Explaining to Raider that he’d been in no danger from the lion because said lion was more human than shifter was an absolute no-no.
Clyde struggled with himself as he saw Raider’s expression fall right after he plopped back onto the bed. Clyde glanced at his mother and got a very stern, ‘I’ll brain you, kid’ message back without a word passing her lips.
It was eerie how well a parent could know their offspring. Like they shared the same DNA or something. Clyde gave an internal laugh at himself but his amusement died immediately. He knew Raider would probably have flash backs to having a lion leap at him. That would be a pretty terrifying experience.
“He’s a family pet,” Clyde asked, then shook his head. Why was he asking? He was supposed to be reassuring Raider!
Gladys snorted then giggled.
Clyde straightened up, squaring his shoulders and projecting confidence. I hope.
“He’s a family pet,” he repeated firmly.
Raider, covering half his face with one hand, sputtered. “Pet? A pet? A pet lion! No one has a pet lion! Lions eat people! They are wild beasts, and we’re a snack! Humans just think we’re the top of the food chain but we aren’t!”
Clyde made marks in the air with his left hand, then his right, one finger out as if he were marking lines.
“What are you doing?” Raider demanded, his forehead scrunching with a few fine wrinkles when he frowned.
“That was a lot of exclamation points, man.” Clyde nodded. “Like, five. Mom would have cut us off sugar and all stimuli after three. Only one question mark, though. If you’d had a couple more of those, that would have gotten you sent to scrub the bathroom. Mom always said if we had the time to drive her crazy with questions, we had time to clean.”
Raider started to rub his eyes and winced when he touched the bruised one. “Ow. Crap. Why—questions are supposed to be good things.”
“Not when we did it just to irritate mom,” Clyde explained. “She would turn pink and when she thought we were out of hearing range, she’d cuss up a blue streak.” He scowled. “Then she made that not fun anymore. You only gotta scrub the toilets in this house once to learn your lesson. Unless you’re Murphy. Then it takes a few times.”
“What—why—“ Raider huffed, exhaling hard and sending his top lip out.
Clyde wanted to lick it, maybe suck on it and see what Raider did.
“Why are we even talking about your childhood punishments?” Raider finally got out. “What is happening with LeHorne? Am I in trouble?”
So much for reassuring Raider. Raider’s pinched expression and the way he pressed his index fingers against the tips of his thumbs over and over again conveyed his unease. Each movement was synched, each press the same length of time.
Clyde leaned one hip against the dresser. He didn’t have any information, but there were some things he was almost positive about. “Not legally, I don’t think. There hasn’t been anything on the news about it, and we don’t expect there to be. Most of those animals were there illegally. Who’s gonna narc? That doesn’t mean LeHorne won’t have people looking for you, though.”
“He wouldn’t waste his time hunting me down. I didn’t do anything. The security tape should show that it was Murphy who broke the cages, not me. Once they watch it, Murphy will be the one they search for. I tried to be a narc, a pre-narc, whatever, and no one listened anyway,” Raider muttered. “I called and wrote and emailed—“ He focused on Clyde. “Why were you naked when I woke up?”
“I was changing clothes,” Clyde said. “Dad and the rest of the family barged in here with you. I thought they were going to put you on the couch and I… I just didn’t think about clothes once… ” Did he dare? “OnceIsawyousoclose,” Clyde rushed out.
Raider ducked his head. “I must look like shit.”
“You look great,” Clyde informed him earnestly. Too earnestly. Like a hyper puppy. Or a horny one. Tone it down, boy. “I mean, I thought you were a stud when I saw you at Le—“
Raider was up and gripping the headboard. “I don’t remember seeing you there at all.”
“I was there.” That was not a lie. “I wasn’t out working the party. For some reason, my folks like me to stay away from possible accidents.”
“Like Murphy breaking the cage,” Raider said.
“Okay, that might not have been an accident,” Clyde admitted. “I told you, the lion is a family pet—“ And he’d make Clyde pay for calling him a pet, if he ever found out about it. “We had to get him out of there.”
“So,” Raider drawled. “If the cops came looking for anyone, it’d be you and your family.”
That sent a chill of dread right down Clyde’s spine. “No cops will be involved.” That’s what Kurt had said, and Clyde was trusting his dad. “Can’t speak for LeHorne.”
“And that’s probably worse. He doesn’t give two shits about the laws he doesn’t want to obey.” Raider grunted. “That makes him dangerous. He could send out hit men or private investigators and—“
Raider was working himself up into a frenzy. Clyde could tell it was coming. Before he could think of a way to avert it, there was a distinct disturbance in the balance of the universe.
At least, that’s how it sounded. Blaring horn and raging music, tires squealing and more horn blasting.
“Chellie,” Raider said. “She’s going to flip out when she sees my face and ribs.”
Clyde wanted to smack himself. He could think Raider was attractive all he wanted to, it wasn’t going to do any good. Not even when Clyde suspected that Raider was bi. He definitely ogled Clyde’s ass.
But… Raider had a girlfriend, and from the sounds of slamming doors, shouting, and cursing, she was a force to be reckoned with.