“Who was on the phone?” Patrick asked Ginny.
“It was Luc. He called to let me know I could take my time getting back to work,” she said.
“Oh? There has to be more to it than just that,” he said.
“Yeah, A friend of Meg’s needed a job and they’ve hired her for the moment to catch the phones. Seems Luc got tired real fast of Kevin’s sloppy handwriting,” said Ginny.
“Are you upset?” asked Patrick sitting down next to Ginny at the table.
“No. Luc did it so that we could have more time,” she said. “And when I go back to work, Angie, that’s the woman, will stay on as a receptionist. I’ll have more time to do dispatch, orders, paperwork, and the like,” she said. “He said he knew I was doing too much and that was part of what was making me crabby. That between work, the kids and everything, I needed a break.”
“I agree with that. Plus to be honest, I want to spend some time with you. Just you. No George, no kids, nothing but you,” said Patrick. He took her hand in his.
“We can do that soon, but Luc and Meg’s dinner party is in less than a week. She’d have a fit if I disappeared before that got done,” said Ginny.
“How tied into this event are you?” he asked.
“About as tied as you can get. I’ll need to call her later and we will squeeze in another setting for you,” said Ginny.
“Okay. In the meantime, I need my stuff from Cal’s house and I wouldn’t mind a bit more of a tour around town,” said Patrick.
Ginny nodded and they got ready to head out. While Ginny was dressing, Patrick called Cal and let him know that they were headed his way. He hung up just as Ginny came out of the bedroom.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Yes, let’s go before the rest of them figure out we’re leaving,” she said nodding her head towards the back of the house where George and the kids were cleaning.
Patrick smiled and they headed out the door.
Once they left, Ginny made a leisurely tour of the city. Then they headed to Cal’s. After picking up his things and making a few arrangements, Ginny directed him to the Mall.
“I have to pick up a few things and see if Andrew has my present ready,” said Ginny.
“Who’s Andrew?” asked Patrick as they parked the car and headed into the Mall.
“He’s our local silversmith. His shop is right over there,” she said pointing to the Silver Lode. They walked in and Ginny looked around. Andrew was nowhere to be seen, so she asked the girl behind the counter if he was in. She nodded and turned towards the back of the shop and called for Andrew.
A moment later, a man appeared. Ginny pulled Patrick forward to introduce the two men.
“Andrew, this is Patrick,” she said.
“Nice to meet you,” Patrick said holding out his hand.
“I’d heard that Ginny had met a gentleman,” said Andrew as he shook Patrick’s hand firmly. “Glad to see she has good taste.”
“Oh Andrew!” Ginny said blushing. “Do you have my order ready?” she asked.
“Not yet. I still need to finish the final polish. Could you pick it up later?” he asked. “Perhaps Patrick could wait while you find a dress for Meg’s party,” Andrew suggested. He gave Patrick a conspiratorial wink.
“But I have a dress,” said Ginny.
“And if it is the one I think it is, you’ve worn it to every family occasion for the last six years,” said Andrew. “If I see that blue suit one more time, I swear I’ll split every seam right there at the dinner table.”
“You wouldn’t!” said Ginny. “I,… I like that suit!”
“Get a new dress woman,” Andrew said with a heavy hint of sub-vocals.
Ginny blinked. “Fine. You two can just sit here and talk, and I’ll be in Kohl’s,” she said and turning on her heel, left the shop.
“Andrew, what was that about?” asked Patrick trying not to laugh.
“That was me handling a situation. George called me about ten minutes ago and said if Ginny showed up here, to force her to buy a new dress. So, I obliged. Plus, it gives us a chance to get acquainted,” said Andrew. He gestured for Patrick to follow him to the back of the shop. “Now before I forget, here is her order. It’s already paid for. I’ve had it done for two days, but it was a good excuse.”
Patrick smiled and set the box at his feet. “Now you get to answer my question. What are you to Ginny that she responds so fast to you?” he asked.
