Goran’s mouth has no filter, and it’s losing him job after job. Desperate and a week away from being homeless, he finds an offer online that sounds too good to be true. Spending six months in a mansion by the beach in return for a hundred thousand dollars as long as he sticks to the house rules.
This might be the one job where his unruly mouth doesn’t get in the way. After all, saying the wrong thing is impossible… when you’re role-playing a cat.
Meeting all the other guys at the cattery seems to be the icing on the cake, but the inconvenient truth he dishes out turns out to be too much. Goran makes everyone his enemy, but worst of all, Ollie, the prettiest cat of the bunch, the one who’s been in the cattery the longest, and the one who makes Goran’s heart skip a beat.
Ollie’s big blue eyes hold secrets Goran is intent on cracking, but to do so, he will need to learn to bite his tongue and listen. Too bad the pretty blond ice prince is set on getting Goran kicked out of the cattery for good.
Themes: debt, enemies to lovers, cat-play, Miami, immigrant, billionaire, love triangle, social anxiety, rent boy, backstabbing
Genre: M/M contemporary romance, sugar kink
Length: ~61,000 words (standalone novel)
WARNING: Adult content that might be considered taboo. Explicit content, strong language, multiple partner scenes. Reader discretion advised.
Goran looked at the closed wooden doors across the hall, wondering whether he shouldn’t stay and wait for his host, but he decided against it and took his time looking at a mosaic embedded into the floor. The house was so big he imagined just living here and moving between all the rooms could be a workout on its own. He eventually opened the door and walked into a living room that could serve as a bar in a medium-sized hotel. It was huge, with a tall ceiling with wooden beams and a large fireplace resting against a wall made of irregularly shaped stones. The decor was beige and brown, which softened the grandeur of the room’s size, and the modern furniture added just another layer of coziness.
He put his backpack next to the coffee table and sat on one end of the sofa, which felt like it was made of clouds: not too hard yet not soft enough to swallow him and bend his spine. It was perfect.
He smiled to himself and smelled a furry pillow. Living here would be a far cry from the stuffy hostel he was staying at now. He’d never met anyone this rich, and it was as intimidating as it was exciting. The logical part of his brain kept suggesting that he should rein in his emotions and keep this meeting serious. Anything could happen. And the guy could turn out to be a prick after all. Goran had met many handsome guys in his life, and their looks rarely defined their personalities. Luis entered the room with a clear glass bottle and two glasses, shutting the door with the weight of his body.
“It’s very hot this week. How are you enjoying Miami?” he asked and put the glasses on the coffee table before filling them both with water. He smelled of some spicy cologne that pulled on Goran’s nose, making him lean closer as his host bent over the table. But contrary to Goran’s expectations, Luis didn’t join him on the sofa and sat on the other smaller sofa instead.
Goran was so taken by surprise by the small talk, that for a moment he forgot how to speak. “Oh, I—It’s nice. I mean, the people are either rude, or fake, or both, but I like the hot weather. Just wish the air weren’t so damp.”
Luis stared at him from above the glass as he gulped down half of it in one go. “I—that wasn’t the answer I expected,” he said in the end, crooking his head.
Goran stared back, not even wanting to drink anymore. “Sorry. I keep forgetting that it’s not expected here to actually say more than ‘fine, thanks.’ I like to keep it real.”
Luis grinned. “No, no. I like that. You’re like a cat, aren’t you? You like to do your own thing. And you are very right. I deal with so many pricks out there. That’s why I like to keep my home as peaceful as I can. I want everyone to have fun here,” he said, stroking his glass with his thumb.
“No, if I were a cat, I’d push the glass off the table.” Goran snorted, feeling relieved when Luis laughed. “But yes, I do like to go my own way, I suppose. Gets me in trouble more often than not.” Was this when things would get dirty and/or horrifying? This chat was going suspiciously well so far, and Luis was a handsome non-creep. Was this being secretly filmed or something? His eyes moved toward the large mirror on the wall, trying to see something unusual in the reflection, but no, it was bright and solid.
