T-10 Days and Counting
Mackenzie traced her finger down the neat list of names, her dread rising with each one. Everyone she knew and loved, all of her nearest and dearest, doomed to tragedy with a slash of Carmen’s pen. Oh well, it was too late to back out now. All that was left was to ask the most important question. “Ten bridesmaids and ten groomsmen? Are you getting married, or invading Canada?” Carmen leaned over to peer at the list. “A surprising number of them do know how to handle heavy artillery.” At least the woman was keeping her sense of humor. Mackenzie moved her finger back to the top of the list. “Franklin and Ollie were in the army with Alec, weren’t they?” “And Karl. They still like to argue over who was the biggest badass.” Her smitten grin made it clear who had her vote. Alec was a lucky bastard, indeed, to have found a woman who wanted to put up with his insufferable bullshit. Of course, Mackenzie had noticed a decided decline in said bullshit when Carmen was around, proof that even Alec could behave himself with proper incentive. “Yeah, this is pretty much a who’s who of local muscle and growly shapeshifters.” “Don’t forget the psychics.” Carmen frowned at the stiff garment in her hands, then turned it around. “Is this the front or the back?” Mackenzie studied the intricate bridal underwear for about two seconds before shaking her head. “Damned if I know. Where’d Sera get to?” “Just a second...” Sera’s voice drifted in from the front of the boutique, probably too faint for Carmen to hear. But the young coyote would have heard Carmen, since her hearing was every bit as good as Mackenzie’s own. A moment later Sera appeared, a small stack of papers clutched in one hand. “The mess with your cousin’s bridesmaid
” Sera made an amused noise as she fastened the last catch on Carmen’s bodice. I’d rather she not see me naked and start helpfully doling out nutritional tips. An afterthought.
. But I’d rather just get through today and get the hell away from her. Mackenzie ran the thumb of her right hand over the simple engagement ring Jackson had slipped on to her finger at the beginning of summer. Sera was too submissive to stand toe-to-toe with an alpha bitch like Geraldine. you’ve got it backwards.” Carmen took a deep breath and tilted her head as she studied her reflection in the mirror.” “They found Veronica’s dress?” “No. really.” “Bless you. I love being around people who actually find me intimidating. Rein it in and let me work my magic on her.” Protective irritation stirred in Mackenzie before she could choke it down. and Geraldine will be back in here any minute. but the replacement will be here tomorrow.” “I know you will. well-bred mother. Mac. “I have no idea what I’m doing. You’re both alphas with opposing goals.” “Ten days.” Well that wasn’t any fun. “Alec said I could take his mother out back and beat her.” Carmen held up her arms as Sera wrapped the corset around her midsection.dress is straightened out. “Of course you do.” It was half the reason he’d begged her to accompany Carmen to begin with. if I thought it was necessary.” Committing to spend the rest of your life with someone shouldn’t be this damn miserable. Don’t think I won’t. “Carmen? I kinda want to hit her. It’s ten days to the wedding.” Sera thrust out the paperwork. But Mackenzie had been dragging her feet. “I’ll do it. and I love you for it. Mackenzie didn’t have any such problems. too. and Mackenzie snatched it just in time to keep it from hitting the floor as Sera turned back to Carmen. “I can put up with anything for ten more days. intimidated by the massive headache of planning a wedding—much less one that wouldn’t disappoint Jackson’s wealthy. since they’d known they were headed toward forever years ago. “Here.
. she’d live in sin for the rest of her life.If a wedding party of twenty and underwear someone had to help you into was what it took to please a rich mother-in-law.
” Jackson propped his elbows on his desk. and she’s not going to punk out on a responsibility.” “This is really bugging you. She’s tough. but not you. It’s about a Conclave member marrying a psychic halfbreed and every damn wolf in the country fighting for a front-row seat to see if any of us upstart New Orleans whackjobs do something crazy during the ceremony. Alec. he hadn’t been paying attention.” “Maybe.T-9 Days
Watching Alec pace the office was starting to make Jackson seasick. but it makes things worse. You.”
