Authors: T. S. Joyce
BOARLANDER BASH BEAR
(BOARLANDER BEARS, BOOK 2)
By T. S. JOYCE
Boarlander Boss Bear (
Boarlander Silverback (Book 3) – Coming March 2016
The Boarlander Bears can absolutely be read as a standalone series, but if you would like more of these characters, check out T. S. Joyce’s bestselling Saw Bears, Fire Bears, and Gray Back Bears series, starting with
Lumberjack Werebear (
Saw Bears, 1
Reading Order for Damon’s Mountains
Lumberjack Werebear (Saw Bears, 1), Woodcutter Werebear (Saw Bears, 2), Timberman Werebear (Saw Bears, 3), Sawman Werebear (Saw Bears, 4), Bear My Soul (Fire Bears, 1), Axman Werebear (Saw Bears, 5), Bear the Burn (Fire Bears, 2), Bear the Heat (Fire Bears, 3), Woodsman Werebear (Saw Bears, 6), Lumberman Werebear (Saw Bears, 7), Gray Back Bad Bear (Gray Back Bears, 1), Gray Back Alpha Bear (Gray Back Bears, 2), Gray Back Ghost Bear (Gray Back Bears, 3), Gray Back Broken Bear (Gray Back Bears, 4), Lowlander Silverback (Gray Back Bears, 5), Last Immortal Dragon (Gray Back Bears, 6), A Very Beastly Christmas (Gray Back Bears, 7), Boarlander Boss Bear (Boarlander Bears, 1), Boarlander Bash Bear (Boarlander Bears, 2)
Copyright © 2016 by T. S. Joyce
Copyright © 2016, T. S. Joyce
First electronic publication: February 2016
T. S. Joyce
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the author’s permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Published in the United States of America
Sebastian Kane slammed the door to his alpha’s jacked-up truck and strode for his trailer.
“Oh, come on, Bash!” Clinton called to him in a baiting voice. “Are you really mad?”
“At you?” Bash muttered, quickening his step. “All the damn time.”
“I heard that,” Clinton said.
A growl rattled up his throat as Bash tossed a quick glance to the woods behind his home and considered Changing. Clinton had been raggin’ on him all day at the jobsite and then the entire drive back down Damon’s mountains to Boarland Mobile Park. Usually Bash was more patient, but right now his blood was boiling, his nerves firing, and he was sorely tempted to give his body to the bear. He wished he could bleed Clinton, but Harrison would be disappointed, and he didn’t want to upset his alpha, his best friend.
He took the porch stairs two at a time and shoved the stack of tires out of the doorway, which pissed him off even more. The door had rotted right off the hinges, and when Bash had tried to replace it, Clinton had pitched a fit. Harrison had given him permission to put up a door, but he needed to order the materials along with everything else they needed to fix up the trailer park.
Hands shaking in anger, he peeled back his flannel work shirt and chucked his hard hat against the wall, and damn it all, it sunk deep into the cheap, thin wood and sat there, five feet above the floor, taunting him. Too rough. Always too rough.
Clinton was right. He wasn’t cut out for a mate. Not a human one like he wanted. He couldn’t be gentle enough.
A knock sounded at the door, and he crouched as he turned, a snarl in his throat.
“Whoa, Bash!” Audrey said, her cheeks pale. Sometimes she still thought she was submissive, even though the tiger in her middle was a dominant brawler. “You’re upset.”
“Am not,” he muttered as he stood. This wasn’t like him to have mood swings. He was a happy bear.
“I can tell you are. Clinton?”
Bash dropped his gaze and exposed his neck to his Second, then nodded once. “Sorry.”
“For being mad? If I don’t get pissed off at Clinton five times before noon, it’s a slow day. Ain’t no shame in
, Bash,” she said in that thick southern accent of hers. Audrey’s soft brown eyes flickered to his bare shoulder, and she frowned.
Self-consciously, he covered the uneven skin with his hand and ducked his gaze. For a second, he thought she would ask him about it, but Audrey was sweet. She understood things the other shifters in his crew didn’t. She was…nice.
“I have something that will make you feel better.”
“What? A present?” He loved presents.
