Beauty and the Bear (Werebear Shifter Billionaire Paranormal Romance Standalone)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 Luna Noir

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Beauty and the Bear

Book design by Luna Noir

Cover Image Copyright 2015
CanStockPhotos

Warning: This book
contains graphic depictions of consenting adults engaging in explicit sexual
activities, and is only intended for mature readers over the age of 18.

Her first day.

 

Bella felt a thrill of excitement course through her
body as she smoothed down her dress. Eyeing herself critically in the mirror,
she hoped she would impress her new employer.

 

A petite young brunette looked back at her with an
expression more calm and self-assured than Bella felt. She had tucked her heavy
dark hair back into a barrette, but a few curls had escaped to frame her
heart-shaped face. Her makeup was even, and her clothing was appropriate,
although – well, with a figure that curved like hers, sometimes even the most
drab clothes seemed inappropriate.

 

She bit her lip. Her pert 34C breasts strained against
the buttons of her dress and her hips looked a little too inviting, but it was
too late to change now. She hoped her employer would approve.

 

Her new employer was a mysterious one. Even though
Bella and her father had only moved to this sleepy town a few years before, she
was already well acquainted with the strange story of Baron von Ursus. The late
Baron, her new employer’s father, had been celebrated in town as a great
philanthropist. His charity was well-known and no few theaters and schools in
the nearby countryside bore his name in thanks for a large contribution. He had
been lauded until the day he died.

 

His son, however, was strangely absent from the
public's gaze even before the old Baron died. Young Arthur had only made a few
appearances in town while his father was alive, and not at all since.
Occasionally folks went to his castle to serve or sell goods, but they were
always very close-lipped about what they found there. Over time, it had become
something of a local hobby to speculate about the living legend of the von
Ursus castle.

 

As soon as Bella had accepted the job as the Baron’s
new housekeeper, she’d found herself in the middle of many conversations that
died suddenly as the other participants gave each other knowing looks and shook
their heads. When pressed, they would back away and refuse to say more. It was
concerning, but Bella needed the money for her father’s care. And she had
worked for difficult employers before, she reminded herself as she headed out.
How bad could the Baron be?

 

~

 

The castle rose above her, high stone walls nearly
seeming to scrape the sky even as they covered the countryside. She had known
it was a castle, but having seen it in the distance did not to justice to the
sheer size of it. Bella, used to the countryside, was simply overwhelmed.

 

She had worked for difficult employers before, she had
reminded herself, but she had never worked for a
baron
.

 

Taking a deep breath, Bella crossed the small
ornamental bridge before the gate and then knocked at the towering oaken doors.

 

The knock sounded smaller than the doors, and she
feared for a moment that no one would come. But she had been expected, after
all, and after only a moment, the great doors swung open.

 

She might have expected it would take several strong
men to open such doors, but when they swung free, only one man stood there. By
his expensive suit and carefully arranged hair, she knew he must be her new
employer. Bella was about to curtsy, ready to take charge of the situation,
when he met her gaze.

 

And then she nearly dropped her papers in shock.

 

The Baron was
handsome
. No, not merely handsome
– he was beautiful in the classical sense, with a strong jaw and a large,
soulful mouth. His dark eyes were distracting in their depths, and his hair,
kept fashionably long, just brushed the tops of his ears in brown waves. And
his suit was so well-cut it left little to the imagination in terms of how well
he was muscled.

 

She drew in a deep breath, trying to control the sudden
fluttering in her belly and the warmth between her legs. Weren’t rich handsome
men all supposed to be playboys or partiers? Why would a man so young and
handsome keep himself locked away from the world?

 

Something in his gaze seemed to hint at a deep
reservoir of pain and control that Bella found herself longing to explore, but
as soon as she saw the flicker there it was gone, replaced by a sense of
reservation.

 

“Ms. Peters, I presume?”

 

The cool tone of his voice shocked her back to
propriety. He did not sound at all as though he was pleased to meet her, or
even to see her, though he was clearly the one who had need of her services.

 

“Yes, my Lord.” Bella curtseyed, careful to keep her
eyes lowered so she didn’t embarrass herself by staring. “I am here to fill the
position of housekeeper, as requested.”

 

“Well.” He gave her a once-over that was clinical and
cold. “You’ll do, I suppose. Start with the great hall.”

 

Bella felt a flush of indignation starting. “
Sir,
my references if you please. And there is the matter of my wages.”

 

He took the papers from her with a crooked smile. It
was the first human expression she had truly seen on him, and Bella found
herself strangely drawn to it, even with how rude he had just been. “You wish
to negotiate?”

 

“I just want to make sure the rate I offered is
accepted. You weren’t clear in your letter, and I have my father’s care to keep
in mind.” She tried to keep her chin firm as she met his gaze. Why did he have
to be so handsome?

 

The crooked smile vanished as he studied her once more.
“It is acceptable. Are you content?”

 

Bella tried to keep a sarcastic tone from her voice as
she curtsied once more. “My lord, I am yours.”

 

“Good.” The harsh tone sounded out of place in his
beautiful mouth, but the Baron cast the words over his shoulder as he pivoted
and left, almost as though he was fleeing the situation entirely.

