Authors: Tianna Xander
Tags: #Paranormal, #erotic Romance, #ménage, #Shapeshifter, #bears
Sunshine Campbell became a Crypto zoologist to prove to the world that her grandfather, Angus Campbell, wasn’t crazy. His stories about legendary shape shifting animals were more than legends. He told her what he was and she believed him. She
prove they exist, even if it’s only to prove that the man who raised her wasn’t as crazy as everyone thought.
Sunshine knows what she will do when she finds the proof that more than one bear existed in the area. What will she do when she and her best friend find not only one or two dead specimens, but an entire clan alive and well?
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For the Love of Two Highland Bears
Copyright © 2014 Tianna Xander
Cover art by Angela Waters
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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For the Love of Two Highland Bears
Highland Bears 4
To lovers everywhere.
Water dripped slowly down the walls of the cave. The frigid outside temperatures slowed what must have been a steady stream in the warmer months down to a slow drizzle. Sunshine gripped her flashlight tight as she aimed the beam across the deep, underground pool. If she dropped
flashlight they’d be left in the dark. Their back-up had ended up in the ravine, along with Roxie’s backpack, on their way to the cave.
“One-hundred and fifty feet into the cave and there is still no sign of anything out of the ordinary.” Sunshine had a difficult time keeping the disappointment from her voice as she spoke into her digital recorder. Most of her colleagues might think her a nut, but she was determined that her notes would be as professional as she could make them.
She had hoped to find proof that there had been more than one polar bear in Scotland. As far as she knew, scientists had only found the one specimen. She wanted to be the one who proved they had lived here, bred here and died here. She couldn’t do that with only one to prove they had even existed in the highlands at all. “If only we could have gotten some local guy to show us around.”
“It doesn’t help that most scientists ridicule us and make everything difficult. Research and access to viable sites is difficult, at best, to obtain. Why do they do that?” Sunshine’s best friend and research partner, Roxanne Hammerlin, asked.
Roxie thrust her fingers through her short brown hair with a sigh, her expression grim. “No one wants a crypto zoologist hanging around their site. That’s why. They think we’re a couple of nutcases looking for bigfoot.”
Why was it so easy to believe that one polar bear could have existed in Scotland but not more? And why not believe in the possibility that something could evolve over time or even shift its shape? Neither of them were crazy. They both knew how far-fetched it was, as well as the next person. What Sunshine couldn’t understand, was the total lack of curiosity among those who considered themselves
scientists. In her opinion, curiosity meant discovery. It was difficult to have one without the other.
Weren’t there others who wanted to know how the scull of
and only one polar bear had ended up in a cave in the highlands of Scotland? She knew that she and Roxie wanted to know.
“Do you really think those stories we heard were true?” Roxie moved to the edge of the water and knelt down. “After all, there haven’t been any more bones.” She gingerly stuck the tip of her finger in the pool of water. “Believe it or not, but this water isn’t all that cold.”
“I can believe it. The cave is rather warm, considering the temperatures outside.” Sunshine looked up at the ceiling of the cavern as she spun in a circle before glancing back down at her flashlight. “We should head back to the entrance. The battery indicator says the levels are low.” She should have brought a spare battery, but hadn’t thought they’d need it with two flashlights. After all, they hadn't planned to be gone more than the day.
“Wait a minute.” Roxy knelt beside an odd looking pile of rock. “Bring that light over here.” She held out her hand and snapped her fingers. “I think I might have found something.”
Sunshine scurried over to her friend and held the light on the area where Roxy hurriedly pushed the dirt away with her hands.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. It looks like—” Roxy fell back on her heels with a sigh. “It looks like nothing.” She brushed the soil from her hands and shook her head. “I thought it was the forehead of a bear scull, but no luck.”
“Damn.” Sunshine bit her lip. “How can there only be the remains of one polar bear in this entire country? There has to be more.” She refused to believe that one lonely polar bear hoofed it here from the North Pole. Seriously, what were the odds?
“You’d think so.” Roxie flashed the light over the walls. “Hmm… What’s this?” She stopped the beam over some old cave drawings, then moved closer. “Have you ever seen anything like this?
The crudely drawn figures started out as men. They changed to some large animal then back to a man again.
“It looks like the cave drawings my grandfather told me about.” Sunshine ran over to the wall, pulled a paint brush from her backpack and gently brushed the dirt from the picture.
“Do you think they’re just wearing animal skins?” Roxie knelt down, brushed her hand over the drawings then glanced back at Sunshine. “Can you read this?”
“No, but my grandfather could have if he were here.” Biting her lip, Sunshine tilted her head with a frown. It was too bad she couldn’t convince him to come here with her. “I think this is the cave he told me about.” Pulling out her cell phone, she took a few photos before cramming it back in her pocket. “If it is, this says something about the
Great Bear Warrior.
“What’s that?” Roxie frowned.
