Cabin Fever, the Third Act
Callie sat on the couch, ruining her makeup. "He never told me he was one of them, a Swat Kat…" She didn't mean to call Felina Feral on an encrypted emergency line, but she had to talk to the one she-kat who understood.
Felina sighed over the phone. "Maybe he was afraid of someone using you to get to him."
"How do you know? Did they tell you?"
"You aren't the only kat to have a shock this week. When T-Bone jumped in to save me, he told me 'I got you.' Only Chance tells me things like that. It just all clicked in place. He didn't deny it."
"Of course, him and Chance…right in front of me." Callie dropped her head in her paws. "How can I trust him again?
Felina spoke as if breathing life into the situation. "You will because you love him."
Like any good politician, Callie had an entire speech prepared. Décor and pose, she waited for him to meet her on her territory.
Why did she do her makeup? And her hair? And wear something form fitting?
Sure enough, the knock came.
With a knock of the wrinkles out her dress, she made herself answer the door.
Jake stood there in the suit she had gotten him from last month with the top buttons opened on the shirt. Gone was the tie, but not the somber look in his eye.
She stepped aside to let him in.
They sat on opposite ends of her couch.
He finally met her stare after tense silence. "I am sorry. All the years that you didn't know...I feel like a liar...I just never trusted myself to keep you truly safe.. as myself...Razor always could, Jake couldn't…." He covered his face with his paw. "That sounds so cruddy."
Callie swallowed. Where was that prepared speech? The rebuttals? Her "fake it until she make it?"
"Razor may have liked you, but Jake Clawson has fallen hard. I love you, Callie."
Screw faking it.
Removing her glasses, she pushed a few tears away.
When did this become love?
When did she think she could escape it?
"I should go." He whispered then carefully took her paw and pressed his lips to it. "Goodbye, Callie."
Before he could walk away, Callie pulled him by his shirt collar to her and ended whatever self-imposed isolation and tailored let down she had constructed.
Callie always had a way of shocking him.
He knew the kiss on the elevator was for show and even then, he found it hard to play along because of the way she stunned his senses.
This kiss however...she wasn't pretending.
He touched a paw to her face. "I...please don't hate me."
"I'm smitten like a kitten and it can't stand it."
"You've always had my heart. I never want to hurt you."
"Don't you trust me?"
"Yes." He breathed. "And it scares the hell out of me thinking I'll lose you."
She resumed kissing him and he didn't hold back in his affections.
The question sounded teasing to Callie as they lay together.
"You know my answer, Jake."
"Do I?" He tilted her face toward his own, suddenly very serious.
He sat up and detangled himself from her, groping for his jacket one of them tossed somewhere.
Reaching in the inside pocket, he pulled out a small velvet box.
Callie shot up, almost forgetting only a sheet covered her. "Jake, you are serious."
"As a heart attack." He placed the box in her paw. "I know we've known each other over the years and we've only been truly serious the last six months, but I can't see being with anyone else." His eyes shined when he asked again. "Callie, will you marry me?"
She gaped at him.
A shiny engagement ring winked back at her. Was this is plan all along? When did he get so serious? And why wasn't she protesting?
"Yes." Her voice caught in her throat. "Yes, Jake, I will."
"Let's do it this weekend. Run away with me." Excitement coursed through him as he held her, giving her kisses. "There's a private island Pumadyne owns and we can fly in a minister."
"You really have this planned out." She held the box close to her chest.
"I almost lost you once and I'm not doing it again. No more secrets, nothing holding us back. Call your office and tell them you're taking a long weekend. We can even find a way to get Chance and Felina to come see us."
Callie thought for a minute. They had talked a lot during the time he accepted Pumadyne's seat about settling down. He was behind her official mayor bid one hundred percent, she was happy he got his second shot at being in the tech field.
Neither of them really had family to object, Chance ran the salvage land without issue, especially now that they no longer owed the Enforcers a debt.
Why would she say no? Why delay?
Besides, Manx was known for his sudden vacations. Why not take one herself?
She could always do a show stopping wedding later and rub it in the faces of her sorority sisters latter.
"Guess we're going. But, don't we need to stop by Win City first. You know, the place with the all night wedding chapels?"
"We can get the paperwork there, but do you really think I want that for you? You deserve the beach at least."
She gave him a smile. "Guess we have a flight to catch."
