Despite his best intentions, Mr. Kerwin had to choke back a chuckle when the police led her into the visiting room. Three sergeants—all burly wolves—surrounded a mouse. A mouse woman. She barely came up to the shortest guard’s chest. Tired ice blue eyes squinted from under unruly black bangs as she looked around the room, then settled her gaze on him.
It wasn’t just the size difference that made the scene so incongruous. The chains weighing down her arms and legs must have come from boat anchors. And it was clear from the way the wolves moved, their expressions, their scents: she frightened them.
Even so, Mr. Kerwin kept himself composed. He stood with his own hands folded behind his back, plush white-tipped tail slowly swishing. She stopped in front of the room’s single small table, gaze still locked on him, taking in the fox’s custom-tailored pinstripe black suit and curling her lip. He stood a head taller than she did, but likely only weighed a few pounds more. She just might be able to take him in a fair fight. From everything he’d heard—the stories that had brought him here—she didn’t fight fair, though.
“We met?” Her voice had a touch of classic rodent sibilance to it, but roughened, deep. “You a new court-appointed lawyer?”
“No. My name’s Vincent Kerwin. I work for Thomas DeSantis at Gold Coast Vending.”
“Vending,” she repeated. “What the hell is that? I’ve hearda DeSantis, though.”
One of the guards snorted. “I bet.”
“Largest cigarette machine distributor on the coast,” Kerwin said evenly. “Officers, would you leave us alone a few minutes? And take off her chains before you go, please.”
Another wolf spoke. “Mr. Kerwin, we strongly advise against that.”
“And you’ve done your duty by warning me.” He lifted his brows and gestured to her chains.
Sighing, the wolf unlocked the cuffs. The chains dropped to the concrete floor with a rattle like machine gun fire. “We’ll be right outside. Pound on the door if you need us.”
The third wolf shook his head, muttering under his breath. “Like he’ll have time.”
The mouse and fox looked at one another, the first wary, the second considering. After a few seconds he gestured to the table. “Let’s chat.”
She sat down.
“So.” He took the chair across from her, folding his hands on the table. “They’re holding you on assault.”
“S’what they tell me.”
The mouse sighed, rubbing her wrists where the chains had bound them. Her tone made it clear she knew he already knew the answer. “I stepped on a guy.”
“When you were fifty feet high.”
“So closer to sixty. He’s lucky he’s not dead.”
“I just stepped on him, not stomped.” She put a hand to her chest, and her voice shifted to an unconvincing sing-song innocence. “Stomping would be cruel an’ fatal on purpose. He just took a bad step and fell, and I didn’t see him in time.”
Mr. Kerwin smiled, tail swishing again. “Right after he’d been arguing with you.”
“Life’s funny that way sometimes.”
The fox chuckled, then stroked his muzzle. “You don’t burst out of your clothes when you grow, do you? I don’t mean to sound like I’ve been studying you, but you do have quite the file.” He waved at the chains. “If you can make your clothes grow, why can’t you just make those grow, too?”
She shifted in her seat, sighing again. “Too heavy. Somethin’ lighter than me, that I can lift up real easy? That’ll grow with me if I want. So they make sure those chains are heavier than I am.”
“Extraordinary. That you can do that, I mean. It’s been documented in other size-shifters, but it’s rare.” He tilted his head. “And if you became a giant, picked me up, and then shrank?”
“I’d have a cute little business fox doll to play with. Just for a little bit, though.” Her grin had the cute square-tooth look you’d expect from a mouse, yet it made the fur on the back of his neck prickle. “Dolls are so fragile.”
He’d had a lot of practice dealing with scary people, but it still took effort to keep his ears from folding back. “I understand they’re trying to connect you with other crimes, some more serious. An armored car theft.”
She snorted. “I didn’t steal an armored car.”
“It’d be easy to—”
“Just get big, pick it up and walk off with it? Come on. You don’t think no size-shifter’s thought about that before?” She leaned back, crossing her arms. “There are a lot of places you can be a little big and a few places you can be real big, but you play one-mouse army in public and people notice. People like the actual army. Giants always gotta be on their best behavior.”
“Then how would you do it?”
“Steal an armored car as a giantess. You just said you’ve thought about it, didn’t you?”
“Didn’t mean I’d come up with a plan.” She sighed. “Look, if it was so easy to get away with shit as a giantess, I wouldn’t be here, would I?”
“Maybe, maybe not. Some other suspected crimes in your file are disappearances. People who crossed you who just…weren’t seen again.”
That earned him another snort. “They can suspect all they want. If they had evidence I’d be in prison, not county lockup.”
He flashed a slight smile. “It’s almost as if the evidence was just swallowed up.”
“Cute.” She pushed back from the table and walked toward the door. “We’re done here.”
“Regina,” he said sharply, “where do you want to be in three years?”
She stopped, hand raised for a knock, but looked back at him.
“If they find you guilty of this assault—and if you go to trial, they will—you’re going to the state’s toughest penitentiary. Not because this crime deserves it, because it’s the only place with cells designed to handle size-shifters. Do you know what those are like?”
She sighed, dropping her hand and leaning against the door. “Solitary. All the time.”
“With foot-thick reinforced walls and bank vault doors to make sure you can’t smash free, door jambs angled so they can’t be climbed over by a shrunken shifter—”
“I can’t shrink down to more than about a foot. I’ve tried.”
“They’re hardly going to take your word on that.” Mr. Kerwin shook his head. “You won’t be out of that cell until they parole you, and if you get put away a second time for something you do while giant, there won’t be a second parole.”
Her round ears sank into her hair. “I won’t be back.”
“If you keep being provoked into showing little men who’s boss, you will. Is that what you want, or do you want a new path?”
She crossed her arms, staying silent, but kept her eyes on him now.
“Come work for me.”
Her ears came forward. “You want me to come work for DeSantis after I—”
“No. You’d be in his organization, but working for me, as my personal assistant. If you agree, I’ll pay tuition at the Gibbs Secretarial School, arrange room and board—the whole shebang.”
Flint burst out laughing. “Me, a secretary? What, takin’ phone calls and keepin’ your calendar? Followin’ you around takin’ steno? Maybe pinnin’ people late on their bills under a paw until they pay up?”
“That’s what secretaries do. Other than the last part.”
“And you’d wait for me to get outta prison.”
“I think my associates and I can have a talk with the man who accused you of assault, and have the charges dropped.” He put a slight emphasis on talk.
