Jingle His Bells by Lisa Wood

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

Jingle His Bells by Lisa Wood

Remi Abrahms had been in love with Cole since she was twelve years old. No one else had ever measured up and she worried no one ever would. She knew he could never feel the same way.

Cole Blackburn hadn’t really noticed Remi until her high school graduation party two years ago. Being almost a decade younger than him, she just wasn’t on his radar. He would love to ask her out but knows she’s off-limits.

Why? Remi is his best friend’s baby sister.

Now they’re both home for Christmas and their attraction is off the charts. Is their happily ever after worth destroying the bond between siblings and losing your best friend?

This is a HEA story with no cliffhangers.
Due to explicit language and content, this book is intended for readers 18+.

Lisa was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. She is a retired software tester with two kids, both grown, and a granddaughter that she loves to spend time with. 

She writes erotic romance because the perfect man has to exist somewhere! Her alpha males include billionaires, grumpy mountain men, and the boy next door who generally need a little help to get their happily ever after with their heroines. She writes in a variety of different tropes including romantic suspense, second chance love, paranormal romance, and so many more! 

You can connect with me via email: lisa@romancingyourdreams.com

Find my links here: https://linktr.ee/lisawooderotica

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Purchase a copy of Jingle His Bells here: https://amzn.to/3EX0Q9b


Chapter 1


Cars lined the street and I rolled my eyes, trying to find a spot closer than a mile from the damn house. As per usual, Tristan had gone way overboard. His little sister, Remi, had just graduated and he was throwing her a party. I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time around her in the last couple of years, but when their parents were killed two years ago, Tristan had stepped up as her guardian. He was incredibly protective of her and I didn’t envy any of the guys at the party who tried to approach her.

I didn’t have much interest in being at a party with a bunch of teenagers, but he had asked me to give him a hand and I’d agreed. He was going to be pissed as I was supposed to have been here two hours ago to help set up, but there was no way I was kicking the hot piece of ass I’d taken home last night out of my bed. I finally found an empty spot a couple streets over, parking the truck, and started toward the house. I let myself in the house, already overrun with people.

“Cole! Where the fuck have you been? You should have been here hours ago,” Tristan griped from the back door.

“Sorry, man, I slept in. I’m here now, where do you want me?”

“Bullshit, you slept in. What was her name?”

“Not a clue,” I chuckled.

“You’re such a manwhore. C’mon, you can help me man the barbeques.”

“Cause you’re so much better, right?”

He shook his head and I followed him to the backyard. It was fucking jam packed. I found myself rolling my eyes again as I accepted the flipper.

“So, where’s the guest of honor?”

“God only knows. Last I saw her, she was hanging out by the pool. With the dress she’s wearing, I’m expecting to murder some of these assholes tonight,” he gritted out.

“So, you didn’t invite me for company. You just needed someone to help bury the bodies,” I laughed.

I worked the grill, flipping about two hundred burgers, all the while scanning the crowd. I figured I should at least congratulate Remi. She graduated with full honors, the valedictorian of her class. My eyes settled on a woman on the other side of the pool, facing away from me. She had auburn hair, falling in waves, nearly to her waist, and the nicest ass I’d seen since… well, since this morning. Her skin was bronzed and her legs long and shapely. She stood out, not just because of her body, but also because she was one of only a handful wearing a one-piece instead of a skimpy bikini.

“I see you invited some guests of your own,” I said, not taking my eyes off her.

“A few women from work, yes. They’ve gotten to know Remi over the years and wanted to be here for her.”

My heart stopped as she turned around. My eyes trailed up her long, shapely legs and widened at the bathing suit that was anything but conservative as I’d thought. Cut outs showed off her flat, tanned stomach, and her large breasts were barely contained. My mouth watered just looking at her as my eyes finally reached her face. I froze, not believing what I was seeing.


It was Remi, no longer the gangly, uncoordinated girl I’d last seen a couple years ago. I was in so much fucking trouble.

“Cole? Cole! Dude, the burgers are burning,” Tristan said, punching my arm.

“Shit,” I said, my attention brought back to the grill.

“What the fuck? I spent the last minute calling you!”

“Sorry. I think I was just momentarily stunned that you let Remi out of the house like that.”

“Like what? She’s wearing a dress. It’s a little shorter and tighter than I’d like, but she’s eighteen and I only have so much control.”

“No, she’s not. She’s in a bathing suit. A very revealing bathing suit.”

I pointed toward her and then watched as his jaw tightened and face turned red. His fists clenched at his sides and his spine snapped straight.

“Watch the grill,” he growled, storming toward her.

He got to the other side of the pool, grabbed her arm, and started dragging her toward the house. Anger flashed on her face as she struggled against him. She was yelling at him, but was too far for me to hear what she was saying.

“Oh, shit,” I muttered.

She somehow managed to break free of him and shoved her hands hard against his chest. I started laughing, along with most of the people around us, as he went flying into the pool. He was going to be pissed as hell. Her eyes rounded, realizing what she’d done, and she ran away from the pool, grabbing a coverup on the way. She came to a stop behind me, peeking around my shoulder as Tristan made his way out of the pool, soaked to the skin, and a murderous look on his face.

“Hi Cole,” she squeaked, ducking behind me again. “He’s gonna kill me, isn’t he?”

