WINTER'S MIST

Chapter One

As he drove the last few blocks to Cora’s house, Patrick thought of how blessed his life had become in the recent months since meeting the eclectic bunch of witches. Of the eight of them, not one were similar and yet they all together they were a whole. He’d never forget the power of little Kasey and that gorgeous, but scary woman Rachel when they’d slammed that vile human back and put him in his place.

Just thinking of Charlie had him glancing at the woman beside him. She sat there, silently, which worried him for she was never silent long, and stared at her hands. Hands that had pinned her to the ground when old Charlie ran knives through them. Gods and Goddesses bless those eight witches for saving Rhonda’s life. Pulling into the driveway, he offered her a playful grin. “Ready for the craziness of three weddings at once?”

Her mouth moved to form a breathtaking smile. “I can’t wait.”

Patrick rang the doorbell and then moved aside placing Rhonda in front of him. He grinned when it opened.

“Trick or treat,” Rhonda laughed at the vampire holding the door open.

“Oh, hi.” Rachel took the teeth out of her mouth. “I thought you were more munchkins.” She gave glanced over Rhonda’s shoulder at Patrick.

“Is it okay I brought a male into the woman’s domain tonight?” Rhonda sighed, “They still won’t let me drive with these.” She held up her scarred hands. “I mean really couldn’t we pad the damn steering wheel or something so I could grip it?”

Rachel looked down at her hands then up to Patrick. “I suppose one male in the house won’t corrupt our feminine energies tonight.”

Patrick focused on her hands for a moment too. He’d never get over it. Shaking it off, he glanced at Rachel again and raised an eyebrow. “Is that what you’re wearing tomorrow, Rachel?” Rachel laughed. “No, although it is an idea isn’t it? Could you see the guest’s faces? Ha!”

“You’re giving her idea’s she doesn’t need.” Leena said quietly coming from the kitchen, in costume, pointy hat and all.

He winked at her. “I would pay to see you walk to your groom like that, Leena.”

Leena looked down at her black ratty dress and purple shoes. “Hmm, no better not go there.”

Kasey came out drying her hands on a towel. “I just got kicked out for getting sparkles in Cora’s finger thingies.” As she spoke the sparkling antennas on top of her head bobbed around. “I told her to just say it was fairy dust.” She looked up and spotted Rhonda. “Oh. You’re here.” She bounced over to her.

Patrick stepped back so the fairy wings wouldn’t smack him as she flew past. Fitting he thought, she finally had wings to keep up with her. “I’m afraid to ask what Cora’s wearing.”

“Silly question really.” Cora said as she entered the room.

He turned and looked at the slender woman dressed in a black body stocking with skeleton markings on it. “Oh yeah, you all should be wearing these outfits tomorrow. The grooms will pass out.”

Cora walked past him and hugged Rhonda. “We should dress him up,” she said softly.

Rhonda grinned and turned to look at Patrick. “With those black eyes he should be a pirate I think.”

Kasey frowned. “He needs long scruffy hair…oh,” she turned to Cora. “Your Dade now there’s a pirate.”

Cora smiled and bit her lip. “I preferred the white knight earlier.”

Rhonda’s mouth dropped and she reached to lift Cora’s hand. “Oh! He finally…you are…he did?” Cora nodded.

Patrick leaned over and looked down at the ring on her hand. “There goes another one.”

Rhonda elbowed him, turning to glare up at him. “He didn’t die. He got engaged.”

Patrick shrugged down at her. “Same thing isn’t it?”

Her mouth dropped open.

“Children.” Leena said quietly. “We have far too much to do tonight to bicker.”

Moving out of the line of fire, Patrick went over and sat down. “So,” he looked around. “The grooms are banished to where?”

Kasey grinned. “They’re at Chris’s. We decided the night apart would be a good thing.”

He chuckled. “I’m willin’ to gamble none of the males agreed to that.”

Rachel shrugged. “No but it will give them time to at least get nervous.”

“That it will,” he agreed quietly.

~*~

“It’s my turn.” Steven ran past Owen, his Dracula cape flying out behind him.

Owen huffed out a breath and lifted his eye patch and looked over at Chris and Dade. “Has anyone beaten him to the door tonight?”

