Romance: Stranded With The Lion: BBW Paranormal Shapeshifter Romance (BBW Shifter Romance, Werebear Romance, Paranormal Shapeshifter Romance)

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Stranded With The Lion

 

Ashley Hunter

 Copyright 2015 by Ashley Hunter

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced

in any way whatsoever, without written permission

from the author, except in case of brief

quotations embodied in critical reviews

and articles.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any

person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

First edition, 2015

 

Chapter 1

 

When Indrid Liander was six years old, she had witnessed a terrible event in front of her own home. While—at the time—domestic disturbances weren’t out of the norm and even common in the area she grew up in, the situation was permanently glued to her mind.

Memories of red and blue lights flashing through the curtains of the living room, the sounds of screaming, the eventual silence before hours passed and the matter was all but gone. Ingrid’s mother had told her specifically to stay inside and not interfere, and obedient, Ingrid did as she was told.

The event concerned some of her neighbors. A man and a woman whose screams often woke up their family in the middle of the night. Some people just fight a lot, her mother had explained, even though it had become a nuisance. It had escalated that day, to the point where their screams took them outside the house and the sound of shattering glass and wood followed hard enough to spark alarm.

The man had struck the woman hard enough that she bled. This Ingrid has seen through the window. She may have been ordered to stay inside, but she couldn’t help her curiosity to see what was going on. She had peered out the curtains and pressed her nose flush against the cool glass to see a police officer pull the woman away by her arms, blood poured from her forehead and down her face, and she struggled and screamed herself hoarse.

Ingrid could never forget the sight of so much blood, the wild feral look in the woman’s face as she shouted at the man. The man was eventually handcuffed, dragged away, and the lights flashed and faded away. Not long after, her mother returned through the door of their house, looking somber and exhausted.

Ingrid had approached her with slow caution, wide eyed and hoping for answers she knew she might not receive.

When she had meekly mumbled out a small, “Mommy?” her mother glanced at her with a soft smile before crouching down and pulling the young girl into her arms.

“There are always two sides of a story, Ingrid,” her mother had said into her ear after a long while. Ingrid was confused but listened anyway.

“Remember that, alright, sweetheart? There are always two sides of a story… you must never judge or take sides until you’re sure you know both sides of the story.”

Why her mother had said that, Ingrid didn’t know and she never really found out.

Years later, the event had become a simple recount of something common that occurred where they lived and Ingrid moved on with her life.

Yet she never forgot her mother’s words and as she grew, she was able to understand what her mother had meant with her words and the lesson she was trying to teach.

The words had shaped Ingrid for most of her adolescent life, allowed her to enter adulthood with an understanding mind. She wasn’t fond of confrontation and because of her desire to find out both sides to stories told, Ingrid became specialized as a small town advocate for wrongfully imprisoned people.

She was the youngest officer in the small town to become such a professional. Unfortunately, there was only so much idealism could get you in life and Ingrid soon discovered the hard way, that sometimes getting both sides of a story wasn’t enough.

At first, she had enjoyed being able to help people, assist in any way possible. But there was a difference between helping someone, and swaying that person’s favor. Opinions once sealed in stone were the hardest to break and it didn’t matter how much evidence there was to prove someone’s innocence.

Once a side of the story leaked out and first impressions set, people picked sides and stuck to them with a frightening resolve that had left Ingrid locking her door at night and staying up until the early hours of the morning.

She had only done her job…

That wouldn’t be enough, it seemed.

Soon, it became almost impossible to walk around without having someone throw you a scathing look for helping a man walk out of jail. Even her own co-workers hated her, or so she believed.

There was only one of them… her name was Linda. She seemed to be the only one who really cared.

“You know,” Linda had said one afternoon at the firm.

“You should disappear…”

Ingrid blinked up at her startled. The blonde shook her head fervently, wiping away some juice from her lip.

She placed her can of orange tang down before leaning over the dark haired woman’s desk, “I didn’t mean it like that. I mean, take a sojourn… like just take a break from this god-forsaken town, y’know?”

“I can’t do that, Linda,” Ingrid sighed, returning to the appeal forms now blotted in ink.

“There’s too much to be done.”

“And what reward is that getting you, eh?” Linda stressed, reaching over to press a hand over Ingrid’s wrist. Ingrid blinked up, looking into Linda’s concerned baby blues.

“When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?”

Ingrid frowned lightly, before looking away and returning to her writing.

“It hardly matters… if I were a man, things would be different.”

“But you’re not, Ingrid.” Linda said, taking another sip of her fruity beverage and glancing out the woman’s window.

“I have this cabin… up in the woods. Way up in rich man’s land, if you know what I mean… no one around here would bother you and it’s far enough away that you could find some peace of mind.”

“Linda, I told you I can’t—”

The other woman shook her head, “Just think about it okay? I’m worried about you.”

Ingrid watched her friend give her a strained smile before leaving and for a while she honestly hoped that she wouldn’t need to. But of course… things couldn’t be easy and they wouldn’t get better.

It had taken several more broken windows and hurtful messages to make Ingrid consider the idea of taking a break, lay low, maybe have an extended vacation until things cooled down.