. she probably wants me to die. None of this is about us. I’ll get dragged into wedding shit.” “Like skip out on it altogether and elope?” Lord knew he’d be tempted. The strands stuck up haphazardly as he blew out a breath and dropped into his chair.” Alec shot him a vicious look. you know.” “Bullshit. man. man. “Look.” Alec groaned. “I suggested it. Twice. He rubbed his forehead and squinted up at the scowling man. “Yeah. which desperately needed to be trimmed. every big wedding is like this. “Right now. I’ve got it covered. “Okay. “I tried running interference. she’ll keep. isn’t it?” Jackson snorted. it might not be such a bad idea.” From the way Mackenzie had talked about the events of the previous day. “That lady of yours could kick both our asses without breaking a sweat. “Is everything all right? You can take the day off. maybe she wants your family to die. My mother needs to know Carmen can stand up to her. “The second I walk out that door. It’s just months of crap you have to wade through before you get to the honeymoon. Months of stupid political maneuvering. or I really will have to kill the damn woman.” And if he thought his bride-to-be would take him up on it. “Doesn’t Carmen want you to help?” This time.” Alec shoved a hand through his hair. Alec winced.
and Alec unbent enough to scoop up a rubber band and flick it across the office. your woman’s going to chew me up and spit me out. but if you let me put so much as a scratch on you. She’s not a fan of my entire family right now. but telling him so would probably only piss him off more. of course.” Easy for him to say. “The girls will. “There you go. at least. “Yeah. Alec’s lips twitched up in a smile. All eyes wouldn’t be on him. Jacobson.” “There is no yours and hers. just like you would for her. Focus on the positives.For the first time. “Carmen would crawl over broken glass for you.” Another hint of a smile. I know. “I’m tired enough of taking this superior shit from Nicole. buddy. Jackson leaned back in his chair. “You want to fight it out? I’ll go right now. I know. bring it.” Alec slumped lower in his chair. This is a poofy dress and a couple of stuffy parties.” The wolf’s fingers clenched.” With an imminent meltdown averted. and he didn’t have to watch the woman he loved struggle to stand her ground against a hundred years of oppressive tradition.” “Yeah. yeah. we’re gonna look good.
. You don’t get to deliver sage married wisdom until you manage to get yourself hitched. Nothing to it.” Jackson reminded him. Alec snarled. “I might take broken glass over that godawful tuxedo. like he really would take a swing. then relaxed as he let out a hoarse chuckle.” Jackson suppressed a smile. “Nice of you to offer.” Mackenzie pitied him more than anything else. not anymore. It’s just harder to deal with when it’s my responsibility and she’s miserable because of it.” “Shut up.
“I get Italian food?” Jackson grinned down at her.. Tomato. “They sure are doing their level best to drive our friends nuts. she slipped into his arms and dropped her head to his shoulder. I know.” But just the sight of him took the edge off her temper.” Jackson arched an eyebrow.. “Do all shapeshifters get pissy as they get older.” She rocked up on her toes and brushed her lips over his. It had been building for months.” He made a soft noise as he stroked her hair. a hint of wine. “I figure you deserve it after the last few days of not punching anyone. If I catch him eyeballing Sera’s chest again.” “I don’t think anyone finds it unreasonable. “Do I need to do it?” “No. and smiled when the scent from the kitchen finally registered. just in case Jackson hadn’t gotten the hint.” “Mmm. but not the irritation prickling just beneath her skin.T-8 Days
Mackenzie slammed the front door hard enough to rattle every picture in the apartment. Which I’m sure was nice for her independence and all. Kenzie. “Sera emasculated him pretty well on her own. or am I going through some weird cat thing? Because I want to sharpen my claws on both of Alec’s parents. she opened the door and slammed it again.” “They are.” Sighing. and that’s a little unreasonable. a dish towel in his hands.” He kissed the top of her head. “Alec’s father is a sleaze. “Am I going to need bail money?” “Try a shovel. but I really want to hit someone. Then. I’m going to break his nose.” She drew in a deep breath. She dumped her keys in the bowl next to the door and tossed her bag to the ground. “I
.” “Damn right I do. He came to the kitchen doorway. herbs. but Carmen’s suffering had kindled that itch into a nagging discomfort. “But won’t it be something if we both make it through this next week without beating the crap out of anyone?” His familiar touch soothed her longing.
She twisted her fingers and got a good grip on his shirt.” He tossed the towel over his shoulder..” Dinner was nice. no instinct. then dropped his mouth to hers.think I deserve a backrub too. The kind that requires wards to keep in the noise.
. So was the delicious heat licking over her skin. “Dirty..” he murmured approvingly. And possibly some sex. then used all of the lovely shapeshifter strength she’d finally mastered to rip open the fabric. “You’re going to make me burn dinner. No magic.just old-fashioned lust-coated love.
