Excerpt: Rabbit Season
Sidney groaned as his alarm went off. Stupid mornings. He killed the alarm, then dragged himself up and stretched, joints cracking and popping. He yawned as he climbed out of bed and stretched some more, scratching sleepily at his stomach as he reluctantly left the warmth of his bedroom and trudged downstairs, turning left at the bottom to go straight into the kitchen.
Coffee. He wanted. Needed.
Laughter made him stop. It was familiar, but he had to be wrong…
He squeaked in dismay when he saw he was not wrong, not even a little. The Hot Twins were sitting at the breakfast nook with his dad. Oh, god, what the hell were they doing there? At nine in the morning? While his hair was standing on end and he was wearing Spiderman pajama pants?
Coffee. Focus on the coffee, and then he could go throw himself into traffic or off a cliff, whichever one Google said was closest. Scurrying to the coffee pot, Sidney pulled out a mug, filled it, and then fled the kitchen to hide in the sunroom at the back of the house.
He settled into his favorite seat, a wicker chaise covered with the world’s softest cushions—although the sunflower and bees pattern was the ugliest thing in the existence.
What were Brook and Colby doing at his house? Why hadn’t someone warned him they were coming? He was going to kill his dads. Last he’d heard anything about the twins, they were busy working for their local branch of the Lost Shifters Foundation. They’d been so busy with it Sidney hadn’t seen them for like two years. Were they visiting to see if any of the duck families in Sidney’s flock would be willing to take in an orphan?
Birds were some of the hardest shifters to place, after some of the more dangerous ones like snakes, alligators, all the bitey and venomous shifters. Birds were difficult because they were elitist snobs, traditionally. Sidney’s flock was a rare exception, mostly thanks to his dads and the friends who had stood by them, but even they still had some disgruntled families who didn’t like the upset to years of history, of tried and true blah blah blah.
They still weren’t recovered from the scandal of his dad marrying Troy, a non-shifter. Even after two and a half decades of his dad and pop being together, people still weren’t entirely certain what to do with a regular old human. On top of that, his fathers’ best friend was a rabbit, and her sons came to stay at Sidney’s house all the time. He’d been awed by Brook and Colby as a little boy, two beautiful, bold rabbits who didn’t seem afraid of anyone or anything.
Awe and wonder had turned into a quiet protectiveness when he was about twelve and had caught them hiding in the boathouse, Brook crying and nursing a black and split lip, Colby tending him and muttering angrily about plucking stupid ducks and setting them on fire.
It hadn’t been hard for Sidney to figure out who was responsible for hurting them. He wasn’t the type to pick a fight in the schoolyard, as much as he daydreamed about being the big, brave hero sometimes… but he was perfectly capable of tattling because sometimes the most direct route was the best, and nobody was going to fuck with the only son of James Robinson, the flock leader. Of course, that often meant nobody invited him out to have any fun, either, but Sidney preferred to stay at home with his books and games anyway.
Unfortunately, the whole tattling thing hadn’t endeared him to the twins, either, but it wasn’t like they ever noticed him anyway. They were six years older than him, why would they? But he wished they hadn’t pulled away and stopped being friendly after he ratted out George and his crew for hurting them.
On the other hand, awe had turned to protectiveness had turned into an incredibly awkward crush because apparently he wanted to go all the way past hopeless and straight on to completely-removed-from-reality.
That was their fault, though, one hundred percent. After the second time he’d caught them in the boathouse, he’d sworn off ever again going near the damn thing. Bad enough they’d stolen his hideout for peace and quiet, but that they’d also stolen it to… well, fuck like bunnies? Jackasses. Until he’d seen that, his crush had been vague and largely aesthetic. After the boathouse, it had been very specific and highly graphic. He’d never been more grateful, or more annoyed by, the flexible personal boundaries that rabbits lived by.
It was a contentious issue, the ‘depravity’ and ‘loose morals’ of rabbits. If and when shifters made themselves known to ordinary humans, there were a whole bunch of shifters that the rest of the community was going to try and shove in a dark hole so they wouldn’t ruin it for everyone else. Rabbits would be one of the first shoved down it, and most ducks would be more than happy to start the shoving.
Sidney finished his coffee and left the mug on the table in the middle of the room and used the back stairs to sneak up to his room. Stripping off his stupid pajamas, he darted into his shower and washed up quickly, though he was tempted to stay there all day, work or no work.
Back in his room, he pulled on jeans and a green t-shirt with Robinson Landscaping written across it in white with a little yellow flower and duck logo in the bottom right corner. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he worked at the landscaping place. Tuesday and Thursday he worked the bakery. Saturday and Sunday he slept or otherwise avoided his dads because damn it, heir to the kingdom or not, he needed some downtime.
Ready as he was ever going to be, he grabbed his ball cap and wallet then headed down the front stairs to put on his boots. He was just sneaking out the front door when he heard his dad call from the kitchen. “Get in here, Sid.”
“Damn.” Closing the door again, Sidney slunk into the kitchen, looked warily around—and nearly sighed in relief when he saw it was just his dad. “What’s up?”
James gave him an amused look. “Aren’t you going to say hello to Brook and Colby?”
“I’m going to be late for work?” Sidney tried.
“Yeah, pity your boss is such a stickler about that,” James replied dryly.
Sidney rolled his eyes. “Dude, I doubt they care. Why are they here anyway?”
James’s levity faded off to a look of worry and anger. “You know their mother is pretty big in the whole shifters coming out thing, right?”
“Well, a group of protestors attacked their house last night. Vandalized it, broke all the windows, busted in the doors, even got in briefly and trashed a lot of the inside. They fled when the cops showed up. Thankfully, Nancy and her sons weren’t hurt. There was a note left, though, warning her that if she showed up at that conference in California happening this week a whole hell of a lot worse would happen. I told them the twins could stay here while she went to California.”
Sidney frowned. “Will she be okay?”
James smiled faintly. “Yeah, Nancy will be okay. That woman has a lot of enemies, but she’s also got a lot of friends—including some high-placed wolves. Nobody will get to her unless they go through a lot of other people, and Brook and Colby should be safe laying low here for a couple of weeks. You should go say hello, though. They’ve been kind of down and shaky since it happened, and you’re good at cheering them up.”
“Me? Since when? Have you been drinking pond water again, Dad? I’ll tell Pop.”
“Shut up,” James replied, still smiling. Pushing away from the counter he’d been leaning against, he ruffled Sidney’s hair and shoved him back toward the open doorway leading into the hall. “There’s not much going on at work today, just lawns to mow and a rose garden to touch up. Take the day off, go spend it with Brook and Colby. If you think you don’t cheer them up, then you’re the one drinking pond water. Get, or I’ll start in with threats.”
“I’m going, I’m going. Go to work or something, ugh.” He paused to grab a pack of pop-tarts from the pantry, snitched a soda from the fridge, and then headed through the house to where he was pretty sure Brook and Colby would be hanging out: the patio.