But in all actuality, who knew how long it would take? Three weeks and she put in a word with her boss, asked for a vacation and surprisingly, the man said yes.

“Perhaps it’s best if you do leave town for a little while,” Craigson had said, rubbing at the stress lines on his forehead.

“Maybe then the press will cut us a break.”

“Wait—you mean this whole situation is because of
me
?” Ingrid asked, baffled. “
You
were the one who told me to take that case! How is any of this my fault?”

The older man sighed, “No one said anything about fault, Liander. But for some strange reason you seem to be the obvious scapegoat everyone wants to take out.”

“I helped an innocent man out of death row!”

Craigson gave her a soft smile, “It takes more than that to prove his innocence. The public isn’t convinced… Take this vacation, Ingrid. Take as long as you possibly need… hopefully this whole thing will die down.”

There was a pained silence and Ingrid could feel tears threaten to burn her eyes and the force choke her throat. “…And if it doesn’t?”

Craigson’s words made the decision final. “That’s why I said hopefully.”

 

Chapter 2

 

Once someone is demonized, it literally takes thousands of miracles to set them free. Eventually, Ingrid packed her bags of everything she had, which fit in the trunk of her car—and left the town and followed the directions Linda had given her on a piece of paper and a harmless good luck.

It was somewhat cruel, seeing the sights as she left the familiar streets. She once had warmth here, had people who greeted her warmly and thanked her for her deeds.

Now… It seemed it took only one little switch before everyone turned against her.

Surprisingly enough, however, Ingrid didn’t cry and as she left the limits of the small city, she would dare say she even felt somewhat relieved.

Maybe this was what she needed… a chance to be away.

When Ingrid was finally within the road of the mountainous woods, she allowed herself to lower a window and pull her hair down. The knot of frazzled waves expanded around her shoulders and for the first time in a long time, Ingrid felt like she could
breathe.

After some time, she allowed her hands to reach over to the radio and pop in an old CD and allowed herself to sing along to Bob Marley’s easy-going voice.

The sun had been high when she had left, and had sunk into the earth when she had arrived. The cabin was small, comfortable for a family of four, and spacious for her. She unlocked it, and was greeted by a small paper message that Linda must have left for her.

The place is yours for as long as you need! Make new adventures!

Ingrid rolled her eyes but smiled anyway, before entering the wooden sanctuary. After settling down, Ingrid sat on the squishy sofa, and allowed herself to dream of a world where things were a little bit different.

 

Chapter 3

 

“Where the
hell
is this stupid lake?”

A couple of days later, and the isolation was driving Ingrid insane. Which was, in it of itself, an amusing little situation because she had lived the past ten years on her own.

Even so, there was a difference.

Between living in a house where it was surrounded by noise… the sounds of cars and of people all around. The forest was quiet, tranquil… almost too tranquil.

“Can’t even get good TV here,” She grumbled to herself, stumbling over another rock in a winding trail.

In the past couple of days, Ingrid had kept herself busy, kept herself moving and doing something. She had even redecorated the place… a few times.

She wasn’t used to sleeping for so long and so sleeping in was hard to do when her body was already wired to shoot up at the mere mention of daylight.

Lucky for her, Linda had left her a few things for her to entertain herself with. A few choice movies to help her relax—like the latest action films, or at-home exercise videos—and directions to nearby hotspots where she could enjoy nature.

Hiking was never a forte, so traveling up one of the mountain peaks wasn’t up on her list. Supposedly, there was a zip line some ways away from the cabin but Ingrid had gotten lost several times trying to find the damn thing.

There were a few other things… like hot springs but that required driving and her car had all but run out of gas on the way here and she was saving every drop for the return home. Leaving only a large lake or the Estate of some rich guy living a few hundred acres away.

Lake it was.

And she had been walking for quite a while now…

“Next time I see you, Linda, I’m going to have to instruct you in the fine arts of cartography,” Ingrid sighed as she stared at the confusing arrows and scribbles on the paper in her hands.

“Where even am I?”

Ingrid turned around and looked at the way she came, staring at the tall sycamores and beech trees and seeing their leaves and needles rustle with each breeze.

Each gust of warm air brought forth a simple flavor of different scents that made up the woods around her and Ingrid allowed herself to take it in and calm down. She had been walking for about an hour, maybe two, and hadn’t had much luck.

Still, she was certain she knew her way back (she’d seen enough of Survivorman to know better than to leave traces or marks to help her) and she found herself caught between trudging on or calling it quits.

Go back…
to what though? A lonely cabin and canned peaches?

Biting her lip, Ingrid glanced down at the poorly drawn map in her hands. She didn’t really have many options and she wasn’t too keen on heading back any time soon.

Plus, she was leaving little marks on the trees… she’d be able to find her way back if she gets too lost… right?

Ingrid took in a breath and looked back in the direction of the lake (or so she hoped it was) and set her shoulders.

A few more minutes of walking couldn’t hurt, even if hiking did suck… it was better than sitting around or following some trollop’s advice on how to do proper squats (honestly all the posturing is wrong).

