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Two Weddings (and One Near Funeral)

Southern Arcana - 3.5

by

Moira Rogers

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 dress is straightened out. I love being around people who actually find me intimidating.”

“They found Veronica’s dress?”

“No, but the replacement will be here tomorrow.”  Sera thrust out the paperwork, and Mackenzie snatched it just in time to keep it from hitting the floor as Sera turned back to Carmen.  “Here, you’ve got it backwards.”

“Bless you.”  Carmen held up her arms as Sera wrapped the corset around her midsection.  “I have no idea what I’m doing, and Geraldine will be back in here any minute.  I’d rather she not see me naked and start helpfully doling out nutritional tips.”

Protective irritation stirred in Mackenzie before she could choke it down.  “Alec said I could take his mother out back and beat her, if I thought it was necessary.”  It was half the reason he’d begged her to accompany Carmen to begin with.  Sera was too submissive to stand toe-to-toe with an alpha bitch like Geraldine.  Mackenzie didn’t have any such problems.  “I’ll do it, too.  Don’t think I won’t.”

“I know you will, and I love you for it.  But I’d rather just get through today and get the hell away from her.”

Well that wasn’t any fun.  “Carmen?  I kinda want to hit her.”

Sera made an amused noise as she fastened the last catch on Carmen’s bodice.  “Of course you do.  You’re both alphas with opposing goals. It’s ten days to the wedding, Mac. Rein it in and let me work my magic on her.”

“Ten days.”  Carmen took a deep breath and tilted her head as she studied her reflection in the mirror.  “I can put up with anything for ten more days.”

Committing to spend the rest of your life with someone shouldn’t be this damn miserable.  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.  An afterthought, really, since they’d known they were headed toward forever years ago.  But Mackenzie had been dragging her feet, intimidated by the massive headache of planning a wedding—much less one that wouldn’t disappoint Jackson’s wealthy, well-bred mother.

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, she’d live in sin for the rest of her life.

T-9 Days

Watching Alec pace the office was starting to make Jackson seasick.

He rubbed his forehead and squinted up at the scowling man.  “Is everything all right?  You can take the day off, you know.  I’ve got it covered.”

Alec shot him a vicious look.  “The second I walk out that door, I’ll get dragged into wedding shit.”

From the way Mackenzie had talked about the events of the previous day, it might not be such a bad idea.  “Doesn’t Carmen want you to help?”

This time, Alec winced.  “Right now, she probably wants me to die.”

“Bullshit, man.”  Jackson propped his elbows on his desk.  “Okay, maybe she wants your family to die, but not you.  You, she’ll keep.”

“Maybe.”  Alec shoved a hand through his hair, which desperately needed to be trimmed.  The strands stuck up haphazardly as he blew out a breath and dropped into his chair.  “I tried running interference, but it makes things worse.  My mother needs to know Carmen can stand up to her, or I really will have to kill the damn woman.”

“This is really bugging you, isn’t it?”  Jackson snorted.  “Look, man, every big wedding is like this.  It’s just months of crap you have to wade through before you get to the honeymoon.”

Alec groaned.  “Yeah.  Months of stupid political maneuvering.  None of this is about us.  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.”

“Like skip out on it altogether and elope?”  Lord knew he’d be tempted.

“I suggested it.  Twice.”

And if he thought his bride-to-be would take him up on it, he hadn’t been paying attention.  “That lady of yours could kick both our asses without breaking a sweat.  She’s tough, Alec, and she’s not going to punk out on a responsibility.”

For the first time, Alec’s lips twitched up in a smile.  “Yeah.  I know.  It’s just harder to deal with when it’s my responsibility and she’s miserable because of it.”

“There is no yours and hers, not anymore,” Jackson reminded him.

Alec snarled.  “I’m tired enough of taking this superior shit from Nicole.  You don’t get to deliver sage married wisdom until you manage to get yourself hitched, buddy.”

Jackson suppressed a smile.  “You want to fight it out?  I’ll go right now, bring it.”

The wolf’s fingers clenched, like he really would take a swing, then relaxed as he let out a hoarse chuckle.  “Nice of you to offer, but if you let me put so much as a scratch on you, your woman’s going to chew me up and spit me out.  She’s not a fan of my entire family right now.”

Mackenzie pitied him more than anything else, but telling him so would probably only piss him off more.  “Carmen would crawl over broken glass for you, just like you would for her.  This is a poofy dress and a couple of stuffy parties.”

“Yeah, yeah.  I know.”  Alec slumped lower in his chair.  “I might take broken glass over that godawful

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