Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)
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Chapter Ten

Jax

Nora followed me to my truck and climbed into the passenger seat. She
hadn’t questioned me. I think she saw the look in my eye and knew that whatever
else happened, this was for real. When I got in, I slammed the driver side door
shut and gripped the wheel. Being this close to her again, the desperate stretch
of time between leaving Simon and getting to her…I hadn’t known for sure if
she’d be all right.

“Are you sure you’re okay to…I mean…should I drive?” Nora’s voice took
me out of myself. My vision clouded dark, and I realized she must have seen my
bear eyes.

I looked at her through the bear. God. My heart nearly exploded.
Want
.
Want
. The bear had known all along. I hadn’t wanted to hope. I blinked
slowly and let out a breath, stilling the bear inside of me. My field of vision
lightened, and I knew my eyes must look normal to her again. “I just need to
get you out of here and somewhere safe.”

“Who’s going to keep me safe from you?” she asked. Tension rippled
through me. It took everything in me not to show her the bear again. I wouldn’t
let anyone near her. Just the thought of Simon or Aaron Spence or anyone else
laying a finger on her made rage simmer deep in my gut. “I won’t let anyone
hurt you,” I said. “Ever.”

She swallowed hard and nodded. She believed me. I put the car in gear
and peeled out of the gravel parking lot, tires spraying dirt behind us. We sat
in stony silence for the thirty-minute drive from her apartment back to my
house tucked deep in Wild Ridge Forest. I took the back roads and winding
trails until there was nothing beneath my wheels but soft earth.

Nora would never have been able to find her way back here alone. That
she was willing to put her trust in me now lent more proof to the instinct I
had about her. I would have to know for sure, and the risk of that scared me
almost more than Simon or the others coming back. When we finally made the slow
turn uphill, Nora’s breath caught as the massive cabin jutted out from the
hillside. I saw it through her eyes then. It must have looked like some sort of
rustic castle to her. And beauty trusted the beast to bring her home.

I pulled into the garage beneath the house and cut the engine. Nora sat
frozen. When I called her name, she didn’t move. I knew what she thought. It
was written all over her face and stiff posture. I came around to the other side
and opened her door for her. She knew as well as I did that her life would
never be the same. Hell, neither would mine. It hadn’t been since the moment
she reached out and ran her fingers through my fur as I slept in the woods that
day.

“Come on,” I said. “You’ll be safe inside. Then we can talk.”

Nora looked up at me; her pure blue eyes seemed to see right through
me. She chewed her bottom lip then finally reached out and took my hand. She
felt warm and soft and strong all at once. I saw a flicker of excitement widen
her eyes at my touch. She felt what I felt, even if she didn’t understand what
it meant. And I had no idea how I could explain it to her. She gave me a slow
nod then stepped out of the car. I led her inside.

Nora hugged her bag in front of her chest as she looked around. I
suppose to an outsider like her, this place was overwhelming. I wanted it big
and airy, with unobstructed views of the ridge beyond. I’d never meant for any
outsiders to see it. My heart lurched as she gasped and smiled. She walked up
to the bay windows in the front and put her hands on the glass. I walked up
behind her, shoving my hands into my jeans pockets to resist the urge to take
her in my arms.

We stood still and silent, watching the sunset through the glass. The
sky blazed with a warm pink glow. Nora pressed her forehead to the window and
inhaled. A tiny pulse in her temple slowed, and that made me glad. I didn’t
want her to be scared. When I told her everything, she would be, but for now, I
could steal this one moment with her before everything changed.

She turned to me first, her wide, blue eyes searching my face. She
reached up and hovered a delicate hand near my cheek, then thought the better
of it, closed her fist, and brought it to her side.

“I have questions,” she said simply.

“I know.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

I smiled. “I know that too.”

“What happened? I mean, my apartment. What was that?”

God, it would have been easier if she’d started by just asking me about
the bear.

“Let’s sit down.” I pointed to the L-shaped couch I had facing the
window. She nodded and sat at one end, her back straight. I took a spot a few
feet away from her and rubbed my hands on my jeans. My heart thundered in my
chest just from being this close to her. Energy rumbled through me. I think she
could feel it too, because her breath hitched and her eyelids fluttered.

“It was dangerous for you to trespass on ridge lands,” I said, trying
to find the words to explain in a way that wouldn’t overwhelm her.

“The pictures,” she said. “The ones I took at the pioneer cabin. I
think someone was looking for them.”

I nodded. I realized I had just as many questions for her as she did
for me. “Damon and Aaron Spence aren’t people you should trust.”

Nora raised a brow. “But they’re not responsible for what happened to
my place. I know that, Jax.”

I wished I could tell her they were. The truth was, Damon might have
planned that very thing. But, it was bears who got there first. I scented them
well before I got there. Simon’s crew, mostly. He’d done a shitty job of hiding
his intentions back at the company store. Thank God Nora hadn’t been there when
they got there.

“No.” She answered her own question before I could. “Those were
people…people like you. Part bear. I could…sense it somehow.”

My pulse raced.
She’s just a girl. Just a girl.
All the
declarations I’d made to Cullen and the others seemed to disintegrate and blow
away like dust in the wind. No regular girl could sense shifters like she did.
No regular girl would have ventured so far into the forest and found me where I
slept. No regular girl would have trusted me enough to come here with me when
all I did was ask her to. Now, she’d called me out without me even having to
say a word. I don’t know how she knew, but she did. And she hadn’t run away.

“Shifters, yes,” I said. I owed her the truth, all of it, no matter the
risk.

“Shifters.” She got up. Rubbing her hands together, she paced in front
of the windows. “You’re a bear.”

“Yes.”

