Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1) (11 page)

BOOK: Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)
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Then everything came apart.

 

Chapter Eleven

Nora

It was as if I saw color for the first time when Jax pressed his lips
to mine. My heart flared to life as he brought his arms around me and lifted me
off my feet. So tall. So strong. I’d never been kissed or held like that before,
like I was weightless, and the air itself ignited from his touch.

Jax kissed me slow and deep. His tongue tentative at first, gliding
along my lips and urging my mouth open. Desire raced through my veins, settling
low in my core. God. I wanted him. More than anything. Reason, logic, reality
all seemed to melt away with Jax’s touch. And yet, everything felt so right.

The room spun as Jax groaned beneath my touch. He lifted me off my feet
and carried me away from the window. I tugged at his t-shirt, wanting no
barriers between his skin and mine. He set me down on the couch and peeled his
shirt off. Gasping, I reached up and ran my fingers along the marbled lines of
his chest. He was sculpted perfection with swirling, dark curls over his pecs.
I traced a line down to his navel and slid my fingers under his waistband.

“God, Nora.”

“Yes,” I gasped. I wanted this. There could be no mistake, no
misunderstanding. My body ached for Jax’s. I was wet. So wet. My sex throbbed
between my legs. I found myself spreading my thighs for him as Jax knelt before
me as I sat on the couch. I grabbed the hem of my shirt and pulled it over my
own head. Casting it aside, my breasts heaved. Jax’s bear eyes darkened, and
that thrilled me even more. He was a man, but with a wildness within him my
body craved. It had taken one touch, one kiss, and I knew I would never feel
whole again unless he claimed me.

Jax ran his thumbs over the cups of my bra. I shuddered as my nipples
rose to stiff peaks. It hooked in front, and with one flick of his finger, Jax
unfastened it. My breasts swung free, and Jax’s eyes widened. He smiled and
reached down. His hot tongue made a trail between my breasts. I arched my back
and braced myself with my hands on the edge of the couch as he sucked one
nipple then the other.

“Oh. Jax. Oh!”

While Jax worked one nipple with his skillful tongue, he reached down
and unfastened my jeans. I leaned back on the couch and wriggled out of them.
Jax went slow at first, letting me guide him. But now, as I lay before him in
nothing but my thin silk bikini underwear, his touch became more urgent and
commanding. Lust flooded through me to meet his. He put two strong hands on the
inside of my thighs and spread me wide. He slid a single finger beneath the
cotton crotch of my panties and found me so wet for him already. I could hide
nothing.

“Nora.” He growled my name. “I want you.”

“Yes,” I gasped. “Please.”

He tore my panties away and leaned down. I threw my head back and let
out a primal scream as he licked me there. He teased and coaxed me with his
tongue. My juices flowed freely, and my whole body trembled with the building
orgasm I wasn’t sure I’d be able to contain much longer.

Then, Jax stopped. I shuddered and bucked. He came up on his elbows and
slid his hands up my thighs. “Nora. Look at me.”

“Wha-what?” I saw stars. Heat throbbed between my legs. I could barely
concentrate.

“Nora, I’m not sure.”

I leaned down and cupped his face. “I am. I want this, Jax. I think
more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. I don’t understand it, but I’m
fine if we sort that out later.”

Jax’s smile melted me. His low, sultry laughter vibrated over my skin.
“It’s not that. I want you too. God, Nora. I’m coming apart from holding back.”

“So don’t. I mean it.” I leaned forward and caught his lips in a kiss.
Jax rolled his thumb over my nipple. This time, I think I growled from the
pleasure.

“But, you’re human,” he said between kisses. “There’s a risk.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t want to hurt you.

“So,” I said through kisses. “Don’t. Besides. I’m stronger than I
look.”

Jax pressed a thumb against the hard nub of my throbbing clit. I
groaned and spread my legs wider. “Well, you are quite a bit larger than a
normal girl.”

