Clarence Skunk, Cindy Lapine, Wanda the Vixen, Susan Felin, Debbye Squirrel, Chris Foxx, Rodney and Ellen Lapine, and Mark the Lemur are copyright Chris Yost. Martin Lupina, Nathan Fenicus, Clint Aardwulf, Nancy David, Pacidy Angelou, Vernon Procyon, Miranda Civet, Sal Simon, Jennifer Ironne, and most others not listed here are copyright Joe McCauley. Zig Zag is copyright Max Black Rabbit. Sabrina Mustelidae is copyright Eric W. Schwartz. James Sheppard, Rhonda Badger, Lilian Bartholomew, and Gypsy Coyote are copyright James Bruner. Marvin Badger is copyright James Bruner after a description by Chris Yost. Lee Evans is copyright Evan Mayerle. Joshua Fox is copyright Joshua Fox. Jake Mackelroy is copyright David S. Adrian. Jake Bunny is copyright Jake Rupert. Kittiara Seng and "Callahans" are copyright Kittiara.
This story is copyright © 2003-2011 by Joe McCauley. This story may not be sold or used for commercial profit in any form or fashion. This story may not be modified in any way. This story may not be posted on any Internet site, archive, or newsgroup without the written permission of the author. Permission is granted for readers to produce an individual copy in print, magnetic or optical media for personal use only.
Characters listed as copyright this author may not be used in other works without the written permission of the author. Permission to use characters that are copyright other individuals was obtained prior to the appearance of said characters.
This is an independent work of fiction that is not canonical with any other work occurring in the same setting or featuring the same characters.
Tall grass grew all around him, some of it more than waist high, and interspersed among it were shrubs and flowers, lots of beautiful wildflowers. The breeze felt wonderful, the scents it carried smelled wonderful, the earth beneath his paws felt wonderful. The only thing that could make this moment more perfect would be to have Cindy here to share it with.
And there she was. "Oh, Clarence," he heard her call. Ears perking, he jaunted over in the direction of her voice. He spotted her soon enough, partially hidden behind some scrub brush. She was wearing only a loose-fitting shirt and a pair of satin shorts that rode up the outside of her thighs. She was leaning on one leg, giving her hips a tilt as she smiled at him coyly.
"Wow, Cindy, you're lovely to see today," he said, hardly able to keep his eyes off her the way she was showing off her figure. Stepping up beside her and taking his paw in hers, they skipped off through the meadow, both their hearts aflutter as the sun warmed them and the breeze cooled them. They paused, faced each other to hold both hands, and spun around.
Moments later they spotted a brass bed, one that had become familiar to the skunk. He headed towards it, Cindy nearly floating beside him as they made their way among the flowers and the bushes. They both sat. He didn't resist as Cindy pushed him onto his back and followed him down, covering him, her heaving chest now pressed against his as she brought her mouth to his. He wrapped his arms around her, and they kissed deeply. Neither was in a hurry to end it but when it finally did, he opened his eyes. His paws were caressing, venturing down near her tail, and she didn't object. If anything, her wiggles atop him seemed to encourage him further. They kissed again, this one as passionate as the first. As before, he didn't want it to end. Cindy never felt so good!
And then, of a sudden, something changed, felt different. He opened his eyes to see what it was, and beheld... "Wanda! Wh..what are you d..doing here?" His hands froze in place.
The vixen was atop him now, his body pinned beneath hers. "That's a very interesting question," she murred, making no move to get off of him.
"What happened to..? Oh, this is... this is like the dream. From the movie."
Wanda looked around, wearing an obliging grin as if he had just stated the most obvious thing in the world. "Yes, it does seem that way."
"So..." Clarence looked around too, shifting uneasily as he felt Wanda's weight pinning him, her warm body pressed against him. "Does that mean... Is this... meadow... about to turn into a swamp?"
Wanda kept her sultry gaze on him. "Why don't you ask the director?"
Clarence hadn't noticed anyone else nearby, yet this time when he turned his head to look where the director's chair should be, there it was. And sitting on the chair was... himself. Or rather, another copy of himself, just watching the two of them. He turned back to Wanda. "But it's... me!"
Wanda looked over at the other Clarence, smiled at him as if they were sharing some secret. She looked back at him. "Yes, so it is."
"B...but... what's it mean?"
She leaned closer to him, speaking almost in a whisper, her body rubbing against him and feeling much too good in ways he was trying not to notice. "It's your dream. Why are you asking me?" He felt her breath on his ear. "But that's your answer too. It's your dream."
