Blue-Collar Werewolves V: Cat Scratch Fever
When the going gets tough, the tough get...furry?
Matthew Ridley is having one hell of a day. Being hijacked by his crazy werewolf brother-in-law, kidnapped by scientist’s intent of killing off supernaturals, and getting turned into a strange hybrid were-lion isn't enough. Werewolves, werecats, and whatever...it's going to be one interesting family reunion.
Matthew also has an ancient Egyptian cat-goddess insisting that he's the Leo, the king destined to bring all the werecats together. Now if only he can get his lovely queen, Naomi to agree, then they might be able to bring their people home.
Word Count: 80,975
Genre: Paranormal/Werewolf Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, August 2013
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
“Mrrr-eowwww-rrr.” Ramses growled from his favorite spot, underneath the fern on the porch table. The plant was huge; the result of his elderly neighbor’s amazing green thumb and a too small greenhouse. Last year, Matthew Ridley had been roped into moving the monster plant from the well-lit greenhouse shed to his porch as a belated housewarming gift. As in, about six years belated.
The cat’s eyes gleamed through a lush draping of bushy leaves. Personally, Matthew believed that the cat picked him as his own personal human servant because of the fern’s ability to hide a twenty-five pound cat. Since Matthew had never had any particular affinity with animals before, that was the theory he was sticking to.
“Hey, buddy. What do you want for dinner tonight?” Matthew juggled his briefcase and a couple plastic grocery bags while he fished his keys from his pants’ pocket. “You’ve got a choice of chicken, fish, chicken and fish delight, and seafood with shrimp. Me, I get to pick between a Mexican microwave dinner and a different Mexican microwave dinner.” The cat’s green eyes practically glowed, taking in the show with pure feline amusement. Finally, Matthew maneuvered the key into the lock. “Well, glad I could be of some entertainment. I live to serve.”
“Grr-owww-grrr.” Ramses angry green eyes turned toward the door while end of his tail slapped the table in furious agitation. “Rrr-rrr-rrr.”
“Not coming in?” Matthew asked. He raised the bags hanging from his arm. “Seafood with shrimp. In a can,” he urged. The cat growled again, sounding pretty pissed. Ah, and once again, Ramses underlined the difference between temperamental cats and easy-going dogs. “Okay, suit yourself.” Matthew shook his head. Apparently, freaking huge Egyptian Maus are in a class by themselves. The cat probably thinks he should be worshipped like his ancestors. No, the cat definitely did think that.
Secretly, Matthew suspected that Ramses’ royal bloodline was a bit muddied for him to get so big. Ramses’ beautiful spotted markings were a reminder that smaller cats were only domesticated because they wanted to be. Ramses size made him look like he belonged in a jungle or on the lap of a goddess, complete with the scarab mark on his forehead. One could see why the ancient Egyptians revered them.
He’d never mention it to Ramses, just in case—but none of the Maus he’d researched online were near that big. Like his cat, they were extremely agile. Ramses’ front legs were slightly shorter than his back, with an extra slip of skin that supposedly let him run faster. And that cat was fast when he wanted to be. And picky.
Matthew shook his head again and shouldered through the door. Pre-Ramses, he would never have thought himself one of those silly people that attributed human personality to an animal. He’d become a crazy cat person. Or, maybe he just wasn’t as much of an asshole as he used to be.
Dumping his briefcase just inside the door, he felt the stress from his job evaporate from his shoulders. Sheesh. It constantly amazed him how childish grown men could act. And these were educated professionals, with who knew how many degrees behind their names. Prima-donna, petulant nerds, he groused inwardly.
Matthew’s jaw cracked as he fought back a yawn. He needed sleep badly—peaceful dreamless sleep. Thank goodness, he had Ramses and a decent hobby to help him forget the near fistfight between Milton Hambly, the division accountant, and the new lab supervisor. He revised that thought; he would have had Ramses to keep him company if the fickle cat weren’t sulking on the porch.
Matthew was still amazed at the memory of skinny, weasel faced Milton facing off with Dr. Theodore Drake, the largest geek in the western hemisphere. Seriously, the man was built like a pro-wrestler on steroids and had the personality as that famous pointy-eared sci-fi alien. To put it mildly, the confrontation escalated quickly. The doctor’s dry logical answers for each expense infuriated Hambly so badly that the little bean counter was sputtering and slapping at his reports.
Matthew tossed the mail on the entry table, thankful not to be clutching the wad anymore. The keys jingled as he hooked them into place on the key shaped iron wrought keeper hanging by the door. The distinctive rattle of ice made him pause, leaving the key to his workshop on the hook. It also explained Ramses’ pissed off refusal to come inside. Not that anyone could keep the cat out if he wanted in.