Andrew leaned back and relaxed in his chair. “Once upon a time, long ago, we were lovers.”
“And,” Patrick said trying to find out what happened.
“We meshed well as humans, but as wolves, it was fun. It was playful. It didn’t work. She wanted a mate and babies at that point. I wasn’t ready for that and later I understood why. We just didn’t fit,” Andrew said with a sigh. “I’m the pack’s shaman as well. That was another reason our relationship didn’t work. She didn’t want the responsibility that went with being my mate.”
Patrick shook his head. “Yet from what I can tell, she has all the responsibilities and just not the title now,” he said. “There are days I do not understand women.”
“Oh, I agree. Ginny is the matriarchal wolf in the pack. Luc may be the head, but when it comes to family matters it’s Ginny they turn to. Which leads me to another question,” said Andrew.
“Yes,” said Patrick wondering just how fast the news had traveled.
“Does your wolf recognize Ginny as a mate?” Andrew asked. “Do you intend to make her your mate?”
“Yes, and it is my intention. It’s been a whirlwind romance to say the least and I have to admit I’m still trying to catch my breath,” said Patrick. “I’ve gone from widower to lover to mate with the potential extended family added in less than 48 hours.”
Andrew smiled. “George filled me in a bit. Plus, you smell of an honest shifter,” he finished. “I have something for you then if you want it.” Andrew stood and pulled a box from a drawer. “I made this for Ginny a long time ago. If you’re serious, I’d like you to have it.”
Patrick nodded as he took the box and opened it. Inside was a silver chain with tiny Art Nouveau roses decorating the length of the chain. “Um, Andrew, are you sure? Don’t you have a lady friend you’d like to give this to?” he asked.
“No, I lost my heart a long time ago. I have the occasional lover but nothing serious. Besides this was made with Ginny in mind. She should have it, and I can’t think of a better point in time for her to receive it,” Andrew said. He slid the chain into a velvet bag and handed it back to Patrick.
Patrick took a long look at Andrew. “Thank you. What do I owe you?” he asked.
“You owe me to love that crazy woman with all of your heart and keep her from killing all of us when she stresses,” said Andrew with a smile. “Otherwise, nothing.”
“Andrew, that isn’t fair. You’re an artisan and deserve payment for your art,” argued Patrick.
“Make her happy where I could not,” Andrew said and stood up. “Now you’d better get moving and make sure she buys something nice. Kohl’s is down the left past the popcorn store. Oh, and her favorite color is dark green.”
Patrick knew from the look on Andrew’s face that there was no arguing with him. He nodded, put the bag in his pocket and picked up her order. “Will you be at the party?” he asked.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. Ask Luc when you see him to show you the bear claw,” said Andrew as they headed back to the front of the store.
“Bear claw?” Patrick asked.
“Have Ginny tell you the story,” said Andrew and disappeared into the back.
Patrick left the shop and headed towards Kohl’s. He could have followed Ginny by scent alone, but it was nice to have some directions. He found her coming out of the dressing room with two outfits in her hand.
“So, which one are you getting?” he asked as she almost walked past him.
“Oh! Patrick, you startled me. Um… I really haven’t found one I like,” she said trying to put what she had in her hands on the rack for the clerk to return.
“So, are these the only two you have tried on?” he asked looking at the dresses. His nose told him that she had also tried on a green dress stuffed to the back. He pulled out all three and looked at them. The first one was plain. Straight body and no real fit. A sack with an expensive price tag. The second one looked like the kind of dress you’d wear to a funeral. Dark blue with a severe cut and no decoration. He put those two on the rack. Then he looked at the green one. It was softer, both in cut and fabric. A layer of some semi sheer fabric over a darker under dress and subtle lace around the collar.
“Ginny, what size do you wear?” he asked.
“A sixteen,” she said. “Damn! Why did he have to see that one?” she thought.
“Oh good. This is a sixteen. Go try it on. This is a really nice dress,” he said and held it out to Ginny. When she didn’t want to take it, he gave her a look that sent shivers down her spine.