“There are others like you, and they’re afraid of me? Why?”

I let out a breath. “They think you pose a threat. All human outsiders
do. There aren’t many of us left. We don’t…don’t trust easily.”

Nora nodded but kept pacing. “But you. You trust me?”

“So far.”

She smiled. “Right. How many. I mean, how many other shifters are
there?”

It was dangerous to tell her. The more she knew, the more risk to her
if I wasn’t here to keep her safe. Shifters had died trying to protect the
answer to her question.

“There are seven clans here on the ridge. There are some in other places
too, but not in this country.”

“You run the mines. Shifters…run the mines.”

“Yes.”

“And I got too close. That’s why they’re looking for me, the other
shifters?”

“Yes.”

Nora kept nodding. She ran a hand through her hair and her blonde curls
bounced around her shoulders. I rose slowly from the couch and took a few
tentative steps toward her. My heart raced, and the bear stirred inside of me.
She was getting so close to the one question that meant everything.

“I’m not trying to do anything against any of you,” she said. “I was
there taking pictures for a nature calendar. That’s all. I promise you.”

“I believe you. But Nora, you weren’t there on your own. I’m afraid I
have some questions I need to ask you too.”

“Okay. Yeah. I get it.”

“Damon Spence is not a friend to us. He has tried for years to find
ways to interfere with our operations and get access to the land. His family
has been after ours for generations. If I had to guess, he might be looking to
take over the mines. He’s filed unfounded complaints with the EPA against us
before that amounted to nothing. I think the Vista Foundation is just his
latest front to come after us.”

“Does he know? I mean…who you are?
What
you are?” Nora’s eyes
widened as understanding and fear settled over her. I couldn’t read her
thoughts, but she had the kind of face that concealed nothing. At least, not
from me.

“I’m not sure. I suspect so.”

“He was using me.”

“Probably. It was a smart plan. Send a woman into the woods by herself
to get the evidence he thinks he needs. If you’d been caught, there wouldn’t
have been anything you could have told us.”

Nora’s eyes flashed with fire and she stopped pacing. “You could have
killed me, Jax.”

I shuddered as the memory of those few seconds before I was fully awake
in the woods. She was right. The bear had been pure wild. I wouldn’t have
wanted to hurt her. and neither would he. But, without me awake to temper him,
he might have reached for her and broken her neck with one powerful swipe of a
paw.

“I wasn’t completely myself,” I said. “But, I swear to you, I am now.
Always. You have nothing to fear from me.”

“I know.” Her words hung in the air between us. I felt hollowed out and
filled again with hope and desire.

“I don’t know why I know,” she went on. “But I know. You
called
to me out there. Did you know you were doing it? How? You were asleep.”

I took another step toward her. “I wasn’t sure. Not at first. And then,
I didn’t want to believe it. I was too afraid to hope.”

“Hope for what, Jax? I know what you are now. At least, I’m trying to
understand. But there’s something else I think that might be even more
important.”

I closed my eyes and took another breath. “Nora.”

She put up a hand to silence me. Then, she took a step forward and
pressed that hand against my chest. My heart beat strong behind my ribcage. It
took everything in me not to touch her, kiss her, hold her. But, she needed to
understand what I was. I needed to accept what she
might
be.

“What am I?” she finally asked the question I hadn’t dared to confront
myself.

“Mine.” My answer came from the bear and me all at once.

Nora swallowed hard. Her eyes glistened with the hint of tears as she
let them travel up my chest to meet my gaze. I stood stock still, afraid to so
much as blink in case I finally did scare her away.

But, she wasn’t scared. Instead, her nostrils flared and she inhaled my
scent. With one hand still pressed against my chest, she reached up with the
other and touched my face. I couldn’t help it; my eyes went dark, and I knew
she saw the bear. Still, she didn’t seem afraid.

“You
did
call to me out there. In the woods.”

I nodded. It was as good as anything to describe what happened. Yes.
Even before I came fully awake, I must have sensed her and drawn her in close.
I’d heard stories about it happening. It’s how my father found my mother all
those years ago. They were made for each other. My mother had been special. His
Anam Cara
. A human woman who could lie with a werebear.

“Yes.” I answered. There was no point in trying to deny it to her or myself
anymore.

“I feel something when you’re near. You’re in my head. No, not my head.
My…
heart
. Is that normal? Is it some power you have?”

I shook my head. “It’s not my power, Nora. It’s yours.”

Her eyes flared, and heat shot through me. She parted her lips and tiny
beads of sweat formed in the hollow above her upper lip. My senses sharpened as
the bear hovered under the surface. I felt her heartbeat through her fingertips
on my chest. Color came into her cheeks and her breasts rose and fell as her
breath hitched.

God. I wanted her. Desire slammed through me so hard it nearly drove me
to my knees. This was so much more powerful than the urge to shift. I needed
her. I felt as though I might starve without her touch. Nora ran her hands up
my chest and slid them over my shoulders. She took a step forward. I tilted my
head down and brought my arms up. I didn’t have the willpower not to touch her.
I slid my hands around her waist.

“Jax,” she whispered. My name seemed to hover between us. A question. A
promise. A thing she could never take back.

Nora went up on her tiptoes. My flesh seemed to vibrate with wanting I
couldn’t contain. Nora cocked her head to the side and parted her lips wider.
She’d kissed me before and it nearly undid me. But that had been different,
almost an afterthought. This was deliberate. I stood as still as I could, but
my muscles tensed. It had to be her though. She had to move first.

Then, she did.

Nora threaded her fingers through the hair at the back of my neck and
urged my head toward hers. I groaned and pressed my lips against hers. Heat and
light and fire arced between us.

BOOK: Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)
13.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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