His mouth watered at the sight of his mate. God, she looked edible. Jeans that were painted on, a wispy nothing of a top, and high-heeled boots combined with that cascade of blue hair, and he was ready to say fuck the picnic and, well, just fuck her. “You look incredible.”

She grinned. “So do you.” She waved him in. “Let me grab my coat and we can get out of here.”

He was all for that. “I think you’re going to like what I’ve got planned.” And if things worked out the way he hoped, he’d love the aftermath.

He didn’t let her skepticism get to him. He understood now why she constantly pushed him away. He’d have to prove over and over that he wasn’t going anywhere, but his mate was worth it. He’d show her however many times she needed that she’d never be alone again. “You ready?”

“Ready.” She slid her arm through his and grabbed her purse. “Ryan?”

For just a moment, she looked terribly sad. “I’m sorry.”

She locked her door before answering. “Do you know why none of my relationships have ever worked in the past?”

“Because you always leave before they do.” She glanced at him, obviously startled, as he led her to his car. “It’s not rocket science, SG.”

She blew her curls out of her eyes as she settled in the passenger seat. “You’re such a smart ass.”

He laughed as he settled into the driver’s seat. “Better a smart ass than a dumb ass.”

She glanced at him sideways. “But first you have to be smart, or you’re just an ass.”

“Oh, ouch.” He put his hand to his chest. “You wound me.”

“But I thought…” She trailed off, biting her lip.

“What?” Oh, God. Don’t tell me I screwed up on the first date.

“Nothing.” But she turned to look out the passenger side window rather than at him.

“I wanted us to be alone, so I arranged a surprise. Was I wrong?”

She looked back at him, her gaze speculative. “No, maybe not.”

Thank fuck. Because he’d have to ditch the food in the nearest trash can if she’d said yes, and he really liked Kung Pao chicken. “Then let’s get this party started.”

The mysterious smile that crossed her face scared the shit out of him, but it was too late now. He just hoped things went the way he’d planned, because he didn’t think he could survive it if his idea set him back to square one with her.

There was only one real place in town worthy of a first date: Noah’s, the best restaurant in town. So that was what she dressed for, expecting spaghetti carbonara and good wine, despite the fact that he’d said the date would be casual.

So of course, that wasn’t where Ryan had planned to take her, because Ryan rarely did what she expected. She should have known.

Hell. She should have worn sneakers.

“The park?” Glory shivered, glad she’d chosen to dress in her good black jeans and not the teeny skirt she’d originally intended. It was cold out, the sky that bright, pale blue that you only saw at the tail end of winter.

Ryan glanced down at her, amused. “You want to run into my family?”

Glory winced. The Bunsun-Williams clan was loud, boisterous and very much a part of Ryan’s life. She’d watched Tabby and Cyn struggle with the overwhelming family. None of the girls were used to having that kind of loving dynamic in their lives, and the adjustment was an ongoing process that sometimes left them exhausted. The Bunsun-Williamses had “accidentally” intruded on more than one of Julian and Cyn’s dates in the past. So perhaps having a picnic wasn’t such a bad idea after all. “Good point.”

“Just so you know, I can’t cook.” Ryan grinned. “I can’t boil water without setting something on fire, so unless you can cook we’ll be eating a hell of a lot of takeout.”

Glory took the hand he offered when her heeled boots sunk into the grass. Spring was definitely coming if the ground had started to thaw enough for that. “You think so, huh?” He was assuming an awful lot if he thought she was going to cook for him.

He chuckled. “Ask Bunny about the time I tried to barbecue. He still screams like a little girl when I mention pork chops.”

She helped him set up the blanket on the ground. “I thought barbecue was bred into the bone with guys, like football and setting farts on fire.”

He stared at her for a moment. “Farts on fire?”

She shrugged. She’d seen more than one butt burn when her brother was younger.

“Yeah. Not this guy.” He settled her on the blanket, taking a seat next to her. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I set water on fire.” He opened the basket and pulled out a bottle of wine. “My cousins played hockey with the leftovers.”

She sputtered a laugh and began helping him unpack their dinner. The smell of Chinese food filled the air. She opened one of the boxes as he took the other. “Mm, General Tso’s chicken. How’d you know that’s my favorite?”

“A certain little Wolf told me.” He handed her some chopsticks, using his own pair to dig out what smelled like Kung Pao chicken. “Dig in.”

She did, moaning as the spicy-sweet flavor exploded on her tongue. “’S good.”

He poured two glasses of wine, handing her one. “I want something from you.” He laughed when she glared at him. “That too, but, no. I want you to ask me anything.”

He nodded, licking sauce off the end of his chopstick. “We’ve danced around each other quite a bit, but…” He sighed. “We haven’t tried to get to know each other, not the way mates should.”

Glory grimaced. Most of that was her fault. He’d been trying so hard to get close to her, even leaving her those presents, but she couldn’t help the way she reacted to Ryan. The man scared the piss out of her. No one she’d ever met had ever held the power to hurt her quite so badly, but Ryan Williams could without even trying. Already she couldn’t imagine him not bopping into the shop, smiling and chasing her around her piercing station.