The Steel Bear: A BBW Bear Shifter Romance (Highland Brothers)

BOOK: The Steel Bear: A BBW Bear Shifter Romance (Highland Brothers)
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The Steel Beer
Highland Brothers
Meredith Clarke
Ally Summers
Contents

T
he Steel Bear

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
Crawford

C
rawford’s hand
reached across his shoulder, gripping the firm muscles in his palm. The pain ran from his neck down his back. He couldn’t stand over these blueprints any longer. He massaged the mass of muscle, knowing it was futile. He needed a hot shower and a cold beer. He straightened his neck, widening his chest. The office was dark. He looked up, the lights of the Seattle skyline twinkling around him.

He worked best at night when the usual hum of the office died to complete silence.

He scanned his work. The building wasn’t right. There were either too many windows or not enough. He scowled at the structure, erasing the lines around the front door, pressing the eraser hard against the sketch. He ripped the paper in his hands, tore it in shreds, and watched it crumple around his feet.

“Damn it,” he growled.

He had been working on the sketches for the museum for over a week, and nothing worked. Nothing felt right. This had been his third attempt to have something ready to present to the museum board. He had landed the job based on his reputation alone. But the contract wasn’t signed yet. The design was critical to sealing the deal.

His eyes ached almost as much as his back. He had to get out of here. He turned off the light as he closed the door behind him. Maybe he should let his bear out. Sometimes it helped to tap into his animal side. It relieved the pressure he put on himself.

It was late enough he could go for a run when he got home. He would have to be careful. He lived near a park bordered by a natural area, but that didn’t mean it was always bear friendly. If he were spotted, it could cause problems for the city.

He didn’t hear the elevator open or the click clack of high heels across the marble floor, until he looked up from his phone.

“Crawford, hi.” Mila greeted him in the reception area.

“What are you doing back here?” he asked. “Everyone else left hours ago.”

He grazed the top of her arm as he reached for the elevator button. It was accidental, but he noticed how she stiffened at the contact as if he had tapped her with an electrical shock.

His blond assistant chewed lightly on her bottom lip, slowly chafing the pink lipgloss from her mouth.

“I-I forgot something. I didn’t know you’d still be here.”

“Yeah, well I’ve been working on the museum prints.” He scratched the back of his neck.

“Any luck?” she asked.

“Not really. I decided I need a break.” He paused. “It’s late. You shouldn’t be walking in the parking garage alone. I’ll wait for you.”

“No, you don’t have to do that.” She pulled something from her purse. “I carry mace. See?”

He chuckled. He tried to imagine Mila defending herself in those high heels she always wore. He had no doubt she could hold her own, but he wasn’t going to take a chance and leave her in the office alone. Especially since he had his own set of protective skills.

“I insist.” He nodded. “I’ll be right here. I’ll wait.”

She took a hesitant step back. “Oh, all right. Thanks. I promise I’ll only be a minute. I don’t want you to have to wait for me.”

“It’s fine.” He tried to smile, but every muscles in his body was stiff, even his lips. God, he needed to run.

She hurried through the lobby, looking over her shoulder at Crawford. He settled into one of the reception chairs, hoping she wouldn’t be long.

Mila

H
oly shit
. Mila fumbled the keys in her hand as she tried to unlock the door that led to Crawford’s design studio.

He was here. He was actually here. Holy shit.

She straightened her hair, and pressed her lips together. He wasn’t supposed to be here. Well, he had every right to be here. It was his firm. His office. His everything.

She moved files on her desk, looking for the flash drive she had left behind.

“Shit,” she whispered. She looked through the door, catching a glimpse of his back.

His massive shoulders filled the chair. His legs almost too tall for the seat, made his knees jut forward. She realized she was licking her lips when he ran a hand through his hair.

She didn’t know when he had gone this long without a haircut, but it worked. The man could try any style and she’d find him attractive.

God, he was gorgeous, mesmerizing, and sexy. Why did Crawford Highland have to be her fucking boss?

It was bad enough she had to sit on the other side of his office door all day, daydreaming of all the ways he might finally notice her, but now he was here. He was waiting for her in the lobby.

Mila pushed aside another stack of files, revealing the missing drive.

“Ah-ha!”

She held it in front of her face. It had all her files for the museum proposal. It was the reason Crawford was in the office so late. He still didn’t have a drawing to present, and she was responsible for putting the presentation together.

He had the same look in his eye all week. The one that said he was lost, looking for his next inspiration. She knew him well enough to know he wasn’t going to get any sleep until he had a mockup of the museum. Crawford worked hard. He built the firm from the ground up, and she knew he wouldn’t rest until he had something worthy of the firm’s reputation.

She dropped the drive into her purse, turned off the light, and closed the door behind her.

For the past year she had worked for the city’s most prominent architect, fetching coffee, making copies, taking calls for him—doing anything he needed in the office.

When she had taken the job she wanted to get her foot in the door of company where she could gain experience. It was going to be a stepping-stone. Instead she had taken one look at the head architect and almost tripped out of her high heels.

To say she had an office crush was an understatement. She had fallen hard for him before she had finished her HR paperwork.

She rushed to the sitting area. “Ok, I got what I needed.”

He rose from the chair, his frame expanding in the process. She sucked in a breath. Crawford’s arms and chest always did things to her. Bad things. She shook her head, trying to regain some sense of balance.

It was pointless. There was no cure for the kind of crush she had.

“Ready?” he asked.

She nodded slowly.

Mila followed him into the elevator aware of how small the space was with Crawford next to her, filling every corner of the wood-paneled square. She could smell his masculine scent of mint and juniper cologne. And something so intoxicating she often thought being near him made her drunk.

