Bear Apparent (BBW Shifter Romance) (Stone Claw Clan Book 1)

BOOK: Bear Apparent (BBW Shifter Romance) (Stone Claw Clan Book 1)
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Bear Apparent (Stone Claw Clan, #1)

By: Jade Woods

©Copyright Jade Woods 2015

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Cover Design by Jacqueline Sweet

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the author or publisher.

 

Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to the author. Unauthorized or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.

 

Warning:

 

This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers.

Bear Apparent (Stone Claw Clan, #1)

 

Dahlia Pinski has been chasing monsters since she was rescued by one as a little girl. Bigfoot blogger by day, creature catcher by night, she always seems to be one step behind the beasts of legend she knows exists. Following the recent report of a monster sighting in the Washakie Woods of Wyoming, she dashes off to prove she isn't crazy. But she gets more than she bargained for when she finds herself in the middle of a fight between two giant, monstrous bears.

 

When a rival challenges Garrett, heir to the Stone Claw clan, for his territory, Garrett must decide to stay and fight or run. Without the strength a mating-bond provides, Garrett knows he is no match for the stronger, mated bear, and is forced to flee his home.  But when a nosy female gets tangled in their dispute, he stands up to the bear, and is left seriously injured.

 

Dahlia takes Garrett home, and nurses him back to health, sure he can provide the answers she's been looking for—if she can keep her attention on anything other than the naked man on her couch. After witnessing his father suffer through his mother's death, Garrett promised himself he'd never fall in love. But his attraction to the deliciously curvy, and endlessly curious Dahlia is too tempting to ignore. Garrett must decide if he is willing to risk his heart for happiness. Having been reunited with his clan, Garrett is willing to leave his home behind, and make a new one with Dahlia... but his rival is a ruthless killer that wants to make an example out of Garrett who he is willing to exploit their people's laws to force Garrett into a duel. Can Garrett rise up to protect his clan and Dahlia, or will she share his fate?

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Chapter One

 

“Don’t chicken out now,” Dahlia whispered to herself.

Easier said than done. Jessica, her best friend and sidekick, had pulled out at the last minute due to something about exploding pizzas at her parent’s restaurant. Any other time Dahlia would have elected to help the girl scrub marinara sauce off the ceiling, but the latest report had come in this morning, and it was the most detailed yet. Not to mention, the source was reliable considering the guy was a respected lawman. Apparently, the deputy had been on vacation with his family when he had seen the unidentified creature on the bank of a stream. The description he had given dug up all kinds of memories for her—she couldn’t miss this opportunity.

Dahlia popped the back door of her SUV, and retrieved the bulky backpack she had stuffed with the bare essentials along with a cooler loaded with water and power bars. When she was sure she had everything she needed to survive a few days in the wilderness of Wyoming, she double and triple checked that her car was secure. This particular stretch of forest known as ‘the Bear’s Den’ by the locals, wasn’t the ripest patch to gather evidence of supernatural creatures. The pine forest was a part of the Washakie Wilderness, and grizzly bears had been making a comeback. Most people weren’t used to seeing bears other than the smaller blacks and with the resurgence of browns, reports of giant bears had begun to flood in. Lately though, rumors of large animal-like monsters roaming the woods at night, and terrorizing the locals had become the normal talk around town. Everything from Bigfoot to a giant spider posing as a clown circulated through the Internet. That was how Dahlia first caught word of the strange happenings.

Her camera at the ready, Dahlia marched toward the edge of the forest. Looking for beasts of legend by herself wasn’t exactly the brightest idea she’d ever had, but she wasn’t a complete newbie either. She had trekked through forests more time than she could count and had once scaled the cliffs of the Grand Canyon—of course, the skin of her knees hadn’t been very happy about that little stunt.

She stole one last look at her old beat up Cherokee, then penetrated the tree line. The early summer combined with the shade of the trees made for a comfortable atmosphere. Having checked the weather to make sure she wouldn’t end up being washed away by a flash flood before driving out to ‘the Bea’s Den’, she was convinced this whole thing would end up a big waste of time. At least, she’d enjoy the trek. But the little girl inside of her that believed in magic and other unexplainable things demanded she investigate the reports. At the very least, she’d have a few suspicious photos to post on her blog.

The sound of her cell phone chiming startled Dahlia and she dug it out her pocket. Seeing that it was Jessica calling, she accepted it. “Hey, Jess. Are you enjoying the new wall color?”

Jessica made a sound disgust that let Dahlia know the restaurant was a disaster area. “If I had known how bad it was I would have run off with you. Tell me you’re at home arguing with Danny about what size shoe Bigfoot would need.”

Running her eyes all over the trees and leaves, she figured they didn’t look that different from her cheesy nature wallpaper back home. But nothing ever got past Jessica so she didn’t even try. “If you consider the world my home, sure.”

“You didn’t,” Jessica chastised, and Dahlia had no problem picturing her friend’s jaw hitting the floor. “What are you thinking, girl? You shouldn’t be hiking through the woods by yourself. Do I have to remind you what happened last time?”

“I just got a stomach ache. It wasn’t that bad,” Dahlia reasoned as she stepped over a fallen branch. Okay, so that was a gross underestimation, but the whole ordeal made her a better woodsman. At least now she would know which berries
not
to eat.

“If you call puking your guts out all over the hospital floor just a stomach ache, then you have more problems than I thought.” Jessica huffed. “I guess there’s nothing I can really say to change your mind, is there?”