"And Devona had a pilot on call." He planted a kiss on her lips. "I love you."
"I love you too." She allowed him to slip the ring on her finger, mentally composing her out of office note.
Felina closed the last file on her desk.
She had made it back to the Enforcers and spent the last three weeks getting caught up on reports and training. She finally had the report on the Pumadyne incident written up. A sense of accomplishment flowed through her.
"Well. Maybe I'll enjoy my weekend off after all." Her desk phone rung. Or not. She picked up. "This is Captain Feral."
"Normally, I would call your cellphone, but I have a feeling it may get busy."
"The only. Got a question for you." His deep bass carried to her ears like music. "Ever been to Win City?" Chance's usual carefree tone dissolved over the telephone.
"Because Litterbin Chat mag just reported our future mayor had eloped there."
"What?" Felina jumped to her feet and grabbed the remote.
On Channel 3, Kat's Eye News, Ann Gora looked slightly fazed. "...if you are just joining us, we have received an anonymous tip regarding candidate Calico Briggs, the interim mayor of MegaKat City. Her election bid has been temporarily halted. We are working to verify claims that this is due to an impending nuptials. More at six."
Like clockwork, Felina's cellphone started dancing.
"See you at dinner then."
His merriment came back. "Always."
She hung her desk phone then looked at her cell. "This is Felina...no, I don't know where she is Ann and I am not her babysitter….Kat's alive, I only help run her security detail...she's not my kit either...honestly, Ann...do you think I would let some gossip rag trash serve as credible news and report that, besides, Callie would tell the world if she was getting hitched herself… Ann, take a number, my uncle is calling me..." Felina jammed the disconnect button.
The cellphone sang again. "Great."
The fated question came again for the hundredth time today.
Commander Feral cleared his throat. "Did you know about Briggs?"
"Why does everyone think I have some secret knowledge here?" Felina threw her paws in the air as she and her uncle walked to downtown MegaKat for lunch. Today, MK Deli was the agreed choice. Steele and Persiano kept their distance, but not their sniping.
"Briggs has made it no secret she likes you and you do her security."
"Yes, Uncle, we are friends and I help her security. Of course I support her bid, but I obviously can't show gross favoritism. It's something she fully gets by the way."
"Know the tom?" Her uncle held the door for her as Steele and Persiano made their respective ways to the counter.
She was not going to drag Clawson into this, especially when she didn't even know if he had a paw in this. "I know Callie's business is her business." Felina folded her arms and stared. "And what's wrong with a married she-kat mayor anyways? Manx's been tied down for decades and no one bats a whisker."
"And what are your feelings about she-kats having kits and careers?"
Felina cursed. Yep, the conversation trap was wide open and she walked right into it. "Uncle, if you want to ask me about Chance, then just do it."
Commander Feral, less Commander-like and seeming more concerned uncle, sighed as he dropped into his chair. "Why him?"
"Why not him?" Felina took her own chair.
"He's an ex-Enforcer."
"And there is no conflict of interest as he is not currently serving as one."
"His background is tarnished."
"...which he has cleaned up and paid his debt to the city along with his partner, another ex-Enforcer. The same partner who has taken over Pumadyne which also supplies over half of our department."
"No one knows his family."
"His father was an Enforcer pilot and patrolkat who retired. His mother moved from MegaKat and he has no siblings." Felina glared. "Is the only objection to him the fact you two have bad blood? I know why he was demoted and kicked out, but you have not told me your side of things."
"Felina, he's some rookie hotshot who cost the department the chance to get Dark Kat. What else is there for me to say about him?"
"Funny, because I have heard the same can be said of you."
"Kitten-" Her uncle called her by her pet name, his paws opened in appeal.
"Don't 'kitten' me, I am not a kit anymore." Felina wagged a digit at him. "I am serious about him and he is about me…" She exhaled. Better now then never. "Serious enough to ask me to marry him." She unhooked the gold ring under her dog tags and pressed it into her uncle's open paw. "If I have this ring, you know my answer."
Before he could protest, their second in commands returned with their respective orders.
When Chance finally saw the encrypted channel light up, he made sure he was settled into a chair in the lair. "Oh, this better be good."
"How many people know we left?"
"All of MegaKat City and anyone with a working TV."
"Crud. It was a surprise vacation."
"Surprise!" He joked.
"Not funny, Furlong."
"Do you know how the media is eating this alive? They think Callie's tanked her entire run just to be a Mrs."