“I think that’s a very real possibility,” I chuckled, “but I’ll try to hold him off if you want to try to disappear into the crowd.”

“Thank you!”

She took off with a squeal, just as he reached me, and I stepped out in front of him.

“Get out of the fucking way,” he snapped, “or I’ll be burying your body along with hers.”

“No way. You said yourself, she’s eighteen. There’s not one woman here that isn’t dressed in something revealing. They all look hot as fuck,” I reasoned, backing away slowly when I realized what I’d just said.

His eyes narrowed, filled with anger, and I was stunned at the low, lethal tone that came out of his mouth.

“You keep your dick far away from my little sister, or I’ll rip it off and feed it to you.”


I turned back to the grill, feeling guilty as hell, but couldn’t get her hot little body out of my head. Tristan lost track of Remi, changed into dry clothes, and grudgingly came back to the grill, muttering under his breath. This wasn’t the last she was going to hear about this.


I’d been here a couple of hours now. I was done with the food and was a couple beers in, sitting on a chair on the patio. I’d had to throw a little punk out of it, but whatever. Respect your elders and all that shit. Needing another beer and a bathroom break, I stood up and started toward the house.

“I’ll be back in a few, man. Gotta take a piss.”

“Grab me a beer while you’re in the house, yeah? I’m definitely going to need more alcohol to get through this party.”

“No problem.”

I walked into the house, bypassing the downstairs bathroom, and the line that went with it, heading upstairs to use the one in Tristan’s room. I got a glimpse of someone walking in ahead of me and quickened my pace with the intention of throwing her out.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” I barked.

She spun around, eyes narrowed, and snapped, “I don’t know, Cole, what are you doing in here?”

“Oh shit. Sorry, Remi. I didn’t realize it was you. I didn’t get a chance earlier but congratulations.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry you got dragged to a party I’m sure you have no interest in being at.”

“I don’t know,” I said, my eyes taking in her body, “it’s definitely been worth it.”

A blush rose on her cheeks and she rushed into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. I chuckled at how easily she blushed and sat on Tristan’s bed to wait. She came out and I stood, holding out my arms for a hug. She hesitated for just a moment before stepping forward, letting me wrap my arms around her. I ducked my head and kissed the corner of her mouth, my cock hardening as she rocked her hips forward and let out a quiet moan.

“Fuck, Remi. Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”

Her eyes met mine, full of desire, and she raised up on her toes to brush her lips against mine. I groaned, moving one hand to her ass and the other to the nape of her neck, pulling her flush against me. I took her mouth in a passionate kiss, my tongue thrusting into her mouth. Her tongue tangled with mine and my cock pressed hard against her body, already weeping for her.

“Cole…” she moaned.

I growled, lifting her up, and she wrapped her legs around my waist, her damp center covered with only a thin scrap of material. I pressed her up against the wall and pulled the straps of her bathing suit down, her large breasts bouncing out. A rush of precum leaked from my dick as I took one of her rosy nipples into my mouth. My tongue circled it as it peaked and she cried out as I bit down. She reached for my belt, fumbling to get it undone. I knocked her hand out of the way and swiftly undid my pants, shoving them down to free my cock.

“Are you sure about this, Remi?”

“Just do it,” she murmured against my lips.

I pulled her bathing suit to the side and thrust my cock into her hot, wet, tight-as-fuck pussy. She gasped, her mouth opening to accept my tongue as I slowly moved in and out of her. I pulled back until just my head was in her and then slammed back in, fucking her against the wall. She moaned, her pussy clenching around me and my release was building quickly. I slipped a hand between us and pinched her clit between my fingers, flicking it with my thumb.

“Holy shit, Remi. You feel like fucking heaven, wrapped around my dick. I want you to come all over it.”

She cried out, her juices soaking me as she came on my cock. I roared as cum shot out of me, filling her with my seed. I kissed her softly, my cock slipping out of her as I eased her to her feet. We leaned on each other, our breath slowing as we came down from our releases.

“Yo, Cole! Where the hell did you go?” Tristan called from downstairs.

“I’ll be down in a minute. I had to wait for a bathroom to free up.”

Remi’s eyes widened and she pushed me back. She quickly straightened her bathing suit and ran out of the room. I grabbed hold of my pants and walked into the bathroom, not sure what the hell had just happened. I glanced down, shocked when I saw streaks of blood on my cock.

Fucking hell.

As if it wasn’t bad enough I’d fucked his sister, but I’d apparently also taken her virginity. I rushed out of the room, doing up my pants in the process, trying to find her. I grabbed two beers and headed back outside, falling back into my chair and passing one over. After a few minutes scanning the backyard, it was clear she was avoiding me.

“What’s up with you?”

“Oh, nothing. I was just trying to find Remi.”

“Why?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“I haven’t had a chance to congratulate her. I’ll catch her later, I guess.”

Hours later, I still hadn’t found her and the guilt was eating me up. I’d had about enough of the party and gave up on finding her, pulling out my phone to order an Uber.

“I’m going to head out, man. I think you can handle it from here. Shit. I didn’t even think about my truck. It’s probably going to get towed.”

“Where is it parked?”

“On Sycamore St., just off your street.”

