Authors: Tianna Xander
Tags: #Paranormal, Holiday, Romance, Shifter
Table of Contents
When Lara follows two turtledoves into the woods, she expects to die. Instead, she finds two gorgeous shifters who are hot enough to die for.
When Lara’s car breaks down, she starts walking, even when logic dictates she stay with her car. After walking for miles in the cold Scottish Highlands in December, she follows a pair of unlikely prophets in the form of turtledoves into the woods. Why not? The way she figures it, she’s dead anyway.
When Duncan and Jamie follow two turtledoves who just won’t take no for an answer, they find the most beautiful woman they have ever seen, sleeping as though she were some fairytale princess.
A snowstorm, two rescues and an unexpected infant later, they all must decide if they belong together or if this was nothing more than a holiday filled with magic.
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Beary Merry Xmas
Copyright © 2011 Tianna Xander
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Beary Merry Xmas
To everyone who believes in holiday magic, miracles and love at first sight. Never let the hardening of your heart close your eyes to the infinite possibilities in our world.
The sky was a clear midnight blue. The stars shone through the night sky’s dark blanket like glittering sea foam on moon-swept waves. A cold and bitter breeze seeped through Lara’s coat as she trudged through the snow crunching beneath her feet. For a moment, she glanced back to where she left her car, an inner voice telling her to go back and stay near her vehicle, but Lara knew better.
She grew up in an area just like this one. That it wasn’t in the same country didn’t matter. The story always remained the same. Small towns meant early bedtimes and little chance for rescue on cold, dark roads this late at night. Walking was her best choice. The farther she walked, the better her chances of finding someone’s home, even here in the Highlands, homes in the country were few and far between.
A gust of freezing wind swept down off the mountain behind her, chilling her to the bone. Lara jammed her hands in her pockets and stepped up her pace. She would be in a lot of trouble if it decided to precipitate. Being cold was one thing. Being cold and wet was another matter entirely.
A noise drew her attention and she looked up to the trees at her right. Two snow white birds sat perched on the branch of a giant fir. Icicles clung to the branches, coating nearly every needle with a fine sheen. The tree sparkled, the ice giving the appearance of millions of tiny diamonds in the light of the full moon. One of the birds cooed, again drawing her attention.
“What are you two doing out here?” As cold as she was, Lara still managed to smile up at the two white birds. They looked like turtledoves. She frowned. It was winter.
They shouldn’t be out in the cold, should they? Weren’t turtledoves supposed to be extinct, or was that some other kind of bird?
When one of them stood up and flapped its wings, Lara noticed that it had a small tag on its leg. It either belonged to someone or was part of some sort of study and the tag was a transmitter that tracked its movements.
“Did you get out of your cage and now you’re lost?” Lara felt like an idiot talking to the two birds, especially when her voice was the only sound other than the whisper of the breeze and the soft flutter of feathers.
The bird that flapped its wings chattered at her for a bit.
Kurr, kurr, kurr…
It hopped to another tree, turned and chattered at her again.
Kurr, kurr, kurr…
It was almost as though it wanted her to follow it. Shaking her head, Lara continued down the road. She was
following a couple of birds deep into the woods on the off chance that they had an owner and a warm home there. She wasn’t
Lara walked for what felt like forever. She checked her watch and sighed. Another hour had passed and she was freezing, literally. She was tired, too. Every step grew more and more difficult to take. Her body had become sluggish and she wanted to do nothing more than lie down and sleep, even if it was on the cold, hard ground. What was left of her nearly frozen brain told her that her body temperature had dropped and she was dangerously close to collapsing from hypothermia.
A noise had her glancing to her right, once again. The two birds had returned. Huddled together on the branch, they stared at her. If birds could have expressions, Lara would have said they looked at her as though she was nothing more than a waste of skin.
“Stop looking at me like that!” Lara closed her eyes and sighed. Now, she wasn’t just
to birds, she was downright yelling at them.
The turtledoves chattered at her gain. This time, both of them acted as though they wanted her to follow them. Sighing, Lara looked up and down the lonely road and saw nothing. Only then did she take her first step off the road. At this point, she had nothing left to lose. With the lowering temperature and hypothermia setting in, Lara knew she was as good as dead already.
* * * *
“I dinnae know why ye insist on running naked through the woods every December. It’s downright barmy.”
Jamie was always complaining, damn him. Duncan continued to run through the moonlit forest. He would never admit it out loud, but he loved the beauty of the snow-covered trees. It was one of the reasons he insisted on this run every year.
“Shut it!” Duncan snarled. He was so damned tired of listening to people complain, he could happily and remorselessly kill the next idiot to bitch to him about anything. “I’m bloody tired of hearing people friggin’ whining about everything under the damned sun.”
Jamie gave him a startled look. “I wasnae really bitching at ye, now was I, Duncan? I was just giving ye a hard time.”
“Fuck your friggin’ hard time.” Duncan continued to glare at his best friend. If he couldn’t vent to Jamie, whom could he unload on? “I’m friggin’ sick and bloody tired of everyone giving me shit every time I turn around.” He was, too, damn it. Too many people took it upon themselves to give him shit. “We need tae leave this damned mountain and find ourselves mates.”