Gasping, he looked back at her. "So it's... up to me whether it changes to a swamp?"
Wanda nodded. "Exactly."
"Th..then... Can I change anything else I want to?"
The vixen grinned at him. "Now you're getting the idea!"
Clarence suddenly became a lot less uncomfortable, and smiled up at her. "Well in that case..." He closed his eyes, paws unfrozen at last as they stroked up her back...
...and another change occurred. The warmth of the female atop him felt different, a much more familiar and welcome kind of warmth. He opened his eyes to confirm what he felt. "You're back," he said.
"Yes, I am," Cindy replied. "Now where were we?"
Her next kiss was even warmer and more passionate than the ones before, if that was possible. This time she felt so good he didn't even want to try to stop his body's reactions.
Like a splash of cold water, a loud beep jerked him away from the bed in the meadow to the one in his hotel room. He stared at the clock radio. "Why do I always have to wake up just when it's getting to the best part?" he grumbled.
* * *
"Good morning, Clarence. Would you like to join us?" asked Zig Zag.
He hadn't been sure if it was his place to ask to sit with Zig Zag and Jennifer, but now that the offer had been extended, it would be awkward to refuse. "Um... Sure," he said, setting his food on the table and pulling the chair out to take a seat.
"How has Georgia been treating you?" she asked.
"It's been... a different experience."
The skunkette grinned at him. "I certainly hope so. It's different from Columbus. Plenty of places around here to explore."
Clarence scooted up closer to the table. "I'm seeing a l..lot of the things that go into m..making a movie that I don't usually see back at the studio."
Zig Zag nodded. "Of course. Do a few more of these and you'll be ready to direct a film," she said.
Clarence blinked, and suddenly looked afraid. "I d..don't th..think I c..could."
Jennifer laughed and punched Zig Zag in the arm, then said to him, "It's your choice, Clarence. You can choose whatever goals you want," she said to him.
"Spoilsport," Zig Zag muttered.
"Don't let anyone else decide for you what to go after," Jennifer continued. "Once you know what you want, go after it with all your heart and don't let anything stop you. I spent years imagining one of my stories being made into a film before it happened for real."
"Words to live by," Zig Zag chimed in.
"And when you're ready to direct, just give us a call," added Jennifer with a wink.
Clarence's jaw dropped as he stammered something incoherent. Before his brain could serve up the perfect witty reply, the cellphone on Zig Zag's hip rang. She pulled it out. "Hello?"
She quickly dismissed herself to the hallway outside the breakfast lounge.
Jennifer rolled her eyes. "Cellphones," she sighed. "Just you watch. In a few years everyone will have one, even children. They're getting cheaper, you know." She shrugged. "I may have to bite the bullet and get myself one soon."
"So? I have a phone at my apartment. I don't think I need to carry one with me everywhere."
She leaned closer to Clarence and spoke quietly. "I wanted to talk to you alone anyhow. About that poem..."
"I wanted to propose a couple of bits from the last verse as a good tagline for the movie."
Clarence leaned closer. "Umm... which lines?"
"I spliced them a little. It goes, 'A spirit of fire, bold without shame, a heart that is wild, let none try to tame'." She paused. "Are you okay with that?"
Clarence bit his lip and sighed as he thought about the poem and why he wrote it, then let go of that thought, thinking instead about the movie and its characters. "It fits her. Rose, I mean."
"I agree. All right, so you're okay with it?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Do you want to be credited?"
He gazed back at her. "No. That isn't why I wrote it."
Jennifer reached out a paw to stroke his forearm. "I understand. Okay, I'll pass it along."
* * *
"Hi, Zig Zag, it's Marvin."
"Hey, Marvin. Is the studio still standing?"
"Yes, like it or not. I tried to burn it down, but the fire department showed up and spoiled my plans."
"Firemen? Say, that gives me an idea..."
"Write it down and I'll go over it with you next week, okay? Say, I wanted to check in with you on a couple of things."
"We've been getting a ton of inquiries about Wild Southern Rose from adult film rags, a lot more than usual for how much we've released to the press. They're asking when we'll have pre-release copies available for review. We're also getting calls from distributors. I'm thinking we should at least double the size of our first print run."
"Do the printers have the capacity?"
"That shouldn't be a problem if we let them know soon. They should have plenty of time to prepare before we'll have a final print ready for them."
"All right. Do we know why there's been so much interest?"