"She's not tanking her bid. She took a week off."
"Well, somebody's not making it sound that way."
"Yeah, he has someone with an interest in running. It had to be him. I was in the Money District two weeks ago on Pumadyne business and he was there while Calle and I were talking about a joint venture with the city government." Jake sounded more confident. "They want Callie out for their own political interest."
A new voice interrupted. "...if you need me to blink twice, Chance, I will."
"Callie, thank Heavens. I was afraid Jake would keep you all to himself."
"Hey!" Jake's protest carried over the line.
Chance heard her giggle.
"I am fine. Promise." Callie sounded like herself.
"So, wanna tell me why most of the city thinks you've vanished?"
"I did-we did not vanish. Really, Jake and I planned a last minute trip and-and...he just asked me."
"Asked me to be Mrs. Clawson."
Despite the political crap storm, Chance did smile. "Always saw it coming, so for sure congrats."
"Thank you Chance." Callie paused. "I do have a small favor. But, you'll have to bring Felina in for this."
"We'll send a private jet to you, come hang with us this weekend."
"Whoooaaa. Don't want me to fly the baby?" Chance hinted to the Turbokat which had earned a rest this week due to lack of emergencies.
"We all deserve to be treated once. And tell her no fatigues. I know she has at bare minimum a dress hanging up somewhere."
"I have an easier mission fighting Dark Kat."
"I'm sure you could persuade her." Callie hinted.
Jake chimed back in. "So, it's a date?"
"Of course it's a date, me miss out on Win City, Clawson?"
"Win City? No, this place is a lot more tropical than that."
"Where are you?"
"Well, it'll mean crossing an ocean, so-"
"Let me get this straight," Felina's voice rolled over Chance as they walked the quiet night to find Italian food. "We're getting flown to a private island to hang out with Callie and Jake?"
"That's the short of the long of it."
"Everyone has questions."
"So let them ask." Chance stopped at Gatto's, the Italian restaurant, and opened the door for her.
Felina pursed her lips. "They didn't say anything else."
"Nope, other than it's a getaway they took on a whim and Callie said you need to bring a dress."
"I do not-" She looked down at her shirt whites and black slacks. Work clothes weren't gonna do for a private island. "Okay, fine, I'll wear one."
He raised an eyebrow at her as they waited for a table. "How soon do we leave?"
"Guess the tankini is back." She murmured to herself as a server called them.
His coffee had not kicked in yet, yet Felina conquered the world already. Suppressing a yawn, he fiddled with the straps on his back pack.
She was busy giving orders to her second in command while he enjoyed being on a runway. The private jet was prompt at 0900.
When the wheels touched down on a beautiful jet plane, they both had to pause.
"So this is what money gets you." She remarked after ending her phone call.
"Living the dream." He spoke in awe. Was it awe? Deep down, he admitted a pinch of jealousy hit him. A few lucky breaks and Jake was already making moves.
Pushing that down, he remembered his buddy was forgiving of all the factors that kept him from living this life initially.
Him being one of them.
The pilot, an older bobtailed tom with an easy smile let the stairs down. "Captain Feral? Mr. Furlong?"
"Yes sir." Chance walked over and shook his paw.
"Mr. Clawson said you two fly?"
"All day, though life has had my wheels down."
He and the pilot entered into a lively conversation about who could fly what.
"Enjoy the fight folks." The pilot got out of chatty mode and focused on his fight checks. "Victor Samuel at your service. Just call me Vic for short."
Chance sunk into the leather chair and grinned. "This is the life."
"I see." Felina remarked pulling out her sketching, always with her secret smiles. She slid into her chair, dropping her fatigues covered bag.
Coffee decided to quit as his eyes got heavier.
The view left her speechless. Felina could wait to see what the island looked like. She had seen enough pictures, but to feel the sea air and sand under her feet.
Noticing Chance knocked out, she snickered as the wheels touched down.
When she was sure the wheels stopped moving, Felina grabbed her bag. Yeah, work clothes weren't cutting it.
Chance felt a paw on his shoulder. "Waaa...huh?"
The pilot smiled easy. "We are here. Welcome to the Islands."
Chance wiped the sleep from his face. "Man, I didn't notice."
"It's the lavender they pump throughout."
"Naw, coffee wasn't strong enough."
"Wheels are down and the ladder is out if ya are ready to depart."
