Read Big Strong Bear Online

Authors: Terry Bolryder

Big Strong Bear

Big Strong Bear
Terry Bolryder
Contents

C
opyright
© 2015 by Terry Bolryder

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.

Introduction

H
i
, this book contains a deluxe sample of two chapters of another book in the back as a bonus for readers. Big Strong Bear itself is a full length novella of around 36,000 words and will end before 100% as a result of the sample, but is definitely the full book.

Hope you enjoy Hades’s story!

Sincerely,

Terry

1

H
ades walked
into the small house he’d called home ever since he left the army.

It was dark and lonely, as usual, filled with a musty sense of loss that set the perfect atmosphere for what his life had become.

He set his bags down at the front door and kicked it shut behind him. It slammed with a finality that resonated through the space.

Alone. Again.

He’d gone to Bearstone Village to help his friend Ares get his mate out of trouble. Ares was the second of their crew to find a mate. When they’d served in the Special Forces, Ares, Hades, and their leader Zeus had become tight, not only because they were all in the same tough position, but because they were all bear shifters with super strength and extra power that made them perfect for their line of work.

That was until Hades had been blown to smithereens during a rescue mission.

He touched his face absentmindedly and then dropped his hand. No use thinking of that right now. He checked his watch. Close to midnight. He ran a hand through his dark hair, feeling the scrape of nails over his scalp, and turned on the kitchen light to sit at the empty counter.

If only Ares could see him right now, sitting alone and moping, he’d start harping again about Hades needing to find a little mate to “cuddle.”

Well, Hades wasn’t the cuddly type. Not since he’d nearly died in a fiery inferno and been left with scars across the right side of his body.

He should have died. Would have died if not for being a bear shifter with extraordinary healing powers. He’d gone against direct orders in entering the building where they’d just called down fire. But there was a teammate in the structure, and Hades hadn’t been able to leave him behind.

Not when he knew he could save him—and only lose half his body in the process.

Of course, Hades had gone on to lose so much more than that, but he hadn’t known he would at the time.

He pushed off the counter and flopped on a leather couch in the dim living room, pulling a photo out of his wallet.

A beautiful, curvy woman with a round face and bright smile framed by curly blond hair stared back at him, causing a familiar stirring of emotions inside him. Nostalgia. Love. Loss.

He tossed the photo aside. When had things gone so wrong?

Cassie.

He’d been so sure they’d be together forever when he joined the army. She’d promised to wait, even as he was promoted to more and more dangerous activities. He’d wanted to make his way in the world, wanted to provide a good life for her. As a hood rat who’d moved to the suburbs and met her there, he’d always felt a little unworthy.

They’d kept in touch, writing, talking on the phone. He let her know where he was when he could, which wasn’t often.

And he’d always thought when he came back, they would be together forever.

She was his mate.

It didn’t hurt that she was a bear shifter like him. A curvy, sweet little female with sparkling blue-gray eyes and a body meant for holding. It didn’t hurt she’d been the only one at their high school to not judge him for coming from Richmond, a ghetto, and moving in with an aunt and uncle who didn’t want him.

From the moment he’d looked at her, he knew she was the last woman he wanted to look at for the rest of his life.

And from the moment she’d let him kiss her, moaned and sighed against his lips, it seemed she felt the same way.

Her kiss. Hades’s body stirred just at the thought of it. And he leaned forward with a groan just as a loud knock sounded on the door.

He raised his head, letting dark locks shadow his scarred face. Who could be here at this time of night? He hadn’t had a visitor in months. Not since the townspeople seemed to figure out he just wanted to be alone.

The knock sounded again, quieter this time, and he stood slowly, stretching to his full, intimidating height and striding quietly to the front door. He walked along the side of the wall, out of sight of even the shadows, and peeked out the main window.

What he saw in front of him stopped his heart. Just for a moment.

He was a sniper in the war, and he’d had many things in his sights at different points in his life. But nothing had ever attracted his focus as much as the woman on his doorstep did at that moment.

Her blond hair was wind-tossed, curling around her face, and she was wearing a white windbreaker over blue sweats. Her curvy body looked soft and inviting as always. He loved the way her curves fit against his muscles. He was still haunted every night by the feel of her softness against his hardness.

