His to Bear: Icy Cap Den #1 (Alaskan Den Men)

His to Bear
Icy Cap Den #1
Jennifer Hilt
Edited by
Christy Karras

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.

This is a work of fiction, unless your world contains shifters, vampires and ghouls. If so, put this book down and go talk to your neighbors.

T
itle of book
: His to Bear (ALASKAN DEN MEN SERIES)

First edition. June 21, 2016.

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Hilt.

Written by Jennifer Hilt

Editor: Christy Karras

Cover Design: Bookin’ It Designs

ISBN: 978-0-9968800-8-4

Foreword

Welcome to the Alaskan Den Men World

S
ix Alaskan Werebear Dens
, Eighteen Shifter Happily Ever Afters…

T
he 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

His to Bear, Icy Cap Den

V
ampire Meg Chambers
has everything she ever wanted--great new job, perfect place to live, and she's even feeling some sparks flying between herself and her ice-bear shifter landlord and town sheriff, Ash Barlow. Too bad her employment contract stipulates if she acts on the attraction, she's sentenced to death by staking.

S
heriff Ash Barlow’s
off limits sexy housemate is leaving her lingere in their shared bathroom and sleeping in his guest room. Fighting their attraction for each other becomes impossible as blizzards and bear traps throw these two forbidden lovers together. When Meg suffers a serious injury will Ash do the one thing necessary to save her and forever change their lives?

S
ign
up for Alaskan Den Men’s newsletter
here
.

Book 2: Mine to Bear– July 5, 2016

Book 2: Theirs to Bear– July 19, 2016

1
Ash

F
ive Reasons
why fucking Dr. Meg Chambers is a bad idea:

1) She is a vampire. This far north of the Arctic Circle in January, all we have is night. Come spring when the sun touches the horizon? Not good.

2) She is a physician to both humans and paranorms. In order for this fledgling community to grow, Icy Cap needs her.

3) If she has a personal relationship with anyone, the medical review board can stake her.

4) She rents my spare bedroom.

5) My badge says:
Ash Barlow, Sheriff/Mayor of Icy Cap, AK
. Yep, I’m her boss.

I
only finish
writing number five on my list before my pen freezes. That’s what I get for sitting here in my truck during a blizzard.

Ever since Meg showed up in Icy Cap two months ago, fresh out of training and looking for a place to set up her medical practice, I’ve been fighting the urge to claim her as my mate. Now, with the winter’s biggest blizzard bearing down on us, I’m going to be trapped in my cabin with her during the full moon. That time of month, my shifter spirit is strongest.

All shifters need to claim a mate. Sometimes that process is easy: two shifters fall in love, fuck each other into exhaustion, then repeat the process, creating little shifters.

Then there’s the hard way. Or, as my family would say: Ash’s way. Honestly, I don’t set out trying to make my life difficult. But one look at Meg’s heart-shaped face, curvy ass, and sassy mouth is all it took for my ice bear spirit to know she should be my mate. And that’s a dangerous proposition for her.

Meanwhile, trying not to claim her these past few months has been driving me to distraction.

Especially because she enjoys taunting me by leaving her bedroom door ajar when she’s changing. Or I find her panties and DD lace bra hanging on our shared bathroom door hook. That sexy little vamp has a twisted streak that I’m dying to taste.

However, if Icy Cap is going to progress beyond some backwater hamlet upon the Arctic Sea, we need services. And a physician vampire is a boon to a place like Icy Cap. It was bad timing that there was no place for her to stay except with me upon her arrival. The inn I’m renovating won’t be finished until spring. Renting out my spare bedroom to her made good business sense. Tired of thinking, I cut my truck engine and kill the headlights.

Even with whiteout conditions and subzero temperatures, there is no missing the rotten-egg odor of dark magic.

Visible between gusts, the outline of my log cabin ahead is a beacon after a day of renovations and, even worse, struggling with building codes. My cabin is five miles away from the Icy Cap Inn. Besides the aforementioned inn, right now the entire town consists of a taxidermy shop, gas station and several empty buildings.