“Plans tonight?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Oh no, I’ve got to finish the proposal for you.” She patted her purse as if that explained everything.

“Hmm,” he grumbled. Crawford grumbled often. But she loved it. How the sound of his voice would vibrate over her ears. How she could tell what kind of mood he was in by the pitch in his voice.

“What about you?” She looked up at him. He towered over her. She saw the creases around his eyes. He looked exhausted.

“Same.”

“I know you’ll find the right design.” She hesitated.

She wanted to tell him he was the most brilliant architect in the country. That his work had inspired her when she was in design school, but she always thought her words sounded more fan girl than something a serious work colleague would say. Besides, she wasn’t on the design team. She doubted her opinion counted for much.

“Thanks.” He placed a palm over the elevator door as it opened.

The ride was too short. She wanted to stay trapped inside with him for a few more minutes. But that’s how every day was with Crawford. She wanted coffee breaks to run into lunch. She wanted budget meetings to turn into drinks after work. She wanted walks to the parking lot to turn into invitations home.

No matter how much time she spent around him, it was never going to be enough.

She stopped next to her car, digging her keys out of her purse. “Thanks for the escort.” She smiled brightly.

“Sure thing.” He turned from her. “Have a good night, Mila.”

“Good night, boss.” She slid into the driver’s seat.

She closed the door behind her, started the ignition, and watched the man she was completely in love with walk away.

2
Crawford

C
rawford scratched at the ground
, his claws extended and sinking into the rich soil. It felt good to let his bear out. All the aches and tenseness in his muscles seemed to vanish when he transformed into the animal of his soul.

He sniffed in the air, hoping to catch scent of another bear in the area. He had been looking for a while. It wasn’t as if he was desperate. He knew that. But his bear was ready for a mate. He wanted to find her. The bear who would give him cubs. The woman who would be his life partner. Maybe if he had her in his life now he wouldn’t be stuck on the damn museum. He needed a muse.

He was tired of dating. Tired of being set up. Tired of being labeled the city’s most eligible bachelor. Every woman in Seattle knew about his millions. His family name followed him like a shadow. He didn’t give a shit about titles. He was made for one woman and he still hadn’t found her.

He climbed a tree, pulling the limbs under his strong arms. This part of the park was remote enough he could find solitude from humans.

His deep breath rattled his chest, shaking the thick fur on his body. It was good to find quiet.

That was part of the problem. He could never escape from the office. From the prying eyes that wanted to see his next building. He needed to get out of Seattle.

He lowered himself to the ground, careful not to snap the branches in the process. There was one place he could find solitude. He was going to Highland House.

Mila

M
ila slipped
the heels over her feet and fastened the thin straps around her ankles. She observed her reflection. Everyone always said the higher the heel, the longer your calves looked.

She turned in front of the mirror. Every day was like this. Choosing an outfit Crawford might notice. One that would finally catch his eye. She liked the button-up blue shirt with the navy skirt. It looked business feminine. The sexy heels were a must.

She knew her legs got a lot of attention because of them. Her closet was stocked with every color heel she could find. Some strappy. Some pointy-toed. Some sling back. She loved her shoe collection.

There was no hiding her curves. Her hips and bottom were assets she thought. Why not show them off?

She wanted to be taken seriously in the office. It was her dream to design her own building one day, but since she had started at The Highland Agency her days were filled with fashion challenges, coffee dilemmas, and ways to engage Crawford in conversations that didn’t involve spreadsheets.

Temporary had become permanent. She was in too deep to leave now. The thought of working anywhere else but next to Crawford’s studio was an impossible idea.

She filled her coffee tumbler, securing the lid on top before scooping the presentation in her arms. She closed the door behind her.

The drive to work was only ten minutes. Mila pulled into the same space she parked in yesterday. Without realizing it she had turned into a creature of habit. She set the car alarm and walked into the building her boss had built.

“Good morning, Agnes.” She smiled at the gray-haired receptionist who guarded the front entrance like a gargoyle.

“Good morning, Mila.” She picked up a cup of coffee. “Looks like the boss isn’t coming in today.”

Mila stopped in front of the desk. At first she thought she had misunderstood Agnes’s words.

“What do you mean Crawford isn’t coming into the office?” Mila stared blankly at the receptionist. This had to be an office prank.

The older woman rolled her eyes. “He called in this morning and said he was taking time off.”

“But the museum project. The proposal. He can’t take off.” She felt the panic rising in her chest. “And I’m his assistant. Why didn’t he call me?”

It was probably the most imperative question on her list, but she had to keep things professional around her co-workers. Her voice may have raised an octave higher than she wanted.

Agnes shrugged. “I just take the messages. I don’t know why he does what he does. I don’t ask questions. He’s the boss.”

Mila stormed through the lobby and into her office. She always arrived before Crawford. It gave her a chance to get the day started smoothly for him. She made coffee, checked emails, and opened his blinds before he was even in the parking lot.

Today she slouched into her seat. All that work she had done last night. She had pored over the pitch for him. It was collated and printed. She yawned, remembering the clock had read three when she finally forced herself to go to sleep.

And he wasn’t here. Shit.

She walked to his office. The light was dim. She crouched to gather shreds of paper under his drawing table. She laid them flat against the wooden surface, unraveling the creases. Most architects used computer programs to design, but Crawford was a traditional man in every sense.

He liked to use his hands. She traced over the lines of his drawing. It wasn’t bad, but she could see where he was stuck. The museum looked flat. It lacked his artistic touch. She didn’t know why, but she began to tape the shreds together. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t perfect. And as far as she was concerned, Crawford Highland was the definition of perfection.

BOOK: The Steel Bear: A BBW Bear Shifter Romance (Highland Brothers)
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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