“What the hell? She told me it wasn’t her place to change me and that the honor belonged to my mate .”

“He’d probably prefer it that way, actually.”

“Seriously.” Tabby lifted her head again and let Cyn see the evil grin on her face.

“If it’s anything like a mating bite then you’ll want him to do it.” She waggled her eyebrows at her friend and waited for the explosion.

“In his dreams!” Cyn stomped toward the back of the shop. “Don’t think I won’t find a way around this. Fucking asshole. Thinks he can stop me , does he?” She eyed Tabby speculatively. “So. Does your offer still stand?”

Tabby groaned. “Julian said if you become Wolf or Puma, your life will be in danger. I can’t .”

“Believe me, if I could, I would in a heartbeat. But I’m not willing to risk your life.

If Julian’s right, you could die, Cyn.” Tabby shook her head. Julian was in for an interesting time of it. Cyn had taken it into her head that Julian was holding out on her for no good reason.

“Fine,” Cyn ground out between her teeth. “I’ll be in the back doing paperwork.”

She stormed off, and Tabby knew it wouldn’t be long before Cyn took matters into her own hands.

Truthfully, Tabby didn’t know why Julian was waiting to mark Cyn. Cyn was his mate. He had to have known it for some time. So why was he insisting that they needed to wait? Tabby had wanted to mark Alex the moment she saw him. She couldn’t imagine leaving either one of them hanging, especially now that she’d gotten a taste of him.

The bell over the front door jingled. Tabby got off her stool and turned to greet the new customer. Hopefully the customer would take Cyn’s mind off becoming a shifter, at least until she could get Julian to explain things to Cyn personally.

“Gary.” She stepped away from the countertop, her back hitting the wall. Gary was flanked by his two idiot bits of muscle. Fuck. He had a baseball bat in his hands.

“C’mon out, Tabby. You know what we want. Give it to us and no one will get hurt.” He grinned, his fangs showing. “Especially that pussy mate of yours.”

She shuddered. No way was she letting Gary get his hands on her.

“Tabby?” Aw hell. Before Tabby could stop her, Glory stepped out from behind the curtain. “Um. Gary. What can we do for you?”

She’d said it just a little too loudly. Gary scowled at her before gesturing to one of his minions. “Get Cyn. I bet she’s in the back.”

Tabby scooted out from behind the counter. “Leave them alone, Gary.”

He smiled, his expression cold. “Now why would I want to do that?”

The two goons laughed. One of them pushed past Glory and headed into the back.

Tabby stiffened at the dull sound of a fist landing on flesh. She didn’t know if it was Cyn or the goon who’d landed a blow. She hoped it was Cyn. If Cyn got hurt, she had no idea what Julian would do.

Cyn was shoved through the open curtain. Gary’s friend took his place next to Gary. Tabby risked looking back. Hell, Cyn had a big red mark on her cheek.

Julian was going to flip out.

Glass shattered. Glory shrieked. Tabby turned back to Gary to find him standing over the broken remains of their glass counter, the baseball bat stuck through the metal shell. “Pay attention, bitch!”

Tabby held up her hands. She moved in front of Cyn and Glory, protecting them from the three Wolves menacing them. “You really don’t want to do this.”

Gary smirked. “You’re Outcast. I can do whatever the fuck I want to you.” He tilted his head. “We don’t want to hurt the little humans too much, though.” His grin turned mean. “We don’t want to cause trouble.”

“I hate to tell you this, son, but you’re already in trouble.” Gabe stepped into the shop followed by a tall, golden-haired man in a suit. Max Cannon glowered at the three wolves, his gaze raking across the women’s faces, assessing the damage.

Oh, thank God, the cavalry is here.

Gabe’s hand rested on the gun at his hip. He was in full uniform. “Put the bat down. Now.”

Gary glared at Tabby. “I’m Wolf. I have the right to lay claim to the Outcast.”

Max chuckled, but there was nothing of amusement in the sound. “In your dreams.” He straightened. “You’re on my territory, asshole, threatening one of mine. Back off.” An invisible wave of power flowed from the man. The strength of the Alpha who stood in the doorway was subtle, but strong, a lot stronger than Tabby’s old Alpha. “You don’t really want to piss me off, do you?”

Gary’s packmates cringed and backed away from the women. Gary merely sneered. “You can’t claim the bitch as one of yours. She’s a Wolf and an Outcast.”

Max Cannon merely lifted one golden brow. “Oh? Why not?”

Gary turned to face the Puma Alpha. “It’s against Protocol!”

Max grinned. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not a Wolf.” He pointed to Tabby, Glory, and Cyn, his gesture encompassing all three of them. “And these ladies are under my protection.”

Tabby shivered. Something shifted deep within her soul, her Wolf reacting with a mix of confusion and happiness. She’d never felt anything like it before.

Max took a step forward, menace dripping off of him, an Alpha defending his territory. “Do you want to go a few rounds and see which one of us wins?” His eyes had turned from pure crystalline blue to molten gold. Puma eyes. His hands flexed, his claws coming out. “I guarantee you don’t.”

Gary shook his head, his expression full of disbelief. “You can’t do that.”

Max cocked his head, his golden eyes narrowed “She’s proven herself to me and, more importantly, to my Second. Who, by the way, happens to be a Hunter.”

Gabe’s deep blue eyes had also turned gold. He winked at Tabby over Max’s shoulder. “Welcome to the Pride.”

She gaped at Max, who nodded, his gaze never leaving the stunned, furious Wolf in front of him. She hadn’t even realized what had been missing until Max accepted her. She was part of something again, even if it wasn’t a Pack. The deep burden of loneliness that had dogged her steps for years was finally gone. “Thank you.”