I’m so close to home, sitting here in my truck with my list scrawled on the back of a supply order.

Now this.

Climbing out of the truck, I kick the fresh snow aside with my work boots. Sugar-like granules puff into showers. The snow will soon freeze into a dense mass. I have to work fast. Not only don’t I want to smell that odor all winter, it would hardly be confidence-inspiring to the rest of the paranorms living around here for my place to reek of dark magic.

Icy Cap is nothing special to look at now, but it’s going to be a community far north of the Arctic Circle where ice-bear shifters and other paranorms can live year-round. That’s the way it was when I was growing up, before everything went bust.

My plan—along with my silent partner and twin brother, Dane—is to build an inn with a restaurant and bar. Following the “if we build it, they will come” logic, I’m hoping that guides, photographers, nature buffs, and hunters will discover Icy Cap. Visitors need shelter, food, and clothing along with souvenirs and entertainment. The tourists’ visits during the three months of endless summer days will bankroll the paranorms’ other nine months of hard-earned solitude.

But getting that dream to a reality is taking a hell of a lot of effort. I devoted most of my thirty-odd years to hockey. When my bear spirit refused to be suppressed any longer, I had to figure out a way to live as a man and an ice bear shifter. Coming back to Icy Cap was the only thing that made sense. Unfortunately, it meant rebuilding the community. That is not something life as a star hockey player prepared me for.

Times like this, when rotten-egg-smelling dark magic shows up, I miss my ordinary pre-shifter life. Inside me, a growl begins. My bear resents my reminiscing when there’s work to be done.

When I stand outside my truck, the snow blows in my face. The air smells damp, even with the freezing temperatures. More heavy snow is headed this way. So why am I standing around out here?

A few kicks and my boot hits metal. I squat, carefully brushing the loose snow aside. An arctic hare’s fine long ears and white fur are almost cut in half by the bear trap’s metal teeth. Only a slight dark stain mars the snow; the hare’s blood froze quickly. Some twisted bastard’s trap has sawed off one of the animal’s legs.

My bear spirit snarls. The growl escapes my chest into the night. This trap was within my property. All that I hold dear is in my cabin two hundred yards away; I will not let her be harmed. And this isn’t the first time I’ve been faced with an enchanted trap.

I have to find whoever is setting glamoured bear traps around my Icy Cap community. Hunting is a way of life three hundred miles north of the Artic Circle. But this trap, like the others, was set to cause maximum suffering before death. And for what? To harvest a “lucky” rabbit’s foot? Certainly, from the hare’s perspective nothing good came of it. No, there was some deeper purpose, but I don’t yet know what.

After separating the victim from its snare, I carry both toward my cabin. Even though it is hidden behind thick clouds, the full moon’s tug on my bear spirit is there. No doubt about it; I want to kill the perpetrator. It’s all I can do not to shift right now and begin my search. But first I have to stop by the cabin. If only to reassure myself of Meg’s safety.

Around the side of my cabin, I hang the trap on a high hook. Disposing of the hare is a bigger problem. This amount of ill magic is no threat to my bear, but I don’t want small scavengers sickened by the tainted meat. I’ll carry it with me to the sea and dispose of it there. With any luck, the weather will break in the next day or so. My bear spirit strains for release. Keeping it tethered drains me.

As I round to the front of my cabin, the hair on the back of my neck prickles. Another ice bear charges out of the blizzard, heading straight for me. The bear somersaults forward, shifting from four legs and eight hundred pounds of ice bear to two hundred pounds of my cousin, Tristan.

With his muscular build and strong jaw, Tristan carries the Barlow family traits of arrogance and impatience. No doubt this is why he’s an excellent law student down in Fairbanks most of the time. Since childhood, his once fair hair has darkened to light brown. Maybe there’s hope for the rest of him to grow up too. Or maybe not.

Show-off.