"It has to be those pictures we've been putting up on the website. After that first batch of them went viral and we saw what was happening, it was a smart move to have Mark take some more, and Sabrina has been on top of getting those up on the website too. Our webpage hit counts have been through the roof and our paysite subscriptions have been way up."
"I see. How are things going on Silk Ribbons?"
"Okay, mostly. We had a couple of issues with costumes, and some of the equipment you guys have down there would sure come in handy." They spent a few minutes discussing more specifics of both productions.
"Just stay on top of things and have fun while you're at it," Zig Zag finally said.
Marvin smiled. "How do you mean that?"
He could hear the amusement in her voice. "Take it any way you like. I've got to run."
"Okay, don't let me keep you."
As they ended the conversation, Marvin once again thought about the photos. Only he and Mark knew the real reason they had been taken in the first place.
* * *
"Okay, folks, today we shoot our big confrontation scene," announced Martin. "We need to perform with a lot of intensity here. Do your jobs, but keep in mind the mood Wanda and I need to maintain." He looked around. "Are we ready to shoot?" There were nods all around. "Good. Nancy, you get the director's chair," he said, rising from the seat.
The otteress was beside Wanda, who appeared to be in an almost trance-like state. Pacidy approached the vixen with a bottle of eye drops, but Wanda shook her head and waved her off.
Nancy stepped away to the director's chair and Martin spoke to her. "Unless I say something, you stay in command, even between takes. In this scene it's an effort for me to break character and have to get back into it." He looked over at the vixen. "Wanda, are you ready?"
Wanda looked up with a somber, almost fearful expression on her face, and nodded.
Nancy queried the sound, lighting, and camera furs to make sure everyone had their equipment in good order, while Martin was mentally shifting into the role of 'Malachi'. "Cameras rolling," shouted Nancy. "Action!"
'Malachi's' form overshadowed 'Rose'. "How long have you been seeing Tyler?"
'Rose' was tearful. "Just since the party!"
His voice grew louder. "You expect me to believe that? Don't you lie to me, Rose!"
The fear on her face was palpable. "I swear it's true! I wasn't seeing him at all." She looked up at him. "I mean, we dated in high school, but until then I hadn't seen him in years!"
His voice lowered, but his expression became more severe. "So you're telling me this has been just since we've been engaged!" He snorted. "We're not even married yet and you're already cheating on me!"
"It was..." She was looking mortified now. "I guess you'd say it was just a last fling."
"That's one hell of a wild last fling!" 'Malachi' snorted again, looking away, then back at her, his voice now menacing. "You will not see him anymore."
"Not at all."
"Just let me talk to him one last time. End it my way."
"No! Absolutely not!"
'Rose' stood up, her voice escalating. "I have to!"
In a blink, 'Malachi's' paw came up and he backhanded her across the muzzle. "You will not see him again, do you understand me?"
'Rose' brought her arms up, now sobbing openly and looking at him in shock, saying nothing more. She turned and ran away.
"Cut," said Nancy. The backhand had been a 'stage strike', meant to look as real as possible with only minimal contact. "Let's try it again."
Within a couple of takes, Martin and Wanda had achieved a good level of emotional intensity. One otherwise good take was ruined when Martin's wireless microphone came loose. Wanda never needed the eye drops, and in fact needed to have her tears dabbed between takes so she didn't look too tearful to start with. Nancy knew they couldn't maintain that intensity for very many takes but asked for one more to see if they could do it just a little bit better.
"I have to!" cried 'Rose' toward the end of the take.
'Malachi' backhanded her, only this time, a split-second timing error by one of them resulted in his paw connecting with her full force. Wanda stumbled and fell to one knee. Nancy gave a hand signal to keep rolling, and Wanda stayed in character as she staggered to her feet, looking tearfully at the wolf as she turned to run away.
As soon as Martin heard it, he broke character and hurried over to Wanda. "I'm sorry. Are you okay?"
Wanda was rubbing her cheek. Her lip was bleeding. "I'll be okay," she said. "Damn, you can hit hard!"
"It was an accident. I'm really sorry."
"Probably my fault," she said. "Did we get a good take?"
"I think so," he replied. "Nancy, can we print that?"
"It looked more real to me than any of the others," Nancy replied.
"Well, it was."
After changing out of costume, Martin reclaimed his director's chair. Wanda had another scene to go. Once her cut stopped bleeding, Pacidy applied some fake blood.
