Read Devoted to the Bear Online

Authors: T. S. Joyce

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #Werewolves & Shifters

Devoted to the Bear (10 page)

He navigated the bulk of the disaster area she’d left on the floor last night
, then lowered them to the bed. She normally liked him rough around the edges and barely in control, but tonight she understood his need to take it slow. She’d needed this to convince herself they were both really okay too.

“Spread your legs for me, love
,” he murmured against her ear.

He only called her that in their bedroom and the endearment
pressed a shiver up her back. It settled in her shoulders, shaking her, and Riker’s answering smile was slow and wicked.

“Want to taste you,” he said.

And thank you very much for explaining, Benson Riker, you sexy man.
She would’ve been terribly disappointed when he slid his cock out of her otherwise.

Sitting her up, he pulled her to the edge of the bed in a firm grip. She locked her elbows and leaned back onto the plush mattress. As much as she wanted to tilt her head back and lose herself in the feel of her mate’s clever tongue inside her, she could
n’t seem to take her eyes off Riker as he kissed and sucked, and nibbled his way down her torso. The angle he presented gave her a glorious advantage. From here, the planes of his rippling shoulders and upper back were visible as he gripped her thighs. With every inch he lowered with his slow affections, her knees pressed open wider in anticipation. He hadn’t shaved today and the short, gold whiskers on his jaw tickled as he bit into the inside of her leg. At the sensation, she bucked forward, and a pleading sound wrung from her.

His hands laced around her back and drew her nearer until she was barely balanced on the edge of their bed. Their bed. No longer Riker’s, because he’d made it clear this was her home too. He
plunged his tongue into her then and she gasped his name, clutching the sheets in her clenched hands. His head bobbed with the pace he set and as the strain of release consumed her, she gripped the back of his head and arched into him.

She
splintered under his careful affection, breaking apart until she had to close her eyes against the pleasure wracking her body. Wave after wave of pulsing ecstasy washed through her and before the aftershocks were even through, Riker stood and slid into her with a desperate noise. Thrusting, he pushed her farther onto the bed and gripped her hair. “God, you’re so beautiful.” His voice shook as if he was scarcely hanging onto control.

Barely done with her first release, she burned as the second built to a fury inside of her. Riker crashed against her again and again and she clawed at his back,
frantic to be closer. This was the Riker she liked. Soft Riker was nice sometimes, but dominant, sexy, primal Riker was her favorite bed fellow. His teeth grazed the tender flesh of her throat as he slammed into her and yelled out, and she followed him straight into oblivion.

She clutched onto him for a long time after that, stroking the back of his
neck and rubbing her face against his jaw in a leisurely pattern. He seemed to need the comfort of her arms as much as she needed to feel safe in his.

It’s over.
The words brushed her mind as she hovered in the state between asleep and awake. Stone couldn’t hurt her anymore. She and Riker had fought for each other, and their devotion had won against the evil that had tainted her past. His love for her was so bright, it had burned away everything and left only the good.

S
afety wasn’t just this feeling she could only attain in the warmth of his arms anymore.

She
was
safe.

Chapter Twelve

“You coming to the celebration tonight?” Riker asked Dillon a
s the old man offered his hand to shake. The meetings had run long today, but he was still trying to play catch up after being away.

“I’ll be there,” he said, his wrinkles deepening with his genuine smile.

“I have something for you to listen to,” Brody said, lingering as Dillon made his way out of the office door.

The council member pressed a button on his phone and handed it to Riker. What he heard when he pulled it to his ear froze the breath in his lungs. It was Hannah, and she sounded terrified.

Brody’s dark hair fell forward into his face as he removed his glasses and cleaned them with the edge of his shirt. “She called when she was out in the woods. Must’ve been right before Murphy found her because the call was made while the phone was sitting in the back of Blaine’s patrol car with the rest of my clothes. We were tracking her at the time. I checked it yesterday when Blaine returned it to me and found the voicemail. Thought you’d want to hear it.” Brody returned the phone to his back pocket, then turned for the door and said over his shoulder, “You’ve found a good match, Riker. She was thinking about you at the end.”

Fear had laced her words but she’d instructed Brody to tell him she’d
tried to get back to him and that she loved him. Dragging air back into his lungs, he fought as his animal threatened to explode from him. He’d go straight to Hannah desperate if he didn’t give himself time to settle. She was safe and alive and his. The voicemail brought equal parts anguish and pride to him. She’d tried to sound strong and give him closure for when she was gone.

And suddenly
he knew the oracle had been right. If anything ever happened to his Hannah, it would destroy him. She’d fracture him until there was nothing left but grief and shards of useless bone. How terrifying for someone to have such influence over his life—to hold his fate so completely in her hand. She was strong though, a fighter, and when she tired, he’d just have to protect her for always. If he trusted anyone with such complete power over him, it was Hannah.

