Theirs to Bear: Icy Cap Den #3 (Alaskan Den Men)

Theirs to Bear
Icy Cap Den #3
Jennifer Hilt
Edited by
Christy Karras
Mister Rochester Press

C
opyright
© 2016 by Jennifer Hilt

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 written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Violations are enforced by all manner of paranormal activity. You have been warned.

Foreword

I
ntroduction
to the Alaskan Den Men World

Six Alaskan Werebear Dens, Eighteen Shifter Happily Ever Afters…

The Alaskan Den Men are some of the hottest werebears you’ve ever encountered. These gruff and growling shifters live and hunt in six different dens throughout the backwoods of Alaska.

And the Alaskan outback has never been so wild! Because these rugged alpha males are about to meet their mates—some seriously sexy and sassy heroines who live to bring out the beast in their men.

Get ready for six best selling, award winning, and rising star authors to bring you eighteen brand-new, sizzling paranormal romances that are sure to keep you up all night!

Introduction

D
eputy Tristan Barlow
wants his best friend’s widow Liv Merrell out of Icy Cap. It’s the only way he can think of to protect her from the revenge-bent succubus stalking humans in his territory. As an added bonus, getting Liv away might shove her right out of his X-rated fantasies. And stop her from giving him a mani pedi—whatever the hell that is.

S
tylist Liv Merrel
no intention of leaving Icy Cap. Even if it means dealing with Tristan, the one man she finds too tempting to resist. But the dire straits her husband left her in and the fact she needs someone to teach her ice bear shifter son all the things a young werebear needs to know means she’s not going anywhere. Armed with hair remover and her iron will, Liv is opening Icy Cap’s overdue unisex salon, no matter what Tristan’s objections.

S
oon their passion
ignites and the feelings between them grow hottter than either ever expected. But when Liv’s son goes missing during a blizzard and the succubus returns with vengeance on her mind, can their newfound love survive?

1
Tristan


A
bear has
no business in a beauty parlor.” I was unloading another crate of bikini wax. It was only midmorning, way too early to be dealing with humans. Besides, I’d already stacked two other crates. That’s a lot of wax. This woman had arrived in Icy Cap with enough wax to de-fur a sizable population of paranorms. Then again, coming off an Alaskan winter, that estimate was about right.

“Tristan Barlow, buck up. You weren’t born a hundred years ago.” Liv Merrell, the woman who should’ve been my mate, shook her head at me. Her round face and brunette curls were sticky with our warmer-than-usual spring weather. Even sweaty she was sexy. “It’s called a ‘salon,’ and judging from what I’ve seen of the population here, a unisex one is overdue.”

I wasn’t a hundred years old, but her inheritance was. Tourists would think the house’s two-story plank construction was cute as hell. In reality, it’d be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The ceilings were low-beamed too. I had to duck every time I entered a room.

The water pressure was finicky. The window frames would swell up with summer humidity, making it tough to get the widows open. There’d be no air-conditioning unless the whole house got rewired. The best Liv could do was plug fans in for the hot days. I’ve been working construction lately, helping renovate my cousin’s inn down the street. Everywhere I looked these days, I mentally renovated one of Icy Cap’s run-down buildings.

“I love the dormers and built-ins. Plus the old wavy glass windows. I can’t believe Ted never told me about it. I just about fell over when I found the deed with his will. This coat of pain will freshen things up.”

“There’s barely enough room for you, let alone a business.” I propped open a nearby window. The warped wooden frame protested at being forced. If building supplies weren’t so expensive up here, this place would be a tear-down. Liv was overly optimistic about the power of paint, but that was like her in general: always looking on the bright side.

I, on the other hand, preferred the “whatever the hell can possibly go wrong will” view of life. I liked being right. My outlook pretty much assured that I would be.

“There’s a loft upstairs. Over time I’ll make improvements. Maybe when you finish up construction at the inn, you can help out? Plus, Gary has an electrician friend.”

Gary.
All I needed was a ghoul running the welcome wagon in Icy Cap. This community was still trying to get off the ground. Having a ghoul as an ambassador was not helping the “Come to Icy Cap” cause. Gary needed a mate to keep him busy. He had entirely too much free time if he was hanging around Liv. Too bad I’d never smelled a female ghoul around town.

“The electrician is a vampire. Did Gary say when he was coming back? It would be dangerous for you if the vamp was here.”

“Worried about me already? Don’t worry; there’s always room for a sleepover upstairs.” Liv winked. “Gary said he’s not expected to be back until fall. Right now, with all this midnight sun, that poor vamp would be roasted.”

I exhaled. Good. One less thing to worry about. Vamps usually didn’t come north when the days started to lengthen. The thought of a vamp sinking his teeth or anything else into Liv sickened me. But where I tamped down one worry about her, another one popped up. It was like a sick game of Whac-A-Mole.

“No one wants a human setting up shop here. Icy Cap is a paranorm community. Always has been.” I stacked more crates in the corner, as directed. It was harder to argue and work than I’d thought, being in the same room as Liv. I wanted to fold her into my arms and bury my nose in hair. From there, things would hopefully involve less clothing and more grunting.

Hey, a shifter can dream.

I needed a mate. My ice bear was close to the surface. After spending the last month and a half roaming on an ice shelf, I’d returned to town horny as hell.

Liv always ignited my drive to claim her. Years ago, I’d resisted. That was ancient history. She’d moved on. So had I. If I’d had a mate, my urge to fuck the living daylights out of this woman would have been gone. A mate would keep me satisfied, and it would be my job to do the same for her.