She’d been made for him.

She looked up as if she could sense he was watching her. “Hades? John? Are you in there?”

He hadn’t expected her to come here again. She’d come for months when he was first released, knocking on the door in frustration as he stayed locked in his own personal hell. He’d sat inside, nursing his wounds, waiting for his scars to heal, wanting to see if there was still a whole man he could offer her, not wanting her to see who he was now.

He was a coward; he knew it. He could walk into an inferno of certain death, but the thought of showing the woman he loved how damaged he was terrified him.

So he’d sat there and let her walk away for the last time, telling himself the scars would heal soon. He was a bear shifter after all. And then he would find her and make it up to her. He’d still have everything to give her. That handsome face she’d loved so much, that whole body.

But the scars never healed. And when Hades finally did have the courage to go out and find her at the bakery she’d worked at and now owned, she’d scorned him and sent him away.

Leaving internal scars to match the external ones.

Not that he blamed her. No one could love someone like him. Not anymore. It wasn’t just his scarred exterior; it was the coldness inside that he could feel radiating off him. It made kids cross the street to get away from him and mothers whisper in hushed tones as they pulled their young away.

He’d done things no man should have to do. Heroic things, terrible things. But things that had changed his heart in ways that couldn’t be undone. He wasn’t the young man he’d been when he left Cassie. He wasn’t who she’d been in love with.

She might be his mate, someone he’d never stop loving, no matter how long he lived. But she deserved better now. Someone who had everything to offer her.

All he had to offer was his heart, which was just a little dead inside. Still, he wanted to keep offering it.

He yanked open the door and stared down at her with a harsh glare. Her perfect pink lips parted as she looked up at him. She twisted her hands in her jacket pockets as he leaned coldly in the entranceway and waited for her to speak.

She was beautiful. She was so beautiful it was cruel. And she should have stayed in town with all the men who could give her everything. She had plenty of suitors. Hades saw that when he did go into town. Not that she seemed to take notice of them.

He could feel the attraction surging between them and knew it was the worst possible thing that could happen. But he also couldn’t just leave her on his porch in the dark without figuring out what was going on or what she needed.

“Cassie,” he said softly. “What is it?”

She blinked twice and bit her lip. “I’m in trouble.”

He folded his arms as anger buzzed through him. She might not be his anymore, but no one was allowed to threaten her. Not while he was around. At the same time, he had to be careful. If he got too involved… his heart would get ideas again. And she’d already made it clear on more than one occasion that she couldn’t look at him that way anymore.

Still…

He swung the door open behind him and swept a hand in front of her. “Come on in.”

She gave him a quick, fearful glance, one that cut him to the quick. This was the woman he loved most in the world, someone who should never have to be wary, yet she could look at him like that.

Well, the war had made him a monster. Too grotesque to love her.

But well equipped to protect her.

“Come sit down and tell me what’s happening,” he said, shutting the front door behind them and leading the way into the darkness.

C
assie felt
herself tremble as she followed John into the cold, silent house. He flicked on a light that lit the living room and gestured for her to take a seat on a couch across from him as he sank into a plush chair.

As always, she felt her body respond to his lean beauty. The scars from the war only gave him an even more dangerous appeal, suggesting a man who’d literally emerged from hell and lived to tell the tale.

She supposed it was appropriate he’d come back from the army with the name Hades.

The ruler of the underworld.

Scars or not, there was a time when she would have followed him anywhere. The tall, handsome bad boy and then her high school sweetheart. His kisses had lit up the darkness in her heart, given her lonely world meaning. For years, just the hope of being with him when he got out of the army had sustained her as she toiled in the small town to pay her parents’ medical bills.

Her mom had died when she was young, and her father passed while Hades was gone. She was alone in the world now, which only made it more poignant that Hades had abandoned her.

Well, not totally. It was clear from time to time that he wanted something from her, but she didn’t know what, and after the way he’d treated her, she didn’t want it anyway.

Even if she had once wanted him more than she wanted air.

She bit her lip as his hot-as-hell, smoky-gray eyes studied her from underneath long, curled lashes. His tanned skin made his light eyes that much more striking. His straight nose, high cheekbones, and rugged jaw all gave him a fallen angel appeal. Combined with that dark, roguish hair that liked to curl around his face and the horizontal scars brushing the right side, he was a completely devastating package.

