Just like cats and dogs.., p.1

Just Like Cats and Dogs (Sanctuary Book 1), page 1

 

Just Like Cats and Dogs (Sanctuary Book 1)
 


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Just Like Cats and Dogs (Sanctuary Book 1)


  Just Like Cats and Dogs

  BA Tortuga

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Epilogue

  Want More?

  About the Author

  Afterword

  Also Available from BA

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

  Just Like Cats and Dogs

  Copyright © 2011 by BA Tortuga

  1380 Rio Rancho Blvd #1319

  Rio Rancho, NM 87124

  Cover illustration by AJ Corza

  Published with permission

  ISBN: 978-1-951532-25-3

  All rights reserved. No part of this eBook may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  First electronic edition published by Torquere Press, 2011. Second electronic edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2017. Third edition published October 2019.

  Printed in the USA

  Created with Vellum

  To Lily the Pit Bull. We miss you. Still. Your moms.

  1

  “Julianne, I swear by all you hold holy, if you don’t hold your arms up through the end of the phrase, I will tear your hair out!” Sam snarled softly, baring his teeth at the girl until she nodded.

  He had three more days with this show—just three—and then he had a well-deserved sabbatical. Three months with nothing to do but nap and eat, possibly travel. Have Ma and Pop out to the city for a long weekend. No pouty dancers, no bitchy directors, no issues with injuries or costumes or lighting.

  Just him and the world.

  Luscious.

  “No, Jim. Not like that. On three. Do you understand? This is not brain surgery. You’ve been performing it right for eight weeks. Why stop now?”

  Assholes.

  “Sam? I’m sorry to interrupt.” The director’s second assistant, Flavio, knew him well, knew he hated to be thrown off. “You have a call. Family emergency.”

  “Yeah? Okay. Work through the next few bars, people. I’ll be right back.”

  Family emergency? Shit. Had to be one of the guys he liked, to know he never turned his cell on at work.

  He stalked to the phone in the office and grabbed it up. “Hello?”

  “Samuel?” His mother. She sounded…. Well, she was crying, which never happened. “I need you to come home, sweetie.”

  “Okay, Ma. What happened?” He grabbed his iPhone, started searching. Flights. Car.

  “Pop…. He’s…. He…. Oh God, Samuel. He died this morning.”

  The world stopped, going gray around the edges. “No.”

  “I’m sorry, sweetie. I—there was no time to get everyone here. It just happened so fast….” She gulped.

  “What happened?” His pop? Gone? The man was the center of the world to his mom and all of their widely varied kids. He found a flight into El Paso leaving in two hours and booked it, then started texting people.

  “Doc thinks it was a stroke. A really big one. He never even felt it.” Sam heard someone murmuring in the background, the voice a low rumble. His baby brother, Ben, he’d bet. “Oh God. Your sisters are already wailing and gnashing, Sam.”

  “I’ll be there by early morning. My flight gets in at midnight. I’ll take care of it.”

  “I know you will, sweetie. I’m so sorry. That I had to call like this, I mean.”

  “Don’t be. I’ll be there soon. I love you, yeah?” No matter what other weirdness, there was always that.

  “I love you, Samuel. I’ll see you soon.”

  That was his mom. Solid, steady, even when she was hysterical. Now it was just her.

  Well, her, him, and his twelve sisters and five brothers.

  God.

  He headed for his satchel, then hit the door, not even bothering to say good-bye in person. He flagged down a cab. He had to get home, grab clothes, then get to the airport.

  Now.

  His mom needed him.

  2

  Gus watched his mom and brother packing up casseroles and soup bones and all manner of shit to take over to Mona’s. Jesus, he couldn’t believe Pop Finn was dead. The man was a fucking fixture in their neck of the woods, and everyone loved the guy, even if they disagreed with him.

  “Are you coming, Gus?” His mom pushed her crazy red hair behind one ear. She was that way as a wolf too, with a deep reddish coat and one floppy ear. Pete was just the same way, and it used to piss Gus off when they were kids, that he looked like Dad, all shaggy and brown and shit.

  “I’m not sure, Mom.” He smiled wryly. “I didn’t always get on with all the Finns.”

  “You don’t say.” Her lips twisted in a half grin. “It’s been fifteen years. You’re coming.”

  “Yeah.” Gus shook his head. This wasn’t about his issues. Pop Finn had been a good man, a solid man. Hell, that family had adopted every fucking stray that came across their land for the last forty years, up to and including a bunch of rowdy pups who just needed a place to blow off steam. He wasn’t sure turkey casserole was an adequate expression of how they all felt, but he guessed it would do. He helped his mom carry everything out to the truck and got it packed so it wouldn’t slide around and spill.

  “I’ll take my truck too, in case one of us needs to stay or something.” Right, because baby brother Pete had a serious hard-on for Lizzie—the second to the youngest of the Finn girls.