“Give me your keys. I’ll get Babs to pull it into my driveway and you can get it in the morning. Don’t worry,” he cut in, sensing my hesitation, “she’s DD for the girls and had nothing but pop all night.”

“Thanks, man. I’ll talk to you later in the week.”

“Thanks for helping out. Let’s get together next week, without a bunch of brats, and have a few drinks.”

“Sounds good, talk to you later.”

I headed out front to wait for the Uber, wondering what the fuck I’d been thinking.

Chapter 2


Holy shit.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d had a crush on Cole for years, and I’d just let him fuck me up against a wall. I considered telling him I was a virgin, but was afraid he’d stop if I did. I was feeling completely euphoric until Tristan had called him and it was like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over me. I ran out of the room in a panic, his cum leaking from my pussy, soaking my bathing suit.

I spent the rest of the evening avoiding him because I wasn’t sure I could hide what had happened from Tristan if he saw us together. He would kill him if he found out he’d fucked me. I did my best to settle the dirty thoughts running through my mind while I was celebrating with my friends. Once the last person had left, I went over to Tristan and threw my arms around his waist.

“Thank you, big brother, for the awesome party. I’m sorry I pushed you in the pool,” I said, giving him my best puppy dog eyes.

“No, you’re not. Either way, you’re welcome, little sister. You deserved it. Mom and Dad would have been so proud of you.”

“Thank you,” I whispered, my eyes filling with tears.

“Let’s wait until morning to clean up.”

“Okay. Did Cole leave?”

“Yeah, the old man gave up a couple hours ago and ubered home.”

“Do you think I could get his number?”

“Why would you need that?”

“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I just want to thank him for coming tonight,” I said, hoping he would believe me.

“Oh, sure.”

I added his name into the contacts on my phone, hugged Tristan once more, and headed upstairs to shower. I was covered in chlorine, sweat, and Cole’s cum. I stayed in the shower, water raining down on me, until the water turned cold. I dried off and fell into bed naked, pulling the covers up over me, and grabbing my phone. I hadn’t reacted well after we’d slept together and I needed to talk to him. I called his number twice, the call going to voicemail both times. I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow, so I decided to text him instead.

Remi: Cole? It’s Remi…

I waited for a couple of minutes and when it didn’t show as read and I hadn’t gotten an answer, I tried again.

Remi: Hello?

Remi: You must be sleeping. I just wanted to thank you for coming tonight. I’m sorry for the way I reacted in the bedroom. I heard Tristan and just panicked. Message me or call me, please.

I woke the next morning, checking my phone right away. My heart fell when he still hadn’t responded. I got up and dressed, ready to clean up after the party, and hoping I’d hear from him later in the day.

I didn’t. I texted every day for a week and still hadn’t heard back from him. He’d had sex with me, that had to have meant something to him, right? He went out for drinks with Tristan on the weekend, so he was obviously alive and well. I cornered my brother the next morning.

“Big brother, is everything okay with Cole?”

“Yeah… why?”

“I’ve been texting him to thank him for last weekend, but he hasn’t answered me back.”

“Well, maybe he just doesn’t want to talk to my little sister,” he said, looking at me warily.

I didn’t want to raise his suspicions any further, so I just shrugged my shoulders and left the room. I went up to my room and threw myself on my bed, tears burning my eyes. I’d given him a part of myself I could never get back, believing that it was the start of something, but I guess I’d been naïve. I didn’t see or hear from him the rest of the summer. He didn’t even come to the house to hang out with Tristan.

The last week of August, my car was packed to the brim and I was ready to leave for university. It was stupid, but as hurt as I was, I’d hoped he would come to see me off.

He didn’t.

“Little sister, I’m going to miss you. Are you sure you want to go to school so far away?”

“I’m sure,” I smiled, trying not to cry, “but I’m going to miss you, too. It’s going to be weird not seeing you every day.”

“I’m still willing to take you, you know?”

“Tristan, it’s a seven-hour drive. I’m more than capable of going on my own. I’ll call you when I get there.”

I hugged him tight, raising up to my toes to kiss his cheek.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. Drive safe, Remi.”

I nodded and climbed into my car, heading toward my fresh start.


4 years later

I stepped into my little black dress and zipped it up, slipping my feet into my favorite strappy 4” heels. My boyfriend, Sam, was taking me out to dinner and was going to be home any minute. I’d graduated university and had been working at a tech company since I finished. I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t been home in over a year. I’d spent more time than I’d like to admit, pining over Cole, and it was just too hard for me to go back.

Tristan had threatened to drag me back for Christmas this year, so Sam and I had planned to spend a couple of days there over the holidays. I finished getting ready and ran downstairs, getting to the front door just as he got home.

“Remi, you look beautiful,” Sam said, dropping a kiss on my lips. “Just give me a few minutes to change and we can go.”

“Okay,” I smiled.

I watched as he walked up the stairs. He wouldn’t tell me where he was taking me tonight and, frankly, I was a little bit worried. I loved Sam and we had a great relationship. The problem was, I didn’t feel even a fraction of the passion with him that I had with Cole. I was pretty sure I would never find it with anyone else. True to his word, Sam was back downstairs quickly and I threaded my fingers through his, following him to the car.

I couldn’t help but grin when he pulled up to the Emerald Grill, a new steakhouse in town.

“Sam,” I said, excitedly, “It’s almost impossible to get a reservation here!”