“Why don’t you do it?” asked Luis, staring at Goran with oddly intense eyes.
Goran bit his lip. “Do what? Go my own way, or push the glass off?”
Luis didn’t even blink, as if he were mesmerized. “The glass.”
Goran’s heartbeat sped up, and he wasn’t sure what kind of test or joke this was. There was tension between them, which he couldn’t put a finger on, so to gauge where this was going, he sat on the edge of the sofa and leaned forward, never taking his eyes off Luis.
He pushed the glass toward the edge.
Pushed it closer.
He gave it a last short shove, and the glass fell from the coffee table to the rug, water rapidly soaking into the threads.
Goran wasn’t sure what he’d just done and why. Luis’s voice pulled him out of the mind-freeze he got himself into, and their eyes met.
“If you choose to accept the job, I’m sure you will enjoy your time here a lot. I’m not always around anyway, and so you’d have most of the day to yourself. There’s plenty to do here.”
Goran squinted and took a deep breath. “But what would I be actually doing?”
Luis gave a short laugh and bit his thumb. “As I mentioned already in the ad, and during our telephone conversation, I like to completely relax once I’m home, be myself. You said it yourself that there are many assholes out there, and believe me, it’s even worse when you start dealing with businesspeople. That is why this job requires a fair amount of acting while I’m around. A bit of role-play, if you will.”
Goran frowned, trying to make sense of it. “You’re looking for a live-in boyfriend, to be around whenever you are and always act nice?”
Luis froze with his mouth open and only shook his head after a second or so. “No. No, not a boyfriend. A cat.”
The glass incident suddenly made a lot of sense. “A cat…” Goran repeated slowly. “Why don’t you get a cat?” But his brain suggested the answer: ‘You can’t fuck a cat.’
Luis scratched his head. “I’m not always there, and it would be cruel to leave it alone for hours.”
Goran tried to stay open-minded. In what world getting a human to act like a cat instead made sense, he had no idea. “I suppose. It wouldn’t know why you’re leaving.”
Luis’s face brightened, as if he was ecstatic that Goran was getting it. “This is kind of complicated. I am gay, but to be honest, I don’t connect with people very well. For the most part, I find them annoying and greedy. But with cats… I’ve always liked cats, since I can remember. At some point in my life, I just decided that what I wanted was a cat… but a man.”
After years of working in hospitality, Goran could relate to the ‘annoying and greedy’ bit. He kept his face like it was carved in stone. “So you want me to be your… cat? For half a year?”
“Yes,” said Luis. “But don’t worry. You wouldn’t be alone while I’m away. I currently have a cattery of four, and there’s, of course, the cook and the maids.”
Goran’s lips parted. Four? There were four guys pretending to be Luis’s cats living here already? “Cats do like company, I guess. My sister got two, so they wouldn’t be lonely when she goes to work.”
Keep a straight face. Keep a straight face.
Luis laughed. “It’s a group of well-rounded young men. They are enjoying their time here, and they won’t be leaving empty-handed either. Obviously, since I am gay, this job does involve sex, but no one’s gonna be pressured if they don’t feel like doing it at a given moment. And I don’t mind the cats having fun on their own either. You can think of it as a gap year.”
Staying in a mansion with four other, possibly hot, single gay guys for half a year and having sex with Luis every once in a while to top it off? Was it prostitution? Kind of. Did Goran mind? Not really.
“So how does the voluntary sex thing work? I can just say I don’t feel like it on a given day?”
“That’s basically what it is. Cats follow their own paths, and I respect that, but obviously, you are not a real cat, and if you take the job, I would expect you to participate in the play. The other cats are very attractive, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy your time with them, but the whole setup is meant to be my getaway, and so you…” Luis ran his fingers through his hair. “You know, I’d like you to be attracted me, and act on it when you feel like it, or it’s not going to work.”
Goran laughed, though it came out a bit nervously. “Don’t worry, I think you’re very hot. And… okay, it’s all very weird, but I don’t mind. What else do I need to know?”
