The banter between Cyn and Tabby was so familiar Glory barely paid attention to it. Soon, one of the girls would probably wind up chasing the other through the shop like wild hyenas, and that was just the way Glory liked it. It was fun and full of life, and no one could ever make her trade in her life today for what had once been.
“Oof.” Glory rocked against the chair she’d been standing in front of as she suddenly found a hundred and twenty pounds of green-haired Wolf shifter glued to her back. “What?”
Tabby’s pointy chin dug into her shoulder. Thank God Mt. Doom was on the other side of her face, because Glory didn’t want to be that up close and personal with it. “Ryan and Alex are bringing lunch today. Want anything special?”
A picture of Ryan, stripped bare and covered in chocolate, sprang immediately to mind. “Nope.”
Tabby sighed. “You have to give him a shot.”
Glory wrinkled her nose. “I was shot, remember? I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy. Ow.” She reached up and rubbed the back of her head. Damn Cyn and her sneak attacks. “What?”
“That boy’s gonna pine away for you if you don’t accept him.”
Could she? Glory had seen the dark circles under Ryan’s eyes.
Tabby sighed in her ear. “It’s true. When a shifter meets their mate, it’s supposed to be this magical thing, right? But if the mate rejects you, or holds themselves back for whatever reason, the magic becomes this itch under your skin that never goes away. It’s a burning need you can’t quench. You start dreaming about them, erotic dreams that fill you with sleepless, lonely nights because your mate isn’t really there. A shifter can slowly lose their mind, pining for someone that doesn’t want them.”
Glory stared at Cyn, who was nodding. “Alex told me all about it, before Julian changed me.”
“They’re right.” Heather shot her a complicated look, both sympathetic and hard. As much as they’d come to love Heather, she was still a member of the Bunsun-Williams clan. Alex and Ryan were her first cousins, and they adored the little redhead. “Ryan needs you.”
“But… That was months ago!” The weather was slowly warming as the small town of Halle, Pennsylvania prepared for another spring.
Cyn sighed and ran her fingers through her multi-colored hair. Julian, Cyn’s mate, always seemed enchanted by the black, blonde and pink strands Cyn had sported for about six months. “Yeah. Apparently, if they don’t mate us, they…” Cyn shot Tabby a hopeless look.
“Well, he won’t die, but he’ll be one unhappy Bear for the rest of his life.” But the uncomfortable look on Tabby’s face told her it was far more serious than that.
“But no pressure or anything.” Glory threw herself into the smoky-gray chaise lounge she’d declared her own spot months ago. She loved lying there when she wasn’t busy, chatting with the women she considered closer than her own sisters. Faith and Hope were long gone, but Tabby and Cyn would be with her forever, if only because Glory knew where Tabby hid her favorite shoes.
Tabby settled carefully into one of the chairs they’d had reupholstered from the old shop. Living Art Tattoos was gone now, their lease given over to a small card- and gift-shop. Glory always felt strange walking past the place that had once housed Cyn’s shop, but she had to admit that losing LA’s lease had been the best thing that ever happened to them.
The new shop was theirs in a way LA hadn’t been. Cyn had made both Tabby and Glory full partners, and each of them now had a say in how the business was run. They’d all decided on the new decor, the new flash art on the walls and even the name, much to Cyn’s embarrassment. Cynful Tattoos was just as popular as LA had been, and Glory knew exactly who was responsible for that.
Cyn settled on the lighter gray sofa that she’d fallen in love with at first sight. The black-and-white floral curtains were pulled back, exposing the large picture window. Cynful was sleek and modern, yet still feminine, and Glory loved it with all her greedy little heart.
Hell, even the floors were nicer here, a gorgeous dark oak that had sold them all on the shop. And the new landlady, Mrs. H., made sure they had all the things they needed to feel safe, even at night. Hell, at least once a week she brought them lunch and just sat and chatted with them. She was the mother Glory wished she’d had, but never did.
Maybe she should change her last name from Walsh to H—
“Earth to Glory.” Tabby sat in her favorite chair and propped her feet up on the distressed chest-slash-coffee table Glory had discovered at a secondhand shop. It had seen far better days, but with a little polish and some elbow grease it had become a thing of beauty despite its scars. “You’re going to have to make a decision about Ryan.”
Glory whimpered and tossed her head back. “Why? Why do I have to do anything?”
“Don’t you feel anything for him?”
Cyn’s serious tone caught her attention. “I do, but…”
“This is because he left, isn’t it?”
Glory couldn’t look at them. They must think she was crazy.
“Hunting the bad guy. I know.” And no matter how many times they tried to tell her, her heart just wasn’t hearing it. Every time she thought about being in the hospital, hurting and alone, with Ryan nowhere to be found, she wanted to scream and cry. She had, back in the hospital, crying out for Ryan while half out of it on pain meds and anesthetic.
“He went after that guy and tore him into dog kibble. Cut him some slack, okay?”
Glory shrugged. So what? Ryan had destroyed the man who’d nearly killed Glory, but he should have been with her. He was supposed to be her mate, not her avenger. Still, she could understand why everyone, including herself, was frustrated. She liked Ryan, but she just couldn’t get past feeling abandoned. “It’s…complicated.”
“Maybe you should talk to someone.”
Glory stared at Tabby, blinked at Mt. Doom (was it bigger?) and sighed. “You think I should have my head shrunk.”