The scene was being filmed in a gazebo to the side of the estate house. It had been used in a couple of previous scenes which were portrayed as being near 'Maggie's' house, so they had avoided having it appear in any scene that was supposed to be taking place at the estate where 'Rose' lived. It started with Miranda sitting on a bench with Wanda leaning on her. 'Maggie' had her arm around 'Rose'. Everyone was in place and Martin called out, "Action!"
"I'm so sorry, Rose. I can't believe he blew up at you like that."
'Rose' sniffled. "I thought he loved me! Now I don't know. I don't think I can handle marrying him. How can he treat me like that?"
"Some guys think it's okay to treat their wives that way."
"I don't wanna marry someone who's gonna treat me that way!"
"What would you do? Marry Tyler?"
"I don't know! I just don't know!" She sniffled again. "My daddy was so happy about me bein' engaged to Malachi. Breaking it off would cause such an uproar."
"I know, it's not easy. I'm sorry." 'Maggie' stroked 'Rose's' back. "Well, if you do marry him, you oughta tell him for starters he can't have his cake and eat it too."
"What do you mean?"
"If he's gonna keep seein' Cilia you oughta be able to keep seein' Tyler."
'Rose' bolted upright in her seat, looking at 'Maggie' in shock. "Cilia? What are you talking about?"
An equally surprised 'Maggie' looked back at her. "Oh... You didn't know about that?"
"Cilia, our maid? He's been seein' Cilia?"
"I guess you didn't," she replied meekly.
'Rose' pulled her feet up and hugged her knees to her chest, crushed and tearful. "Malachi, you bastard!" she screamed.
They were done in three takes.
* * *
It wasn't exactly a catered lunch, but most of the crew were beyond caring about restaurant meals and were happy to make their own sandwiches in the kitchen of the estate house from a modest selection of breads, meats and cheeses purchased at the local supermarket. The peaches were locally grown and juicy enough to give Pacidy fits about enforcing the no-food-while-in-costume rule.
"Clarence, we have an errand for you," said Clint, leaning over his shoulder holding a slip of paper. "We need you to run to the post office in town and pick up a package from Columbus."
"A package? What's in it?"
"Costumes. Tomorrow we're going to reshoot one of the scenes here but we had to have Marvin and Lilian ship us a couple of the costumes. None of us were at the hotel when they tried to deliver them. Do you know where the post office is?"
He nodded. "I've passed it a couple of times."
A few minutes later after he had finished eating and was on his way out to the rental car, Wanda intercepted him. She had a pallid, dazed look on her face. "Clarence, would it be all right if I come with you?"
Clarence paused to glance toward Clint and Martin, who were occupied. "I g..guess you can," he replied, knowing she wouldn't be asking if she were needed here. "Are you ok..kay?"
They began walking to the car. "My head hurts and my jaw hurts. I need to get something to take for it."
"There's a drugstore across the street from the post office," he said, opening the door for her. He got in and started the engine. "Is that from... from what hap..pened with Martin?"
Wanda nodded. "Yeah."
"Sorry about that."
The vixen shrugged. "It happens sometimes. Marty was very apologetic."
Clarence glanced at her. "You okay with him?"
She raised an eyebrow, then cracked a smile. "Malachi is a bastard. Martin is a great guy to work with. I'd enjoy working with him sometime when we can make things heat up. Make the cameras melt, as Zig Zag likes to say, like what I'm doing with Nathan. When Rose is with Tyler, sparks fly, and let me tell you, Nate really knows how to make sparks fly."
Clarence cleared his throat, trying to keep his focus on driving.
"But when Rose is with Malachi, it's more the secure but loveless relationship, and it gets colder as the story goes on. The thing is, Martin isn't like that at all. It would be easy to make sparks fly with him. It takes more effort to make it look cold or even just... blah."
"I d..didn't mean f..for you to... I mean, Martin... He..." He was becoming too incoherent to verbalize his thoughts. Finally he managed to get something out. "Sometimes I j..just forget that you're... that it's just acting."
Wanda rubbed her sore jaw. "Yes, it's just acting."
They passed an ice cream stand on the outskirts of town. His eyes lingered on the place a few seconds as they continued on their way.
Clarence expected a wait in line at the post office, like there would have been in Columbus, but there was no one else ahead of him. The delivery turned out to be not one package, but two. They were not especially heavy but the boxes were large and unwieldy to get out the door and into the backseat of the car. He had just finished loading them when Wanda emerged from the drugstore, bag in hand.
Once inside the car, she pulled the bottle out and was opening it. "I don't suppose you have any water with you?"
"I should have grabbed a bottle when we left."
