange sensation burn through her gut—longing and a sense of purpose. Eddie wasn’t just passing on his cats, he was infusing her with the job of cat mom.
She picked up the cat who clawed her desperately. “It’s okay, sweetie.”
“She’s gorgeous but very scared.”
“Her mom’s in the carrier too.”
Cherry giggled and took the lid right off. A black-and-white cat purred at her. “Is this Maisy?”
Eddie nodded, a knowing smile on his face. Cherry reached out and gave Maisy a stroke. A thick purr rumbled through her. It was the loudest one she’d ever heard. Unusual for an adult cat. The sound brought her peace. It stirred something in her.
“Maisy helped Maureen through Charl’s death.”
She sucked in a breath. “Are you sure you can’t take her with?”
The man shook his head. “We’ll be staying in a city apartment. We can’t keep a cat. And it would be so good for Beppi to be with Maisy. Maybe once we’ve found a more permanent home, we can take them back, but I think they belong to you.” His eyes shone.
She nodded. Eddie was determined. And suddenly, for a reason she couldn’t quite explain, she wanted the cats with all her being, knew they were meant to stay with her, and had a strange feeling they were going to do something special.
“I’d better run. Don’t you worry about a thing. I have a feeling something is around the corner for you—something wonderful.” Eddie patted her on the shoulder. “You’ll see.”
She gave a simple nod. She’d heard that so many times. People had said, after both divorces, that she was better off and things would be just right for her now that she’d gotten away from the dysfunctional relationships. Sure, she’d found her own self-love, self-care rhythm. Life was good sometimes, but there was something missing and the restlessness had grown over the months.
She’d waited for this surprise or blessing that had been promised would be just around the corner—for years.
Could this finally be her moment when she wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore? When her life would fit comfortably like a favorite glove? She couldn’t help being skeptical, yet she had a tiny sliver of hope, especially when Maisy stared at her with her soulful eyes framed by the softest fur ever.
Cherry stood outside the vet’s rooms and stared at the placard covering the entrance which said, “Closed.”
She squinted at the office hours while holding the carrier with Beppi close to her legs. They’d always been open at this hour.
A car pulled up on the gravel beside hers. A woman took out her Staffi on a leash and came toward the entrance, struggling to keep her dog in control. She stopped short and gaped at the sign. The Staffi pulled on the leash, its nose twitching at Cherry’s carrier.
“I know. Odd, hey?” Cherry moved a safe distance away.
“But they… Oh, right. I remember seeing something in the newspaper about the vet leaving town. There’s a new one in Lebanon but he must’ve chosen a different location.”
She sighed. It had been a long day. Besides trying to keep her new cats and older pets from killing each other, she’d received a call from the rental company that the owner intended to sell the property. Thinking about it now made a sick feeling enter her stomach. An ache went to every muscle in her body. It was home and the only security she’d had the last few years. She’d prided herself in finding a landlord that was stable and reliable, if not a bit slack on maintaining the place. But it had always been her home, her comfort blanket.
Why couldn’t she be a strong woman and not let a few changes steal her peace? Why was she so fickle, so flung about by the wind and the waves of life?
Maybe you’re just human, the good side of her heart told her.
She nodded. She had to quiet the inner bad girl that always wanted to break her down. Everyone felt afraid at times. Embrace the fear, she told herself. Be aware of it but don’t let it conquer you.
“Here’s his address.” The woman’s voice broke her deep thoughts. “I found it online.” She handed Cherry a piece of paper. When did she write that down? When Cherry had woefully stared at the sign, allowing the morose thoughts to take over.
“It’s residential. Unusual for a vet.”
“Yeah, apparently he’s the new bachelor in town. Well, he’s a divorcée, but who cares? I’ve heard he’s a gentle giant with dimples the size of coins and thick, dark hair peppered with gray in his sideburns.”
Cherry chuckled. “Sounds like you know him intimately.”
The woman sighed. “Oh, I wish.”
Cherry turned away. She didn’t care about handsome single men anymore. She’d resigned herself to singlehood for now. It was safer that way. But a vet was a need. Beppi’s shots were due, and the last thing she wanted was for the new kitten to contract some disease. Maisy would be devastated. And so would she. The kitten had spent the last night entangled in her hair as she slept, vibrating in her ear so loudly, she’d considered buying earmuffs. Maisy had cuddled at her feet in pure satisfaction, not at all upset with her new surroundings, her purrs just as loud and age-enduring through the night. Her heart warmed at the thought. There was nothing like being needed again. Her other cats, Toad and Gus, had been independent male cats who would rather spend the night on the dining room chair, hidden under the tablecloth, away from stroking hands and restless feet. At least they came to her during the day.
Crumpling the paper in her hands and wishing the lady good luck with her Staffi, Cherry climbed into her car and set off for the address of the new vet. Beppi howled with despair at being back in a bumpy car ride. With much relief, after arriving at the place only ten minutes later, Cherry carried the carrier toward the front door. An A-frame sign on the path assured her she’d come to the right place—Dr. Clark, Veterinary Surgeon. She opened the door and a bell attached to it announced her presence.
The waiting room was empty, making her relieved at first as she had a busy day ahead, but then concerning her at the thought that no one wanted to visit the new vet. Was he not reliable? Did he have a gruff manner?
“Ma’am…” A lady came through from the other room. “May I help you?”
“Yes, please. May I see Dr. Clark? My kitten needs her shots.”
The young woman gave a warm smile. “Come through. Dr. Clark will be with you shortly.”
She led her to a consulting room which looked similar to what she was used to. Still, wouldn’t it have been easier to take over the old vet premises instead of renovating a house into a new one? The guy obviously didn’t have much financial savvy. All these years, Cherry had learned the hard lesson of saving even when times were good. Or maybe he was just stinking rich.