Dahlia stopped in her tracks and pressed her back against a fir. She could admit that when it came to finding the truth, she was a little reckless.
Reckless?
More like willfully blind. But ever since getting lost in the woods as a child, her fierce need to know overruled any sense of self-preservation. “I know I should’ve told you. But I couldn’t wait. I made sure to pack everything I need—walkie-talkie, batteries, matches, loads of water and enough power bars to put some muscles on my arms. You name it, I’ve got it. Besides, my lucky dagger is with me.”

“What if I told you Alex is interested in meeting you tonight?” Jessica said, her tone rising.

Cocking a brow, Dahlia wonder if Jessica was just saying that to get her to come home. From the picture Jessica had shown her, Alex didn’t appear like the kind of man that would be interested in a woman like Dahlia. He was too good looking, too successful at his job and definitely too intimidating—he was entirely the kind of guy for Jessica.

“Well,” Dahlia said as she started walking again. “I’m already here so I might as well make the best of it.”

“I know that tone of voice. I hate when you think, much less talk like that. What happened to the girl I used to know? The girl that wasn’t afraid to wear a bikini in high school?”

Sputtering a laugh, she said, “That girl gained several pounds. Scratch that, several potato sacks.” Even that was putting it kindly. Although it had only been seven years since graduating high school, she had filled out pretty quickly. She’d never been tiny to begin with, but she’d certainly blossomed.

“Now you’re just exaggerating. Jason really did a number on you, didn’t he? But don’t you worry, I know how to help you find your self-esteem again. When you get back, we’re going out and I don’t mean drool-over-the-paleo-exhibit-at-the-Museum out. We’re going to drink and pick up guys and you are going to be picking their numbers out of a jar.”

At the sound of Dahlia’s ex’s name, something sharp and pointy speared her heart. It had been a year since she had finally grown a pair and dumped his ass. Despite all the mean words he had thrown her way, she missed him. No, that wasn’t right. What Dahlia really missed, was
not
being alone. Remembering that she was still on the line with her best friend, Dahlia said, “I guess it’s pointless to try and argue my way out of this.”

“You bet your britches, girl. Now, please be careful and don’t die because you know I hate funerals. Will you call me every few hours so I know you weren’t eaten by a bear?”

“I promise.” With that, Dahlia cut the connection. She would have preferred her sidekick tagging along as they braved the dangers of the wild world in search of fame and glory, but she was aware Jessica only followed to make sure she didn’t stumble down a hole.
But, we’ve had some amazing adventures, haven’t we?

Erecting her spine and squaring her shoulders, Dahlia pressed on, determined to get even a glimpse of the other world she knew existed, but couldn’t prove.

 

****

 

Garrett Stone Claw fell against the tree, the rough bark aggravating his wounds. Digging his fingers into the grooves, he took several deep breaths to steady himself, every stretch of his torso sending shooting pain through his chest. Exhausted and in agony, he rested his head against the not at all comfortable tree trunk.

What was I thinking?
He’d been so stupid believing he could lead his hodge-podge clan of outcasts without a mate. It was his stubborn pride and the need to protect his emotions that left him running for his life from an invading clan. At least, he’d gotten his clan to safety. Bruin was a strong and capable bear and Garrett knew the man would look after the others while Garrett drew the invader’s attention.

The wind shifted, and the putrid sent of the challenger stung his nostrils. The rival clan-leader wasn’t far behind and with the benefit of the mating-bond backing him, Garrett didn’t stand a chance. His pride demanded he stand up and fight back, but his instinct was in full survival mode. As much as it hurt, fleeing was the only option. He just prayed that the invader got bored of chasing him.

Garrett gathered his strength and pressed on, trying his best not to rub against any of the foliage, and spread his sent. But he was injured and weary from running for so long that it was impossible to keep from bouncing off trees and shrubs. The bear pursuing him should have given up a long time ago, and Garrett understood that the challenger intended to kill him. It made sense, after all–it wasn’t easy to give up one’s home and the male must have known Garrett’s clan would retaliate to take back what was theirs. As the leader of the Stone Claw clan, killing Garrett and leaving the others leaderless would send a message, and break their resolve.

He pressed on, every step uncomfortable, every movement excruciating. He considered going south in search of sanctuary with the Black Claw clan, but despite the uneasy truce between them, they were likely to finish him off and send his carcass to the invaders as a peace offering. No, this was his problem to deal with to whatever outcome. His only hope was that the interlopers left his clan alone after they killed him—that, he could accept.

They shouldn’t have to pay for my stubbornness,
he thought as he pushed through a thick bush. Shifters were at their strongest under the influence of the mating-bond, and having watched his father suffer through losing his mate, Garrett had promised himself he would never go through that. He saw now how naïve and selfish that decision was. How could he expect to lead the clan while half a bear?

Garrett froze as the sound of crunching ground pierced his ears. Had his pursuer caught up to him so quickly? But the more he listened, he realized the telltale sound of someone walking through the woods was originating from in front of him. He flared his nostrils trying to catch the scent, but the soft breeze was blowing the wrong way. He figured it was a camper or hiker, a not at all unfamiliar presence in these woods. He mulled over seeking out a human’s help, but if his hunter caught up to him, then the human would likely be mauled in the process.

He weighed his options and decided he needed to take that chance–one life, or the many lives of his clan?

Hating himself the entire way, Garrett moved toward the human.

BOOK: Bear Apparent (BBW Shifter Romance) (Stone Claw Clan Book 1)
4.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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