“Hello, Dad,” Matthew called, knowing his father would be oblivious to the cold, flat tone of voice. Arming himself with a neutral smile, he walked into the living room. There would be time to unwind later, he supposed. Hopefully, he would sleep tonight. “Make yourself at home.” Damned if he’d take anything to dull the vivid dreams he’d been having. Sometimes violent, sometimes mundane, or sexual. They were so real, almost like living another life and he woke up exhausted.
Not surprising, Richard Ridley sprawled in Matthew’s favorite chair, the leather recliner. That explained Ramses’ determination to stay outside. Richard’s professionally nurtured thinning hair fell into his pasty, once handsome face. The expensive polo shirt and kakis looked slept in. With a clink of ice, his father drained the half-glass and tilted it at Matthew. “You’re out of scotch,” he said, with only a slight slurring. “A good host keeps a well-stocked bar.”
Matthew ignored the jibe, taking the glass from his father as he walked by. He set the crystal tumbler on the bar, feeling numb. The groceries landed with a thump at his feet. What was wrong with him? He should be royally pissed at the intrusion, not accepting. That irked him. In his dreams, Matthew had balls of steel. That, Matthew—Mathias the warrior— would have kicked the drunk out on his ass.
Idly, Matthew noticed that the cat had taken a swipe at his father’s shoes, marring the expensive leather. Matthew had to admire Ramses. The cat knew where to hit hardest without calling attention to himself. “I’m out of scotch because you drink like a fish.” He couldn’t muster the emotion to yell at his father. Why? It wouldn’t do any good. Richard loved his booze, and everyone else’s.
Richard The Dick Ridley, as his many ex-wives called him, was a bully. After wasting too many years trying to gain his father’s love, Matthew stopped trying. Richard Ridley wouldn’t know the meaning of love if it sprouted fur and bit him on the ass. Opening a small ten ounce bottle of cola, Matthew took a deep hit of caffeine and sugar before sliding the plastic bags back over his forearms—that addiction he could accept. “Since it’s my bar, I guess you’ll have to drink what I like.” He headed for the kitchen to drop off his load before changing clothes He shoved everything, bags and all, into the refrigerator to deal with later.
“All that’s left is that foul shit you swill,” Richard yelled after him, clutching at the arms of the recliner. He openly sneered at his son’s preference of the small locally brewed low-alcohol beer. The full extent of Richard Ridley’s alcoholism revealed itself as Matthew rerouted for the sanctuary of his bedroom. He heard the refrigerator door open. Bottled clanked as Richard no doubt contemplated how much of a buzz the four bottles of non-alcoholic beer would give.
“There’s cola,” Matthew called out.
“Cola,” Richard sneered. “Maybe if you drank something manly, you could keep a woman around for more than five minutes. Christ, you don’t even say it right. It’s coke. Only northern sissies and fags call it that.”
Matthew stopped slowly turning around. Bile churned in his stomach, though he still didn’t feel angry. Tired, yes. Edgy, yes. And now, claustrophobic. He tolerated a lot of emotional abuse over the years, but he wasn’t going to be emasculated. Not tonight. He used his free hand to jerk his already loose tie from his collar. “I’d rather not go there today, Dad.”
“Not go there?” Richard’s words slurred a bit more as he returned to his chair with a whumping sound. “You broke up with a lingerie model. A human lingerie model for Christ’s sake. For what? So you could date an ugly freak like your mother?” Richard’s voice rose with the same foul crap he’d spewed all Matthew’s life.
The recent revelation that both vampires and other supernatural things were real hadn’t just thrown his father for a loop. The entire world was still reeling from the footage of werewolves saving people from a fanatical offshoot of The Church of The Clean. The vampires even came forward on CNN in support, offering to undergo whatever tests the government required, as well as laughable as it sounds, proof that they’d been good little undead taxpayers for the last hundred years.
Richard peered out the door and frowned harder. His father slipped sideways in the chair. Hmmm, how much scotch had been in that bottle? Likely, Richard had already tanked up on his own before letting himself into the house with the key Matthew never gave him. “Well? Think of the connections you just threw away. What poshible excuse is there?”
“Erika is a nice, attractive woman.” Erica was magnificently enhanced, shallow, and a complete airhead. Ramses delighted in rubbing fur all over the model the one and only time he brought her home and the hives had been…scary. Besides, three dates did not make a girlfriend in Matthew’s book.