But Tristan wouldn’t be here tonight unless there was trouble. Neither the hare nor I is having any luck today.

2
Meg

S
etting
the last photo in place, I step back to study my work. The lone table in the cabin, a long pine slab, is covered with colored paper debris. It looks like a craft store vomited.

None of that matters, though. I push the paper, scissors, glue, glitter, and stickers aside to create more space. The final scrapbook page has one picture centered and matted with contrasting shades of blue paper. A blond man, shirtless and wielding an ax, stands grinning next to a woodpile. Ash Barlow, in all his glory, is splitting wood in a blizzard. Crazy shifter.

The background of the photo is dark, fuzzy with snow. Nothing is clear about the location or time of day. Ash is all that matters. He sticks out in the picture—as in Icy Cap in general—as if he is backlit.

I could never figure out what made him glow like that. Then I realized: he’s a living man. Not a dead one. I’m too used to being around other vamps.

I took that picture just a week ago. I’m eager to show him the completed scrapbook. When I moved into my room, I found a shoebox full of old pictures on the top shelf of my closet. Armed with the box of scrapbooking supplies I brought with me, I’ve been working away over the last month on recreating Ash’s life in pictures.

Running my fingers around the edges of the last picture, I wonder what he’ll think. I’ve been considering ways to present it. And ways he could show me his appreciation for it.

Ash is a man of his word. Too bad for me. It makes for one horny and lonely vampire when that sexy shifter lives under the same roof. A few days after I arrived, my paperwork caught up with me. Ash grew very quiet when he read the terms of my employment.

They’re a mood killer, for sure. I serve as a physician in Icy Cap at the pleasure of the Vampire Medical Review Board. If they don’t like my job performance, I don’t get canned. I get staked.

At the time of the Bite, when I was in medical school, becoming a vamp seemed like a good deal. I would receive eternal life and student loan forgiveness. In my human life, ever since I could remember, I’d wanted to be a doctor. Now I can practice medicine forever—and debt free! In death as in life, the devil is in the details. In my enthusiasm for leaping to the head of the recruitment line, I missed the celibacy clause.

I know, right? Wouldn’t you think something like that would be more prominent? Turns out most of the Vampire Medical Review Board has literally been around since the Dark Ages. If it’s good enough for them, their reasoning goes, then it should be good enough for us.

In the fine print, I discovered that sex with other vampire physicians (as long as it’s discreet) is ignored. What riles the board up isn’t sex but emotional attachments. The board maintains that it is impossible to fully focus on one’s work if a personal life spills over into a professional one. Sadly for me, their rule is law.

The great room in Ash’s cabin is still a bit chilly for my comfort. I throw a few more logs on the fire. Two months ago, my plan was simple: move to Icy Cap and set up my medical practice. After being here for almost that long, I’m making slow progress in winning the area residents’ trust. And that’s with Ash’s support as community leader. Everyone is so suspicious of vamps. How tiresome.

I’m not patient by nature, which is probably why the review board gave me this assignment. Well, that and I probably pissed off the current president when I sent her a box of sex toys with expired batteries to protest the celibacy requirement.

The last laugh is on me, though. I’ve fallen in love with Ash and am forced to live under his roof in this “friends with absolutely no benefits” arrangement.

I’ve made some inquires about other lodging, but Icy Cap residents are loath to take a vamp into their homes. They reluctantly allow me to treat them when they exhaust other options. Me sleeping under one of their roofs? Not so much. With no temporary accommodations in Icy Cap until the inn is completed, Ash offered me his spare bedroom.

The cabin’s thick walls don’t quite block out the howling wind. Another Icy Cap winter storm. Being several hundred miles north of the Artic Circle means soul-freezing temperatures combined with three months of darkness.

For a vampire, the darkness is heaven but the cold is hell. Even thinking is difficult.

My cell phone buzzes like an angry beetle scuttling along the paper-laden table. Scooping it up, I answer it on the third ring.

The line goes dead.

