She sighed out a long breath. “My family and my pack have a lot of…less than honorable sorts in them.”
His hackles went up. “You think you’re in danger? Who stands to benefit from hurting you or Charlie?”
She shook her head and smiled, but it looked forced. “No one I can think of. I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m sorry this happened. Probably just someone being foolish.”
“It’s definitely that. And if anyone tries to hurt you, they’re going to find out pretty quickly what a bad idea that is.” He pulled her to her feet and tugged her close so that she stood between his legs. “No one is going to hurt you, and no one is going to stand in the way of this marriage, so long as that’s what you want.”
Her smile softened into something genuine. “It is.”
He teased a gentle kiss across that smile. “Good. Now let’s go have lunch where the whole town can see us. I’m sure Birdie’s already told everyone she can think of and posted it on her Facebook page, so prepare yourself for table visits.”
“Small towns,” she said knowingly.
He grabbed his hat. “That and also there’s going to be a lot of curiosity about the woman who thinks I’m a good catch.”
She laughed as he opened the door, a happy sound he was glad to hear again. If these pictures were the beginning of something bigger and Ivy ended up in danger, he would very easily leave his badge behind to deal with her tormentors in a permanent fashion.
And if they thought otherwise, they were fools.
Ivy was surprised at how right Hank had been about the table visits. All sorts of people stopped by, proving that Howler’s was a very popular choice for locals and tourists alike. The array of supernaturals present was pretty amazing too. After the ninth interruption, Bridget started running interference, which made Ivy like her even more.
Bridget’s buffer also finally allowed them to eat. Better still, Ivy had Hank to herself. Which was the best part of the meal. They were tucked away in a booth in a private corner and he’d sat on the same side as her, meaning she could almost hide behind him if she wanted. Maybe that had been his plan. Keep her hidden in case there was some kind of danger.
She thought about the pictures for a moment, about what they might mean and who they might be from, but she couldn’t come up with much. Someone wanted Hank to know about Charlie, that was plain, but who? Was there a chance Charlie was in danger? That caused her mother’s instinct to clang in alarm and her ache for her son grew stronger. She pulled out her phone and sent her brother, Sam, a text.
Check on Charlie when you get a chance? Make sure he’s all right? Thanks.
Didn’t mean Sam would do it, but she had no one else to ask. As far as being in immediate danger, it was hard to be afraid of anything sitting next to a werewolf Hank’s size.
He pointed at her food with a French fry. “How’s your steak salad?”
She laughed. “You mean that half pound of sirloin with the two lettuce leaves and the slice of tomato? Your sister doesn’t skimp on the meat, does she? It’s great.” And almost gone. Being happy gave her an appetite, and it was hard not to be happy around a man who was crazy about her. The only piece of the puzzle that was missing was Charlie. Her heart ached with his absence.
“Pretty sure you got the friends-and-family deal.”
“Which one does that make me?”
“Both.” He smiled before popping the last of his French fries into his mouth. “You okay?”
She nodded. “I’m great.” She just wanted her son by her side. Safe. And where he belonged.
Bridget came to the table and set two bowls of peach cobbler in front of them. A hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream melted into each one. “Still hot from the oven, so be careful.”
“More food?” Ivy leaned back, wondering if she should unbutton her jeans. “I’m not sure I can.”
“At least try it.” Hank handed her a spoon. “The peach cobbler here is legendary.”
Bridget leaned against the side of the booth. “I can box it up to go if you want.”
But the aromas of peach and cinnamon already teased Ivy’s nose, making her mouth water. “I’ll soldier through.”
“That’s the spirit.” Bridget grinned. “You guys need anything else?”
Hank looked at Ivy.
She shook her head. “Everything was wonderful, thank you.”
Bridget backed away, pointing at her brother. “Don’t forget. Dinner at Titus’s tonight.”
Hank groaned. “Yeah, all right.” He stuffed down a spoonful of cobbler.
As Bridget went back to the bar, Ivy questioned him. “Titus is your brother, right?”
“My brother and the fire chief. We all get together at his house the week of the full moon for dinner and a run. There’s no getting out of it. Not with what’s going on with us. He’ll want to meet you in person, because I’m sure Bridge has told him everything.”
The tiniest bit of anxiety played along Ivy’s nerves. She ate some cobbler in an attempt to stifle that feeling. The cool ice cream and the sweet, hot peaches and sugary flaky crust made her pause for a moment to enjoy it. “Wow, you weren’t kidding about the cobbler being legendary.” She took another bite just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, then she answered. “We don’t need to get out of it. I’m sure it’ll be fun. And I should meet your brother. I have to meet him sooner or later anyway. You think he’ll like me?”