Read Bloodrunner Bear (Harper's Mountains Book 2) Online

Authors: T. S. Joyce

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Werewolves & Shifters

Bloodrunner Bear (Harper's Mountains Book 2) (14 page)

BOOK: Bloodrunner Bear (Harper's Mountains Book 2)
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Chapter Sixteen

 

“I can’t believe I did that,” Aaron muttered for the tenth time since this afternoon.

Ryder popped the top of a beer and handed it to him, then sank into the rocking chair beside him with a sigh. “Relationships aren’t easy, but I’m telling you, don’t count Alana out yet.” Ryder took a long swig of his beer and stretched one leg out, rocked the chair under him gently. “She’s tough, man. I sensed it from day one, and so did Wes.”

Aaron clicked his tongue against his teeth and shook his head. “Wes was fucking right with that dream of his.”

“Okay, but let’s dissect that dream. Nobody knows how his visions work in the first place, and even if it was a hundred percent accurate, he dreamed of her staring right at you, tears in her eyes. She wasn’t running away screaming.” Ryder’s ruddy brows arched up like point-for-me. “Besides, I was with her after you tried to bite her. She was sprinting back here after she saw you go human again.” Ryder leveled him with a look. “Sprinting. She was worried you were hurt from the fight, but you’d already taken off.”

“Because I wasn’t okay to be around her yet—”

“But you need to get there, Aaron. Alana’s classy. Way too good for your dumb ass, and she isn’t going to put up with running for long. She won’t. If your animal needs work with control, get your shit handled. Work on it. Make him good enough for her because, yeah, someday, Bear could be her maker, and it’ll be up to you to make that transition as easy on her as possible. But putting her under an out-of-control animal?” Ryder shook his head and took another gulp of his beer. “Weston and I won’t always be there to save your ass.”

Weston appeared out of the shadows in a pair of black sweat pants, his hair disheveled. “Couldn’t sleep,” he murmured.

He’d been having trouble with insomnia lately, but the Novak Raven wasn’t fooling any of them. He was avoiding the visions. Weston sat down on the porch floorboards of 1010 and rested his back against the rail. He had a long piece of grass between his fingers, and he began shredding it with a troubled look on his face. “Has she called you back yet?”

Aaron stared at the dark woods beyond the porch light and shook his head. He’d been holding his phone the whole damn night in hopes that she would return any of his three calls. He didn’t know where she was, but he had made sure Aric was on shift tonight, so at least she was safe from him. Still, he didn’t like this sick feeling that he’d ruined everything, and that’s why she wasn’t answering his calls. “I think I messed it up.”

“You didn’t,” Ryder murmured.

“But it feels like I did. Down in my gut, it feels like she really saw me, and it scared her off. I can’t get it out of my head—that look on her face when I was coming for her.” Aaron swallowed hard and picked at the label on his bottle. “I had zero control. I was trying so fucking hard to stop Bear. Or, for fuck’s sake, to even slow him down enough so you guys could get her out of my reach. And her eyes were so big, just terrified. I could see my own reflection in them, bloodlust written all over my face, jaws open, and I couldn’t stop myself. I gave the animal my skin, and what was his reaction? He wanted to bite her more than anything. My animal wants her claimed so she won’t leave me. I hope you two never feel what it’s like to terrify your mate.”

“No chance of that,” Weston said low. “Ravens don’t form bonds like bears do.”

“Bullshiiiit,” Ryder said. “Your mom fell for Beaston when they were kids, and she never let him go. I can’t wait to terrify my mate. In the bedroom.” He pitched his voice high. “Oh Ryder, your dick is so big!”

Aaron chuckled and took the first long sip of his cold drink. Talking to the guys had always made him feel better. He could use the distraction right now as he clutched his phone, hoping every second that Alana would offer him salvation and call him back.

“There he is,” Ryder said as Wyatt appeared out of the dark. “Third in the crew, how does it feel?”

“Better than fourth and fifth.” Wyatt jabbed at the bird shifters as he sat on the porch across from Weston.

Ryder pulled his beer bottle to his mouth like a microphone. “Wyatt James, you grew up with everyone saying you would be a great alpha someday. How does it feel to lose alpha to a girl, and then Second to a rival bear shifter?”

