Authors: Liv Brywood
The Cowbear’s Secret Christmas Baby
The Cowbear’s Secret Christmas Baby
Sexy cowboy Brady Grant belongs in Rachel’s past. But after a final round of chemotherapy fails to cure her son’s leukemia, she’s forced to hunt down the man who broke her heart. Her only hope of saving her son is to convince his father to undergo a dangerous operation. But before she can ask for his help, she must reveal the secret she’s been hiding for four years. Brady’s stunned by Rachel’s deception, but he can’t contain his bear’s carnal response to the BBW’s seductive curves. While he struggles to forgive her secret, he must risk his own life to save his son’s.
Rachel whispered, “You should go.”
When he didn’t immediately respond, butterflies beat furiously in her belly. His breath came fast and hard. His eyes glimmered with unspoken desire. Close enough to see the wash of stubble on his cheeks, she flicked her tongue out to wet her lips and, in doing so, made a huge mistake.
In an instant, Brady wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. His lips slashed across hers in a demanding kiss that stole her breath. Even if she’d wanted to fight him, she couldn’t. She knew, without a doubt, that she’d awakened the beast lurking inside him—his bear.
His tongue slid between hers, eliciting a gasp from deep within her chest. All thoughts of fighting him vanished as he claimed her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him down to deepen the kiss. It had been so long since she’d kissed someone that the overwhelming rush of pleasure made her half-faint with wanton need.
He broke away long enough to gasp. “Which room?”
He scooped her into his arms as if she were lighter than a feather. When they reached the door, she yanked the keycard out of her jeans and jammed it into the lock. The second it clicked open, he kicked the door with his boot. He carried her inside and kicked the door closed behind him.
She couldn’t look at anything but the twin dark pools of desire in his eyes. The pure, masculine scent of erotic need rolled off of him in waves. She inhaled deeply, drawing in his essence.
After setting her down, he cupped her face with his palms. “If you want me to stop…”
She shook her head, unable to make her lips move. This was crazy, but she couldn’t think about the consequences now. She needed him, wanted him, and wouldn’t stop until she had him.
The Cowbear’s Secret Christmas Baby
The Cowbear’s Secret Christmas Baby
Copyright© 2015 Liv Brywood
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Rachel slumped back into the chair. Through a growing veil of tears. She stared at the doctor in disbelief. She glanced across the room to where Jimmy, her four-year-old son, sat playing with a pile of multi-colored blocks. “Are you sure?”
Dr. Landry’s eyes softened as she leaned forward to place her folded hands on the desk. “I called you as soon as I received the most recent results. I’m sorry, but the chemotherapy didn’t work. Jimmy’s going to need a stem cell transplant.”
Instantly lightheaded, Rachel fought to keep a levee of tears from breaking. She couldn’t fall apart in front of her son. She’d managed to get through the last year of leukemia treatments while hiding her grief from him. She had to be strong. As a single mom, she couldn’t afford to descend into the well of sadness that threatened to drown her.
“I thought this time… I thought it would work. You injected the chemo directly into his spine.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “He went through all that pain and all that time in the hospital. And for what?”
Dr. Landry sighed. “After chemo, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia usually goes into remission in ninety-five percent of cases. But since his father’s a bear shifter, Jimmy’s DNA isn’t typical.”
The sudden loss of hope drained the energy from Rachel’s body. “What else can we do?”
“Mommy, when are you going to come and play with me?” Jimmy asked in the demanding tone of a four-year-old.
“I’ll be there in a minute, honey.”
He gingerly set a red block on top of a green block. “I made a Christmas tree.”
“It looks great. Dr. Jennifer and I are almost done talking.”
As she turned back to the doctor, she steeled herself against a rising tide of despair. She wouldn’t stop fighting until they found a cure. “What do we do next?”
“Does he have any brothers or sisters?”
Not that she knew of, anyway. He could have a half-brother or half-sister out there somewhere, but it was unlikely. She hadn’t spoken to Brady, Jimmy’s father, in over four years. As far as she knew, he’d joined the Marines and had left for Afghanistan.
The doctor said, “What about his father? I know he’s not in the picture, but if he’s a good match, we could try an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. Typically we’d like to harvest healthy marrow from a brother or sister, but since he doesn’t have any, his father is the only other option.”
“Why can’t I do it?”
“Jimmy’s shifter DNA is preventing you from being a good match. Since you’re not a shifter, his body will reject the transplant.”
“Are you sure? Test my blood again.”
