Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)(10)By: Kimber White
I finally pulled away, took a staggering step backward, and turned toward my car. It took me a beat to catch my breath. I ran a hand through my hair and steadied myself. I squeezed my eyes shut, bracing to turn around and face Jax again.
“Thanks again,” I said, my words coming out in a rush of air. I plastered a polite smile on my face, hoping to downplay the heat of that kiss as I finally turned to look up at him. When I did though, he was gone.
The bear’s thoughts ripped through me. It took every ounce of strength I had to turn and run deep into the woods. If I’d been a second too slow, Nora would have turned around and seen it. The touch of her lips against mine brought the bear roaring to the surface. I tore through the woods to get away from her at the same time every cell in my body wanted me to go back.
Want. Want. Want.
I drove my fist into the nearest tree trunk, sending bark flying. Blood poured out of deep scratches on my knuckles. I brought my hand up to my face and flexed my fingers. By the time I exhaled again, the scratches had already healed, just leaving caked blood behind. It felt good. Raw. I needed more of it. I punched the tree again and again until blood dripped over my forearm. But the wounds healed quickly every time. I breathed in the fresh, crisp air and waited for the sun to sink below the horizon. I’d let the bear out only when the sky turned pitch black and I knew Nora was long gone.
Her scent was everywhere. It seemed to permeate my pores. It didn’t mean anything. It couldn’t mean anything. She was just a girl. I’d just been asleep for so long my senses were heightened, my thoughts jumbled. She was just a girl like all the others…the very kind I couldn’t have. Except, why did I know her name before she told me? Why had she grown so bold as to reach out and try and touch a sleeping bear? I pushed those thoughts aside. They’d do me no good now.
Tonight, I’d let the bear have his way. I would hunt and forage, get my fill of the lake trout zipping through the stream at the base of the hidden waterfall on the north side of the pioneer cabin. Then, I’d feel normal. This obsession with Nora would go away and I’d be able to think again and plan. That’s what I needed. A plan. There were those close by who would demand answers soon. I’d been away far longer than I’d intended. They might not let that slide. By the time the sun rose again, I’d be a new man and ready to face the consequences of my choices. Whatever those might be.
The next morning, I woke up in a regular bed with clean sheets pulled up to my chin and the late summer breeze blowing across my chest. It felt like home for the first time in longer than I cared to remember. This cabin…my cabin. This wasn’t the small pioneer home Nora stumbled upon yesterday. That was mine too, or at least, it belonged to my family. But this place, I’d built with my own two hands from the ground up. The place was tucked away amid the tall pine and birch trees along the ridge just a few miles to the west of where I’d stopped to hibernate. Friends had looked after it while I went away, and now it was time to find them again.
But not yet. I had just these few moments left to myself. When I closed my eyes, I saw Nora’s face smiling back at me, her blue eyes shining. If I breathed in deep enough, I could almost imagine the scent of her still. Clean and fresh. Feminine. My bear stirred within me and my cock grew stiff. I wanted her. That dark knowledge gnawed at me. I wanted her. But I could never have her. Women like Nora could only get hurt by men like me.
I stretched, showered, and threw on a fresh pair of jeans, t-shirt, and work boots. It was time to go back to the mine and check on my crew. I missed them, but still dreaded every second of this. I’d been gone for nearly a year, and there was no telling what I might find when I got there.
I went outside, found my truck just where I’d left it with a full tank of gas. Smiling, I found the keys under the visor and it started on the first try. Oh, yeah. My crew had taken care of that for me too. I owed them everything. I owed them my life. Now it was time to try and begin to pay them back.
The Wild Ridge Mining Company was actually a co-op run by a group of bear shifters here on the ridge. Each of us runs our own claim, but we abide by a simple set of rules. Well, really only one main rule. Nobody fucks with anyone else’s livelihood. A big part of that meant keeping our shifter nature hidden from outsiders. Sounds easy, except shit between bears can get complicated. Especially these days with trouble always brewing from the wolf packs to the south. Some of that trouble is what kept me away for so long. But, I didn’t want to think about that now, I’d put it behind me. It was time to get back to the business of being Caleb Lord’s son and my own man too. I ran my father’s crew now, and he made me the head of the family. I just had the sneaking suspicion there might be a few who wouldn’t want to make that easy for me.