I promise.” “Hey.” Miguel laughed. I-know-you’re-sleeping-with-my-baby-cousin look that promised imminent violence almost as effectively as the words that followed.” “I’m nominating you.” Jackson interjected. “John said we could rent out his place for the night. and he’ll even man the grill himself.” Julio managed through a laugh. I think it’s our best bet. But I bet Nick and Mackenzie are getting Carmen a stripper.” Derek agreed.” At least Derek was easily distracted. “With that taken care of—” His phone vibrated. if anyone’s taking anything here—” “So.T-7 Days
“No strippers. “Carmen’s going to be knee-deep in man titty.” Julio grabbed another slice of pizza.” Derek shot him a look—a pissy. Minimum. Jackson sighed and tried to pull their attention back to the subject at hand. “John Gravois? Is he still running that bar down near the French Market?” “He is. “Man up and take one for the team. “Seconded. thanks. “No strippers? Come on. “If it’s what Alec wants.” Derek countered at once. and Alec’ll just have to squint and drink until one of us starts to look good. If there are strippers. That’s what Alec wants. Do I need to beat some sense into you?” Pointing out that Julio had been the most vocal proponent of burlesque entertainment would do no good. “I know my wife. Miguel.” “Beer. And since the ladies have Mahalia’s for the night.” Julio groaned a little. “You are far too invested in strippers.” “Doubt it. and
.” Jackson told them resolutely. “Beer and dead cow. “That’s way kinkier than chicks in g-strings.” “See?” Miguel pointed at Derek with his beer bottle. there’ll be two.
“Will you shut up about the fucking strippers?”
.” “I fear for your future children.” Grumbling.” “Oh my God. “He started it. like he knew who the message was from. he punched Derek on the shoulder.” With an apologetic look. “Damn it. “Carmen says she’s okay with Alec having strippers.” Julio crowed with triumphant laughter and waved his own phone in the air.” Guilt flashed across Derek’s face. “Trouble?” “Sort of. “Your cousin’s orders. Derek pulled his phone out of his pocket and flipped it open. Is Derek giving Miguel a hard time? Punch him.” Jackson dragged a hand through his hair.he checked the display to find a text message from Kat.
And maybe Miguel. The strippers are for the groomsmen.T-6 Days
“Have pity on my boyfriend.” “At least Sera and Kat humiliated Alec’s dad into hiding. “Pretend it’s going to be the most boring bachelorette party in the history of weddings. when Andrew decided that Miguel ogling half-naked women was a betrayal of Kat. and I’ve never been any good at dealing with it. comparatively speaking. “Honestly? I thought you wanted to avoid your sister having to deal with a lot of people.” “Of course he does. Did you hear what Sera said to him?” “She called him Grandpa Jacobson. because the seventeen thousand groomsmen are grumbling that Alec just wants steak and beer. For a man who claimed he’d walked away. “Why do you think Derek and I ran away to Barbados?” Mackenzie hopped the bar and pulled open the fridge to retrieve a beer. The man is such a creeper. or for Alec and Carmen?” “For us. “But Derek knew I wanted to avoid this stuff just as much.” Mackenzie rescued the phone from Nicole’s grasp and settled it on the bar. he wouldn’t be getting hitched.” She shrugged. “This is going to be a nightmare. “Did you get your—whoa. the strippers were for Julio. isn’t it?” Nick played with the straw sticking out of her soda.” Carmen supplied as she slid onto the bar stool on the other side of Nick. “As far as Conclave social events go? It’s going to be cake. Nick. and wouldn’t that be fun.” Carmen’s face had collided with a cosmetics counter—and her wry smile showed
.” According to Jackson.” “Hey!” Nick patted her hand. It’s a freak show. Andrew had a hard time not punching people over Kat’s happiness. “It was sheer perfection. Mackenzie was glad to be a cougar and free of their mess.” “There was that. definitely. But for them too. “For us.” she admitted.” If this was cake for the wolves. If he wanted to stare at anyone but Carmen naked.
” “No firemen.. I’ll need a hammer and chisel to get it off my face. “What can I say? It’s tradition. Carmen?” She laughed.” Mackenzie gripped her beer and studied Carmen. “Geraldine says they have to lay on the makeup for the pictures. “You didn’t self-medicate.” Mackenzie leaned in.
