Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1) (6 page)

BOOK: Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)
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“Fucking bitch!” he yelled as he got around me, rubbing his neck.
“You’re fucking finished. You got that? Fuck you.”

Then Aaron stumbled through the woods and out of sight, leaving me
alone in the woods with Jax again.

 

Chapter Six

Jax

 She had no way of knowing the strength it took for me to hold the bear
inside. I’d sensed Nora the second she took her first steps toward the trail
back toward the cabin. I would have stayed away, but a whiff of danger reached
me. Just the tiniest change in the air. Then that smarmy little prick put his
hands on her and everything went white.

“Are you okay?” I asked, straining to keep my voice more human than
growl. I could tell by her widening eyes I wasn’t really succeeding.

I faced the tree and put a hand out to steady myself before I turned
around. If I moved too quickly, she’d see my eyes darkening to almost black as
the bear hovered just below the surface. Fuck. I needed to get a handle on it
or I’d scare her to death. She couldn’t see. I couldn’t risk letting her see.

“I’m okay,” she answered, and I heard the strain in her own voice as
she held something back as well. “He’s just…ugh. He’s just Aaron. He’s a weasel
mostly, but he’s harmless. Thank you though. I get that you thought I was in
danger. That was, uh, chivalrous. A little extreme, maybe, but chivalrous.
Really, I don’t think he was going to hurt me.”

I curled my fingers into a fist and turned toward her then. “He was.
Maybe not right that second, but that guy is trouble.” She couldn’t have sensed
what I did. Aaron’s veins ran thick with contempt for her. He wanted to control
her. He thought she was beneath him. The bears of Wild Ridge had tangled with
the Spence family for generations. They had no concrete proof about our
natures, but Damon Spence’s father had spent a lifetime trying to out us. It
looked like his grandson was picking up the family business. What Nora was
doing hanging around a sniveling shit like that, I couldn’t guess.

She stood with her hands on her hips. Two spots of color came into her
cheeks. She let out a breath and blew away a strand of hair just over her brow.
I resisted the urge to cross the distance between us and tuck that strand
behind her ear. She bit her lip and looked behind her where Aaron had fled.
Fucking douche. He didn’t know me either, but I’m sure his family had told him
all the rumors they believed about us. We were monsters. Hell, that we were
Bigfoot. And he’d brought her out here into the woods anyway. At the first sign
of trouble, he’d been willing to just run off and leave her alone. He thought
she was trash. I dug my fingers into the palm of my hands to keep the rage
inside. I could have killed him. If he’d acted on the roiling lust inside of
him without her consent, I would have ripped him in half.

“He’s something all right,” she admitted. “Unfortunately, he was also
kind of my boss.”

When she saw me raise a brow she put a hand up. “I know. I know. He
represents a serious lack of judgment on my part. You don’t even know the half
of it.”

I dropped my shoulder and smiled. Relief flooded through me. Nora was
safe. And she was right here in front of me. “I suppose we should stop meeting
like this.”

Nora let out a nervous laugh that sent goosebumps skittering down my
arm. When she smiled it warmed me from the inside out. I let my guard down for
a second and took a deep breath. Her scent poured over me. Strong, sweet, Nora.
The bear bristled from within.

“You’re hurt,” she said, stepping forward. Before I thought to pull
away, Nora took my right hand in hers and tilted my palm toward her. I’d gouged
three red crescent-shaped lines there from clenching my fist too tightly. The
tree bark had also scraped the skin away from my knuckles. Nora circled a
finger around the wound then reached into her back pocket. She pulled out a
pink scarf and wrapped my hand with it. Smiling, I drew my hand back. I was
grateful for the scarf, but not for the reason she thought. If she’d looked at
the wounds a second longer, she would have seen the flesh knit right in front
of her.

What would she have done then? Would she have recoiled in fear? Would
she have pulled me closer? I blinked hard to drive the thoughts away. I
couldn’t risk her knowing who and what I was. The Wild Ridge bears were already
on edge knowing she’d found me hibernating. If any of them realized she’d come
back here and I’d made contact with her a second time, it wouldn’t just be me
at risk. They’d start to grow suspicious of her and what she was. Now, I knew
she was working with the Spence family. God, no amount of explaining it away
would help.

