December 2017 Newsletter
THE MANE ATTRACTION
Mitch held one end of the rope and the wild dogs held the other. With one leg crossed over the other, he rested his left elbow on his knee and studied his nails.
“Pull!” They did and Mitch didn’t budge.
“Ladies, aren’t you getting a little embarrassed by this?”
“No!” they all yelled. He wasn’t exactly surprised. African wild dogs had high-embarrassment thresholds.
Jess, who hadn’t participated—this time—in the game of tug, sat down next to Mitch. She wore a satin robe and not much else.
“How you doing, beautiful?”
“Fine. Glad that part is over.”
He glanced at her flat belly and asked his daily question since finding out she was pregnant with Smitty’s love child, “And how’s Mitch Junior?”
Jess shook her head. “You have got to stop calling her that. Smitty will have your head.”
“But I love watching how red his face gets.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “You better get dressed. There’s still more to your day.”
She rolled her eyes. From what Mitch could tell, Jess didn’t have much to do with arranging this wedding other than to insist on the Karaoke room and no real flowers at the ceremony or the reception since she was violently allergic. From the flowers on the tables to the bride’s bouquet, all fake flowers, but so artfully done, he wouldn’t have known if someone hadn’t said something about it.
“I haven’t seen the other dress. Put it on and I’ll see if I can give it the Mitch seal of approval.”
“Okay.” She glanced longingly at the rope and the She-dogs still attached to it.
“No, Jess. You can’t play tug.”
She gave a cute little growl before storming off. “My day my ass!”
“I knew you’d be back here. Hidin’.”
Sissy smiled up at her daddy. She wasn’t surprised he found her in the back of the kitchen, hiding in the room the staff used to take breaks. He knew his daughter better than most people realized. But they’d always been close. “You’re one of the few who don’t piss me off, Shug,” he used to tell her when she was only five. Bubba Ray Smith was a unique good ol’ boy, but Sissy loved her father and would destroy anyone who messed with him.
“I’m not hiding. I’m taking a much needed break.” She stood and hugged her father. “Hey, Daddy.”
“Hey, Shug.” He always called her that when they were alone. It was his pet name for her. He started off calling her Sugar but when she’d turned four or so, he’d gotten lazy and shortened it to Shug. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m trying, Daddy. I really am. But she’s pushing me.” Like always.
“You gotta stop letting her get to you.” Her father pulled out the chair for her and Sissy sat down, her father in the chair next to hers. “She pushes you because she wants you to be the best.”
“The best at what? Matricide?”
“That ain’t funny and you know it.”
It was kind of funny.
“You’re grown now, Shug. You can’t let her get to you anymore. You’ve got your own Pack and you don’t even live home anymore. Although I’d never stop you from moving back if ya want.” And she heard the hope in his voice. It broke her heart and made her feel very loved.
“You know I can’t come back, Daddy. Not to live.” She smiled. “But at least I’m in the States now.”
“Yeah. That’s true. And here I know my little girl’s safe.”
Yeah, her father still saw her that way. His baby girl. Sweet, delicate, his princess. Of course, everyone else knew better. And most women would be annoyed, wondering why their fathers didn’t see them as adults who could manage their own lives. That wasn’t her father, though. Sissy never felt like he thought less of her. He trusted her to handle most things when everyone else still treated her like a kid. Not surprisingly, they’d always been close and that wouldn’t change. No matter where she went or how far away she was. She was Bubba Smith’s baby girl and she always would be. It didn’t bother her because she didn’t doubt herself as a woman or a She-wolf. You couldn’t when you were Alpha. You couldn’t afford to.
“I was real worried you’d stay over there in Asia and then I didn’t know what I’d do without my baby girl.”
Because God forbid the man would actually leave the country.
“What’s outside of America that’s all that interesting?” he’d grumble. The fact he was taking an actual vacation starting tomorrow still amazed her. Her mother must have had to work some major Lewis Mojo to make that happen.
“Do your old man a favor, Shug,” he said, taking her hand.
“Don’t get into it with your momma today. Promise me.”
“Promise me, Sissy Mae.” Okay. He’d pulled out the full name. Not “Shug” or “darlin’ girl” or any of his other nicknames. So he was serious.
To Sissy’s surprise—and especially to her brother’s surprise—this wedding meant a lot to Daddy and she wouldn’t ruin it for him. She’d simply avoid the heifer. Hell, she’d been doing it since grade school, what was one more day?
