Authors: Harmony Raines
Tags: #General Fiction
Joel gave her the opportunity to run away, to be something else. Yet she owed it to her mom to try to make this work, to try to keep a roof over their heads. “I asked you a question, Traff.”
“They took them. Beat us up and took the phones.”
“Shit. You had one job to do. Why do you think I tried to make them follow me?”
“But they didn’t follow, did they?” Cray, a hothead, spoke up. “Except one.” Cray walked towards her, sniffing her clothes. “And that one’s been all over you. Hasn’t he?”
“That would be because I fought him. What did you think I did, let him fuck me?” She was sailing close to trouble with that one. If they ever found out she was the mate of a bear, this was going to come back to haunt her.
“I don’t know? Maybe you are a bear lover; maybe you led us into an ambush on purpose. It seems you got off with no bruises, whilst we got the shit kicked out of us.”
“As you all know, I can beat most damn men in this town.” She squared her shoulders and made her fists into tight balls of anger. “Want a demonstration, Cray?”
As she had hoped, he backed away. Although it wasn’t over, because Piler, a new member and a notorious badass, stepped forward instead.
“Have a problem, Piler?” she asked, trying to get her adrenalin pumping. If he wanted to fight her, she would have to match him, but it was going to hurt. A lot.
“We’ve been talking.” He looked at the others, who seemed reluctant to back him up now she was here. However, she could just imagine how the alcohol-fuelled rant would have gone in her absence. “And we have decided that it’s time a man took back over the club.”
“Oh really? Well, if you can find one with big enough balls, then let me know.”
Piler smirked. “I’m standing right here, sweetheart.”
“So you fancy yourself as the new president, do you?” she asked, assessing how much he had drunk and how she could take advantage of his slower reflexes. Mia had beaten bigger men than this. But it had been a while since she had taken on someone seriously. Her reputation usually deterred any challengers.
“I think some fresh blood, your blood, being split, might be what we need to shake things up. The boys here think you’ve gotten soft, or that you are under the same strain that got your brother put in that institution.”
She laughed. “Oh, Piler, you are right, the same blood does flow through our veins. But females are so much better at handling themselves than men. So my head is in the right place … to beat you.” Mia began to move now, watching Piler’s eyes, judging how delayed his actions might be.
Not delayed enough.
Piler moved forward away from the others, who looked worried. They might not always agree with what she said, or the orders she gave, but they trusted her judgement. She doubted Piler’s judgement would be better. From the experience she had with him, she wouldn’t be surprised if he was the final straw for the gang.
Yet who was she to talk? Now she was the mate of a bear, her judgment would be severely lacking, and they were right, it was her fault they had lost their merchandise.
Piler came at her. She dodged, her adrenaline definitely kicking up a notch as his fist sailed past her head. Defending herself with her left hand, she went for him with her right, her knuckles contacting with his face, sending him flying and making her knuckles throb.
Mia hated fighting. She hated living in a man’s world. Couldn’t they all just sit around and talk about this rather than thumping the hell out of one another?
Piler gained his feet and came back towards her, missing, and then springing at her when she dived forward to catch him off guard. He was better than she thought, and his fist hit her, grazing off her cheekbone. Damn, that hurt. She did not plan to let him get another shot at her.
Fists were one thing, but Mia had a secret weapon. Her feet. Martial arts had been her schooling as a girl and she had assembled enough knowledge to come up with her own brand. Now she made him dance to her tune. Exhausting him, jabbing him with her feet, and punching him when she got the chance. The fight went on, Piler grew tired, but still he attacked. He knew this was his one and only chance. If he lost now, he would never get the backing of the other men again.
He charged, grabbing her around the middle and driving her to the floor. She cracked her head, but managed to twist away from him and gain her feet first. With one tremendous effort, she straddled him, bending his arm up behind his back and grabbing a fistful of his hair.
“Want to play some more or shall we call this a night?”