She ran a hand through her hair, twisting short black strands between her fingers. “You just wanted a secretary, you could get one a lot easier and cheaper than sendin’ me off to charm school. There’s only one reason to want me, an’ we both know it’s that ‘last part.’” She made air quotes with her fingers. “And how come you don’t think I’d be a danger to you? The cops think you shouldn’t have even let me outta the chains.”
“Thanks to some of our…side businesses, I’ve grown to trust dangerous people. I’m extending you trust because I want you to trust me as well. I think you’ll genuinely enjoy the work, and you’ll make much better money than you could in other organizations. If you think we’ll never have that level of trust in one another, tell me now, and I won’t bother you again.”
The mouse bit her lip, big front teeth restoring some of the cuteness that her anger muted. “If I took that offer, I’d owe you way too much. People who get into debt to you guys don’t end up doin’ well.”
“You’d have a debt to pay off, yes. But you’d be part of The Company. That means you’d be one of ‘us guys.’” He spread his hands. “And the rules are different when you’re a member of the club.” He rose to his feet and walked to the door, standing by her, then gave the door a sharp rap. “So do think about it. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
She stepped back as the door opened and the wolves marched in. “Hands behind your back,” one ordered the mouse, the other two picking up the chains.
As the manacles snapped back over her wrists, Kerwin turned in the doorway, calling over his shoulder. “Miss Flint.”
She looked back at him, staggering under the weight holding her down—holding her at that size.
“For the record, I’d expect you to be wearing elegant sandals.”
The officers didn’t lead her out of the room as much as pull her. But as they dragged her away, the mouse’s dour expression bloomed into a wide grin.
“Suck in your stomach.” The squirrel had a tape measure wrapped around the mouse’s waist. Somehow she gave her command without dropping the pins in her teeth.
Miss Flint pulled her gaze away from the mirror. A shockingly stylish, graceful doppelgänger had been staring back at her. Was it just the bob haircut? The wire-frame glasses? Surely not. But the mouse that stared back at her wasn’t a street tough. She was—she was prim. Elegant. Ready for high society. “I am.” Even her voice sounded alien to her ears: recognizably hers, but proper, distinct, alluringly husky rather than merely rough.
“Suck harder, kid.”
Gritting her teeth, she did her best to comply.
“Got it.” The tape measure moved down to wrap around her hips. “Thirty-seven, twenty-six, thirty-five.” Pins marked various bits of cloth, and the measure came back up, wrapping around just under her breasts. “Thirty-three. You got big tits, Gibbs Girl.”
Flint stiffened. She hadn’t mentioned the school, but the long white gloves she wore now were a Gibbs trademark. What would her instructors have told her to say to this? They’d obliquely mentioned the possibility, even likelihood, of your boss coming on to you, although Kerwin had been nothing but a gentleman so far. They hadn’t said anything about the hired help asking for a punch, though. She suspected the answer was be polite. The answer was always be polite. It still didn’t come naturally. “I’ve been called full-figured. But a C cup isn’t that large.”
The squirrel, now standing behind her, took a shoulder-to-waist measurement. “You’re a D cup.”
“I’ve worn a C since junior high.”
“That’s why all your bras kinda pinched, kid.” The squirrel took a couple more measurements. “We’ll have everything ready to go by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Thank you. That’s very quick.” Honestly, she didn’t know if it was; it wasn’t as if she’d ever had tailored clothes before. What wasn’t hand-me-downs had been bought—or once or twice, lifted—off the rack. But she’d seen a sign in the menswear section about custom suits taking five days.
Stepping back toward the service counter, the squirrel shrugged. “Mr. Kerwin, Mr. De Santis, they’ve done a lot for this town. They get to call in a few favors now and then.” Her tone was affectless. As far as the mouse could tell, the seamstress meant her praise. In the past few months, she’d heard more than one story about how DeSantis—or more often, Kerwin—had helped people in the neighborhood out of binds. Surely everybody knew Gold Coast Vending’s real businesses didn’t involve cigarette machines; they’d just all made their peace with it.
“So.” The squirrel leaned forward on the counter, giving the mouse a sly bucktoothed grin. “I’ve been working here a dozen years and never saw a boss buying his secretary new work clothes.”
Flint frowned. She was still no expert at small talk, but she knew the squirrel had just crossed past polite inquiry. Still, no punching. Yet. “I hope you’re not implying my relationship with Mr. Kerwin is anything but above board.”
She raised her hands in a peace gesture. “If he was buying fancy dresses for a night on the town, I guess I’d be implying that. But these are the kinda clothes lady executives get. ’Sides, I’m pretty sure Kerwin’s a confirmed bachelor, so I’m not thinking you’re a hot little side item. I’m just…thinking you’re more than a secretary.”
“My title is executive assistant.” She readjusted her glasses. She still wasn’t used to wearing them, but she had to admit they made everything visibly sharper.
“What makes that different from a secretary?”
“I…ah.” Miss Flint cleared her throat. “I’m not entirely sure, but I’m Mr. Kerwin’s personal assistant, not for the whole company.”
“Mmm.” The squirrel straightened up and drummed her claws on the counter. “That still sounds like secretary to me, and if I ask if you have special duties, it’ll sound like I’m being saucy again, huh?”
Flint smiled. “Without implying anything saucy, I might be doing more than a secretary would, miss.”
Was that proper enough? That might have been too casual, too forward. Gibbs Girls had to hit just the right balance of demureness and temerity, to anticipate their employers’ needs without seeming presumptuous. She’d be doing work secretaries never would, but she had to be a secretary, too. As her instructor had muttered sotto voce on the last day, that meant doing twice as much as the men did while letting them take all the credit. The salary she’d been promised was enough to quell a whole lot of resentment, though.
The squirrel laughed. “You’re all right, kid.”
After a moment, Flint relaxed, smiling genuinely. She might not feel proper, but she could pass for proper. That might be good enough.
“Mr. Kerwin!” The tuxedoed cat stepped out from behind the restaurant’s host stand. His smile was broad and warm, his handshake hearty, but Kerwin could read the fear in his eyes.
“Bernie.” The fox smiled back, just as warmly and just as insincerely. “Like I said last time, call me Vincent. Can we step out back for a few minutes?”
The cat swallowed. “Is Jerry with you?”
Jerry—Guiseppe—was a wolf standing a good six foot eight and, when he was scowling, seemingly just as broad. He scowled a lot with people like Bernie. They’d had more than one visit together, the last of which accounted for the bandage at the base of the cat’s tail. “No, it’s just me and Miss Flint, my personal assistant.” He gestured to the mouse.
