February 2022 Newsletter
THE MANE ATTRACTION
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?”
The dinner turned out better than Sissy thought it would. First off, important, older shifters were put up on the long dais at the front of the room. Usually that space was reserved for the bride and groom, but Jessie Ann came up with some crap about the importance of elders and family and Sissy’s daddy got all puffed up because Jessie insisted he and Janie had to sit right in the center. In other words, they were the most important.
Then again, maybe they were the most important to Jessie Ann. She’d lost her parents when she was only fourteen and Sissy’s parents had warmed to Jessie Ann right off.
Even more important, the seating worked to Sissy’s advantage. Instead of being trapped with her momma for an hour of feeding, Sissy thankfully sat at the table with the bride and groom, who kept the wedded-bliss cooing to a minimum. Mitch sat on her right and Ronnie Lee sat on her left with her mate and Mitch’s half brother, Brendon. Desiree MacDermot-Llewellyn sat across from her with her mate and Smitty’s best friend Mace. The rest of the table had Jessie Ann’s friends Sabina, Phil, Jay, and Danny.
The massive room not only boasted enough tables for all the attendees but it even had a dance floor right in the middle. Although Sissy doubted she’d do any dancing to some lame band or, even worse, a lame DJ. But her steak was bloody and delicious and the company tolerable.
Although Sissy knew this was going to be a big wedding, she didn’t realize the kind of people who would be attending. On one side of the floor was some of the biggest names in the oh-so-boring universe of software and computer…stuff. Sissy only knew that because Brendon mentioned them and he seemed pretty awed. Being a lion, he wasn’t easy to awe. Surrounding that unwitting group of full-humans were more Packs and Prides and unattached cats than Sissy had ever seen in a room together. Some of them she recognized from her work in New York City. Others she’d never seen before but she’d heard about them. They came from all over the States, as far away as the West Coast.
Then there were the wild dog Packs. Asian wild dogs, dingoes from Australia, and more African wild dogs than you could shake your fist at. And since they never shut up—Lord those dogs could talk and talk—Sissy would love to shake her fist at them all right.
The rest were Smiths. Either blood relations or related by mating. They’d come from all over, including North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia, and Texas. The only area feebly represented was her own damn home, Smithtown.
Now Sissy had known right off Sammy couldn’t make it to the wedding. He had ten pups and a diner that he and his wife ran in the heart of Smithtown. Vacations for them were pretty much non-existent. But Sammy had contacted both Sissy and Bobby Ray to let them know and offer his apologies. Because that was the way it was supposed to be done.
That, however, did not explain the absence of Travis, Donnie, or Jackie. How her own kin could treat their brother like this was beyond Sissy. You simply didn’t do that, no matter what you felt about a person. Blood was blood, in Sissy’s mind, and there was nothing she wouldn’t do for her kin no matter how much she hated them and wanted to smash their faces in when given the first opportunity.
She’d deal with that on another day, though. But she’d damn well let Travis know how she felt about this. She wouldn’t even bother with Jackie and Donnie. They only did what Travis told them to anyway.
Mitch leaned back in his seat, one long leg stretched out, his arm resting on the back of her chair.
The man did look good in a tux. Of course, she preferred men in jeans and T-shirt to a stuffy suit or tux. Well, actually, she preferred them naked, but society frowned on that sort of thing.
His gold eyes scanned the room and she knew he was thinking what she’d been thinking.
“So much shit to start,” she murmured next to his ear, “so little time?”
He grinned. “It’s too easy. Like lambs to the slaughter.”
Sissy leaned in closer, enjoying the big cat’s scent. “This is almost over now, right?”
“Not even close, sweet cheeks.”
He was right, of course. But Sissy still figured the worst of it was over.
Until the music started…
Mitch loved it. The wild dogs were the absolute best. They’d heard less than six bars from George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” before they all “whooped!” as one and rushed the dance floor. Even the bride left her new husband and got on that dance floor “bow wowing” with the rest of them.
The rich geeks joined in, completely oblivious. The rest of the breeds, though, appeared thoroughly horrified. The cats were astonished since they were used to the wolves who were more predator than goofy canine. The wolves were embarrassed by the goofy canine behavior. The bears were typically bored.
“Why are you smiling?”
Mitch laughed at Sissy’s question. “Come on! How cool was that? It was like that Dog Whisperer guy came in and rallied them all to the floor!”
The lions and Dez laughed. The wolves…not so much.
“Don’t walk away mad,” he said as they did. “You’re completely missing the humor in this.”