He tried to move under her, but she kept her weight firmly between his shoulder blades, and after a few minutes struggling, he conceded. The look on the faces of the others told him he should give it up. Mia had won their respect once more. Not that she really wanted it.
But this had to be played out.
Letting him go, she got up and said, “Now, where’s the bottle. Let’s drink and then tomorrow we plan our next move.”
She hated getting drunk. She hated the hangout. Seriously, she hated everything about this life.
Waiting made him nervous, always had. But this was something else. He had no real idea whether she was going to show up. Or how the evening was going to go if she did. He had the scenario worked out in his head. They would meet here, and then she would follow him to a cabin he knew about high up in the mountains, the one where Hal used to live before he moved back down into Bear Creek. Earlier he had phoned and asked to borrow it, once more going behind the back of his close friends.
Once there she would fall into his arms, beg him to make love to her. He would have no choice but to do as she asked, and fuck her long and hard, putting a child in her belly. Then she would come live with him, and everything would work out. Fairy tales had never been his favourite thing, but this one he wanted to live in real life. If only Mia showed up.
An engine rumbled in the distance, he looked up, expecting to be disappointed once more. So far, seven cars and a handful of motorbikes had passed this way, each one making his heart rate increase. Each time leaving him disappointed.
Yet as the single light came towards him, he could feel her approaching. Now it wasn’t just his heart that was excited. His cock wanted to join the party too. Joel left his bike and went forward to meet her. Mia pulled up behind him but didn’t lift her helmet.
“I have somewhere we can go.”
She sat still, looking at him, and he felt nervous, but he knew it was Mia, he didn’t have to see her face to be certain. Why she didn’t lift her visor to look at him, he had no idea. Still, she was here.
“Is that OK?” he asked at last.
She nodded. That was the only answer he was going to get. Maybe she was too overwhelmed by his presence to speak, too excited to waste another moment in conversation than was absolutely necessary. Or too eager to be beneath him while he fucked her.
“Right,” he said as he got onto his bike and started the engine.
What was that about fairy tales?
They never came true.
Yet he still had high hopes that the rest of the evening would go as planned. He had some food and a bottle of wine, or two already stowed at the cabin. He didn’t anticipate either of them getting up and leaving in the middle of the night. Oh, no, he planned to make her so addicted to his body she would never want to leave.
Joel knew he was kidding himself, but for once maybe things would go smoothly. He seemed to enjoy glossing over the one sticking point in all of this. He was a bear and she was a wolf. They generally didn’t get on; could the mating bond make their relationship any easier? Or would they be tearing each other’s throats out within the hour?
Her bike vibrated beneath her thighs, a constant source of comfort as she followed him. Mia didn’t much care where they went anymore, as long as it was away from Wolf Valley. Her cheek still throbbed where Piler had hit her, and the rest of her body ached.
The sensible thing would have been to stay at home and soak in a warm bath. Well, maybe not. Although she had met Joel primarily to ease the need she had for him, she had also come out to escape the worried looks from her mom too. She had been shocked when Mia rolled in early this morning, having waited up as usual, even though it was nearly dawn. She hadn’t said a word, only got some coffee on to boil and fetched a bowl of warm water and some antiseptic to wash Mia’s face.
Words could not have been worse than the look on her face. The look that said she’d already lost one child through taking risks; she didn’t want to lose another one. Mia had simply averted her eyes, sipped her coffee, tried to stop the room spinning, and gritted her teeth when the water stung her cuts.
Inside, she was more cut up than her face. Trapped in a world she hated, and for once she could not talk it over with her mom. Because to do so would be to break down and cry. Her mom would tell her to let the Wolf Valley Motorcycle Club find a new president, and then they would no doubt be forced out of their home.
Only now, with Joel in her future, that no longer sounded so bad. Having a mate provided her with an escape route; that frightened her more than her mom’s worried face. Because it made her weak, and weakness cost you. Her brother Kurt had shown that to be true.