“Fuck you, man,” Wyatt drawled, but he was smiling, and some of the tension that had been hurting Aaron’s chest eased.

“So we’re okay?” Aaron asked, trying to keep the hope from his voice.

“Yeah, brother,” Wyatt said, and his voice rang with honesty. “I didn’t care either way, second or third. I just wanted Harper to be able to settle. Maybe I thought I would be alpha when everyone was feeding me that line growing up, but things don’t always work out like we think when we were kids. None of us imagined we would be in North Carolina, so far from Damon’s Mountains, or linked up in a crew together. We didn’t think we’d be under Harper. But I’m happy with how things turned out. My bear feels good since the fight. Controlled. Relieved maybe, I don’t know. Plus, I don’t have to make any of the hard decisions. I can just be the muscle.” Wyatt reached over and slapped Aaron’s boot. “We’re good.”

Aaron let off a gusty exhale, expelling some of the pressure off his shoulders that had settled onto him after the fight.

“Where’s Harper?” Weston asked.

Wyatt stretched his legs out beside Weston’s and rested his hands around the railing behind his head. “Sleeping like a normal person. She doesn’t stay up all night like we do. She has a crew of dipshits to run.”

Ryder tipped up his beer in a silent toast. “Fair point.”

Wyatt got a faraway look in his steady blue eyes. “Remember when Aaron spent the summers with us in the trailer parks, and we would all sneak out to that treehouse Beaston built for us?”

Ryder chuckled and rocked back in his chair. “Yeah that was super fun until you got caught fooling around with Harper and all of our parents went into lock-down mode. I shit you not, my mom put a security system in our trailer, not to keep robbers out, but to keep me in. I couldn’t lift up my windows without the alarms going off.”

“I remember the first time you tried!” Aaron said. “You woke up the whole trailer park. I was staying with you, remember? Your parents woke up pissed. Your sisters, too.”

“We hauled ass out of there, and Dad was yelling through the window, ‘Boy, you better get back here before I ground your ass into adulthood.’”

“God,” Aaron mused. “I’ve never been so terrified in all my life. Your dad’s a beast, man. When he made threats, it was so hard not to listen to him. But you were running like your tail feathers were on fire, and I didn’t want to turn around and face him alone. Ryder, you were such a hellion. I don’t know how he put up with you.”

Ryder scoffed. “I was a perfect angel. Until I got my flight feathers.”

“Yeah exactly,” Aaron said, smiling before he took another sip of his beer. “I always looked forward to summers up there because the photographers weren’t stupid enough to come into Damon’s territory. Summers meant no school, late nights, shifting whenever I wanted, finding trouble with you guys, and no one was hiding in the bushes trying to get pictures of me.”

“Please, those magazine spreads got horny shifter groupies swooning at your feet,” Wyatt muttered. “You didn’t hate all of it.”

“Speaking of…” Aaron leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “Alana has a poster of me. She showed it to me the other day.”

“Whaaat?” Ryder asked, his eyes sparking with faux-shock in the porchlight. “Aaron Keller paired up with a fan?”

When Aaron’s phone chirped in his hand, he jerked, nearly spilling his beer in an effort to check the new message. He read it twice, trying to understand it.

Went to movie and saw furry bear
. There was a picture attached of a blurry grizzly bear on a movie screen. And then it was followed by another blurred image of Alana’s perfect cleavage peeking out of a V-neck sweater.

Boopsie, didn’t mean to send last one. Haaa! I didn’t get arrested. You aren’t supposed to take pictures in a movie theater but I’m mated to a mother fuckin’ BEAR. With tattoos. I got in trouble. I’m bad to the bone.

Huh.

I’m sorry about earlier
, he typed, because that should be the first thing she heard from him. Send.

Me too. I told my sister everything. She knows how big your dick is.

Aaron grinned and ran his hand down his two-day facial scruff before he responded.
Are you drinking?
Send.

No, I’m done drunk.
Dead drunk.
Drunk as a skunk. What does that even mean? Do skunks drink? Wanna fool around on the phone?

Another immediate picture of her cleavage came through, this one a bit clearer, but behind her, there was a crowd of people.

Are you in a bar? Fooling around in there probably wouldn’t work.
Send.

