“Foxy ways?” Glory watched the interaction between brother and sister with a smile. The love between the two was obvious, and it did her heart good to see it. She wanted that back with her own brother, that teasing camaraderie they’d had out of their father’s sight. “What does that mean?”
“Foxes are adept at hiding themselves. We can puzzle our scent to the point where we almost smell human. Pumas, whose animal counterparts are solitary in the wild, asked for the gift of the Pride, giving them the same advantages Wolves and Lions have.”
It was strange, the way Chloe’s speech problems seemed to come and go, but Glory was beginning to understand them a little. It seemed the more nervous Chloe was, the worse her speech became. But when she was comfortable and at ease with the people around her, the strange little quirks disappeared almost completely.
“Lions? How many types of shifters are there?” She’d gotten some of this from Tabby, but hearing it from another perspective might help her understand it better.
“Lions, Tigers, Bears, Wolves, Jaguars, Cheetahs… Name a predatory mammal and odds are good there either are, or were, shifters of that race.”
Chloe stopped. “Or not. I don’t think there were ever Orcas, were there?”
Ryan shrugged. “Don’t ask me, I have no idea.”
“Huh. So what gifts do the others have?” Glory settled on the chaise, smiling as Chloe took a seat next to her.
“Lions have the ability to command other shifters, making them the rulers of the shifter world. The Leo, the one who tools us all, is always a white Lion.” Ryan watched his sister and Glory on the chaise with a strange half smile on his face. He looked utterly content that they were there. Glory bet his protective personality was purring over the fact that the two people he considered his to protect were both safely in his sight. “I haven’t met a Tiger personally, but I understand they’re fierce warriors who have a half-man, half-Tiger form.”
Whoa. That sounded massively cool. “Like a werewolf, but in cat form?”
“Exactly. Then there’s Cheetahs, who are super fast.”
Glory remembered that there were Cheetahs. One of them had broken Cyn’s jaw. “Yeah. Are they all assholes?”
Ryan shrugged. “No more than any other shifter species. Hyenas are very resistant to poisons and diseases, Lynxes are even better than Foxes at hiding their presence. Coyotes can tell if you’re lying to them or not, Jaguars can bite through almost anything… Man, there are a couple of other species, but I don’t know any of them personally. I’m not even sure I could find a Hyena or a Jaguar, honestly.”
This was a lot of information to take in. “You said the Lions were the kings of the shifter world.” How cool was that? “So it really is all about Simba?”
Chloe started laughing. “Do not ever call a Lion Simba or Nala. They fate that shit.”
Ryan ignored them both. “The Senate rules us much like Congress or Parliament rules the humans, creating and enacting laws and watching over the shifters. They’re the ones who send out Hunters to take down rogues.” Ryan leaned forward. “When we’re around humans, we discuss Packs, Prides and the Senate as if we’re talking about a business. The Senate actually runs a legal corporation headed by the Leo, a charitable organization that’s mostly concerned with the conservation of endangered species.”
“The foundation only accepts donations from shifters, so they don’t really fall under federal scrutiny. They keep it small, but they do a lot of good. The Wildlife Conservation Foundation is helping to repopulate the wolves in Yellowstone National Park and gives big cats born in the U.S. a safe environment to live in.” Chloe’s enthusiasm was apparent. Her face lit up as she discussed the foundation. “I’d hoped to work for them one day as a pet.” Chloe’s expression turned glum.
Ryan ruffled his sister’s hair. “We’ll figure out a way for you to work with animals again, Chloe. Trust me on that.”
She shrugged, but her smile was stronger. Chloe was nothing if not resilient. Glory had no doubt the family would figure out a way for Chloe to live out at least part of her dream.
“So Barney works for the Senate and the Leo.”
“Mostly the Senate, yeah, though I have no doubt if the Leo called on him he’d answer in a heartbeat. And so will I once I’m fully trained.”
Glory took a good, deep breath. There was the faintest hint of that strange something she’d come to associate with shifters, and it was coming from Chloe. “What’s that smell?” She leaned closer to Chloe, sniffing near the other woman. She was the source of the odd, faint scent. “Is that what a Fox smells like?” It was so faint it was barely perceptible, and it disappeared altogether as she leaned closer to Chloe.
Chloe looked startled. “Wow. You’re scenting things already?” She smirked at her brother. “She’s gonna be strong, Ryan.”
“Yes, she is.” And he couldn’t sound any prouder of that fact. His arm wrapped around her waist and tugged her off the chaise and onto his lap. “She is SG, after all.”
“Which stands for Super Glory, of course.” She elbowed him in the stomach.
Chloe just shook her head at them. “You two are nauseatingly cute.” Glory stuck her tongue out at Chloe, who laughed. “Want to go grab a bite to eat? I’m carving.”
Glory was slowly getting used to the random switches in Chloe’s words. “I think we can do that. Ryan?”
He nodded. “We can walk you home after if you like.”
“I like.” Chloe snapped her fingers. “Can you hold on for a sec? I want to talk to Cyn about getting another tattoo.”
“Mm-hm. I even know what I want.”
“What are you thinking of getting?”
“An open window.” Chloe pulled a wrinkled, folded picture out of her pocket. “See, a lot of doors have closed for me.”
“Show the pic to Heather too.” The part-timer had come in after lunch to work the evening shift. “I bet she can really make it shine.”