Wilde Bear (BBW Paranormal Shapeshifter Romance) (Blue Bear Rescue)

Wilde Bear
Blue Bear Search and Rescue
Terra Wolf
Holly Eastman

©2016 Pink Empire Publishing

Wilde Bear

All Rights Reserved worldwide.

No part of this book may be reproduced, uploaded to the Internet, or copied without permission from the author. The author respectfully asks that you please support artistic expression and help promote anti-piracy efforts by purchasing a copy of this book at the authorized online outlets.

This is a work of fiction intended for mature audiences only. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Some may be used for parody purposes. Any resemblance to events, locales, business establishments, or actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

All sexual activities depicted occur between consenting characters 18 years or older who are not blood related.

One


I
f you want
to move up in this company, you’ve got to go down.”

Laurel read the note one last time—handwritten and complete with a little smiley face and a penis hanging out of the mouth—before tearing it into tiny little pieces with her fingernails. When she was done, she carried it to the trash can and lit the damn thing on fire with the lighter she’d stolen from her assistant. Screw Jones and his disgusting come-ons. The next time he sent her a nasty note like that one, she’d shift inside his office and claw his balls off.

After eleven years with the Wyoming Department of Transportation, she was sick of the kind of men who ran the workplace. But she was even sicker of ignoring them. Notes like these made it almost impossible not to give in to her animal. She needed to shift. And fast.

Another wave of heat washed over her. Sweat broke out on her brow and lip before she wiped it away, a sure sign she’d resisted her animal for too long now. God, these hot flashes were making it hard to see the words on the paper. She could not afford this. Not today, with her monthly reports due by midnight.

At the door to the conference room, someone cleared their throat. Laurel looked up to find Scott, her administrative assistant, casting furtive glances around the room. Great, he probably thought she was trying to get freaky with herself or something. As the only woman in management, Laurel knew what they said about her. About what she must have done to “climb the ladder” to get here.

“Yes?” Laurel snapped.

“Um, Gerald called for you,” Scott said in a nasally voice. He had a habit of looking everywhere but at Laurel.

“I’ll take it in here,” she said, already reaching for the phone in the center of the table.

“He’s already gone. A plane to catch,” Scott explained.

“Then what did he?—”

Scott shoved his glasses higher up his nose and finally met her gaze. “An emergency call out on Highway Six. Near Cripple Creek. Mountain biker went down in a gorge. Boss wants you to handle the field report and coordinate with Blue Bear Search and Rescue.”

Laurel frowned. “Why Search and Rescue?” she asked. “Shouldn’t we call the Ranger’s office?”

“Like I said, he’s stuck in a gorge, ma’am. No human can get in there.” He practically sneered at that, and Laurel quickly realized the unspoken meaning behind his words. Of course. Gerald wanted a shifter. Scott despised them, as did a number of others whom she’d met here. The world as a whole might have accepted the existence of shifters, but individually, there were always exceptions.

She’d been extra careful to keep her animal hidden around Scott. Around everyone, actually. In her experience, sharing that part of herself always ended in hurt and disappointment—and usually someone leaving for good.

“Right.” She closed the folder containing the budget reports she’d been assembling and pushed to her feet. “Radio whoever’s on site. I’m on my way.”

Scott nodded and scurried off. Laurel packed up her paperwork a little slower than she probably should have. A mountain biker’s life was at stake, after all. But she’d avoided this particular part of the DOT’s job for years, and she dreaded having to do it today—even if she was only filling in for Gerald.

Being on site for emergency calls meant dealing with Blue Bear Search and Rescue. And they weren’t just any Search and Rescue, but the Wilde Mountain Crew. Just thinking about them brought on another hot flash. A combination of anticipation and panic. What if it was Wilde Bear himself?

She’d only ever seen the alpha polar bear from afar, but he was breathtaking and terrifying even from a distance. And he was rumored to be a party boy back in the day, although she hadn’t seen him with a single female since she’d moved here last August. Maybe he kept his partying behind closed doors. Heat rose along her neck as she pictured what sort of partying that might be.

She quickly shook it off again. She’d carved out a very sheltered life for herself here in Blue Hole these last couple of years. Private, careful, always professional. And now she was going to be face to face with the one group of people who could ruin it all for her, who could easily figure out her secret.

Laurel made her way back to her corner office and allowed a quick glance out the window. It was August, too early for snow even this high up. Too early for tourists, too, and she was grateful for that. In fact, she caught herself leaning toward the glass. The urge to blow off everything and just disappear into the summer foliage for a few blissful hours was an ache in her chest.

Her reflection in the tinted glass made her frown. Out of habit, she smoothed her skirt suit and took inventory. Her heels were low, practical but not flashy. Her suit was tailored nicely but still didn’t hide the fact that she was curvier than she’d like. Then again, it kept most of the pervs at bay. Apparently not Jones, though.

