It was hard to think about death at a wedding.
Yet he was managing it pretty well.
And it wasn’t because he was bored or the bride didn’t look beautiful or the venue wasn’t amazing. It was because of that damn call.
One call and his mind was filled with images of death. His death. But it wasn’t every day a man got a call that informed him there was a two-million-dollar bounty on his head. All that money for his big lion head.
He should be wallowing in depression. He should be having one of his panic attacks when he couldn’t breathe or see straight. He should be doing what any normal human being—normal being relative since he could shift from human to feline in about thirty seconds or so—would be doing when finding out someone wanted him or her dead so badly.
But he couldn’t be depressed, he couldn’t panic. Not now. Not with that staring him in the face.
Okay. So it wasn’t right in his face, but if he dropped to his knees and crawled over to it…his face could be right there. Now that was something worthy of wallowing in.
“You’re staring at my ass again, aren’t you?”
Normally when coldbusted this way by a woman, Mitchell Patrick Ryan O’Neill Shaw would begin some serious lying. He knew females well enough to know there were times when a man had to lie or risk losing important parts of himself. But every once in a while, if a man was lucky enough, someone would come along who went past the whole male–female flirting dynamic. And that someone was Sissy Mae Smith.
They didn’t start off as friends. Not surprising since she stole his damn jacket. He’d lent it to her underdressed friend—at least she’d been underdressed at that moment—and Sissy had done what scavenger wolves did…she took it for herself. But Mitch was feline—king of the jungle and all that—so he took the damn thing back. That led to Sissy wrapping herself around Mitch like a monkey and demanding he, “Enjoy your taste of nirvana, bitch!”
To be honest, he really hadn’t known what to make of her at that point, but Sissy had a way of making people feel like they’d known her for twenty years. She’d walk into the security office where they both worked for her brother—a job that kept him busy and out of trouble until he had to go back to Philly to testify—and drop into Mitch’s lap like she belonged there. Then she’d say something along the lines of, “I know my beauty is enthralling, but do you think men realize I have substance, too?” or “Would you take me more seriously if I weren’t so pretty?” But it was when she would find him wandering his brother’s hotel in the middle of the night that he realized how much he liked her. She’d never ask him questions like, “Why are you sweating and jumping at everything that remotely sounds like a gunshot?” and instead, she would drag him off to some late night diner for what she referred to as “breakfast and mocking.”
And it was over one of those breakfasts that Mitch realized Sissy had become one of his best friends.
“Yes, I’m staring at your ass,” he told her as plainly as she’d asked, “but I can’t help it. It keeps talking to me.”
He wasn’t kidding either. It was the way that stupid bridesmaid dress hung off her that was making him crazy. It was a millimeter too tight around her ass, and he couldn’t do anything but stare.
Like most shifter females from the Smith Pack, Sissy was a lot of woman. Strong, powerful, built. She could take down perps better than most linebackers could take down a quarterback. He’d seen her take a punch to the face and then kick the living shit out of the guy who’d done it. He’d also seen her whine over her stubbed toe. Sissy would never be a supermodel but that’s what Mitch liked about her. You took Sissy to bed, you never had to worry about breaking her.
She was pretty, too. She looked a lot like her big brother, but her features were softer, her fighting scars a little less dramatic. She kept her dark hair in a shaggy layered cut that teasingly covered and illuminated sharp, light brown eyes and well-defined cheekbones. The hairstyle appeared casual and easily maintained, but Mitch had grown up in a house with women, and his mother, a former registered nurse, now owned her own salon chain. He knew a three-hundred-dollar cut when he saw one. But the designer shoes on her feet were her first and only pair. Same thing with the designer gown. Sissy liked to be comfortable and look comfortable, and she wasn’t afraid to put in a little work to get that across.
Yeah, Mitch liked that she was a walking, talking contradiction. A backwoods hillbilly who’d traveled the world and understood more cultures than some PhDs. A woman who’d barely finished high school but still managed to earn and keep the respect of people with multiple degrees. A shitstarter who lived to torture anyone stupid enough to get caught in her web but who would die to protect her family and friends.
Sissy had turned out to be everything he expected and nothing like he’d thought.
So it seemed inevitable they’d end up in bed together, at least for one night, but then Sissy had suddenly looked at him one day and said in her straightforward way, “You know, I like you too much to ever fuck you.” Sissy wasn’t much for vague euphemisms. In her world, if you were “sleeping together,” you weren’t doing something right. “Sex” was for prostitutes. And “making love” was for people who never got out of the missionary position.
And in some bizarre way, Sissy’s blunt pronouncement made complete sense to Mitch, and he’d shockingly agreed. They’d been best friends ever since.
Of course, that was before she put on that damn dress. Now he was all distracted and horny, and Sissy had no one to blame but herself and her good-size ass.
“Did you say my ass was talking to you?”
It had talked to him all through the ceremony and now while they were being forced to take pictures under the burning Long Island, New York, midday sun. A simple thing like taking pictures had turned into a good hour for Mitch to stare at her ass some more.
The whole event was out of control really. Such a huge wedding for two people who could care less about marriage. There were fifteen people on the groom’s side and fifteen on the bride’s, an interesting mix of males and females—and breeds. Cats and canines comingling. Maybe not happily but politely. Sissy stood up with her brother, and Mitch had ended up on the bride’s side.