. “Considering Julio’s former occupation. “No.” “You’ll have Alec. “No.” She looked almost mellow.” Nick finished quietly. Mackenzie pulled out another beer. if too liberally applied.a realization. We’re going to make it work..she knew it. “But I’ll have Alec. “Can you take it?” “It won’t be fun. and Carmen burst out with a laugh. “Is that why my brother called and asked if it was okay for them to hire a few for Alec’s party?” “Guilty. Does she?” Carmen traced her fingertip over the bar in an absent circle. “I had.” Carmen agreed. “She doesn’t look like she had a psychotic break. but the new fascination’s got to wear off eventually. but I’m good. So tell us how to make this easier on you.” It made Mackenzie feel a little guilty. “No. tell Nick how many strippers she can rent for your party. Everything else is beside the point.” “Even if it doesn’t. Or.. at the very least. I’m fine. “Need a drink? Or something stronger?” “Thanks.” At least the makeup looked expensive. long talk with myself about what I’ll do when every day is like this.” She closed her hands into fists. And sober.” Mackenzie slid her hand over Carmen’s and fought to find some word of comfort. did you. Maybe it won’t get great..” Mackenzie promised. “You’re going to make it work. “It’ll get better. So I had a good.” “But it won’t. it’s just starting. that Carmen was facing down a life of judgmental wolves and she was still running scared from one Southern mama. I don’t care. That’s all that really matters to me.” Nick smiled wickedly.” Nick murmured. I’ve been getting through all of this by telling myself it’ll be over soon. Nick stared at her.
But hey.” Carmen heaved an exaggerated sigh. “Assless chaps and a too-small fringed suede vest? Hell yes.”
. But there go all my best costume ideas for the honeymoon. that’s perfect. hot cops or cowboys?” Nick made a face. “Fine.that might be creepy.
” “Sure she is. Well. it was freaking her the fuck out.. “She’s hanging in there. it’s making Sera defensive and snarly. she fiddled absently with a sheaf of invoices as she waited for him to answer. “Just. right? Because this wedding stuff. and she said it’s why she and the other non-wolves have been staying away. Not when she’s got you.” “I’m paying attention. “How’s everyone else doing?” He’d seen her play dumb with a dozen other people. Only moments ago. “I always worry. “Hell.T-5 Days
“Jackson? You got a second?” Kat was sitting at her desk.” “She hasn’t had it easy.” Kat winced. But Mackenzie’s right in the middle of it.. I’ve gotten the vicarious empathic experience of Miguel’s transformation to a full shapeshifter. I talked to Zola about it during my last self-defense lesson. though. what’s up?” She didn’t look at him. He set aside his pen. More often than not. she’d been concentrating on paperwork. her encounters with Alec’s parents had ended with her wanting to smack them. “You’re keeping an eye on Mac.. “Sure. and she’s pretty laid-back. change the
. Now.” Plainly put.” Kat dug about in her desk and surfaced with a binder-clip.” “That she does. It’s making her a little squirrelly. Avoid the topic. But not about Mackenzie so much. “Don’t worry so much.” he said gently.” “I know.” he admitted.” And he knew what was really worrying Kat.. sometimes I think the rest of them forget that she’s new to this. and I’ve got a new appreciation for how fucked up the changes can be. though he’d chalked it up to the fact that they were both assholes. Kat dropped them on the desk and turned to give Jackson a wide smile. “I’ve been talking to her. which was the first sign of trouble.” Papers secured. Is there something specific you’re worried about?” “All the strange wolves piling into town. Because she’s Mac.
and life can go back to normal. “All that money to throw a party for a bunch of people they don’t like anyway. I can’t believe they pulled this wedding together this fast. huh?” “It seems like a waste. “She likes him. Really. “Five more days. and I don’t know if Andrew and Julio are that close.”
. it’s going to be in Vegas. To him. I’m with you. If I ever get married.” Kat retorted. “I don’t know. I’m afraid no one’s looking out for him.subject. “Will Mackenzie be nice to him?” He had to laugh at that. Kat.” “Hey.” “What if I promise Kenzie and I will?” Kat gave him a dubious look.” “Sucks to be Alec and Carmen. Elvis or bust. Andrew will barely look at me.” “Uh-huh. much less talk to me.” “Yes.” Kat leaned back and bumped the drawer shut with her foot.” “Funny what you can do with copious amounts of money. Alec’s too busy to pay attention.” he agreed. “But Carmen and Alec don’t exactly have the luxury of owning this day all by themselves. she told the truth. her pain and confusion clear on her face. it does.