“Fine,” she said and took the dress into the dressing room.
“I want to see you in it,” he called in after her.
“Just a minute,” she called. “Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!!!” she thought to herself as she slipped the dress on. She had tried it on first, fell in love with it, but couldn’t bring herself to spend the money. She did up the back and headed out to the lobby where Patrick waited.
“Here it is,” she said and did a quick turn and tried to head back to the dressing room.
“Wait a minute. You barely gave me a chance to see you let alone how the dress looked,” Patrick said with a subtle sub-vocal growl.
Ginny stopped in her tracks and turned around. She knew Patrick was taking a good look at her in the dress, but still couldn’t see how she could afford it.
“Looks good to me. What do you think Ginny?” he asked.
“Well, it’s nice, but I don’t know if I’d get more than one wear out of it and it’s a lot of money for just one occasion,” she said rapidly.
“Do you like it?” Patrick asked looking her straight in the eyes.
“Yes, but…” was as far as Ginny got.
“Good. Go get changed and we’ll pay for the dress,” Patrick said. The sub-vocals in his voice brooked no disagreement.
Ginny changed clothes and came out with the dress in hand. Part of her was ecstatic while the other panicked about money.
“Do you need shoes or tights or anything like that?” he asked.
“No, not really,” she said.
“Okay,” he said. “Then it’s off to the lingerie department and the shoe department. I learned a long time ago that ‘not really’ means yes.” He took the dress and steered her towards the lingerie section.
They looked through the bras and panties, but Ginny didn’t stop for more than a moment . They moved onto the hosiery section. Ginny found a couple pairs of hose and a pair of tights that matched the dress and was trying to decide between them when Patrick just took all three packages in his hand and smiled at her. She started to say something and just shut her mouth.
At the shoe department, it was more difficult to ignore the nice shoes. Ginny had a weakness for shoes. Patrick didn’t know it yet as he hadn’t seen the inside of her closet, but they were her one vice. There were two styles she liked. Mid heel in one style and the other was a neat flat.
“Are you going to try one of those pairs on, or are you just going to drool on them?” Patrick teased her.
“I’m trying to decide,” she said.
“What size?” he asked.
“An 8,” she said not really paying attention to Patrick.
Patrick grabbed a size 8 off the shelves in both styles and handed the boxes to Ginny. “Here, try them on,” he said.
Ginny blinked, took the boxes and sat down. She tried on the mid heel style first. It was nice. She slipped on the other shoe and took a short walk. “These are doable,” she thought. Sitting down, she slipped off that pair and tried on the flats. They were comfortable, but not really dressy enough. She looked over to the shelf and tried to decide between black, dark brown, and sort of an oxblood color in the mid heel style. She took the oxblood down and tried them on. Before she could say anything, Patrick held the dress to her to check it against the shoes. They complemented the dress beautifully.
“Will those do?” he asked.
“Um, yes,” she answered deciding not to fuss.
Patrick put the shoes in the box while she got her own shoes back on. He was already heading towards the check-out area before Ginny got the last one tied.
When they got to the cashier, Patrick paid for everything before she could get her wallet out of her handbag. He handed her the bag and they left the store.
“Patrick, you didn’t need to do that,” she said taking a softer tone than she had previously.
“No, but I wanted to. Now, do we have any other shopping to do in this place or can we go get something to eat?” he asked.
Ginny thought for a moment. “No, let’s go eat.”
Ginny headed for Roberto’s. She was in the mood for green chile and tamales. Patrick’s nose scented the food the moment they stepped out of the car.
“This another one of those best kept secrets like that place we ate lunch the other day?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Ginny as they walked in and found a booth. Ten minutes later, they were eating salsa and chips while the waitress took their order to the kitchen.
“Now Andrew mentioned something about a bear claw and said I should ask you to tell me the story,” said Patrick.
“Oh. Yes. That fits in with why George is around too,” started Ginny. “A month or so ago, Luc and Meg went camping and this bear attacked Luc,” she started.