While waiting for the doctor, she opened the carrier and brought Beppi out. The kitten sank its claws into her shoulder. “Ouch.”
Cherry turned to see the face that matched the deep voice. Her mouth refused to move. Handsome just didn’t describe Dr. Clark well enough. No words could adequately depict the man in his blue coat, sporting ridiculously cute dimples as he gave her a genuine smile.
“Did she get your tongue, too?” he teased.
She cleared her throat, partly to warn herself not to be sucked in, but mostly to let him know she wasn’t some stupid, fawning, single woman anxious to scoop up the new man in town before anyone else got him. She was beyond that now—independent and determined to make a life for herself, and her cats.
“My kitten, Beppi, needs her shots, please.”
He moved behind the cool, shiny metal of his treatment table and reached his arms out for Beppi. “Hasn’t she had any yet?”
“No.” Cherry shook her head and handed Beppi to him. The gentleness with which he took the cat unnerved her. The cat yowled a little, then settled in his arms. He gave Beppi a quick stroke.
“Aren’t you a spitfire and a sweet thing all rolled up into one?”
Something hot and warm settled in the middle of her gut and radiated toward her heart.
Maybe the stress of losing her home had made her vulnerable to a nice man. She shook her head.
“She’s not?” he asked, surprised.
“Oh no. Of course she is. She’s gorgeous. She sleeps by my head at night.” Why did her face heat? Why couldn’t she act like a normal forty-two-year old—mature and beyond that sinking ability to develop strong and irrational crushes? “Well, it’s only been one night. She’s new. Eddie and Maureen gave her to me. And Maisy, and Blog, and Donald. Donald’s very quiet. He hid in my shoe cupboard the whole day. Maisy follows me wherever I go and Blog stalks Spotty, my dog. Something about the tail…”
He gave her a gentle smile, causing the impish dimples to deepen. They should be banned, really. Plastic surgeons the country over should be hired by the government to eradicate all traces of them in single men. They wiped away all sensible thought.
He placed Beppi down and within minutes, had administered all the necessary shots. As he handed her back and Cherry placed her back in the carrier, he came around to her side. “You sure you can handle so many cats?” he asked, a frown etching his brow. Despite the gentleness of his voice, she sensed a guardedness in him.
“Of course I can,” she said, but his eyes revealed his disagreement with her statement.
“Unless you’re running a special shelter, maybe you should look at blessing some people with pets.”
Something in her crumbled. He wasn’t so dreamy, after all. The guy didn’t think she could handle six cats. Oh well, she’d show him.
“I am running a shelter.”
“You are?” He looked skeptical.
“Maisy has special healing properties. And Toad, well, he’s always picked up on when someone’s down. Even though he doesn’t sleep on my bed at night, he’ll come to me when I’m feeling down. And he scampers up to whoever else comes to visit who’s not happy inside. Sometimes, the person can be faking it really well with a smile and a jovial greeting, but as soon as Toad comes up to them, I know straight away that they’re hiding pain inside of them.”
“I’m not getting you. You’re running a shelter for abandoned cats?”
“Oh no. It’s cat therapy. Haven’t you heard of it?”
He narrowed his eyes at her. The dimples disappeared. Maybe a good thing. “Cat therapy?”
“Yes, people can come to me for healing. Well, not to me. To my home. They will spend time with the cats and find peace and emotional healing. You’ve heard about horse therapy? Well, this is cat therapy.” Her head spun with the realization of what she’d just said. Where had the idea come from and why was she lying so badly? She’d always been scrupulously honest around her friends and even strangers. Now, this ridiculously handsome vet had reduced her to a deceitful woman. She needed to get far away. He was bad for her. She edged toward the door, carrier in hand.
He brushed past her, his lab coat touching her bare arm. Heat sizzled through her. Looking down at the carrier, she mumbled, “Come” to Beppi and marched straight to the lady at the desk to pay for her visit, making sure she didn’t make any eye contact with Dr. Clark. The man got to her. On so many levels. And now she had to open a cat therapy hotel else word would spread that she was a complete idiot and liar. As she waited for the payment to go through on her credit card, ideas kept streaming through her mind.
She could use the money that Eddie had given to her—it had been way more than she could ever have imagined—to put a deposit down on a property. She’d buy something with several rooms and already in a good condition. She’d open up the rooms to the public like a B&B. But it would be a cat therapy hotel where people could stay for as long as they needed to find healing.
Something in her bloomed.
Yes, this was it. She’d be able to make a living and she could help people at the same time. Cats did bring healing. Dear Leeu, her ginger cat who had passed away two years ago, had been a lifesaver to her when the divorce went through. Those lonely nights had become bearable when Leeu had slept at her side. Leeu, like most cats, knew when she was in despair and came to her, purring and rubbing his soft coat against her leg.
Why didn’t I think of this years ago?
Maybe in some strange way her subconscious mind came up with the retort to inquiring Dr. Clark.
But as she took the carrier with Beppi back to her car and drove home, she chided herself for her impulsiveness. She had no idea how the cats would take to strangers in the home. Cats were introverts. They didn’t go to strangers often. They shied away, unlike dogs. And who said cats could really heal a person? What had she been thinking? A good idea didn’t mean a sustainable idea.
Back to square one. Back to finding a place to rent, once again at the hands of house owners who could make her leave at their whim. She didn’t have the heart to use Eddie’s money on something other than the care of the cats he’d given her. And who cared what dreamy Dr. Clark thought of her anyway?
Pity. The idea had appealed to her idealistic nature. But that was all it was—an ideal. Nothing practical. She had to put on her practical hat. She was a single woman now. She couldn’t live with her head in the clouds.
©2020 by Kathy Bosman