With a grin, she turned and pulled at the neck of her Moosey’s T-shirt. A half-moon of torn skin on her shoulder blade peeked out, and Bash went numb. “Audrey,” he whispered as he stumbled toward her. He stretched the collar out of the way, revealing the entire claiming mark. “Are you one of us now, girl? Like, official?”
When she turned, her eyes were rimmed with moisture. Confused, he brushed his finger under the drop that had fallen to her cheek. He stared at it with a frown, then studied her face. “Why are you sad?”
“Not sad, Bash. I’m happy. Harrison claimed me last night, and I never thought I would actually get to be a part of this place.” She looked around his shitty old trailer like it was a castle and shrugged her shoulders up to her ears. “But now I am.” Sweet Audrey. She’d grown up alone with no other shifters.
“Well, you had all of us from the moment we met you.”
“Not Clinton,” she said with a single, thick laugh.
“Well, Clinton don’t count.”
“I already told the boys that I’m claimed, but I wanted to tell you last and alone because I wanted to thank you out of earshot of the others.”
“For what?” He liked Audrey a lot, but she was confusing as hell.
“For being the first to accept me. And for making me pizza rolls all the time. And for being a good friend to Harrison, but also to me.”
Bash hid his smile by dropping his chin. She gave pretty compliments. Audrey never swallowed her nice thoughts down like everyone else did. She always gave them freely. Good Second.
Audrey turned at his door and stepped carefully over one of the tires on the front porch. “Oh, before I forget. Kirk wants to talk to you.”
“Yeah?” she asked, turning.
Bash pointed to her shoulder where Harrison’s claiming mark was covered now. “That was a good present.”
She gave him a crooked, emotional smile and said, “You’re gonna make a mate really happy someday, Bash.”
He huffed a relieved sigh as his bear settled in his middle. Audrey waved and made her way to her Jeep. It was parked in front of 1010 for now, but she would move in with Harrison soon. That scar on her back meant she and Harrison were good as wed. A tiny sliver of pain slid through Bash’s chest. He wanted that—a mate to take care of, a bunch of cubs, all of it.
Bash took a quick shower and dressed in his best—a white T-shirt and his favorite pair of holey jeans—to meet up with Kirk. The silverback shifter was the quietest of them all, and Bash wanted to make lots of good impressions so that maybe someday Kirk would consider pledging to the Boarlanders. Harrison needed more good men under him so he could be the alpha Bash knew he was.
He didn’t bother replacing his tire-stack door, but instead jogged down his sagging, waterlogged porch stairs and sidled around his dark gray Dodge Ram pickup that sat in his weed-riddled front yard. Everything else in his life was old and dilapidated thanks to Clinton sabotaging any plans to fix it up, but his truck was the one thing he was really proud of. It shone like polished iron in the waning evening light.
He waved to Audrey as she drove out of the park on her way to a late shift at Moosey’s Bait and Barbecue, then Bash hopped up onto Kirk’s porch and yelped when his work boot went right through one of the planks. “Aw, hell,” he muttered, maneuvering his foot out of the hole. He would have to fix that for Kirk later. In fact, he made a mental note to order enough lumber to fix everyone’s porches. He would surprise them. He liked giving presents like Audrey did.
Yanking the screen door open, he called out, “Kirk, cover your dick, I’m coming in!”
Kirk sat at his two-seater kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal. “Hey, man,” he said around a bite of generic-brand frosted loops.
“Audrey said you wanted to see me. I broke your porch. I like your trailer. It’s clean and has a door.”
Kirk’s dark eyes crinkled in the corner with his chuckle, and he twitched his chin-length hair out of his face. “I know you’re on the hunt for a mate, and I thought it was really cool what you did for Audrey.”
Bash frowned and sat on the other seat across from Kirk. “What did I do for Audrey?”
“You took back your challenge for Second when she beat Clinton and let her have it.”
“I wasn’t doing her any favors. I just didn’t want Audrey bleeding me.” He probably could’ve taken Audrey, sure, but she seemed good for the Boarlanders. She would make a good Second. She was smarter than him.
“Mm,” Kirk grunted, his eyes narrowed like he didn’t believe one lyin’ word Bash had said. Clever monkey. “Anyway, I talked to Jake down at Sammy’s Bar, and we put together a little something special for you.” He pushed a flyer across the table in front of Bash.
Across the top, it read
. Underneath was a grungy font on a black and white brick background.
