Ryan got out of the car and approached his family, aware Glory was following closely behind him. “Hi, Mom, Dad.” He hugged them both, then tugged on his sister’s hair, laughing when she batted at his hand. “What are you doing here?”
Chloe blushed and hugged Glory tightly. “I don’t know why, but I just knew you were going to want the whole family around you.”
Glory yawned. “Oh. That’s nice.” His mate was exhausted, and Ryan wanted nothing more than to—
“Wait. Did you say the whole family?”
Glory didn’t sound quite so sleepy anymore. Ryan bit back the urge to laugh. The panic in her tone was endearing. It wasn’t like his parents were that scary, after all. And having the entire Bunsun-Williams clan ready to protect her sister would ease both their minds.
“Yup. Alex and Eric will be here shortly. Uncle Ray and Aunt Stacey are watching over the girls at the shop. Tabby and Heather are there today.”
“And Uncle Will and Aunt Barb?” Ryan let his family into his apartment, taking their coats and draping them over the back of the sofa.
“You have a closet,” Glory muttered, picking them right back up and hanging them behind a door Ryan barely ever bothered to open.
“So I do.” Ryan hung his own jacket, ignoring Glory’s sniff of approval. “Why don’t you go get some rest? I’ll deal with my family.”
She shot him an evil look that was totally ruined by baby-blue curls and red-rimmed eyes. “I can handle it.”
“You can barely lift the bags under your eyes.” He brushed those curls away from her face. “Go to bed, love. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
He smiled, noting she hadn’t kneed him in the groin. Things were looking up. “Yup.” He kissed the tip of her nose, thrilled when she didn’t pull away. “Deal with it.”
“Pfft.” But her cheeks were flushed, her lips turned up with pleasure. He could sense her heart pounding, but smelled no hint of fear, and the zing of arousal nearly knocked him to his knees. “You’re going to have to work harder than that to get me to say it back.”
He threw his head back and laughed. Mine. And nothing would ever keep them apart. “That’s my girl.”
“Fuck you, Rye. Like I’m going to bare my soul in front of your parents.” She wrinkled her nose. “That’s just…ew.”
He hugged his mate, ignoring the avid way his family was watching them. “You willing to bare anything else after they leave?”
She made a rude noise and shoved at his shoulders, squealing when, instead of letting her go, he picked her up. “Ryan.”
She snarled, a fang peeping over her lip. “I’ll show you scary, asshole. Put me down or I’ll let Tabby make your breakfast.”
“I may be evil, but I can operate the coffee machine.” His mate’s usual swagger was gone, her steps barely a stumble as she moved away from him toward the kitchen. She was far more tired than she was willing to admit. “Go sit with your family. I’ve got this.”
And she didn’t want to acknowledge she loved him? She showed it, with everything she did. Ryan could wait for the words.
The feeling was there, apparent to any who looked at her, at them.
“Ryan.” Chloe was clutching his arm, demanding his attention. She’d always been that way, touchy-feely, before the attack. It was nice to see his baby sister returning to herself. “The family wants to help with Glory’s sister.”
He turned his attention back to Chloe and away from his exhausted mate. “How did you know we’d found her?”
Fox. The elusive spirit that ruled over all Foxes, never seen except by those who had a connection to the spirit world. Of those, Ryan had thought he only knew one: Julian DuCharme.
Now, apparently, his sister was also connected to the spirit world. What else could she do that other shifters couldn’t? Gods and spirits, please don’t let this be harmful. The thought that something could get in his sister’s head, pull her into a world he barely understood, freaked him the hell out.
How could he protect her from spirits?
“Don’t be afraid. One becomes three. Things are happening that are supposed to, and some wrongs are going to be righted. Balance will be restored.”
“What wrongs?” Glory’s voice floated out of the kitchen.
“Fox didn’t say, and I was too terrified to ask.” Chloe shivered. “It’s weird. Fox visits me, tells me something, and I just nod and pray I don’t get eaten.”
“He’s that scary?” Ryan had heard both Cyn and Julian describe Bear. The spirit was large, and calm, but not frightening at all once you got to know him.
“No. That strong. He—” Chloe tilted her head toward the front door, and Ryan heard what she did. “Bunny and Eric are here.”
The brothers were arguing in fierce whispers. No humans would hear them, but the shifters in Ryan’s apartment could. Ryan opened the front door and waved to his cousins to come inside. “C’mon in.” He smirked at Bunny. “Glory’s making coffee.”
Bunny moaned. “Oh, sweet Glory. I brought chocolate donuts in tribute to Your Coffeeness.”
Glory’s laugh was evil. “Get your buns in here, Bunny-boy.”
Eric chuckled as Bunny sprinted for Ryan’s kitchen. “He sorely misses his caffeine fix. I don’t think he realized how much of it he drank until Tabby couldn’t stand the smell.”
“The things we do for our mates.”
Eric grunted. “Speaking of which…” He tugged Ryan toward the bedroom, waving at Ryan’s parents and sister before shutting the door between them. “I did some research on one James Woods, doctor of veterinary medicine.”
“And?” Ryan wasn’t above using his cousin’s overprotective streak to keep Chloe safe.
“He’s smart, he’s making a good living, and he used to date the Curana.”
“I knew all that, and I’m pretty sure Chloe did too.” He’d thought Eric would dig up more than that. The Bear had quietly scared off more than one suitor for their female cousins with his blackmail, educating them on the error of trying to get into the girls’ pants. When that didn’t work, his size and muscles had made more than one man turn tail and run.