Glory stroked the note, glad her friends no longer lived in the two-bedroom apartment with her. If they could see her now, after all the shit she gave them over Alex and Julian, she’d never hear the end of it.
Damn it. The son of a bitch was getting to her.
And if she didn’t get her ass in gear for work, Cyn would get her too.
Glory darted out the door and drove like a bat out of hell for the tattoo parlor she now co-owned with Cynthia “Cyn” Reyes and Tabitha Bunsun.
“Good morning, Glory.” Cyn had her back to the front door, and her shoulders were tight as a bowstring. Even her voice was strained. Either she was pissed about something, or trying desperately not to laugh.
“Good morning?” Glory dropped her coat onto the coat rack, ready to open her station for the day. Something was up, but that didn’t mean the girls at Cynful wouldn’t be ready to roll when the doors were unlocked.
Muted giggles sounded from behind her. Glory smiled when she saw their latest employee, Heather Allen, curled up on the gray chaise, her face buried in her hands. Glory was tickled pink that the little Fox had settled in so nicely with them. She’d been shy and withdrawn when she first started with them, a holdover from a trauma she suffered as a child. Some Bear shifters had thought it would be fun to force a twelve-year-old to go through her first shift, something Tabby had told her didn’t happen until puberty. Bunny had come upon the Bears tormenting his little cousin and gone insane, damaging several of them permanently.
There were still Bears who whispered Alex “Bunny” Bunsun’s name in fear six years later. The downside was Heather had been terrified of Bunny’s anger as well, and began avoiding her cousin like the plague, causing Alex to try to learn control over his Grizzly Bear temper. It had earned him the nickname Bunny, but he wore it as a badge of pride. He’d learned that control he so desired, and become a man more than worthy of one of Glory’s best friends.
His only regret had been Heather’s fear of him, so when the Bunsun-Williams clan descended on Halle, he’d introduced Heather to Cyn with the hopes that Cyn would see what he saw: a lost little lamb in need. Cyn had taken one look at her, and her artwork, and offered her an apprenticeship. Heather had taken her up on it, and now the shop was complete in a way it hadn’t been in a long time. With the Cynful girls, Heather was open and friendly. She was even beginning to get comfortable around their customers, a feat Ryan had sworn would never happen.
Showed what he knew. Heather was a lot stronger than her relatives gave her credit for. She just needed a safe place to blossom in, and Cyn was all about taking in strays and helping them do just that. All anyone had to do was look at herself and Tabby to see that.
Glory put her hands on her hips. “What the hell is going on here?”
“Hey, Glory.” Tabby slunk glumly out of the back room of the shop, her head low. Her lime-green bob easily obscured half her face, but it couldn’t hide what had obviously set her co-workers off.
“I know, right?” Heather broke down into breathless giggles, just two shakes away from crying.
“My God.” Glory couldn’t stop staring. “When the hell did that happen?”
Tabby sniffed pathetically. “I woke up with it this morning.” She moved behind the counter, her expression pitiful.
Cyn poked at the thing sitting on the end of Tabby’s nose. “You couldn’t cover it up with something? It’s gonna scare the customers.”
“Cover it? With what, a burka?” Glory stared at Cyn. Was she crazy? “David Copperfield couldn’t hide—” she waved at the humongous growth on Tabby’s face, “—that.”
Heather fell off the chaise with wheeze and a thump. Glory sure as hell hoped she was still breathing. She knew shit about CPR.
Tabby sniffled as she batted Cyn’s finger away. “Pregnancy glow my lily white ass. More like pregnancy oil slick. And don’t poke at it. It might get mad.” Tabby’s Southern drawl was thick with unhappiness. “I think I heard it growl this morning.”
Cyn ignored Tabby’s plea and poked at it again. “Dios. It’s like Mt. Doom, all ready to erupt and shit.”
“Ew.” Heather picked herself up off the floor and flopped back on the chaise. “Just… Ew.”
Glory shuddered. “Not in here, please.” Just the thought of that monstrosity blowing in the shop made her want to gag. It was the biggest, whitest pimple she’d ever seen. “That thing should have its own zip code.”
“Alex tried to be all helpful.” Tabby sniffled pathetically. “He said I should put hot towels on it.”
“Did you?” Glory couldn’t get over how big the thing was. You couldn’t not stare at it. It was the huge white elephant in the room.
Heather began giggling again. She was going to get a stomach cramp at this rate.
Cyn was tapping her lip in that way she had when she was really thinking hard. “What about a hot needle?”
Glory and Tabby shared a look, then both women shuddered, Tabby covering Mt. Doom with her fingers. “I thought the idea was to keep it from getting mad?”
“Yeah. I mean, why poke a sleeping bear?” Glory grinned as all three shifters rolled their eyes at her. So far, Glory was the only member of Cynful Tattoos who wasn’t furry, and she planned on keeping it that way for a little bit longer. Ryan Williams might be the cutest Bear this side of Winnie the Pooh, but when it had mattered the most, he’d done what every other person who’d ever claimed to love her had done.
Oh, he’d come back, and his sucking-up skills were excellent, but she knew the truth. Ryan was just like her family, and Glory had no intention of ever allowing anyone to hurt her that way again. The only people who stood by her no matter what were standing in front of her, discussing Tabby’s pregnancy hormone woes. Even her twin…
Well. Glory tried not to think about her twin.
Cyn nodded once, sharply. “I think we should call in an exorcist.”
Now Glory was the one who started giggling. Trust Cyn to try and make a bad situation better with that sharp tongue of hers.