“So do half of the rest of them.” “You’re not the only one. really hate this. “This? It’s nothing. he was a council member now.” Mackenzie laughed and swung her elbow toward his side.” He remained silent through three more crawfish.” He shook his head. “Or maybe because you’re not me. uninterested in drinking it. Mac. “That’s the party line. “That’s easier said than done. I guess I am.” “Maybe. if the way they seemed to skirt around him was any indication.T-4 Days
“I hate this. and me. Andrew.”
. anyway. “You’re an architect. “You think I’m a witty bastard? Yeah. Oh yeah.” He finished his beer.” Alec’s backyard was overflowing with important wolves from around the country. when the assembled wolves made her skin crawl. I really. but most of it’s all the same. and instinct had just about decided that climbing to the roof was the best way to hide—or get into position to pounce.” “Really?” It was hard to believe. You’re a witty bastard. You lose some of the old stuff and pick up some new crap.” “I figured.” He didn’t seem particularly bothered. Dominant over the rest of them— and they knew it. Andrew. This is a lot to deal with. then grinned again. aside from a general lack of enjoyment. You’re a dork. “Kat’s worried about you. “Great. all at once.” “Screw the party line.” Mackenzie picked at the label on her own beer. You’re a badass. Who am I?” A question she’d asked herself plenty of times as she’d learned how to be a woman and a shapeshifter. right?” He reached for another crawfish and cracked it in half. I like you better than Alec. “I guess it’s different because I’m not one of you. Then again.” “Be me. Be you. You’re as pigheaded as Alec already.” “I’m supposed to be.” He flashed an insouciant grin. “God.
Three empty chairs sat between them and her. Andrew. It had to change.” No. And we’ll be here too. Me and Jackson and Zola and Walker and everyone else. “You can do it.” He tossed an empty shell on the table. we’ll help. Stifling.” Andrew took a long look around.Mackenzie laughed loudly enough to draw the attention of several wolves on the opposite end of the folding table. especially if things need changing. She couldn’t even see Alec and Carmen through the crowd. Outdated. You’re funny and you know it. “Yeah? Tell that to the rest of these guys. there wasn’t. “Yeah. “Which probably makes me a poor choice for council member. It doesn’t have to be just wolves anymore. smiles fixed to their faces as wolves from all over the country paraded before them like supplicants in a medieval court.”
. Andrew. as if they’d needed the buffer of space to avoid being too close to a cougar and a turned wolf.” he said seriously. Who cares what the rest of them think?” “I don’t. It was absurd.” “Or a perfect choice. “I’m not sure there’s anything we need more. but they were probably still stuck at the front of the lawn.
Fair’s fair. “I just want this fucking circus of a wedding over with. one that brought Derek ambling over from the other side of the room.” The groom was a little drunk.” “Too much money. so long as Carmen doesn’t know it. Alec. reaching for another bottle of beer—his sixth.” His face screwed up in another scowl. “This is a madhouse. Dead wrong. “What did you do to Alec to make his face look like that?” “Nothing that should’ve worked. This is the pre-show. man.T-3 Days (11:00 PM)
Jackson ducked a flying g-string and snagged another beer from the huge tub on Dixie John’s bar. “Just hope Kat’s shoving twenties in some cowboy’s gun belt right now too.” Alec made a grumpy noise and glared until the psychic stripper who’d been headed in his direction veered away sharply.” “I’m not worried about being married. Plus. “Twenties? You must trust Nicky to have hired better entertainment.” “You think I don’t know that?” Alec rubbed at his head and sighed.” “Like a dream. not enough sense.” Jackson slapped Derek on the back. you’re set.” Alec allowed with another grumble. “At least Miguel’s going to singlehandedly put half of them through college. “Why is the woman still marrying me?”
.” Alec snapped. I’m gonna keep on thinking Kat doesn’t know stripper etiquette. “She’s snobby about everything else.” “He’s young.” Alec snorted. “Remind the man how blissful married life is. something Jackson had only seen a few times in all their years of acquaintance.” Was that what he was telling himself now? That the hoopla would end with their vows? “One thing I’ve learned over the last week or so is that I was wrong. The real circus starts when you two move to New York. That’s something. I’ll sleep better at night.” “Hey.
