Authors: Meredith Clarke,Ally Summers
Tags: #BBW Bear Shifter Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Forever Love, #Adult, #Erotic, #Mate, #Supernatural, #Protection, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Highland Brothers, #Short Story, #Author, #Writer, #Travels, #Writer's Block, #Hiding, #Stall Tactics, #Frustration, #Subterfuge, #Family Home
he Write Bear
Published By Ally Summers
Copyright © 2015 Ally Summers
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places or events are entirely the work of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, events, or places is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Please purchase only authorized editions and do not participate in piracy of copyrighted materials.
Cover art by Cover Up Designs
a new client for you, Riley.” The head of Authors Unlimited slid a Post-it across Riley’s desk.
The blond editor picked up the note, reading it quickly. “Is this for real?” She eyed her boss. Her fingers clasped the hand-written assignment.
“Yes, it is. The call came through twenty minutes ago. We need complete confidentiality. This is a top-tier client.”
“Of course.” Riley read the name on the order to herself again. “It’s just… I can’t believe it. Why does
need me?” she asked.
There were writers, and there were authors. But there was only one Hudson Highland.
Helen shook her head. “His editor called. We’re the last resort. The absolute last resort.” Her eyebrows rose, almost touching her hairline. “He’s under a strict deadline, and in the middle of a series. This is an emergency.”
“Oh my God.” Riley closed her laptop, feeling a sudden sense of urgency take hold. “When is he coming in?” She would clear her schedule. Do anything she had to do to make this work.
“Oh no, he’s not coming here. You’re going there.” Helen smiled. “It’s best to keep this off the radar.”
“But, why?” Riley knew she shouldn’t question her boss, but this was unusual. She had just been handed the name of the most important client in the company’s history and this entire scenario was odd.
Helen’s eyes bored into hers. “Because he is Hudson Highland. The Hudson Highland. When he calls, we do. Understand?”
Riley nodded. She started to pack her laptop, notebooks, and her favorite purple pen. She crammed them into her messenger bag. “When do I leave? Where is he?”
“Now. Head to the airport. I’ll send the address to your email. You can get a rental car when you land in Seattle.”
Riley stopped for a moment. “Seattle? What is he doing out there?” She didn’t know much about Hudson, but the last time she remembered reading his bio it said he resided in New York.
“He has a writing retreat about two hours from the city. He has been there for the past few weeks and his editor says he hasn’t made any progress. He’s in the middle of a million dollar contract. They need the book.” She sighed. “Again, all of this is completely confidential.”
Riley knew that part of her job. It was one of the complicated aspects of what she did. She coached and helped authors when they had writer’s block. It was the best way to describe what she did, but there was so much more to it than that. Sometimes her friends would ask for the names, but she could never reveal who her clients were. She was the unsung heroine behind the pages.
“I got it, Helen. I won’t say a word. I’ll sign the non-disclosure for him before I get there.” She swung the bag on her shoulder. It was close to three o’clock. She would have time to stop by her apartment, pack a bag, and still make it to the airport for an early evening flight.
“Good. We’re counting on you. He’s the biggest client we’ve ever had. If we can make him happy there’s no telling what this could do for us.” Helen’s lips formed a straight line, impressing her point on Riley.
“I’ll call you as soon as I have a progress update.”
“I expect it.”
Riley moved toward the door. She was already thinking of how she was going to get Hudson back on his feet.
She had read everything the man had ever written. His latest series, the
Spy Fire Series
, had debuted at number one. Book three was still lying on her nightstand. The pages creased where she turned the corners at night before falling asleep.
“Thanks, Helen for trusting me with this client. I promise I won’t let you down.” She waved from the lobby.
