Excerpt for Demimondaine: aka The Ugly Truth About Catgirls by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Demimondaine” is copyright Zoe Miller, all rights reserved.


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A dread shadow slithered around the doorjamb. Bloodshot eyes zeroed in on fresh prey. Mere paces away, at the kitchen stove, stood a humanoid creature—a Demimondaine, in the aspect of cat, a sumptuous feast of primal aether in sentient form. Blissfully unaware of its peril, it concentrated on its cooking, flicking its tufted ears, swaying its rump, and swishing its lithe tail in the air in time with the crashing, atonal music that masked the shadow’s staggering, hungry advance along the floor…

Fortunately, the shadow only got as far as the kitchen island before a wave of nausea halted is clawing advance. Briefly humbled, Marigold, witch and enchantrix extraordinaire, largely harmless (especially after a bender), and roused by nothing more devious than the aroma of simmering pasta. “Nicoooooo… isn’t it ready yet…?”

Nico groaned, flicking the volume down on the stereo. When she signed up to be Marigold’s familiar, nobody told her that her primary duty would be cooking boxed macaroni for a boozy witch. “How are you still hungover? It’s five in the afternoon.”

“I told you.” Dragging herself towards the stove with all the speed, grace, and painfully unkempt hair of a Japanese ghost out for drowsy vengeance, Marigold hugged her arms around Nico’s ankles. “When those pagans say paint the town red, what they really mean by that is paint your insides red. And what I mean by that is, it was strawberry daiquiris until the sun rose behind the headstones…”

Well at least somebody had a fun night.”

Ah!” Marigold was suddenly upright. She stood more than a full head over Nico, and that’s when she wasn’t looming on tip-toes behind her, hands clasped behind her back, grinning like the mad woman she absolutely was. “Is someone envious of my night with a group of luscious, intelligent, mud-covered ladies?”

Nico rattled her wooden spoon around in the pot to shake up the pasta. “I was until the mud-covered part…”

“Nico, dear.” Taking her familiar by the shoulders, Marigold bodily turned her. “You really must get a social life of your own.”

Well nobody invited me.”

Offended, Marigold braced a hand over her heart. “I most certainly did! You dithered for three days before finally admitting you didn’t want to come.”

I—” Nico swallowed, hard. “I said I couldn’t come. I had work; someone has to keep the lights on in this place.”

Some days she wished she’d stayed a cat.

Precious Nico, you know what they say…” Marigold leaned forward, eyes glinting with an almost criminal intent. Nico hastily backed away—but the granite countertop cut off her escape. “All work and no play makes a dry Demimondaine! You should be out there, living your life! Go places, do things, make some plans—” The chirruping sound of the kitchen timer going off, ignored, as Marigold cupped her familiar’s cheeks, grinding in thumbs. Her chipper tune suddenly dusky. “—get a little dirty, even.”

Chirrup~chirrup!

Nico received only about half of Marigold’s lecture, as her relative shortness—not to mention the careworn status of Marigold’s Wiccan Fest ’93 sleeping shirt—meant that lion’s share of her mental bandwidth evaporated with the bob of braless witch tits before her.

Chirrup~chirrup!

“Are we quite all right, Nico?”

Stabbing a blind finger behind her, Nico silenced the alarm. “I go places!” Ohhhh, she was so mad her ears were twitching. Which made it easier to ignore the sudden influx of saliva in her mouth. She shook her head free of Marigold’s clutches with an angsty writhe. “I make plans! I get dirty! All the time… c-constantly, even! In fact” Nico puffed out her chest and leaned forward, hands on her hips, and proud as a Palico. “I have plans tonight.”

Marigold’s grin grew wider with every passing protestation. “Do tell, m’dear.”

Nico ducked her head. It seemed like an aura of blue thunder was filling the apartment’s already overcrowded kitchen. She looked left. She looked right. She swallowed, her tongue piercing her lips. “Well, DeathFuck’s in town for their final show, so I—”

“A concert? How nice. What are we wearing?”

A lily pad sprouted beneath each and every step as Marigold, her hangover apparently banished, skipped all the way to hall closet.

Nico blinked. A lake of starchy water frothed over onto the stovetop.

We?


***


From the moment they stepped into the orange halos of the venue’s crackling streetlights, Nico maneuvered herself to be just far enough away from Marigold at all times that people might not automatically assume they had come together.