“I promise, Daddy.”
He leaned in close and kissed her forehead. “That’s my Shug.”
“Your tits will fall out.”
Jess blinked big brown dog eyes at him. “What are you talking about?” She looked down at the sleeveless ivory dress she had on. Her ceremony dress had cost a small fortune. This one, specifically for the reception, cost a lot less. Like a mini fortune.
“I’ve seen you dance, Jess. Your tits are going to fall out.”
Jess took a step back and stretched her arms out. “Nipple check.”
The She-dogs surged forward and stared intently at the dress.
“I see nothing,” Sabina stated as if her word was the only one that counted. Sabina was Russian, Jess’s second in command, and she had the sexiest accent Mitch had heard in a while. “You are wrong,” she told Mitch.
“I’m not wrong.” He moved behind Jess, placing his hands on her sides. He lifted her up and shook her around for a few seconds. As he knew she would, Jess giggled like a six-year-old.
When he put her back down on the ground, the wild dogs took another look.
“Nipples, my friends,” Jay announced. Jai-Li was Mitch’s other favorite wild dog. Originally from somewhere in Alabama, she was cute, Asian, and thought he was “just a darlin’ sweetie!” Unfortunately both females were thoroughly mated. And they had a ton of kids each to prove it. What did one do with so many children? It’s not like you could put them to work in a factory to earn their pay—some considered that wrong.
“We have nipples,” Jay finished.
Mitch rested his chin on Jess’s shoulder and looked down. “How bad is it? I should examine the area closely. It’s all right, sweetie. I’m a cop.”
Jess reached back and slapped at his face. “You’re disgusting,” she laughed.
The dressmaker, who they had at the wedding for just such situations—who can afford that?—was summoned to the bride’s suite.
Mitch sat in a chair and watched them add matching satin straps to her dress so that it would stay up. Still sleeveless but much safer.
“Better?” Jess asked while she stood in front of him.
He leaned up and put his face right against her breasts. “Give me a moment to investigate.”
“Or,” a really angry voice snarled next to him, “I could tear your throat out now and we can have a wedding and a funeral.”
Without actually moving away, Mitch turned his head and looked into the angry wolf eyes of Bobby Ray Smith, Smitty to his friends.
“Don’t get mad at me because I’m only trying to be helpful.”
That got Mitch a flash of wolf fangs before Jess pushed Smitty away.
“If either of you get blood on my dress, there will be hell to pay,” she told them.
Sissy turned from the bar and faced her most favorite aunts in the world. Her mother’s sisters but she didn’t hold that against them.
Squealing, she threw herself in their arms and her aunts hugged her and showed her she wasn’t a complete failure, no matter what her mother said.
“Look at you, darlin’ girl. Ain’t you as pretty as a picture!” her Aunt Francine, the oldest of the Lewis sisters, exclaimed.
“Thank you.” Her momma had told her to lose a few pounds. “I have to admit, I was afraid what the wild dogs would come up with for the gowns. Especially when I saw Jessie Ann’s wedding gown.” It wasn’t that the bride’s gown wasn’t beautiful. But it probably fit in a bit better in the year 1066.
Leave it to Jessie Ann to go for the weird.
Sissy pulled back from her aunts.
“I like that color on you, though,” Francine told her. “Although brown at a wedding…”
“It’s not brown,” Sissy explained because she’d heard it ten thousand times in the past six months. “It’s chocolate. Dark chocolate. Seventy-two percent—”
“Stop.” Francine held her hand up. “I can’t listen to any of that.”
Sissy laughed. “Leave it to Bobby Ray to catch himself a Jessie Ann.”
“Has she forgiven you?” Roberta, the second youngest, asked.
“She says she has but I don’t believe her. I come in the room, she finds a way to leave it.”
“No one to blame but yourself on that, Sissy Mae.” Francine never let Sissy forget anything. “You tortured that little thing something fierce.”
“Torture is a harsh word. Accurate,” she added, “but harsh.”
Sissy smiled warmly at her Aunt Darla, the youngest of the sisters. “How’s my Uncle Eggie? I wish he’d come.”
“Aw, darlin’, you know better than that. My man is not good in crowds.” And Darla wasn’t much better.
“He’s probably in a Dumpster somewhere in Smithtown.”
“He better not be,” Darla playfully growled. “I warned him I better not find him in one again.”
“And Dee-Ann?” Sissy asked about her favorite cousin, Darla and Eggie’s only child.
