Read Bear Exposure (Highland Brothers 3) Online

Authors: Meredith Clarke,Ally Summers

Tags: #Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Forever Love, #Adult, #Erotic, #Bear Shifter, #Mate, #Short Story, #Supernatural, #Protection, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Highland Brothers, #Magazine Shoot, #Lost Creativity, #Bartender, #Sanctuary, #Seattle, #Car Crash, #Highland Territory, #Past Issues

Bear Exposure (Highland Brothers 3)

BOOK: Bear Exposure (Highland Brothers 3)
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Bear Exposure
Highland Brothers
Meredith Clarke
Ally Summers

B
ear Exposure

Published By Ally Summers

Copyright © 2015 Ally Summers

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places or events are entirely the work of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, events, or places is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Please purchase only authorized editions and do not participate in piracy of copyrighted materials.

Cover art by Cover Up Designs

1
Striker

S
triker held the camera
. He squinted until his left eye closed. It was another magazine shoot. Another day on the waterfront, battling wind and mist. He wiped the lens on his camera again. He was tired of this shit. Tired of the models. Tired of the crews. It wasn’t art. It was propaganda.

He watched the model through his lens while the crew tried to hold umbrellas to shield her hair and makeup.

“I think we’ve got enough,” he grumbled to the assistant the magazine had assigned to him for the day.

“You sure?” The intern didn’t look convinced. Striker didn’t care.

“I am. We’re not going to get anything else today. Break down the set.”

He turned from the scene. He shouldn’t have taken the job. He knew that. But he was searching for something. Something that would inspire him again.

Ever since he pushed Cassie away he hadn’t been able to put a full collection together. He hadn’t had a successful exhibit in over a year. The magazine shoot was only a way to pass the time and keep his name current.

There had to be a way to find inspiration again. Photography was his passion. It had been his life, but now all the scenes looked gray.

He opened the hatch on his SUV and began unlocking his camera cases. He unscrewed the lens and wrapped it in a soft cloth before carefully tucking it inside.

He wanted Cassie to be his mate. She was beautiful and young. Interesting and funny. But his bear knew she wasn’t the one. Cassie wasn’t meant for him. She wasn’t the woman who would have his cubs. He slammed the trunk closed.

It kept happening. He’d meet a woman and take her on a date only to walk away the next morning with the realization he was wasting his time. His bear was getting fucking tired of it.

“Mr. Highland, what do I tell the magazine about the schedule?” The assistant raced to Striker’s car.

“Tell them I’ll get them the damn proofs. We have enough for today.”

Striker realized he had growled slightly at the kid. It wasn’t his fault the photographer was stuck.

He climbed into his vehicle, slamming the door closed.

The intern knocked on the glass. Striker rolled down the window.

“What? What is it?” he asked.

“Will you be here tomorrow?” The rain fell on the assistant’s head.

Striker huffed. “Yes. I’ll finish.”

“Thanks, Mr. Highland. See you in the morning.”

Striker pressed the window button as he sped away from the set. He didn’t want to do this again tomorrow, but he had signed a contract.

He drove home, unpacked his gear, and headed to the fridge for a beer. He popped the cap off using the counter.

His apartment was a large loft built over a men’s clothing store. He used it as a studio and as a place to crash when he slept. It looked like a bachelor pad, and he knew it.

He sank into the couch and turned on the TV. He didn’t want to look through the shots he had. He didn’t care. They would all look the same. The girl with the same vacant look in her eyes he had, straining to hold a pose. She didn’t inspire him. Nothing did.

He threw the remote on the coffee table. He couldn’t stay here. His bear was restless. He wanted his mate, and Striker wasn’t doing anything to find her.

He walked to his dresser and pulled out a few T-shirts, boxers, and jeans. He pulled an overnight bag from under his bed and began stuffing the clothes inside. Everything else he needed would be at the house.

He would assess the pantry supplies when he arrived. Whatever was missing he would have delivered. He would call the magazine on the way and tell them he’d finish when he got back in town.

There was no way he could stay in Seattle with his bear feeling like this.

He threw the bag over his shoulder, picked up his camera case, and headed to his car. In two hours he would be at Highland House. It might be the only place he could put his life back together.

2
Presley

P
resley clutched
the steering wheel in her hands. Her knuckles were white from the grip. She had been driving for four hours. Her shoulders hurt and her eyes stung. But she couldn’t stop. Only two more hours to Seattle.

She shoved her blond hair from her shoulder and reached for the radio. If she could find a station out here it would be a miracle. There was nothing out here but woods.

It didn’t help that it had started to rain and the sunset made everything an eerie gray color. She strained to see the road.

“Oh, great.”

She heard the
plink, plink
sound of ice tapping her windshield. Everything was starting to freeze.

Every time her eyes darted to the rearview mirror it reminded her why she was in the car. Why everything she owned was packed in the trunk. Why she didn’t know what else to do but run.

She refused to think about it. Refused to think about how close she came to making the biggest mistake of her life. She turned the volume up all the way and tried to make out the song through the static.

It was her own damn fault. She had taken one look at the guy with crystal blue eyes and had fallen hard. He was sexy and charming. Everything she thought she needed until she found out there was another side. He wasn’t human.

She shook her head. He wasn’t the man she thought he was. He was a shifter. Part wolf. Part man. Maybe she could have gotten over it, but when he told her his pack would have to initiate her, she freaked out, packed two suitcases, and left town.