The cat visibly relaxed, and shifted his glance to Miss Flint. The mouse looked the part of the perfect secretary: immaculately pressed skirt, blazer and blouse, elbow-length white gloves, mechanical pencil and steno pad peeking out of her handbag. And, as promised, elegant leather sandals, open-toed and with three-inch heels—pillars rather than spikes.
“Nice to meet you, sir.” She beamed widely.
Bernie’s return smile stopped just short of a leer. “It’s real nice to meet you, too, sweetie. She’s quite the charmer, Vince.”
“Shall we?” Kerwin pointed through the kitchen toward the back.
“Yeah, sure.” The cat headed through the prep area, waving Kerwin and Flint to follow. He led them through a storeroom and out a fire door onto a wide, cracked asphalt lot hidden between buildings. While the lot bore faded yellow paint lines, only a single car had navigated the alleys to park there: a fancy, clearly new silver sedan.
“So.” Kerwin folded his hands in front of him. “I’d like Miss Flint to go over some numbers.” He nodded to the mouse, who opened her clipboard.
Bernie cleared his throat. “Now, you don’t need to have her—”
“It’s no trouble, sir.” Miss Flint smiled. “The Company loaned you exactly seven thousand dollars, to be paid back within three years, at twenty percent interest—”
“We didn’t make it that formal!” The cat looked between both of them.
She paused and readjusted her glasses, looking up at him. “As I understand it, sir, you had an ‘informal’ agreement to pay it back within a year. Have you?”
“You know I haven’t.” The cat sighed, ears lowering. “Look, toots, this is how the restaurant business goes sometimes. I told—”
“Of course.” She closed the clipboard. “But you accepted new terms, the ones I just described, over two and a half years ago. You’ve paid three thousand one hundred. I believe Jerry told you the remaining six thousand two hundred needed to be paid back on schedule. That’s five months.”
Bernie spluttered, looking at the fox rather than the mouse. “Oh, come on. Vincent! You know I can’t do that. We can work something—”
Miss Flint tapped her sandal on the asphalt. “You’ve already renegotiated this loan twice and failed to keep your end of the deal each time, sir.”
“Let the men work it out, doll,” the cat snapped.
The mouse sighed, then looked to Kerwin. “May I?”
“As you see fit, Miss Flint.”
A brief blast of wind drowned out Bernie’s question—the air displaced when Miss Flint abruptly became fifty feet tall. The asphalt under her heels cracked, but—because they were wide pillars, rather than spikes—she didn’t sink in.
The cat stumbled back, staring up. “Jesus Christ!”
Flint knocked him onto his back with her toes, then set the sandal on top of him, leaving just his head and shoulders exposed.
“Hey!” Bernie’s voice had risen at least an octave. He braced his hands on the sandal’s sole, pushing up futilely. “Vincent! Please!”
“Stop moving so much, sir.” Miss Flint folded her gloved hands behind her back. “If I misjudge the pressure I’m using to hold you in place, you might pop like a sad little grape.”
Bernie’s eyes got even wider. “I—I—”
“I’ve learned Miss Flint has a real aptitude for numbers, Bernie.” Kerwin leaned over. “So when she says you can pay us back in five months, I believe her. You can, can’t you?”
“I—I’ll see—I mean—”
“Perhaps you could sell that nice car there.” Miss Flint pointed at the sedan; the slight shift in weight that caused made Bernie groan in pain.
“I n-need that car!”
She focused on the cat under her foot again. “But you need to pay Mr. Kerwin back more. And the car will be much more valuable if you sell it before something happens to it.” She held one hand out in front of her, then slowly curled it into a tight fist.
Bernie swallowed audibly. “I g-get your point, sweetie.”
The giantess shifted her foot ever so slightly, the sandal’s sole lowering an inch or two. The cat screamed. “Please address me as Miss Flint.”
She narrowed her eyes, and her hands moved to her hips. The sole lowered another inch.
He whined. “Miss Flint! I’m sorry, Miss Flint!”
She straightened up. Just as abruptly as she’d become giant, she returned to her normal size, then moved her foot off the cat to stand beside him. “I’ll come to pick up the checks from you on the last Friday of each month.”
Bernie sat up, taking a shuddering, pained breath and wrapping his arms around his now far less ironed-looking tux. He stared at her shapely paws, then lifted his eyes to hers as if she still towered overhead. “Y-yes, Miss Flint.”
“Excellent. Let’s make each check thirteen hundred dollars, shall we?”
“What? C-come on. That’s—”
She twisted her sandal against the pavement.
The cat flinched visibly, squeezing his eyes shut. “Yes, Miss Flint.”
“Always a pleasure doing business with you, Bernie,” Kerwin said.
“You’re throwin’ every fuckin’ rule out the window and expectin’ us to just wag our tails and say ‘Great job, Vinnie!’ That’s not happenin’. That’s never gonna happen.”
The fox speaking—yelling—sat across a table from Mr. Kerwin, but he looked like he was about to leap out of his chair, to sweep the martini glasses and basket of breadsticks onto the floor so he had room to pound his fist. Six foot two and portly, he had a lot of fist to pound. He definitely wasn’t wagging his tail.
A third fox sat to the speaker’s left. As short as Mr. Kerwin but with grayer fur and a thicker build, he raised a tired hand in a I get it, shut up motion, looking at Kerwin expectantly.
Kerwin folded his hands on the table by his own nearly untouched martini. “What rulebook is that, Tony? I’ve been part of the Company longer than you have. There’s no rulebook.”
“There’s tradition, wiseass. You know it. We don’t use size-shifters—”
“Nothing says we couldn’t.”
“She’s a woman. A mouse woman.”
“Yes, every time you’ve met her you’ve commented on her ‘sweet rodent ass’ when you think she’s out of earshot.”
“Don’t get cute with me. We’ve never even brought on a non-canine before. And a girl enforcer? A prey enforcer?”
“Miss Flint is about as much ‘prey’ as Jerry here is.” He gestured to the huge wolf standing in the shadows near the table. Jerry grunted, looking uncomfortable. “I’m well aware Miss Flint’s position breaks with tradition. But I’m also aware that it’s possible to follow traditions down dead ends. Arrows were traditions before bullets. Steam engines traditions before diesel. Sea voyages traditions before aeroplanes.”