Chance stood up and stretched. He grabbed his backpack and noticed no Felina. "Uh-oh, did the Captain leave me?"
"Bathroom. Said to step down before her."
Both the pilot and he got off talking shop and street food.
A shiny luxury car waited a few feet away.
"Oh, did I mention I am the driver too?"
Chance laughed. "Yeah, I'm sure you need to knock off."
Both toms grinned. "You got me. That car's for me. Nice talking to you."
"Likewise, Vic." They shook paws as the pilot disappeared with the luxury car and a crew of kats came to the jet.
"So if that was for the kat flying us, what are we riding in?" Chance asked the sea air.
As if answering, a black limo pulled up and a different tom stepped out, a male with brown fur.
The driver brushed invisible lint off his suit. "Here for Feral and Furlong."
"Furlong," he pointed to himself. "But, the lady is still on the plane."
The driver looked over at the jet. "You mean the lady in the green dress?"
"Green dress-" Chance turned and froze.
A lady in an olive green summer dress began to descend the stairs. Silver heels complimented the dress as silver bracelets adorn her wrists as her trademark aviator shades donned her eyes.
Both toms shook themselves and raced to help her.
The driver cleared his throat. "Welcome to the Islands, madam."
Chance suddenly muscled his way to the end of the steps, hoping he didn't sound as possessive as he felt. "I got it from here."
The driver stepped back and Chance held an arm out.
"Madam, I must be dreaming."
"No, I assure you I am real." Felina took his arm and walked with him to the limo.
He could not stop his gaze. The dress highlighted her arms down to where it stopped at her knee. She had pulled her hair back to show off her neckline, the only contrast was the sliver of her dog tags. And was that the engagement ring on her finger?
"So, not reporting for duty here? I don't see the work clothes."
"I figured while on an island-" She gestured toward the island's picturesque scenery.
"It works. It's...I mean you look..." Stunning. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Who in God's name had his tongue?
A short drive later and they found themselves at a small, but lovely resort only a few miles from a white sandy beach. In a white sundress, Callie stood in the front. Allowing the driver to let her out, Felina walked over to the other she-kat. "Well, I guess we get to keep this lunch date, Madam Mayor."
"Felina! You're here!" Callie ran out and squeezed her into a bear hug.
Good night, didn't Callie have another love language? "Umm...hi to you also, Callie."
"Oohh, the green is so you." The runaway mayor appraised her. "Not too short, leaves some mystery. I love that I picked the right dress."
"Umm, thanks?" She felt her face get heated.
I mean, Chance couldn't stop checking her out and now Callie couldn't stop gushing. And this is why I don't do dresses.
"Captain Feral, you made it." Jake Clawson appeared as if out of nowhere in a collared shirt and casual slacks. "You clean up nicely."
"Can't let Callie steal all the hearts." She gave Clawson a look. "I'm not the only cleaning up, huh? You got a little KQ look going there."
"Umm, well-" Jake's face turned red as he pulled at the collar of his shirt.
Chance slid up next to her side. "What's this about hearts?" His arm snaked around her waistline.
Felina gave him a look. "You know I was teasing."
"You sure?" He met her stare. Sure enough, a few toms within range averted their open appraisals of her. I am teasing, right?
"Just don't pee on my leg marking territory, mmkay?"
"Letting them know they can look with their eyes, not their paws."
"Oh?" She feigned innocence.
"I do plan on placing my paws to good use later." He lowered his voice as he leaned down closer to her ear.
"Good." She touched his nose. "We need our luggage."
His whole expression fell.
"Callie, let's let the fellas handle the heavy lifting." She gently escaped his gasp and waved bye to them. "Can you show us to our rooms?"
Callie shook her head. "That was bad of you."
"He knows I hate that."
"He was jealous."
"He was being a tom."
"You are pretty much a knockout." Callie shrugged. "He can't help it."
"It's a dress. And when did you get behind that foolishness?"
"I'm not. But you gotta admit, this is one of the few times he's seen those legs."
"Callie!" Felina wasn't sure whether to laugh or be outraged.
"Felina." Her friend pointed at her. "You are beautiful and all that gets shoved in a uniform all day. Besides, let him realize he better move quickly because you have prospects."
"Speaking about topics not about me, can you please explain why everyone has blown my phone up all week."
