Bear-ly Human (Bear Claw Security Book 4)

BOOK: Bear-ly Human (Bear Claw Security Book 4)
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Bear-ly Human
Terry Bolryder

C
opyright
© 2016 by Robyn Hutchings

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.

Bear-ly Human
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O
ther Books in the series
:

Bear to the Bone

Bear-ly a Hero

Bear to the Rescue

Chapter 1

H
ercules closed
his eyes against the oncoming memories threatening him like nightmares, trying to pull him back into the past. Bronson was giving their morning briefing, and he should have been listening. After all, he’d been lucky to get a job here. With no history, no background, his ex-Special Forces buddies were the closest thing to family he had. And when he hadn’t known what to do with himself after getting out of the military, he’d come here.

Problem was sometimes things just weren’t busy enough to keep the nightmares away.

“You all right?” Bronson asked, looking over at Hercules, who was pinching the bridge of his nose and rubbing his eyes, a pained expression on his face.

“Yeah,” he said. “Long night.”

Bronson, a movie star blond type with the massive build you’d expect of a professional bodyguard and owner of a security company, cocked his head slightly. “You sure?”

Hercules sighed and leaned back in his chair, dropping his arms and letting his hair fall slightly into his face. No matter how many times he cut it, it grew right back to this length. He had no idea why.

Then again, his entire past was full of secrets that would never be solved.

“Yeah,” he said, nodding. “I’m fine. I promise.”

“Good,” Bronson said, walking around to the head of the table and facing all the men there—Cage and Limes, the other two partners and bear shifters that were also ex-Special Forces.

Plus, Bronson’s twin, Mark, who had recently joined the company and looked like a more upper-crust, Ivy League version of his brother. Sort of as if Bronson had become an accountant instead of a bodyguard.

Bronson planted his hands on the table in front of him and stared them down with icy blue eyes. “Because this involves Hera.”

Cage and Limes immediately recognized the name and snapped to attention. Mark, who hadn’t served with them in the special forces, merely looked confused by the strong reactions around him.

“Hera’s in trouble? Shit,” Limes said.

“Yeah,” Cage said. Cage had dark hair with sapphire-blue eyes that almost looked black in some lights.

Hercules supposed he was ruminating on his friends’ reactions because, deep inside, he was still processing his own reaction to the news. He was good at controlling his emotions. For the most part, he kept them buried so deep down he could barely feel them.

But with Hera, it was different. Hera had made him feel things no other person could ever come close to.

Hera was something that couldn’t stay buried.

He looked around at his friends, making sure none of them had caught on to him, and then casually up at Bronson.

Hera was an intelligence officer who had worked with multiple Special Forces squads. Both this one and one he’d been on before, with three other bear shifters and assorted others. They’d all given each other Greek god names in that unit. Their commander’s name had been Zeus, and they’d gone from there. Hera had been given hers because she tended to be queen-like in her behavior, though she and Zeus were nothing more than friends. Hercules had been given his name because of his tall, bronzed, long-haired appearance that made people think of bronze statues of the demigod.

But Hera was special. It was a little ironic that out of everyone they’d hooked up, in Greek mythology, that would have been a messed-up couple. But in real life, it had worked so well. Until it hadn’t and they’d gone their separate ways.

No one in either unit had any idea they were involved. Hercules meant to keep it that way.

“She was involved in your other unit, too, wasn’t she?” Bronson asked, sitting in the chair at the front of the table and leaning back.

Hercules didn’t like the way he was appraising him with his eyes, as if he were seeing beneath the carefully calculated surface Hercules tried to present.

Bronson was odd like that sometimes.

“She was,” Hercules said. “She’s a good… friend.”

The other men at the table cocked their heads as well, curious.

He swore silently and sat up, resting his elbows on the table. “Haven’t seen her in forever, though. She’s out of the force as well, right?”