Half a minute up the road, they once again approached the ice cream stand. "Clarence, can we pull off here so I can get a drink?"
"Sure," he replied. "I think we have time."
Once they had parked and walked up to the order window, the menu display had caught Wanda's attention. "Welcome! Lovely afternoon," said the husky girl behind the window. "How y'all doin'?"
"Doin' well," Wanda replied, slipping partway into her character accent.
"Just let me know when you're ready to order."
"A cup of ice water first, and then a twirl cone," Wanda told the husky.
"And you?" the husky asked Clarence.
"Um, I think I'll have a chocolate dipped cone."
Clarence started to reach for his wallet, but Wanda cut him off. "I'll get this one," she said as she handed the husky some money. "It goes on our meal expenses anyhow," she whispered to him.
The husky had the water already up on the counter by the time Wanda was done paying. The vixen took her water and seated herself at one of the umbrella-shaded tables, then took her pill while Clarence waited for the husky girl to finish making the cones. As he was standing there it occurred to him that he wouldn't be able to drive while he was eating the treat; he'd have to finish it here.
He took a seat opposite Wanda at the table and she took her cone from the cardboard tray. "Feeling any better yet?"
"It'll take the pill a few minutes," she replied, taking her first lick from her ice cream where vanilla met chocolate.
"I had a dream about you last night. Cindy was in it too."
"Oh really?" she replied. "That's funny, I had one about you and Cindy a couple of nights ago..."
"Wow, th..that's strange!"
Wanda managed a smile. "It seems we've both been turning things over in our minds." She grinned at him. "I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours."
Clarence felt a slight blush, but nodded and began. "Mine was like the dream sequence from the movie, only it was me, Cindy, and you." Wanda had just nibbled off a bit of her ice cream so he continued. "I met Cindy in a meadow, we were dancing around, and then we found a bed, and we snuggled up on it. Then she turned into you. But it didn't end the same as in the movie."
Wanda's ears flicked. "What happened?"
"I asked you if it was going to change into a swamp, and you convinced me it was my dream and I could make it end however I wanted to. So I changed you back into Cindy."
Wanda raised an eyebrow. "Awww, pity. You don't know what you're missing," she said with a wink. "Just kidding. What do you think it means?"
"I think it means as far as who I'm attracted to, I'm in control."
Wanda tilted her head slightly. "You don't think I could win you away from Cindy if I really tried?"
Clarence tilted his head and gazed back at her evenly. "I wish you wouldn't. Then I'd have to hate you for trying."
"I won't. Promise."
"You know, there are girls who will do mean things to steal the guy they're after from his girlfriend."
Wanda looked up, now more thoughtful. "You mean like planting notes or leaving her perfume on his clothes to make her think he's cheating on her so she'll dump him?"
Clarence nodded. "Yeah, stuff like that." He bit into the chocolate shell covering his ice cream.
Wanda shook her head. "I've never operated on that level. I once played a character who did, and it backfired. In the story, I mean. It felt dirty."
"You're worried about doing something dirty?"
"Different kind of dirty."
Clarence chuckled. "Yeah, I know. Just teasing."
"I prefer catching the attention of the guys who aren't doing so well with the ladies. It's more fun and more rewarding showing interest in a guy who doesn't get much attention from girls than trying to win a guy away from another girl." She took a lick from her cone. "That reminds me of my dream. I was in a store full of plush toys, most of them looking at me wanting to be held, but the ones I wanted to hold the most were the ones afraid to look at me. I saw one that looked like you, and wanted to hold that one most of all, but by the time I could get over to it, Cindy was there and she was holding it. I asked her if I could hold you, just for a minute. She said okay, but be nice to you."
Clarence smiled as he finished swallowing a bite of his ice cream. "So you've been nice to me ever since?"
"Haven't I always?" A flutter of her eyelashes. "But you've been getting more relaxed and less afraid of me."
Clarence studied her. "No offense, Wanda, b..but... I'm sorry you're feeling a little out of sorts, but you're easier to talk to."
She flicked her ears, looking surprised by his statement. "So I don't make you as nervous when my head hurts?"
"I do hope you feel better soon."
"Thanks. I'm glad you care."
Clarence had to think a moment how to continue his thought. "I know you're not usually trying to, um, you know..."
He blinked. "Yeah. But you said the other night you weren't being seductive. And compared to now..."