The shorter fox cleared his throat, lacing his fingers together. “Those are new inventions, Vince. That’s not what we’re talking about.”
“No. We’re talking about someone who’s been extraordinarily effective in increasing my collection rate without doing much more than pinning deadbeats to the ground for a few minutes.”
“So she’s an enforcer who doesn’t hurt people.” Tony rolled his eyes. “Could that maybe be why women aren’t cut out for that job, you think?”
“What does the value of someone’s work have to do with the shape of their ears, or what’s between their legs? Yes, Flint is a mouse. Yes, she’s a woman. She’s also resourceful, confident, and based on what I’ve seen of her police record, faced down characters as tough as any of us. If worse came to worst, I’d be as happy to have her in front of me as anyone else.”
“If she was in front of you, you’d be hidden behind her ankle.”
“What’s your point?”
DeSantis drummed his fingers on the table. “The Company needs to stay in balance to stay together, and that balance is…fragile. Suppose Tony here had hired his own private army. What message would that send? What would it say to me?”
Kerwin swallowed a sigh. “Surely my loyalty’s not in question just because I have a size-shifter on my staff.”
“It’s not your loyalty I’m questioning, Vincent. It’s your judgement.”
“So what if you are loyal. What about her?” Tony’s voice rose again. “We all got wives an’ molls and good on you for finally gettin’ one yourself so people’d stop talkin’, but now they’re talkin’ about how the hell anybody controls a moll who can put a fuckin’ car in her purse.”
Kerwin’s tail bristled. “Now I shouldn’t have hired her because she’s too dangerous, but a minute ago I shouldn’t have hired her because she’s not dangerous enough. Make up your mind.”
DeSantis rubbed his chin. “How many guys with guns are there in the Company? When she’s not giant, it just takes one bullet, doesn’t it?”
“If we get the drop on her, sure.” Tony spread his hands. “But she’s still a woman. What if she gets hysterical, has a temper tantrum? You wanna deal with a fifty foot tall broad on the rag?”
“Enough, Tony,” DeSantis snapped. The larger fox sighed, crossing his arms and looking away.
The boss turned back to Kerwin. “You understand that what your pet giantess does reflects on all of the Company, not just you.”
“Miss Flint won’t cause any waves.”
“She’s already causing waves.” DeSantis sighed. “You’re a good man, Vince. I trust you. And I know you trust her. Just don’t let either of us find our trust was misplaced.”
“I won’t, Thomas.”
Tony crossed his arms. “You’d better not.”
“Hurry up, would you?” George looked at his watch nervously, then out the window. He’d miss the view, six stories up, facing the bay across the warehouse district. He could see the marina from here, see his boat. As long as they were out on the water before any thugs caught up to them, they’d be free and clear.
Fred didn’t glance up from the pile of bundled bills he was throwing from the office safe into a duffel bag. “Look, it’s gonna take that mouse girl at least a half-hour to get back to town from here, a half-hour to round up guys—”
“Unless she’s just walked across the street and used a pay phone, genius.”
Fred lowered his ears, and shoved the money in faster, emptying the rest of the safe in a few seconds. “Okay, let’s go.”
The two coyotes dashed toward the elevator, punching the ground level button. George let out a nervous laugh. “Not the way I thought we’d shut down the business, but, hey. We’re making out okay, right?”
“Over a quarter million dollars.” Fred wagged his tail once. “More than okay. So—” He froze, staring past George.
“What?” George turned, and made a strangled noise. The mouse girl stared coolly back, through eyeglasses bigger than the office windows. Her eyes were bigger than the office windows. They might be bigger than Fred and George.
Her head moved away—back, then up—and he realized she’d been crouching slightly to look in at them. Now instead of her still attractive, if no longer cute, face, the view became a white-gloved fist drawing back like an elegant wrecking ball.
The elevator chimed.
“Holy Christ!” George stabbed the elevator’s call button repeatedly.
As the outer door of the elevator slid back, the wall and windows behind them exploded. The furniture in George’s office shattered into wood chips, a hailstorm of paper and trinkets filling the air.
Fred rushed into the elevator—or tried to. The operator hadn’t pulled back the interior cage door. Instead, the elderly jaguar was staring at the wind-whipped debris and the giant hand at its center. As Miss Flint cleared enough of the outside wall away to look in again, he pressed himself against the back of the car.
“Jim, open the door!” Fred rattled the bars.
Miss Flint spoke, her voice carrying easily over the wind whistling in from outside. “Jim? Jim, the bag those gentlemen are carrying contains not only a great deal of money stolen from my employer, but I’d wager all the rest of your company’s money, including payroll.” A white-gloved, slim-in-proportion finger aimed at the duffel bag.
The jaguar stared dumbly.
George’s ears flattened. “Jesus, open the fucking door! Now!”
Miss Flint tapped her finger on the floor. “Jim, go back down to ground level, meet with the other—sixteen, isn’t it?—now former employees of Kendall Trucking, and let them know my employers will arrange for, say, ten thousand dollars, cash. Just to allay any concern over the freakish weather pattern that punched a hole in the side of the office building, but thankfully left everyone in the lobby unharmed.”
Jim looked at the duffel bag. Back at what he could see of the mouse. Back at the duffel bag.
Fred whined, shaking the elevator bars. “We’ll give you twenty thousand!”
The jaguar raised his voice, addressing Flint shakily. “I think we’ll all agree that we do get some mighty strange weather around these parts.” He jammed the elevator lever to one side. The car shuddered and started sinking downward.
“No!” George grabbed the bars, trying to hold on. “You’re dead, Jim! Do you hear me? Ngggh!” He let go of the bars as the elevator pulled him off balance, staggering.
Fred yipped. “Watch out—”
Miss Flint’s gloved hand closed around George, then her fingers corralled Fred against the wall and pulled him into her fist as well. The world for the coyotes become tight, warm cloth pressing them uncomfortably together. “Please!” Fred squeaked. “God we’ll give you anything just—”
“I gave you a chance to bargain earlier. This is no longer a negotiation.” They felt her hand move back, felt the air pressure and sound shift as her hand left the building. After another moment, they felt more movement, heard a solid, giant step. Two steps, three steps, a pause—then a strange, ear-popping thunderclap.
Miss Flint turned her hand around and opened it, then picked up the now-giant duffel with her other hand. What—no. She’d set down the normal-sized duffel bag when she was still giant, but shrank with them in her hand. Now she was normal sized, the duffel—and cash—was normal-sized, and they were each maybe three inches high.