“My boss owed me a favor and was able to get a table. I knew you wanted to come here, so I jumped at the chance.”

“Well, thank you.”

I kissed him on the cheek and got out of the car, waiting for Sam to hand his keys to the valet. He wrapped his arm around my waist and led me into the restaurant where the host led us to our table. We enjoyed our meal, but as he sat across from me, he looked nervous, sweat beading on his brow. I watched as he stood up and pulled something out of his pocket.


He dropped to one knee and opened the small box to reveal a large diamond solitaire.


Tears filled my eyes, emotions overwhelming me. They spilled over my cheeks as he started to speak and my heart broke for what was to come.

“Remi, I love you and want to spend my life with you. Will you marry me?”

I just stared at him, speechless. That was possibly the worst proposal, ever, but my answer would have been the same either way.

“I… I…”

“Remi?” he asked, laughing nervously, rubbing the back of his neck.

“I’m sorry,” I cried, knocking my chair over in my haste to stand.

I bolted out of the restaurant, leaving a stunned Sam down on one knee, while people looked on with a mixture of shock and pity. I practically pushed a woman out of the way to hop in a cab that sat out front. Blurting my address to the cabbie, I swiped my cheeks furiously, trying to figure out what I should do next. I ran into the house and up the stairs, stripping out of my dress as I went. I made a decision and got changed, throwing everything I could into two suitcases.

Knowing I couldn’t just leave without a word, I went downstairs into the office and grabbed a pad of paper.


I’m so sorry… for everything. I love you, so much, but I’d be lying if I said a part of my heart wouldn’t always belong to someone else. It wouldn’t be fair of me to accept your proposal, knowing that I can’t love you the way you deserve. It wasn’t fair of me to wait as long as I have to tell you.

I want you to be happy and to find someone worthy of your love and devotion. You’re a good man and I don’t doubt that you will find the perfect woman for you. I have taken what I can now, but will make arrangements to collect the rest of my things as soon as I’m able.

I wish you the best and, again, am so sorry for how I’ve ended this. I know I’m a coward doing it in a letter, but I can’t bear the thought of doing it face to face.

I love you.


I set the note on the kitchen counter, threw my suitcases in my car, and started toward the only person I knew could soothe my broken heart.



I drove straight through and seven hours later, I parked my car behind Tristan’s. I smiled at the god-awful, tacky Christmas decorations that went up every year, as far back as I could remember. I pulled the suitcases out of the trunk, dragging them up to the porch. At 2 a.m., I figured Tristan would be home so I let myself in and quietly pulled the suitcases in after me. I turned, surprised to see a glow from the living room.

“Big brother?”

“Little sister?” he called, confusion on his face as he met me in the foyer. “What are you doing here?”

“I… I… Tristan, I’m a horrible person,” I wailed, throwing myself at him, emotions clogging my throat.

“What happened? Talk to me, sweetheart.”

“Sam proposed.”

“And that’s a bad thing? You’ve been together for two years.”

He led me into the living room and sat us down on the couch, his arm around my shoulders.

“I couldn’t do it, Tristan. I love him, but I don’t think I’m in love with him. I feel like I’d be settling and that just isn’t fair to him.”

“How did he take it?”

“I don’t know,” I said sadly, “he was still on one knee in the restaurant when I left.”

He looked at me in horror, shaking his head.

“I don’t disagree with your reasoning. The last thing you should do is settle, but you didn’t even talk to him about it?”

“No. I panicked. I packed my suitcases and drove home. I left him a note, though.”

“Oh, little sister, you know you’ll need to talk to him about it, right?”

“I know, but not today. I want to have a couple glasses of wine and go to bed.”

“How long are you staying?”

“I’m not sure. I’d like to stay until the new year, if that’s okay?”

“Remi, this will always be your home. You can stay as long as you want. Let me get you a glass of wine. Red or white?”

“White, please,” I said, curling my legs up and pulling the blanket around me.

He came back with a glass of wine for me and a beer for himself and settled beside me with a sigh.

“What are you going to do about work, Remi? You only had two weeks booked off.”

“I actually have another three weeks banked. I’ll give my boss a call in the morning. I think it should be okay. I’ll just tell him I’ve had a family emergency or something.”

“Or, you could just tell him the truth. You’ve always said you two get along well.”

“You’re probably right,” I sighed. “I’m so sorry I just showed up like this in the middle of the night. I probably should have called you first.”

“Remi, relax, you’re fine. I was out with the guys tonight and wasn’t ready to sleep when I got home, so I decided to throw a movie on. I’m not so old I need to be in bed at 11,” he teased, bumping my shoulder.

I smiled, knowing I’d made the right decision to come home. Tristan always managed to cheer me up.

“What are you watching?”

“Die Hard, of course.”

“I still say that having Christmas at the beginning and end of the movie does not make it a Christmas movie,” I laughed.

“Bite your tongue!”

I leaned on his shoulder, sipping my wine. There was only about an hour left in the movie, but I just kind of zoned out for it. I was so spent, I could barely see straight.

“I’m going to head to bed, Tristan. Thank you for tonight.”

I kissed his cheek and dragged myself off the couch, heading toward the stairs.

“Chin up, little sister, things will get better. You made the right choice. Everything else will come in time. I’ll bring your suitcases up for you.”

