Gabe studied him for a moment, his lips twitching. “Hands off the Wolf. Got it.”
He pulled out of the driveway and headed off to Frank’s. “Where are you thinking of house hunting?”
Bunny shrugged. “Near here, I think. The houses are nice.”
Gabe shot him a startled glance. “No offense, but can you afford it? Even with the housing market on a downturn, places near Max go for a pretty penny.”
“I can afford it, especially if some of my family is here. We’ll probably start up a branch of the family business here.”
“Bunsun Exteriors. Corporate specializes in commercial landscaping and hardscaping, but I want to start some residential options here. I’m a landscape architect.”
Bunny made a face. “We’re comfortable. Besides, it’s my father’s business, not mine. If a branch opens up down here, it will be run by my Uncle Steven.” He was pretty sure Uncle Steven would fall in with what he wanted to do. Hell, he’d probably put Ryan in charge just so Bunny wouldn’t be forced to do the paperwork. The last time they’d put an expense sheet in front of Bunny, he’d drawn big pink azalea bushes on it. Ryan was this generation’s money man. “I wonder if I could get Eric down here or if he’ll stay in Oregon?”
“My brother. Dad left him behind to deal with the business while he’s in town.”
“Ah.” Gabe pulled into the parking lot and turned off the ignition. “How many of you are there?”
“Aunt Laura, Chloe’s mom? She’s a Fox. Her brother, Uncle Ray, married Uncle Steven’s sister, and they have three kids, one Fox and two Bears. So most of the family is half Fox, half Bear. Dad is the only one who mated a human, so Eric and I are both Bears. What makes it even more confusing? Uncle Steven and Aunt Stacy are Dad’s cousins.” He glowered at Gabe. “And no jokes about rednecks and first cousins.”
Gabe’s lips twitched. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” He got out of the car and headed to the diner, not bothering to wait for Bunny. From the set of his shoulders, Bunny figured he was still fighting a laugh.
He got out of the car, noting six bikes sitting off in a row. He frowned, something about those bikes looked familiar. Bunny followed the sheriff into the diner, a scent tickling his nose he hadn’t encountered in a long time. He smelled Bears, ones he thought he recognized.
Gabe was standing just inside the door, his hands loose at his sides, his back straight and tight. “I’m going to ask you one more time. Back off and leave the girl alone.”
Bunny blinked at the hard note in the Sheriff’s voice. “Gabe? What’s going on?”
He looked over Gabe’s shoulder to find six men, all above average height, surrounding a tiny woman. She held a tray in her visibly shaking hands. “Harry?
Bunny smiled. “Well hell, Harry. How’ve you been?” He hadn’t seen these guys in dogs’ years. “Doing good since I last saw you?” That had been, what, ten years ago?
“Better. Better. Arm’s all healed up, thanks. Gives me fits in the rain, though. Not so bad off as Barney. He still can’t use his hand.”
Bunny grimaced. He hated being reminded of Barney. He’d done everything he could to make up for what he’d almost done to the man, but Barney would have nothing to do with him. Bunny didn’t blame him. He wouldn’t want anything to do with the man who nearly killed him either. Last he heard, Barney was in Alaska, owned a bar, and was happily mated with two cubs. Rumor had it he’d moved there to put as much distance as he could between himself and Bunny, yet still remain in the United States.
Harry’s five gang members backed away from the waitress, wary eyes glued to Bunny. He shrugged. “Nah, I’m living here now. My, um, fiancée is here.” The human waitress was looking at them strangely. No way could he use the word
Harry’s eyes went wide. He managed to turn even paler. “F-fiancée? You’re engaged. Congratulations.” He feebly waved at the bikers behind him. They all took a polite seat at the counter, watching him with fear-filled eyes.
“Yeah, she’s a tattoo artist.” One of the six men moaned. Bunny thought it might have been Mikey. Despite his rough look, he’d always been a little more delicate than the others. You’d think a man with a flaming skull tattooed on the nape of his neck would be a little less wimpy. “Why, you thinking of getting one? She does good work.” He’d seen that when he caught a look at Mrs. H’s cross. She was a true artist, someone whose work he’d be proud to wear.
“Um, no.” Harry shook his head so hard it should have snapped off his neck.
Lee, the smallest of the six men, gently tapped the waitress on the shoulder. “Can we please get that order to go ma’am?”
Bunny rolled his eyes. “C’mon guys. It was years ago.”
“He took on all of us. All of us,” Lee whispered. “He didn’t even get a scratch.”
“You shouldn’t have picked on Heather. She was only ten.” And a Fox, which left her completely vulnerable to the seven teenage Bears who’d chosen to make her life miserable. He’d had no choice but to come to his cousin’s aid. The decision to nearly kill the worst offender was something he had to live with every day. “I did ask you to stop.” And he’d made each and every one of them apologize to Heather after he was done with them, even Barney.
It had taken two years for Heather’s nightmares to stop. All of them had starred her cousin rather than her attackers. She still eyed him warily whenever the family got together.
Gabe was staring at him like he’d suddenly sprouted wings. “And Tabby’s worried about you facing Gary?”
Bunny shrugged. He’d tried to tell her he could handle it, but she didn’t want to believe him. She was too used to Julian. Black Bears would run from a fight they knew they couldn’t win. Kermode, for all that they were some shade of cream or white in Bear form, were still a species of black bear.