The door swung open and Merit sauntered in. Nothing could
foul his mood quite like this woman. Her dark hair was curled in soft waves around her face and her lips were glossed in a bold crimson. She wore a white sundress and strappy heels that added inches to her height. She’d be a pretty woman if it weren’t for the remnants of jagged ice in her eyes that never seemed to soften.

“I need to speak with you.”

“Of course you do. What do you want, Merit?”

“I want you to reconsider mating to that whore.”

Riker clenched his fists against the urge to lift her by her dainty dress straps and toss her from the building. “Don’t call her that,” he drawled through gritted teeth. “My mind is made up. My bear has chosen. Your attempt at manipulation proved you weren’t worthy.”

“I’m here to beg you to think about this.” Her full lip trembled and she lifted her chin. “We had plans. It was never supposed to be a competition for your affection and she came and ruined…” Her voice hitched and her eyes brimmed with tears. Voice dipping to a whisper, she said, “She ruined
our future.” She took a step toward him. “You are the best of us, Riker. Big, strong, smart, the great leader this clan has been waiting for. And you’re tethering yourself to a human who can’t continue your lineage. She’ll never be able to bear you cubs, Riker.” She invaded his space, ran a hand up his chest. “I can.”

He’d thought about all of this already, so Merit was wasting her time. Did he want children with Hannah? Ones who looked like her and had her strong spirit? Did he want to watch Hannah’s neck arch as she cradled their firstborn child in her arms? Did he burn with the fact that he’d never be able to give her more of a family than what they had between the two of them? Hell yes. But he was di
fferent now and mating to a shifter for the sole purpose of breeding wasn’t enough anymore. Not after Hannah had come into his life. They’d just have to weather the heartache of a quiet home together.

The bones in her wrist were so fine he could snap them with a simple squeeze of his fingers, and she gasped as whatever she saw in his face. “You should leave.”

“If you deny me and go through with this, Riker, so help me, I’ll leave this place forever and join the Long Claws.”

Riker lifted his chin and glared down at her so she wouldn’t miss the truth of his words. “I think that would be best.”

Her mouth fell open and a little noise of shock came from her lips. She wrenched her arm from his steely grip and spun for the door. Just before she slammed it, she spat out, “You’ll be sorry for this.”

The force of the
crashing door rocked him back on his heels and he ran his hand down his face. The woman exhausted him. The current alpha of the Long Claws was a hard man, but he was still unmated. Of course, they didn’t really believe in mating for life in that clan, but Merit was a creative woman. He wouldn’t be surprised if Merit snagged her alpha after all. She’d made no secret that being an alpha’s mate was her biggest desire. The woman fed on power, but she wouldn’t leach it from a shallow bonding with Riker.

Still, she could make trouble for the tentative peace Bear Valley had established with the Long Claws.

“You ready?” Cameron asked from the open doorway. His hand rested easily on the knob that had just been abused by Merit and all of her fury.

His worries melted away at the thought of Hannah be
coming his mate by clan law in a couple of hours. “I’ve been ready.”

****

A nervous fluttering filled Hannah’s stomach as she walked the trail from Riker’s house to the corn fields. She pressed the wrinkles from her knee length, forest green sundress. “What will it be like?”

Jenny gripped her hand and smiled easily. “Short and sweet, but he’ll have to mark you. It’ll hurt but it’ll be worth it. Look.” Jenny pulled her shirt aside to reveal three faint scars that ran in a straight line from her sternum to her collar bone. She never would’ve noticed them if Jenny hadn’t pointed them out.
“Don’t worry, Riker won’t claw you. The marks are made with a small knife.”

She swallowed hard at the thought of more pain but she’d been through worse and her body bore much uglier scars than those.

“It’ll be quick,” Jenny explained, “and then we’ll celebrate.”

The crickets were out, singing to the
sunset as evening lengthened the shadows of the giant pine forest.

As they left the tree line, Hannah gasped at the beauty of the cl
earing around the corn fields. Hundreds of old fashioned candle lanterns had been lit and hung from low hanging tree branches. Strands of white lights had been strung from tree to tree and fireflies flickered as if they spoke to the tiny lantern flames. Chairs and tables had been set up, all mismatching and covered with white and gold table linens. A buffet had been erected furthest from the field and Riker’s people bustled about in frenzied preparation. A little girl approached with a shy smile and handed Hannah a bouquet of wildflowers. The child’s mother waited nearby and after Hannah knelt down and thanked her, the girl scrambled back to her family.

Riker stood atop a ladder, hanging a strand of lights, but when his eyes fell on her, his face transformed into a slow smile.

He climbed down and approached slowly, with that formal posture he adopted in front of his people, and offered his hand. The bustle around them died down as she slid her hand into his. Her fingers, pale and slender, contrasted with the dark strength of his and she lifted her gaze.

