Ahhhh yes... I pushed off from the side and swam to the center of the basin, where I tread with slow strokes barely causing a ripple. I turned in a circle, searching the area with my gaze as I tried to find what caused the tingle of unease in my belly. Assured that nothing lurked in the shadows, I gave myself up to the pleasure of sun, sky and water caressing my skin.
In spite of the sheriff's earlier unpleasant visit, I didn't want to leave this place. It was as close to home as I'd had. Refusing to give into anxiety, I discarded the idea of creeping away in the night.
I frowned, thinking of the jaguar I'd inadvertently changed into a man. I didn't know what to do about that. Even if I could find him again, my spells were so poorly wrought, he might end up a toadstool the next time. Tired of my bleak thoughts, I closed my eyes and floated in the liquid heat.
Kee-eeeee-arr, kee-eeeee-arr... The sound pulled me back to awareness and I squinted at the chicken hawk gliding above. When it flapped its wings, even from this distance I could see the unbalance of its arc. Disinterested in healing another predator, especially one that might find my hens to its taste, I sucked in my breath and plunged beneath the water's surface.
Moments later I reemerged to discover I wasn't alone. I wouldn't have to find the big cat I'd had my previous unfortunate encounter with. He'd found me. The sound of his purring reached me where I gawked at him from the middle of the pool.
He stared back from where he lay sunning himself on the rock next to my clothes. I didn't know how long I could tread water or if the big cat could swim.
I either have to magic him away somehow or make myself invisible. I'd successfully used a see-me-not spell the night before. I felt certain I could do it again. Well almost certain. Since I'd dumped excess power on the saguaro cactus earlier, I might not have enough magic to sputter aflame to life let alone cast a spell.
I tread water analyzing the possibilities until my arms and legs felt like lead weights. I had to do something or I'd soon sink like a stone.
How smart is a jaguar? If I worked the spell right I'd be invisible but it wouldn't keep drops of water from splashing on the ground when I walked past him to get to the cabin.
He doesn't look fierce or hungry. Actually, if cats wore happy faces, it seemed to me he was smiling.
The problem with a see-me-not spell is simple. I can always see me and I have to judge the success of my incantation by the reaction of those I'm hiding from. Before I could change my mind, I whispered the words and lifted one hand, drawing symbols in the air with water wrinkled fingers.
Then I sank beneath the surface and swam underwater to the stone steps leading out of the basin. I had carried my new dress with me to the pool and left it with my other clothes, intending to try it on once I felt fresh and clean.
It was on the rock where the jaguar rested. I knew it was foolish, but I wanted my gift. I didn't get many and I was determined to keep the one I'd just received.
Everything was going well. I crept up the steps, being careful to move silently. The jaguar tilted his head studying the water; it was obvious I'd fooled him. He thought I remained in the pool.
All I needed to do was touch the blue dress and it would become invisible too. I could carry it with me to the cabin and the cat would never miss it. I moved on all fours, crawling low to reach the side of the rock where my clothes rested.
And then he turned his head, looked down at me, and covered the blue dress with a big paw.