"I am so sorry." Callie bit her lip. "One night we were talking after I found out, the next…" A blush visible to space came across her face. "It got harder to let him just go home every night."
"Tell me which part of the story to cover my ears."
"When the payment from Pumadyne came in, he did a few things-paid the Enforcer debt off, got his assets in order then this." Callie stopped walking long enough to show off a sizable diamond ring.
"Whoa. Need a crane for that?"
"It's only three carats."
"We flew out that night to Win City and got the paperwork signed, but it felt so-so rushed so he asked what I would want and I wanted family here."
"Family? Callie your parents-"
"I know." Callie's voice was quiet. "I am not as close to my dad's side and mom's side is nonexistent. You and Chance make sense."
"So you are Callie Clawson now?"
"Briggs-Clawson legally, but I really want someone to share this with us. I know it's selfish, but we asked for a minister here and everything."
"Well, Mrs. Briggs-Clawson, can't let this free trip go to waste."
Callie couldn't shake her giddiness.
Jake rescues him by having a bellhop grab their stuff. "You know she hates that."
"Yeah...well…" Chance gave the bellhop a crushing look. The driver and the bellhop had gotten too much eye full of his 'Lina.
"Felina will forgive you." Jake nodded toward the entrance. "Let's find the ladies."
"Sure and she'll forgive me once I climb a mountain and swim the sea."
"There is a sea next door." Jake pointed to the picture windows showcasing the beach.
"Hah, hah." Chance rolled his eyes. "You know her, she'll take me back to Basic training."
"Good knowing you then buddy." Jake teasing clasped his shoulders.
"Just show me where I'm sleeping."
"I saw the ring." Jake indicated to his paw.
"Yeah, she usually keeps it on a chain near her dog tags." Chance paused then remembered. Felina was wearing his engagement ring. Crud. He was a fool. Her fool. "I figured too much spring water or something made her hit the bathroom, not changing into an outfit that'll make an old kat wish he was a kit."
"Maybe she wanted you to see her in it."
"Maybe this is some military style torture."
Jake grinned. "Buddy, you don't get it."
"She only gives you the time of day. Stop being paranoid."
"You saw how they were checking her out."
"I only saw a she-kat minding her business and you being a kit. Come on, Chance, Felina's loyalty to you is priceless."
"Yeah, yeah it is." Chance hung his head. "Crud. Now I need to grovel, Rich Boy."
"How about you just enjoy the view...and the beach looks alright too."
"The air has done something to you huh?"
Felina did take in her outfit choice for the evening. The black dress she did bring was a cool maxi dress purchased on a dare. Her female recruits kept bugging her to wear something sexy in her civvies and a game of paintball ensued. She was pretty sure the tom running the place turned her gun off on purpose, thus making her lose.
The day of suicides for the recruits made up for it.
With a turn in the mirror, she grinned at herself in the mirror. "I am pretty cute." Felina blew a kiss to the mirror. "And these heels actually don't hurt as bad."
A knock on the door ended the faux modeling session. "Yes?"
She went to the door and checked the peephole. Felina opened the door. Some room service. "Done being an ass?"
"Very much." Chance stood there with his ears back and head bowed. "Our generous benefactor suggested we walk down to the bench and have a moment before we gather for the nuptials."
He offered his arm. "Only if you want to take it."
Pushing back a loose hair, Felina decided to humor him.
"It's getting hard to stay mad with this ambiance." She shut the door and slipped the key into a tiny handbag.
"Olive green clouded my senses."
"Along with purple?" She teased, her little way of saying she forgave him.
"Purple just turns me on." He shrugged.
Now she was laughing. "I hate you."
"I love you."
Felina filed that admission away for later. "Let's join the happy couple."
Chance had to admit, Callie glowed so much, she could have been a moon over the beach. Jake stood by a somber Maine Coon minister, his blue suit fitting the metaphor of moon and sky.
"...and now you may kiss the bride."
Jake needed no further instructions. He dipped Callie by the waist and it was official (again.)
Hoots and hollering from him and Felina went up in the air until they released each other.
"Congrats." Felina hugged both of them without prompting, a first for her.
"Likewise." Chance gave Callie a hug. "And you do look beautiful."
"Aww, you softie." Callie wore a simple white dress. "Your dress shirt is nice."
"I would hug you, but she's prettier. " Jake joked, holding out a fisted paw.
