Excerpt: Cabaret Rollo Rouge

Stopped at a long red light, Garnet took a moment to trace the flourish of his own signature on the newly acquired deed in the side door pocket. His whole adult life, he’d been an outcast from werewolf society. As of today, he was an outcast from werewolf society who owned a cabaret.

The roadhouse formerly known as Cherry Pie’s now belonged to Garnet Lyall. It was registered with a number because the government loved numbered companies, but also as the Cabaret Rollo Rouge. A real territory for his strange, impossible pack.

The light turned green and Garnet tossed the deed to the slender man in the passenger seat, who caught it deftly even though he appeared to be absorbed with his phone. “We did it, Leeloo. What they said couldn’t be done.” From the Triumvirates to his own insufferable brother-in-law.

“I knew you could. Just texted the rest of the pack to tell them we’re on our way.”

Garnet spared a glance to his right, catching Leeloo—Lucien Greyson to most of the world—smiling back at him. “This whole thing was all your idea, so you can’t give me all the credit.” Everyone said rouge wolves, outcasts, couldn’t form packs. Then he’d met Leeloo during a review show in Quebec City, of all places. They’d ended up on a summer tour of southern Ontario together, managing to not kill each other. Leeloo—his stage name—had become a friend. And had encouraged Garnet to form his own troupe.

“My best idea, though,” Leeloo said, folding the deed carefully and replacing it in a thick manila envelope, “Was having you be the leader. I love leaving all the headaches to you.”

Garnet snickered. Leeloo helped Kyria with troupe costuming and Merle with prop building and acquisition. In addition to performing, every member of the troupe dealt with “headaches.” His own set came from being pack alpha, even if only by consensus. Now he’d given the pack a home, like an alpha should. “Think we should invite the provincial Triumvirates to the grand opening?”

Leeloo sputtered laughter, bracing himself as Garnet navigated the on-ramp to the highway that would take them from Fredericton to St. Nichols. “Yeah, no. Besides, if they recognized us as a pack, they’d try to impose wolf law on us.”

Leeloo had come to the city with him to serve as a witness as the lawyers made it official. Of course, Leeloo had jumped up and down for the privilege, but more for a chance to check out the stores in town. “Not a shoe store in St. Nichols carries my size, darling.”

Not in women’s shoes, anyway.

Garnet would have brought them all, if they’d wanted, but they’d stayed to make a party and it was fitting that Leeloo witness the end result of his insistence that they could get along in spite of their wolf natures.

Leeloo kept up a stream of cheerful commentary as Garnet drove, most of which Garnet didn’t pay much attention to. After four years of listening to his friend’s aimless chatter it was almost like white noise, only in a pleasant baritone.

“…you some clothes.”

Garnet glanced down at his clothes. He wore soft, black cotton trousers with a tuxedo jacket over a white tee shirt. It was the closest facsimile to business wear his closet could produce. “What’s wrong with my clothes?”

“Darling, you dress like you work in a high-class bordello. All silk pants and silk robes. Or those horrible rags you call jeans.” Leeloo’s disgust was not in any way disguised.

“I’m a stripper,” he pointed out, flashing Leeloo a grin before returning his attention to the road. St. Nichols was somewhat off the beaten path, but so picturesque that tourists came from all over the Maritime provinces and New England states, not only in the summer, but through the cold winter months as well. It meant they could keep the cabaret open on winter weekends instead of heading west to Vancouver or drumming up gigs south of the border. Or so he hoped, as he took the turn onto a winding asphalt road with a single yellow line down the center.

“That’s no reason not to have nice clothes. What if you meet someone?”

Rouge wolves didn’t have true mates; they dated in human fashion. The best they could hope for was a human lover they could trust enough to know their true nature. He spared Leeloo another glance. “In St. Nichols?”

“I admit it’s not exactly an LGBT mecca. But it could happen, and you’ve nothing decent to wear on a date.” Leeloo’s tone carried his disapproval. “With all the tourists going through, it’s not as unlikely as you seem to think.”

Garnet shook his head, and shook it again as his hair fell into his eyes. Leeloo dropped it, at least for the moment. If he knew Leeloo, this wasn’t the last he would hear about his clothes. Or his love life.

Leeloo reached automatically for the handle by the window as Garnet swung onto the dirt road that led to their new home sweet home.

He pulled into the staff parking on far side of the building, pausing to stare for a minute at the roadhouse. The exterior had been designed to resemble an Old West saloon with an overhanging second floor providing shelter for the patrons below as they waited to get in. The old sign was gone, leaving a dark patch on the silvery wood. The new sign would be here tomorrow.

Cherry Pie’s had been a strip club of dubious reputation which not only accounted for its location outside of town but also for the apartments upstairs. Part of the ‘conditions of sale’ had been renovating the flop rooms ‘for out of town dancers’ into eight little studio apartments and a laundry room. Only two were empty. Each of the five pack members had a room, and the sixth was occupied by their bouncer, a giant of a man aptly called Big Mike.

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