Monday, June 1, 2015
Now this is how it was done in the classy neighborhoods. No running around sniffing each other's tails and getting buck nekkid in the woods. Well, yeah, okay, but that could come later. First you got to know the girl. You stuck those pesky (but fun) animal instincts in the closet and treated her the way a lady wants to be treated, like royalty.
Normally that meant running down some kind of prey animal and laying the bloody corpse at her feet, but today it meant a rowboat on the lake in the woods and a peaceful glide around the water. And pay no attention to that big, surly bastard slouching along on the shore, annoyingly paralleling their course.
Margrete shaded her eyes. "He's still there."
"Ignore him." Julius picked up his banjo and idly strummed. In the old human movies the male had a guitar and serenaded his love with something classical. Well hell, a banjo was classical for this neck of the woods. He picked out a tune he hoped sounded hoity-toity and prayed Margrete had never seen Deliverance.
"He's certainly persistent," Margrete observed.
"Maybe he'll get bored." No chance of that, Julius thought sourly, but hope springs eternal. With his banjo tuned, he regaled his lady with a song about lonely nights on the cattle trail. She took up the oars and idly rowed.
On the shore, their pursuer started to howl.
"Not a music lover, I take it," said Margrete.
Julius missed a note and lost the thread of his tune. "Why don't we stop at those trees over there?"
Margrete steered the boat toward shore. The boat rocked to a gentle mud-mooring at the edge of the water. Julius hopped out to help his date disembark. Let's see the asshat bother us now, he thought. In order to reach this part of the lake, he'd have to—
Julius heard a splash.
"You stupid mutt," he muttered under his breath. Together he and Margrete watched the determined pisshead paddle across the lake toward them.
"He's not your mate, is he?" Margrete asked him doubtfully.
"Dog no. Armin's just a … " Margrete's breed didn't cling to pack rank as tenaciously as wolves. Julius wondered if she'd understand the concept of a bully. As far down the ladder as Armin rested, he didn't have many packmates he could boss around. He was pretty much confined to omegas. Which made Julius his favorite, and often only, target.
An omega on a date with a fine-looking she? Can't have that, huh, Armin?
Armin made it to the shore and hauled himself out of the water. He deliberately sprayed them both with a shake before he shifted to human. Julius took a grip on his banjo, just in case. "Hey, Armin. Fancy meeting you here."
"Can it, tucktail. Who said you could have a girl?"
"She did. You have a problem, you can take it up with her."
"Oh, I will," Armin promised with a sneer. He made a grab for Julius. "Just as soon as I—"
That was the last coherent word he got out for several minutes. Margrete had correctly assessed the situation. When Armin reached for Julius, she reached for Armin. Julius stepped out of the way and watched his date turn Armin every way but loose. Armin made noises even omegas never managed. Julius winched in sympathy, but only a little.
When she was finished, Margrete dusted off her hands and primly adjusted her skirt. "I'd like to see what's in those trees," she announced. "Are you coming, honey?"
"In a second, darling." Julius gave Armin a checkup to make sure he was still breathing. He didn't want Margrete to get into trouble with the pack. Nope, damn dog still had a grip on life. Julius hefted him into the boat. Armin sprawled on the bottom, limp as a pile of rags.
"A word to the wise," Julius murmured. "You don't want to mess with Margrete. She's an African wild dog, emphasis on the wild. They don't give two craps in the Kalihari for pack rank. She's also Tanzania's entry in the mixed martial arts tournament they've been holding in Billings all week. We don't have too much time, because she has to be back by Friday to kick some gorilla's ass. So do everybody a favor and just mind your own business, m'kay?"
Armin groaned something incomprehensible. "We're good, then." Julius shoved the boat back out into the water. If Armin couldn't find the strength to row, he might still drift to the opposite shore eventually. Or not.
"Oh, Julius," Margrete called sweetly from the shadows.
"Coming, sweetness." There were days it paid to be the submissive one in the pairing. Today's that day, baby. Julius pounded for the forest.