The Boarlander’s own Bash Bear is on the hunt. Serious potential mates invited. Everyone will be screened at the door. This Wednesday only, top three contenders win free drinks all night. Ladies, come get your man.
And along the bottom was a website.
“A party for me?” Bash asked as he read over the flyer a second time.
“Yeah, but it doesn’t mean you have to pick a mate, Bash. This will just get some serious ladies in front of you. It’s important you take your time and let your bear choose, or it won’t stick.”
Normally, Kirk barely said a word to him. He hardly talked to anyone.
“Why are you doing this for me?” Bash asked, baffled.
Kirk gave him a sad smile. “Because once upon a time, my entire life revolved around keeping someone from finding a mate.”
“Yeah. I see Clinton doing the same thing to you—ribbing you, cock-blocking when you’re out with humans, telling you you’ll be crap at being a mate. He’s wrong, Bash. If you feel ready, and your animal is calling for a claim, then you’ll do just fine.”
“I’m too rough,” Bash said low. “And I’m clumsy, and I don’t say smart stuff.”
“Then find a lady who likes all that about you.”
Bash stared down at the flyer Kirk had gone out of his way to make.
First Audrey’s claiming mark and now this?
For the first time in his life, Bash had been given two presents in one day.
Emerson Elliot squinted at the computer screen, then turned her laptop away from the glare of the direct sunlight streaming through the window of Delilah’s. This was her favorite spot to work in Saratoga when she needed to get out of the house and be around people. Working from home had been fun for the first couple of months, but now she got excited about a squirrel eating a nut on her windowsill. She’d named him Ferdinand, and he was now her best friend. Work days at Delilah’s around actual people gave her the pretense of a social life.
Too bad butt-faced Fred Lawson had snuck in early and stolen her favorite spot in the back corner where the sunlight didn’t blind her. He gave her a sneer when she shot him a glance over her shoulder. Ten years ago, she’d graduated valedictorian in high school, while he’d finished salutatorian and never really gotten over it. Canker sore.
“Hi,” she said with a wave for the waitress.
Dana was always super nice, and Emerson pretended they were friends. Good gracious, desperation probably clung to her like a second skin. Dana must’ve seen that, too, because she gave a tiny, disappointed smile as she meandered over to her table with a pen and pad in hand. Emerson would try not to talk her ear off this time.
Hurriedly, Emerson angled her computer away, then ordered a cup of coffee and the pie of the day. Cherry, her favorite, and she believed in signs, so she was definitely going to get some good news in her email today.
And sure enough, when she clicked on the blinking email icon that told her she had unread messages, there was one from the
Saratoga Hometown News
with a job. She was a freelance copy editor for articles and worked for several different papers. Saratoga was the most consistent with jobs, but it was a small town, and there wasn’t enough office space for all the personnel, hence her work-from-home gig.
But when she read the title of the article, her heart sank to the soles of her shoes.
Shifters: The Biggest Threat to Humanity.
Emerson heaved an internal groan as she read the first paragraph. Bartleby Gordon was up to his usual tricks, trying to turn the town against the shifters who lived in Damon’s mountains. She borderline hated him. Partly because his articles were always so presumptuous, self-serving, and self-righteous, but also because she was pro-shifter, and these lunatic rantings were poison.
This was the job, though, and the more she considered it, the more she thought it was good that she was the one editing this article. She always managed to take the sting off his vitriol when she edited for him. Maybe that’s why Margee, her boss, floated her these crappy jobs. She was pro-shifter too.
Gritting her teeth, Emerson sucked up her pride and replied to Margee that she would take the assignment, and that the deadline was fine. It was a short one, but okay. She lived in a two-room duplex with nothing to do, the new Thai food restaurant on speed dial, and a plethora of pet plants. No responsibilities other than work. For now.
With a quick glance around, she opened the tab for the upscale sperm donor website. If all went well, she would have more to live and work for soon. Things hadn’t worked out like she’d dreamed when she was a kid, but she’d accepted she would just have to make her own destiny and create the family she wanted, with or without a partner.
The bell above the door dinged, but Emerson was too engrossed to pay much attention. She was busy reading the different profiles of the donors. If she didn’t put her order in today, Dr. Mallory said she would have to wait another month. And Emerson was so incredibly tired of waiting. She had been ready to be a mom for a long time. All that was left to do now was pick the perfect donor.