And he seemed to know it, tolerating her perusal with a cold, unaffected stare. Of course he knew he was beautiful. He always had been.

His long legs were splayed in front of him. His powerful arms flexed as he folded them and studied her right back. She felt a chill run over her back as she submitted to his gaze.

It was all so terribly awkward. But she was in his house and asking for his help, so she’d try to endure it.

But oh, what that body still did to her. Just the thought of pulling his shirt off, seeing the powerful muscles he’d developed in his years of fighting with the most elite men in the nation. Once, she’d been proud to call him hers.

Now she couldn’t, but she was proud all the same.

“What did you come for?” he asked harshly, in a cool tone. “I believe you made it quite clear you were done with me the last time we spoke.”

“That hasn’t stopped you from stalking me in town,” she snapped, patience drawn tight by the situation.

A small smile quirked one corner of his lips. “I go where I want. If you happen to be there…”

She folded her arms and pursed her lips. “Well, if you just so happen to walk up to the bakery, stare, and never go in, I guess that’s your business.”

“It is my business,” he said, his face going impassive and cold once again. “As I said, I’ll go where I like. But back to the subject. Why are you here?”

She fidgeted. She knew how it must look. Ignoring him and then coming to him the minute she needed help. But truly, there was no one else she could ask. Not with something this serious. This dangerous.

“Hades…”

“John,” he said. “You always called me John.” There was a twinkle of something in his eyes, a vague flash of the affection she remembered between them, but then it was gone. “Hades is my army name. I want you to call me John.”

“John,” she said, testing the word uncomfortably on her lips. It was easier to call him Hades, at least in her mind. It separated out the cold man who’d hurt her from the man she’d loved most of her adult life. But that man didn’t come back from the war. That man must have died in the fire, sending this beautiful, cold devil back to taunt her by looking so much like the John she once loved.

The man she’d known would never have betrayed her like Hades did.

But she wasn’t here to talk about that. That was history, and they couldn’t go back to the way things were. She couldn’t go back and make him open the door, or keep that other woman out of his life.

No, she just had to press on. “John,” she said quietly. “There’s someone after me.”

His eyes were cool as he studied her, waiting for her to go on. When he was a teenager, he would have reacted with fury, clenching his fists and ready to threaten anything in sight. Now he was calculated. If he was even affected by what she told him, she could only barely make it out in the slight tightness of his mouth, a little tick of a muscle right at his temple at the side of his eyebrow.

“And what do you want me to do about it?” he asked.

Her heart dropped, her palms going cold. Perhaps he really had stopped caring about her. A part of her regretted everything that had happened between them. But she couldn’t just be a doormat; she couldn’t just pretend not to have seen what she’d seen.

“I thought maybe…”

He stood abruptly, tilting his head as his smoke-gray eyes blazed down at her. “You thought you’d come use me? Thought I’d make a good bodyguard if not a good lover?”

She felt a flush move over her cheeks. “It’s more that I thought you’d still care as a friend, even if not as more.”

He scoffed but went silent, walking to the entryway where he could pace in the dark. He seemed comfortable there, even if Cassie wanted to run around turning on all the lights to brighten the place. He didn’t deserve to be here like this.

This place was too cold. Even with the heat up to ninety, it would feel frigid in here.

She waited for his answer. Underneath the hard exterior, she was sure the man she’d known was still there, and he wouldn’t turn his back on anyone in need of protection.

She’d hurt him; she knew that. But he’d hurt her too.

He continued to think, walking over to the kitchen to pull out a stool with a loud scraping sound and plopping his large body atop it.

Other books

Winning the Alpha by Carina Wilder
Jungle Kill by Jim Eldridge
For the Win by Rochelle Allison, Angel Lawson
Forbidden Fire by Jan Irving
A Childs War by Richard Ballard
Forgotten Alpha by Joanna Wilson
1951 - In a Vain Shadow by James Hadley Chase
The Jade Boy by Cate Cain
Freakn' Cougar by Eve Langlais
SOMEDAY SOON by David Crookes