Julian lowered his hand. “I’m not sure I’ll survive what’s coming next.”

Cyn took a deep breath and nodded. “That’s the reason you haven’t marked me?”

She made little quotations with her fingers.

She took her eyes off of him. Her foot started to tap. “You were trying to save my life.” She glared at him. “We’re going to have a nice, long chat about what you should and should not hide from me. Understand?”

He nodded. Whether or not he agreed with it, Tabby had no clue.

“All right. You do what you have to and I’ll do the same.”

“If you become Puma or Wolf, you’ll lose your life.”

He sounded so certain, Tabby couldn’t doubt him. “Cyn, you should wait.”

She nodded. “I’m not an idiot.” She turned back to Julian. “Give me reasons why you want things from me. I’m a lot more likely to listen to that than some bullshit about not being ready. Got it?”

“I will deal with you later.” He opened his mouth to speak, but Cyn held up her hand, stopping him. Tabby could tell she was still furious, that Latina temper still riled. “I have to go clean my shop. Tabby, do me a favor. Make sure he gets home.

“We can drop you off first.”

Cyn smiled. “I could use the walk.” She headed for the door, making sure to avoid touching Julian on her way out. “Bye, Emma. Bye, Becky.”

The women echoed her goodbye and watched her through the plate glass window.

Julian kept his back to the door, his expression blank. Tabby knew he was hurt by Cyn’s rejection.

“Well. That was fun. Not.” Emma shook her head, her hands on her hips.

“Someone needs to give her a time-out. Maybe a nap.”

Tabby started to laugh. Julian rolled his eyes. “I’ll take care of her, don’t worry.”

“Whether she likes it or not?”

Tabby jumped to her friend’s defense. “She doesn’t think she needs taking care of. She’s got reasons for why she’s acting the way she is. I know some of them, but not all of them. Emma, remember what you told me about Rick, that I should be honest with him and tell him everything? Julian, that’s what you need to do with Cyn. She sort of had a mushroom childhood.”

“She was plunked down in the dark and fed a lot of bullshit.”

“Oh. Yeah, that would do it.” Emma waved. “Listen, I have inventory to sort out.

I’ll talk to all of you later. And Tabby? Be available when Rick gets here, okay?”

Before Tabby could protest, Emma was back through the curtain, effectively cutting her off.

“Nice exit.” Tabby turned back to Julian. He was smiling. More of his hair was its natural black. Very little could keep Julian down for long, not even rejection from his mate. Tabby bet he was already figuring out ways to get around Cyn’s temper.

“She’s good at those.” Becky settled back down on the couch. “Crisis over?”

“For now,” Julian said. He gave Tabby a long look. “We need to talk.”

“Ugh. More talking? I’m all talked out. How about hunting?”

“No lunch. The pizza’s probably long cold by now and Alex already ate without me.”

“He wouldn’t want you out there by yourself.”

She grinned. “I won’t be. You’ll be with me.” She reached up and patted his cheek. “Couldn’t you go for a nice warm rabbit right about now?”

“Fine, but you’re letting him know where we are.”

“Can do. C’mon, let’s go. I’m dying for a good run.”

“Amen.” Julian shuddered all over. “I’d love to get into my fur.”

“Then it’s a done deal.” She knew just the place to take him, too. Far enough away from the college that Gary couldn’t give her grief without disobeying the local Alpha, yet close enough that she wouldn’t have to drive into the next town over just to avoid the college. She waved bye to Becky and dragged Julian out of the store. “C’mon, the car’s this way.”

She stopped. “Uh-oh. Why do I have the feeling this is one of those I-know-something-you-don’t-know moments?”

Julian stopped. “You’re taking me into the woods northeast of Halle, the ones farthest from the college. We’ll change, run, and Gary will be there. We’ll fight. I’m pretty sure you’ll survive.”

Tabby blinked. “How the fuck does Gary know we’re going running? We just decided that!”

“He doesn’t. He’s deliberately ignoring Max’s direct order to stay on the college campus. Why, I have no idea, but there it is.”

Shit. “Okay, maybe Burger King for lunch.” Or maybe they could go in a completely different direction, like right behind the campus?

He shook his head and grabbed her arm. “If we don’t do this now, people will die.”

Julian shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t know anything after…”

She pulled out her cell phone and handed it to Julian. “Start dialing.”

He looked startled, but only for a moment. He began to punch in numbers, his face tight. “Bunny? Meet Tabby and me in the woods northeast of Halle. We’re going hunting.” He winced and pulled the phone from his ear. Tabby could hear Alex roaring on the other end. “Listen to me! It’s important .” The commanding tone was back in Julian’s voice. On the other end of the line, Alex stopped roaring. “I had a vision. You need to meet us there. Got it?”

“Got it,” she heard Alex rumble. She unlocked the doors of the Jeep and settled in, buckling her seat belt. Julian joined her and she started the engine. “Keep her safe, Julian.”

She took off with a squeal of tires, heading for the outskirts of Halle.

She felt a grim smile flirting around her mouth. Her big, overprotective Bear was having a fit that he wasn’t the one there to protect her.