Hollywood Bear: BBW Bear Shifter Paranormal Romance (14 page)

BOOK: Hollywood Bear: BBW Bear Shifter Paranormal Romance
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Half past ten, a text pinged.

He says he’s great. I’m back in LA—just got off the freeway. Catching up. How are you? Where are you? Can we get together?

Shelley replied,
I’m at my folks in Altadena, the house of paper thin walls. Location tomorrow morning. Last day, I hope.

They agreed to meet the following evening, which made her smile as she turned out the light.

 

The next morning, she left before anyone else was up. She pulled into the parking lot before the sun began graying the east. By the time Eric and his production company arrived, Eric was in a foul mood as the light was thin, watery, and full of glare. Obviously he’d liked the footage even less once he’d seen it on a decent sized screen.

Let’s try some aerials,” he said. “Pump up the energy. You
can
do those, can’t you?”

There was just enough accusatory acid in that ‘can’ to make her look at those mostly male faces with their expressions ranging from impatient to indifferent. She was not going to admit that she hadn’t practiced fancy aerials for a long time. “Of course.”

“Good. Then we’ll lay the shots out, take some easy runs to rehearse, and if this cloud cover moves off by afternoon we can get this wrapped up.”

She did a couple of mild jumps so that the production team could plot their camera positions and angles. They went fine, but she knew she needed some serious work on that unfamiliar bike before she could step things up to what they wanted.

By noon the clouds had thickened, the humidity making the air still and breathless. “That’s it,” Eric said. “We can’t shoot in this light. This weather should be gone by morning, but everyone stay by your cells.”

The company began breaking down. Shelley reported to wardrobe to skin gratefully out of the leather and into her jeans and jacket. Then she left, annoyed with the weather, with the shoot—and with herself for her ambivalence.

By the time she got back to her folks’ house, she had a plan. Everybody was at work, but she knew she could borrow her dad’s old bike. She went to the garage. There it was, one of the first motorcycles she had ever ridden. She was going to ride it back to the location and work on aerials. The next day, she would wipe that disgusted look off Eric’s face.

She knew it was a bad idea to go alone, but the territory and bike were familiar. Shelley had her helmet and a pair of her dad’s thickest gloves. She knew what to do—she just needed practice.

And it went well. She began easy, working gradually up into higher jumps and fancier tricks. After a couple solid hours, though her clothes were clammy with sweat, she nailed the Can Can (legs to one side or the other), Double and Fender Grabs, and finally Superman and Hart Attack, with her body extended in the air above the bike.

It was getting dark when she decided to pack it in after one last trick, the Kiss of Death, with the bike pulled vertical before she kicked out her legs. But just as the bike left the natural ramp, lightning flickered, and a downpour struck with all the force of the thunder.

She gripped the handlebars, instantly blinded by water. Abandoning the Kiss of Death, she rode the arc, keeping the handlebars rigidly squared. She landed the bike—and skidded out in a wash of oily water.

The bike spiraled through the rain-slick ground. Helpless to halt it, she spun with it until with a smash the bike jammed her up against a rock, and landed hard on top of her.

She lay stunned, her heartbeat frantic.

Breathe.

Okay. I know what to do. Don’t panic
, she thought as the rain poured in a cataract. It hissed in a cloud of steam from the bike’s engine, which sputtered out. Carefully she turned her head from side to side.

That was good. Fingers. Yes! Toes? One foot wiggled in her old boot, the other. Okay. Though she could barely breathe under the weight of the bike, and she hurt all over, nothing was broken.

She tried moving. Her head could only turn a little; she could feel the mud-slick wheel against the back of her neck. Her hips were pinned against the boulder. She was trapped.

Shelley could only bend one arm at the elbow. She felt for the storage pocket on the bike where she’d stashed her phone. She doubted there’d be service even if the deluge didn’t ruin the phone, but if she could reach it, she would try . . .

She extended her arm until her entire body trembled. The rain pounded the lower half of her face below the cracked helmet, forcing her to breathe through her mouth. She grunted with effort . . . nothing.

Okay, she’d have to wait out the storm. If necessary, all night.

Then she remembered that she lay at the bottom of a gulley, scoured out over the years by flash floods from the waterfall a mile or so away. Another flash flood could sweep through the gulley that night, and drown her where she lay.

 

***

 

Mick had risen early to drive over to talk with his film’s post-production people before he met with his agent and some prospective producers. For work purposes, he’d named the pilot
Lone Rider
, but to him it was
Freeriding Shelley
.

He knew she was up at Santa Anita Canyon finishing up her commercial, but he texted her after the lunch to say that so far everyone seemed to be on board. Of course everyone always makes nice, and no one believes a word until checks were actually cashed, but he wanted an excuse to communicate with her.

Maybe they could meet early.

She didn’t answer, so he figured the shoot was running late. He peered eastward at the sky. Storm clouds moved steadily out toward the hazy mountains where Shelley was shooting. Surely they wouldn’t be filming under that.

His bear stirred uneasily.

He glanced twice more at what little of the sky was visible through the windshield, then finally pulled over to check his phone. No answer to his text. He tried calling. The phone went straight to voicemail.

Even if they weren’t shooting, they might set up and rehearse while waiting for the weather to pass. Rational, logical, typical reasons streamed through his mind, but beneath that his bear stirred more urgently.
Danger.

He remembered that he had Jan’s number, and called her. Jan’s cheery voice came on after the first ring, “I’m asleep, singing, or slinging hash. Leave a message!”

