Authors: Sloane Meyers
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Paranormal, #Polar Bear, #Werebear, #Adult, #Erotic, #Shifter, #Mate, #Sexy, #Forever Love, #Ice Bear Shifters, #Grandmother, #Co-Worker, #Clan, #Girl Next-Door, #Dishonor Wishes, #Appealing, #Supernatural, #Escaping Somewhere, #Life Changes, #Attraction, #Plans, #Chance
Alexis couldn’t wait to be done with training for her new job. She nodded and tried to stifle a yawn while her trainer pointed out the different screens of the software program that allowed agents to search for available flights. Most of these programs had been dumbed down to the point that a five-year-old could navigate them, but the trainer still felt obliged to explain all of the features to her in detail.
Alexis glanced at her watch as discreetly as she could. She had thirty minutes remaining on her shift, and then she could head home. Tomorrow, she would be set loose to face the customers on her own. At this point, she was looking forward to it. She knew the work was not going to be a piece of cake. From her days of training, and from watching James, she could see that trying to get some of these people to listen to logic was next to impossible. But at least she wouldn’t have to listen to the trainer drone on about software features.
James. Just the thought of his name sent little butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She couldn’t seem to get him off her mind, no matter how hard she tried. The first day she had seen him out on the tundra in bear form, she had immediately known she was viewing a shifter. The way the bear moved was too different from every full bear she had ever seen. Her grandmother, whom she affectionately called Grams, had educated her on the intricacies of shifters, and that education had paid off when Alexis saw the giant polar bear ambling along the tundra with a humanlike gait.
She had seen shifters in bear form before, as a young girl. Years had passed since her last sighting, however. She knew the shifter clans had been declining in the region, but she wasn’t sure why. And the shifters that were still around tended to avoid anything that might give away their special abilities. Numerous bear hunts had sent any shifters that remained into the shadows.
When Alexis had confronted James on the tundra, she had confirmed her suspicions. His eyes were clearly human. And although he had tried to act tough by pretending that he might attack her, he hadn’t put a single scratch on her body. A full bear would have been lunging at her if she got that close. When Alexis saw James outside the interview room a few days later, she knew without question that it was him. She would have recognized those eyes anywhere.
Shifter eyes. They held more expression than normal human eyes, perhaps because shifters held centuries of history within their souls. No matter how strongly James insisted that shifting was merely a physical, genetic occurrence, Alexis knew that his abilities were deeper than that. Her grandmother had taught her better.
Alexis breathed a silent sigh of relief as her trainer glanced at his watch and said they should call it a night. She thanked him for his help and time as graciously as she could, and then headed for home.
She breathed in the fresh air deeply as she left the stuffy airport building. Born and raised in the rural areas of northern Alaska, even a small town like Glacier Point felt like a huge city to her. She would have rather stayed far away from here, and far away from the airport with its loud, noisy planes that spewed smelly fumes into the air. But, her grandmother was sick, and had grown significantly weaker over the last several months. Grams needed better, more consistent medical care than she could get out in the wilderness. It had taken some time, but Alexis had finally convinced her to move into town.
Alexis did have to admit that she enjoyed the conveniences of living in town. Having a grocery store available at any time had been a nice change of pace. She supposed she would have enjoyed the chance to be around more people her own age, too, if only she had time to actually go out. Whenever she wasn’t at work, she was at home with her grandmother. She didn’t want to leave the sickly woman alone any more than necessary.
Now, she unlocked the door and stepped into their small townhome as quietly as possible. She hoped Grams was sleeping, and she didn’t want to wake her. Moments after stepping through the door, however, she heard stirring from Grams’ bedroom.
“Alexis? Is that you?” Grams called out, with a voice that was surprisingly strong for someone who probably only had a few months left to live.
Alexis let out a long sigh. Of course it was her. They lived alone. Who else would be unlocking the front door at 9 p.m.? Her grandmother’s mind seemed to have grown fuzzier as of late, though. Although nearly a decade had passes since Alexis’ parents had passed away, Grams had trouble these days remembering that it had been ten years since anyone else had lived with them.
