It had taken him years to shrug off the fury that sometimes rode him with vicious spurs. Meditation, yoga, even avoiding certain foods helped him keep control of the anger that had been his bane as a teenager. Now he wore the nickname Bunny as a badge of honor, a way to remind himself of where he’d been and was now headed.
That direction now included the woman toying with her water glass across from him. He couldn’t wait to get started.
“So, what do you do for a living?” Tabby took a bite of her twelve-ounce steak and moaned. Bunny damn near came in his jeans at the sound. She opened her eyes to find him staring at her mouth. “What?”
“Nothing.” Bunny took a bite of his own seafood alfredo. “This is good. Remind me to thank Gabe.”
“So. What do you do for a living, Bunny?”
She stared at him. He waited for the question most people asked him. “What’s the difference between a landscaper and a landscape architect?”
“It means I have a Bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. I’ve worked in a corporate environment for years designing landscapes, both soft and hard. I understand the horticulture of the area I work in, and what laws need to be followed where. I design for people who have pools, need stonework, or want their landscape graded but have to deal with county restrictions on water drainage. I design structures to code, and help them deal with regulatory boards. In other words, I’m fully licensed and accredited in the state of Oregon, and I’m usually in a suit.”
His mate stared at him like he’d grown a second head. Finally Tabby gulped. “Is that Bunsun with an ‘e’ or a ‘u’?”
He smiled. He was surprised. She didn’t look like someone who would have dealings with corporate landscaping. Maybe she had a relative working for him?
They had branches all over the United States, and he’d pegged her accent as Deep South right from the beginning. “U. My parents are Will and Barbra Bunsun.”
“Holy hell.” Tabby sat back and stared at him. “I thought your name sounded familiar.”
Bunny held up his hand. “Before we go too far, I live off my wages, not my dad.”
He put his hand down. He’d been thinking about this for a while. “And not even that right now. I’ve decided I don’t want to do corporate anymore. I want to start working residential.”
Tabby stared at Bunny in shock. “Bunsun Exteriors. Damn. Never thought I’d meet one of the Bunsuns this far north.”
“I’m surprised you’ve heard of us.” Most people not in the business didn’t even know who Bunsun Exteriors were. From the sound of her accent, she had to know his name from someplace other than their Oregon branch. They had some southeastern branches, but they were small. His father was looking at expanding further up the east coast, but it was going to take time.
Tabby’s face closed up tight. “I have an uncle who works for your company.”
Bingo. From her southern accent, she had to be from Georgia, or one of the Carolinas. Maybe Tennessee? All of them had a smallish Bunsun branch, nothing like the corporate offices they had on the west coast. “Dad’s company.” Bunny leaned back, wondering why she’d suddenly gone cold. “Tabby?”
She blew her bangs out of her eyes. “Guess you should know. I’m Outcast.”
Bunny paused. Being Outcast was a serious thing among those who lived in Pride or Pack families. Bears, not being pack-minded, didn’t have nearly the same reaction to that sort of thing. Bears were more into small family groups and, unlike wild bears, the males stuck by their mates. “Mind if I ask why?”
She bit her lip, that small hint of vulnerability waking every protective instinct Bunny had. “I was seeing the son of the Alpha. Micah. He was…sweet, and kind, and liked being around me. The Alpha didn’t approve, he thought I was trouble.”
She shrugged. “Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. I liked to dye my hair different colors, I had some trouble in school, and I had a tattoo.”
She had a tattoo? He couldn’t find one on her arms, legs or shoulders. He’d definitely have to explore that later.
“But I never broke anything that belonged to someone else,” she continued, “I never hurt anybody who didn’t throw a punch first, and I never stole anything.”
The fierce way she said that last had Bunny growling. “You got Outcast for stealing?”
Bunny was already shaking his head. “You’re not a thief.”
Her eyes went wide. “You believe me?”
Her hands covered her mouth, those brown eyes of hers filling with tears. “Oh, God. How can you believe me? You don’t even know me.”
Bunny covered her hand with his. “I just do.” Not that it would matter if she had.
She was his mate . He’d tell her the sky was orange if it would make her smile.
“Tell me what happened.” Maybe he could find out what had happened and clear her name for her.
Tabby took a sip of her water. Her hand was visibly shaking. “Um, I was seeing Micah, like I said. Well, he asked me to come over to his house when his parents were out. I did, and we wound up in his room. His parents came home before we got too far, though, so I tried to sneak out of the house. Of course, the Alpha caught me trying to leave, but instead of asking me what I was doing there, he assumed I was there to rob the place.”
“What?” Bunny was outraged. How could an Alpha make assumptions like that?
Where had the Omega been during all of this?
She nodded. “He was fed up with me. So he gathered the Pack and asked if anyone would speak for me.” She swallowed hard enough for Bunny to see, and she wouldn’t look him in the eye. “Not even my parents would.”
“What about your lover?” And didn’t it just bite his ass to say that?
She laughed. “Are you kidding? Micah couldn’t stand up to his father. The Alpha was furious, I mean scary angry, and if Micah had tried to defy him I don’t know what would have happened to him.” She rubbed at her wrist. Bunny wondered if she was remembering a bruise there, or some other damage.
“So he declared you a thief and threw you from the Pack.” Bunny could feel the rage building under his skin. “How old were you?”