Levi Travis waved goodbye to his sister Jenny and her husband Mark. It'd been good to see them as well as the rest of his large extended family. Once a year there was a reunion held on the Travis ranch. It wasn't really a ranch, though, that's just what everyone called it. They had some horses, but the land itself was mostly raw and unblemished.
The thousand-acre spread, nestled between the mountains in Northwest Colorado, was about the only place a group the size of Levi's family could get together. It wasn't like they could have a beach party. The thick forest, full of aspens, pines and firs was the perfect place for the snow leopard shifters to run and hunt, although summer was a bit warm. It was better than having the reunion in winter, when tempers could be very touchy. Like snow leopards mated from January through March, so too did the shifter versions of the feline, although they weren't bound to their hormones. They were just...hornier, and the females were more demanding and the males more possessive.
The result was a bunch of grouchy, snarly people and when they shifted? Well, Levi had never seen it, but he'd heard Grandma Marybeth talk about the one time the family had got together in February years back. Apparently there'd been a lot of feline sexing going on, which was something Levi never, ever wanted to think about in regards to his family. It was just best to avoid any potential early mating cycles when the group all got together.
"I am so glad the reunion's over with," his brother Oscar muttered. Levi glanced at him, not surprised when he saw Oscar scowling. Oscar tended to scowl a lot. "Please. It's good to see everyone, all sixty-two of them or however many there are now, but geez, it's also good to see them all leave."
Levi snorted even though he did agree with Oscar somewhat. "You know you had fun wrestling with the cousins."
Oscar shook his head. "Yeah, right. I'm just a wild and crazy wrestling fanatic." He held up his right hand, wiggling the two fingers he'd caught in a trap years ago. The middle one had been cut off at the top joint, and the other nearly had, too. "And these are my secret weapons. Makes my foes scream in horror every time I threaten to poke them."
"Cut it out, Oz," Levi scolded, glaring at his younger brother. It wasn't like his fingers were atrociously mangled. In fact, the difference in his finger lengths was hardly noticeable in Levi's opinion. Besides, he seriously doubted many people looked at Oscar's hand once they actually saw him. Oscar was stunningly attractive in an androgynous way Levi had rarely seen and always envied.
With blond hair and pale blue eyes, Oscar was delicate and fair, whereas Levi was tall and bulky, his hair a dark auburn mess and his eyes a muted greenish-grey. Oscar was--there was no other way Levi could think to describe it--beautiful. Maybe years ago, right after the trap accident, there'd been a few rough years when even Levi and the rest of the family had to force themselves not to look at Oscar's fingers, but that was because they all remembered the blood and screams, the snap of the trap as it took off Oscar's fingertips.
But they all got over it. Even Oscar, he'd thought, but maybe not. There been a period of time when Oscar had been younger, and the occasional kid at school had been a jerk but as far as Levi knew, that'd stopped when Oscar ignored it. Hadn't it? Levi had to wonder, because Oscar sure didn't seem as over the trap incident as Levi had believed him to be.
"You make yourself sound like some kind of monster and you're not--as long as you get your caffeine," Levi teased, although an un-caffeinated Oscar was not pleasant to be around. Then again, Levi wasn't all that brilliant or friendly without a cup of coffee or two himself every morning.
Oscar huffed as if he didn't believe a word Levi said, but the pink flush spreading over Oscar's cheeks told Levi his brother had at least heard him.
Levi glanced back in the direction of their cabins. "Do you want help cleaning your place up?" Besides the main house, a sprawling ranch-style that had five bedrooms, there were five smaller cabins scattered over the property, one for each of the siblings.
Well, Jenny's was vacant now since she'd gotten married, although there'd been talk of adding onto hers should she and Mark decide to move back. As usual, though, during the week of the family reunion, they all shared their cabins with whichever family members wanted to crash at the cabins. There'd been several of his male cousins camped out on Levi's floor. It had been fun but exhausting--and messy. He might just need a backhoe to clean his place up.
"Nope. I didn't have very many people staying at my place . Some of the younger kids." Oscar smiled then, looking happier than Levi had seen him in a while. "I bet they didn't make near the mess the guys made at your cabin."
"No shit," Levi grumbled. "I think there's enough beer cans to start my own recycling centre. And don't even get me started on the bathroom." He shuddered, not entirely faking it. His bathroom was a damn nightmare, it was so dirty. Some of his cousins were slobs to the extreme. Next year they could sleep outside, because they sure weren't housebroken, at least not to Levi's standards.
Oscar raised an eyebrow.