Today’s theme is Public/public scene so I thought I’d put up an excerpt from REVELATION when Kendra is at her in-laws’ house with the rest of the jamboree. Familial politics are a huge part of my shifter books and this scene has some of my favorite characters from the book!
de LA Vega Cats: REVELATION by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2010, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, Samhain Publishing
“He’s protective, but you’re higher ranked than he is, he knows you’re capable of protecting me. Still, he’ll find a way to stalk us, just in case.”
Cesar laughed again, a buoyant, booming sound that drew the eye of many in the room as they sailed through. The house had filled up considerably more in the time they’d been in the jamboree office.
As they’d all exited, he’d told Max he was stealing her again and would see him later. Max hadn’t liked it, Kendra knew he wanted to check in with her to see what she’d felt about what had gone on. But Cesar was the alpha and he had a plan.
“You know my boy pretty well. The last time you were here, there had been trouble. You didn’t get the tour. Do you trust me, niÃ±a?”
She was one of his cats, she realized. Max hadn’t said it that way, but that’s what it was. And she realized, she did trust him, understood at even the deepest part of her, Cesar de La Vega would put his cats before himself, always. She was still shaken, excited, touched, by the meeting they’d just had. True to his word, he was opening his family to her, readying her to lead.
The responsibility was frightening, but at the same time, she was honored that they felt she was worthy of that sort of trust and responsibility.
He squeezed her hand, clearly pleased with her answer. “Ahhh, Mando! Come and meet Kendra, Max’s wife.”
The famous baby de La Vega, Armando was an artist who traveled all over the world. She knew he and Galen were very close. Renee adored him and had nothing but positives to say about him.
“Talked to Max on the phone three weeks ago and he raved about you the whole time.”
“Well, raved for Max. So more words than his usual one and two syllable grunts.” Armando took her hands and rubbed his face along hers. Pausing.
“Double congratulations are in order, I see. I didn’t know you’d taken the change. Welcome to the jamboree.”
“It just sort of happened. We weren’t expecting it.”
Armando’s brows rose. “Really? Darling what have you and my brother been doing that the change was a surprise?”
She laughed, blushing from the tips of her toes upward. “No. God. I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant he didn’t do it the regular way. His bite didn’t even break the skin.”
“Really now? Wow, I want to hear more of this story. But as I can see everyone getting impatient that they haven’t been formally introduced, I’ll let you fill in the rest later.”
“How did you know? That I’d taken on a cat?”
Cesar interrupted then. “They’ll be able to scent your cat. Lean in to Mando’s neck. Take a deep breath.”
Kendra did so and realized he smelled like Max. Not exactly the same, but elements, the warmth of bark, the scent of leaves, fur.
“I see. He smells sort of like Max. May I?” She indicated Cesar’s neck. He tipped his head a bit and all speaking around where they stood stopped immediately. If she asked him what was happening, it would make her look weak. She knew that. He’d given her his neck, a huge honor.
She breathed in and realized there were elements of his scent that also mirrored Max, but some were sharper, stronger.
“Do you scent the difference?” he asked when she stood back.
“I do. Thank you for that.”
“It’s my job to teach the newly changed. My job to help you understand us. Your sister opened doors for you, you know that. You and she are so good for my boys. Immi and I know you will lead at Max’s side with strength and courage.”
He said it loud enough that all those straining to hear got an earful. His enthusiastic approval of her as a match for Max, and as an alpha to succeed him and his wife when the time came.
Max came down the steps into the backyard and after embracing Armando, he turned to his father. “Gracias, Papi.” Max hugged his father and then put an arm around Kendra. “We need to make the rounds. Introduce you to everyone.” He was happy, she felt it humming between them, the heat of it, the warmth of belonging.
His father waved a hand at him. “That’s what I was doing, boy. It’s not the first time I’ve done this.”
Max dipped his head, but kept his arm around Kendra. The two of them, on the outside, seemed very different. Scratch the surface and they were the same man, just in different packages.
The more she got to know Max’s family, the more she liked them. Well—she gave Beth the side eye—most of them anyway.
“Of course. Thank you.”
Imogene came out, making sure everyone saw her head straight to Kendra to embrace her. Max had coached her for part of the afternoon, so she knew to rub her cheek along her mother-in-law’s as a sign of obedience and respect.
So much was going on and she had to bite her tongue. She wanted to whisper stuff to Max, but since they all had great hearing, she couldn’t risk telling him she thought things were going pretty good.