“We’ve tested it twice. I’m sorry, but we’re down to one option. Can you get in touch with his father?”
Rachel wrapped her arms across her trembling belly. “I haven’t talked to him since… well, since…”
The doctor shot her a questioning look. “Does he know he has a son?”
“No,” Rachel whispered.
“I don’t know what happened between you and Jimmy’s father, but your son needs a transplant as soon as possible.”
Rachel bit the edge of her lip. “I don’t know if Jimmy’s dad is even in the country. He might still be deployed.”
Dr. Landry said, “I suggest you find out. I can’t emphasize how much Jimmy needs this treatment. We’re out of other options.”
“What about the clinical trials? I thought you were close to a breakthrough.”
“We are close, but not close enough to try the treatment on children yet.”
“So there really aren’t any other options.”
Rachel smoothed her damp palms across her jeans. How the hell was she going to pull this off? Brady would kill her for keeping Jimmy a secret. But after what happened between them, she had every right to keep her son to herself.
The doctor leaned forward to place her hand over Rachel’s. “I know the last few months have been hard. I’m only a phone call away if you need to talk.”
She stood and walked to where Jimmy sat. He looked up at her with the same big brown eyes as his father. The day he was born, she knew he’d grow up to be the spitting image of his father. He’d be a real heartbreaker… if he lived long enough.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked.
He nodded. “I’m tired, Mommy.”
They’d been in the doctor’s office less than thirty minutes, but the light had already faded from his eyes. The familiar look of exhaustion turned his normally pale skin to a sickening shade of gray. A piece of her died every day that passed without a cure. She’d never wanted to talk to Brady again, but what choice did she have?
She clasped Jimmy’s hand in hers and led him through the snow-covered parking lot to the car. After buckling him into the car seat, she pulled out of the hospital parking lot. She paused at the intersection to Highway 191. She could turn right, go home, and hope that Dr. Landry could find a cure through her research.
Or, she could turn left and drive straight up to the small town of West Yellowstone. Her mother owned the Huckleberry Pie Shop on Electric Street. She could leave Jimmy with her while she made the trek out to Brady’s family’s ranch.
She squeezed the steering wheel. Although she wanted to avoid a confrontation with Brady’s brothers, she had no choice. They’d know if he was still in Afghanistan. She’d find a way to make them tell her. She wasn’t afraid of five bear shifters. So what if they could transform into grizzlies and tear her limb from limb? She’d face death in order to save her son. No one mattered more than him. Brady would be mad—no, he’d be furious—but he’d help her, wouldn’t he?
Hours later, she pulled into the parking lot behind the pie shop. Jimmy sat sleeping. She hated to have to wake him. The peaceful expression on his face was rare. She’d learned to treasure every moment of happiness he had in his short, painful life.
She stepped out of the car into the chilly winter wind. Clouds loomed in the distance. According to the news radio station, it wouldn’t snow until tonight. It was already three p.m. and the sun hung low in the horizon. The trip to the ranch would take at least thirty minutes, depending on how well the brothers had maintained the road. She’d be lucky to make it back by nightfall.
The back door to the pie shop swung open to reveal her mom. Dressed in a faux fur-lined teal jacket, matching boots, and a patchwork shirt and skirt, she exuded eccentricity. Wild blonde hair spiked out from under the hood. Two months ago her hair had been jet black and she’d shown up clad in a leather biker outfit. She changed her look faster than she changed the menu at her shop. But beyond the crazy outfits, her mom was the most wonderful woman in the world.
Hands on her hips and a grin on her face, June bustled over to the car. “Why didn’t you call? I would have had Leah take over the shop until closing.”
Rachel turned to embrace her mom. At fifty years old, June had the energy of someone half her age. She’d always said good food and good friends made for a long life.
“We just came up from the hospital.”
June frowned. “How’d it go?”
She glanced at her son to make sure he was still sleeping. “Not good. The doctor said he needs a bone marrow transplant.”
“Okay. I can help you through the surgery.”
Rachel shook her head. Her voice wavered. “Not from me.”
“What do you mean? Why not?”
“I don’t have any shifter blood. So…”
Her mom’s eyes widened with realization. “Oh, crap.”
“I have to find Brady.”
June let out a low whistle. “How do you plan to do that?”
“I’m going to the ranch.”
She shrugged. “It’s not like they’re going to tear me to pieces.”
June arched a brow. “Are you sure about that?”
Jimmy’s eyes fluttered open. “Namma!”
