I’m sprawling on my bed, too parched to sleep. I’m tired but not sleepy. Maybe, I reason, if I get up and obtain some water, the sleepiness will finally kick in and I’ll conk out when I get back. Okay, it’s a plan.
I swing my legs over the edge of the bed and plant my hands on the mattress to give myself a boost as I stand up. The moment I’m upright, a hand closes on my ankle. Four claws curl into my flesh, not quite painful, but enough pressure to be very aware of them.
I stifle a yelp and freeze.
“Don’t,” a low voice growls.
I’m tired and thirsty and frustrated that I haven’t been able to sleep. I snap, “How dare you tell me what to do!”
“I’m thirsty,” I insist. “I need a drink of water.”
A sigh rolls out from under the bed. “Get your stinking legs back into bed. I’ll get the water myself.”
“Fine.” My pout doesn’t help me feel any more independent, but I don’t have the willpower to stifle that too.
I’m sitting up in bed, arms crossed, when he returns. He seems to slide across the floor, as the fur conceals his legs so that I cannot see them move. I reach my hand out for the water.
“You’re welcome,” he grumbles.
“Thank you,” I belatedly and begrudgingly acknowledge.
“If you only knew what you were thanking me for.” He slides his feet under the bed, claws poised on the edge of the mattress, waiting for me to ask the inevitable question.
“What did you save me from this time?” I roll my eyes. “Rats? With striped tails tonight?”
He sighs. “Not to freak you out or anything, but there was a man with a knife.”
“You’ve been watching the news when I’m out.”
“I’m not making this up. It was actually the same guy.”
“You’re trying to tell me there was a real, actual, honest-to-goodness serial killer in my kitchen? What did you do, offer him tea?”
I can’t avoid eye contact any longer. As much as I want to wrench my gaze away, the red stare leveled at me locks me in.
“Let’s just say he won’t be bothering you again.” The red eyes snap away. The furred bulk disappears under the bed.
I hold the glass of water in both hands at my sternum. For a long time I cannot drink.
The voice growls, “Just go to sleep already. I won’t let anything hurt you.”
I sip, put the glass on the night stand, and lower my head to the pillow.