I nodded and went upstairs, washing up before going into my room. Glancing at the suitcases, I sighed and fell into bed, still dressed.

Why did life have to be so difficult?

The Meow Guardians by Maria Vermisoglou

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

Title: The Meow Guardians

Genre: Holiday animal fiction

This Christmas the holiday spirit is under threat and only a special stray can save it!

The name’s Ginger, AKA Agent Meow 01. Usually, I spend my free time searching for scraps and getting chased by dogs, like the stray cat that I am.

But this Christmas, everything changes.

When the dog agents from PAWs mess up and leave the human world hanging by a thread, it’s Ginger to the rescue. With my combination of brains, stealth, and daring, I’m the agent they call when the fur starts to fly. Except this time, I’ve got a new partner.

A house cat.

With the clock ticking, this mission seems doomed to failure with so many pheromones about.

Will the Christmas spirit be saved, or will we turn our tails and let the world burn?

Maria Vermisoglou is an International Bestselling author of fantasy and paranormal with an obsession for witches. She loves throwing her heroes into impossible situations. Maria draws inspiration from books, travel, and…the ceiling. (So blame the ceiling!)
Maria started writing when the stories she read became too boring and the voices in her mind too loud.

When she’s not writing, she loves a good riding on the fantasy dragon, but a book can also be exciting, along with a cup of tea.

Nowadays, you can find her in Athens, exploring the mysteries of the ancient world.

Subscribe and enter Maria’s magical portal: https://maraki2311.wixsite.com/creativequillYou can also follow Maria in social media: https://linktr.ee/portal_to_the_unknown


Chapter One: Duty Calls

It was a sunny morning in an otherwise chilly winter. I lay on a tree branch, reveling in the warmth on my skin. The birds chirped, making my stomach rumble from hunger. While I could leap high, I couldn’t fly, so they rarely became my meal. Besides, all that feathered costume took too much time to dismantle. Sitting under the sunlight was pure bliss until a sharp noise penetrated my ear.

“Agent Meow 01, do you copy?”

I yawned and stretched my tired body. “Can nobody sleep around here?”

“Agent Meow 01, do you copy?”

“Yes! I copy, cut, and paste if you want.” I let the sunlight filter through my eyelids, sat up and scratched my ear. “What is it?”

“Agent Meow 01, the mission is about to start. We need you in headquarters.”

“Of course, how could I forget? Oh, wait! I didn’t forget because it’s freaking November and the mission starts every December!” My voice rose with every word, masking the fear building inside me. If they were calling me a month early, things were worse than bad. A squirrel gawked at me from the oak tree across and tightened its grip on the acorn it held. I pounded my clawed paw, and its fur thinned. With a shake of its pointy ears, the squirrel leaped into the tree hollow.

“There were some complications, which is why we need you forthwith. Please proceed to headquarters with utmost haste.”

I clicked my tongue and huffed, watching my quiet morning dissolve, and problems arise in my future. “I’ll be there in a few.” After a thorough cleanup of my claws on the branch, I licked my paws, removed some insects who had taken refuge in my fur and leaped from the tree.

“Cooold!” I screamed. “I thought the snow would have melted by now.”

An ugly coat of white blanketed the street from the night before when it had snowed like crazy. I retreated, my eyes darted in every direction, in search of dry land. My back collided with the tree, signaling the end of the path. Still, my paws were dipped in the snow, making me shiver from whiskers to tail.

 Some passerby laughed at my predicament, but carried on their way. Probably because I was a cat. And a secret agent. But they had no knowledge of the latter because they were humans.

People in gumboots crossed the crunching streets, shivering in their coats. Children yelled, throwing snowballs, and I glared at them, observing the wet balls of death flying through the air, in case any of the snowballs closed in on my location. Cars moved on the streets at a snail’s speed, the drivers cursing.

“Well, if you hadn’t been living in abandoned buildings and pipes, you might have realized that,” the voice from my earphone sounded amused.

“I will have you know pipes have a great reserve of rats. Do you know how delicious they are?” I licked my whiskers at the thought of their juicy flesh as they went down my throat.

“You’re not made of sugar, agent. Get on with it.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m a dame, but made out of red granite not sugar.”

My body trembled, and my teeth chattered like castanets in a flamenco dance. When a father passed in front of me hauling his son, who was covered from top to bottom with warm clothing, I felt a pang of jealousy. Wet drops brimmed in my eyes, blurring my vision and obscuring the polar weather. I quickly detected the best path to the headquarters without becoming an ice cube and grinned when I came up on the first means of transport. I jumped on an old lady’s shopping trolley when she happened before me and waited till she reached the red light in the avenue, leaped on an oh-so-terribly cold bush and continued my journey, changing means of transportation, avoiding the patches of snow as much as possible. Annoyed at the constant rattling of my teeth, I clenched my jaw and sped up to get away from the icy mattress before I suffered a heart attack. Oh, how I hated cold!

When Tails of the City, a local pet shop, swam in view, I breathed in relief and pressed my legs harder, licking my mouth in anticipation of the warm secluded room with the machine that spat heat. My nose twitched at the prospect of treats and canned fish. Mice I could catch, but I would never get near that treacherous water.

“Hey, kitty, are you hungry?” The shopkeeper welcomed me with a smile.

