Hello everyone! It's new chapter time!
As Callie and Feral's pool battle continues, Ann and Lyssa decide they need a more direct way to report on the Gala season.
Author's notes: Long time no see! Life's been busy, and I finally got struck with inspiration, so I'm going to ride it out.
This chapter shifts away from Callie and Feral temporarily and sets up a subplot. It also introduces a character I've never worked with before. I look forward to stretching my writing wings with them.
Callie and Feral will be back in the next chapter. In fact, it's already written and reviewed. I wonder who's winning?
Special thanks to my beta ulyferal for spotting issues and tightening up the story. I'm also thinking of changing the story name. That'll probably happen in the next chapters.
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The Blind Date:
The Wolf and the Fox
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"So…Tell me again why we're scoping out a bar?" Ann sighed tiredly, sipping on some water. It had been a long day.
Lyssa smiled to herself as she reached for her glass of wine. They were sitting in Caruso's, a small intimate restaurant known for its drink menu, in clear view of its bar.
Seeing Callie earlier in the evening caused inspiration to strike, sending her to dig deep into the data files she kept on local important katizens. After finding what she wanted, she'd twisted Ann's arm to get her to join her at the restaurant.
"Well, after seeing Callie in her outfit tonight and the sudden emergence of this 'friend' of hers, I thought this year's gala season might be bigger than we first thought," Lyssa replied, pausing to sip some wine. "And if we want the real scoop on what's happening with the deputy mayor, we need to get an invite to these events."
Ann, still dressed as if she was doing the late night edition of Kat's Eye News, smoothed a wrinkle out of her suit. "I agree we need to find out more especially seeing who she was with. But, we do have access with our press passes except for some events where we have access for the first hour or so before being made to leave and others where a 'no press' ban is enforced. So how do you intend to get us freer access?"
"Easy. We latch onto someone who has an invite then we can't be denied entrance. That person will get us in and, better yet, allow us to stay as long as we need or want to."
"Ah...I see." Ann found her interest piqued. "And who do you have in mind that has enough pull to get us in?"
Knowing she had her friend hooked, Lyssa leaned forward, eyes bright with excitement. "I figured with all the more important toms being spoken for and others who wouldn't give us the time of day, we needed someone with just enough importance in society to get us in to all the events during the gala. This will allow us to spy on the deputy mayor who's required to appear at every event."
"And such a tom is coming here?" Ann sounded dubious as she looked around.
"Yep. From my sources, this particular tom likes to slam a few at the bar over there after his shift before heading home." Lyssa smiled again, more broadly when she spotted the tom she was looking for entering the restaurant. She tipped her glass in his direction. "And here he comes now."
Ann, following Lyssa's line of sight, widened her eyes in stunned surprise and no little disgust. "Him?"
"Believe it or not, his family is fairly important here in Megakat City. And I happen to know his current situation leaves him open to being persuaded."
Ann grimaced, not looking convinced. "He'll never talk to us and especially not me."
"Sure he will…once he gets a few drinks in him," Lyssa assured her, smirking, finishing off her wine. "And after that, we stroke his ego. It'll be easy."
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Lieutenant Commander Daniel Steele, sitting in a lonely spot at the bar, polished off his drink of choice, bourbon on the rocks. Anything to take the edge off his growing melancholy.
After failed attempts to usurp Feral, Steele found himself stripped of the power of his rank. Now a Lieutenant Commander in name only, he was relegated to being Feral's XO, doing paperwork and tasks the Commander found too mundane and repetitive for himself to do on a daily basis. It was mind numbing and tedious work but he guessed he should be grateful his mother, though disappointed with him, arranged the deal in lieu of being kicked off the force.
*Steele motioned to the bartender for another drink. He hated to admit it, but his new lot in life was very lonely and not a little demeaning. He wasn't popular at Enforcer HQ due to his mother using her far reaching influence to place him in the position instead of him earning it, so, of course, no one trusted him. And worse? None would speak a word to him unless it was required by duty or when they were dropping off or picking up reports. He was a pariah, which further shamed his family. His mother expected the best so his fall from grace made weekly family dinners very stressful.
A new drink was placed in front of him. He never looked up. Sipping his new drink more slowly this time, he mused over his present lot in life. His current situation would be tolerable if his family hadn't cut his access to the family bank accounts and credit cards, relegating him to receiving an allowance!
How humiliating! I feel like a teen again. And that wasn't fun the first time around. A grimace pulled at his lips as he fell deeper into a woe-is-me pity party of one. I am a failure in Mother's eyes but at least she did promise my money would be restored if I behaved and proved myself to her. So how am I supposed to do that?