After swooping in to unbuckle him from the car seat, June scooped him up. “How’s my favorite grandson?”
He grinned. “I got to play with blocks.”
Rachel noted the flush on his cheeks. She placed the back of her hand to his forehead. It wasn’t hot. Thank God. Most of the time, he was so pale that even the slightest change was cause for alarm.
“I hate having to leave him with you, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Where are you going, Mommy?”
June said, “She needs to go visit her friend. Why don’t you come inside and I’ll get you a cup of hot cocoa.”
He shrieked, “With marshmallows?”
June laughed. “I have some that are peppermint-flavored.”
He screwed up his face. “I want the little ones.”
“I’ll let you try one and see if you like it,” June said.
Rachel rubbed her hands together before stuffing them into the pockets of her coat. “He needs lunch first. I gave him a snack on the road, but I didn’t even stop at home to grab a change of clothes. I just wanted to get here as quickly as possible.”
“Good thing I went to Packer’s and stocked up on Christmas presents. I should probably run over to Old Faithful Grocery to grab some toothbrushes.”
Rachel said, “I’m sorry I didn’t call. I hate putting you out like this.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I love surprise visits. I’ll take care of Jimmy. You should get going. The north road is plowed but the south road isn’t. Be careful, it can get icy when you get closer to the lake.”
“I will, Mom.”
“I’ll want a play-by-play when you get back.”
Rachel couldn’t help but smile. Although her mom was more of a best friend than a mother, she shifted between roles effortlessly. “If I’m not back by eight, send in the park rangers.”
“If you’re not back by eight, I’ll send in the Marines.” June laughed as she turned and walked with Jimmy toward the building.
As soon as the door to the shop closed, the smile fell from Rachel’s face. She climbed into the car and carefully pulled onto the main road. After turning onto the highway, she cranked the heater up. The old car rattled in protest before it relented and spit warmth into the car.
She’d had to sell her brand-new car when the first round of medical bills had rolled in. After the second round, she’d had to sell her jewelry except for one piece—the gold promise ring Brady had given her the night they’d broken up. She couldn’t bring herself to sell it or to give it away. At one point, she’d thought she was going to marry him. How could she have been so wrong?
Shadows stretched down from the pine trees which lined the highway. Darkness descended faster in the winter, but she should be able to reach the ranch by nightfall.
After almost missing the turn, she veered off onto the snow-plowed road. She hadn’t been to the ranch since the night she’d left Brady. Memories of warm winter nights in his arms flooded her mind. They’d been so in love. They’d spent every moment planning their future together. But a single conversation had destroyed everything. She’d been stunned by how quickly her life had changed.
As the road narrowed, she concentrated on keeping the car on the slippery road. One wrong move and she’d slide off into a ditch. She couldn’t risk having an accident. There’d be no one but her mom to take care of Jimmy. Rachel didn’t want to saddle her with the responsibility of raising her son. Her mom had enough trouble stretching the shop’s meager winter earnings until the summer. She couldn’t afford to take on anything more.
Overhead, the trees thickened. She flicked on the high beams to cut a path through the twilight. According to the odometer, she should be coming up to the turn-off for the ranch. She hoped she still recognized it.
Off to the left, the tree-line broke to reveal Hebgen Lake. The huge lake covered over twenty-one miles of land. She’d spent many summers swimming in the cool water and fishing with her dad. A twinge of pain pierced her heart. He’d died so young.
She’d just graduated high school when he’d fallen down one day and had never gotten up. The heart attack came without warning and stole the most important man in her life. Brady had been there for her through the horrible days, weeks, and months after the funeral. He’d never left her side, which made his announcement the night they’d broken up all the more devastating.
Her front wheel caught a patch of black ice, which sent her skidding around the corner. She turned into the spin and stopped just inches from the edge of the road. When she looked up, the headlights illuminated the sign for the ranch:
Curvy Bear Ranch, ¼ mile ahead
She took a deep breath and blew it out. She had to stay focused. She wasn’t here to rekindle old memories, she was here to find out how to get in touch with Jimmy and save her son’s life.
Brady stepped back toward the edge of the ring as the mustang reared up and snorted a puff of steamy air from his nostrils. The horse kicked and whinnied in a display of pure obstinacy. The second his hooves hit the floor, he took off at a frantic gallop. Although his right flank grazed the metal poles along the side of the ring, he didn’t stop.
Brady knew better than to get between a wild horse and the ring, so he stepped into the center of the circle. “Whoa, Fender.”