I pulled his jeans down. Jax’s turgid cock sprang out as I slid his
boxer briefs down. “Well, you are quite a bit larger than a normal man, Jaxson
Lord.”

Jax got his hands beneath me and lifted me off the couch. The room spun
as he carried me into his bedroom at the other end of the hall. His bed was
massive, just like he was. For as strong as he was, he laid me down with such
soft tenderness. Then, he was on me again. I spread my legs wide.

“Jax,” I gasped. I reached down and closed my fingers around his hard
cock. He was thick and long and pulsed beneath my touch. I stroked him,
reaching down to cup his balls. Those were huge and hard too. Heat flooded me.
A new gush of moisture coated my thighs. Jax saw it all. Perched on his elbows
between my legs, his eyes flashed. He dipped a finger inside me. It made a
smacking sound, and I reared up off the bed.

“Please!” God, I couldn’t contain it another second. I needed him. I
wanted him inside me. I felt like I’d die without him.

“I want to go slow with you, but I don’t think I can,” he said. His
voice was low, dripping with lust.

“Good,” I whispered, surprised I was still capable of forming words.

Jax laughed again, and it was all I could take. I flattened my knees on
the bed and arched my back in offering. I needed him so badly. Jax reached up
and stretched himself long beside me. He played with my slick folds, opening me
even wider. He hooked three fingers together and worked them inside me. I rose
to his touch and thrust my hips. I knew what he was doing. He prepared me,
stretched me. Took care of me. But, it wasn’t enough. The more he stroked, the
more I wanted of him.

“Please, Jax. Don’t make me wait. I feel like I might burst apart too
if I have to wait another second.”

Jax leaned down and kissed me. “Are you sure?”

“Yes!” I reached up and kissed him hard. He smiled and took my wrists,
easily circling them with the broad span of one of his hands. He held my arms
above my head. My back arched even more and my breasts raised high. Jax kissed
each of my nipples, slow and tender enough to drive me mad. Then, he shifted
his weight and settled himself over me. The tip of his cock teased my slick
opening and I lifted my hips to meet it.

“Lie still,” he whispered. “I’ll guide you. If it’s too much. If I hurt
you, promise me you’ll tell me to stop. That’s all I need to hear.”

“Yes,” I gasped. “My safe word is stop.”

With his free hand, he reached down and angled himself to penetrate me.
There was an instant, a flash. Something wild and dark came into his eyes. I
grew bold and reached up to kiss him yet again. I wanted the wildness. I wanted
everything he had to give. This was what I needed. The thing that drew me to
him in the woods that day flared to life between us.

Want. Want. Yes. Go to him. You belong to him.

The voice echoed inside of my head. I don’t know if he was Jax or some
power bigger than the two of us. But, it was true. It was right.

Then Jax eased himself into me, going slow at first. I bit my lip and
tried to spread my legs even wider. Jax held me still with my wrists locked
above my head. My walls stretched so wide. He was so, so big. But, my body
seemed made for his. There was a stab of heat and sharp pain. I lost my breath.
Then, Jax pressed himself inside of me. He met a tiny band of resistance, but
by then, desire flooded through me and chased the pain away. In its place, new
warmth and pleasure filled me, making me even wetter for him to ease his path.
He claimed me. I bucked and thrust to meet him.

Jax held himself completely still for one beat, then another. I savored
the feel of him fully inside of me. All the while, he feathered my lips, my
neck, my breasts with urgent kisses, running his tongue over my hard nipples.

Yes. This. Jax made me his.

Then, he started to thrust himself inside of me. He set a punishing
pace that drove me wild. It was primal and raw and so right. I found the
strength to wrap my legs around his waist. He let go of one of my hands, and I
clawed my fingers down his back then cupped his ass to draw him in even deeper
if that was possible. Jax reared back as I drew blood. His eyes were pitch
black now, and shining with lust. He bared his teeth. His bear was there just
below the surface, driving the man as well as me.

I wanted it. I wanted all of it.

“Nora,” he whispered. “God. Nora. Baby.”