Her blazer pulled taut at the single button below her cleavage, but she left it clasped, knowing how casual she’d appear otherwise. Her dark brown hair had started out hanging in a glossy ’do parted on the side, but now it was tangled where she’d run her hands through it too many times.

She didn’t often wear skirts, not wanting to remind anyone of her femininity in an office full of masculinity, but she’d forgotten to pick up her dry cleaning last night. Already, she’d seen some of her co-workers take notice of her today, but she kept her head down and her boss face on. She’d been burned too many times by come-ons in the break room or working lunches that turned out to be attempts at quickies. Laurel hadn’t gotten where she was by screwing bosses and asking for favors. In fact, she did everything she could to appear equal.

But she was a working girl among men, and that meant she would never be seen as completely equal. Not as a human woman. And especially not if they knew what she really was.

So she kept to herself as much as possible. Snapped orders to her subordinates. Pretended confidence when she had none. And above all, she always remained professional. Just like she would today with the Blue Bear Search and Rescue. She’d worked too hard for her department manager position. She wasn’t about to let a bunch of bear shifters intimidate her into messing it up. She was a fox, after all. They were supposed to be sly, right? Keeping her fox a secret was priority one.

She’d already been fired once before, two years ago, when her boss had found out. Women thought feminism was the real hurdle, but they had no idea. Anti-shifters had made success for a woman in the workplace even harder. Laurel wasn’t going down that road again. So she’d gone into the closet, determined to never come out again.

Resolute, Laurel grabbed her purse and keys from her desk and headed out, giving silent chin nods to the co-workers she passed in the hall. She was friendly without being friends with a single one. No one could ever accuse her of crossing that line. There was a job to do, and Laurel planned to do it.

Two

X
avier scanned
the resumes on his desk, picking out relevant keywords like ‘prior experience’ and ‘first-aid qualified.’ He kept those in a separate pile and threw out the rest. If they didn’t have experience, they wouldn’t last on his mountain. That was just a cold, hard fact.

The rest of the building was quiet, and while he usually enjoyed the rare silences, he couldn’t wait to have the full crew back. August was vacation month, so they weren’t here today.

Lucas and Nash were probably lounging in the hot tub at the Lodge. Jake—his second—and Harley were shooting pool down at Mack’s, the local brewery where they all hung out off-duty.

He frowned, remembering Jake’s text. Harley wasn’t easy to be around, but he’d noticed Jake hanging with him down at the bar more and more lately. It didn’t fit. Xavier had known Jake since they were kids, and the gentle polar bear didn’t typically jive with bad-tempered shifters, especially gorillas. Hell, maybe he’d been in this damn office so long, Harley had mellowed it.

Xavier snorted at that. Yeah, right.

He rubbed his two-day stubble, irritated to be missing out on down time with his crew. He wasn’t a partier like he used to be. Wilde Bear wasn’t so wild anymore. Not unless you counted the lengths he’d go to make a rescue. But still… a soak in the hot tub sounded damn nice. He’d settle for a pool game and a cold beer, though.

The old landline on his desk rang, startling him, and he yanked it up with a scowl. “Blue Bear Search and Rescue,” he grumbled.

“Yes, hello, this is Blue Hole Emergency.” The girl sounded young, probably starstruck and trying to be flirty with the breathy way she talked. Xavier conjured an image of big tits and round ass, but her face morphed fast into that of his ex, and he blinked it away. It was no use.

“What’ve you got?” Xavier asked, shifting straight into responder mode.

“Stranded mountain biker. Up off Highway Six near Cripple Creek.”

He grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down the details, his shoulders slumping. Summer was habitually a slow time for the crew. He missed the action of ski season but not enough to want to take a call today. He had other things to do. Like, hire a sixth. Or get drunk and argue with Harley over a game of pool. But he didn’t have anyone here to send in his place.

“I can be there in fifteen,” he said and hung up.

Xavier fired up the truck and hit the gas, taking a fast right out of the station and onto the empty road. Eleven minutes later, he pulled up behind the local sheriff’s car, its lights flashing.

He hopped out and jogged up the road past a DOT vehicle to the small group gathered. “Sheriff Williams,” he said and nodded once at the older man. He angled to include the woman who stood beside him but kept his eyes on the Sheriff. He didn’t have time for introductions or pleasantries. The rescue was all he could think of now.

“What have you got so far?” Xavier asked.

“Mountain biker went up that way,” Sheriff Williams said, pointing at a narrow trail winding up into the hills above them. “He went off the path about a half-mile up. Seems like his tire wedged into a ravine. He shot over the handlebars and ate it at the bottom of the gorge there. Broke his ankle. Can’t climb out.”