” Though Jackson’s text message had made it clear he’d be taking the long route—long enough to let Alec
.” Julio leaned past Alec to retrieve another beer. “Nick could help. “This may only be the beginning. “What the hell are you all doing staring at me? Did you decide to leave all the strippers for Miguel?” He wanted to be sitting there about as much as Carmen probably wanted to be staring at a buffed and waxed cowboy stripper.” It was a sign of just how bad things were that Alec capitulated without so much as a murmur of protest.” Derek laughed. And maybe the last time I’m letting my mother anywhere near me.” Carmen giggled and downed it in three gulps. What’s the fun of having cranky alpha women around if you don’t let them start fistfights once in a while?” Julio snorted. trying to position herself to block the sight of Sera writing her phone number on the Tarzanthemed stripper’s arm in sparkly blue ink.” Jackson said. “Would it make you feel better if I told you that you’re going to live happily ever after?” “Maybe.” “Too bad. I’ll drive. “She dying to.“Because she adores you. and you can sober up on the way. but it’s the last time I’m letting them shove me into a tuxedo in front of a few hundred people. rising. Let them at her.” Alec drained his beer and raised both eyebrows. Then he sighed. “Drink that before I do. “Come on. even if she won’t do it.” Alec muttered. They’re on their way. “How long do I have to stay here?” “Until Jackson gets here with Alec. Alec.
T-2 Days (12:30 AM)
Mackenzie handed Carmen another martini and leaned against the table.” Jackson offered. “Let’s get you to Mahalia’s so you can rescue Carmen.” “Kenzie could still punch her. “That hit is Carmen’s to take. you know.
Should I be stopping that?” “Nah. “Up we go.” Jackson laid a hand on Mackenzie’s shoulder.” Mackenzie couldn’t help but smile. and love is a beautiful thing. One inebriated empath was one too many. but I bet Alec doesn’t want me knowing he’s peaceful. everything inside him is still. very broody demeanor.” “It is. okay? I think you’ve partied all you can for the night. Ruins his brooding image. very scary man with a very. “He’s a very.” “I can’t leave my own.” she murmured. he does.sober up.” She waved a hand.” The words trailed off as a soft smile curved her lips. “Is Carmen remotely sober?” “Not even a little. Carmen. “Thank God. “All right.” “Mmm.” Mackenzie surveyed the room again. because he was an unhappy bastard for a long time.” “Oh yes.” She opened her eyes and blinked.” Carmen leaned her head back and closed her eyes. the solid warmth that shouldn’t stir her so readily when she curled up next to him every
. because Jackson makes everything okay.” Empaths. And we’re both glad you came along to make Alec smile. the ones that don’t matter. Carmen was drunk enough for both of them. Thank God Kat was too busy reading about imaginary cowboys to get drunk and gawk at them. was a far cry from love. You know.” “Uh-huh. Mac. Maybe it’s time to go home.” Carmen wiggled her fingers and laughed again. and Mackenzie caught the familiar scent of Jackson’s aftershave. not anymore. Peaceful. which was a good thing. Aside from the outliers—Kat was reading a book on her phone and Sera had moved on to letting Tarzan write his number on the inside of her arm—everyone was enjoying the entertainment with a good-natured enthusiasm that.. nonetheless.. “That’s awful sweet. “I guess so. “Yes.” She leaned back against his chest and felt the heat of him. We’re getting you home. honey. “You glow too.” The door pushed open behind her. “I think Sera’s going home with one of your strippers. “It’s a free country. “When he forgets all these other things.
who had returned to staring at her phone.” “Me?” Nick recoiled a little.” In the end it took a coordinated effort. someone give them the keys to upstairs. “And Alec says you’re snobby. “Do you need some help cleaning up. but you never know ’til you try.night. “God. Miguel and the volatile introduction of strippers and alcohol. “Hell. I guess that’s the goal. point them in the right direction. Mackenzie didn’t want to imagine the mess that could come out of Andrew. then flicked her head toward Kat. Mackenzie sighed. Sera turned back to Tarzan. “They might not make it if we don’t. I’ll pry her off. I hired a crew to come in first thing in the morning. or I’m kicking him in the balls. no. This will not end well. “We should’ve gone co-ed.” Mackenzie caught Nick’s gaze. Mackenzie collapsed on a bar stool and groaned. but they managed to exchange Alec’s truck keys for the keys to the upstairs apartment and get them both shoved out the door. I’m not cleaning this shit up. key ring in hand and her gaze averted.”