Erica might be the type of woman his father liked. Not him. He liked intelligent women with real curves and a sense of humor. The whole supernatural thing didn’t bother him, though he wasn’t sure he wanted to date a girl with more body hair than Cousin It. On the other hand, there was a lot of strange passed down on his mother’s side of the family. He held no ill will toward the creatures, things? that had recently revealed themselves in his hometown of Palestine, Texas.
Buying time, he took a sip of his soda. Matthew didn’t know how to put what had been bothering him into words that his father could understand. “I like women a little more down to earth and sensitive.”
“Sensitive? That touchy-feelie shit? Your mother was a sensitive bitch,” his father laughed, sliding down further into the recliner. “Down to earth? Where are you going?” he demanded.
“Out,” Matthew shut his bedroom door, slamming his bottle of cola down on his dresser. A little sloshed out of the top, onto the solid varnished wood. The jibe about his mother hit with the force of a missile. Old guilt weighted him down. To think that he’d been so stupid as to choose Richard The Dick, over his own mother for college money. And for a scrap of his father’s affection.
Karma was the real bitch. Over the years, Matthew had more than paid for his defection. The realization that he hadn’t spoken to his mom in close to fifteen years upped his headache. His sister? Matthew almost smiled at the pictures laying on top of his dresser because he didn’t know what to do with them.
The twin grins of mischief in his nephews’ faces and the sweet little girl cradled in his sister’s arms probably accounted for her serene smile. The grumpy looking bastard in the picture looked more likely to tear the camera out of the photographer’s hands than crack a smile. But if Grumpy made her happy, then who was Matthew to complain. Nobody. That’s who. He’d given up that right a long time ago.
Karen was almost as stubborn as him. His little sister thought that reuniting with her high school boyfriend and having a few kids meant that everyone could forgive and forget and become one big happy family. At least Matthew thought it was that guy, or the other one— the twin. He snorted, as if he deserved that kind of clemency from his mother and her second family. Now, if only Matthew could pry his father out of his house, he could spend the evening in his workshop, doing what he really loved. “You should go home. I’ll call you a cab,” he called out. He’d pay for the cab fare, of course.
Silence answered him, punctuated by a loud gurgling snore. Matthew closed his eyes against the mounting pressure behind his eyes. Why not face reality? He’d never get his father out of the house tonight—or out of his life, ever. The saying, you reap what you sow, constantly haunted him.
He needed the escape of his workshop. Changing into a ratty pair of jeans, and equally worn out long sleeved tshirt, Matthew laced up his steel-toed boots and crept back to the front door for the key to his sanctuary. His father’s inebriated band-saw snores covered his retreat out the back patio. The cat wouldn’t move until Richard left, probably plotting his second round at Richard’s shoes or slacks.
Matthew was on his own for the night. That is until the dreams sucked him into Mathais’s life where he’d fight, scheme, and die, again and again. If he was lucky, dream-Mathais would get laid.
Inhaling the scent of his lawn, Matthew unlocked the door to the real reason he’d bought his small, cookie-cutter track home. Inside the mishmash of harsh odors of his welding and metal shop, drained the remaining tension. The fluorescent lighting flickered on. Older, finished sculptures held various places of honor around the room. Against the far wall, tools competed with a rack of ancient-styled weapons he sometimes played around with and sold online. On the other side of the room, he organized the wall with racks, sorting metal rods by different length and thickness. The current project, or commission, took over the rest of the space. Matthew was still in awe that people actually paid good money for his ‘hobby.’ Sawhorses propped up the huge twenty by forty foot filigree entry gate.
A few years ago, Matthew wandered into a hole-in-the-wall sports bar and wound up sharing a bowl of pretzels, and his hobby, with the owner of a small security firm. One thing led to another and the guy ordered a fancy gate. Three years and several satisfied rich customers later, he had his own website. Now all Matthew needed was a bigger workspace and a helper to cut down on his waiting list.
The intricate gates took up almost all of his spare time. His commitment to his customers and blue-collar ‘hobby’ tended to drive potential girlfriends out the door once they realized that he wasn’t the elbow rubbing executive that his father tried to mold him into.
Truthfully, Matthew had reached his promotional ceiling at BioPet. Like many other companies, animal pharmaceuticals—and the making of everything from ingestible flea control meds, veterinarian and zoo supplies—the company was pushing to keep labor costs down. He, like a lot of others with successful side businesses these days, was working to keep insurance benefits.
Losing himself into the routine of coaxing the metal into matching the blueprints and the picture in his mind, he finally stopped thinking. Peace seeped into his soul. He stopped worrying about the outside world and just let himself be.