There was no pain. “Dude. You rock.”

Julian grinned and stood, heading for her apartment’s kitchen. “I know.”

“When are your partners in crime due home?” He turned on the faucet, the sound of the water muffling his voice, but she still heard an odd note in Julian’s voice.

She tried to bite back a snicker. She knew exactly how he felt about at least one of her roommates.

“Cyn said she was going to stay late, work on some paperwork.” Cyn owned Living Art and was Tabby’s boss, as well as one of her roommates. “Glory had a date, so I have no clue when she’ll be back.” Glory also worked at LA, doing piercings, and was her other roommate. The faucet stopped and Julian came back. He shook his hands at her, spraying her with water. “Hey!”

He flopped back down on the sofa and grabbed the popcorn bowl. He studied the screen, tilting his head. She waited to see what outrageous thing would pop out of his mouth this time. “Why is it that Orlando Bloom can look good as a girl and a boy?”

Tabby picked up a kernel and threw it at him. “Legolas isn’t a girl.”

He turned, raising one black brow, his full lips quirking in a smile. “Isn’t she?” He tilted his chin toward the screen, his expression turning devilish. “You think Aragorn doesn’t want a piece of that, Arwen or no?”

Tabby put her feet up on the coffee table and stretched out. “Yeah, and when Aragorn lifts Legolas’s kilt, he’s going to find the special surprise inside.” Julian choked on the popcorn and started laughing. Score one for me. She stole the bowl out of his lap and settled in to watch the movie.

“This is it? This is what Chloe left Oregon for?” Bunny walked down the street, pausing to peer into the window of a store. It was very…pink inside. A group of women sat on an old sofa, drinking tea and laughing, while a short, dark-haired female rang up purchases on an old-fashioned cash register. He shuddered and looked up at the sign. Wallflowers. Should be called Hen House. He moved away before any more testosterone could be sucked out through his pores.

Ryan chuckled. “She loves it here and swears we will, too.”

Bunny shrugged. “Whether or not I stay is still up in the air.” He paused, looking in another store. Comic books. Much more his style. I wonder if they have a good manga section? He was always on the lookout for a good store, and if he was going to stay here—

“Oh, no, you don’t.” Ryan grabbed hold of his collar and pulled him away from the glass. “I swear, it’s like those French pigs and truffles. If there are comic books around, you’ll sniff them out.”

Bunny rolled his eyes, but allowed his cousin to pull him away. He made a mental note to come back later without the two-hundred-and-twenty-pound wet blanket. “I swear, Ryan. You’re getting old.”

“I’m twenty-seven! And you, asshole, are twenty-eight!”

Bunny put his hand on his heart. “But I’m young inside . Where it counts.”

Ryan shook his head and let him go. “And this is why you’re not allowed out on your own.”

Bunny just grinned and followed his cousin down Main Street, Halle. They’d find Chloe, who hadn’t been either at her apartment or the diner she usually worked at. Her problems would be over, whether she liked it or not.

Then he’d be going home.

Now if only he could figure out why his Bear growled every time he thought of home, he’d be golden.

Tabby stared out the window of Living Art at the sunny spring day and sighed.

“Today is going to be another shitty day.”

“You’re just saying that because your roots are showing.”

Tabby turned to her friend Cyn and growled, the sound deep and feral and in no way human.

Cyn laughed. “Hon, if I was afraid of you, I’d never have hired you.”

Tabby rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the front window. “We haven’t had a customer all day.”

“Mondays.” The women looked at each other and echoed, “They suck the big fat hairy one.” Very few people came in for a tattoo on a Monday afternoon.

Glory, the one who handled all the piercings at Living Art, twirled in her chair.

Her long blue hair flared out around her. “Preaching to the choir.”

Cyn shook her head, her dark hair startling with its new hot pink stripes. “And then there’s Saturdays.”

The three women exchanged a look and shuddered. Saturdays had become something of a pain in the ass for the three women. Gary and his friends had stepped up their harassment of Tabby since the incident in the woods, often enough that the police had been called out to the store twice now thanks to the catcalls, thrown eggs and worse. She was pretty sure Gary was responsible for the graffiti they’d found on the window one Saturday morning. The spray-painted

“Cunts” had caused Cyn to break out in foul-sounding Hispanic curses. It was turning into a problem that not even the hunky Sheriff Anderson could deal with.

While he might be a Puma, he was only one Puma, and since it wasn’t affecting the Pride, she didn’t feel comfortable discussing it with Dr. Cannon or his Curana. She wasn’t Puma, she was Wolf, and her problems weren’t theirs.

She’d traveled for years as a wolf, living off the land, before arriving in Halle six months ago, half-starved and ready to reenter the human race. She’d passed out in the backyard of a woman named Sheila Anderson, and that was the luckiest break she’d had in years. Her grandson, Sheriff Anderson, had quietly found her a place to stay, food to eat and a place to work. She now apprenticed under Cyn, had gotten her driver’s license and a car, and almost had her GED. It was weird to think that she owed all that to a Puma lawman and his bossy grandmother who weren’t even Wolves. She didn’t want to cause him or his family any more trouble than she had, despite the fact that every time he found out about one of the little stunts Gary and his friends pulled, his jaw clenched tighter. Life had been good right up until the Asshole Pack had found her. She still didn’t feel comfortable asking the Pride for help, and the Poconos Pack Alpha, Rick Lowell, was still a freakishly scary man. Rumor had it his new Luna, a Puma who’d lived in Halle, was even scarier. She’d never met the Puma Luna and had no intention of doing anything that might get her attention. She shook her head, catching sight of her lime green bob in the mirror behind the register. She grimaced as she noticed the dark roots starting to show again. “Gah. Cyn? Hair emergency.”