. or can we shove off? I need some sleep before all the rehearsal crap tomorrow.” Nick dropped beside her with a giggle.” Nick replied cryptically. but they careened backwards into the wall with a clatter that had Sera whooping her approval from across the room.” Nick approached with a laugh. Kat seemed less amused.” Kat hid behind her phone. but someone better keep Alec from punching me. Kat covered her eyes and groaned. As Alec caught Carmen’s lips in a kiss that looked likely to last a good long while.” “Oh Lord. “At least they’re having fun.” he answered. um. “Can you imagine the mess?” “Maybe. Kat. She’s a drunk empath.” Jackson laughed and kissed the top of her head. “Fine. Alec was sober enough to catch her. “Is Alec?” “Not really. though his words were almost drowned out by the way Carmen growled lustily as she crawled over the back of her chair and launched herself at Alec.
It immediately ceased its subtle rocking. then gingerly touched the hood of the car.. and then this will all be over. we can’t let them dri—oh.do something?” She wanted to run like hell.” “Your wish is my command. I think so.” She shivered. “Such as it is. “Aw. Pushing open the front door. Jackson huffed out a laugh and stroked the back of Mackenzie’s neck.. and then the next day. Were we going to?” “Were. “Best I can do. And not have sex in the truck. They’d taken Alec’s keys.” It would have to do.“He what?” Mackenzie was too tired for this.” Jackson wheeled her around. Nick. a silhouette inside clearly visible. “Why don’t we. “Shit. she hauled him into the night. “Tomorrow. “Take me home.” “Such as it is. and life can go back to normal.. “Should we.” His eyebrows shot up. but not Carmen’s. She grabbed the back of Jackson’s shirt and hauled him toward the door. Kenzie. Suddenly she needed to get Jackson home—or at least to his truck.” And maybe someday she could get rid of the mental image of the ways Carmen had to bend to screw Alec in the front seat of a Camry. they’re not driving. I’m really tired of wedding stuff. “Let’s get the hell out of here. they are not.” Carmen’s car sat a dozen feet away.. the heat from before blossoming into something a bit more urgent.” the tiny brunette called after her. which was old enough to have a bench seat with plenty of room to maneuver.” He whispered a low incantation. darlin’.”
.” “No. “Are they going to get arrested? Can you make sure no one sees them?” “Yeah. Jackson. damn it. Tomorrow.
” “Jackson?” “Mm-hmm?”
. though. “It’s not so bad. Don’t want to accidentally rip it off of you. bright blue and full of mischief. a quiet invitation he recognized by now.” He clutched her tighter for a split second. Help me get this dress off and distract me.” She shivered and tilted her head. I mean.” “You’re biased. sliding an arm around her. “Suppose it’s good.T-1 Day
He found Mackenzie in front of the mirror.” “Finally?” “Maybe you should save her from herself. I’ve been a little unsteady. Jackson eased the dress up her legs. Gotta pick it up tomorrow before we head out to Alec’s.” Mackenzie’s eyes drifted open.” “No. “Out of the way. in case a brawl starts.” Peeling the satin up her body would distract them both. “You gonna wear your hair up or down?” “Up. “If Geraldine Jacobson gets irritated that she can’t find her future daughter-in-law.” “Better forgo the dangly earrings then.” Every deep breath she dragged into her lungs pressed her breasts against the dress’s low-cut bodice.” she murmured.” “Too bad. “For a bridesmaid’s dress. smoothing the fabric of the deep red bridesmaid dress over her hip.” he whispered.” But she smiled and leaned back against him. “You’re beautiful. meeting his eyes in the mirror. “Are you going to put on your tux so I can admire you?” His lips brushed the side of her neck. “Aren’t you supposed to be making Carmen’s life easier instead of ripping up the groomsmen?” “Sera took her to a spa to hide from Alec’s mother. You know I’m hoping for one. I get to have at her. “Last minute alterations.
” She swallowed hard.” He tugged at the zipper and groaned when it held fast. meeting his gaze. I wouldn’t let anyone make you.I want to already be married to you. I just. “We’re crazy. Let’s go. or do you just not want what Carmen and Alec are getting? Because I swear. like she needed him more than life. Fuck it. Kenzie. “I made friendly with Alec’s pilot buddy.” She twisted in his arms and rocked up on her toes. “Do you really want to do this.”