I blinked. Is she expecting me to answer to that stupid diminutive? Keeping my eyes on her face, I waited.

“Someone is not in a good mood today.” Her mouth quirked. “Is it the snow?”

I hissed.

The woman enveloped with the wet smell of dog food laughed and padded to the back of the store, giving me the chance to slip to the aisle with the cat products. Passing by the discarded empty boxes, I gritted my teeth, resisting my urge to jump right in and proceeded to my destination. I lifted my head, sniffing around, and my senses turned crazy. The massive packages lined up on the shelves teased my nose, causing my mouth to water. So many wonderful flavors to choose from and so not the time to do it. I climbed on the top shelf which hosted transportation boxes, beds, and finally came to a stop in front of the pink cat cube.

I entered and pressed the button that made a monitor come to life.

The pet shop was the entrance to a secret base for the Pat & Purr, which was an organization for cat agents. We had many bases across the globe, with state-of-the-art technology and special toys to help our mission.

The computer voice asked the familiar series of questions, so I answered quickly before the human came looking for me. The lights on the screen faded, and the floor opened beneath my feet. I slid down a pipe, and I yelled, enjoying the trip. I loved amusement parks, especially slides that transferred you from one place to another at lightning speed.

After my soft landing on the white carpet, I walked to the sliding doors that parted and I entered the heart of our organization.

Pat & Purr, the secret cat organization that worked for humans under their nose. I’m telling you, if it wasn’t for us, they would have destroyed the planet. Not that they haven’t tried it already.

It was quiet. Very quiet. The main room, where on a normal day, my colleagues would type in their computers, assess distress signals, fabricate modern devices or chase their tails, was empty.

I swallowed the nervousness dancing in my stomach and studied the desks where the monitors sat quietly, the chairs against them and shifted my gaze, in search of any sign of life. The sticky notes on the pastel blue tapestry where we sometimes stuck memos didn’t shed any light on the mystery, so I moved further to the agency.

“This is strange. Am I too early?” My ears folded, and I meowed loudly. “I am losing my form.”

“Nah. They’re waiting for you in the mission room.”

I rolled my eyes when Sandy, a dirty white cat with a burned tail and goggles on his swollen eyes, came into view behind the master computer.

“I didn’t realize I was such a famous figure. Aren’t you coming?”

“Nah. I have to run some algorithms and put the final touches on your accessories. Time is of the essence, so I’ll just listen from the radio.” He lifted a screwdriver as a greeting. “Have fun, Ginger.”

Chuckling, I padded the way to the mission room, my thoughts swirling. Sandy’s words did nothing to ease my nervousness, adding more mystery to the tangling jungle of unexplainable occurrences. My paws tingled once they touched the fluffy rug, and I rolled on my back, dug my claws on the carpet, rubbed the itchy spots and relished the sensation of velvet against my fur before I got back on my feet.

Pat & Purr had pipes leading to offices and storage rooms, and of course, the playroom. We cats loved slides, boxes, and naps. Our organization was built to give us a haven to be ourselves without the presence of humans.

I slid down the red pipe and landed right outside the door which harbored the mission room where we held all our important meetings. My paw froze in the air and I stalled. I’ve never been to the mission room. Even my tail was nervous. Like all cats, I could feel change and this one blew unpleasant vibes. When I pushed the door, my whiskers flicked from the massive presence of cats, which explained the emptiness in the offices. All cats were gathered here.

The mission room didn’t only look like a mission room, but it smelled like business, too.

Grey walls coated the circular room that broke the tradition of colorful rooms of the agency. The floor emitted the vibrant aroma of freshly cut wood, although claw marks decorated their surface and the paint glistening on the walls gave the impression they were painted recently. My anxiety spiked when I gazed at all the furred bodies and the papers flying around. Arrays of chairs spread in the room where cats were already sitting. The silence was deafening. Only the voice from the speaker sounded, peppered with scratching noises of ears, tapping of claws against the wood, and stretching of stiff limbs. The glowing monitors drew my attention to the tail of the mission room. I felt the food I swallowed yesterday stirring in my stomach. I flashed back to my first day as an agent, when I’d met the Board of cold-blooded killers. Otherwise known as Pat & Purr’s Board. The vested cats typed feverishly on computers while they answered phone calls. When the Russian blue penetrated me with his yellow eyes, I decided to scram.

“This can’t be good.” I inspected the room, confused by the vast meow population, in search of a place to curl while the speech was still underway. My eyes fell on an empty seat and I grinned, but my grin melted when I realized it was in the house cats’ seats.

While agent cats generally got along with each other, since we all sought the same goal, there was a broad gap between strays and house cats. We strays were laid back, ate what we could find and struggled with everything. Since we lived in the streets, we had to protect ourselves, toughen up and sharpen our claws for imminent attacks. The menu of our enemies contained many pages.

House cats had the whole enchilada. A house to pass the chilly winter nights and hot summer days, nice food waiting for them every minute of the day—they were fat!—and love. But they were whiny, slow and indifferent. We stray cats called them cat queens. If we dared to sit next to them, they would call us every name under the sun, not accepting to be close to a cat of lower status than theirs. Rubbish! We all lived on the same earth therefore, they should be helping us, not giving us more obstacles to deal with.