Dade tipped his cowboy hat up and shook his head. “Nope, only ones we got to greet were the ones that appeared when he was flying across the lawn after the bullies.”

Chris scratched under his wizard hat and smirked. “I got the pictures of that.”

Owen sat on the bottom step. “It’s going to be too late soon. The young ones will be heading home.” He looked at Steven coming back in taking his teeth out. “Then what the hell do we do to pass the time?”

Steven glanced at his watch. “Is that all it is? Shouldn’t it be midnight at least by now?”

Chris pointed his wand at him. “You do know you have to go through the ceremony, good wishes and reception before the honeymoon part right?”

Sliding to the floor, Steven sighed. “Yeah, it’s not just that. Why can’t we be there helping or something?”

Owen nodded. “I worry about Lee overdoing it, Doc, she’s so tired.”

“She’ll be fine. Women, even pregnant women, have some sort of reserve energy none of us males have in our arsenal.” Steven assured him.

Dade smirked. “I hope so.”

Chris turned and raised an eyebrow at him.

Dade shrugged. “What?” He grinned. “While all of you are off having marital sex I’ll be at home with Coralee having the nasty pre-marital sex.”

Steven groaned. “No sex talk tonight…we agreed.”

The doorbell rang, Owen reached over and held Steven’s arm while Dade and Chris bolted for the door laughing.

“Not fair.” Steven grumbled.

Owen released him and leaned to see the men at the door.

With a big smile on his face Chris opened the door. Seeing the people on the other side his grin faded. “Aunt Silvia? Uncle Chester?” He looked at Owen and then Dade, his eyes huge. “I thought you were coming tomorrow and staying after the ceremony.” Dade stepped back as an older woman with an unpleasant expression pushed past him and walked in.

“We decided to come tonight. It will give us more time before you drag us into the woods tomorrow.” She brushed past Chris.

Dade just stood there looking at Chris, an astonished look on his face. The man behind her walked in and handed Dade a suitcase.

“There’s another bag in the car.” He walked past with his nose up.

Owen held his breath when Dade looked at Chris, then the suitcase and back to the pompous man that brushed by him.

Chris grabbed the bag before his uncle wore it. “Uncle Chester. This man is my best man, not a servant.”

Uncle Chester turned and looked at them. “Why are you dressed like that Christopher?”

Chris shook his head. “Well now, it’s comfortable…” He sighed. “It’s Halloween I guess you didn’t notice the children running around dressed up.”

She turned again and nodded. “Yes, your cousin is outside now telling them to go home.”

“Noooooo!” Steven ran into the foyer past them all and went outside.

“You brought Michael?” Chris’s expression was a snarl.

His aunt walked into the living room. “Of course. We never thought you’d ever marry, although why it can’t be in a church like normal people I’ll never know.”

“Guess we’re not normal,” Owen said quietly and extended his gloved hand. “I’d be one of the grooms. Dracula is the third.”

She looked down at his hand then back up to his face and offered a very brief smile then walked into the living room.

A polished blonde man walked into the house and looked slowly at Owen and Dade before sighing and turning to Chris. “Cousin Christopher.”

“Cousin Michael.” Chris said in a low voice.

“You may want to send your little friends home. Playtime’s over.” With that he walked into the living room.

Dade turned and gave Chris an opened mouth stare.

Steven came in the door and shut it loudly. He looked around at them then to Chris. “What…who?” He hissed.

Chris lifted his hands. “They’re early,” he mumbled quietly.

Owen walked over closer. “They’re staying?”

Chris shrugged.

“Christopher?” His aunt called from the living room.

“I’ll be right there,” he said quickly.

Dade hissed. “I am not staying here with them.”

Owen nodded in agreement.

“Chilin’ with you three when I would rather be with Cora is one thing but that…” He pointed to the living room. “Is an experience I will survive without!”

All their heads turned when his aunt walked back into the foyer. “Where is your bride my dear? I wanted to meet her, before.”

“He’s probably hiding her, she’s most likely some bimbo fortune hunter, mother.”

Chris’s head snapped around so quickly, Owen automatically stepped in front of him. “It’s too bad really you didn’t let Chris know you were arriving early, we were just about to leave when you got here.”

Steven looked at him then back to them slowly. “Yes we have ah…”

“To go pick up the rest of the chairs for tomorrow,” Dade added quickly.

