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Indirect Lines (Halle Shifters #5)
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1619233649 (ISBN13: 9781619233645)
There’s only one way to win this game: break the rules.
Halle Shifters, Book 5
James “Barney” Barnwell is losing his ever-loving mind. Between the threat to the white shifters and a riddle he’s been ordered to solve, he can actually go for ten whole minutes without thinking about Heather, the woman destined to be his mate.
As much as he burns to get the redhead under him, the safest place for her is far away from him. If the bad guys catch the barest hint of her scent on his skin, she’ll become a target.
The way Heather sees it, the quicker she helps the stubborn Bear solve the riddle, the quicker he’ll bite her—literally. But when she’s hurt while protecting her cousin from an attack, she finds herself right where Barney never wanted her: smack dab in the middle of the investigation.
Like it or not, Barney is forced to bring her fully into his crazy world. With his mate’s life in his hands, he’s in a race against time to solve this maddening riddle before the enemy discovers that the Hunter has finally been caught by love.
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“You have got to be kidding me.” The spate of Spanish that followed sounded anything but cheery. Heather stopped sketching the tattoo she was working on to find Cynthia Reyes, her boss, stomping around the tattoo shop, her steel-toed boots making squeaking noises on the newly cleaned floors. Her multicolored hair in was disarray and her lips clamped tight in frustration. The vision brought a smile to Heather’s face.
Of course, Cyn was always stomping around, but it was the hair, that carefully colored and pampered hair all standing on end, that made Heather grin. Something was up with the owner of Cynful Tattoos, and Heather wanted to know exactly what that was. Heather got off the chaise she’d been lounging on. “What’s wrong?”
“The ink company sent me the wrong fucking order.” Cyn glared at the box on the glass display case. “Now I have to pull some green out of my ass, and since I don’t shit grass, I’m wondering where the fuck I’ll get it.”
“No problemo. I can mix some up.” Heather walked into the back room, looking for the colors she’d need. She’d been studying art since middle school. Whatever color Cyn wanted, Heather could whip up with ease. “What shade do you need?”
“See? This is why I hired you, to do the dirty work.” Cyn cracked her knuckles. “But I do seem to have an excess of Ass-Slapped Red.”
Heather giggled. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over the names of some of the inks.” Heather was still thinking of tattoo ink like paint, with simple names like burnt orange or sunset red. She still had a lot to learn.
“Not all companies name their inks like that, but I love how the colors stay true longer. That’s why I use them.” Cyn followed her into the back as Heather gathered what she needed to mix the inks.
She pulled down some mixing cups and grabbed the colors Cyn pointed out. “Isn’t there another shop across town?” She glanced at the shelf containing the needles. “We’re running low on round shader needles. You were going to put that in this week’s order, but maybe we can trade?”
Cyn shot her a sharp look. “Not exactly what I was thinking, but…” She rubbed her chin, then nodded sharply. “I’ll give them a call. What could it hurt?” Cyn headed for the counter and the phone. “Good thinking, kiddo.” Cyn winked and grinned at her, obviously pleased.
Heather tried not to blush. With her bright red hair and pale complexion, any color in her cheeks wound up taking over her whole face. She looked like a ripe tomato when she blushed. “Thanks, Cyn.” It meant a lot to her that the woman who’d taken Heather under her wing was happy with her.
Heather settled back and concentrated on mixing the color Cyn wanted. Cyn’s muffled voice came to her through the curtain as she called the other tattoo shop in town. Odds were good he’d have the needles, and hopefully he’d take the ink in exchange.
She’d just finished mixing the inks when the doorbell jingled. Heather left the tattooing area, eager to see Cyn’s customer. She was expecting a regular, someone whose tattoo was in progress since Cyn was so intent on getting the correct green.
Who she got instead was Tabby Bunsun, her cousin Alex’s mate, with a baby carrier in one hand and a diaper bag in the other. Tabby entered with wild eyes and the sharp, staccato sound of dropped keys on hardwood floor. “Help!”
Heather, laughing, rushed to help the new mother. Cyn was still on the phone, rolling her eyes at Tabby even as she spoke to the owner of the other shop. Heather grabbed the keys and took Tabby’s diaper bag. “What’s up?”
“Me.” Tabby gently placed baby Wren’s car seat on the floor before collapsing into one of the two turquoise chairs decorating the shop. “All night, every night.” Her head fell back. Her lime green hair was longer than it had been since before she’d had the baby. Tabby’s neat bob wasn’t quite as neat and the roots were dark brown. “And every time I complain to Alex about the baby needing to be fed every two hours, he starts humming ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’. Bastard.”
That sounded just like Alex. “You need to get him to take better care of you. Want me to call Aunt Barbara? She’ll straighten his ass out.”
Tabby shook her head. “Nah, we’ve got this. It’s just, I didn’t realize how hard this would be, you know?” Tabby’s Georgia drawl was slurred with exhaustion.
Heather crouched to get a better look at her new cousin. The baby was sleeping, her little bow lips pursed and sucking, her tiny fists on top of her jade green blanket. A wee knit cap kept her dark curly hair under wraps. “She’s so beautiful.”