I spotted an empty seat in the stray cat aisle in the middle. My whiskers trembled and I coughed at the pungent scent of sandalwood and fish the Head of Pat & Purr carried who delivered his speech with passion and determination. I wrinkled my nose, hoping I didn’t have to face him today. My stomach rumbled. I crossed rows of dark and colorful cats, passed under swinging and curly tails until I climbed to the seat, curling on the fuzzy pillow.

“Every year, we make sure humans find happiness at Christmas. Our agents work hard, infiltrating homes and move strings so that they can make that happen.”

I yawned. “Let’s catch up on some much needed sleep.” I had barely closed my eyes when I heard paws shuffle from the neighboring seats and meows fill the room. I stirred in my chair.

“You’ll find your assignments on your desks,” the Head of Pat & Purr announced.

He was a British shorthair silver tabby with the most beautiful green eyes a cat could possess. However, his charming qualities stopped there. He was annoying as hell and sluggish. The black bow around his neck set him apart as a house cat. Even if he was a stray, someone would pick him up solely for his beauty.

Screens sprung in desks, throwing up papers from the slot on the side, so I turned my attention to mine. My desk was a wooden circular thing anchored to the chair, and no screen popped up like the others. I punched it and raised my eyebrow when it remained immobile. The cats started jumping off their seats, dragging chairs as they left the room, muttering things among themselves.

I debated whether to go to the silver cat or follow the clowder when a sharp female voice boomed.

“Whoever has no assignment should report to the front desk immediately.”

I looked at the silver tabby and noticed him pace on the desk, conversing intensely with a Siamese female, their tails twitching.

Clearly, there was something wrong, or they wouldn’t have called us mid-November. We took on the mission at the beginning of December and had the whole month. Seeing how he gestured at the calendar, time was of the essence.

“Time to find out who messed up.” I leaped from my chair and made my way to the wooden floor decorated with claw marks.

When the two cats sniffed my presence, they lowered their voice to whispers. The Head cat of P&P punched the desk, ending the conversation. He arranged his bow tie better before addressing me.


“Agent Meow 01, reporting for duty.”

“I presume your screen didn’t pop up?” He rummaged through the pile of papers in his office.

“I wouldn’t be here if it did.”

“Yes, yes. There are certain circumstances…yes.” He leafed through his papers, mumbling among himself. “There you are. Agent Meow 01, oh, you’re many years in the force.” He finally looked at me, studying me with renewed interest, but his eyes glided toward the back of the mission room where the cats of the Board typed on their fancy screens while they spoke loudly on the phone. My ears flopped. They reminded me of humans who were so absorbed with their work they didn’t see the world around them. As far as I was aware, the Board were lap cats who did secretary duty and acted like they had the best job in the world while we were servants who occupied space.

Our assigned number signified when we joined the force. I was the first recruit in ‘01, hence the code name. The rest of my details were on the fancy papers they made me paw and fairly certain the Head cat of P&P would bring up in a minute or two.

I tapped my foot down, annoyed by his lack of energy. Everything pointed out to the severity of the situation—his assistant paced as she checked her clipboard, the blinking red lights on the monitor behind him suggested an urgent call—and yet, he acted sluggishly.

“And you’re a ginger tiger cat?”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s unverified at the moment.”

His eyebrows shot up and his lined forehead creased. The miracle of eyes darted between me and his papers. “Really?”

I tilted my head, my ear touching my shoulder. “No, sir. I am, as you can see, a very orange striped cat, a fact anyone can determine if they look at you!” I pounded on the floor and he jumped in the air, landed on the desk, scratched the surface and almost fell back.

The Siamese cat stifled her giggles between coughs and hisses but buried her face behind a paper when The Head cat of P&P glared at her. “Strays are so rude.” He licked his paw, leafed through his papers, but he seemed more alert, his gaze wary on me, as if he was afraid I’d start throwing punches.

“I’ll tell you where your manners go when you starve or when a dog is after you because his master ordered him to sick’em,” I growled, ruffling my fur, and decided to put an end to this conversation before we dove into politics. “Why are we starting the mission now? It’s early.”

“Because the dogs messed up!” The Head cat of P&P hissed, losing his indolent attitude. He banged his paw on the desk and pressed his claw hard between his teeth. “The dogs messed up, and we have to clean up the mess, as usual,” he said in a more controlled voice.

I raised my eyebrow and almost felt sorry I attacked him. His docile attitude masked anger.

“Never leave a cat’s job to a dog.”

For the most part, I found them irritating and stupid unless they belonged to Paws—the secret dog unit which had the same role as ours, but started their mission in November. They might be annoying, but they got the job done. Or at least, I thought they did.

“Messed up, how?” I half-lidded my eyes, observing the Head cat of P&P rock back and forth, my back foot nervously tapping the wooden floor like a pendulum.

“Every Christmas, our agencies work hard to bring happiness to the human world,” the Head cat said, prowling.

I waved my paw. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard your speech a dozen times, but you never tell us why. What did the dogs do that was so bad? Why do we have to make humans happy, and why is Christmas our deadline?” The questions slipped through my mouth on their own and I waited, hoping for an honest answer.

