Heather tilted her head, a smile slowly rounding her lips. “Hello to you too.”
“Fuck me with the rotating pineapple attachment.” Barney took a step toward Heather, who got up from her seat and started toward the huge Bear.
“That might hurt.” Heather’s smile was turning into a frown. She crossed her arms over her chest as Barney sighed. “Is there a problem?”
“That’s what I want to know.” Ryan put himself between Heather and Barney. “What’s going on?”
He sounded as happy as a man told he needed a prostate exam. “Is that a problem?”
Barney grimaced. “Not a problem, per se.” He put his hand on Heather’s head. “She’ll need climbing gear to check out my knees, though.”
“A what?” Glory had to bite back her laughter.
“Are you kidding?” Barney picked up a lock of Heather’s hair. “See?”
He abruptly let her hair go. “My, what sharp fangs you’ve got.”
“The better to bite your—” Heather glanced over at her parents, “—behind with.”
Barney laughed. “You’re cute.” He patted her head again. “I bet your Hobbit hole is filled with ponies and rainbows.”
Heather snarled again and sat next to her mother, ignoring the Bear completely.
Ryan’s front door blew open and two more people entered. A man who looked a lot like Stacey Allen, down to the dark hair and blue eyes, was followed by a tiny redhead who bore a striking resemblance to Raymond Allen. The man stopped short, several bags that smelled of meaty goodness in his hands. He stared at Barney, who merely stared back. “Whoa. Honey? I think we need to order some pizzas.”
“What are you… Oh. You must be Barney.” The small redhead held out her hand. “Laura Williams, Ryan and Chloe’s mother.”
“Charmed.” Barney kissed the back of Laura’s hand, ignoring the growl that erupted from Steven’s throat. “You have two very interesting children.”
Barney laughed. “I’m a Hunter, ma’am.” He patted her hand gently. “And so is your son.”
All eyes in the room turned to Ryan. His own rolled. “I’m still not sure I believe him.”
“Keep telling yourself that, Ryan.” Barney settled on the sofa next to Aunt Stacey. “But we both know what you were born to be.”
“Can we just get the pictures done and figure out how to keep Glory safe?” Ryan pulled out one of the dinette chairs and settled Glory into it. “Where’s the camera?”
Chloe handed it over. “Here. Want me to take the picture?”
“I’ve got it. Thanks, sis.” He held the camera up. “Say cheese.” He snapped off a few shots, then checked the images on the camera’s tiny screen. “Looks good. What do you think?”
He turned the camera so Glory could see. “They work. Now we just need to email them to Gabe and he can send them out.”
“I’ll take care of it after lunch.” Ryan and his mother began distributing the food.
“Have you heard from Jim Woods recently?” Ryan’s mother caressed her daughter’s short hair.
“Nope. He’s avoiding me like the vague.” Chloe sighed, the burger Ryan had put in front of her remaining untouched. “I understand why, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t flirt.”
Glory had begun to notice something. The more upset Chloe was, the worse her speech became. Words became mixed up, exchanged for others that rhymed but did not hold the same meaning. “Maybe we can do something about that? I mean, why is he staying away from you?”
“My age. He thinks I’m too rung for him.”
“I know that. You know that. Explain it to Dr. Woods.” Chloe slowly unwrapped her burger. “And he probably still thinks I’m carrying a torch for Abe.”
Chloe winced. Because of her brain injury, she didn’t notice when she misspoke. Most of her family seemed determined not to point out the mistakes, and normally Glory wouldn’t have. She wouldn’t do anything to hurt the fragile Fox’s feelings. “G-abe.”
“Oh.” Glory smiled her thanks as Ryan handed her one of the bacon cheeseburgers. “Maybe you should hunt him down and bite the shit out of him.”
The older shifters clapped, while the younger ones shook their heads at her. But it was Ryan who put it into perspective. “Should I do that to you too?”
Glory, the burger halfway to her mouth, grimaced. “You’re right. Forget I said anything.”
“I thought so.” But Ryan pulled his chair closer to hers, sharing one of the huge baskets of fries. “As much as it pains me to say it, Jim deserves the same courtesy I’ve given you.”
For the first time since he’d shown up Julian piped in. “But if he doesn’t accept the mating soon…”
Every shifter in the room grinned as Alex flexed his fingers. “His ass gets bit.”
Steven clapped his hands. “All right, people. Enough about Jim Woods. He’ll be dealt with, I promise.”
Chloe’s warning tone was ignored as her father continued. “For now, we need to figure out how to keep Ryan’s mate safe. We’ll handle Jim later.”
Everyone in the room, including Cyn, stared at Glory. She now knew what the juicy rabbit felt like just before the wolf pounced. “Uh. Hi?”
Steven Williams smiled warmly. “Don’t worry. We’re just going to watch over you twenty-four seven.” His blue eyes turned dark brown. “We’re not going to allow you to get hurt.”
“Are we even sure it’s a shifter who’s been stalking her? It could be a human.” Stacey moaned as she bit into her burger. “God, it’s going to be worth it moving here just for these.”