 

Bella stared after him, unsure of what she had gotten
herself into.

 

But the listing had not lied. There was plenty to be
done in this great castle, and whatever she may have thought of her employer,
he had done a reasonable job of keeping things tidy despite the lack of a
regular housekeeper for what she gathered was some years since his father had
died. It was true Bella had to clean away cobwebs, and there was rather more
dust than one would like to see, but the castle held no traces of having held a
bachelor in the prime of his virility roaming about, getting into trouble.

 

As she cleaned, she couldn’t help but think of her
employer once more. The Baron had been just as terse as she had expected for a
shut-in, but there was something more about him, something that drew her to
him. It wasn’t his looks, though they were strong and handsome. Something about
his soul called out to her.

 

She shook her head, trying to clear it of such silly
thoughts. She was here to clean his castle, no more and no less. It would do no
one good if she got distracted mooning about him while she did so.

 

Still… it was easy to imagine those muscles doing more
than flex beneath an expensive suit. Maybe flexing beneath her, in bed… or on
top of her… or against the wall…

 

Stop it!
Bella ordered herself,
blushing even though no one could hear her thoughts. It was hardly her place to
be thinking such things, much less to be mooning on her first day at work.

 

She bent to scrubbing the floor with a will, grateful
that no one was there to see the pink heat of her blushes as she tried to keep
her damnably handsome employer from her mind.

 

~

 

It took Bella a long time after she finished her first
day’s work to actually find her employer. The sun was already beginning to slip
behind the hills, coloring them a brilliant orange, by the time she found the
Baron in his study.

 

“My lord,” she curtseyed, thinking it couldn’t hurt,
“my day’s work is done. With your permission, I’ll take my leave and return
tomorrow.”

 

He stood so swiftly she was taken aback. For some
reason she had expected that he would ignore her announcement, but now he was
before her, his face coloring in anger and some other, unnameable emotion.

 

“Return?”

 

“Oh.” Bella fumbled, feeling a flush of embarrassment.
“If my work hasn’t pleased you, of course – ”

 

“No.” The Baron cut her off with a single, decisive
gesture. “Your service was satisfactory, Ms. Peters. I meant that you can’t
leave.”

 

Bella gaped. “Sir?”

 

The Baron turned away from her and stared out the window
at the setting sun. It illuminated his face with an orange glow, filling it
with fire and shadow and coloring the strange look in his eyes. “While you are
in my employ, you must stay here. It isn’t safe that you leave this castle so
late at night.”

 

“But sir…” Bella hesitated. “My father needs care.”

 

He cut her off once more. “Am I not paying you so that
your father can receive care? I ask very little from those in my employ, Ms.
Peters. This is my condition.”

 

Bella bit her lip. “Yes, my lord. I will be happy to
stay the night. But I must make arrangements for my father tomorrow.”

 

“Good.” The Baron brooded, his gaze far off in the
distance. “And Ms. Peters?”

 

“Bella, my lord. Please.” She tried a smile, but he did
not look her way.

 

“Bella.” He said the name slowly, as though tasting it.
“Do not leave your room at night. Strange things have happened in these halls,
and it is my duty as your employer to keep you safe.”

 

A thrill of foreboding passed through Bella, making her
knees weak and strangely bringing forth the inappropriate thoughts she had had
about the Baron previously to the fore. “Yes, my lord,” she stammered, trying
to keep the image of him shirtless from her mind. She was sure her face was red
once more. “I will do as you ask.”

 

“Good,” he said again, never looking her way. “You may
go. You will find rooms at the end of the hall have been made up for you. If
you have any problems, you may let me know.”

 

“Yes, my lord.”

 

“And Bella?”

 

She paused, in the middle of letting herself out.

 

“Yes, my lord?”

 

The Baron turned back to her finally, a hard look in
his dark eyes. “Your problems can wait until the morning. Don’t disturb me
before then.”

 

She swallowed against the threat in his voice. “Yes, my
lord. I understand.”

 

~

 

That night, as Bella lay awake wondering what she had
gotten herself into, she heard strange noises long into the deep twilight
hours. Several times, it sounded as though heavy footfalls were echoing through
the halls. Each time she sat up, shivering, and stared at her door in a panic.

 

But the knob never turned. Once she could have sworn
she heard heavy breathing, but the Baron’s promise seemed true: as long as she
remained in her quarters, she would be safe from whatever strange beast roamed
the castle halls.

 

But it was impossible to sleep. And more than once, as
Bella lay awake, she heard a long and mournful cry, as though her own sorrow
and fear were shared by something else in the night.

 

~

 

“You're being safe?”

 

Bella sighed and answered the question for the fifth
time. “Yes, Dad. I can handle the job. And the salary is good for us.”

 

“All right.” Her father's voice was querulous. “But
you're being careful?”

 

Bella ignored the question and continued packing up her
father's clothes. She hoped he wouldn't need to stay at the assisted living
home long, only a few weeks until she could get her employment situation
settled. The Baron had been harsh, but she didn't think he would be
unreasonable. Something in his eyes had given her the feeling there was a gentle
side to him. She only hoped it wasn't buried too deeply.

 

“Bella.”

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