Damn paranoid Icy Cap residents—all several hundred of them. That doesn’t include the troll mining camp to the south and the fae to the north. They have yet to call on me for my services, but Ash says they’ll come around.

Being the only doctor means I’ve given my cell phone number out freely. It was either that or die (again) from a combination of boredom and sexual frustration. That’s a miserable diagnosis.

Grabbing a throw off the couch, I wrap it around me. Whoever it was will call back. No sense freezing my ass off any more than I have to. Pacing is a heat waster. I might as well try and warm up, especially if I’ll be heading out for a house call.

When I came here from Las Vegas, the arctic temperature was one of many shocks. Vampires are cold-blooded, so I’m always trying to stay warm. I mean cold-blooded not as in heartless but as in similar to reptile physiology. I’m like a tree gecko marooned on an iceberg. I snuggle deeper in the plush throw.

I spy a picture of Ash on his mantle. He’s a former hockey player sporting six foot two inches of Nordic hotness. Not only is he heart-stoppingly handsome, he radiates heat like a furnace. To a vampire nothing is sexier than warm blood.

Vampires aren’t capable of love; they taught us that in school. What I feel for Ash must be some strange arctic effect on my system from all this bone-chilling cold. I crave crawling into his arms, plastering myself against his chiseled physique. It doesn’t help that he runs around severely underdressed. Apparently his ice bear spirit runs at a high idle that fuels his body heat. Obviously this is some kind of karmic torture designed for a sex-starved vampire physician.

My attention veers from my personal muddle to the shifters approaching outside. I bury the scrapbook under the paper chaos for now. I sense the shifters’ accelerated heart rates and increased blood volumes as easily as if I had stethoscopes pressed to their chests. They are agitated. Something is wrong.

The cabin door swings open. Two men stomp into the cabin, their voices raised in heated discussion.

“You OK?” Ash, the aforementioned alpha shifter, pauses in his rant at his cousin Tristan. Ash towers over my five feet seven, and my body temperature inches up a few degrees thanks to his proximity. I tilt my head back to look up at him. His cousin, also an ice bear shifter, closes the door behind them.

“I’m fine.”

“Thank God.” Ash squeezes my shoulders and pecks me on the cheek. Snow from his hair falls on me.

I start to lean into Ash’s heat but stop myself. Instead I pull the blanket tighter around me. Whatever it is, he’s concerned for his community. Nothing else.

“Ash?” Tristan speaks beside him. He is more compact than Ash and about the same age. He is also naked. “It’s an emergency.”

“Tell Trudy to put some pressure on it and call again when the gale-force winds stop.” Ash passes farther into the cabin and grabs another blanket for his cousin.

This is a stab at modesty for my benefit. Ice bear shifters are not shy. Honestly, if they could get away with running around naked in human form 24/7, they would. In a mixed paranormal community like Icy Cap, though, they need clothes. Not everyone is a fan of naked bear bum like me. I’ve seen every kind of human and paranorm anatomy imaginable, plus some unimaginable.

It’s like Ash to be rather gentlemanly about the shifter nudity. Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side, because being on his good side is a sweet deal.

“What happened?” I focus on Tristan before narrowing my eyes at Ash’s retreating back. Sometimes his behavior can be high handed. Like when he tries to screen my patients during a blizzard.

“Trudy got trapped.”

Shit.
Trudy is my best friend. Well, as close to a best friend as vampire can get in a place like this.

I want to run out the door, but I’m no good to Trudy unless I’m able to work. And I can only work when I’m warm enough. In this climate, that is rather an undertaking. Often I feel preparing for space travel would be only slightly less tiresome.

“We leave in five,” I say. Another bear-trap injury. This will be the third I’ve treated. The others were shifters. In both cases, my experience and an infusion of my blood helped save the victims’ legs.

And this time the victim is Trudy. I shudder at the thought of my best friend’s agony.