Chance tapped his paw to it. "Any excuse. Yeah, yeah." Then, Chance wrapped Jake in a quick hug. "Seriously, you two make so much sense. "
Jake appeared taken aback. "Thanks."
The minister cleared his throat. "Well, Mr. and Mrs. Clawson, I have some karaoke to lead so…"
"Thank you, Minister Softpaw."
The older tom smiled then stopped by Felina. "When you're ready-" He pointed to the Bible in his hand."
"Thank you Godfather, but you know."
"Point taken. Good night, Kitten."
The minister gave each lady a peck on the cheek.
"Brothers, I would do the same, but-"
"We get it. Thanks sir." Jake caught the joke.
Once the good nights were said, Chance watched the newlyweds melt into the night.
"Walking back?" Felina watched him.
She took his arm and they made their way back to their opposite rooms.
"Minister Softpaw. My mom is adopted, she was a stray."
Neither seemed to feel rushed to fill the silence. Once back on their floor, they stood next to each other and studied the night. The stars blanketed the black sky as waves crashed.
"Yeah?" He looked down at her, noticing she didn't chop his arm off for being around his waist.
"You mentioned something about putting your paws to good use later?"
He ducked his head. She actually remembered that. "Yeah, that was poor taste-"
"That's okay" Felina turned and ran her paw in his hair. "This is later."
Blinking, Chance had to make sure he wasn't missing a hint. "Ummm."
"You can kiss me."
Chance needed no further orders after that.
Felina gave him a content smile. "You seem to get better at this."
"I happen to like the kat receiving on the other end."
"We do have to fly back Monday." She sighed.
"Can't put everything off. Plus, you have a mission. You gotta find out what Dark Kat was doing-"
"I wish Mom was…"
Chance brushed her cheek with a paw. "She will. Just like Jake is perfect for Pumadyne and Callie will kill it as the mayor."
She rewarded him with a deeper kiss.
Moments later he pulled back. "Know that agreement we had when I gave you the ring?"
"This dress makes it much harder to keep." He groaned, burying his face in her shoulder.
Felina smirked. "Don't freak out about that. Besides, you've been a good boy."
"I don't want to be good around you." Chance bit his lip and appraised her. "Besides, either we get some sleep or the morning will find us."
Her face warmed. "I must admit, it is getting harder to send you back to your room."
He pulled away gently. "Good night, Captain."
"Good night, Snugglebear." She smiled sweetly then gave his butt a squeeze.
"Whoa, what was that?" He shot up to his full height.
"Didn't have to pee on your leg, now did I?" She folded her arms.
"Thinking we need to set a date."
She kissed his nose. "I'm thinking so too."
"Guess I'm still pretty cute." Felina grinned to the wall length mirror at the church, taking in the sweetheart neckline of her trumpet style wedding dress. The silver bracelets complimented her single engagement ring and the silver of her persistent dog tags (no way was she taking her parents' names off even if Mom "came back from the dead"). The bride had been ushered to a meeting room in the back with better security than most presidents.
Since all the Enforcers could not take part, most of her team got the chance to witness this "miracle" and the upper brass like her uncle were guests, with the exception of the Commander who was a part of the wedding party. Most Enforcers respected her and didn't mind forsaking a small part of their day so she could have hers. Except Steele. He "humbly" stood in for her uncle as acting Commander for the others working the Megakat City streets.
"I guess threatening the makeup artist worked?" Callie stood in a corner, tying a white and blue ribbon around the fresh bouquet of orange roses. The guys had single orange roses in their suit pockets as a compliment.
"Hey, she followed my lead, didn't she?" Felina shrugged. "Minimum makeup."
"You don't look like a clown, captain." Callie wagged a well manicured nail at her, "But, to tell her you would hogtie her?"
"Exactly. They're called interpersonal skills."
"Sure you don't want your hair up?"
"Naw. Besides, I wish I had some earrings to set the whole thing off. Nothing caught my eye." She bumped the ends of her hair, curled ever so slightly to show her ears off.
"How are you girly and not girly all at the same time?" Callie shook her head while gently laying the bouquet on the table next to Felina.
"It's a talent, soon-to-be mayor."
Callie rolled her eyes.
"Come on, give me an attagirl on not putting you in a bridesmaid's dress you don't wanna be buried in."
Callie looked at the silver tea-length dress, a gorgeous orange hue tourmaline necklace as the chef's kiss on her appearance. "Yes, I will give you that. Especially, since you helped me find the right shoes."