  “Asshole.” He grinned when Pete flipped him off. Gus did love fucking with people when he was home.

  “You two behave or I’ll beat you both.” Mom hopped into the truck. “Get your ass in here, Son.”

  Gus climbed into the driver’s seat, and they bumped off toward the Finn place.

  “I want you to be nice to that boy while we’re there.”

  “What boy?” All of the Finn kids were too old to be boys and girls. They were all on their own, for chrissake. Hell, most of them were mated off—either here or with that insane pack in Idaho. They were torturing the pueblos in the desert.

  “Augustus….”

  “What?” He grinned. “Oh, you mean the pussy.”

  “Augustus Fieri, I will beat your heinie!”

  “Yeah, yeah. I’ll be good.” He would. Unless pussy boy was an ass. In which case, he’d kick the lanky little fuck into next week. Yeah, the beating sounded like a good plan. He grinned, which made his mom pop him on the arm. “Ow!”

  “Stop it. You have evil in your eyes. That poor boy was Pete’s best friend, even if he was different.”

  “I want to know why everyone assumes it was my fault we d
idn’t get along.” It was offensive. Really.

  She just looked at him. A lot. With her eyes.

  Okay, so he’d bitten Sam. Chased him. Growled. Treed the little fuck once. They’d been boys. Boys did that. Just like Sam had scratched his leg so bad once that he’d had to get stitches. Had shredded Gus’s favorite jacket in high school.

  And that didn’t even count the time someone who’d never been caught put Nair in his conditioner.

  God, he didn’t want to do this. He hated funerals and gatherings for funerals and planning shit like that. He could be in a tourmaline mine somewhere….

  “Thank you for coming out with me. I can’t believe Michael died during the gathering.”

  “Yeah.” Gus rolled his eyes. The gathering. It made it sound like a movie. They all got together during the harvest moon, once a year. It wasn’t sinister or anything; it was a damned family reunion kind of thing.

  “Do you…. You and Petey, you’d be okay without me, right?”

  “Don’t even think it, Mom.” He wasn’t going to ponder it too hard.

  “It’s going to happen sometime, Son.”

  “I know, Mom, but I could just as easily get smooshed in a cave-in.” He shrugged. “We’d survive, but I won’t lie and say it would be easy.”

  She vocalized softly, petting his arm. “Well, I hope not. You ought to miss me a little.”

  “Stop it.” Gus couldn’t help but growl some. It had been him and Petey and Mom against the world for a long time. He’d miss her like a lost limb.

  “I think we should go to Burger King after we pay our respects.”

  “I think that’s a great idea.” Meat. Ketchup. Yum. He even liked fried potatoes.

  “Me too. Pete will be busy sniffing after that pretty little girl, so we can duck out.” Mom winked at him.

  “There you go.” He patted her leg, knowing she needed contact as much as he did. “I’d miss the hell out of you, Mom.”

  She nodded, sighed softly. “Poor Mona.”

  “She has all those kids to help, huh?” What, eighteen? Lord. And Lord knew, she adopted every frigging stray on earth.

  “Yeah. Sam sends money home to her. So does Helena, for Gray. The others are struggling as it is.”

  “You mean worthless as tits on a boar hog?”

  “Gus!”

  “Sorry! She’ll make it.” She had to. The greater pack really wouldn’t know what to do without Mona Finn.

  They pulled into the drive, the place filled with trucks and cars and SUVs. Everyone had turned out. Gus felt a little queasy, but Petey was right there in front of them, and he came to help their mom out of the truck. “I’ll be along in a minute, okay?”

  “Sure, honey. I’ll be inside with Mona.”

  Gus walked around the side of the house, needing some air, something. He turned the corner and ran smack-dab into someone, the two of them crashing together.

  “Shit!” He stumbled but instinctively tried to catch whoever it was. Gus knew he was big. He could do some damage. “Sorry.”

  “No problem.” The voice was soft, slinky, pure sex somehow, making his hair stand on end.

  He stepped back to look at the man, because it was definitely a male, and his eyes widened. “Pussy boy?”

  One black eyebrow arched impossibly over a bottle-green eye. Then he was flying, back hitting the ground before his fucking chin started hurting from the kick it had received.

  Shiny black boots appeared by his head, only for a second. “Indeed.”

  Then they were gone.

  Holy fuck. Gus sure didn’t know where Sam Finn had learned to kick like that, but damn. That was something.

  Kinda hot too.

  Somehow the whole funeral thing had just gotten a lot more interesting.

  3

  Sam headed inside, finding a smile for his mom as he saw her.

  “You okay, Son?” She was sitting, holding Hallie Fieri’s hand, eyes wet.

  “Fine. Nice to see you, Hallie. Is Pete around?”

  “He went to find Lizzie, I think. He doesn’t know you’re here, honey.” Hallie nodded, giving him a fond look.

  “If you see him, let him know to say hello.”