Frisky. My sister says hi. I can go into the bathroom? There are three stalls.

He laughed and shook his head. What was happening right now?
Woman, I’m not having phone sex with you while you are in a bar bathroom.
Send.
Where are you? Do you need a ride home?
Send.

Taking a cab home. With my sister. Lissa loves me! We’re having so much fun.

Good.
Send
. Soooo…are you mad at me?
Send.

He waited, but his phone stayed silent, and his glowing screen faded to black.

“Is her sister hot?” Ryder asked from where he was leaned over like he’d been reading the conversation from beside him.

“She’s Alana’s twin, so probably.”

“Twins?” Ryder balled his fist at his crotch and flung his fingers out while he made an exploding sound.

“God, I feel sorry for your future mate,” Weston said to Ryder, but the raven shifter was trying and failing to hide a grin.

Aaron settled back in the chair and muttered, “Talons off, perv. Alana’s sister is married.”

“Is Alana mad about you almost biting her?” Wyatt asked carefully.

“Right now she sounds hammered, but I’m sure when she wakes up tomorrow she’ll remember what I did.”

“Mm,” Wyatt grunted, rocking upward. He dusted the seat of his jeans and meandered off toward his cabin in the woods. “Night.”

“Night,” they all murmured in unison.

Weston followed with a small wave, and Ryder chugged the last gulp of his beer and stood. Aaron thought he would give him the mannish handshake they always did, but instead Ryder shoved him in the head and told him, “Don’t fuck this up.”

Ryder jogged down the porch stairs and into the night, and Aaron was left staring at the blank screen on his phone, his last question bouncing around in his head.
Are you mad at me?

She might be tipsy, but Alana wasn’t ready to let him off the hook yet, and he didn’t blame her.

He was pissed at Bear, too.

Chapter Seventeen

 

Alana’s head felt like she’d squished it into a motorcycle helmet three sizes too small. She had a pulse right behind her eyes that sizzled with pain every couple of seconds.

The Senior Seven were happy, their mugs full, their plates only half empty as they chattered about some almost-B&E that had been detailed on Bradford’s police scanner this morning. The culprit was Daryl Sanders, though, and he was a lover of the whiskey and likely just tried to get into the wrong house again. It had happened before. The handful of other customers in the café were either cleaning up to leave or just sitting down at a table with the pastries they’d purchased. It had been surprisingly busy today, and normally, she would’ve loved the extra business, but she was nursing one hell of a hangover right now. Alana hadn’t been that liberal with the Lemon Drop shots since she was in college.

Her phone made the pretty three-note chord that said she had a message. She was hopeful it was Aaron, but the noise made her wince.

It was from Lissa.

I had so much fun last night. I really needed that, sis. Not just cutting loose, but actually talking to you about real stuff. I love you bunches.

Alana grinned and typed in,
Love you too, Lis.

The bell over the door rang, and when she looked up, a pair of familiar, powerful, jean-clad legs strode in. She could make out the bottom hem of Aaron’s black sweater sitting on his tapered waist just right, but his torso and face were completely blocked from her view by a giant vase of bright pink roses.

“What is this?” she asked as Aaron settled them on the counter with a lopsided grin.

“An apology.”

Pleasure warmed her cheeks as she plucked a tiny present from the center of the arrangement. After opening the small box, she pulled a packet of painkillers from it and gave him a questioning frown.

He gave her a charming wink that successfully leveled her ovaries to nothing. “For hangovers.”

She giggled. “I actually really need these today.”

Sitting in the bottom of the box was a small picture of Aaron’s bare chest, abs, and the top of his jeans, which he’d left unbuttoned. She could just make out the top part of his dick. Alana nearly choked on air. She clutched it to her chest, scanning the room as if she just got busted reading a naughty book in public.

“That’s repayment for those tit-tease pics you sent me last night,” Aaron said through a cocky grin.

Yeah, she kind of remembered that. She’d have to go back and read everything she’d messaged him now that she was sober. Now she was staring at the picture, and Aaron chuckled in a way that said he was sexy and he knew it, so Alana rushed to shove it in her back pocket.

“You don’t like it?”

Alana snorted. “Please. I’m gonna blow it up and make a new poster of Aaron Keller for my adult self.”