“He looks like a serial killer,” a man called over the diner.
Emerson shot a glance behind her, and sure enough, the giant of a man at the counter was looking right at her. And holy waffles, it was Sebastian “Bash” Kane.
“Oh, my stars,” she whispered, mortified as she slammed her laptop closed.
She watched in utter horror as he meandered toward her with long, powerful strides. His boots clomped loudly on the tile floors, and the coffee in his hand sloshed over the sides of his mug with his movement, but he didn’t seem to care. He knew her. Knew her! He’d read her message on bangaboarlander.com, and now he was here to embarrass her.
Hand’s shaking, she patted down her hair, but that was pointless because her corkscrew curls were as wild as ever, and now her cheeks felt like she’d splashed them with kerosene and lit a match.
Bash wore a white, V-neck T-shirt that clung to his ripped shoulders and hung perfectly around his tapered waist. His legs flexed against his jeans with the holes placed just right at his knees and on his thighs, and oh Mylanta, she was staring. Purposefully, she jacked her attention up his muscular neck to the designer dark scruff on his jaw, then up to his emerald green eyes. He had a nice smile for a man who was about to put her on blast for that stupid message.
To her shock, he sat heavily in the chair across from her, and she cringed as the legs of the chair screeched across the floor. “Cheers,” he said, clinking his mug against hers too hard, spilling the top inch off her own coffee. His hadn’t spilled anymore on account half of it was already sitting in the saucer under his mug. He gulped the rest down and said, “Did you see the way his eyes were empty? He ain’t a good man for you. You need someone with soft eyes.”
Okaaaay. Pursing her lips, Emerson opened her laptop and carefully put in her password. Bash had a point. The blond-haired man in the picture was physically fit, sure, and classically handsome, but his eyes were cold as ice.
The giant across from her pressed his hand to his chest. “I’m Bash Kane.”
He was introducing himself? Maybe he hadn’t read that mortifying message on the shifter dating site. Maybe he didn’t know her at all. “Uh, I’m Emerson Elliot.”
“Wow, that’s a pretty name,” he said, leaning back in his chair. He waved to the waitress. “Hi, Dana.”
She gave him a genuine smile, not the put-upon one she’d given Emerson. “Oh hey, Bash. You spending the day in Saratoga?”
“I am. Got a day off from the jobsite, and I’m down for a meeting with the bank. Can I have some loaded cheese fries?” He turned to Emerson. “You like cheese fries, right?”
like them? Yes, but I—”
“Me and Emerson Elliot are gonna split one of your big plates.”
Was it just her or did Dana look disappointed? “All right. I’ll bring them on out when they’re ready.”
“Thanks, Dana,” Bash said brightly.
Was she living in la-la land right now? Emerson looked around, and it seemed the giant bear shifter that had come down from the mountains had captured nearly everyone’s attention. Most of all hers since she’d harbored a crush on Bash from afar for nearly two years, and now he was sitting across from her ordering them food like they were longtime friends. This was way better than talking to Ferdinand the squirrel or her potted plants. Or Dana.
“Is that the cherry one?” he asked, pointing to the slice of pie she’d been nibbling slowly on.
“Y-yes. Do you want a bite?”
“Do I ever.” He forked half of the slice into his maw and rolled his eyes back in his head. “Oh, my God, I could eat, like, four pies. I’m not kidding. I eat a lot. What’s your favorite food?”
“Barbecue?” She didn’t know why she’d answered it like a question, so she cleared her throat and said it more strongly. “Barbecue. That’s my favorite. You?”
“Everything. If it’s edible, it’s my favorite. I’m a logger so I use a lot of calories.”
“Oh. Cool.” Everything was so surreal right now, from the oversaturated sunlight making his eyes look like two glimmering gemstones, to the way his biceps bulged as he wiped a napkin over his mouth.
“Are you finding an online date?”
“Kind of.” Nope, she wasn’t about to admit she was looking for a baby daddy.
“Let me see, and I’ll help. I’m good with reading people.” He tapped his temple. “Good instincts. What are you looking for in a man?”
“Well, I’m not really looking for a man, but more like a…friend.” A sperm donor could be her friend, right? She considered Dana to be one of her besties, sooo…
“Okay,” Bash mumbled, pulling her laptop around to face him.
