Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

Noise filtered through the walls of the brothel. The house was starting to wake, along with the entire town. The beginning of this day only reminded Thea that she was running out of time. Returning empty handed was not an option, knowing full well it would easily send her to isolation. Whatever it took, she would find out what happened to the missing captain. But first, she had to shake Pudge off her tail.

It wouldn’t be easy.

“You almost done in there?” Pudge was more patient with food than he ever would be with any human, Thea included. 

She walked out of the washroom fully dressed. “A gentleman does not rush a lady.” 

He looked up and lifted a brow. “Well, then it’s a good thing I’m no gentlemen, eh?” He went back to scratching the backs of Fen’s ears. The wolf had finally left the safety of his hole and was greeting Pudge the only way he knew how, by allowing the cook to shower him with affection. Fen felt comfortable around Pudge. Since their first meeting, both had always felt at ease in the others presence. It was the reason Thea warmed up to Pudge so easily. He had this aura about him that felt warm, and never failed to reassure her. 

“Indeed.” Thea hung her gown on a chair and began plaiting her hair, letting it fall loosely down her back. It seemed to be the easiest solution to keep the yellow strands away from her face. She looked at Pudge who continued looking at her reflection in the mirror. For the first time she felt somewhat uncomfortable under his stare.  “Don’t you have to go downstairs and finish preparing breakfast?” 

Pudge shook his head. “Mistress Viki enlisted more kitchen help. They’re able to do most of the preparations without me. I just check on them once in awhile.”

“So remind me again why she keeps you around?” She tried keeping the sarcasm out of her voice.

“Because it’s still my kitchen. The servants can’t—“ He stopped, finally understanding the joke. “Funny Thea, very funny.”

She smirked. “When did Atifa give you run of her kitchen?” 

“Her age permits her from doing most of what she did before. In any case, she likes cooking for the mistress; it allows her more culinary freedom. Also, the mistress trusts Atifa.” 

“Atifa is a good woman. She brought us you, didn’t she?”

“Saved me is more I like it. I’d still be begging on the streets if it weren’t for her.” Pudge loved the elderly woman. It wasn’t hard to see.

She finished her braid and tied the end with a simple knot twist, letting it rest down her back. She looked over at Pudge who on the ground with Fen. The two looked cozy with one another, almost as if the human was the wolf’s own flesh and blood. He might as well have been. The two met when Fen was only four and still growing accustomed to the lingering stares of men.

Pudge was Atifa’s assistant when Vikiana took over the Mynx. Fen wasn’t as big as he was now, and she took him during her visits to Vikiana. Pudge had never feared Fen; he was more interested in what kind of foods the pup ate, rather than how sharp his teeth were. The moment Pudge chopped up a chunk of raw venison and gave it to Fen, their friendship was solidified.

She reached underneath her bed where Fen had slept, pulling out her short sword and its strap. What better place to hide her weapon than next to a massive wolf? With the last of the straps in place, Thea was ready to leave. The two on the ground looked cozy, but when Fen glanced over, he knew it was time to go. Fen rubbed his head one last time on Pudge’s arm, then leapt to his feet, padding over to the partially open terrace. He used his nose to nudge the door open for him to slip out. After one last look at Thea, he jumped from the balcony to a parallel roof across the way. He knew to stay out of sight until she exited the Mynx.

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