“Hang it right above your bed, yeah?”

Alana pressed her palms against her cheek to cool the heat there. “Stop.”

“Will you go out with me tonight?” Aaron asked suddenly. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say more, but changed his mind and left that question to fill the space between them.

“You like me,” she murmured.

With a grin that deepened his smile lines and made his bright blue eyes dance, he admitted, “I fuckin’
like
you.”

Alana couldn’t help the excitement that bubbled up her spine and made her take a few running steps in place. One of her curls bounced out of her pins and fell in front of her face. Aaron cast a quick glance behind him, then brushed it back and tucked it behind her ear. “Say yes. Go out with me. Let me make up for what I did.”

The smile dipped from her lips. “Aaron, you don’t have to keep apologizing for that. I understand.”

He lowered his voice to a whisper. “I feel like shit about it.”

“Buy me a slice of pizza from that Italian restaurant down the street, and I’ll forgive you.”

“The one you went to on your date with Doucheface?” Aaron’s lips thinned to a line of displeasure.

“Yeah, there are, like, ten restaurants in this town, and I don’t want that one associated with Trey the Troll.” She ducked her gaze and admitted, “I want everything here soaked in the memories I make with you.”

Aaron took a step back like he’d been pushed. His eyes had gone round, his face angled in question. “What are you saying?”

Alana sighed and wrung her hands on the counter. “You didn’t scare me off, Aaron. I called this morning and extended the lease here.”

“Are you serious?”

Why was she so emotional about this? Blowing out a shaking breath, Alana nodded.

Aaron strode around the counter so fast she gasped, and his body crashed against hers in a lung squeezing hug. He lifted her off the ground and carried her into the kitchen and out of view of the curious café patrons. Aaron just stood there and held her as his heartrate went wild. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he said too growly. “You aren’t teasing me? You’re staying in Bryson City? For sure? Officially?”

She laughed thickly and hugged his neck tight, buried her face against his shoulder. “For sure and officially. I thought about it a lot, but I can’t leave this place. I can’t leave you. It would be like leaving a piece of myself behind. I don’t know what you did to me. I should be scared of you after yesterday, but all I wanted to do was see you again and tell you it would be okay. And I wanted you to tell me it’ll be okay. That you aren’t running either.”

“I’m not running, Alana.” He kissed her neck twice and whispered it again like an oath. “I’m not running.”

“Okay, then pizza tonight.”

“And then what? Woman, I know you have plans.”

She giggled as he settled her on her feet and looked down at her with eyes that had darkened two shades. “And then you’ll take me on another date, and another, and when you’re ready, you’re gonna ask me to marry you. You’re gonna respect my human side. Someday, I want your last name on me.”

Aaron cupped her neck and kissed her lips gently. And when he eased back, there wasn’t an ounce of hesitancy in his eyes as he murmured, “And then what?”

She gripped his wrists so he wouldn’t let her go, wouldn’t let her fall. “And then you’ll mark me and make me like you. You’ll do it right, and we’ll prove Weston’s dream wrong. And your bear will settle because he’ll finally understand, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m not going anywhere.”

And she wouldn’t. This was the moment she owned a future with Aaron. Lissa had been right. This was the adventure, throwing caution to the wind, and trusting her heart. Her head still had moments of weakness, moments where she got scared of the pain and uncertainty that would flow in and out of this life she was choosing. But what could she do? Her soul had wrapped around Aaron long ago.

No matter what came their way, she was ready. She wasn’t facing the world alone anymore—not since Aaron had walked into her life. Now she felt like an important half of something bigger than she’d thought love could be.

A couple weeks ago, she would’ve balked at the unpredictability of a future like this. She would’ve clung to her lists, her plans, and her safe life if it had been anyone else other than Aaron. But her mate had come in and made her feel
alive
.

Aaron’s eyes were clear and sure as he looked at her as though she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

Now, the unpredictability wasn’t so scary anymore—not with Aaron right here, so steady and strong against her. Even after yesterday and how close he’d come to Turning her, she still somehow felt safe in his arms.

She would take a life of uncertainty with Aaron over a half-life of constancy without him any day.

BOOK: Bloodrunner Bear (Harper's Mountains Book 2)
11.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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