Wanda's grin widened. "Many years ago, when I was getting old enough to know that I was attractive, I decided to use it to my advantage. I practiced the way I walk, the way I stand, the way I speak, the way I flirt, and so forth. And I kept practicing them and doing them every day until it became second nature and I was doing it without thinking about it. Then once I realized how it got guys' attention, I decided it would be up to me, not them, which guys got my attention." She took a lick off her cone. "What you see me doing without trying for Double Z Studios is the result of years of practice." She was sitting up a little straighter now. "So when I'm not quite all here and I let some of that drop away, you find it easier to talk to me?"
Clarence had to finish swallowing the bite of ice cream he had just taken. "Yes, I suppose I do," he replied.
"I'm glad you're getting more relaxed with me. I enjoy talking with you."
"I have to confess, though, it was fun the way you used to get all nervous around me. Even when I was just being me."
Clarence looked at her. "Um, yeah. If that was when you weren't even trying, then..."
"You wonder what it'd be like if I was trying?"
He just barely nodded, possibly not realizing he had done so. He bit off more of the chocolate shell from his cone along with a mouthful of ice cream. By the time he swallowed it and looked up, several seconds had passed.
Wanda sat up straighter, pulling her shoulders back. His eyes wanted to move downward, but her eyes met his as she took a long slow lick from her ice cream. She was extending her tongue longer than necessary and taking her time running it around the edges of the cone, getting it coated with some of the ice cream before withdrawing it into her mouth, leaving some on her lips. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back as her face became blissful while she swallowed. She licked her lips slowly and opened her eyes again, gazing back at him with a slow blink of the eyes as she took her next lick.
Clarence stared at her. "W..Wanda, wh..what are you d..doing?.
She had ice cream in her mouth at that point, but her ears perked in acknowledgement. Following her next swallow, she let out an audible sigh. "Mmmm, this ice cream tastes sooo good," she uttered in a throaty murr. Some melted ice cream dripped onto her fingers. With her other paw she tugged at her shirt, then brought it up to run her fingers over the cone before taking hold of it, letting go with the first paw. She brought that paw up and licked the ice cream off one finger, then slid the next finger inside her muzzle, closing her lips around it and pulling it out. She tilted the cone up toward her muzzle and extended her tongue into it, working her tongue around inside it before biting off a piece of cone. A slight toss of her head as she chewed on it, then swallowed.
Clarence continued to stare, dumbfounded, jaw gaping.
A few more licks, a few bites later, and there was nothing left of her ice cream cone. After she swallowed the last, she was panting with eyes half-lidded and a satisfied smile on her face. It turned into an amused grin as she stood up and stepped around behind Clarence, leaning over his shoulder. "Your ice cream is melting all over your paw."
He glanced down at his paw, then brought it up to take a big bite from what was left of his treat. "I b..better g..get some n..napkins," he stammered as he began to get up from his seat. He'd barely started to rise before he changed his mind and sat back down. "Um, I'll... I'll just f..finish this first. And..." He couldn't finish his sentence.
"And calm down?" asked Wanda. "I'll be waiting in the car."
* * *
"For someone who wants me to be less afraid of her, you're not doing a very good job."
It had taken Clarence less than a minute to finish his dipped cone, or what was salvageable of it. Half of it had ended up on his paw or the table, and it was an awkward couple of minutes before he was willing to stand up so he could go rinse off his paw and fetch some napkins to clean the melted ice cream off the table.
Wanda was sitting straight, watching the road ahead. Ever since her conversation with Zig Zag about an instructional video, she'd been going over in her mind some of her ideas about being seductive, so it had been fresh in her mind when it came up in the conversation with Clarence. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have teased you like that." She peered out the window and put a paw over her muzzle in an effort to hide the grin she was failing to hold back. Inevitably a giggle slipped out. "But it was so worth it. I'll never forget the look on your face."
"It was still mean."
Wanda nodded. "I'll try not to do it again. At least not too often." She couldn't stop smiling. "Forgive me if I can't resist messing with you a little now and then."
Finally Clarence cracked a smile. "I don't know if I can tell Cindy about that one."
"What's the worst that could happen?"
"She might tell me to stay away from you."
"Can't have that, now, can we?" Wanda turned toward him. "Does Cindy ever do things like that?"
"No. Well, yes... She does similar kinds of things, just not that one."
"I'll have to teach her!"
Clarence gasped and momentarily jerked the car into the oncoming lane. Luckily no one was coming the other way. "Eh, she's pretty good at it already."
Wanda couldn't help wondering about that. "But with Cindy you don't get all nervous and afraid, right?"