She squeaked and clenched her fists, barely able to resist the urge to yank her computer away and bolt.
“I want a nice…friend.” Emerson rolled her eyes heavenward and puffed air out of her cheeks. She could not
she was having this conversation with a complete stranger, Bash especially. “Funny would be nice.”
Bash looked up from the screen and canted his head. A slow smile crooked his lips. “What else?”
“Caring and generous.”
Bash’s smile widened slowly. “What’s the most important thing to you?”
“Smart. I want an intelligent man.” So that perhaps her baby would have an easier time in school.
Bash’s face fell so fast his ears moved. He ripped his solemn gaze away from her and looked back at the computer. Silently, he scrolled and scrolled.
She’d said something wrong, but for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out what. Above average intelligence was one of the boxes she’d checked on the questionnaire that would match her with potential candidates.
“Sooo, what are you meeting with the bank for?”
“My financial advisor is there,” he murmured in a deep, distracted timbre. “He helps me take care of my crew.”
“Oh, are you some kind of financial guru?”
“No. Just a logger. Nothin’ more.” The last part had been tinged with sadness, though.
“I’m sorry if I said something wrong,” she whispered. “I don’t get out much and talking to people comes hard to me.”
“Why don’t you get out?”
“Well, because I work from my duplex. I edit articles for the
Saratoga Hometown News
“Oh, you’re real smart then.” He nodded for a while, then turned the computer toward her. “This one,” he said pointing to the screen. “And him and him.” Insanely, he’d picked her top three favorites. Bash frowned down at his empty coffee mug and encircled it with his hands. “I should go.”
“But…” He couldn’t go. She was actually getting to talk to another living being, she was enjoying herself, and he was funny and easy to converse with. Mostly. “Our fries will come out soon, and I can’t eat them all by myself.”
“You’re right.” A hint of that heart-stopping smile was back on his lips. “I’ll help you. It would be rude not to.”
She giggled at the funny way he said things and took a sip of her coffee.
“For real, you don’t want a man?”
“That ship has sailed, I’m afraid.”
“You like girls?”
She laughed again and crinkled up her nose. “I like men, but they don’t seem to like me.”
“Horseshit. You’re a ten.”
Wow. That was a helluva line and one not used on her before. Truth be told, she could stand to lose twenty pounds, had wild hair, her face was on the round-like-the-moon side, and she was too short to be called a beauty by classical standards. Still, she liked the way Bash was looking at her, as though he believed what he said. He was the ten. She was a six and a half. It wasn’t low self-esteem that made her think so either. She was content being on the plain end of the spectrum, and she was realistic. Bash was a beautiful, muscled-up bear shifter with a smile that made her want to drop to her knees.
And now, she was staring like a simpleton. Fumbling for a response, she panicked and stammered out, “I m-messaged you once on bangaboarlander.com.” She gasped and slapped her hands over her mouth to stop any more stupid words falling from her lips.
Bash’s dark eyebrows lifted up, and he opened his mouth to say something, but before he could get anything out, Dana set a giant plate of cheese fries in front of them.
“I made them extra cheesy,” Dana said. Shooting Emerson a narrow-eyed glance, she leaned toward Bash and whispered, “Just for you.”
A vivid image flashed across Emerson’s mind of her pushing Dana’s face into the fries and screaming, “We are not pretend friends anymore!” Which was insane because she wasn’t a violent person in general. Instead, she choked her coffee mug and gave the clingy server an empty
When Dana walked off, swishing her tail feathers, Bash reached for the fries, but stopped his hand midway.
“What’s wrong?” Emerson asked.
With a deep frown marring his perfect face, Bash leaned back in his chair and clamped his hands in his lap. “I don’t know. It don’t feel right eating anything. Not until you’re full. I’ll eat them all up, and you won’t have enough. Go on. You get your fill first and maybe my…”
Bash lifted his gaze to her then back to the fries. “Maybe my animal will stop rippin’ me up.”
“Oh,” she said on a breath. She didn’t want that at all. Didn’t want him to hurt. She didn’t understand his instincts, but she wanted to help him, so she forked a mound of fries onto one of the plates Dana had brought and said, “This is more than I have room for. Now you can eat as much as you want.”