It’s not like Ingrid was an expert or anything and she wasn’t particularly slim like the models on the video either. But maybe that’s what it was… all that
slimness
that insisted it was the real thing.

She wasn’t bitter, but she was certainly tired of being called a fat cow when she could very well outrun half the people at her own firm. She was bulky, yes. But she was strong and fit and big boned, and there was nothing wrong with that.

If anything, Ingrid was rather pleased with the fact she had a little extra on her bones. It made her feel like she didn’t have to hide in salads when she really wanted to chow down on a burger in order to save face.

“What I wouldn’t do for a burger right now, though.” She mused to herself, wistfully.

The cabin was fully stocked and had all the lovely things to cook, but if there was any therapy Ingrid needed, it was probably in a big juicy burger.

The sun was slightly lower in the sky after Ingrid made her final stumble over a rock. She nearly bit out a loud curse when she nearly landed on her face, but her irritation fell apart when she saw the telltale sign of a beach through the long figures of trees.

Making a relieved noise, the young twenty seven year old scrambled back to her feet and stuffed the stupid map in her pocket.

She paused over a sapling, quickly marking a large X with a red marker she kept in a back pocket, before nearly sprinting for the waterline.

The beach wasn’t particularly fantastic, but it did gape open into a beautiful view and a very large and still lake. The water was practically untouched and wide enough to reflect the raging colors of the blue sky above and the scenery below it.

For a solid minute, Ingrid was breathless and she caught herself vaguely wishing she was a photographer.

After a few minutes, Ingrid began to walk along the edge of the beach, daring to near the water and breathing in its fresh scent. It was somewhat murky and she knew the moisture in the air would make her hair frazzle again, but there was a genuine contentment in her chest.

“If only I had someone to share it with…” She muttered.

Ten years alone does a lot to a person’s self esteem… but a few burgers should cheer her up.

“First thing I’m doing when I head back home is getting Marl’s Jr.”

Hurrying back to the space where she had broken out of, Ingrid fastened a few rocks into a little pyramid—to remind here where to head back—before sliding out of her ankle boots and socks.

The sand was grainy and kind of hurt when she stepped but softened up considerably the closer she got to the edge where water lapped against the earth gently. She waded in, shivering when the water tugged its frosty kiss around her toes before reaching her ankles.

Ingrid smiled to herself, before realizing that just several feet away a small school of minnows were darting away from where she entered.

Beaming, she went after them, delighting in how her splashes sent them flashing away in displays of diamond turns before disappearing into the depths. This place was beautiful, and was easily becoming her favorite spot in the whole world.

Something in the distance let out a loud crack then, and Ingrid startled forward, spooked. It sounded like a thick branch being torn apart and it echoed around the edges of nature.

What the hell…?

Pushing away from the water, Ingrid waited in silence. Her feet were slightly pink from the chill of the water and the breeze felt colder over her calves but she dared not move for a moment.

Something pulled her then, that same daring that made her pursue difficult cases to find out the stories of her clients, made her ensure she had all the cards in her hands. She was curious, no doubt about it, but… then again she was alone.

Tons of stories of women going missing in the woods and never being seen again were common, to the point that after a few days no one would search for them anymore.

Who knew what kind of lowlife hung around the woods preying on people around here?

“The entire area is owned by some rich guy,”
Linda had insisted when Ingrid had given her concerns about leaving.

“So no one is going to be there trespassing. I promise. It’s perfectly safe.”

“Wait… wouldn’t that mean I’m trespassing too?”
Ingrid inquired.

Linda waved her off with a grin,
“Nah. That cabin’s been owned by my family for generations. It’s actually one of the deals we have with the guy—not that I’ve ever met him, in fact all I know is that he’s a recluse and a very rich one at that—but he’s let us keep our cabin so long as we stay clear from him.”

“Yeah like
that
doesn’t sound fishy at all,”
Ingrid said.

“Oh, would you just get going already?”
Linda shooed her off.

“If it helps you feel any better there’s a ranger’s station not a mile away from where the cabin is. So if you’re really scared then you can go camp with them.

Ingrid had disliked being accused of being scared.

After handling some of the hardest cases with some rough individuals in the past, Ingrid felt like she deserved to be renowned as someone fearless—lionhearted even—she was only being cautious.

Still the sound did seem odd in the middle of nowhere. Ingrid glanced back to where her shoes lay and back where she suspected where the sound came from.

Maybe it’s the rangers?

For all she knew that could be the source.
Or it could be a bear.

As if. Bears hardly made noises like those and supposedly weren’t around this area at all.

Just some overgrown raccoon maybe, but that was it.

Wolf maybe?

That didn’t seem plausible either. Ingrid shifted her weight over her feet, antsy. She’d done it now. Hurrying back, she shook off the dirt and sand clinging to her wet skin before shoving on her socks and then her boots. It couldn’t hurt to go check it out right?

Ingrid pulled her hands up to her hair and pulled on the edges of her ponytail, fastening it tighter on her scalp.

With a nod to herself, she set off at a trot, hoping that whatever she found would be something that would be more interesting than terrifying.

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