Joel turned off the road and led her up towards the mountain; she hadn’t expected this. A cheap roadside hotel was more of what she had envisioned. Instead, she thought he was going to take her to some damp bear cave somewhere. Great. But at least it would be dark and he wouldn’t be able to see her face. Mia really couldn’t face having to explain her complicated life to him. Not when all she really wanted was uncomplicated fun.
At that thought, her wolf howled in agreement. Fun with her mate would only mean one thing, sex. Yes, in his arms she could forget who she was for a while, and just be the person she had only dreamed of being. Not a tomboy with fists made for fighting.
The road grew steeper and then became a narrow stony path. Still they climbed, her bike, not built for off-roading, slipping and sliding on the wet ground. Yet she expertly handled it, keeping her revs up to stop it stalling, following in his tracks, confident he would choose the best path.
Eventually even this path disappeared, and he pulled over, guiding his bike into a low thicket. Mia followed carefully; she didn’t want to scratch her paintwork, her bike being her most prized possession. When he stopped and cut his engine, she did the same, drawing up next to him. However, when he removed his helmet, she kept hers on.
“I thought we would go animal from here. There’s a cabin high up in the mountain where we won’t be disturbed. If that’s OK with you?”
She gave him the thumbs-up, watching his expression; he was bemused, but didn’t press her to remove her helmet. Instead, he placed his helmet on his handlebars and offered her his hand. She didn’t take it, instead dismounting on her own, slipping her helmet off quickly and letting her long auburn hair sweep across her face, hoping the thick strands would hide the bruising. Not that he would be able to see her face properly anyway, the night was dark around her, making her wolf clamour for release.
“Where now?” she asked.
“Follow me?” In one swift motion, he changed into his bear, so quick it was almost instantaneous. She hoped her nerves wouldn’t get the better of her and mean she messed this up.
Carefully she allowed her wolf to take hold. The world shimmered around her and then disappeared in a blink of an eye before she reappeared on all fours, her big wolf tail wagging.
Joel glanced around once and then leaped forward, but even at full tilt, he was no match for her long slim wolf legs. However, she had no idea where they were going, there was no trail, so she had to stay behind him, curbing her wolf’s desire to run fast and free in front of her mate.
Her wolf was so excited: any minute now, it would probably be doing tricks, fetching a stick for her mate, or begging for scraps. No pride, not in the face of their bonded mate. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice, instead he kept his pace steady, heading higher and higher until they were above the tree line. Then they entered a narrow pass, high rocks on either side of them. She had a sneaking suspicion she had heard of this place.
Then she remembered her brother Kurt. This was where he had come when he had chased their cousin Fiona here during a snowstorm. After becoming trapped, he had spent too long as a wolf, and this had left him mentally unstable. This was where Fiona had met her mate, also a bear shifter. Did Joel know this? Was he trying to punish her?
Mia slowed, letting him get ahead of her, but the pull of the bond was too great, she had to find out what was going on with Joel. Whether he had some plan for her, she had to reassure herself that he couldn’t hurt her. But the wariness she had for others, even her own kind, made it hard for her to trust him.
If he sensed her reservations, he didn’t show it; he kept moving on, taking them down into Bear Creek territory. It wasn’t somewhere she would normally come, certainly not as a wolf. The lines between their territories were well known and well-marked, and if another bear caught her here, she would be in trouble.
Her hackles began to rise as the smell of bear became stronger and stronger. There was no mistaking where she was, and she caught up with him now, sticking close in case she needed his protection. Ahead the shape of a chimney stuck out along the low tree line; as they grew nearer, the shape of a cabin became clear. So not a bear cave, a bear cabin. Was that any better?
Joel reached the cabin, transforming back into his human form on the porch. Mia stood beside him, putting off the inevitable. While she hesitated, he took the opportunity to run his fingers through her thick wolf fur. His touch made her tremble with desire for him, her body shuddering until she could stand it no longer and she changed, trying once more to hide her battered face from him.
"Mia, it’s OK,” he said. “It’s just us. When we walk through this door, I want us to forget about everything else. Just for one night.”