Chris exhaled slowly. “You will be fine here without me won’t you?” He offered his most pleasant lawyer smile. “We can’t have our guests standing tomorrow can we?”

Uncle Chester sighed. “I am going to go up and go to bed. Your aunt had me drive straight through.”

Chris inclined his head politely. “You know where the bedrooms are.” He looked quickly at Steven. “Could you give me a hand in the storage room for a moment Dr. O’Reilly?”

Steven frowned, but nodded as Chris walked toward the temple room. “Of course.” He followed quickly hoping he only planned to secure the room and not get something to use on these very unwanted relatives.

Owen prodded Dade toward the door.

~*~

Rachel put in her teeth quickly and opened the door. She stepped back to see the men, costumes and all, standing there grinning at her. Steven dropped to his knees and hugged her waist.

“Please, Angel don’t send us back there, Chris’s Aunt Godzilla and Cousin Snotbag are there. They sent all the kids away.”

She ran her hand over his slicked back hair and looked at Chris. “Aunt Godzilla?”

Chris sighed. “They thought Dade was a servant.”

“Oh.” She grimaced. “And they’re still alive?”

Dade snarled. “Unfortunately.” His snarl disappeared as he looked at her costume.

“So we just need to…” Kasey stopped when she saw the men. “Oh.” She launched herself into Chris’s arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. “You naughty wizard you’re not supposed to be here.”

Chris grinned and watched the little antenna’s bounce over her head. “I’ve caught a fairy.” He smirked and then kissed her.

“Kase did you…” Leena stopped on the other side of the room and looked with huge eyes at the men. “A little old for trick or treating aren’t they?”

Owen flipped his eye patch down and walked over to her. “Hey sexy witch, wanna come see my ship?”

Leena grinned and wrapped her arms around his chest. “Why are you here Pirate Grey?”

He kissed her quickly. “Chris’s ah, relatives, very unpleasant relatives invaded our guy space.”

“Remind me to never wear black while cooking again.” Cora walked in brushing the flour off the front of her skeleton tights. She stopped and looked around, grinning at Dade as he pushed his cowboy hat back and whistled at her costume. “Do you have Saddie with you too?”

Dade shook his head and walked toward her. “She wouldn’t fit in the van.” He stopped in front of her and looked her up and down a few times. “Need any help peeling those bones off, Honey?” He placed his hands on her hips and pulled her closer to him.

“Dade Jones!”

Dade jumped and turned to see the older round woman coming from the kitchen. She had a smudge of on her dark cheek and was scowling. “Momma G,” he whispered. “What are you doing here?” He dropped his hands and stepped back from Cora.

The older woman walked right up to him and looked up. “Do you want to tell me why I had to hear it second hand that you finally asked this beautiful woman to be your wife? Am I not a little more important in your life? I held you in my lap the first time you were at the temple…”

Dade stooped down and kissed her cheek softly. “Of course you’re important. Things have just been…we had to get the things ready for the hand fast, and Halloween…”

She shook her head at him. “And why are you here?” Turning, she looked around at the other men’s startled faces.

Steven stood up and took out his teeth. Slowly he extended a hand. “Dr. O’Reily…”

“I know who you are,” she said quietly. “You’re the man that’s going to look after this lovely woman right here.” She motioned to Rachel.

He looked down at Rachel grinned and then turned back nodding quickly. “For the rest of my life,” he said solemnly.

Rachel cuddled into his arm.

“And you!” Momma G pointed to Owen. “You have been back in town all these months and I haven’t heard from you once.”

Owen dropped his head down. “Sorry Momma G, life got crazy on me.”

She smiled and walked over, pulling his head down and kissed his cheek. “I know, Owen.” Gripping his cheeks, she smiled up at him. “Always were such a good boy.” She sniffed. “Your bride is beautiful person.”

Owen smiled down at her. “Yes she is. I am a very lucky man.”

Nodding, she released his face.

Chris let Kasey go and took off his hat extending his hand toward the frightening woman. “Christopher Larkin, Mam.”

Momma G looked at him for a moment and took his hand. She didn’t shake it, just held it in hers. She looked up at him and spoke softly. “You’ll stay pure as the first snow, Mr. Larkin, or you’ll deal with me.”

Kasey smirked beside him.