The bear stirred within me. Nora smiled up at me and rubbed her hand
over the scarf. What made her so bold? Couldn’t she sense something different
about me like most women did? It should have made her afraid. Instead, she
seemed drawn to it.

“Thanks,” I said, pulling my hand away from her and holding up the hand
she’d wrapped. “It’s just a scratch.”

“Right. Well, thanks again, tough guy. I really do appreciate it. I
promise though, I’m not usually the kind of girl who needs this much rescuing.”

“I don’t mind,” I said. Her soft laugh made my dick ache. God, I wanted
to hear more of it. A vision flashed of watching her under me, giggling with
pleasure as I touched her in all the right places.

I backed away from her. No good could come out of taking this any
further with her.

“I don’t suppose you have a cell phone on you this time, do you?” she
asked. “Unfortunately, Aaron was my ride. My purse is in his car. All I’ve got
to defend myself is my camera. Again.”

I laughed and reached for her. I swear I hadn’t intended it. But, being
this close to her changed something in me. It was like I couldn’t breathe right
if I wasn’t touching her. I l lifted a hand to her face, almost daring her to
back away. She didn’t though. She just smiled as I ran my thumb along her jaw
and finally smoothed that curl away from her eyes.

This was a problem though. Once again, she wasn’t going to make it off
Wild Ridge without my help. The help she needed meant I’d have to take her back
to my place so I could drive her home. My heart raced. The longer Nora stayed
on the ridge with me, the more likely somebody was going to notice. We weren’t
in the habit of bringing non-shifters, let alone ones armed with cameras and
working for the Spence family, onto our lands. The last thing I needed was
Simon or one of his crew sniffing around and asking questions.

“Come on,” I said, realizing the best way to get rid of her was to take
her with me. I couldn’t help that my blood simmered with desire at the thought
of that. “I don’t live very far from here. I’ll drive you anywhere you need to
go.”

Nora surprised me then. She took my other hand in hers. And yet, my
nerves sizzled from it. Her blue eyes widened with shock, and I knew it
affected her too. Then, I led her down the trail. We walked in trusting
silence. Nora’s step was light. She felt easy with me, and I knew she had to be
questioning why. Hell, I questioned it. Except that deep down I knew the
answer. Before I could even form my thoughts into sentences, the bear stirred.

She’s mine.

We rounded the last curve in the trail. I put a hand on the small of
Nora’s back to keep her from slipping on the rockier terrain. She didn’t need
it though. Tall and athletic, her step was sure. I felt her sharp intake of air
as she saw my cabin. My blood warmed with relief that the scene pleased her.

“This is you?” she said, practically gasping her words. Nora turned to
me and her smile melted me.

“This is me.”

She turned back. I’d built the cabin into the hillside using massive
beams of sturdy pine. The side facing the ridge had huge picture windows. I’d
built decking all around so I could sit and enjoy the view from inside or out.
To the east, you could see the falls in the distance. A light mist hung over
the treetops and the sun shone bright.

“Jax, it’s gorgeous!” Nora let go of my hand and ran down the hill. My
heart leaped to watch her. She looked like she belonged here.

She does
.

“Quiet, bear,” I muttered as Nora took the wooden porch steps two at a
time. She leaned over the railing and breathed in the crisp air. I straightened
my back and went to her. It took everything in me not to come behind her and
let her lean against my chest.

“Do you mind?” she asked, pulling her camera off of her shoulder and
fiddling with the lens cap.

Alarm bells went off in me. “Yes. Actually, I do mind. This place is
private. You can take all the pictures you want on the public land closer to
the ridge. Not here. Come on, I’ll get my keys. You’re probably itching to get
home.”

Nora turned. The light was in her eyes making them shine like
gemstones. “You built all this, didn’t you?”

I nodded. “I had help. My dad and I did it together.”