He hesitated, then rang off, not sure what to say to someone he’d only met once. 
I think Shelley might be in danger. How do I know? Well, it’s just a feeling
. . .  Yeah, he’d sound real convincing.

He pulled the car back into the traffic stream and drove on home to the pile of work waiting on his desk. But he found himself staring down at the case containing Shelley’s DVD.

Again his bear stirred, and he paced to the broad windows that looked over the Hollywood Hills.

Water.

The image pulsed, causing him to open the French doors, step out, and crane his neck eastward. Lightning flickered under the low clouds.

Brown water in a tumbling stream . . .

“She’s up there,” he said to the air.

His bear surged, nearly breaking free.

He grabbed his keys and bolted. Five minutes later he guided his car down the road, and within ten he roared down the freeway, dodging between cars.

Big splats of rain began falling. The tires hissed, and he drove white-knuckled, knowing that this was the most dangerous time to be speeding, when rain first hit the dry freeways, loosening the dust and oil.

By the time he reached the 210 freeway, the rain bucketed down, washing behind the cars in feathered streams.

Water. Danger.

His bear knew something. He had no idea how, because though his sense of smell was fabulous, there was no way the bear could pick up any scent from this distance. But he believed his bear; his job was to drive carefully, to think ahead. He pushed the speed as far as he dared, until at last he pulled off and turned north into the hills.

He reached the parking lot, which was empty of production people, hikers, and teens making out. He got out of the car, ignoring the rain, and let the bear come partially out in order to sniff the air.

There.

Carefully, methodically he stripped off his clothes, folded them, and laid them on the driver’s seat.

He finished transforming, let the bear extend his senses, and began to run.

 

***

 

At first it was a trickle.

Shelley told herself that it was just runoff from the rocks, and after all this was L.A. They practically made a mini-series whenever it rained more than a half inch. She just had to wait.

But the trickle became a stream. She was soaked and shivering as water ran along her sides, numbing the hand pinned under her thigh. Brown water lapped against her helmet, splashing her face.

A sudden surge struck her feet first, washing over the bike and wedging her in tighter than before. A muddy wave washed over her face. She gasped, coughing as it rushed away. If only she could draw a deep breath!

She lay in a rising stream, mud building up against her boots, wedging her feet tighter under the handlebars. She turned her head up as much as she could, though her helmet had filled with water like a bowl, her ears gurgling. Another sudden wash of gritty water caught her before she could whoop in a breath, and she gagged as it filled her mouth. She coughed it out.

More water. Her panic began to rise. She gritted her teeth against it. If only the water would shift the bike even one inch . . .

She tried to fight the panic by remembering good things.
Mick
. Why hadn’t she just gone right out and told him she was in love with him? Why did she have to be so stupid, believing in the wrong guy, then wasting all this time with the right one . . .

Sploosh, sploosh
. Someone was coming. Someone, or some
thing
, really big. Was she hallucinating?

Another, huge surge of water poured over her in a wave. Her lungs burned, then suddenly expanded as the crushing weight lifted away. She gasped, coughing, her trembling limbs twitching. A huge shape loomed over her. She tried to make it out through the smeared helmet: an enormous, blond, furry shape.

Clawed paws reached down.

She cowered back, but the huge paws scooped under her back and her knees, and lifted her as if she were a featherweight.
It’s going to kill me
, she thought frantically as the beast cradled her against itself. Her helmet, cracked and loosened by the fall and the gathered water, fell away, and her head dropped against a furry chest. Beneath it she heard the steady boom and rush of the creature’s heart.

Somehow that steadied her as the beast marched uphill, rain pouring down over both of them.

Ten, twenty, fifty paces . . . after an immeasurable time, as she shivered, beyond thought or emotion, the rain abruptly ceased hammering her face though the roar continued: she was carried under a rocky overhang, where the creature gently set her down against a rock. Her limbs had gone numb; she was vaguely aware of her teeth chattering so hard her head shook.

The creature stepped away, back, back, and bent to look into her face.

Her eyes met honey-brown eyes. She
knew
those eyes.

Mick?

She tried to talk, but her lips had gone as numb as her legs and arms, and shock blinded her.

 

***

 

Hypothermia
, Mick thought as he scrambled back into his clothes beside the car. He started the engine, rammed down the emergency brake, and set the heater on max.

Then he splashed back to the overhang under which he’d had to set Shelley, as his bear could not manage car doors. He picked her up and cradled her against him as he hurried back to the car and set her in the passenger’s seat.

Watching her anxiously every few seconds, he drove out as fast as he dared. Shelley lay against the seat, streaming with water, but gradually she shivered less as the heater blew over her.

Where to go . . . where to go . . . his instinct was too strong:
home
.

He pulled up at his house, carried her inside, set the hot water going in the tub, stripped her down and got her into the water. She lay back with her eyes closed, her muddy hair tangled in her face. He eased a towel under the back of her head then kicked off his own clothes. He got into the tub beside her, where he chafed her hands, then her feet, until she finally stirred, and turned his way with eyes still marked with the imprint of panic.

Her lips worked, then she said softly, “That was you.”

All his careful plans, his meticulously thought out explanations—it all vanished like smoke.

“Yes.” And he waited, sick to the heart.

 

***

 

Shelley didn’t remember how she got there.

Her senses began to assemble details—the warmth of water, the feel of floating safely against warm skin. The sight of anxious blue eyes.

BOOK: Hollywood Bear: BBW Bear Shifter Paranormal Romance
10.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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