“You know I love you, Glory, but you’re being a bitch.” Cyn shrugged when Glory turned and glared at her. “My family is the one that took you in, remember? I know all about your abandonment issues, and Ryan didn’t do that. He’s here, every day, and he’s not going to go anywhere.”

Glory lay down with a sigh. She really needed a chaise like this in her apartment. It was so much nicer than the lumpy couch she had now. “I know that up here—” she pointed to her head, “—but not here.” When she laid her hand on her heart, Tabby began to cry. It seemed she did that when the wind blew, when the bell jingled, hell, when the coffee pot turned off. The woman was trying to drown them all in salt water and pregnancy angst. “Aw hell. Not again.”

The bell over the door jingled, and the deep voice of Alex “Bunny” Bunsun, Tabby’s mate, rang through her like guilt in hammer form. “Why are you crying, sweetheart?”

Before they knew it Alex had Tabby in his lap, cuddling her close and cooing in her ear. It was revolting. Hell, he’d even sat her so the growth was against his chest.

Glory had the sick urge to poke at Tabby’s head and see if the thing was bouncy like a ball.

Ugh. She really needed to get a life.

“Hey, pretty girl.” Ryan squatted next to her chaise and brushed some of her powder-blue curls from her forehead. The hopeful expression on his face had her heart pounding in both fear and longing. God, she wanted what he was offering so badly, but the courage she thought she had disappeared whenever he turned those blazing sapphire eyes on her. “I brought ham and cheese subs.”

At that, her stomach growled loud enough to startle a grizzly. “Spicy brown mustard?”

He was smiling, watching her with all the wonder of a boy with his first love. “Would I bring you anything else?”

She reached with greedy hands toward the bag he was holding between his knees. “Gimme!”

He leaned over her, caging her with his body. “Say the word, and you can have that any time you want.”

There was no doubt what he was talking about, since he was still holding the bag between his knees. She pushed him back and glared. “I want the ham, not the salami.” Behind him, Cyn barked out a laugh. “Gimme.”

Ryan chuckled, and oh God, what that low, seductive sound did to her. It was like feeling his joy feathering over her skin. “Here, you greedy little thing.”

Glory took the bag and dashed off the chaise, heading for the back room. “Meat! Woo-hoo!”

Ryan’s chuckles followed her the entire way.

Ryan watched the woman of his dreams run away from him yet again and laughed. God, she was so adorable it shattered him. Long, powder-blue curls, pale blue eyes, and a tongue that would make a harpy blanch; she was everything he’d ever wanted and more.

Too bad all she ever did was run away from him.

Too bad for her he would follow no matter how far she ran.

“Hi, Heather.” He paused long enough to kiss his sweet little cousin on the forehead. The shy smile he got in return always made him want to protect her from the world. Thank God Julian’s mate had taken a liking to her. Heather was blossoming at Cynful Tattoos, despite Eric Bunsun’s objections. Eric was very protective of little Heather, and snarled at anyone who made her so much as frown.

Ryan followed Glory into the back room, laughing harder when he found her hunched over the unwrapped sandwich and muahaha’ing in her best evil overlord voice. “Do I get a sandwich?”

She glared at him. “Mine.”

He shook his head and took his sandwich anyway, aware she wasn’t going to try to keep it. The woman was insane, but she wasn’t nearly as mean as she pretended to be. He pulled a bottle of water out of the mini fridge and sat across from her at the small table the girls had set up for their breaks. “So.”

“Mm?” She had a mouth full of ham and cheese. A smidgeon of mustard was on her lip, and the urge to lick it away was nearly overwhelming.

“I want to take you out.”

“Yup, because I’m a total Mafioso.” Ryan did his best fake Italian accent, her little snort of amusement his reward. “No, SG. I want to go on a date.”

She tilted her head in confusion, for once ignoring his nickname for her. He’d totally lied when he said it didn’t stand for Super Grover. He liked his nuts right where they were. No, he’d agreed that it stood for Super Glory, and in return she let him get away with it. “Why?”

This time he was the one who was confused. “Huh?”

“Why do you want to go on a date?” She bit into her sandwich, her expression curious, almost wary.

How the hell to answer a question like that? Because you’re my whole world didn’t seem like something Glory wanted to hear. You’re my mate probably wouldn’t cut it either. So he decided to go with the simplest answer, the one he hoped would get her to say yes. “Because I want you.” He held up his hand when she started to speak. “Not just in my bed, but in my life.”

He smiled, trying to convey what he was really saying. He’d known Glory for almost a year now, and he’d fallen for her, quirks and all. He couldn’t imagine having a life without her in it, even if she chose not to accept him as her mate. “Because you’re Glory.”

Her cheeks turned bright red. “I’m not that great.” She couldn’t meet his eyes. “I have…issues.”

“Want to tell me about them?” He put his hand over hers, surprised when she started. “Glory?”

She took a deep breath, obviously gathering herself together. “No. I don’t want to tell you. Not yet, anyway.”

The sandwich paused halfway to her mouth. “If you hadn’t you wouldn’t be back here with me.” She bit into the ham and cheese with all the concentration she usually gave to her craft.

Glory was the piercer for Cynful Tattoos, and she took her job seriously. It might sound like a simple little job that didn’t require much thought, but Glory was always looking for a way to improve not only her skills but her stock. She attended conventions held just for piercers to learn new techniques and was utterly dedicated to her craft. She kept abreast of all the safety and health regulations, and stayed on top of the latest trends. She’d had to learn anatomy to determine where to safely pierce, such as where saliva glands and ducts were, and where nerves ran so that she wouldn’t do any permanent damage to her clients.