Riley rushed from the office building, toward the parking garage. This was her first top author. Her first chance to prove to Helen she was cut out for the publishing world. She threw her bag in the backseat of her car.
he settled into her seat
, watching the lights flash on the wing of the plane. She hoped she had packed enough for her Washington adventure. Shit! Her birth control was by the kitchen sink. She was in such a hurry she had forgotten she had left it there. It wasn’t a big deal. She had skipped so days throughout the month it would take her another cycle to get back on track. She blew a hot breath against the oval window. Not that it mattered. It had been a year since a man had been in her bed. Birth control wasn’t at the top of her priority list.
The flight from Atlanta to Seattle would take five hours. Plenty of time to get research in. She flipped open her laptop and connected to the plane’s Wi-Fi. She typed
in the search engine.
There were pictures of the handsome author, along with a few articles about his upcoming book tour. Riley chewed lightly on her lip. The man was gorgeous. A strong chiseled jaw, warm brown eyes, and a permanent five o’clock shadow. Holy shit, this was going to test all levels of restraint she had. Falling for a client was not an option. Completely out of the question. No matter how ridiculously edible he was.
She scrolled through the links and clicked one about the Highland dynasty. Hudson was a member of a prominent Seattle family. There were three brothers total. She ogled at their pictures. How was it possible for three men to look like that?
A flight attendant stopped the beverage cart next to her seat. “Care for a drink?” she asked, her bright red lips curling at the corners.
“Diet whatever you have.” Riley scooted the laptop to the side to allow enough room for the plastic cup, and continued to read.
If she was going to help him break through his writer’s block, the more she knew about the man the better. At least that’s what she told herself.
From what she gathered, a team ran all his social media. There was nothing personal or insightful on any of his accounts.
She’d have to get to know him the old-fashioned way. Find out what made the man tick. What inspired his words. What drove his creativity. And most importantly, what he needed to finish the damn book.
at the blinking dot on her GPS. There was no way this was right. She steered the car on to the gravel road, bordered on either side by towering trees. In the dark the trunks looked like black rods jutting out of the ground as if lining the way to a fortress. She wished her first trip to the West Coast would have been during daylight, but she wasn’t about to let Hudson sit up here another minute without her help. The world was waiting on book four.
The beams from the headlights were the only lights on the road. The gravel crunched under the tires. She had to turn on the wipers to clear the mist from the windshield.
“Where in the hell am I?” she asked aloud. This was more than a writing retreat. This place was in the middle of nowhere—it was complete writing seclusion. She wondered how long the famous author had this place. “Probably after he made his first million,” she grumbled.
Hudson’s books were always in the top ten. They were plastered all over the airport shops, neatly displayed in rows on display. Riley still couldn’t figure out how he could be stuck in the middle of a series. He ended book three with a serious cliffhanger. He had to have some idea how things were going to play out.
She emerged into a clearing. The dirt road had turned to perfectly placed pavers and concrete.
“Holy shit,” she whispered, looking up at the cabin in front of her. It was a mansion disguised as a cabin. Solid beams jutted from the wraparound porch. There had to be at least twenty rooms inside she guessed, sizing up the outside.
The double garage doors were closed. She parked close to the sidewalk, killing the heat blowing from the vents.
Riley grabbed her suitcase from the trunk and yanked it up the stairs. The mist had turned to rain. It was falling steadily now. She tried to run up the stairs before her flimsy tank top was completely soaked through. She had added a plaid button-up shirt before she left her apartment, thinking it gave her outfit an outdoorsy look, but now she realized it just made her cold.
The porch light was on. Hudson must be expecting her.
She tapped on the front door, wrapping one arm around her shoulder. The chills had started to set in. After a few seconds with no response, she rang the doorbell.
She could hear footsteps on the either side. Riley straightened her tank top and pulled her shoulders back. She knew she looked like a disheveled mess, but all she could think about was getting inside and drying off.
“Who in the hell?” The door swung open and Hudson Highland stood, towering in front of her. His broad chest puffed forward.
“Hi. I-I’m Riley James.” She knew she had more to say, but it was hard to find the words.
She had scanned a hundred pictures of Hudson, but good lord, they didn’t do the man justice. His shoulders touched the doorframe, and he stood over six feet tall. He ran his hand through dark brown hair, huffing in the process.
