Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)(6)By: Kimber White
“Hello!” I called out, hoping my voice didn’t sound too rough. It was raspy and deeper than normal, but I tried to sound friendly at least.
Nora whirled around. She crossed her arms in front of her in a defensive posture and took a step back as I came toward her. I put my palms out and walked slowly.
“It’s okay,” I said. “You just, uh, you look lost. Can I help?”
Nora tucked a hair behind her ear and put a hand to the side of her face to block the sun. I walked up to her but kept my distance. I drank in every detail of her face as she looked up at me with those bright, questioning eyes. I followed her long, delicate lashes as she blinked. She had soft, white skin with a dusting of freckles over her straight nose except where it turned up just a bit at the end. Her toned biceps flexed as she moved her hands to her hips and smiled at me. She was tall. Very tall. At six foot eight, I still towered over her, but she came up nearly to my shoulder.
“Hello,” she said, her voice skittering over me, and making the hair along my spine stand on end.
“My name is Jax,” I said. “Jaxon Lord.”
“Uh. I’m Nora,” she said, and my heart skipped a beat. Of course I knew it. And yet, some part of me wanted to deny who and what she might be. If I’d been wrong about the name that would have told me something. It would have been a relief…at least it should have been. But, I wasn’t wrong.
“Nora Gentry,” she said. I sang the name over and over in my head. “And yeah. I uh, I guess I got a little turned around. You wouldn’t by chance have a phone I could borrow, would you? My battery died. I need to call for my ride. My boss is on his way to pick me up and should be along any second, actually; I just want to let him know I’m ready to go.”
I cocked my head to the side and a smile lifted the corner of my mouth. She was lying. She didn’t trust me, of course. And she shouldn’t. No one was coming up here for her. A shudder of fear passed through me thinking about what might have happened if I hadn’t found her first.
“Sorry,” I said. “Even if I did, you probably can’t get a signal this far up the ridge. Not much out here but birds and bears.” Her eyes widened and her cheeks flushed. I don’t know why the hell I said that.
“And me,” I quickly covered. “Come on. Are you parked along M-28?”
“What? Uh. Yes.” She didn’t realize that I’d just caught her in a lie. Her boss wasn’t coming for her. She’d ventured out here all on her own. I could see in her eyes the realization of how foolish she’d been. I could be anyone. She could be in real trouble. It took everything in me not to say the words bubbling just below the surface. I would never let anyone or anything hurt her. Not now. Not ever.
“Come on,” I said and held out my hand. “There’s a trail just a little to the southwest. If we hurry we can get you back to your car before it gets dark.”
She knew she shouldn’t trust me. I expected her eyes to narrow with distrust. They didn’t though. Instead, she reached out and took my hand. When her skin touched mine, lightening went off again beneath my flesh. The hairs prickled along my spine, and I knew if she could see beneath my shirt she’d see the skin ripple where the bear struggled to break free. Oh, God. To be this close to her. To have her this close to the bear. Nora felt something too. It was just a fraction of a second, but her eyes flashed with knowledge she didn’t yet understand.
I felt the bear roar to life and I tensed every muscle in my body to keep him back. One word filled my head, playing over and over like a drumbeat as I gently squeezed Nora’s hand and my flesh warmed hers.
It took everything in me not to scream and run. That scared little girl inside of me warred with the strong woman I tried to project. Jaxon Lord. Jax. His name felt familiar to my ears. Everything about him felt at once familiar but also strange and compelling. At six feet, I’m used to looking at men straight in the eye. With Jax, I still had to crane my neck to meet his gaze.
His dark eyes swirled with the intensity of his stare. He swallowed hard, working the muscles of his jaw as if he needed to steel himself against something as I took his hand. And when I did, heat coursed through me as if I’d just taken a drink of strong whiskey. Touching him warmed me from the inside out. But, there I was, taking the hand of a dark, brooding stranger. I resisted the urge to reach up and run my thumb along the rough, black stubble at his jawline. His arms seemed big as tree trunks; veins popped out along each of his biceps as he took a step back and pointed toward a gap in the tree line.