Darla opened her mouth, then shrugged. “Honest, darlin’. Your guess is as good as mine.”
“I wouldn’t worry, Aunt Darla. I’m sure Dee-Ann’s just fine.” At least Sissy hoped so. She loved her cousin but she worked for the government and whatever she did kept her away from her family and out of touch for way too long in Sissy’s estimation.
“So…” Aunt Janette asked, her eyes bright, “when are you coming home, Sissy Mae?”
“Aww. Do you miss me?”
“Sure…and some cat heifers need another smack down.”
Typical. “No. Absolutely not.”
“Oh, come on, Sissy—”
“No, Aunt Janette.” Sissy shook her head for emphasis. “I told you before never again and I meant it.”
“Am not and stop trying to use guilt.”
“Now,” Francine cut in, “when are we gonna get our Sissy Mae settled?”
But before panic could set in fully at that ugly question, Mitch suddenly grabbed her from behind.
“Excuse me, ladies. I need to use Sissy as my human shield.”
He lifted her up and, not surprisingly, she was abruptly face to face with her brother.
Sissy sighed when she saw her brother’s scowl. “What did he do now?”
“The boy needs to keep his hands to himself.”
“Actually my hands weren’t involved at all.”
Bobby Ray reached around her, trying to grab Mitch’s throat.
“Now ya’ll stop it, right now! Bobby Ray go on. Dinner will be soon and you need to drag that bride of yours away from the other Pound Puppies.”
“Stop calling them that. And remember what I told you, boy.”
After her brother stalked away, Sissy slapped at Mitch’s hands. “Let me down right now, Mitchell Shaw.”
“Uh-oh,” he said to her aunts while placing her on the ground. “She used my full name. That means I’m in trouble.”
“I thought the rules were set?” Sissy faced him and she barely stopped her frown. Not for what Mitch had done. Hell, that was downright tame. No, it was because Mitch had been looking…she couldn’t explain it. There were dark circles under his eyes and he was losing weight. He was smaller than his brother but she had the feeling that wasn’t quite right. Mitch was one of the swamp cats. They were bred big and powerful. But she’d noticed that Mitch didn’t eat much and that was only getting worse. She tried to get him to eat more but he’d been picking his food lately. Something was going on with him. Something more than usual and she had to find out what. There were not a lot of guys she respected enough to call friend. Females were her friends, males she actually respected were usually family or damn-near. But most men were simply potential fucks in her mind and nothing more. Mitch had been the first who’d moved past that in Sissy’s world and Sissy took care of her friends.
“Look Mitchell, if I can’t start shit, you can’t start shit.”
“I was helping out the bride.” He looked at her aunts. “I was merely checking to ensure her bodice was fitting her properly.”
Francine asked, “And I guess you had to get right up in there with that pretty face of yours to check that out, huh?”
“If my friend needs me to do that, then—excuse my crude language—dammit yes. That’s what I’ll do.”
Sissy chuckled and started to scratch her head then remembered she still had that damn fake flower wreath in her hair. According to the bride, these things were big at Renaissance Faires…Sissy still had trouble dealing with the fact she now knew people who openly admitted going to those things. “You’re simply not happy if your life isn’t in danger, are you?”
Mitch grinned. “Don’t be jealous of me and Jess. You know I’d check your bodice anytime you wanted me to.”
“Stop talking.” She grabbed his arm and tugged him closer to her aunts. “Mitchell these are my momma’s sisters. Miss Francine, Miss Darla, Miss Roberta, and Miss Janette. Ladies, this is Mitchell Shaw. Brendon Shaw’s baby brother.”
Busy shaking each aunt’s hand, Mitch still managed to glare at her over his shoulder. “Is that the best way you can describe me? Simply as Brendon Shaw’s baby brother?” He sighed sadly, sad gold eyes looking at her aunts. “She’s afraid to tell you lovely ladies the truth you know. What she wants to say is Mitchell Shaw, the man I love and adore with all my sassy Southern heart.”
“Sad, isn’t he?”
Mitch suddenly cringed. “Gotta go. Reed boys at ten o’clock.”
“What did you do to them this time?”
“It’ll take too long to explain but it involves a call to a lovely Long Island matchmaker named Madge who believes the Reed boys are looking for love. Shit.” Mitch took off running and Ronnie Lee’s brothers were right behind him.
Sissy shook her head. “I don’t know what to do with that boy sometimes.” She scowled when she realized all her aunts were smirking at her. “What?”