Hell, even the females were getting testy lately. Mates among their kind were few and far between. Duncan and Jamie were old enough to remember the old ways. The way children ran through the town playing and being a general nuisance. He and Jamie had been a few of the last. Their clan hadn’t seen a new child in over three hundred years. It had been closer to four, truth be known.
Nearly a thousand years ago, not long after man became dominant on the food chain, they began to hunt his kind to extinction. Humans hunted them so thoroughly, in fact, that his people had been forced to take their human forms almost permanently to protect themselves. Only a handful of them even shifted anymore since they were afraid of someone spotting them. After all, how many giant polar bears lived in Scotland these days? Not many and Duncan would wager that he knew every one of them.
“I’ve been thinking that we should head out tae the city after the holidays.”
“Why wait?” Jamie slowed to a stop. “With everyone out shopping for gifts and their holiday dinner, right now might be a better idea. There’s bound tae be more people in town than usual.”
“Aye, I suppose you’d be right, but we’ve looked at women around here for years and none of them set my blood afire as they should.” Duncan shook his head. “If I were a betting man,” he paused to grin at Jamie, “and ye know I am, I’d wager that we’d find a mate in a larger city, Glasgow or London even.”
“You’re probably right,” Jamie said with a nod. “We’ve been looking around here for centuries and what has that gotten us but a pack of loneliness?”
“I know why ye haven’t found a mate yet.” Duncan stared at Jamie, his expression unreadable. “Do ye want me tae tell ye what it is?”
“I dinnae know.” Jamie narrowed his eyes. “Are ye gonna be serious, or are ye just screwing with me?”
Duncan wrapped his arm around Jamie’s shoulder and pulled him close. “It’s because they cannae quite stand the sight of your ugly mug.”
“Kiss it!” Jamie shoved him away. “We both know it’s you the women find offensive.”
“Ah, but that washes off.” Duncan chuckled and they started to wrestle, despite their nakedness.
After a few minutes, two turtledoves flew over their heads, dipping and swirling about as if to get their attention. The men stopped what they were doing and watched them.
“What do ye think is the matter with those barmy birds?” Jamie asked as they both stared up at them.
They continued to swirl and dip, every once in a while, diving toward their heads, then flying back the way they came. The two birds repeated the process several times before Duncan elbowed Jamie.
“What do ye think? It looks as though they want us tae follow them.”
Jamie sighed. “Aye, it does. What do ye think they want with a couple of bears?” He frowned. “Shouldna they be afraid of us instead of trying tae get us tae follow them?”
“I’d think so,” Duncan said with a nod. “Still, whatever it is, it cannae be good.” He stepped forward, dressing himself with a thought. If he was going to be daft enough to follow those two birds, he planned to do it dressed. Running naked was one thing. Trudging around the woods without a stitch of clothing on was just asking for trouble.
Clothing suddenly appeared to cover Jamie’s naked ass and Duncan smiled. “It’s about time ye covered that up. Your cock was like tae disappear from the cold before long.”
“Oh, shut it, ye ass,” was Jamie’s only reply.
* * * *
Lara felt as though she’d walked for miles when she lost sight of the birds. She spun around, looking for them, but couldn’t find them anywhere. “Figures.” She sighed and sat down on a fallen log. “I’m dead anyway. I’ll never survive a night out here in the cold.” She looked around for a cave, hoping to find some shelter, something where she could get in out of the cold. Even if she could manage to find a place that blocked the breeze, she would be a step ahead of where she was at the moment. She had stopped shivering some time ago, which Lara took as a sign that her body temperature had already dropped sufficiently enough to be considered in a state of hypothermia.
Sighing, Lara set her elbows on her knees and rested her chin in her hands. She looked around at the forest alight with the glow of the full moon on the pristine snow. “I guess if I have to die, I picked a beautiful spot.” At least her last look at the world would be the vast, untouched scene before her instead of some muddy, rutted road in the middle of nowhere.
Dying was something Lara had expected to do sooner or later. After all, humans began to die the moment they were born. Still, Lara hadn’t expected to die on her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Scotland. This trip was like a dream come true. She’d overpaid her taxes for the year and her refund had been substantial. It was what had made this trip possible for her. She’d often dreamed of going to Scotland and visiting the highlands, seeing Glasgow and just plain sitting around the local shops and listening to people talk. She loved their accents. She had even dreamed of a day when she would have enough money to live here, at least for more than a few months.
Leaning back, Lara rested against the trunk of a tree and stared up at the night sky. It was beautiful, filled with stars for as far as the eye could see. Well, as far as
could see. Resting near the edge of a small cliff, she stared out into the glowing forest and came to terms with the fact that she may not get to live here for several months, but it was likely that her body would lie beneath this blanket of stars every night for a long while before anyone found her.
Faint crunching noises got her hopes up for a bit, but then she realized no one would be out here in the middle of nowhere walking about. Only
was stupid enough for that. “You should have stayed with the car, Lara.” Sighing, she rested her head back against the trunk of the tree and closed her eyes.