“Yes!”

I couldn’t contain it. I’d wanted to savor this. Savor him. But, the
pull of desire was too strong.

“Come, baby,” he said. “Let it go. I want to feel you around me.”

It was all I needed to hear. I cried out as my orgasm tore through me
and spread out in wave after wave of delicious pleasure all the way to my toes.
I clawed at Jax again. It seemed he drew the wild thing out of me as well that
night. I felt myself come in every nerve ending, exploding stars behind my eyes
as Jax kept up his pounding rhythm. I felt the powerful build of his own desire
as his balls grew heavy.

“Yes,” I whispered. I wondered if my own eyes flashed from the primal
thing inside of me. I wanted all of Jax. Every drop. I craved it. He finally let
go of my other wrist and pressed his hands flat against the bed. He dragged me
down to the end of the bed with one swift motion. My feet dangled over the side
as Jax got the traction he needed, his feet digging into the floor. He was in
me as deep as he could go. I drew my legs up again and wrapped them around his
waist, amazed I still had the strength.

Then Jax let go. He reared his head back and just for an instant, his
teeth grew long. When he looked down at me, his eyes went from black to brown
and back again. His hot seed poured inside of me, filling me, claiming me,
completing me. It was all I could do to hang on and enjoy the ride. Oh, and it
was a wild ride. Jax bucked and thrust until my teeth rattled.

His body quivered as he spent the last of himself. Then, I curved my
body around his as Jax brought me up to the center of the bed and held me
close. He whispered my name and kissed my forehead. I reached up and cradled
his cheek with my palm.

“It was perfect,” I whispered.

“You were perfect,” he said. “God. If I’d been wrong about you. Maybe I
should have waited.”

“Wrong about what?” I said. My limbs turned to rubber, and I dropped my
hand back down to the bed. Jax traced a circle with his thumb along my temple
and smoothed my hair behind my ear.

“My
Anam Cara
,” he whispered. “I hadn’t dared to hope.”

“You said that word before. Tell me what it means.”

Jax’s sultry smile melted me. Unbelievably, I felt a rising heat in my
core. God. I wanted him again. As spent as I was, my body had other ideas. Jax
sensed it too. He leaned down and kissed my nipple. “Easy,” he said. “You’re
strong, but you’re not superwoman. I think you should at least eat something
before we go for round two. Plus, we still have a lot of things to talk about.”

I kissed him full on the mouth. Jax groaned with desire, and I knew I
wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to wait much longer.

“That was incredible,” I whispered. “You were incredible. I didn’t know
it could be like that.”

“I know. I didn’t either.”

“There’s something between us. Something that’s not normal.”

“It’s normal,” Jax said. He shifted his weight and brought himself up
on his elbow. He looked stern for an instant. I worried I’d chosen my words
poorly. But, this was new to me.

“So tell me. What does
Anam Cara
mean?”

But, he didn’t get the chance. The hairs went up on the back of my
neck. At the same instant, Jax’s bear eyes flashed dark. He leaped off the bed
and gripped the side of it. Something was happening to him. Hairs sprouted
along the backs of his hands.

“Jax,” I said. “Jax? Look at me.” Instinct told me his bear wanted to
come out. Common sense told me if he shifted in the middle of his bedroom, some
shit was going to break.

“Stay here,” he said, his voice more growl than anything else.

“What is it?”

“Trouble,” he said. He grabbed a pair of jeans out of his dresser and
pulled them on.

“Jax?”

The whole house shook. That wild, earthy smell I’d noticed back at my
apartment filled the air. My heart dropped down to my feet. There was more
pounding at the door.

“Stay here,” he said. “Don’t come out no matter what you hear.”

Then Jax turned and burst through the bedroom door.

 

Chapter Twelve

Jax

It tore me apart to leave Nora’s side even for a few seconds. But,
there was danger at my door that wouldn’t go away. I ran a hand through my hair
and caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror before I reached the front
door. The change was already happening in me. Darkness swirled behind my
pupils. If I wasn’t careful, I wouldn’t be able to control the bear at all. Right
now, Nora’s life depended on it.