“Oh God oh God!” Fred’s ears flattened even more at the squeaky sound of his own tiny voice. “Please change us back! You can’t keep us like this!”
The mouse laughed. “Of course I can.” She closed her fist again, and began walking briskly around the building. As she passed by the front lobby, the employees inside—including Jim—gawked at her through the windows. She waved the hand with the duffel bag at them.
Flint’s new car was tiny—Mr. Kerwin had dryly commented on the irony—but it was beautiful, a fire red roadster she routinely drove too fast. Ignoring the continued, increasingly frantic pleadings from both tiny canines, she tossed the duffel bag in the passenger seat, climbed in and started the engine.
Leaning back in the driver’s seat, she opened her hand and looked down at the two, which cut George’s sobbing offer to give her all the money and his boat and his house off mid-sentence. “I told you this wasn’t a negotiation.” She readjusted her glasses. “You know who my employer is, and you knew the risks in stealing from him.”
“You don’t have anything left to give. We have the money. We have your business assets.”
“No! I mean I’ll give you those things! Not your boss! You!”
“I’m getting what I want, George.” She picked him up between thumb and forefinger of one hand, then shifted the grip on Fred to pick him up the same way in her other hand, and dangled the kicking little coyotes in front of her face. “A new car, more money than I’ve ever dreamed of, and a job that literally pays me to be a giantess. And once in a while…” She licked her lips and lowered her voice to a husky whisper. “I get the most wonderfully exotic lunches.”
She waited for them to start screaming before she tilted her head back, opening her jaws wide, and letting them drop one by one. If they were still screaming when she drove off a couple minutes later, she couldn’t hear over the road. Their air would run out soon enough.
Miss Flint wasn’t, as a rule, one to be impressed by the size of architecture. But she couldn’t help but stop, three steps past the foyer, and stare up at the chandelier over the sitting room. It wasn’t that the fixture was so dazzling, although in her old life it would have seemed unimaginably upper-crust. No, it was the height. “That has to be twenty feet up!”
“It’s a twenty-eight foot ceiling. I’ve always liked this interior style, the second floor overlooking the first.” Mr. Kerwin gestured at the wide spiral staircase and the balcony overhead. “Now, it only matters if you like it. But for a woman who might like to…stretch out at times, a room that’s big in every dimension could be a selling point.”
She laughed, then turned to the real estate agent. The badger wore a screamingly yellow three-piece suit with wide lapels. It made him look less like a respected businessman than an overdressed lemon. “You’re sure this is in my price range? This has got to be twice the size that I’d suggested to Mr. Kerwin.”
“Based on the figures I received, it’s fully within your budget, Miss Flint.” He walked on in, motioning them to follow. “As I believe I’d mentioned, this house is a short sale, with a very motivated seller. It’s a great deal, just phenomenal. And I think a well-to-do woman such as yourself will just love the place, ma’am. Let me show you around. We’ll start with the study.”
Study? she mouthed, as much to herself as Mr. Kerwin. This was—this was a rich person’s house. Not a secretary’s, let alone a street tough’s. She talked like a trained executive assistant, yes. Maybe even like an executive. She enjoyed it—she liked being treated like a lady, maybe even more than she liked the looks men who weren’t treating her like a lady got when the found themselves staring at her ankle. (Well, she liked those a lot.) But as the badger rhapsodized about bookshelves and walnut desks and wardrobes for the beautiful gowns a refined woman like her would surely have dozens of, her ears grew flushed.
But the male enforcers for the Company did well, didn’t they? They had nice houses, too. Some had families they supported. And none of them did anything more than…enforce. She did plan Mr. Kerwin’s calendar, take notes, manage meetings. She even helped with bookkeeping; she wouldn’t have predicted she’d have a head for numbers, but she did.
And none of the Company men could do what else she did.
The agent and Mr. Kerwin had headed up the stairs. She started to follow, then stopped on the first step. “How much?”
The badger turned around, at the top of the stairs now. “Ma’am?”
“How much is it?”
“The listing price is five thousand seven hundred. If you—”
“Would you accept five thousand cash?”
He furrowed his brow. “Now, ma’am, it’s a bit early to start negotiations. As I said, it’s a short sale, and it’s already an excellent—”
She stepped back and changed size, high enough that the balcony was just at the top of her chest and she was looking down at the suddenly agape agent. The chandelier jangled as it bounced against the back of her head. “I’m sure you can see your way down toward five thousand.” She smiled very widely, fluttering her eyelashes. “Can’t you?”
“I’ll…I’ll s-see what I can do, ma’am.”
As she and Jerry walked through the tenement hallway, Miss Flint tried not to wrinkle her nose, but she couldn’t stop an occasional twitch. The rubbish bags piling up in the hallway stank like rotting fruit and spoiled meat, but it wasn’t scent overwhelming her. It was memory. She’d grown up in a building too much like this, with a landlord too much like the weasel leading them down the hallway. Usurious rent, maintenance they had to do—and pay for—themselves, water that barely ran, constant threats of eviction. Living on the street when she hit thirteen might just have been a step up.
“I told you I got it, Jerry!” The weasel they followed waved his arms in agitated punctuation for every other word. “You know this is the only time I been late, and you know I said I’d get it to you by today.”
“You said you’d get it to us this week. I been out here once already. It’s Saturday.”
The weasel unlocked an apartment door with the letters OFF CE nailed to it. Walking inside was liking walking into a different building. Not a nice building, but at least livable. It reminded her of the place she’d been at, narrowly making rent on, before Mr. Kerwin had found her in prison. Had that truly been less than two years ago?
“And Saturday’s part of this week, ain’t it?” The weasel hurried ahead to a roller desk, as if trying to keep out of punching range. “Look, I didn’t get all the money until yesterday. I got lower occupancy than usual right now and a couple units didn’t pay rent.”
“That’s when you evict ’em,” Jerry said, sounding bored. He held out a hand.
“Evicting ‘em only brings in cash when the next people start payin’.” He shoved the envelope at the wolf. “So I get creative.”
He took it and started laboriously counting the bills out loud. “Twenty, forty, sixty…”
“Creative.” Miss kept her voice studiously level, which made Jerry glance at her. He recognized it as a warning sign.
“Yeah.” The weasel shrugged, looking pleased with himself. “I evict somebody, I can put a lock on their door and sell their stuff as quick as I can. Most of ’em aren’t gonna go to the police over it, especially if they’re a month or two behind on their rent. Law’s on my side then.”
