“How’s my girl? Any luck with the mermaid?” Mom asked.
I reached over and rubbed Max’s head. “Well, yes and no. She’s not going to be sinking any more boats.”
“So you turned her over to the HWB. What was her story, anyway?”
“Some man did her wrong. Imagine that. And we didn’t exactly get a chance to turn her in.” I sighed. “All that was left of her was a tail fin. Atlantis blasted her to kingdom come when she tried to use it against me.”
“Wait! How did she get hold of your trident? Never mind. I don’t want to know the details. I worry about you when you’re out on these assignments.”
“I’m totally fine, Mom, but I almost lost Max today. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He’s acting all weird.”
“Weird how?” Curiosity filled her voice.
“Overprotective. He jumped right in the water to save me.”
“You know as well as I do that familiars protect their people. Why would you take him out on the water with you?”
“I always take him along on assignment.”
“Out on the ocean?” Her voice raised an octave. Mom’s question had me questioning my own sanity.
I looked over at Max. He had his back leg raised, cleaning sand out of his private parts. I swore he grinned at me. “It’s not like he’d take no for an answer, anyway. Maybe it’s time I take him to the vet to get fixed?”
Max growled, low and disapproving. “I don’t think so.”
“Maybe he’s getting ready to shift? Did you think about that?” Mom’s voice sent my imagination into overdrive.
Honestly, I had. We’d always known Max had the potential to shift to another form, but other than speaking, he’d never displayed the characteristic behaviors of shifters. “All of Miss Daisy’s kittens, the ones who’ve shifted, were younger than Max at the time, right?”
Mom and Miss Daisy had been supplying cat shifters to the Hunters’ Watch Brigade for years now, ever since I was a little kid. It was her way of giving back to the organization for all the good they’d done in our lives.
“Yeah, they were younger than him. And Shade was always glad to have them join the brigade,” Mom said. “It was the least we could do for Shade, after he took you under his wing at such an early age. I figured that when Max didn’t shift, our spell had obviously failed.”
“Well, there’s the talking thing, so part of the spell worked.”
“And he reads, so there’s that. Look, Max is your best friend. If he shifts, he’ll be drafted into the organization, and then there’s that nasty business about the curse. Maybe he prefers to stay with you, hon.” Mom sighed. “It’s not an exact science yet, you know.”