Bronson nodded. “Retired. Like most of us, the pressure got to her. Plus, you know with that family of hers…”

It was common knowledge Hera came from a rich, prestigious family of bear shifters. She’d been lucky they allowed her to go out and do something so dangerous before pressuring her to settle down with some blue-blood spouse.

The thought made Hercules want to crush something.

“So what’s going on?” Limes asked, always the impatient one. “If she’s set for life, why is she here?”

Bronson sighed. “For the last time, having money doesn’t mean being set for life.” Limes snorted, but Bronson ignored him. “She’s being pressured to take a mate, and she doesn’t want to. As I understand it, she wants a bodyguard to make sure no one tries to force the issue at an upcoming family function.” Bronson put his feet up on the table and glanced at all of them. “And most of us here owe Hera a debt of gratitude for what she did for us over the years, and we’re going to give her whatever she needs.”

Cage and Limes looked at each other and nodded. Hercules felt his heart pounding harder just at the thought of her coming there.
Would
she be coming there? Or would they just pick one of them and send them out, like a mail-order bodyguard?

“So who’s going?” Hercules asked sharply, unsure if he wanted it to be him or someone else. He just knew a part of him cared badly.

Bronson checked his watch. “Hera’s going to decide,” he said, looking at the door as a knock sounded. “Ah, that must be her. She’s a little early, but that’s fine.” He stood to walk to the heavy mahogany door and open it, and Hercules had to restrain himself from launching out of his chair to stop him.

He wasn’t ready to see her. He’d never be ready. And yet he couldn’t wait. He’d lost the only person that had ever mattered in his life, and now she was going to walk right through his door.

Would she hate him? Remember him? Think of him?

He took deep breaths, telling himself he’d been through much worse and stayed totally calm then. But she had an effect on him no one else could match. He breathed deeply as Bronson opened the door and a tall, blond woman walked in.

It was Hera, looking every bit as beautiful as he remembered. Tall and buxom, with short, blond hair framing a feminine, confident face. Smooth skin and a pointed, lifted chin as she looked down on the world around her. Bronson gestured to a chair, but she moved to stand in front of the table and faced the others. She was used to presenting, used to giving info. Now would be no different.

She leaned back on the blackboard where Bronson drew up plans.

Time had been good to her. She looked amazing. She was curvier than she’d been in the service and it looked good on her. His mouth watered at her generous hips and long, muscled legs in tight, light-blue jeans. She wore an untucked white button-up shirt that loosely grazed her curves, managing to look professional and preppy all at once.

All eyes were on her, as usual. For the other bears, who for the most part had mates, it had nothing to do with her sex appeal. Hera, also known as Valerie, just knew how to command a room.

“Missed you all,” she said with a small smile, flashing pearly white teeth.

Cage and Limes stood to walk over and shake hands or exchange hugs, but Hercules remained glued to his seat. He didn’t know what would happen to him if he touched her. After the others had sat and she’d been introduced to Mark, her eyes fell on Hercules.

“Herc,” she said quietly.

“Hera,” he replied.

“Please,” she retorted, gesturing to the room. “I think you can all call me Valerie at this point.”

He flinched slightly at that. Clearly, she wanted to leave the past behind. A past that included him. He leaned back in his chair and waited. “Valerie, then.”

She nodded and leaned on the edge of the blackboard again.

“So you need a bodyguard?” Cage asked.

She nodded.

“Pick who you want,” Limes said. “They’ll open their schedules. Except me.”

“I know.” Hera laughed. “You do the tech.”

Limes nodded. “Glad you remember.”

She smirked. “I remember a day you weren’t afraid to get your hands dirty.”

Limes scoffed. “Why you…” But his tone was amused. “Well, I have a mate now.”

“I know,” she said. “All you dirty soldiers managed to find someone who would have you.” She grinned and cocked her head. “I’ll have to meet them.”

“Sure,” Cage said. “You staying for a couple days before you take whoever you’re working with back to the family?”

She nodded. “We’ll need time to work out a few things.”