.. Zipper’s stuck. “I know the feeling.” She bit his lip. lips sliding along his jaw.. “One problem. I bet he’d fly us out there..” The emotion that welled at the thought threatened to choke him. I need to be already married to you. and he stared at her in the mirror. “Always have been. He’s a spell caster too. “What?” “Tomorrow.“Will you marry me?” The words stopped him stock still. Can’t we just.” Her brilliant smile was reward enough.” “I know.. “I hate weddings. “I don’t know.get on a plane and go to Vegas?” His mother would flip her shit..” Jackson turned her and met her gaze evenly.. If you really want to do it. Like she needed him as much as he needed her.” Mackenzie dropped her head to rest against his shoulder and whimpered. but Mackenzie had faced down enough motherin-law crap to last a lifetime. “Get me out of this dress before we rip it. “After Carmen and Alec survive their ceremony. kissing him like she couldn’t help herself. but a second later she had both hands in his hair and her mouth crashed into his.” she whispered.” he murmured against her mouth. “Just us?” “Mmm.
and Mackenzie was going to be drunk before she accomplished the same thing.” “Sure. “We’re eloping. all of them pressing in on her with an angry menace that made her long for claws and teeth.” A laugh bubbled up.” “Well. “Forget Nelson’s tiny-ass little plane. for me? Jackson and I are sneaking out early. hold up a second. but the words tumbled out anyway. Someone has to stay here to protect Carmen and Alec from the cream of shapeshifter society.The Big Day
Carmen and Alec were married. obviously. “I can’t find Carmen and Alec. and Mackenzie slapped her hand over her mouth.” “Screw that. “Like a couple of goddamn teenagers. “You haven’t stumbled into the master bath. “What’s going on?” So much for a clean getaway.” Mackenzie gazed among the crowd of well-dressed shapeshifters. suddenly nervous. tell them congratulations for us.” Mackenzie hesitated. Now.” “To Vegas?” She squealed and grabbed Mackenzie’s hands. we’ll staple their pants on and bring them with us. It felt wrong to drag him off to Las Vegas without telling any of the people in their lives.” She’d known better. “We can’t all disappear. “Alec’s friend is flying us to Las Vegas. Nick. She’d known better. Would you say goodbye to them. “Already?” Nick giggled too. She couldn’t remember deciding. what’s up?” Mackenzie wet her lips. There
. Tonight.” “Can’t find the bride and groom. huh?” Nick rolled her eyes. She dropped her champagne glass on a passing tray and snagged Nick’s arm before the brunette could move past her again. But it was Nick—Jackson’s best friend. “Nick. Let’s steal my dad’s jet. and the first friend she’d made in New Orleans.” “What?” A frown crinkled her brow. torn between a quick lie and the truth.
. taking her hand. this time with a little hop that made her look like a kid.were so many.” he whispered. even after a year’s association with Nicky Peyton in a determined mood.” He’d been waiting for it for what seemed like forever.” She turned toward Elvis with a goofy smile. I’ll round everyone up. Mackenzie laughed and held out a hand to him. Mackenzie just stared at him.” “Anything. As it turned out.
You couldn’t go through a Vegas drive-thru wedding chapel in a jet. A few seconds later. it would take hours for Alec’s mother to notice they were even gone. “Don’t move. Jackson.” She had no idea. a wedding march spilled out of its tiny speakers. “Got to do something first. “You know it’s true. He would have waited even longer.” “It wouldn’t have felt right. Carmen shoved her bouquet into Mackenzie’s hands and pointed her toward Jackson—and the officiant. Jackson was going to kill her. Served her right. “We’ll have to throw a proper party at my parents’ house. wide-eyed and clearly shocked at how fast it had all gone down. I need to get out of here. She kept staring until Kat let out a whoop of triumph and held up her phone. but he was damn glad he didn’t have to.” Nick squealed again. a stretch Hummer wouldn’t fit either. Just. who was doing a pretty damn good job of impersonating Elvis.marry me. “Fine. but hurry.. Right now. the early years. “Your mother’s going to kill me.” “Uh-huh. “So much for just us.” Everyone.” Her fingers tightened around his hand in a nervous enough grip that he knew
. so they filed into the chapel itself. along with a couple of plus-ones. Damn near everyone he knew in New Orleans.
2011 All characters and events depicted herein are fictional.southernarcana.0 United States License.com http://www. He kissed her. “What?” He grabbed her and did what he’d wanted to do pretty much from the moment he’d met her.
Two Weddings by Moira Rogers A Southern Arcana Free Read Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.moirarogers. http://www.she’d forgotten to check her strength. and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.com
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