A knock on the door interrupted them. "I got it."
Callie walked to the door in full-guard duty mood. "Jake, if you're trying to get intel for Chance, I'm going to bop you-oh, excuse me? Can I help you?"
An unfamiliar female voice cut through. "I'm sorry, dear. I was hoping to get a quick minute with the bride. I'm Aida Neal, the former Aida Furlong, Chance's mother."
Felina tried to turn and walk to the door, only to remember the dress was as heavy as a grenade launcher. "Callie, quick! Usher her in before Gora tries to sneak a peek."
Callie waved the older she-kat in the room then properly locked the door. "Sorry, security is tight. Plus, the media is not doing us many favors. Must be a slow news day-not that we mind that."
"I understand." Aida Neal gave both of them a gentle smile. "Almost had to bring a kitten bathtub picture of Chance before they let me get this far."
Both ladies laughed.
"Is there anything I can do for you, Mrs.-"
"Aida works. I hardly go by Furlong." She reached in her large black purse. "I wasn't sure if you had anything old as the tradition states, but I did want to share something with you."
Felina checked off the mental list: new dress, blue in the ribbon and borrowed heels from Callie.
Nothing old yet… "No, I think I might have missed it."
Aida produced a velvet jewelry box and walked closer to Felina then stopped a few inches away. "My grandmother gave me these when I married Chance's father. She always wanted me to have something of my own since I came from a big litter."
Felina took the box and opened. Shiny silver earrings with diamond teardrops. Both she and Callie couldn't hide their gaps. "Aida, these are...perfect. Thank you so much."
Aida exhaled as if the entire world rested on whether Felina would accept. "Then, they are yours. I wouldn't feel right not giving the bride, especially one as lovely as you, a gift."
Callie's glee took over. "You have got to let me put those in your ears."
"Gladly." The bride waved her overly joyed maid of honor toward her to continue playing dress up.
"Well, I should go-" Aida moved toward the door.
"Wait," Felina held up a paw, trying to be as still as a statute while Callie worked. "You're leaving?"
"This is your day and Chance and I have only started talking."
"Aida, please stay for me." Felina knew a few of the reasons why mother and son were distant and hoped this small gesture would lead to more ground between them. "At least for the wedding. And if you and Chance feel the same by the end of the ceremony, I'll have a driver take you home."
"I...I would like that. I just don't want him to feel hurt."
"I think...I can persuade him to let you stay this long."
Callie cleared her throat after fastening the other earring. "Please, his mother is in the same room with us."
"I won't go into detail." Felina winked back.
"I should go." Aida gave them a warm smile. "Well, I will find a seat. And thank you, dear."
Callie walked over to Aida. "Let me find you a seat in the middle near the doors. It'll make for a quick escape and I will tell Chance so no one gets a shock."
Once the door closed behind her, Felina exhaled. Finally alone. No makeup artist or hairdresser pulling at her, no Callie to correct her posture (what was she, a kit?). Uncle had been promptly kicked up and forced to wait by the aisle. ("I have a chopper on the ready if you want to get out of this.") No nosy reporters ("Really, today, Gora?") or Enforcers or even Jake. ("Tell him he'll see it when I walk in it.")
She reached for the bouquet and smiled at the flowers. Delivered fresh this morning just for her from him. The little note tucked into her ever growing keepsake box.
Still got you.
"And I still got you." She wore another secret smile as the door opened and Callie walked back into the room.
Why was this the longest fifteen minutes of his nine lives...
Jake elbowed him. "Calm down, Chance, the suit doesn't itch that much."
"You didn't wear a suit like this, Sureshot." Was it that hot?
"Spare me, princess. And don't faint."
"I won't faint."
"Says the kat who fainted before."
Chance rolled his eyes and scanned the crowd again to distract himself. A good mix of mutual friends, Enforcers, some of the toms from his old college days, the dozen somber military folks and his mother. When their eyes met, he gave her a soft smile. They had talked more over the last few months and he was slowly allowing her back in. His father, however...Security was given a strict tackle on site order. His mother, Aida, appeared to relax and placed her purse in her lap protectively. Melinda Feral was in the front beaming, given the strict order from them both to rest and enjoy the wedding as mother of the bride.
Jake glanced at his watch once more. The signal from the communicator connected to it.