“I’m not sure. The only thing I
sure about is that he wasn’t able to find out anything either. The closest he got was sighting a polar bear on one of the hills.” He said he didn’t stick around long after that. For some reason the locals refused to talk to him and got downright anti-social when he asked questions.”
“So he went home and told everyone those stories that made him look like a crazy person, huh?”
“That just about sums it up.” Sunshine turned toward the mouth of the cave. “We need to get out of here. The flashlight is going dead and being stuck down here in the dark is not at the top of my list.”
“Yeah, it’s not on mine, either,” Roxie agreed falling into step beside her. “Let’s put it in high gear and get the hell out of Dodge, shall we?”
“Where did the boy say he saw them?” Malcolm asked as he shaded his eyes and peered up at the ridge.
“Right up there, at the mouth of the cave. He didnae say whether they went in or not.” Gavin moved up beside him and pointed to where the thick brush covered the entrance.
“Ye know they did.” Malcolm sighed, hiked the backpack he found up onto his shoulder, and started the climb up the side of the steep hill.
It was a damned good thing they had decided to pay a couple of the human locals to keep a lookout for anyone trespassing on their property. Ever since scientists found the skeleton of one of their kind in a cave in the area, there had been hundreds of eager scientists looking for more.
They had been lucky with the first one. The bones had been so old, there hadn't been even the tiniest amount of viable DNA left in it. He glanced at Gavin who moved up next to him. "How do ye suppose they knew about the cave?”
"I dinnae know," Gavin said with a grunt as he pulled himself up another arm's length with little more than the tips of his fingers.
The cavern was once a sacred place for his people. They lived inside, using the fresh water that ran down the walls to drink and the small, underground lake for bathing. Now, they merely wished to keep it hidden to stop others from finding the pictographs inside.
It was never easy to explain why the hunters on the wall appeared to turn into animals before becoming men once again. They would have destroyed the cave and its evidence of the existence of shape shifters long ago, if it weren’t for the historical significance it held for their kind.
Fifteen minutes later, Malcolm climbed over the edge, stood up and heaved a sigh as be bent to brush the dirt from his jeans. “That was a bit of a challenge.”
“I’ll bet it was, if you climbed up here from the bottom. That looks like a two-hundred foot drop.”
Looking up, Malcolm met the gaze of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Long red hair framed her heart-shaped face as she stared up at him with her gorgeous green eyes. Her thick jacket hung open over a sweater and blouse. She wore the legs of her loose fitting denims tucked inside thick, woolen socks. He cast a glance to her companion to note they dressed in a similar fashion. They were of a similar size, except the redhead was about two inches taller. He would have had a difficult time telling them apart at a distance had it not been for the long, fiery hair the one possessed.
“Aye, it is.” He smiled. “More like two-hundred and thirty.”
“You could have fallen!” The redhead looked genuinely worried for his wellbeing. It made his smile grow larger. Why, he had no idea.
“Aye.” He nodded. “
could have fallen, as well. The narrow path tae the cave isn’t much safer.” Malcolm didn’t mention that he would heal much faster from greater wounds than either of the women could. They were human. He and Gavin were not.
“Did ye have a guide, a local tae show ye around?” Gavin asked as he moved forward and offered his hand to the lass with the short-cropped dark hair. “Because if ye did, I’d like tae know who would bring two such bonnie lasses up here and leave them tae themselves.”
“No.” The two women said at the same time.
The gorgeous redhead shook her head, blushing prettily. “We couldn’t find anyone to lead us here.” She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. “I had this map my grandfather drew for me.”
Malcolm glanced at the paper, his temper flaring. “Did ye tell the locals what ye were about?”
“Of course we did!” She bristled. The action only made her more attractive. However, Malcolm doubted she would appreciate his saying so. “Do you think we have a death wish? We wanted help. We even asked for help. All we got were chuckles and innuendo.”
“Damn those hu—”
“Huge pains in the arses at the pub,” Malcolm finished for Gavin when the other man would have said
that,” Gavin agreed, shoving his hands in his pockets, his gaze shifting to his feet.
Do ye scent something different about the bonnie redheaded lass, Gavin?
Malcolm asked as she moved toward the path down the cliff.
Aye, old friend. She smells sweet, like candy.
Malcolm’s skin prickled as he looked at the woman and took another deep breath.
I think she’s my mate.
He looked to his friend.
Tell me ye scent it, as well. I dinnae think I could bear tae share her with a man I dinnae know.
Aye. I scent it too. Best we get them out of the cold and into the castle afore they slip away without a trace. We dinnae have an idea where tae find her should she disappear. I dinnae know about ye, but I want tae know where tae find her should she decide tae go home.
Malcolm wanted that as well. They had lived alone too long to lose her now.
Let’s get them home and see if we can convince them tae stay awhile. Maybe her friend is someone’s mate, too.
He wasn’t sure the men of their clan could get that lucky. However, he knew Gavin was correct. They needed to get the two females to go with them so they could learn more about the woman who just might be their mate.