Patrick and Ginny got home three hours later. Ginny had told Patrick the entire story of the bear attack over lunch. Patrick was amazed that Luc and Meg had survived the attack. It also raised his opinion of the two of them. Meg showed a lot of strength for a human. They stopped at the Italian market and picked up some of the food that she and Meg had ordered earlier/ Plus Ginny got a few items they had forgotten. After carrying in the packages, Patrick helped her put most if it away. George walked in as Ginny headed off to the bedroom to hang up her dress and put away her shoes.
“Did you get the message from Andrew?” George asked quietly.
“Yes, and that was a real struggle. Damn she can be stubborn,” said Patrick. “We got a nice green dress, shoes and hose. She looks gorgeous in the dress.”
“Good,” said George.
“George, why is she so reluctant to spend money on herself?” Patrick asked. He started the coffee machine and then sat down at the kitchen table.
“For the same reason she forgets to relax. Too many responsibilities and no one to share them with. She provides for Duke’s kids. Almost always has, and while we try to help, she is reluctant to take any money. It’s real easy to say that Ivan needs socks or ‘Solda needs money for school, and deny herself to make ends meet. Luc raised her salary, but she still operates like she’s broke. It’s part of the reason I moved in to help. I contribute to the household and she doesn’t have a say in it,” said George.
“Okay. Thanks. By the way, I met Andrew. Very nice man,” said Patrick.
“Yeah. He’s still in love with Ginny, but they just don’t match,” said George. He got the two of them a cup of coffee and sat back down.
“He gave me something to give Ginny if I wanted,” said Patrick and started to pull the pouch out of his pocket.
“Wait, itty bitty roses?” George asked.
“Yes, how did you know?” asked Patrick.
“Andrew and I have been friends for a long time. He showed it to me once. She’s never seen it. So if he gave it to you, he must trust you a lot,” said George.
“I don’t see why,” said Patrick. “We just met.”
“Andrew isn’t always in this world if you know what I mean. After he and Ginny broke up, he went off studying and came back a bit spooky. So when he sees something we tend to believe him. Thought Meg was wonderful right off the bat too. Blessed her when she came in,” said George.
Patrick just nodded. He’d had an auntie like Andrew. She’d walk in and hand you the thing you needed five seconds after you thought about it. Ginny walked in before either of them could say another word.
“Patrick, we were so busy figuring out what I could wear to the dinner, I forgot to ask if you have anything to wear,” she said.
“I do. I brought my interview clothes with me because Cal said there was work here,” said Patrick.
“Oh,” said Ginny. “Well, there goes that plan,” she thought. She figured she could at least pay him back by making sure he had a nice outfit.
“Patrick, what line of work are you in?” asked George. He was curious as to what kind of clothes would work for a job interview as well as a dinner party.
“Promise not to laugh?” Patrick asked.
Ginny and George both nodded. She realized that that was one thing neither of them had brought up in conversation.
“I”m an economist,” he said a tad chagrined .
“What?” said George.
Ginny got a funny smile on her face trying not to laugh. “It could have been worse. He might have been a lawyer or a stock broker,” she said.
Patrick stuck his tongue out at her. “Funny…” he said.
“Okay, humor me. What exactly does an economist do?” asked George.
“I study data about the economy and write policy for businesses. I analyze all sorts of trends from what people buy to how the job market works in an area and what needs done to fix a problem,” said Patrick.
“Sounds sort of like what Meg does,” said Ginny.
“From what he’s saying, Meg’s job is the one that provides him with the information he needs to make the decisions or forecasts,” said George.
“Sounds like I need to chat with Meg,” said Patrick. “Especially if she’s doing data collection.”
“Where do you look for jobs?” asked George.
“Banks, economic development groups, investment companies and that kind of thing,” Patrick said.
George nodded. “You should be able to find a decent job,” he said. The back door slammed behind him and the three little cubs poured into the kitchen.
“Wez hungreeee!” they all said at once.
The adults just laughed.