“The law requires thirty days notice.”
He looked at her blankly. “They were all overdue on rent, okay?”
“You even got the interest,” Jerry said. “I’m impressed.”
The weasel grinned. “I’m an honest guy, Jerry, you know that.”
Miss Flint set her jaw, but kept her voice level, pleasant, in the most proper Gibbs Girl fashion. “Could you follow me outside, please?”
Jerry looked down at her. “Look, we got the money, Flint.”
“I’d just like a word. Maybe behind the building, in your lovely courtyard, would be better.” She smiled.
The weasel gave her the side-eye. The courtyard—with patchy grass, two dying oak trees and an abandoned swing set so broken and rusty it might well be held together only by tetanus bacteria—was anything but lovely. But he shrugged. “Sure, toots.” Another wave, and he was scurrying down the hallway and stairs to the lower level.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Jerry muttered, barely above a whisper.
They followed the landlord down the staircase, a few steps cracking ominously, through the stained concrete hall and out onto the dirt. “Okay,” he said, shrugging. “So what you wanna rrrk—”
The mouse had abruptly changed size to a good forty feet high the moment she was clear of the building, and hauled the weasel into the air with two fingers—by the neck. “First, we do appreciate that people have financial hardships from time to time, and we’re glad yours is all cleared up now.” She smiled.
“Rrrrk,” the weasel gasped, flailing uselessly at her fingers with his hands.
“But, likewise, you should appreciate that your renters are…let’s agree that you offer what we could call rental units of last resort.” She readjusted her glasses with a finger of her free hand. “So most, if not all, of your renters are barely living paycheck to paycheck, don’t you think?”
“Rrrk?” He paused in his flailing.
“This is when you nod agreement.”
He nodded frantically. “Rrrk!”
“Excellent. So in the future, give your renters a full thirty days’ grace period. If I find out you haven’t, I’ll hurt you. I’ll get creative.” She beamed. “Do we understand each other?”
Another frantic nod.
“Excellent,” she said again, then dropped him—roughly—on the building’s roof. “I’m glad we had this chat. Have a wonderful day.” Stepping back, she transformed back to her normal size, the rush of air a soft thunderclap.
Jerry was staring at her with wide eyes, then, as she calmly straightened her jacket, narrow eyes. He kept his voice low. “What the holy hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Making my point.”
“We’re not fuckin’ landlords.” Despite his soft volume, the growl carried, matched by his bare teeth. “It ain’t your job to—”
“It’s not your job to tell me what to do,” she snapped, voice barely below conversational level.
“Well, somebody better! You’ve been nothin’ but trouble, you know that? You show up in fuckin’ tabloid stories. You know how much heat you’re puttin’ on us, girl?”
“Being a size-shifter isn’t against the law. And don’t call me ‘girl.’”
“Don’t pull that ‘Miss Flint’ shit on me. There’s gonna be trouble over this stunt.” He leaned down, baring his teeth. “Girl.”
She stopped and turned to look up at him, gaze steady. “You don’t have to call me ‘Miss Flint,’ Jerry. But don’t test me. Little. Man.”
He narrowed his eyes again, but his ears folded back. Thrusting his hands in his pockets, he stalked ahead faster.
“Hey!” the weasel yelled shrilly. “Hey! How do I get down?”
“Vince. Sit.” DeSantis waved at the one empty seat at the table, across from him. Jerry had a mostly untouched beer in front of him. Tony had two martini glasses, empty of all but olives.
Kerwin sat down, folding his hands on the table.
“It’s time to do something about Regina Flint.” The fox leaned forward, fixing his gaze on his underling.
“She’s a fuckin’ loose cannon!” Tony burst out. “Jesus, she punched a hole in a goddamn skyscraper!”
“That was months ago, Tony. Haven’t we already had this particular dressing down? It didn’t make any papers but the tabloids.”
“Cops read the tabloids! You know how much heat we’ve been facin’? And then there’s this whole mess with Jerry!”
Kerwin lifted his brows.
“Don’t play dumb,” Jerry snarled. “She threatened some slumlord over him leanin’ on his tenants and then threatened me when I called her on it.”
“And what about her lifestyle?” Tony thrust his finger out accusingly. “I seen the car and her house, how she dresses, where she goes. Either you’re overpayin’ her—with our money—or this moll is runnin’ her own business on the side.”
“Do you think I’m paying her a secretary’s salary? She gets what she’s worth.”
“Bullshit. What is it? Maybe you ain’t the swish everybody thinks you are and you’re gettin’ some sweet rodent ass?”
DeSantis sighed. “I asked you to talk with her before. Either you didn’t, or she didn’t listen—”
“Maybe she’s stealing from us, maybe she’s not. We are going to find out. But either way…she attracts attention. She attracts an awful lot of attention.”
Mr. Kerwin spread his hands. “Maybe we can leverage that into—”
Tony slammed both hands on the table. “Fuck you and your leverage!” A martini glass tipped over, the freed olive bouncing across the table. “What do you think we’re gonna do, get her a pinup in Goddess magazine so we can have lovestruck pervs nosin’ around with the cops?”
“You have no—”
“Both of you, shut up.” DeSantis raised his hands to each of them, sighing heavily. “At the end of the day this is about the Company, Vince. You know I love you like a brother, but I have to protect the Company. Even from you.”
Kerwin kept his voice level. “Do you think I’m a threat now?”
“That depends on what you do next.” DeSantis locked eyes with him.
“What do you want me to do next, Thomas?”
“She has to go.”
After a few seconds he dropped his gaze, tail curling around one leg.
“We need to take her to the warehouse for a talk, and you’re gonna tell us how to do that with a part-time giantess. There are ways, right?”
“Thomas, don’t ask me to—”
DeSantis didn’t change his expression. “I didn’t ask.”
“I’ll…” He looked down at the table. “Yes. There are ways.”
“I’m sorry, Vince,” DeSantis said, without smiling. “But you’re a good man. Loyal.”
He nodded again, closing his eyes. “Always.”
“Is he carrying?”
Kerwin sighed as he walked into the warehouse. “Am I ever?”
Tony ignored him. He’d asked Jerry, and he kept his expression locked on the wolf.
Jerry shrugged. “Never seen Vince with a gun. Not his style.”
“It’s not as if you need any more firearms.” Vince half turned, waving behind him. “Six men back there, two with Browning automatics.”
“Forgive me if I wanted some insurance in case your theory about how to tie up a size-shifter didn’t pan out.”