I didn’t have to look through the window to know who stood on the other
side of that door. Hank and Cullen stood side by side. Trevor came with them,
along with Rafe and Bo. If I had to guess, Simon stayed behind still on the
hunt for Nora. Or maybe the others had talked him out of coming here. A tremor
of protective rage ran through me that I knew I’d have to get a hold of, and
quick. My one shot at diffusing this situation would come through reason, not
aggression.

I opened the door but filled the frame with my body. It was an
aggressive, dominant posture. I would talk to the others, but they were not
welcome inside. I knew the minute they saw my eyes and scented me, they would
know I’d already claimed Nora. Her pheromones poured off me and could prove
deadly to the rest of them if they couldn’t control their bears. One of us
would die right here on my doorstep if things got out of hand. We were all
young, virile shifters, and there weren’t enough women like Nora to go around.

“Jax,” Cullen said, his eyes wide. Hank’s nostrils flared and he
clenched his fists.

“Now isn’t a good time,” I said, my voice dropped an octave. Shit. This
was more serious than I thought. I wanted to rip one of their damn heads off.
Every instinct in me wanted to fight to protect my mate. The minute they
smelled her on me, they would want her too.

“You better make it a good time, son,” Hank said. Of the group of them,
Hank was actually the safest for me to talk to. He already had a mate, Cullen’s
mother, Fiona. She was one of the last of the full-blooded she-bears alive. She
lived apart from us, up in the Yukon, but Hank was no threat to Nora. But,
Trevor, Rafe, Bo and even Cullen struggled to control their wilder sides. I saw
it in the darkening of their own eyes, the way Bo bared his teeth. In the back,
Rafe seemed to be having the worst time of all of them. He shimmered with an
impending shift. Hank wisely kept several of the men between us until he got a
hold of it.

I stepped outside and closed the front door. They would have to kill me
to get past me, and I banked on the fact they weren’t ready to take things that
far no matter what Simon wanted.

“What do you want?” I said. I kept my fist closed around the doorknob
behind me. I could sense Nora moving through the house. I’d told her to stay in
the bedroom, but I felt her getting closer. I wished I had the power to command
her with just my mind. She was curious. Though she didn’t understand it yet,
she could sense the danger around me and would be drawn to it. But God, if the
rest of them caught sight of her, things could go so deadly wrong.

“You’ve got the girl in there,” Hank said. “Don’t even try to deny it.
You know damn well every one of us standing here can sense her. We need to talk
to her. Now.”

“Not happening. None of you are getting anywhere near her.”

“Jax,” Cullen said. Pain came into his eyes. If I were calmer, I might
have had sympathy for his dilemma. Now, I just fantasized about ripping his
damn arms off if he tried to get any closer to her. “We have legitimate
questions where she’s concerned. You’re not thinking straight right now.”

“The hell I’m not. Let me make this clear. Any one of you try to put so
much as a toe across this threshold, I’m going to take that as a direct challenge.
This is my home. Nora has claimed sanctuary here. Any move against her is a
move against me, so choose carefully.”

“Fine by me,” Trevor growled. He pushed his way to the front of the
group and stood nose to nose with me. “You’re thinking with your dick, Jax. And
right now, that’s putting the entire ridge at risk.”

“There’s no risk if you just back the hell off. I’m not going to warn
you again.”

Trevor growled again and slammed his fist into the side of the house.
The windows rattled, and I sensed Nora’s movements again. She was upstairs
still, but had come to the front of the house. No doubt she was watching
through one of the windows. If anyone saw her, this could escalate even more.

“She’s working for Damon Spence,” Trevor said.

“Not anymore,” I answered.

“So you don’t even deny it?”