Course, the maid of honor had the communicator and there should not be an emergency considering half of the city was shut down for one event. Unless the baddies saw it as a perfect opportunity.. Chance made himself pray yet again. Please, please no crazy stuff. Please let it be boring, please let it be boring…
Minister Softpaw cleared his throat and nodded his head toward the double doors at the end of the church.
Jake's ears went flat. "Gotta go, they need me." He disappeared out of a side door stealthy.
With a few loud coughs and a bit of awkward silence, someone gave the minister the signal and he looked at the organist. Soft music started playing throughout the room and all conversations stopped as the soldiers snapped into attention.
The doors opened and a bridesmaid on the arm of another tom came in. Officers Cornish and Persiano walked down the aisle, Cornish in a black suit with the taller Persiano in a silver dress similar to Callie's.
Next, Jake and Callie came together as best man and maid of honor and took their respective places.
A few moments later, two kits came in, a flower girl and a none-too-pleased ring bearer.
Jake snickered in a low tone. "Kit has great aim, she's pelting the guests."
"Think we can recruit her as a gunner?" Chance whispered back.
They shared a smile as cute kitten antics ensued: the flower girl pelted one particular grumpy-looking tom in the face as the ring bearer folded his arms and refused to give the ring to Jake. With a little coaxing (candy), both kits went with their haired momma into the audience.
The wedding march started playing throughout the room and all conversations stopped as the soldiers snapped into attention. Every kat stood, even Melinda with some assistance from a nearby Enforcer.
Commander Feral in all his regalla appeared at the end of the church with the one she-kat he wanted to see all day.
Worth the wait.
"Wow." He couldn't even escape it. He was smitten.
"Told ya." Callie whispered as if answering his thoughts.
"Pick your jaw up there, Furlong." Jake joked under his breath low enough for the groom to hear.
Chance just watched transfixed as Felina came down the aisle, as if she knew that dress would kill the room. Try as they might, he laughed inwardly at how everyone could not hide their reactions. Kats alive, she wasn't brown bag worthy! Felina was a rose, just like the ones in the bouquet.
A rose that packed a mean shot, but definitely a rose.
Now stop dreaming of getting her out of it.
Back to reality, he realized she was only a few inches away from him. Chance held out a paw to her to help her on the altar.
The Commander, more somber than sourpuss, gave her a kiss on the cheek then placed her paw in his.
Chance exchanged a look with the Commander, something akin to an unspoken agreement mixed with a veiled threat.
Chance stiffened an involuntary shudder by rolling his shoulders back. He wasn't some hot in the pants Prom date, he was about to pledge sharing his life with this female.
She mouthed a thank you to her uncle before turning to face him. The groom. The only kat that mattered to her it seemed In this moment as she took his other paw and squeezed them.
"Got you, 'Lina." He whispered.
"Still got you too, Snugglebear." She whispered, the light shining in her brown eyes.
Minister Softpaw's deep bass voice rose above their musings. "...we are gathered here today in the sight of God…"
Friends with money gave wonderful gifts.
Buddy, I can't take this.
Sure you can, Hot Shot. Besides, you aren't sleeping in the exact same room.
The Clawsons "gifted" their newly married friends a vacation. The island where they eloped had a smaller sister island next to it.
Only a private staff and the new couple would be there in the mansion.
Evening came to dust the earth, the outside shore looked like a picture hanging on the wall.
"Feeling better?" Her voice silenced the internal dialogue.
Guess I woke her up. "You can't sleep?"
"I woke up briefly after-"
Oh yes. That.
He sat up. "Why are you trying to make me feel better?" He turned to face her in the dark, pulling her closer to him. "I'm not having that cruddy of a day."
"The surfing accident-"
Chance, being a fool, tried to impress Felina with his "advanced" skill set...only to nearly twist his ankle. The island doctor told him to take three days off it.
Three days stuck in the master suite.
"Seemed like a good idea at the time."
She reached out and scratched under his chin. "You goof."
He purred happily in response, then turned back to serious. "How are you really feeling?"
"I guess I feel alright." Her secret smile appeared.
Not that it was all bad being able to share that time alone with the new Mrs. Furlong.
He snorted with laughter. "I hope that's not a commentary on me."
The smile she gave him did something to him. "If you have to ask-"
Leaning over, he planted a kiss on her lips. "Guess I'll stop asking."
Felina closed her eyes and pulled him back down with her.