“Who are you and what are you doing here? This is private property.” His eyes were dark brown, like pools of melted chocolate.
“I’m from Author’s Unlimited. You hired me.” She tried to peer around him to see inside, but his body was like a mountain, blocking everything else from view. “I’m Riley James.”
He shook his head, a look of confusion brushing over his face. “I didn’t hire anyone. There must be a mistake.” He moved to close the door.
“But you’re Hudson Highland.” She knew she was tired, and had spent the last few hours flying then driving, but she wasn’t delusional. This man was her client. What was he talking about?
“I know who I am.” His eyes were piercing.
She had to steady the trembling in her voice. “I’m a book doctor. You hired me to help you with the
Spy Fire Series
“The hell I did,” he fumed. His eyes raked over her lips, down her neck, and landed on her chest.
She felt an involuntary hitch in the back of her throat. She felt bare and vulnerable, her body reacting to him more than it should. Then she remembered Helen’s warning. This was the biggest client in the firm’s history. She needed to be professional, not act like she was a horny seventeen year old.
She cleared her throat. “Look, I didn’t drive out here in the middle of nowhere to be treated like this. The least you could do is let me in so we can figure things out.”
She thought she saw the corners of his mouth twitch as if he were going to smile. He shoved the door out of the way.
“Come in I guess.”
She stepped over the threshold. There was a fire blazing in the stone fireplace. The logs crackled and popped. She had to fight the instinct to rush over and get warm. The night air had chilled her, but she could tell her host wasn’t overly sympathetic. She hadn’t read a single thread about his abrasive personality. It was a cold surprise just like the rain outside.
Hudson was still planted by the door, as if he were trying to decide if he should kick her back into the rain.
“Do you have a towel I could borrow?” she asked.
The question seemed to stir him. “Yeah, hold on.”
He disappeared down the hallway and returned with a towel. “Here.”
“Thanks.” Riley pressed it to her face, inhaling the scent of cedar. She wiped the raindrops from her face and her chest, feeling the heat of Hudson’s stare as each raindrop was soaked into the towel.
She folded the damp towel and attempted to hand it to him. He tossed it on the back of the couch.
“I didn’t expect it to be so cold here. Or rainy.” She tried to laugh, but his face remained motionless, as if it were part of a statue. This man was intense.
“Hmm.” He crossed his arms.
Pages were scattered on the coffee table, couch and the floor. Riley stooped to collect a stack, raising them to her face so she could study them better.
“What are you doing?” Hudson reached toward her, snatching the chapters from her.
“I told you I’m a book doctor. Let me take a look at it.” She glared at him, but he had the paper in his wide fists. “I’m assuming this is part of the fourth book?”
“I still don’t know why you’re here. And I’m not about to turn this manuscript over to a stranger.” His chest heaved with giant breaths.
Riley dug into her bag, pulling out the note from Helen. “Look. Here’s the order from Clyde Erskine.” She shoved it into his hand.
“Clyde? My editor sent you?” His eyes filled with raw emotions. Hurt. Anger. Betrayal.
“Yes. But I thought you knew. I was told you would be expecting me.”
He shook his head. “No. He didn’t mention it.” He slumped onto the couch, sending more pages to the floor. “This is a hell of a way to find out.”
Riley slid into the seat across from him. “I’m sorry. I thought you requested my services. Usually, my clients know I’m going to arrive. They are a little more prepared than this.” She wanted to throw in that they actually smiled and appreciated her, but that seemed like it would be taking things too far.
“I bet.” He looked at her.
She felt the fire in his look again. His eyes had landed on the swells of her breasts. The wet fabric clung to the lace of her bra, showing off every indentation. She swallowed hard, trying to wrap the flimsy shirt over her chest, but it was useless. That shirt was an accessory, it was never going to button.