An accented voice floated into his ear, startling him. "Care to do an interview for the Megakat Times?"
Forced out of his gloomy thoughts, Steele looked up and around to view the last she-kats he wanted to see. Sighing to himself, he nodded at them politely. "Ms. Gora. Ms. Monet. Here to put me out of my misery?"
"Now why would we want to do that?" Lyssa asked as both she and Ann sat on bar stools to either side of him.
Steele snorted derisively. "A photo of the Lieutenant Commander in name only drinking himself to death in the Megakat Times will embarrass the Enforcers and my family. It would be the coup de grace of my career."
"But how are you a Lieutenant Commander in name only?" Ann coaxed, making her tone sound understanding and warm, even if she didn't feel it.
Steele smiled ruefully. Leave it to Gora to sniff out a potential story. "Off the record ... I have no powers. If the Commander was incapacitated or went missing, one of the Majors would take over for him."
"Really?" Ann asked, widening her eyes ingenuously.
"Mmm, hmm. But enough about me..." Steele finished off his drink in one gulp then peered at the two she-kats a bit drunkenly. "...What can I do for such two lovely members of the press?"
Lyssa smiled inside at the perfect opening. Leaning a little closer she purred, "We were wondering if you still get invited to gala events."
"I am a Steel! Of course I get invited ... well to most of them anyway. Why?"
Lyssa's grin was sly. "Need a date?"
"Is this a proposition? Because I do still have arrest powers."
Ann sensed disaster looming and interceded quickly. "What Ms. Monet and I would like to do is get more of an in depth coverage on the gala season. Tagging along with an invited guest would allow greater access than using our press passes. We need a more personal insight of the event than what attending in our more professional capacity would gain us."
"I see." Steele said slowly, crossing his arms. "And is there, by chance, a particular 'kat' you want to target?"
Ann gave Steele a stunning smile. "Of course not."
"Uh, huh. Sure."
The whole proposition sounded very suspicious to Steele. Of course, the two intrepid reporters had to have a target, especially if the gossip columnist Monet was involved. He was about to reject the idea outright but then remembered his mother. After his father's death, she had become a bit of a recluse so going to these events had become more of a strain rather than enjoyment for her. She'd been pressing him to take over her duties for these things for some time but he'd resisted not liking to hobnob with the social elite much. However, to meet the requirements of keeping a social presence and their name still known, his mother had been giving him money to give to various charities, quietly, and making only rare appearances, herself, in public. However, the Steele name did need to be seen more and the only one left to do that was himself. The family name was everything to her, though not so much to him.
However, since he was looking for ways to get back in her good graces, especially when it came to the Steele family bank accounts, perhaps the reporters proposal wasn't so crazy after all. And, anyway, no one else wanted to be with him so if ever he was to have a date for the season, he was going to need someone with a bit of respectability and being beautiful didn't hurt either.
Ann would do nicely.
"All right." Steele announced, a smirk pulling at his lips. "I'll be in your 'in'."
Lyssa looked thrilled. "You will?"
"Sure. But not you, Ms. Monet. You've burned a lot of Kats and I don't want my family's future invitations revoked. But you, Ms. Gora ...," his look became wolfish as he turned to Ann, "... you'll do just fine."
Ann eyed him warily. What had she gotten herself into? "Me?"
"Of course. You're an award winning reporter. Respectable and beyond reproach." Steele poured on the flattery. "You on my arm gets you past the sniff test with my family and Commander Feral. If anyone asks why we're together, all I have to say is that my mother arranged it. Feral might not fully believe me but it gives us some cover."
Narrowing her eyes, Ann asked, her tone suspicious, "And what do you get out of this?"
"Simply put ... redemption." Steele smiled, innocently. "So what do you say Ms. Gora? Care to be my date?"
Ann studied him for a long moment before glancing at Lyssa. Her friend gave her an encouraging wink though there was some unhappiness peeking out at not being chosen. Feeling like she was stepping into a trap, Ann turned back to Steele, a sigh escaping her. "Fine. I'll do it."
"Good. Because the first gala event of the year is a Prohibition Era party. And you must be in costume." Steele smirked. "Hope you look good in a flapper dress."
Standing up, Steele reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. Extracting a few bills, he dropped them onto the bar near his glass before turning to face Ann again. "I'll be in touch. Good night ... Annie."
Walking away from the pair, Steel felt his mood lighten for the first time in months. Exiting the restaurant, he allowed a broad smile to fill his face. Perhaps he could redeem himself after all.