Alexis set down her keys and purse, and started making her way to her grandmother. She had been a young teenager when her parents died in a car accident while on vacation in Oregon. At the time, it had seemed to Alexis like her world had permanently stopped. But, somehow, things had kept moving forward, even though she had lost the two most important people in her life in one tragic moment. A big part of making it through those dark days had been the ability to lean on her grandmother. Grams had always been a strong woman, full of wisdom and class. She always seemed to have her wits about her, and Alexis couldn’t remember ever asking a question to which her grandmother hadn’t known the answer.
Memories of the strong, vibrant woman that Grams had once been were growing more distant by the day. The doctor here in Glacier Point couldn’t figure out what exactly was wrong with the old woman, but Grams refused to go to any of the bigger cities with a big hospital. The old woman insisted that she was just dying of old age, and that the only cure for that was a time machine.
Alexis had given up trying to convince her to move again, and was doing her best to make her comfortable and happy in Glacier Point for the remainder of her life—however long that might be. Alexis stepped into her grandmother’s bedroom and sat down on the small wooden chair next to the bed.
“Hi, Grams. How are you?” Alexis asked.
“Never better,” Grams said. She gave this same answer every time Alexis asked how she was, even though Grams had clearly had better days physically.
“That’s good,” Alexis said. “Do you need anything? A snack or some water or something?”
Grams shook her head no. “I’m fine, dear,” she said, then narrowed her eyes at Alexis. “Where have you been?”
Alexis looked at her grandmother in confusion. Was she losing her short term memory as well? Alexis had told her exactly where she was going right before she left for work.
“I’ve been at work, Grams. At the airport, remember?” Alexis said, trying to keep the frustration out of her voice.
“I know that,” Grams said. “But you have a goofy, lovestruck look on your face. Did you meet someone at work?”
“No,” Alexis said, a little too emphatically. Her grandma smirked at her.
“Who is he?”
“Grams, I’m there to work. There’s no one,” Alexis said, even as a mental picture of James’ face flashed across her mind.
Grams merely smirked and settled deeper into the plush comforter on her bed. “I may be old, dear, but I’m not stupid. I can see the flustered excitement in your eyes that only comes from a brand new crush. And I say ‘good for you.’ You’re young. Have a little fun.”
Alexis wanted to protest, and say that between work and taking care of their small household, she didn’t have time to get out and have a little fun. But her grandmother would have insisted that she was fine alone here, even though Alexis knew she wasn’t. She was getting weaker and frailer by the day. Alexis was already worried about leaving her alone to go to work. She wasn’t going to add more time away to that. Besides, Alexis felt certain that her grandmother would not approve of her dating a shifter. Her grandmother had always preached respect for all types of people, but believed that mixing humans with shifters was a bad idea. Grams claimed that mixing the natural, physical world with the supernatural was asking for trouble.
So, Alexis tucked her grandmother in and then went to her own small bedroom to change into pajamas. She would keep her little crush on James a secret. After all, that’s all it was—a little crush. There wasn’t any sense in upsetting her grandmother over James when nothing would ever come of it. Having someone at work to flirt with was fun, but James had acted reserved and aloof for the most part. Alexis got the feeling that she had made him uncomfortable when she told him that she knew he was a shifter. Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything, but she’d been so excited to see that there were still shifters around.
Alexis shrugged to herself as she climbed into bed. She wasn’t going to spend any more time worrying about whether James felt uncomfortable. She had more important things to worry about.
* * *
As the days passed, Alexis barely had time to think, let alone worry. The height of tourist season had arrived, and, with it, throngs of angry customers who were fond of taking out their frustrations on whoever happened to be at the customer service counter. Alexis did her best not to take it personally, but getting yelled at all day would take its toll on anyone. One Friday, when quitting time finally came, she clocked out and then let out a huge sigh.