“Why?” Limes asked. “Isn’t it a simple bodyguard detail?”

“No,” she said. “It’s a little more complicated than that.”

Hercules didn’t like that. He looked over at Mark, the only unmated bear in the room. The only threat. Then again, why was he thinking that way? Hera wasn’t his. Not anymore at least. If she ever had been.

Then her eyes met his and he knew. She had definitely been his at one time, and she remembered. “Not just body-guarding,” she said. “Although that’s part of it.”

“What else?” Hercules asked, folding his arms. “What else would they have to do?”

Her clear blue eyes were almost silver as she looked at him, and for a moment, it seemed it was hard for her to speak. He’d never seen Hera like that before. “I need someone to pretend to be my fiancé,” she said. “My mate. Otherwise, they won’t respect my wishes.”

“Who won’t?” Hercules asked.

“My family,” she said, eyeing him meaningfully.

The irony wasn’t lost on him. Once, her family had meant enough that they’d broken up. Now, she wanted him or one of his friends to protect her from them. What had changed?

Bronson looked uncomfortable. “If that’s the case, you’re probably best taking one of the guys who isn’t attached. I don’t think our mates would enjoy any of us taking that mission.”

Hera nodded, her gaze landing on Hercules, matching him for calm, impassive stubbornness. “It’s fine,” she said, a slight smirk on her lips. “I was always planning to work with Herc.”

The glow in her stare hit him in the stomach as he realized she was talking about hiring him. He’d be with her for days or possibly weeks. Pretending to be hers. Pretending to be everything he’d wanted before he’d realized it was impossible.

He couldn’t do it.

But then he looked over at Mark and saw the blond man looking appreciatively at the only woman Hercules had ever considered for a mate, and he decided.

He’d do it for sure.

“Fine,” Herc said. “I’m game.”

Hera almost appeared surprised by his quick compliance, but then she stood up straight and checked the high-end watch on her wrist. “Good. I have a business call, but we can meet later. Say lunchtime?”

Herc nodded as the room went quiet around them. It had to be obvious to the others there was something between them. But he didn’t have to tell them what.

“I’ll need your number,” she said.

He gave it to her, too aware of the stares of the other men in the room. She sent a quick text to his phone, and when it beeped, he took it out.

“It’s Hera,” it said.

“Now you have my number,” she said, walking toward the door with Bronson, who got it for her. As she walked through it, Hercules felt an undeniable urge to follow her but stopped himself.

Then she was gone.

Bronson shrugged, exchanged some banter with the others, and then started writing other tasks on the board for them to talk about.

But Hercules felt he was still in another world. His phone beeped, and he silenced it but looked down at the screen. It was Hera again, and his heartbeat kicked up another ten notches.

“It’s good to see you again,” it said simply.

He put his phone back in his pocket and tried to focus on his other work and not the fact that he’d be seeing her again in a few hours.

Good to see her again? Good didn’t even
begin
to describe it.

* * *

F
or the first
time in so long, Hera could hear her own heartbeat pounding in her ears.

Hercules.

He’d been younger when she’d seen him before. The past few years had done good things for him. He still had that long, gorgeous hair that would make any woman jealous. A perfect toffee-colored, bronzed-brown mass he kept pulled back that loved to come free and wave waywardly over his shoulder.

It looked magnificent in bed.

She was a couple years older than him. What did he think of her now? His eyes still held the heat she remembered. They were a warm, dark brown with long lashes. But she didn’t know whether the heat in his gaze was from anger or the unanswered sexual past between them.

She hoped the latter. It had been a mistake to push him away before, and she couldn’t wait to be back with him. But she could tell from the tightness in his firm, masculine jaw that it wasn’t going to be simple or uncomplicated.

Anyone else looking at Hercules in that moment would have seen a beautiful, tanned, professional man looking calm and composed, leaned back with folded arms as if he couldn’t care less.

BOOK: Bear-ly Human (Bear Claw Security Book 4)
6.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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