She had always considered herself liberal, but holy hell, a shifter initiation wasn’t something she was interested in. She hoped Seattle would be far enough he wouldn’t try to find her.

Colton told her he would pick her up at six to begin the mating ritual—whatever in the hell that was. She didn’t stick around to find out.

He had called her cell three times. Each time the phone rang she jumped. The last voicemail gave her the creeps. It cemented her reason for leaving Cover City.

Colton’s voice was crisp and calm. “Presley, I’m at your place. Where are you? The pack is anxious to get things started. Give me a call. I’m waiting.”

Why had she given him her number? Why did she let him buy her a drink after work? She clutched the wheel. She had screwed up.

She had tended bar long enough to know not to date the customers, but there was something about him that was alluring, almost mind-numbing.

She shook her head. Now she was unemployed. All the cash she had from last week’s tips was wadded up and shoved in her purse. She prayed it would be enough to pay for a few nights in a hotel until she could find a job in Seattle.

There were a million bars. Someone had to be looking for a bartender.

The static faded, and she started to relax when she recognized an old ballad. For a split second she let the music smooth her. Long enough for her eyes to close. Long enough to lose focus of the road. Long enough not to see the deer stepping in front of her car.

“Shit!” she screamed as her car hit the animal and skidded off the road.

Presley held the steering wheel, clutching to the only thing she had. She felt the car hit nose first into a ditch. Her head jerked and bounced on her shoulders before crashing against the wheel. She tried to open her eyes, but all she felt was a searing pain across her cheek. Then everything went dark.

3
Striker

T
he private road
for Highland House was only another mile. He had officially driven on to his family’s property. The state road ran through a section on the edge of the land. Striker slowed the car to make the turn when his headlights bounced off something metal in front of him. He pulled over.

There was a car slammed into the ditch, just before the gravel road.

He threw his car in park and ran across the street. He could see someone through the window slumped over the steering wheel.

He gripped the door’s handle, tugging a few times before realizing the crash must have jammed it shut. He gave a slight growl before yanking harder. He needed his bear to help muscle it open.

He couldn’t tell if the driver was breathing. Her long blond hair covered her face.

“Ma’am?” he called. She didn’t move.

He crouched to check her pulse. Her heart was still beating. He sighed.

“Thank, God.”

He unhooked her seatbelt and carefully lifted her from her seat. He took a few steps from the car, turning for the street. His vehicle was big enough he could lay her across the backseat.

He pressed the woman to his chest while he searched his trunk for a white sheet. He usually kept one in the back for photo shoots. He grabbed it and opened the car door to slide her in the back. As her head rolled to the side, her hair fell from her face.

Striker almost staggered. His heart raced. His pulse thickened in his veins.

He couldn’t stop staring. She was exquisite. He shook his head. He knew he had never seen a more beautiful woman in his life. Her eyelashes were long and he desperately wanted to see the color of her eyes.

She breathed quietly against his chest. He stretched her body onto the seat and realized the other side of her cheek had been cut. It was bleeding, soaking the sheet he had placed underneath her.

He pulled his phone from his pocket.

“Hell,” he growled. There was no reception here. He would have to drive her to the house to make a call for 9-1-1.

Who was she?

“Can you hear me? What’s your name?” He gently rolled her arm, trying to nudge her awake. She sighed.

Shit. He looked over his shoulder at her car. There had to be identification for her inside. The driver’s door hung open and he saw a purse and phone on the floorboard. He grabbed them and noticed two suitcases in the backseat.

As he looked up he saw smoke curling from the hood of the car.

“Shit,” he growled.

He pulled the suitcases and quickly tossed them into his car. His windshield was coated with ice as the sleet mixed with rain and froze on the glass. He could barely see as he turned onto the gravel road.

“Almost there,” he tried to calm her. But he looked over his shoulder and she was still asleep.

He wondered if there was anything at the house other than a few Band-Aids. She would need something on that cut.

He steered the car through the winding road that led to his family’s retreat.

He parked close to the front steps, not bothering to use the garage code. He scooped the girl in his arms and raced to the porch. It took a second to fit the key into the lock. He kicked the door open and walked in.

The house was dark. The rooms cold. He took her to the living room, placing her on the couch. He didn’t want to leave her in case she woke up when he was gone, but he needed to find something for her face. And they needed a fire.

It looked like he had made it to Highland House before an ice storm. There was a chance he would lose power tonight.

He tucked a quilt to her chin, then raced up the stairs, looking for a first-aid kit.

A few minutes later he returned to the living room with antibacterial ointment and a bandage. He took his time, cleaning the side of her face. Her lips were full and red and he could only imagine what they would feel like against his.

His fingers worked diligently while he pressed the wound together and applied a butterfly bandage. It should hold the gash together.

Satisfied he had stopped the bleeding, Striker began cleaning out the fireplace. He needed to get her warm. He stacked logs one on top of the other and struck a match against the hearth.

Within minutes the room began to glow from the warmth. His chest eased. The adrenaline had begun to fade. The fatigue began to settle in his muscles.

He sat on the couch across from her. He would wait for her to wake up. Just sit here, while she slept. He stared at the softness of her face, the pink of her cheeks. He started until his eyes were too heavy to stay open. Striker slumped on the couch, while the fire crackled next to him.

BOOK: Bear Exposure (Highland Brothers 3)
9.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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