“I’m sorry you drove all the way out here, but I don’t need any help with the book. I hit a breakthrough today, so I’m going to be just fine.” He shoved off the couch. “I finished two more chapters. Clyde doesn’t need to worry. I’ll meet the damn deadline.”
“Really? That’s great.” She didn’t believe him for a second. “Can I read it?” It wasn’t uncommon for her clients to exaggerate their progress. But, she was used to it. This was all part of her job—convincing him he needed her.
He spun toward her. “I don’t let anyone read my work.” The words surfaced almost as a growl.
The fierceness in his voice surprised her. It was deep and husky. Her skin prickled, but not with fear. It was fucking sexy.
“I’m here to help you, Hudson.” The wind had picked up and she heard the rain pelt the side windows.
He glared at her. “I told you. I don’t need help. I’m here to work on things by myself.” His eyes darkened. “
“I guess I should go then.”
She traipsed to her suitcase by the door. There was no way this man was going to let her near his book. But at this point she was astonished he was actually going to push her back out in the rainstorm. So much for chivalry. He must have to really stretch his imagination to make his main character such a gentleman.
“I think that’s best.” Hudson opened the door for her, sending her back into the cold and wet elements.
Riley hesitated. Surely, he was going to reconsider. She tried to read his expression. “Good luck with the book, Mr. Highland.”
“Err, thanks.” He closed the door behind her, locking it with a firm click.
Riley stood on the front porch of the expansive cabin, the rain slamming to the ground in front of her. What in the hell just happened? She pulled the car keys from her pocket and braced herself for the cold rain that was about to soak her again.
Who was this guy? She knew authors and creative types could be self-absorbed in their craft, but this was fucking insane. She faced the door, but knew knocking would be useless. He wasn’t going to let her near the manuscript.
She inhaled deeply, bracing herself for the chill. Then ran from the steps, threw her bags in the backseat, and jumped into the driver’s seat. Bits of anger ran under her skin. Hudson Highland was possibly the rudest man she had ever met. Not only did she lose the biggest client in her professional career, but she also had a two-hour drive ahead of her in the middle of the night. What kind of man sent a woman out in a storm like this?
She jammed the keys into the ignition, and flipped them in her hand. She heard the car sputter.
“Come on.” She hit the steering wheel with her palms before trying the key again. Nothing. The car puttered, the lights flickered, and then there was silence followed by darkness as the headlights dimmed.
She looked up at the house. The windows glowed with warmth and light. The last thing she wanted to do was climb the stairs again, but she was officially out of options.
She trudged up the steps, cursing under her breath. She would have to swallow her pride and irritation. Her knuckles rapped on the faded wood.
“What is it?” The door whipped open. His forehead creased into lines of confusion. “I thought you left.”
“I tried. My rental car is dead.” She motioned to the driveway where the car was parked.
“Oh.” He rubbed the side of his face, raking his fingers through thick stubble. “Want me to take a look?”
Riley blinked. “You’d do that?”
“Hold on.” He ducked back in the house and emerged with an umbrella, jacket, and a flashlight. “Here.” He handed her the coat and umbrella.
She didn’t argue, and slid her arms into the oversized coat. She immediately smelled men’s cologne. It had an earthy, but alluring scent as she pulled the collar closer to her neck.
He shrugged and stomped down the stairs toward the car. “Keys?”
“Oh here.” Riley placed them in his palm.
Hudson barely fit behind the wheel of the car. She noticed how he made spaces seem much smaller.
He turned the key in the ignition, but the car remained silent. He reached for the lever for the hood, popping it with the flick of a finger.
“I’m going to check something,” he explained. “Hold the flashlight for me there.” He pointed to the center of the car’s undercarriage.
Riley watched as he inspected the engine. She held the umbrella over his head, careful not to let the rain seep into the car.
“I’m pretty sure it’s the battery.” Hudson slammed the hood. “I don’t have any jumper cables. And at this hour we’re not going to get a tow truck out here. I doubt the rental company would someone before the morning.”
“Oh.” Riley bit her lower lip.