Unfortunately, Icy Cap was not full of available females. In fact, it didn’t have any. In my recent wanderings all over the frozen north, I’d not discovered any unclaimed female ice bear shifters; our numbers were down. Liv’s visit couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“So I’m good enough to visit here but not good enough to live here? That’s discrimination. Aren’t you a lawyer?”

I haven’t seen Liv in four years, but she still smelled like strawberries.

“Ex law student. I’m sticking to law enforcement. The way things are going here, this place needs deputies. You can’t live here because you’re human.”

“I’m not going to be scared away by a tradition.” She brushed by me. I inhaled her scent, feeling it imprint on my brain as it had countless times. “Mine”
flashed inside my brain like a firework display.

“It’s for your safety. Every paranorm here has some ‘gift’ that makes them a potential danger to you.”
Especially me.
My ice bear spirit was rising regularly. I had learned that rather than suppressing the creature inside me, only by respecting it could I have some peace within myself. But around Liv, I felt anything but peaceful.

“Creditors took everything I had in Toledo. I’m lucky no one wanted this place. At the risk of winding up homeless, I’m not going anywhere. End of story. Or are you really going to argue with a woman holding a knife?” Liv cut the packing tape open on another crate.

“If she’s a human woman in a town under siege by a succubus? Damn right I’m going to argue.”

“Oh, that.” Liv paired a grimace with a shrug. “Every place has something. Drugs, gangs, carjackings.”

My fists clenched. I closed my eyes, silently counting to ten. She was doing it again. This woman made me crazy. Ask anybody in Icy Cap, they’ll tell you how easygoing I am. Usually. For an ice bear shifter.

“A succubus is not going to carjack you. She’ll kill you and be on her way to her next victim.” I cracked my knuckles. Just the though of the succubus anywhere near Liv made me pace. This damn place was so small that after about four strides, another stack of boxes walled off my track.

Unconcerned about my distress over her safety, Liv dug around in another box. My eyes strayed to her curves, so nicely outlined in jeans and a bedazzled black T-shirt with sparkles in all the right places. I loved having her near me even as I loathed the risk she faced in Icy Cap. Seeing her too-tight tee made me want to lick the slope of her neck. Those few dark curls escaping her ponytail tantalized me.

I swallowed. I couldn’t stay here.

But neither could she.

Icy Cap was having an early spring thaw. Temperatures were in the forties. For us that was downright tropical. The whole damn tundra was erupting in green grass that peeped out from melted patches in the snow. Bird and insects darted through the air.

Even though Liv had only been here for a week, she was embracing the festive spring atmosphere. The back door was propped open, letting the sunshine in.

“I’m done living my life being afraid. Ted’s accident was over two years ago. I have to move on. It’s what he would have wanted.”

“Ted wouldn’t have wanted you to live here.”

“The deed to this building says otherwise.”

“He was going to open a fly fishing outfit when he retired.”

“Instead, I’m opening a salon.” Liv dropped her voice, even though it was only the two of us in the cramped two-story clapboard she now owned. “I’m secretly calling it Get Nailed, though officially I’m going with Icy Cap Salon.”

“Knowing this town, you’d have better luck with a saloon.”

She leaned over enough that I caught a glimpse down the gap in the neck of her T-shirt, which revealed creamy breasts nestled in red satin. “I have no idea how to run a bar. But making people feel good about how they look? I can do that.”

“That’s the problem. It’s not people but paranorms.”

“I know paranorms. I was married to one, remember? I don’t happen to think we’re all that different.” She grabbed my hand and inspected my fingers. “From the looks of it, you need a manicure. How about a mani-pedi? You can be my first customer. Come on, I’ll give you a freebie.”

What had Liv just offered me?

“There’s no way I’m getting a mani-pedi, whatever the hell that is.” I pulled my hand from hers. Her touch still sent a pleasant pulse of energy through me. Not painful, but more like an awakening. I would most surely not be using her salon services. I could only imagine what my cousins would say if they could see me now.

The good news: they were both away from Icy Cap with their mates. The bad news: I was in charge.

That left me to keep an eye on Liv.

But nothing was going to happen to Liv because she was leaving town. Then again, removing her from Icy Cap was proving more difficult than I’d thought. Every objection I raised slid off her.

“Gary said the succubus vanished after her place burned down,” Liv continued. “She’s probably setting up a new home far away.”

“Or plotting to destroy Icy Cap like she did fifteen years ago. I’d heard the stories from my cousins who lived here then.”

But you see what I mean? Liv was a total optimist.

“I’m eager to get the first coat of paint on. Want to cut in the trim while I get the roller going?” she asked.

I grabbed her wrist—harder than I intended. She winced. Immediately I let go. “Don’t think I’m fooled for a minute by your ‘nothing scares me’ routine. I know the real you. We both know that Icy Cap is not where you belong.”

Her dark eyes widened. She
was
afraid, but she was too stubborn to admit it.

It was all I could do not to pull her into my arms. The feel of her skin against mine still burned my fingertips. With my enhanced senses, I could hear her heart hammering.

My blood pounded in my ears, blocking out all the fierce birdsong outside.

Everyone in Icy Cap was getting some.

Except me.

And Liv.

She pulled her wrist out of my grasp. Her eyes snapped with fire. She squared her shoulders. “This is where I belong now. The only way I’m going back to Toledo is in a body bag.”

That is exactly what I was afraid of.

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