“A rope she can’t break, tied to something too heavy for her to lift? That’s not just a theory. How do you think the police held her for interrogation?”
Tony grunted. “Fine. Let’s go.”
The three walked toward the far end of the Company’s distribution center, past haphazard rows of empty vending machines, crates full of cigarettes and soda bottles, dusty pinball games. Dim industrial lamps shone down from the warehouse’s two-story clear height, hung between the girders.
DeSantis stood waiting for them, a few yards from the end of one row of shelving: metal shelves, stacked ten feet high and running down at least thirty feet. The Company boss looked up at them as they approached, then away, but not back at the shelving. Not at the woman tied to one of the support posts.
Arms bound tightly behind her back, glasses askew, hair and clothes in disarray, Miss Flint looked…small. Not frightened, but timid. Like a mere five-foot-three mouse girl. He wasn’t sure how Jerry had gotten the drop on her; he hadn’t wanted to ask, and the wolf hadn’t volunteered.
“Miss Flint,” Kerwin said softly.
She lifted her head. He could see uncharacteristic pain in her eyes, the accusation of betrayal. The look made Jerry uncomfortable, too; Tony looked smugly victorious. He kept his voice level, purely professional. “Tony and Thomas believe you’ve been taking advantage of your access to my books to embezzle from the Company.”
When she spoke, her voice had a hint of her old rasp and drawl, of the way she sounded before he’d paid for her education and training. “Yeah, they told me. And you didn’t tell them you were just paying me a lot?”
Tony crossed his arms. “He ain’t payin’ you that much, sweetie. Make this easier on yourself.”
“By lying about stealing from you, so you don’t have to admit this is about you just being scared?”
DeSantis turned at that, holding up a hand to stop Tony from replying. “Yeah, Flint. You’re right. I’m scared because you use the Company as a shield to let you play monster. I’m scared because sometimes you decide you’re gonna be a righteous monster, like you forget we’re not in a real righteous business. I’m scared you’re gonna start a war, whether it’s with the local cops or the Feds or some other organization that’s not so righteous, either.” He leaned toward her. “I’m not scared of you. I’m scared you’re gonna bring the Company I’ve spent thirty fucking years building up down around my ears.”
Miss Flint dropped her gaze.
Tony pulled a pistol out from his waistband, holding it casually as he walked up toward his boss and the mouse. Then he looked sidelong at Kerwin, and held the gun out by its barrel. “You do the honors.”
“Did that sound like me askin’?”
He shook his head, turning around and walking away five steps, then turning back to face them. “I said no.”
Tony snarled, spinning the gun around and wrapping his hand around the grip. “I swear to God if you don’t—”
“Come on,” DeSantis cut in. “It doesn’t matter. Just do it.” He nodded to Flint without turning toward her.
At that moment, only Kerwin faced Flint. They didn’t speak, didn’t flash a secret signal. They just both knew: now or never.
With a thunderclap, she grew.
She’d become taller than the ceiling, but her growth had sent her into an abrupt, hard sprawl, legs shooting out in front of her, arms wrenched down and backwards painfully enough that she couldn’t help but scream. The ropes had grown with her—but the post they looped around hadn’t. Working her hands free wasn’t easy, but now it was possible.
Tony had ended up right under her rump, gun knocked from his grasp. He shrieked, a broken, injured sound, and pushed up futilely at the giantess with both hands.
“Jesus fucking—” DeSantis scrambled back to his feet. “Tony!”
Wincing and rubbing at her wrists, Flint looked down at where Tony flailed against her skirt, and snorted. “You always wanted my ‘sweet rodent ass,’ didn’t you? Here you go.” She sat up, her weight shifting. Tony’s screech ended in a crushed gargle.
DeSantis’s ears folded back flat against his head. He sprinted toward the building’s front. “Shoot her!” he screamed. “Shoot her shoot her shoot her!”
Flint dove for the nearest wide aisle, tons of rodent moving faster than Mr. Kerwin—retreating rapidly toward the back—would have believed possible. Rapid gunfire broke out, sparks flying along the metal and machinery, crates blossoming into wood chips.
DeSantis had nearly met the henchmen running toward him when a cigarette machine hurtled into their midst. It hit with bomb force, skidding yards along the concrete, the rifleman caught under it reduced to a grisly skidmark. One of the other goons staggered away wailing, body peppered with glass and metal fragments.
The giantess quickly twisted around, gasping in pain as shots found her through the shelving—and found Jerry face to hip with her, his pistol out, pointed up at her head with both hands.
“Oh, for—” She bit back a cry as a bullet went through one of her ears, and sank lower. “I’d say it’s been nice working with you, but it really hasn’t.” She raised a fist.
He lowered his gun and fired, missing her completely. A grunt and clatter came from behind her, and the automatic gunfire stopped.
She lifted her brows in surprise. The wolf looked back up her pleadingly, trembling.
“You goddamn traitor!” DeSantis snarled. “Go go go—”
Flint pointed at Jerry. “Find Mr. Kerwin. Keep him safe, and I won’t smash you into a rug. Got it?”
He swallowed and nodded.
“Go!” The giantess vaulted out from her position, charging toward the crowd protecting DeSantis. She had to lean forward at a steep angle to keep her head from smashing into the girders.
The remaining men—three goons, now only with pistols, and DeSantis—bolted for the main exit, firing back at her as they ran. If they’d all been the same size, they’d have easily outrun her: the mouse was in heeled sandals, bent over awkwardly, and they were running for their lives. But they weren’t the same size. Her slow strides covered far more distance. It took six steps for her to catch up. Her seventh came down squarely on the slowest goon.
DeSantis sprinted ahead, almost reaching the door—
“No, you don’t,” she snarled, leaping into a slide. Her hand slammed into the door ahead of the fox.
The Company boss stumbled, backpedaling, and got as far as turning to the side before her fingers closed around him.
“Drop ’em.” Jerry’s voice sounded less commanding than resigned as he walked up, gun leveled at one of the remaining goons. Mr. Kerwin walked behind him—also with a pistol, although he carried it by his side. Both of the hench-foxes threw their guns down and raised their hands over their heads, tails curling down.
Miss Flint sat up, hauling DeSantis into the air. He didn’t look frightened. He looked livid, glare focused on Kerwin. “You knew! You knew that wouldn’t hold her!”
“Yes.” Kerwin picked up the two guns, then set them—and the gun he’d been holding—on a crate behind the giantess. “I knew.”