I shook my head. “She was nothing to him. He was using her. She isn’t
allied with him. Plus, she’s here now.” I bit my tongue to stop myself from
saying what was on the tip of it.
She’s here now, and she’s mine
. I
wasn’t yet ready to let them know what I’d figured out about Nora. That was
still just between us, no matter what they could scent on me.

“And you’re not in the best position to make that judgment,” Trevor
fired back. “Good God. I can’t believe we are even out here discussing this.
Are the rest of you really going to take his word for any of this?”

“Calm down,” Hank said. He put a hand on Trevor’s shoulder. “We have a
lot more questions than answers right now. We aren’t going to react out of
emotion. We’re going to get all the facts and then decide.”

“We already have all the facts we need,” Trevor said. “Evidence, Jax.
We have hard evidence. Damon Spence contacted Simon today. He sent an email
with a file attachment. You want to know what was on it?”

Acid burned through my heart. Trevor took his phone out of his back
pocket and pulled up his camera roll. “Flip through those,” he said. “Look real
close. Spence forwarded those along with an ultimatum.”

I wanted to take that phone and shove it down his damn throat, but my
pounding heart and a sick feeling made it impossible for me not to look. I took
the phone from him and started swiping. They were photographs of the woods
surrounding the pioneer cabin. Stills, landscapes, close ups of some of the
flora and fauna. It looked exactly like what Nora claimed they were. These were
nature photographs, damn good ones. They were just the kind of thing you’d see in
a calendar. I tried to hand the phone back to Trevor.

“Keep going,” he said. “I think you’ll especially like the last few
frames.”

My fingers trembled, but I kept swiping. The last few photographs made
my heart stop. Nora had taken pictures of me. She found the bear. I scrolled a
few more times and the last three shots gutted me. She’d captured me in
mid-shift.

I crushed the phone in my palm, breaking the glass. I threw it to the
ground and crossed my arms in front of me.

“Damon has those, son,” Hank said. “Do you understand? He’s threatening
to go public.”

I shook my head. “Let him. Nobody is going to believe him or even
understand what those are. They’ll think they’re like that Patterson-Gimlin
footage of Bigfoot, for God’s sake. Nothing but a hoax.”

“You sure about that?” Trevor said.

“Yeah. I’m sure about that. Now get the hell out of here. I’ve said all
I want to say to you today.”

“Dammit!” Trevor smashed his fist into the side of the house again.
This time, Cullen stepped forward and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Let me talk to Jax alone,” Cullen said. “This is going nowhere.”

I expected Trevor to turn around and haul off on Cullen. Surprisingly,
he didn’t. He just turned toward him, gritted his teeth and nodded. A look
passed between the others, and Hank led them all off. He squeezed Cullen’s arm
and brought up the rear as they moved off my porch and headed down the trail.
This left Cullen and me alone.

He turned back to me. “Come on, man, this is us. What the hell’s going
on with you?”

I couldn’t answer him. Hell, he knew the answer already. A part of me
hated that it looked like I’d lied to him. I’d sworn up and down Nora was
nobody. Her presence here alone was enough to shatter that claim.

“Cullen, don’t. Leave this one alone. And I need you to believe me.
Nora is no threat to us. Not now. Not ever.”

Cullen sighed. “I want to believe you. Hell, you’re probably right. She
probably had no idea who she was dealing with about the Spences. I get that.
But, you need to let us question her. You can’t go off by yourself again when
it’s something like this. Something that impacts all of us.”

“So are you going to challenge me, Cullen, if I don’t let you talk to
her?”

He pursed his lips and shook his head. “Don’t do it, man. It’s not
worth it. We just got you back. Can’t you see that’s why this looks so bad? A
year ago, it was the Lord family who brought wolves into our business. Then you
go off and leave your crew and your claim. You have no idea how much I had to
fight to keep Simon away. Those few men he poached were nothing compared to
what he was after. Don’t give him a reason to banish you for good.”

