“That’s disgusting.” Glory almost put her taco down.
Almost. They were really good tacos.
“I was planning on cleaning it.” Ryan actually had the balls to look hurt.
“I told you to get that flamethrower.” Julian moaned as he bit into his own taco.
Glory shook her head. That wasn’t strong enough. “I think the life form inside would survive a little fire. No, that calls for something more drastic.”
“Blast it into space.” Tabby came back into the room smelling suspiciously like cinnamon. She settled on Alex’s lap and pulled one of his tacos toward her.
“Nah. I’m afraid if we do that, it will take over some planet, make slaves of the indigenous species and come back here with an armada and revenge in mind.” Glory waved her hand. “I think we need to consider sinking it into the sea.”
“With our luck it would float to the Bermuda Triangle and mutate further.” Cyn laughed. “It could become the Triangle’s Nessie.”
“Really. It’s not that bad.” Ryan grabbed another taco. “I think it can be saved.”
“Oh, sugar, no.” Tabby patted his shoulder. “That stuff is way too evil. It will never come to Jesus.”
Laughter erupted as Tabby calmly bit into her taco with a smug smile.
“Seriously, though. I think it needs a hazardous waste container.”
“Fine. I’ll carry it to the Dumpster after dinner.” Ryan gathered up the empty taco wrappers and carried them to the trashcan. “Wait a minute.”
“What?” Glory got up to see what he was staring at.
Ryan was looking down, but Glory couldn’t see anything strange. At least she didn’t until Ryan exclaimed, “Whoa. The carpet is beige?”
Three sets of paper towel rolls hit him in the head at the same time.
Ryan woke the next morning to a strange sound in his living room. Slipping from between the sheets, he padded silently to the bedroom door.
Someone had broken into his apartment and was in his living room, playing…video games?
“Ha! I love it when their heads explode.” Suddenly the door was pushed open, knocking Ryan back a step. Whoever it was, the man was huge. “You coming out or not?”
The blond man had to be at least six foot eight, easily, and he smelled strongly of Bear. His gray eyes twinkled merrily under his cowboy hat. “I’m James Barnwell, but you can call me Barney.”
“Shit.” Ryan immediately relaxed, remembering that this was the Hunter Gabe had sent for. “That was fast.”
Barney winked. “Most of the Hunters I train only call me on the hard cases. You a hard case, Ryan?”
“Ask me that after I’ve had coffee.” Ryan stumbled back into his bedroom to the sound of Barney’s laughter.
“I hope you brought enough for the clan.” Ryan tugged on a T-shirt and jeans, foregoing shoes. He wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Cyn and Julian had taken Glory home with them when Glory refused to spend the night at Ryan’s.
Ryan was going to work on that. If she wanted him to move in with her, he’d be packed up and ready in a nanosecond. He wasn’t attached to this apartment. He had no trouble leaving it for Glory’s far more eclectic, colorful place.
“Clan?” Barney leaned against the doorjamb, watching him dress.
Ryan didn’t get any skeevy vibes off the guy. He seemed to be watching Ryan like a bug under a microscope, studying the way he moved and reacted. Well, Gabe had warned him Barney was a strange one. “My family is coming today.”
“The Bunsuns, Williamses and Allens?” Barney whistled and glanced back toward Ryan’s tiny living room. “I think you need more seats.”
Ryan barked out a laugh as he headed into the bathroom. “You think?” He began brushing his teeth.
“You’re surprisingly easy with me being in your apartment.”
Ryan spit into the sink. “You’re here to protect my mate and Gabe vouches for you. That’s good enough for me.”
“Hmph.” Ryan turned to find Barney walking around his bedroom, studying his belongings. “You should be more cautious. For all you know I am your mate’s stalker.” Before Ryan could react, Barney was across the room, his arm around Ryan’s throat. Ryan’s air was cut off as Barney squeezed. “I could kill you before you could—”
Barney screeched as Ryan’s five-inch Grizzly claws sank into his balls. He let Ryan go immediately, cupping himself with a shocked expression.
“Before I could what?” Ryan’s Bear was close to the surface. He suspected the Hunter was simply trying to teach him a lesson, but it was one Ryan didn’t need to learn. He knew Barney wasn’t there to hurt Glory, but damn if his attitude wasn’t pissing Ryan’s Bear the hell off. “You might want to think twice before pulling that shit on me again. Got it?”
Barney took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Ryan could sense the healing spiral all Bears danced when healing. The damage he’d inflicted on the Hunter was slowly being repaired. “Got it,” Barney wheezed. As he slowly straightened, his expression turned speculative. “Have you ever considered Hunter training?”
“Fuck no.” Ryan laughed and moved past Barney. His family would be here soon, and Ryan had to make sure everything was ready. “I’m not Hunter material.”
“Mm-hm.” Barney flopped onto Ryan’s sofa and picked up the controller. “I think you’ll find that you’re wrong on that.”
Ryan froze, his hand on the refrigerator door. “You’re kidding me.”
“Nope.” Barney sighed wearily. “And I have to wonder. If an Oregon Bear with Hunter potential has moved into Gabe’s area, in Gabe’s backyard even, what the hell is going to happen around here?”
“What do you mean?” Ryan pulled open the door and grabbed the bottle of orange juice.
“These things happen for a reason. Always. The powers that be arranged for you to come here.”
Ryan snorted. “That’s because my mate is in Halle.”