Clarence glanced at her. "With Cindy it's different. For one thing, I don't have to think about whether I'm stepping out of bounds. Well, not except for the bounds we set for ourselves." Wanda nodded. "For another, we can follow where it leads." His smile turned warmer. "Okay, sometimes Cindy can embarrass me too."
Wanda nodded and smiled. "You know she's gotta be having fun with you."
* * *
"It's for you," said Chris, passing the phone to his wife. "It's Cindy."
Sabrina took the phone. "Hi, Cindy! Lucky you caught us. We just barely got home from work."
"Sorry, I have to leave in a little bit," she said. "Babysitting for... Do you know Gary and Nancy Fisher?
"Oh yeah! I know Nancy from the studio."
"Okay. Nancy's in Georgia with Clare, and Gary has bowling league tonight, so I'm babysitting Jordan."
"I remember when Jordan was born. There was a big announcement at the studio."
"Gary can hardly wait to get away for a couple of hours. He's had to be a single parent for two weeks. I'm anxious to have Clarence back but he sounds a lot more anxious to have Nancy back."
"I can imagine! So how is Clarence doing?"
"He misses me too, but he says it's been an interesting experience. And..."
Sabrina noted the pause at the other end of the line. "And what?"
"He told me some things about someone. Wanda."
That got the skunkette's attention. Be careful,, she reminded herself. "What about Wanda?"
"Clarence said he was afraid of her. Said she likes shy guys, and, well, you know Clarence."
"Yes. And I knew that about Wanda."
"You didn't tell me?"
"I only knew their personalities, and I talked to Wanda at one point. Asked her to go easy on him. Whatever happened after that, I didn't know anything about it."
"Didn't? Do you know something now?"
Careful, she told herself again. "What else did Clarence tell you about her?"
There was a sigh at the other end of the line. "He said he hadn't expected to be on this trip with her. And... He wrote a poem about her."
Okay, if that's in the open, anything is fair game. "I saw it."
"Somehow, Zig Zag got a hold of it and sent me a copy. She wanted to know if I could use parts of it for the movie promotion. I don't think she knows who wrote it."
"Oh, um... Okay."
"It was good. A lot of his fears in it."
Another sigh from Cindy. "Why didn't he tell me about her before?"
"Maybe he was afraid of how you'd react. Or he just wanted to handle it himself and didn't want to bother you with it."
"Well, don't you think he should have told me about her?"
Sabrina had to think on this one for a moment. "It sounds like he finally did."
"Yes, he did."
"So what's the matter? Did he wait too long?"
"I don't know."
"Are you worried that he might be, you know, cheating with Wanda?"
Cindy's reply was quick. "I'm sure he's not!"
Sabrina smiled. "I'm sure you're right. That doesn't sound like Clarence at all."
"It still bugs me a little..."
"So... What is bugging you about it?"
"I'm still not sure."
"Cindy, I'll tell you one thing I've learned since I've been with Chris. Sometimes you have to trust each other. You wouldn't want to have to check up with your partner about every little thing. You have to trust your own judgment and you have to trust his."
"But you do need to let each other in on the bigger things. That's easy when you know right away it's a big thing, but it can be awkward when one of the little things turns into a bigger thing."
"You think that's what happened?"
"I think so."
"Thanks a bunch, Sabby! You've helped more than you know."
"Any time, Cindy."
"I need to get going."
* * *
Pacidy had been pleased to see that the costumes had arrived in good condition, other than needing to be pressed and hung properly after the way they had been folded into the boxes. She had Wanda try on the flapper style period wedding dress, despite the vixen's objections that it had fit her just fine the first time they filmed the scene back at the studio. Everyone else on the crew had returned to the hotel by then and Pacidy was going to be busy here for a while yet, so Clarence waited until they were finished so he could give Wanda a ride back.
When they were approaching the hotel, they noticed a sizable crowd in front of the building. As they were driving around looking for a place to park, they couldn't help noticing the way several members of the crowd kept looking their way.
Once they had parked, the pair of them took a less direct route to the hotel entrance to give the crowd a wide berth, but it didn't help. Several of the group had shifted over to intercept them. "This doesn't look good. Just keep walking and try to ignore them," muttered Clarence. But by the time they got closer, the group had blockaded them until they couldn't get past without literally shoving them out of the way.
"I can handle them," Wanda muttered back.
One of the group stepped forward, a wolverine of imposing stature. "I'm Reverend Dan Hennesaw from the Assembly of God Church, and we're here to tell you we know who you are, and you're not welcome in this town." Some of the others behind him were holding signs that had the word PORN with a red circle and slash over it, and the words NOT IN OUR TOWN below it.