The word hung in the air. Banishment. It was the worst thing the clans
could do to a bear. To be stripped of our land, our claim, and our place here
on the ridge was tantamount to a death sentence. It meant we had no safe place,
no right to hunting lands. Banished bears were also forced to sever ties with
their mates and could never claim another. Worst of all, if a banished bear
wandered onto any other clan lands, they could be hunted and killed.

“He has no cause to banish me. Nora isn’t responsible for whatever
Damon Spence is up to this time.”

Cullen sighed and shook his head. “Really? Are you really sure about
that? Are you telling me she
didn’t
take those pictures and give them to
him? What makes you think you haven’t played right into her hands? You don’t
even know her.”

“I
know
her,” I said. It must have seemed absurd to Cullen to
hear it. But, he didn’t know. Hell, until an hour ago, I didn’t know. But, the
moment I took Nora into my arms and claimed her, there could be no doubt about
where her loyalties lay. She was part of
my
clan now, forever if she
wanted to be.

“You’re wrong.” Heat shot through me. Nora had opened the front door
and stood behind me. Hairs sprouted on the back of my neck, and my bear eyes
flashed. Having Cullen this close to her and me between them was more dangerous
than she understood yet. That was my fault.

Cullen’s eyes went wide. Sweat beaded his brow. I knew every instinct
he had would make him want her too. I just hoped like hell he could control
those instincts before I had to rip his throat out.

“Nora,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. “I need you to go back
inside.”

She stood strong and defiant with her hands on her hips. She couldn’t
possibly understand the danger she was in. “I’m not working for Damon Spence
anymore,” she said. “I had no idea what was on my camera until just this
afternoon. And I’m not the one who gave them to Damon. That was Aaron, his son.
He stole them from me. I swear on my life I don’t want any harm to come to the
bears on this ridge. And Jax isn’t to blame for any of this.”

Cullen growled. God, I knew how hard it was for him to keep his bear in
check. I could barely do it myself. I moved, putting my body more squarely
between him and Nora. Her eyes flicked to mine and widened. She took a step
back, finally realizing how bad this might get. As scared as I was for her, it
was instinct compelling her to confront the threat she felt from Cullen. Right
now, she probably didn’t even realize why. I did, though; if I had any doubt
about who and what she was, this was proof. Cullen’s eyes widened as he looked
from her to me and back again.

“I hope you’re right,” Cullen said. “I swear I do.”

“Cullen,” I stepped forward. I put a firm hand on his shoulder. Tension
poured off him. He was dangerously close to a shift. I hoped he still had
enough command of logic to quell his bear and heed my advice. “You need to get
out of here now.”

Cullen nodded. His eyes pleaded with me. “I’ll go. But this isn’t the
end of this. You have to know this. Simon wants a reckoning, and he’s got support
from some of the other clans now. I’m sorry, Jax, but this might just be the
thing that tips it against you. I’m your friend. You know that. But I don’t
think I’m going to be able to stop this, this time.”

“Stop what?” Nora asked.

Cullen looked at her again then back at me. “You need to tell her
everything,” he said. “If you’re serious about who she is to you, she can’t be
kept in the dark.”

I nodded. “I know.”

“Jax?” Nora moved toward me again. She put a hand on my back. My skin
prickled with heat where she touched me. Despite everything, desire flared
through me again. I’d need to claim her again, and soon.

“If the clans vote to banish Jax from these lands,” Cullen said, “he’ll
have nowhere else to go. Jax, your father didn’t just leave for the Yukon to
get some space.”

“What are you saying?” My blood ran cold.

Cullen sensed my fears. “He wasn’t banished. I’m not saying that. If he
was, you’d have been sent off with him. You know how it works. But, it wasn’t
his idea to relinquish his claim to the mines to you. It was a condition of
letting you stay. They did it so you could have a chance to prove your loyalty
in your own right. But, I’m afraid that’s not a lot of slack. One bad move like
bringing an outsider onto clan lands like this, I don’t know. It’s going to be
very hard to make a case that you should stay. Just think about that. And
remember, I’m on your side.”

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