“Wait outside,” Ash growls while he shoves his cousin out the door. Shifters are not known for being even-tempered. Being a shifter and a sheriff is not a common combination. Then again, Icy Cap is far from normal.

“I’ll give her a ride—” Tristan’s words die as Ash closes the door in his face.

“Yeah. I’ll bet.” Ash mutters to the closed door.

“Don’t be an asshole. He’s your cousin.” I scowl. “And that’s my favorite blanket.”

“You’re not seriously planning to go out there with him.” He turns to face me, folding his arms across his chest and planting his feet wide.

“I’m a doctor, remember?” Oh God. He’s going to go all He-Man on me. It’s certainly in conflict with my previously stated goal of avoiding being staked, but I want a fuck by this guy. I can only imagine how he’d feel inside me. I’m sure it would do wonders for my suffering body temperature.

“You’re a vampire. You can’t go out in this weather.”

“It’s snow in Alaska. Don’t be such a baby.” I love baiting him. It is such a turn-on, getting him all riled up.

I have to stop looking at him. At this rate, I’ll need to change my panties before I even leave the cabin. Most unprofessional.

“Even by Alaska standards, this is a blizzard. Ice bears are made for this weather. You aren’t. I won’t allow it.”

“Spare me your theatrics.” I secretly love them, but there’s no need to tell him that. I gather my brunette curls back into a low twist and go to collect more of my clothing from my small bedroom.

Ash stalks behind me, huffing and puffing like a big bad wolf.

I tame my hair into something I can fit under a hat and a snowmachine helmet. I stuff my medical supplies in my backpack. I pull on extra socks and pack a third pair in my parka pocket. I need even more inner layers before I add my outer layers. Even then I’ll probably still be cold.

I try calculating how long it’ll take to reach Trudy by snowmachine in this weather but fail. It depends on the conditions. Her place is more than five miles outside of Icy Cap, not far from the Arctic Sea. The winds off the water will be merciless. Tristan’s bear spirit will withstand the weather fine. Hell, he might even have enjoyed it if it weren’t for his friend’s injury.

For the love of the Goddess, Ash is literally breathing down my neck.

“Depending how things look, I may spend the night.”

As I duck under Ash’s arm, which is blocking my bedroom doorway, I wonder: with as much blood as she’s probably lost by now, how much time does Trudy have left?

* * *

A
few minutes later
, I step outside only to discover a massive ice bear standing not far from the house.

I drop my bag.

Of course it’s Ash.

Always is and always will be.

His ice bear is beautiful and terrifying. I’d never mistake him for any other shifter or a regular bear, even though his black eyes have no resemblance to Ash’s light ones.

Tristan is relenting. Not a surprise, as Ash is the Alpha. Tristan’s more tentative around his older cousin.

When Tristan’s shifting became unpredictable, he returned to Icy Cap to help with inn renovations. It’s never easy for a shifter to change territories, and a young male in his mid-twenties is a threat to the older shifter bears. If Ash hadn’t taken him in, Tristan could well be dead by now.

“I suppose there’ll be no living with you now,” I say tartly, acknowledging Ash’s magnificence.

On all fours, the bear extends his neck, relishing the wind and snow. To say this bear is proud doesn’t even begin to cover it. His enormous paws sport sharp claws. His fur is already collecting snow.

He raises his broad snout into the wind, basking in its cold fury.

For the first time since I became a vampire, I am afraid of another living thing. This bear could kill me.

Ash bows down like a puppy wanting to play, bending first his front legs and then his hindquarters. He swings his head over his massive shoulder, toward his back.

He wants me to climb up there?

I’m terrified. And fascinated.

I rode horses as a child, but I haven’t since becoming a vamp. Horses don’t like my kind now. I climb on, assuming this will be like riding a horse.

It isn’t.

For starters, there’s no risk a horse will eat the rider. Then there’s the whole girth issue: there’s no guiding a bear with my knees when I’m splayed across his broad back. Even through my gloves, his white fur is dense. Muscles ripple as he moves.

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