Clarence looked over the faces in the crowd. "Who..." he started to say, but then he recognized one of them as the ferret who worked at the sandwich shop he'd visited several times to buy crew lunches.
"I know who she is," said someone in the crowd. A mouse with a shrill voice pointed at Wanda. "You're Wanda the Vixen!" There was a lot of murmuring and shuffling of feet as the crowd moved in closer around them.
Clarence quickly glanced around, then shifted partially in front of Wanda as if to block the crowd from her. Wanda put a paw on his shoulder and stepped around beside him. Speaking in a near perfect southern drawl, she smiled and answered, "I'm sorry, you must be mistaken. My name is Maria. Now if you'll excuse us..." With that she grabbed Clarence's paw and with a firm tug, steered her body straight toward a space between two of them, acting as if she had every expectation they would step aside to let them through.
They didn't budge. Others in the crowd started to close behind them. Clarence thought about whether he could spray if necessary. He didn't think so in the pants he was wearing.
One of the two on either side of the space Wanda was aiming for was the sandwich shop ferret. He and Clarence locked eyes for a tense moment.
Then the ferret stepped aside. Wanda forged ahead assertively, ignoring the heckles and shouts behind them, making a beeline for the door and not stopping until they reached the safety of the hotel lobby.
"Think they'll follow us in?" asked Clarence.
Lisa stepped up beside them, looking first at the crowd outside then at the two of them. "Daddy already warned them he'd call the police if they didn't back off. Are y'all okay?"
Clarence and Wanda looked at her. "We're not hurt, but that was scary," said Wanda.
The squirrel gave her bushy tail a twitch. "We do our best to make your stay with us as enjoyable as possible, and as Mom and Dad say, we're honored to have a movie crew like y'all bringin' us your business."
Clarence nodded to her and sighed. "I guess you saw their signs?"
Lisa tilted her head at him. "Yeah, so what? I knew what studio you're from and what kinda movies you make since the day y'all arrived." She pushed her hair back and flicked her tail. "Don't matter to me. All I see is you're just a friendly bunch of customers."
They stood staring out at the crowd. Clarence turned to Wanda with raised eyebrows. "'Maria'?"
Wanda glanced back at him innocently. "The name just came to me. I can't imagine why."
* * *
Clarence was looking for a good movie to watch on one of the free cable channels the hotel provided, when the phone rang. "Hello?"
"Hi, Clare," he heard Cindy's voice say. "Did you have a good day?"
"Yes," he replied automatically. "Most of it. We had some unwelcome visitors show up at the hotel today."
"Oh my! Who was it?"
"Just some religious right types."
"Did they threaten you guys?"
"I doubt they would have hurt us, but for a minute I didn't think they were going to let us inside. It was scary!"
"I'm glad you're okay, Clare."
"Wanda was with me. I was more worried about her, but she stood up for herself well."
"Okay. Speaking of Wanda, I wasn't too sure about our conversation last night."
"I don't blame you. I'm sorry for not telling you about Wanda sooner."
"It's okay, I just needed some time to think about it. I talked to Sabrina. She knows Wanda."
"Uh, am I in trouble now?"
"No, Clare. It made me realize a couple of things. First, I have to confess something too. I'm also guilty of not telling you everything."
Clarence had to pause for a moment at this revelation. "You... you are? What is it you didn't tell me?"
"That I was afraid with you working at an adult film studio, you might be tempted by something or someone there. Like some actress might set her sights on you. And then you'd end up... You know."
"Yeah, I know."
"Only now I know you were worried about the same thing, for my sake. And after you told me about Wanda, well... It seemed like part of my worries were justified."
"But you handled yourself well. And I'm very happy with you, Clare."
He was speechless.
"I love you, Clarence Skunk."
"Thank you. I love you too, Cynthia Lapine."
"Awww, thank you!"
"You know what? If some actress had just pushed herself on me, it would have been easier to turn her away. Wanda... She seemed like that at first, but she didn't push that hard. And I respect her for that."
"You respect her?"
"Umm, yes. Because she respects me."
"What do you mean?"
"She knows about you and respects us."
"Ah, I understand."
"Yeah, it's true she's an adult actress. To some furs she might be 'just some adult actress', but to me, I've talked to her and worked with her enough to know she's a real person."
"That makes sense," Cindy replied. "I'd like to meet her sometime."
Yeah, imagine that, he didn't say.
On to Chapter 16
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