“You work in the mines, don’t you.” It was a statement, not a question.
She might have meant nothing by it, but the voices of Simon and the others
seemed to hover behind me. She was an outsider. She could be trouble.

“Yes,” I answered simply. Then, I invited her in. Nora rubbed her upper
arms and I resisted the urge to wrap my arms around her to make her warm again.
She was human, after all. In fact, other than my sister, she was the only human
non-shifter who’d ever set foot in my house. Olivia, my sister, always
complained I kept the place too cold.
Too cold for you
, I’d always told
her. But perfect for a bear.

I missed Olivia now. She would know what to make of Nora. Like my
mother, she had a second sight about things. She could see glimpses of the
future. I would have asked her whether my instincts were right about Nora. Was
she like Olivia, just a human girl? Or was she like my mother? If she was only
human, being with me would only get her hurt. But, for now, bringing Olivia
back to the ridge would be a worse transgression than having another
non-shifter here.

“I’d like to see them, someday,” Nora said. “The mines, I mean.”

“Sorry, but didn’t you just get fired from the Vista Foundation? What
possible reason could you have for wanting to nose around in our business?”

My voice came out gruffer than I wanted, but the sentiment didn’t. We
had something unique going at Wild Ridge Mining Company. Environmental
conservation mattered to us more than even some self-serving politician or the
meddling Spence family. This was
our
land. Our life. We could manage it
best if left alone.

Nora took a step back. Some of the color drained from her face, and I
immediately regretted my harsh tone. God. What was it about this girl? She
brought out every protective instinct I had and most of the baser ones too. She
was a stranger. She had connections to people that never did anything good for
our kind.

“Yeah. Well, I guess that’s your fault, isn’t it?” Her brow furrowed
and even though she was pissed at me, I couldn’t help thinking how badly I
wanted to kiss that scowl away. Fuck.

“You’re too trusting,” I said, not even trying to hide the bubbling
emotions I felt. “I’ve met you twice now. Both times you’re willing to just run
off with men who might do you harm. You should be more careful.”

She put her hands on her hips. “Are you? Going to do me harm?”

“What do you think?” I took a step forward. Pressure built behind my
eyes and I knew if I wasn’t careful, they would darken as she looked into them.

Nora didn’t back down. She met my gaze and narrowed her own eyes. She
cocked her head to the side as she sized me up. One beat. Two. Nora was looking
for something in my face. A challenge. She sensed something different about me;
I could feel it. She set her jaw and reached up for mine. Her fingers trailed
along the stubble of my chin. A spark of electricity shot between us, but Nora
stood her ground.

“I don’t know what to think,” she finally said after blinking first.
“You’re strange, Jaxon Lord. That’s for damn sure. But, you’re interesting. I
want to know more about you.”

I pulled away. “No. I promise you, you don’t. Come on. It’s going to be
dark soon. I need to get you home.”

The moment passed and Nora dropped her shoulders. The hurt look in her
eyes stabbed through me. But, it was better for her to think I was just another
asshole.

“No,” she said. “You don’t have to take me home. You can take me to the
diner off of M-28. I can catch a bus from there. I don’t live far. I’ve caused
you enough trouble.”

“Fine,” I said, hating to sound harsh. “You’re right.”

Nora adjusted her camera strap over her shoulder. Then she turned and
gestured toward the door. “I’ll wait out here.”

I felt like an ass. She was angry with me now. The truth was, if I let
her stay here much longer, I might try to find a reason to ask her to stay. My
balls tightened just thinking about what it would be like to spend the night
with Nora Gentry. The air went out of me as my lust flared hot. The bear
rumbled, and I hoped Nora just took it for thunder in the distance.

“My keys are in the truck. This way.”

She followed me down the steps and around the back of the house. I
opened the door for her. She shot that scowl up at me as she brushed past me
and got into the passenger seat. Lord help me, I leaned in and let the scent of
her hair fill my nostrils. It was all I was likely to get of her and I wanted
to make it last. I still clutched her pink scarf in my fist. When she looked
away, I brought that up to my nose and let it intoxicate me.

BOOK: Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)
8.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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