Luis licked his lips, and his shoulders visibly relaxed. He wasn’t kidding when he said he wasn’t very good at human-to-human interaction. “There are a few rules that I consider very important, because they are for the safety of us all. Throughout the six months, you will not be allowed to leave the cattery, unless it’s an emergency. I want my cats to immerse themselves in this, so you will not be able to use any technology such as the Internet or cell phones, and contact with anyone outside will be limited to traditional letters.”
Goran swallowed, feeling like each sentence was pulling him deeper into this crazy venture. “But will I be expected to sleep all day and play with balls of yarn? I mean… that could be fun the first week, to just relax, but I’d get so bored, I’d scratch all your sofas to death.” He tried to be funny about it, because he wanted to stay here, but he was pretty sure he would actually go on a killing spree if he had no books to read.
Luis raised his hands and shook his head. “No, no. You will have access to an extensive library of books, DVDs, and all kinds of games, both traditional and digital. On top of that, there’s the sauna, the gym, and the pool. You will be free to socialize with the other cats, and you can be a human all the time except for when I come over and ring this,” he said and pulled out a small bell, which chimed loudly when he shook it. “Once I do that, cat time begins. You will not speak then, you will put on a little collar and fake cat ears, and you will be acting like a cat, with the exception of the sex, obviously. Or medical emergencies. I’m not insane. If something’s horribly wrong, you can tell me, I won’t penalize you.”
Goran was taking it in and nodding. He could do that. At least he thought he could. How hard could it be? Unless the other cats were complete dicks, of course.
“So I will stay here for half a year, and all the shopping and everything will be done for me? Food cooked by a chef? And all these other perks?” It really was too good to be true. And he imagined not minding the cat role-play. Cats did what they wanted anyway.
“Yes,” said Luis. “And if you stay the whole term, you will be paid one hundred thousand dollars.”
Goran’s brain heated up so rapidly, he barely heard Luis continue.
“But if you break the house rules, you will get a strike. Three strikes annul the agreement. Also, if you decide that this isn’t for you after all and choose to leave early, you will not be paid, but you will have lived here, all expenses paid, and hopefully had some fun on top of that. A bit like a free vacation.”
Goran nodded eagerly. That amount of money would get his parents out of debt and leave him some change. “Are there any other rules I should know of?”
Luis’s eyes twinkled, and Goran could see this conversation was getting somewhere. “There are small things, such as the no cigarettes rule, but only one more I’m very strict about. You will be here with other like-minded men, and you will be having fun. We all want to have fun, that is why I don’t allow exclusive relationships during the stay.” Luis sighed. “I had this problem in the first year of the cattery, and it was a disaster. The two cats in question refused to play with anyone else, and they spoiled everyone’s fun. It’s okay to have a boyfriend as long as you understand the relationship needs to be open.”
“I can’t see that being a problem. I’m going back to Croatia in eight months, so I’m not looking to attach myself to anyone here. But I’m definitely up for fun.” And a hundred thousand dollars.
Luis leaned back. “That’s perfect. I think the last thing we should deal with is a bit of an audition. Before we sign all the documents, I need to know if you’re catlike enough for this job.”
Goran took a deep breath. He could totally do this. “And I can be myself? Just… as if I were a cat?”
Luis nodded, watching him with curiosity blooming in his green eyes.
Goran licked his lips. “Should I… undress?”
Luis drew in a sharp breath, his muscular chest pushing up under the polo shirt. “Whatever makes you feel more… in character.”
Goran took a few moments to ponder this and pulled off his T-shirt, hoping to get some brownie points. He got down to his knees, out of his depth yet exhilarated. First, he looked up at Luis, feeling a bit self-conscious, but there wasn’t anyone else here to judge what he was doing, so he moved toward the glass and the wet carpet on all fours. He pushed his palm against the wetness, as if to test that bit of the carpet, but then he leaned lower and rubbed his shoulder against it.
He could see Luis’s toes curl in his flip-flops, and Goran closed his eyes briefly, swaying his ass up, as if he were raising his tail.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty,” came in a hoarse voice.