  Pete had been his best friend the entire time he was growing up. Goofy, dorky, and the world’s biggest puppy—the man had been a hoot. Too bad his older brother was a blithering moron with the class of a toothless hillbilly. Sam had really hoped not to see Gus. Or if he had to, that he’d discover Gus had become a balding, paunchy, one-eyebrowed Neanderthal knuckle dragger.

  Too bad neither one had happened.

  “Oh, he’s here somewhere.” She waved her free hand and went back to talking to Ma.

  Sam wandered, pondering how unfair it was that Gus was a stud. Just the short glimpse he’d had before trying to kick the man’s teeth in had proved that—stacked, dark, and hot as hell.

  The kick had felt pretty damned good, though, really. Almost as good as the shock on Fuzzy’s face.

  His sister Helena grabbed his arm, blue eyes wide. “Sam, all these men are sniffing around me. I thought everyone knew I don’t change.”

  He wrapped one arm around his sister, baring his teeth at the pup at her heels. “They’re opportunists, lovely. I’ve got you.”

  “Thanks.” She nuzzled in, scenting him. “It’s good to see you, Sam.”

  “Same here, lovely. How’s Chicago treating you?” They were the closest in age—him and Helena, with Gray immediately following—and one of Sam’s fondest memories was Pop bringing Helena in for the first time, a tiny redheaded girl holding his finger. The Finn kids came and went, but the three of them were solid as stone.

  “Good. Good. The newspaper is going more and more electronic, so I’m all the rage now.” Helena did something very complicated with information technology. Sam was incredibly proud in that I-don’t-understand-a-bit-of-it way. “How’s the show coming?”

  “Exceptional. The director’s wailing and gnashing his teeth, but I’d done my work. I’m about to take a three month sabbatical.” A long vacation away from the drama and the fighting and the city. He sighed, the sound purely internal. Who was he kidding? He was planning to lock himself up in his apartment and watch hours of television—he thought he’d start with Mad Men, then Criminal Minds, ending with a long marathon of True Blood. The idea of Southern vampires made him smile.

  “Well, that’s good. You have some time.” She leaned, like the world’s tallest basset hound, and sighed, watching people mill about.

  “Yeah.” The twins were still in full tearing-their-hair mode, and both still furious at them for being functional adults—them being him, Helena, and Gray, the only logical, rational children out of eighteen. Sam wasn’t even sure he’d recognize half of his sibs if they came up and talked to him. He chuffed softly under his breath. It wasn’t like they looked alike, right?

  Then there were all the strangers. Pop just had to die during full gathering.

  “Sam!” His best friend detached from a group that did not include Lizzie. “How’s it hanging, man?”

  “Petey!” He braced himself for the pounce, the hugs.

  He got them, Pete still like an overgrown puppy that way. Otherwise, he was all man now, as broad and brawny as his asshole brother.

  Sam slapped Pete on the back, chuckling softly. “How’s it going, asshole?”

  “Good. I mean, it was. I’m sorry, man. About your dad.”

  “Yeah.” He wasn’t going to get into it, not here, not now.

  “How’s the big city?” Pete asked.

  “Big. Bright. You should come visit me.”

  “I should come see a show.” Pete had come to New York once, back when Sam was a starving artist living in a garret. He’d never come back. The city was a harsh goddamn place.

  “Anytime, man. You still working at the mine?”

  “Yeah. Yeah, I’ve actually taken over operations here. Gus has itchy feet.”

  “And a bruised chin.” And didn
t that make him happy?

  “Huh?” Pete raised a brow.

  He grinned, tickled down to his bones. “Nothing. You married yet?”

  “Huh?”

  Had Pete forgotten how to say anything but “Huh?”

  “God, no. I mean, I’m working on it.”

  “Good for you.” He met Helena’s eyes. God, he really needed to get out of here. Really.

  “Why don’t you go see if Ma needs anyone to run to the store?” Helena smiled, pushing him a bit toward the kitchen again.

  “Yeah. See you, Pete.” He headed out for his rental car; he’d call Mom from the store.

  He almost ran someone down again, the acrid smell of cigarette smoke stinging his eyes. Gus again. His growl was deep, immediate, but he stopped it as soon as he could. Just get to the truck.

  “I’m sorry about your dad.” The words stopped him in his tracks. They were probably the most sincere Gus had ever said to him.

  A yowl built up inside him, but he didn’t let it out. He wouldn’t. Not here. Not yet. Sam nodded, swallowing hard so he could speak. “Thank you.”

  “You need anything? I was gonna head out, go to the store. Mom wants Puffs and waterproof mascara.”

  “I’ll get some. Ma has a list.” He couldn’t do this.

  “I could go with you.”

  The offer left him staring, his mouth hanging open a bit. “Why would you want to?”

  “Because I hate this shit.”

  “Yeah.” He didn’t say more than that; he just walked to the driveway and tried to remember which rental car was his.

 
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