When Pat & Purr recruited me, they gave me a purpose. Every December, I felt like I was a guardian of some sort and people would treat me better, spare some food and cuddles. However, I learned the hard way that they could be as mean at Christmas as on normal days. I still did my job in the best possible way, but I didn’t know why I did it anymore. Perhaps for the luckier cats, I guess. Or for the kicks. Or for the cool gadgets I briefly obtained for my mission. Any of these reasons could do, or none at all.

But this time, I needed genuine explanations of why I should work like a dog mid-November before people even started to think about presents, celebration dinners and decorations.

The Head cat of P&P sighed and turned to the Siamese cat. “Can you brief the others while I have this conversation?”

“Yes, sir!” The Siamese cat fished some papers from the mess of his desk and left, wagging her tail.

I frowned at The Head cat of P&P, who scratched his chin. “What conversation, sir?” His cologne misted the air in a thick cloud, tickling my nostrils.

“You’ve lost your interest, haven’t you?”

I was taken aback. It had crossed my mind that he would chide me or give me a lecture on duties, but this was not in today’s forecast. “Well…” I moved my head left and right, trying to come up with an explanation, but I wasn’t the evasive type. “I don’t feel the thrill I used to. It’s just a way to fill my days in December, so I would like to know the reason we must do all these things. Especially since humans don’t treat us well.”

The Head cat’s nostrils fluttered. “Many moons ago, when humans were created to walk this earth, a witch determined they needed cats to guard them against the adversities.”

I blinked. “I’m sorry, a what?”

“A witch,” the Head cat of P&P repeated without hesitation. “They’re not just tales humans tell their children as bedtime stories. Witches are real.”

I took a step back, struggling to wrap this idea around my head. I could believe in things such as birds, dogs, anything natural and logical, but witches were over the top.

Sometimes, on wintry mornings, I slipped in coffee shops when there was a storytelling gathering because every cat knew wherever there’s gathering, there’s food. It was entertaining and educational, if you liked stories with witches who saved the world with their powers and potions or fell in love with the dashing human. But that was all they were. Stories.

I gazed directly at the emerald shades of his eyes, studying the irises. A cat’s eyes revealed everything. Once I got the full picture, I stepped away. He wasn’t lying, or at least, he believed what he said.

“And what does a witch have to do with cats?” I cringed. I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.

“She appointed us to bring happiness to the humans, but if we failed to complete our duty, we would disappear and so would the world. We are the guardians of balance, happiness and mischief.”

“This is…but…” I shook my head and stayed silent. The words failed to express the vast hole in my chest dripping in the pit of my existence. “Why didn’t you tell me that when I joined?” I stirred the conversation to things I understood before my brain exploded.

“You weren’t ready.” He sighed. “Stray cats are more prone to lose their path, and also more disbelieving because of their past.” He tilted his head.

I nodded. “There must be a more logical explanation than a fairytale. It doesn’t make sense that our fate is predetermined.”

“Do you believe in the magic of Christmas?”

“Of course I do. What does this have to do with anything?”

“Then you believe in fairytales,” he decided. “The witch is real and so is the happiness she brings every year with our help.” He collected the papers in his office into a pile and grinned, the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “If the required number is not met, destruction will be upon us. The dogs failed on their quota, so we have to double our numbers to cover the loss.”

“I don’t believe in witches, but the balance thing makes more sense.” I forced the conversation on the darkest corner of my head and held out my paw. “Where are my cases?”

The Head cat of P&P pushed a paper toward me and my mouth dropped. Blinking rapidly, I studied the printed addresses that covered the entire sheet and continued on to the next page. Sweat gathered on my eyelids and I mopped my forehead with a swift move of my paw. “There are over fifty cases listed.” My small heart complained at the sight of so much ink. This year would be the death of me if I had to cross the country walking on snow. “They used to be barely ten.”

“There are a hundred and fifty.”

My pupils dilated, and I coughed. Punching my chest, I meowed a shriek. “A h-h-hundred?”

“Why do you think I have been yelling at the phone for a week with the absurd dog leader who returned only excuses and yelps?” He snorted. “You will have a partner in this one.”

“A p-partner?” My claws scratched the wooden floor as I backed away.

Deep breaths. I imagined the sun warming my face, flowers spread their intoxicating aroma, and lines of rats waiting for me to devour them. My rough tongue whisked away my anxiety as I licked my mouth, and a certain calmness settled over me. I calculated the possibilities of getting the job done on my own, considered all the variables such as weather and hostile humans, and came to the ugly conclusion it was an impossible task. Given this day had only a few hours left, I couldn’t count on getting much done today. So the logical being in me agreed a partner would be a good move.

“And the dogs,” the Head cat of P&P curled his lips, spitting as he pronounced the word, “have offered their full cooperation.” He paused. “As much as I despise them, I advise you to get their help when you need it. Time is of the essence. Your deadline is December 6. Don’t forget. Should any of the teams fail, destruction awaits.” After an ominous pause, he lifted a claw, pointing to the back of the room. “Lucinda will give you the rest of the details. Good luck and keep your claws sharp, agent.”

I nodded. “Yes, sir.” I padded the way to the exit, panting. My head pounded from the unexpected revelation and I was uncertain how I felt about it. Mystified for sure, but no longer lost and uninterested, which was good, given the current situation. “I hope they don’t pair me with a house cat, or this mission will be a guaranteed failure.”


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