“After everything I’ve done for you.” DeSantis looked even angrier. “This! This is how you show me loyalty?”
Miss Flint rubbed her shoulder with her free hand; her fingers came away spotted with blood. “Please. Let’s not pretend you were going to let Mr. Kerwin walk out of here after killing me.”
He turned back to the giantess, still furious, as if he’d forgotten just whose hand he was in. “If he’d been the one to kill you? Yeah!”
“That’s a lie, Thomas.” Kerwin sighed. “You confirmed as much when you told Tony it didn’t matter who pulled the trigger, but I knew it already. Because I know you.”
DeSantis’s ears lowered. “You were always too damn trusting, Vince, except for the one goddamn time I needed you to be.” De Santis squirmed in Flint’s hand, pointing a finger down at the other fox accusingly. “Trusting her is a mistake you’re gonna pay for. It might not look that way right now, but I’m telling you.”
“Right now, I’m safe on the ground, and you’re being held by a giantess you just tried to kill.” Kerwin smiled blandly. “So no, right now, it doesn’t look like I’m the one who’s made a very serious mistake, does it?”
DeSantis narrowed his eyes.
Flint tapped the boss’s head. “Look at me now, little one.”
He turned, glaring, although his ears pinned back.
“Suppose I were a man, and a fox, or a wolf. But still a size-shifter.” She pushed her glasses back up with her free hand. “Would it still have come to this?”
DeSantis swallowed, looking down at the ground, then back up at her. He set his jaw. “We call ’em Company Men for a reason. And Company Men are predators. Always have been, for generations.”
“Yeah.” He nodded, ears coming back up fractionally, and smiled, almost apologetically, as if to say, you got it. “Tradition.”
Miss Flint nodded solemnly in return. Then she snapped her jaws forward, taking his head and shoulders in her mouth. The goons yelped almost as loudly as DeSantis did.
Another jaw-snap and a shove with her fingers, and his whole body was in her mouth up to his legs. They started to kick frantically outside her lips, one to either side of her big front teeth.
Jerry tensed, as if waiting for a spray of blood, an awful crunch. Surely DeSantis was too big a mouthful for a giantess who might top off at thirty feet head to toe. But no crunch crame. Just another swallow. And another. DeSantis’s muffled screaming became more desperate, almost piteous.
The mouse tilted her head back, putting her gloved fingers to her now slightly distended throat, and swallowed a final time, hard. The wolf and foxes stared, the last sight of their former boss a large, quickly descending wriggling lump.
She took a deep breath, letting it out raggedly, then leaned forward to fix her gaze on the survivors. “Would anyone else like to question my place in the predator tradition?”
Urine ran down one of the goon’s pant legs.
“I’m going to call a Company gathering,” Kerwin said. “We’ll set out some new roles for everyone. And a new rule or two.”
“Yes, boss.” It came almost as a chorus.
He tilted his head. “And, just so we’re clear, if Miss Flint asks you to do anything, assume she has the same authority I do.”
They looked at up her, tails curling, nodding mutely.
She leaned forward again. “I believe you meant to say ‘yes, Miss Flint,’ didn’t you?”
Another chorus, including Jerry: “Yes, Miss Flint.”
“Excellent. I’m sure we’ll all get along.” She smiled through a slight wince as her shoulder twinged again. “And for Lord’s sake, go change your trousers, Ned.”
“Don’t put any weight on your shoulder for at least a week.” The nurse, a cheerful and portly badger, gently patted Miss Flint’s good shoulder. “And change the bandage nightly.”
The mouse nodded. “I will. Thank you.”
“And,” the badger turned toward Mr. Kerwin, “congratulations on your promotion.” She lifted her brows. “I suppose Mr. DeSantis was getting close to retirement age, but I didn’t figure on him just disappearing like that.”
The fox shrugged, flashing her a smile. “It came as a shock to a lot of our employees. But the more I thought about it, the more I believe it was the right time.”
“Mmm.” Mavis had done work for the Company for years, and knew not to ask too many questions. “Well, I hope he’s found a nice place to retire.”
“I assure you he ended up somewhere warm.” He smiled again. “Take care, Mavis.”
She gave him a dubious return smile, and headed out of Miss Flint’s house.
The mouse looked at her boss, arching a brow.
He shrugged, spreading his hands. “Was I lying?”
She shook her head, chuckling, then settled onto the sofa, mindful of her bandages.
“I do have one question. The rope that grew with you—it was back at its normal size the next day.” He headed to the bar, pulling a champagne bottle from the ice box. “Surely you didn’t go back and shrink it.”
“Things go back to their normal size a few hours after they stop being in contact with me. I thought you knew all about that before you even hired me.”
“I did not, but I’m pleased I seemed like I did. This quirk would explain the lack of size-shifters getting rich by just enlarging gold bars.” He returned to the sitting area with the bottle and two glasses.
Miss Flint laughed, then looked at the champagne curiously.
“So.” He set the glasses down. “Here we are.”
“Here we are.” She bit her lip, then sighed. “One question for you, too. Why…why aren’t you worried about me the way everyone else is?”
He lifted his brows, then set the bottle down, and took a seat by her side. “Are you asking if I’m worried you might eventually eat me and take over the Company for yourself?”
She smiled a little. “And I thought I was the blunt one.”
Kerwin grinned. “It’s certainly not that you’re incapable of it, nor that you lack ambition. But I know that you know controlling the organization would be almost impossible for you.”
“Because no matter how scared they are of me, I’m still a mouse, and still a woman?”
“Yes. It’s in your interest to have me between you and the rest of the organization.”
“So it’s not as much that you trust me as much as that you think I’ll keep you around because I need you.” She kept her voice light, but her smile grew more wry.
He tilted his head, falling silent for a few seconds. “I also understand what it’s like to be looked down on because of what—of who—you are.”
Her smile softened.
Kerwin picked up the bottle again, carefully twisting the cork. “Externally, you may still be my executive assistant. Behind the scenes, though…” The cork popped out with a dull staccato bang. “We’re equal partners. And we’ll make sure the men know that.” He poured both champagne flutes full.
She laughed. “You’re not worried they’ll think I’ve just kept you as the figurehead?”
“I don’t care if they think that. Frankly, I’m not sure I care if it’s true.” He picked up one of the glasses. “I think we have a bright future ahead of us, Regina.”
“I think we just might, Vincent.” She smiled, picking up the other glass and clinking it to his.