“Uh-huh.” Barney’s tone was skeptical. “I think there’s more to it than that.”
The last thing Ryan needed was to become a Hunter. He had enough on his plate, what with Glory’s missing sister, her stalker and her refusal to let him worship her. “Yeah. You believe what you want to. My only concern is my family and my mate.”
Barney began firing on the zombies on the screen. “Thanks. I will.”
Ryan shook his head as he poured himself some juice.
Ryan’s hand jerked, spilling juice on his newly cleaned counter top. “How did you know that?”
“You also knew it had something to do with Hope Walsh’s disappearance.” The sound of rapid gunfire almost drowned out Barney’s voice.
Shit had just gotten real if he’d caught the attention of the shifter Senate already. “You really think I’m some kind of proto-Hunter?”
Barney turned and stared over the top of the sofa at Ryan. “Proto-Hunter?” He burst out laughing. “Oh, I like that.”
“I’m an accountant, for fuck’s sake. Gabe’s the one in law enforcement.” Hell, even Bunny would make a better Hunter than Ryan. The man had self-control down to a science now, but he was still a fierce warrior when he needed to be.
“You went on a Hunt already, Ryan.” Barney paused the game again. “You found the bad guy and administered justice.”
“He shot my mate and was going to kill her best friend.”
Barney sighed. “What do you think Hunters do, Ryan? We take down rogue shifters. And like Alphas and Betas and Marshals, they’re born, not made. I can’t make you a Hunter, Ryan. I can only train you, because you already are one.”
Something in Ryan shifted. His Bear was listening intently, even as his human half denied what the other Hunter was saying.
Wait. Did I just think of Barney as the other Hunter? Shit. It couldn’t be. Ryan had never intended to become something so lofty as a Hunter. He’d been content working for Bunsun Exteriors.
“You’d be surprised how little your life will change. You’ll still have your job and your place in your family group.” Barney grinned. “Hell, maybe I’ll be nice and stay in Halle to train you rather than take you home.”
“Nag, nag, nag. Gabe needs to get over himself. I trained him the way the Senate needed me to. But with you, I can make my own decisions.”
Ryan poured two cups of coffee. “Then your decision had better be to remain in Halle, because otherwise I won’t become a Hunter.”
When Barney tried to stare him down, Ryan kept his gaze steady. He didn’t give a flying fuck about Barney and what he wanted from Ryan. All he cared about was fulfilling his promise to never leave his mate.
“Fine. We’ll play this your way, Ryan. Just be aware, I’ll do what’s best for you and your mate whether you like it or not.”
Barney smiled, turned back to the television and unpaused the game. “We’ll see.”
“I can’t believe what you guys have done with this place.” Chloe Williams, Ryan’s little sister, was leaning against the wall in Ryan’s bedroom, where Glory was getting ready to have her picture taken for Gabe’s hunt for Hope. She was watching them closely as Cyn adjusted Glory’s wig. “I mean, who knew he had a beige carpet?”
“Ugh. Don’t remind me.” Glory fluffed out the blonde wig Cyn had managed to dig up. It was as close as they could get to her natural hair color. “How do I look?”
She stuck her tongue out at her blonde image. Blech. She hated the pale blonde locks she’d been born with. They were so blah, not like her pretty powder blue, or the violet she’d sported in college.
Maybe it was time to go back to that pale lavender color? While she loved the blue, it was getting a little old. She’d had it for almost two years now.
Or maybe… Maybe a deep, vampiric red? Her pale skin would really stand out then. And she’d always wanted to be a redhead.
“It looks fine, Glory.” Cyn carefully brushed bangs over Glory’s forehead. “You look just like you did in high school. Bitch.”
“Just because some of us got wrinkly and old…” Glory laughed when Cyn growled. “You know you’re hot.”
Cyn put the brush down. “Have you thought about changing your hair color? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? And I know how you get bored with it after a while.”
“Oh! Go a darker blue, like midnight blue or something. You’d look cunning.” Chloe picked up the camera she’d offered to use to take the pictures for Gabe, fumbling with it when her damaged hand wouldn’t close completely around it. “Yarn it.”
Glory smiled at the pretty Fox with the short, pixie-cut red hair. Chloe, Ryan’s sister, was still recovering from the near-fatal beating she’d taken the night Alex claimed Tabby. She still had trouble using one of her hands, and her words got seriously mixed up at times, but she was still the same sweet girl who’d once been a waitress at Frank’s diner. Her dreams of becoming a veterinarian had been shattered, but she still hoped to work with animals in some capacity. The double-tailed kitsune, or fox spirit, she’d had inked on her shoulder was a symbol of her acceptance of her new life. “I was thinking vampire red.”
Chloe, Cyn and Tabby, who’d just waddled into the bedroom, all stared at her.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure you have the skin tone for red.” Chloe leaned down and put her head against Glory’s, making sure her red hair was against Glory’s skin. “What do you guys think?”
“I think her skin matches yours. The red could work, but I kinda love the blue.” Tabby tapped her fingers against her thigh. “What about a rich purple?”