Across the back deck, she caught sight of Renee, Galen and Jack arriving. Renee had a big bouquet of flowers. Touched, Kendra blew her sister a kiss and mouthed a thank-you. It strengthened her, knowing her sister had arrived and had her back. Safe and way less alone.
One by one she met all seven of Max’s siblings. According to the ritual Max had described, his parents would introduce her formally to the family and any other elders or cats of very high rank, and then they’d introduce her to the jamboree at large.
How much she was accepted and her relative place in a jamboree would be determined by how Cesar and Imogene handled the introductions. The more effusive they were, the better it would be for Kendra. So far they’d both held her hand and had taken her arm or caressed her shoulder.
Renee hadn’t gotten this much support when she’d come around with Galen. For a long time Imogene hadn’t liked Renee, but a few years back, the two women had a showdown, and Imogene had announced she’d been wrong about Renee and was fully supportive of her place with Galen.
Kendra was really glad she didn’t have to endure that sort of cold shoulder. It was just another example of how amazing her sister was, how strong. She’d won over nearly everyone through years of relentless politics and wary extensions of trust and affection.
When they got around to Galen, Kendra gave a big hug to Renee, who beamed at her sister proudly as she stood at Galen’s side. Galen gave Max his throat before they embraced.
As they turned to head toward Carlos, Kendra paused, cocking her head and listening.
“There’s something wrong.” Max spoke before Kendra had figured it out.
Gibson streaked past on full alert. He hadn’t changed forms yet and still brought the hair on the back of her neck to standing.
Rosemary, who’d been in the crowd, rushed forward, but guards blocked her out. Kendra turned. “Let her in.”
“No one gets near the alpha couple or the next-in-line.”
“I’m the next-in-line too and she’s my aunt. Let her through or let me to her.”
Max was at her back. “We need to get you out of here,” he said into her ear.
“No.” Anxiety crept into her belly and she realized it was her cat. Her cat wanted to seek shelter and watch. But she knew one of the thieves was nearby. The magic in the air was amateurish, nothing natural lived in it at all. It was as if its user had bought it in a box like macaroni and cheese.
She moved toward her aunt. “What’s going on?”
“Let her through. They’re trying to help,” Max called out and the wall of guards let her pass, Renee on her heels.
“This guy is a joke.” Rosemary looked around, shaking her head. “That’s some D-List magic. Nothing of him at all in it. Even if he could lure any of us out, he’s too weak to do anything with us.”
Gibson shielded Max, who moved him over to shield Kendra. She rolled her eyes at them both.
“What if he’s pretending to be an amateur? To lure you out and then he’s all BAM super witch or something?” Galen looked from Renee to Rosemary.
“That was my question too. Though of course I couldn’t lend it the poetry you do.” Gibson bowed his head to his brother and Galen scratched his nose with his middle finger, flipping his brother off on the sly.
Rosemary thought it over for a moment. “No. Not unless he was uproariously good. And if he was, he’d be in here. Any witch with that kind of power doesn’t need to bother with luring. He’d come in and take.”
“Let’s go grab him.” Kendra turned to Gibson. “Come with me, or send another guard. I only need to be there because he might try something on you. I can stop him easily. Then you can grab him and bring him here.”
“And we can take him to the dungeon and beat the truth out of him.” Gibson said it with a straight face, but Kendra heard the joking tones. “Kendra, in another situation I might agree with you. But what if some of these more skilled witches are using him as bait to get you out there and then they’ll strike? I’m not even saying this because you’re next-in-line. You’re a courageous cat, beautiful, but there are people in the world who will sink to any level to win. Create any level of pain and destruction to get what they want. If we’re going to face that kind of being, we need to be prepared.”
“It is my suggestion that we simply continue with this party,” Cesar said. “Your Aunt Rosemary has warded the house quite well so they can’t get in. Why let them harass you? Why let them win on such a lovely evening, eh?” He held his arm out. “Gibson is right. We don’t know enough to move just yet.”
Rosemary nodded and Max heaved an audible sigh of relief when she took his father’s arm.
“Let us continue! We have a new member of the jamboree to introduce.” Imogene stood, the fading light against her skin. She held a hand out and Kendra stepped forward to take it. “This is Kendra. Kendra is the other half of Max’s heart. I have seen this face”—she cradled Kendra’s cheeks—”in his eyes. She wears his mark and has accepted the space at his side.”
The gazes in the room sought Kendra. Some were friendly, some were hostile, all were curious.
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