This is something I’m working on that’s new and it was for a special call for a publisher, but I’m not going to get it finished in time to meet the deadline. The Sticky Cowgirl has been taking up a lot of my time and I’ve about had it with these two…
But, even if I miss that deadline, I’ll self publish it and it’s no harm, no foul… It’s a bear shifter, not related to the Denali Heat series, but it’s me hoping that this one will kick start the next book for my polar bear shifters. For the time being though, I’m working on this one, here and there…
This is unedited, so just ignore the issues within…
Blake muttered a curse. Humidity covered everything from the leaves on the forest floor to the tops of the trees that rose high above. He slammed the cabin’s front door and retreated back inside to the blessed air conditioning. “Ninety-six? Not even seven in the morning and it’s ninety-six degrees? The universe is trying to kill me. That’s got to be it. Climate change. Global warming. Blah. Blah. Blah. What about just fucking hot?”
Grumpy as a bear didn’t even cover it for him and was no laughing matter. He was a damn bear. Or at least, he was a half-bear. And he hated the heat. Why didn’t bears hibernate in the summer? They could sleep during the scorching, blazing, sun-baked days instead of…sweating and having to go around naked all the time.
Not that there was anything wrong with being naked. He always got up in the morning, got dressed with the intent to stay that way, but never made it past noon. Noon-oh-one showed up and he was buck assed naked and in the river. The river was starting to piss him off too. The water was cool, but more than once, he’d seen and he’d smelled someone. It wasn’t anyone he knew. It wasn’t anyone he wanted to know, not if his keen senses were on target and they usually were.
The scent was all female. Human, but with a delicate undertone of bear. He’d never encountered a half-breed female before which had been just fine with him. He’d had sexual encounters with full human women, but none in quite a while. Being intimate had always made him want something more. He was in his early twenties when his parents were killed in shifted form. Poachers had trespassed on their land. His land now. And the world hadn’t gotten any safer or better for wildlife.
He didn’t want to mate. Now, or ever. Sex was fine as long as it was anonymous sex. There were plenty of bars on the fringe of the mountain towns for him to find partners when the urge struck. But mating? Producing cubs? No way.
And even though his natural bear counterparts never mated for life, his parents and grandparents and all those that came before and after, had. It was just one of the smudges of his DNA. He wanted to be left alone here in this little corner of the Smoky Mountains. He didn’t care what happened after he was gone, but until that time came, he was content to exist right where he was, alone.
A female shifter didn’t figure into his mind’s long-term plans. His body had other ideas with every whiff of the meddling woman. Not that he’d met her. For all he knew she was a very pleasant creature.
Creature? “Shit.” He bit the word out. The older he got, the surlier he got. Enough so he’d called her… If he was so damn content to be isolated and alone, why was he grumpy all the time? This was something he didn’t understand. Shouldn’t it make him happy? Shouldn’t he be ecstatic and thrilled to be living the ultimate life according to his grand design?
“I was happy,” he growled to the empty cabin. The empty cabin that was too big for just one person, but felt too confining most days lately. It had been built for a large family. His grandmother had had four cubs and those uncles were still alive with cubs of their own. He had family. He had cousins.
He’d had a twin sister, too, but she hadn’t survived birth. His mother had never been able to have more.
He knew pain and loss and he didn’t want anything to do with it ever again. A woman would only complicate his uncomplicated life. “I’ll just stay away from her,” he declared to the four walls. “I’ve done a good job of it so far. I can just keep doing so until she leaves the area.”
Feeling satisfied with himself and his decision, Blake made for the kitchen and the Mason jar of iced coffee in the fridge. If summer were good for anything, it was iced coffee. He drank it black, undiluted but for a few ice cubes and a slight sweetness.
He stepped onto the back deck and took a deep breath. The heat wasn’t so bad with something cold coating his throat and cooling him from the inside out. But it was still oppressive. He turned to reenter the cabin, but caught the scent before he could turn his head. She was near. To the northeast and getting closer.
Blake debated with himself. Should he get closer? Should he get a look at her? His body screamed that yes he should. His brain, on the other hand, screamed obscenities at him for even considering it.
Her scent was stronger now. “Man, this is such a bad idea,” he whispered to no one even as he crept off the deck and onto the forest floor. For a six foot five guy, he could be surprisingly stealthy.
He weaved his way through the trees toward the water, careful to keep out of sight as he got closer. A stand of trees and low-lying bushes allowed him to stay out of view. He crouched to his knees and waited.
He didn’t have to wait long. She rounded the bend in the river several seconds later and Blake had to bite down on his tongue to keep the howl at bay. His soul growled “Mine” and his brain knew they were all goners.
Reddish blonde hair caught the morning light that glinted off the water. Strands of gold and red, copper and auburn floated on the surface behind her. Her face was tilted up toward the sun as she drifted along.
She was beautiful. What he could see of her, that is. She had a full finger that fit the tube, not one that would slink through the middle unless she held on. No, this one was curved and womanly in shape. Blake liked that.
Too much. He huffed, then dropped back behind a tree. The sound echoed and she lifted her head, her gaze focused in his direction. He held his breath and stayed where he was until he was down river a little ways.
He hadn’t intended to, only his feet wouldn’t listen to his head. He didn’t usually shift in the daytime, but this wasn’t just any day. This was a special day. His bear had found its mate, and his human was pissed about it. Oh yeah. A real fuckin’ special day.
And what he’d like more than to mate at the moment with the pretty redhead, was a swim. In human form, it was hotter than hell. In bear form, it was damned hotter than hell. His coat was brown and he melted into the foliage of the Smoky Mountain National Forest. His paws were soft on the ground as he tracked the path of the inner tube. Every so often she hummed songs he didn’t know, but he liked the sound. He hated that he liked it, but nonetheless, he liked it.
She didn’t have on a bathing suit, but rather a white tank top and cut-off shorts. Would her nipples be erect? Was she braless? Did she maybe have a bikini top under the tank top? None of the answers mattered. He wanted her. Her scent was sweet and rich, like honey. Her hair was long. The color of her eyes, how tall she might or might not be, the span of her waist… None of that mattered. His gut knew.
She was a shifter too. He wasn’t sure at all how he knew that, but he did. His family didn’t mate with only shifters and the person with the dominant genes won out on whether offspring would move within both worlds or not.
At the same time, Blake didn’t think she was from around the Smokies. Her scent was too different, too new for her to inhabit the same North Carolina stretch of forest and mountain, he did. No, she was a visitor to these parts.
He also wondered if she could scent him too. Every so often she’d glance over, as though looking for something, but Blake knew she couldn’t hear him or see him. He was far enough back and used his knowledge of the woods and the river to keep her in his sight and to stay out of hers.
“I know you’re there,” she called out, interrupting his train of thought.
Blake hunkered low to the ground and tried to stop breathing. He didn’t want to be found out. He wasn’t ready. Rather, his human side wasn’t ready.
“You’re not going to talk to me? You’re just going to hide in the trees?”
He snuffled and slipped behind a tree, climbing quickly. He had a good view of several miles of river and mountains. He could see the roofs of cabins and tube rental shacks.
“That’s kind of rude. You can see me, but you’re not going to let me see you? It’s also kind of stalkerish.”
Stalker? She was calling him a stalker? Well, that was so not what he was. She had the complete wrong idea about him.
He was on the ground again in no time and without sparing her a look, he walked back toward his cabin. When he was sure she couldn’t see shadows or shapes, he shifted back into human form.
Him? A stalker? What kind of crap was that? “The callin’ it like she saw it kind, asshole.”
Blake is definitely going to fun to play with…