His eyes smoldered and he twitched his head. “You want to do this?”

“What, become the mate of the alpha?”

“Yes, that.”

She lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “I don’t have any other plans today. Why not?”

He chuckled and led her between the tables until
she stood in front of Cameron.

“People of Bear Valley,” Cameron said in a booming voice that echoed off the mountains. “We’re here because our alpha has chosen his mate. Kind, caring, strong, and protective of our way of life, he’s found all the qualities in his mate that our people covet.

Hannah’s breath came shallow as she watched Riker. He hadn’t taken his eyes from her and she struggled to listen to the words that would bind them. He’d shaved this morning and the
sharp angles of his jaw beckoned for her to touch his face. She didn’t know how long she stayed lost in Riker’s gaze, but Cameron broke the spell by placing the handle of a knife in the palm of her hand, and turning to Riker, he handed her mate a matching blade.

“From here on,
Benson Riker and Hannah Michaels will be marked by each other, and by clan law, they will be mated.”

Riker reached out, eyes bright, and thumbed the strap of her dress to the side. He looked once over her should
er, and when she turned to follow his gaze, Daria stood right behind her. Gripping her arms, the healer pulled her against her chest.

Fighting the panic at being confined, Hannah took a deep steadying breath. This pain wasn’t like the torture she’d been through. This pain would mark her as Riker’s for all time.

He gripped her shoulder, steadying her. “Ready?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

Three quick snicks and she didn’t feel the pain until Daria pressed layers of bandages against the wound before it wept red onto her dress. Careful to keep the pain from her face, she focused on the pride in Riker’s gaze until Daria was finished binding her.

He gently pulled her strap
back over the secured bandages and smiled. “Your turn.”

The thought of hurting him made her
stomach feel like she’d swallowed cold stones, but his eyes were bright and excited and this was almost done.

She unsheathed the blade as Daria moved behind Riker.
He removed his white, button up shirt and hooked his hands on waist as she lifted the knife. She wasn’t as fast as him, careful to line up each mark an equal distance apart, and blood trickled down his skin. He showed no pain though and didn’t rush her, and she wanted the mark she made on him to look perfect. Throughout their years together, he’d see the scar in the mirror and think of this day, always.

The happiness in his face as Daria
bandaged the wound consumed Hannah, filling her with warmth until the tear that had been threatening to spill slid down her cheek.

Applause, cheers, whistles and well-wishes filled the evening and Riker pulled her close and kissed her until she felt drunk with his affection. The wound burned, but the pain reminded her of the commitment she’d just made
, and it brought another wave of contentment.

“I have something for you,” he said low.

She buried her face in his shoulder as he ran his hand down her forearm and wrist. “I have you. It’s enough.”

Cold metal touched her ring finger and she lifted her hand to find a wide silver band. The lantern light threw tiny reflections off the emerald set inside it.

He searched her face as if he were afraid she wouldn’t like it. “It’s not traditional.”

She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him as
tightly as she could. He hadn’t needed to buy her a ring. None of the other shifters here wore one, but he’d made a point to include her human culture in their mating ceremony. “It’s perfect.”

His finge
rs brushed up and down her back in a comforting gesture. “I know being mated to me isn’t the same as marriage. Maybe it’s more, I don’t know. But I hated when that officer asked you where your ring was, and you had nothing to show that you were mine in the human world.” He drew her adorned hand up to his lips and kissed it lightly. “Now you do.”

They were pulled apart then, and drawn into embraces, passed around
the clan for congratulations. Her gaze never left Riker’s for long, and he seemed to feel the same need to watch her. He made his way back to her as dinner was served. Laughter filled the night, and Riker’s hand didn’t stray from her lower back as he included her in every conversation. He looked so proud, she couldn’t stop smiling. She was the lucky one.

Jenny sniffled beside her
as Riker joked with Brody and Dillon, and Hannah turned to hug her.

“You’re going to be my sister now,” Jenny whispered.

Hannah’s face crumpled and tears stung her eyes. She’d have a family again and no one would ever know just how important that was after everything she’d lost.

“Can I tell you something?” Jenny breathed.

“You can tell me anything.”

She e
ased back and tears trailed Jenny’s cheeks, reflecting the lantern light in the tiny, watery orbs as she seemed to search for the right words.

Hannah thumbed the moisture away and frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything is right.” Her voice dipped low and she looked so happy. “I’m pregnant.”

Hannah searched her eyes and a slow smile took her face. “I’
m going to be an aunt?”

Jenny hugged her up tight and buried her face in Hannah’s neck. “I haven’t told Blaine yet. I wanted to wait until after your big day
but I couldn’t hold this huge secret in anymore.”

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