See, while she’d dressed in conservative concert chic—carefully pairing her fleece-collared canvas bomber jacket with a treasured, appropriately distressed, shirt of a genre-adjacent band to DeathFuck—Marigold, who had likely never been to a show without a theremin or a timpani or some other esoteric instrument that started with T, and certainly had never gone to anything remotely as cool as a farewell tour for the country’s GODDAMN PREMIERE FRICKIN’ UNDERGROUND SUCCUBUS INCHOATE MUSICIAN before she underwent her decade-long chrysalis, had decided the she part of we would be decked out in the full regalia of a witch-cum-librarian, up to and including the little golden opera glasses hanging off of her neck. Then, once they were in line, as if this is just what you did at one of these things, she spent the entire time chattering about-about-about potion recipes with the oaf in front of them. And like, did she have to come out in the full brimmed hat and everything?

It was like… super embarrassing.

Also, Nico was still feeling self-conscious about the look Marigold had given her cut-offs. Like, as if—Really? Given the weather, a little short aren’t they? And denim? With those boots? Why, they look like they weigh more than you do. And haven’t you ever heard of bootblack?

It was a lot of judgment to impute into a single gaze, but Marigold was living proof that witches didn’t need magic to conjure shade.

It wasn’t a big deal. It wouldn’t be a big deal. There was nothing uncool about it. There was nothing lame about going to see your favorite band in the whole world with your boss-slash-mistress-slash-powerful witch who gave you your corporeal form-slash-roommate.

Entering the venue, Marigold shook out her hand, as if they’d laced the ink stamps with deadly nightshade this evening. “How long does this take to come off?”

Nico sighed. Scratch that. Tonight would be hell.

After they’d navigated the line and grabbed their drinks—did your mistress seriously ask for a negroni? From a place that sold everything out of plastic cups (and not even the fancy red kind you play beer pong out of)? Yes, Nico. Yes, she did—Marigold tapped her lips, surveying the scene from their remove by the far wall. “So what kind of music does this DeathFuck play?”

“Are you kidding me?” Nico gulped down half of her beer and surveyed the crowd. “With a name like DeathFuck?”

It wasn’t that dense near the front. She could probably secure a good spot before the pit got started.

“Not classical, I expect.” Marigold had a particular kind of gormless smile in moments like this, when her cultural ignorance approached its apex. “I’ve never been to a concert like this. The melange of the crowd is…” She nodded adroitly. “Interesting. I detect at least three different chroma variances—”

Listen!” Nico was passing grateful that she’d forced Marigold to leave her notebook at home. “Listen, okay, it’s not a concert and it’s not a science experiment, it’s a show.” And yeah, she was still a little salty that the bouncer had carded her and not Marigold. It’s because she was short! They always carded the short ones!And I let you come with me—against my better judgement—so can you at least do me a favor and try to pretend that you maybe SORT OF KIND OF belong here—”

The off-pitch peal of a barely tuned guitar pierced the speakers. A tall woman emerged into the spotlight, all fishnets, thigh-highs, and torn nylon, the spotlight glaring on her shining bouffant of blond hair. Feedback squealed into the mic as Selar-fucking-Let slapped the strings of her bass with the spade tip of her tail and screamed:

SLAYDIES AND GENTLEWORMS. WE. ARE. DEATHFUCK.

Man, fuck Marigold!

So she was more than a little relieved when Marigold motioned for Nico’s wallet and fucked off to the bar to get another cocktail. As Nico muscled her small body through the now sardine-packed crowd, she decided if she didn’t see Marigold again until the end of the night—no, tomorrow morning!—then it’d be too soon. The pit called to her, seething with rampant, violent energy, and, though it took everything short of the jaws of life to part the pair of human-shaped meatballs at the edge of it, Nico forced her way in.

This was where she belonged. A thrown elbow here, a shoulder check there, and her brain vibrating so hard in her skull from impact she thought she was about to achieve liftoff, Nico was having the time of her life. She was like a leaf in a whirlwind, flung here and there, the human wall collapsing backwards into a living net to brace her, catch her, and throw her back into the fray, redirecting her energy in a smooth motion. In the interim of one such impact, panting her breath back into her lungs, Nico’s eyes inadvertently fell on Marigold—which was no surprise, familiars had those sort of knacks of attunement with their tethers. What was a surprise was that she was sitting up on the second level. On the balcony. Where the nerds watched concerts, oh my god! She was even sitting! In a chair! Like a nerd!


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