“I need a beer,” she said aloud to her timecard.
“So come get one with me,” a voice behind her said.
Alexis jumped and then spun around to find herself face to face with James. Her heart started beating faster, and she stared up at him dumbly.
“A beer?” she said. “I…I have to get home.”
“Why?” James asked, crossing his arms. “Someone waiting for you? I haven’t heard you mention a boyfriend.”
Alexis felt her heart pounding even faster. James had just made it clear that he wanted to know whether she had a boyfriend. Which meant that she hadn’t been imagining it when she thought she caught him looking over at her with interest now and then. She told herself to breathe, but held her breath anyway.
“Well?” James asked, and Alexis realized she was still just staring at him.
“No boyfriend. But I do have a very sick grandma. I need to get home and check on her,” Alexis said. Her heart melted a little bit when she saw James’ eyes soften at her words.
“Anything I can do to help?” he asked. “I could drive you home. You’ll get there faster.”
Alexis was tempted by the offer, and slightly flattered that James had been paying enough attention to her to realize she walked home every day. The walk to her small townhome was only three miles, but after a day on her feet, the distance often felt like several times that. If she let James give her a ride, though, wouldn’t she be egging him on into thinking that she was interested in him? Wait, was she interested in him? Maybe. He did look pretty damn sexy, standing in front of her and leaning casually against the wall. Alexis frowned and shook her head to get the thought out of her mind. She couldn’t let this little flirtation go any further than it already had.
“I’m fine, really. I could use the exercise,” she said.
It was James’ turn to frown. “Look, we both know you’re exhausted. You’ve been on your feet for eight hours, listening to furious people yelling about lost luggage and ticket change fees. Let me drive you home. I’m sorry if I made things awkward by asking about a boyfriend. You don’t have to go get a beer with me, now or ever. But let me be a friend and drive you home.”
Alexis hesitated one more moment, and then nodded. It
be nice not to have to walk home. And she would get back to her grandmother to check on her a little bit quicker—although odds were good that Grams would just be sleeping. Besides, what could letting James drive her home just one time hurt? Nothing.
But it ended up being more than one time. After driving her home the first night, and dropping her off with a friendly wave, James started offering to drive her every night. For a few nights, Alexis made a point to protest. But the luxury of a ten minute ride instead of a forty-five minute walk was too much to resist. Within a week, James took to waiting by the time clock for Alexis, and Alexis began following him to his truck every night with a grateful smile.
They made light small talk at first, sharing miserable stories of their worst customers of the day or discussing the best options to grab a quick bite to eat during breaks. Alexis didn’t bring up the fact that James was a shifter, and he didn’t say anything that alluded to his special abilities. As the weeks wore on, they became true friends based on these ten minute spurts of conversation. Since their break times at work never seemed to coincide, and they were always too busy during work hours to have a real conversation, these short rides were all they knew of each other.
But those ten minute conversations were all it took for Alexis to realize that she was falling head over heels for James. She tried to resist, knowing that she could never be romantically involved with a shifter. Her grandmother would strongly disapprove, and the last thing Alexis wanted to do was dishonor her grandmother, who was all she had left. But, oh, how James’ smile and laugh warmed her heart. It didn’t hurt that he had the most gorgeous face she had ever seen. And the way he looked at her with those dark brown eyes left no doubt that he felt something for her, too.
So Alexis shouldn’t have been surprised when, late one Thursday night, James stopped in front of her house and turned off the engine on his car instead of just waiting for her to hop out before driving away.
“James?” she asked, her voice sounding strangely hopeful. He didn’t say anything. Instead, he started slowly leaning toward her, his eyes blazing with unmistakable passion. He gave Alexis plenty of time to pull away, and the rational side of her mind screamed at her to stop him before he got too close. But her heart was drawn to his heart, and no matter how hard her mind tried to put a stop to the moment, her heart wouldn’t let her look away.