Chris nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” He almost looked scared.

“Well now isn’t this a sight.” Patrick chuckled as he came out of the kitchen. “You gents get tired of each other?”

Steven grimaced. “No. Chris had some rude relatives arrive early so we bailed.”

Patrick laughed. “Well whatever the reason, I’m just glad to see you. I was feelin’ more than outnumbered here.”

Dade took off his hat. “And why are you allowed to be here and we’re not?”

“Someone had to give me a ride.” Rhonda stepped out from behind Patrick’s tall frame. “They won’t let me drive.” She hissed out a breath. “My hands move well enough, but I have no grip yet.”

Owen smiled and walked toward her. “Why didn’t you let me know darlin’? I would have tried to help.”

Rhonda smiled up at him then looked around to Momma G. “See,” she said with a grin.

Momma G laughed. “Oh, I know all about my, Owen. Raised him on my knee alongside the little trouble maker.” She smirked at Dade when his mouth dropped. “Always knew Owen had something in him.”

Owen grinned over at her. “You could have shared. It might have done some good to know about this a long time ago.”

Momma G sat down. “Oh, things happen when they’re meant, Owen, always.”

Owen sat on the table and motioned Rhonda to sit on the couch.

Rhonda grinned as she sat down. “It’s one way to get a man to hold my hands.” She winked at him.

Patrick snorted and walked over and sat in the other chair. “I’m sure you don’t need the help.”

Rhonda shrugged. “Maybe. At least I didn’t before I looked like this.”

Owen looked up from the hand he held. “You mean you weren’t always this lovely?”

She grinned. “Sweet man.” Turning, she glanced at Leena. “Are you sure you want him?”

Leena nodded. “Oh, I think my heart’s set on him now.”

Rhonda sighed loudly. “You girls took all of them. You didn’t even leave any to share.”

Dade shrugged as he pulled Cora to his side. “Hey there’s always, Kevin.”

Patrick laughed. “Don’t sick her on that poor boy, he’d never make it.”

Rhonda glared at him.

Rachel held up her hand and took two steps then stopped and put her hand over her stomach. “Oh.” She turned quickly and headed up the stairs.

Steven looked around at everyone then turned and ran after her.

“Oh dear.” Momma G grinned. “Hopefully someone doesn’t have morning sickness on her wedding day.”

“I’m sure they’ll be more upset if it falls on their wedding night.” Chris said with a grin.

Kasey smacked him. “Is that all you men ever think about?”

Chris looked at Owen who shrugged as he picked up Rhonda’s other hand and then back to her. “Pretty much.”

Momma G threw her head back and laughed. “So much good emotion in this room right now I feel like dancing. Of course these old bones don’t dance no more so I won’t.”

“I’m fine.” Rachel said quietly to Steven as they came back down the stairs. She stopped and grinned at everyone. “I got sick.”

Cora smiled. “Only you would be happy about that, Rachel.”

Leena looked at her watch. “You men have to go.”

Owen stood up from the table. “Baby…”

She shook her head. “I need to get some sleep, so I’m not napping at my own hand fast tomorrow.” Kasey nodded and pouted at Chris. “She’s right.”

“So where are we supposed to go?” Steven asked hugging Rachel back into him and rubbing her tummy gently. “I’m not going back to stay with Aunt Godzilla.”

Dade shrugged. “I’m going home. I have to get up early and pick up all the food and stuff here before I even meet you guys to get ready.”

Owen sighed. “Well I guess Chris and I are crashing at your place, Doc.”

Steven looked up from nuzzling into Rachel’s neck. “Sounds good.” Then he looked at the women. “So where are you ladies going to be?”

Cora grinned resting her head on Dade’s shoulder. “Not here. Kathy and Ralph will be here shortly. They’re going to stay and finish up. We’re going to Lee’s.” She lifted her head and smiled at Dade. “I’ll be back in the morning to help you.”

He nodded.

Patrick stood up. “So is there room for another male at your place, O’Reily?”

Rhonda stood up flexing her hands. “Why don’t you go with Dade? I’m sure he could use a hand in the morning.”

Patrick looked at her and saw her looking down at her hands. “You’ll get a ride there then?”

She looked up and smiled. “I’m sure someone will give me a lift.”

Cora smiled. “Absolutely.”