“Equipment?” Xavier asked, squinting up at the trail before it disappeared around an outcropping of boulders.

“Too slick with the loose rock up there. We need a climber. We need your bear, son.”

Xavier whipped back and eyed the man. He didn’t mind the man’s easy reference of his animal. They’d known each other a long time and Xavier knew Williams supported the shifters here. But the woman beside him was DOT, if he had to guess. He wasn’t sure how friendly she would be toward him shifting to make a rescue. And he didn’t need to hear it right now, not when that biker needed help.

As if sensing Xavier’s hesitation, Sheriff nodded sideways at the woman. “This is Laurel Adams from DOT. She’s going to take the report and coordinate anything else we need up here. I’ve got to run to another call. Damn teens spray painted our town sign at the base of the mountain with the word corn before the word hole.”

Sheriff Williams tipped his hat again and started for his car. “Get me on the radio if you need anything,” he added before he was gone.

Shoulders taut, Xavier finally turned to look at the woman from DOT. She stared back at him coolly, eyes assessing, and despite her cold welcome, he couldn’t help but stare. Her dark hair hung over her forehead in a casual flip, framing blue eyes that pinned him where he stood. Her full mouth was pressed together in a tight line, but even that didn’t stop him from continuing his perusal of the rest of her. Cleavage strained sexily against the single button of her jacket and curves practically screamed sex appeal.

Her stare might have been cold, but everything else about her was scorching hot. Xavier’s dick hardened at the thought of all that heat pressed up against him.

He shook his head to clear it. Where the hell had that come from? He hadn’t reacted to a woman like this since… well, he wasn’t going there. No matter how unexpected or strong an attraction he had, Xavier Wilde didn’t date. Or mate.

He cleared his throat, ready to stop whatever was happening before it could go any further. “Laurel, I’m Xavier Wilde, head of Blue Bear Search and Rescue.”

He extended his hand and was surprised to find her grip just as firm as his. Their palms connected and a rush of energy shot through Xavier, up his arm and into the rest of his body. He heard Laurel’s gasp and met her eyes just as she yanked away.

That was interesting. And not what he wanted here. Deep inside, his bear rumbled at the dismissal, but he ignored it. He’d never felt anything quite like that. Attraction but… more. And he didn’t trust himself with any of it.

Besides, Laurel was frowning and smoothing her skirt, scanning her precious clipboard as if it had never happened. Back to business.

“Where’s Gerald?” he asked.

Laurel’s chest expanded with a deep breath. Xavier was hyper-aware of the way her cleavage rose, shoving toward him, before falling away again. “He’s on vacation. Few days in Tahiti. I’ll be filling in until he gets back.”

Xavier barely registered the explanation.

“Is there a problem?” she asked.

He forced himself to focus. “No, we just have a system is all.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’m just as capable as Gerald. I’ve been doing this job a long time, Mr. Wilde. I can handle whatever system you need.”

Any other time, he would’ve appreciated the innuendo in her words, but something about her stance and her authority here rubbed him wrong.

The alpha in him snarled. At the sound deep in his throat, Laurel’s eyes widened. He drew himself up to his full height in a charge of alpha energy. “I’m going in,” he said sharply,

“Oh… Right. Okay.” Laurel bit her lip and fumbled with a clipboard she held in one hand. She stared down at it and Xavier studied her, catching the way her cheeks flushed. She was disoriented. Well, that made two of them.

Laurel’s eyes widened, and she simply nodded. He took that as permission enough to head out and made his way up the trail without another word.

The scent of a human and then blood led him into the gorge. He found the biker easily enough, but stalled when he caught sight of the awkward way the man’s ankle was twisted against the rocks scattered around him. His sharp sight honed in on the imprint of a boulder and the disturbed dirt up above the man’s head. Probably created a slide when he fell.

He climbed carefully down, calling his bear up just enough to help keep his footing, and then sent it away again when he neared the bottom. Humans couldn’t smell the animal, but they could sense something dangerous when he let his animal that close to the surface around them. He didn’t want to spook his patient and cause further injury.

Rocks rolled under his feet, but Xavier managed to reach the man without much trouble. He was relieved to find the man conscious.

“I’m Xavier, head of Blue Bear Search and Rescue,” he said. “Can you stand if I help you?”

The man nodded, his eyes already giving away his exhaustion. “I think so,” he said.

With Xavier’s help, the man stood, and almost immediately, his knee wobbled. Xavier caught him just before he went down and hoisted him up and over his shoulder as easily as a sack of flour. “Just lock your hands around my neck. Don’t let go,” Xavier told him. “I need to climb.”

The man grunted an agreement and Xavier began to make his way out of the gorge. It took three times as long as the trek in; he stopped often to make sure the man was conscious.

