“I’m sick of snow! Sick of ice and cold,” Tory moaned, pulling her sweater tighter around her. “The baby has a cold. Sally’s ill and ready to move. I need a vacation.”
Anthony slipped his arm around Tory’s waist, trying to snuggle her closer. “Love, you know I think all of us are ready for a vacation. Funds are too low for us to get away to anywhere warm enough to thaw us out much.” He kissed her cheek and wrapped both arms around her.
Several inches of snow and ice kept patrons away and business was ebbing as another storm worked its way over the mountains. Leisure was great, but forced isolation---well even Josh was grumpy. An unusual thing for him given his love of quiet and solitude. Anthony didn’t know who was crankier, Josh dealing with a colicky infant or Tory putting up with Josh and a sick infant.
Sally’s patience was gone. Anyone who’d come in close contact to her had gotten told off nicely, but with words that left nothing to the imagination. He’d sent her home with strict orders to not come back until the clinic two doors down cleared her for work. Good thing her in town condo occupied the same building. The look on Doc Jeffers face as he walked out of the office after examining Sally told Anthony more than if he’d asked outright Doc’s prognosis.
“We’ve got to do something. Even the hot tub has ice sickles hanging over it. Warmth and heat inside are great. We could use some outside too.” Tory turned in Anthony’s arms. She rubbed her cheek against his chest.
Josh’s sniffles and sneeze echoed up the small hallway separating their living quarters from the office. “I-I-I. . .....” A muffled sneeze sounded outside the door. “I wish shifters were impervious to human illness.”
Anthony smiled. “Been reading the dictionary again?” He knew Josh’s love of learning kept him reading voraciously. With sporadic mail delivery until the newest storm passed, Josh’s reading material was limited. Ten to fifteen magazines arrived weekly. Most of the bar patrons used the address as their mail drop during their treks into the mountains and woods during their animal phases. No one cared how many read their magazines as long as they remained in decent condition for them to use when they returned. Tory and Sally’s book subscriptions came in mid-month. Josh had read two romance novels before starting on the textbooks for Sally’s online college courses.
“No. Doc Jeffers lent me two of his research journals for something different to read. I got through the first article and said no more. Mike Turner came in yesterday with his eBook reader. I found a new stash of books thanks to him. Free reading material is fabulous.” Josh wiped his eyes.
“Speaking of free. . .I’m back,” a husky male voice growled. Mike lumbered up to the bar and waved.
“Hey man good to see you.” Anthony released Tory and walked over to Mike. “I promise your ereader is in working order. Josh didn’t wear it out.”
Mike grinned. “Not a problem. I’ve got another back at my place. I thought I’d never get back over the mountains. Storms left one hell of a mess.”
“Yes, and warmth is but a fleeting thought.” Tory chaffed her hands together.
“Well, I got an idea if your game,” Mike offered. He motioned them closer.
Josh and Tory huddled near Anthony. “What you got going through your head,” Josh asked, putting a finger under his nose hoping the human myth about this stopping sneezes worked.
“My Scottish cousins are in town. All part of the Saint George clan.” Mike held his breath waiting for the connection to happen. Seeing the blank looks on Tory, Josh, and Anthony’s faces, Mike went on. “There be dragons in that convoy approaching.”
Loud air horn honks filled the air. Beams of bright lights lit up the front windows of the bar as bright as daylight. Anthony rushed to the door holding it open as Tory and Josh crowded near him looking at the big rigs pulling up into the bar’s parking lot.
Three long haired medium sized men climbed down from the first three trucks. The fourth and fifth swung their doors open and two tall dark haired women descended, tossing their braids over their shoulders. The sixth and final truck rumbled to a stop. A window rolled down and a voice called out. “Colder than death and far from hell you take us, Michael Turner. I hope this pub has a pint worth drinking!”
A small woman scrambled out of the cab followed by a huge dog. The three men and two women waited until the woman and dog got in front of them and they fell in behind her. Her strut indicated she took no flack and the canine---he resembled a hell hound with his golden eyes and red skin.
“Aunt Addie, would I bring you somewhere that didn’t serve a hale pint of ale and a decent plate of food?” Mike grabbed the pint-sized woman up in a bear hug. As he set her down, he faced Josh, Tory, and Anthony. “Meet my Aunt and my cousins.”
Introductions continued until everyone had shook hands and made their way back inside. Red, Aldine’s mastiff, lay within feet of the door as though he kept guard.
“Now explain, cousin, what is going on,” the woman closest to Mike demanded. Anthony remembered her name being Matilda.
Mike nodded pulling his chair closer. “I’ve got a way to introduce you to the community and also help my friends out. A hot tub party with a barbecue theme.”
Mike almost burst out laughing at the looks passing between Josh and Anthony. Tory had excused herself to look after the baby. Anthony opened his mouth. Mike shook his head and put a finger to his lips.
“Hear me out,” he started, pointing to his other female cousin, Fran. “Matty and Fran are twin flames. And together they can melt the snow off the patio along with defrosting the hot tub.”
Matty and Fran smiled in between bites of food and quaffs of beer.
“Nicholas and Ethan can light the grill or help start a bonfire.” The two men nodded and kept chewing.
Mike continued. “Ashton, well his red hot flame can boil water unless we keep em cooled down that’s where Aunt Addie comes in. She can shield the area and keep the warmth in. Now how about it? Party anyone?”
Anthony caught Josh’s nod and murmur. “May only the hot dogs and burgers be roasted and not ours or the neighbors bums hot tub wise.”