When they finally made it out of the gorge, Xavier paused long enough to adjust the man on his back and then began the trek back down. A crew with a stretcher met him halfway, but he waved them off. The rocks still slipped underfoot, and he didn’t trust the squeaky-wheeled contraption not to dump the guy. Besides, the weight was nothing for him. He’d carried three out last winter during a rock slide and hadn’t broken a sweat. This was nothing.

“I’ve got him, just get the ambulance ready,” Xavier told the emergency workers.

They hurried ahead to do as he asked.

A minute later, he rounded the bend and caught sight of the small crowd that had developed along the roadside. Two news vans were being redirected to park further down, and several bystanders were pressing close but being roped off by uniformed officers.

One of them, a woman he’d seen in Mack’s often, smiled at him invitingly, but he pretended she was too far away to notice. Not happening, lady.

He scanned faces, feeling like he’d been thrust on a stage. Nerves pulled at him as he watched them pointing at him, whispering amongst themselves. He hated the spotlight. Dreaded what the townspeople said about him, the bear shifter Blue Bear Search and Rescue boss who’d partied so hard he’d killed his father.

But this crowd wasn’t carrying pitchforks. Mostly, they all looked curious. Impressed, even.

All except for Laurel.

She glared at him, not backing down even when he passed right by her and continued over to where the stretcher lay waiting just outside the ambulance doors. He leaned over slowly, careful with his human passenger as he lay the man out on the thin mattress.

The medics followed close, hovering. “We’ve got the gurney all set up,” one of them said for the third time. A younger guy, probably newer, scared to break protocol. His partner didn’t look thrilled, but at least she didn’t argue. Margie had been at this a while. Probably knew better than to argue with him about it.

Xavier waved them both off and walked around them. “I’ve got him,” he said. “I’ve carried him this far, and those wheels aren’t going to roll properly on this terrain. You’ll just jostle his injuries further.”

The man muttered something about procedure, but otherwise fell back and let Xavier do it his way. He felt someone standing over his right shoulder. Another medic, probably. He ignored them.

But then he laid his patient down, and the wind caught a scent, and he knew who it was. He could smell her perfume, mixed with a hot temper, bearing down on him.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Laurel hissed at his back.

He finished arranging the patient and watched as the emergency workers began their once-over. Blood pressure cuffs, heart rate monitor on the pointer finger. Damn, he wished his crew were here to do this.

“Are you going to answer me or just ignore me all day?” Laurel was close enough he could feel her energy over his shoulder.

“Is he stable?” Xavier asked the medic.

He waited until the young one closest to him nodded curtly. Then and only then did he exhale the breath he’d been holding and turn back to the woman behind him.

The moment he rounded on her, he felt the blaze from her glare, but like before, he was drawn to the hardness in her blue eyes. The challenge of breaking down the uptight wall she’d put up against him. To top it off, her damned perfume invaded him. As overbearing as it was, it only filled him more with her presence.

In response, he took a step toward her, invading her personal space. She stiffened, and he hid a smug smile, pretending not to notice the way her mouth fell slightly open at the sight of him so close.

“Is there a problem?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, her tone acidic. “You ignored the medics and the stretcher provided, choosing instead to recklessly continue with the injured man thrown over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes.”

“Is there a question in there somewhere?”

She huffed. “Why did you ignore the medics?”

“The stretcher’s wheel was loose, and I didn’t want it going sideways on the gravel and pitching the guy, broken ankle first, into another ravine.”

“You don’t know that—”

“Look.” He pointed and watched her eyes narrow and then widen as the medics gave the wheel a shove. With a wobble, the leg collapsed, and they slid the stretcher into the ambulance. But he knew she’d seen what he did. A loose wheel over gravel could have been bad news.

He turned back to her and lifted a brow.

“You could have just said so,” she said coldly. God, why was she wound so fucking tight anyway? He couldn’t be to blame. He didn’t even know the woman. Had never seen her before today.

“Are you new in town? I don’t think I’ve seen you around the mountain before.” He was being vague. He knew he hadn’t seen her. If he had, he’d definitely remember her face. That body. The smug, chilled expression she wore.

“I’ve lived here for almost a year now,” she said. “You make it sound like you know everyone in town.”

“Mostly,” he admitted.

She snorted. “Well, they certainly know you,” she said, and the friendly introduction he’d been about to offer died on his tongue. Of course she’d heard the gossip. And of course she fucking believed it. No wonder she’d been so cold to him.

He did not need this shit. He had work to do. “You need anything else from me for that report of yours?” he asked.

She blinked a few times and finally glanced down at the clipboard again. He waited while she looked over her own notes, and caught himself admiring her long, slender fingers as she used them to keep her place while she read. What would that hand look like wrapped around his cock?

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