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Authors: Jenika Snow

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BOOK: Grin and Bear It
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Chapter
Ten

 

He
ran through the woods, feeling that freedom, that wildness that had been so
lost to him since his accident, rush through his body and claim him. He was a
massive animal right now, his giant grizzly bear, a beast that could take down
anyone and anything. All of the other males in the club ran beside him, in
front of him, and even behind him. They were a clan, a group of men that had
bled for each other, fought with tooth and nail to make sure they were all
whole, and they’d continue to do that until they couldn’t anymore, until they
could no longer breathe.

Nico,
Lucas, and Cain were on his right.
Jakob
and Bodhi
were on his left. Ben, not a Grizzly Patch, but still family, was running
behind him. Odin was up front, his big body moving with power, as were all of
theirs.

The
only next generations missing were Ben, Stinger and Molly’s son, and Colt,
Drevin
and Allie’s son, and the twin to Cami. But Colt was
far too young to shift yet, and Ben was busy doing medical shit since he wanted
to be a doctor. Out of all the Grizzly kids, Ben had never been deep in the
club, instead focusing on academic things. But he was still family, no matter
what, even if he had no desire to be a Patch.

They
ran as a group, as one unit, getting their energy out, making sure they were
allowing that feral intensity that was housed in their bears to come forth. It
was safer for everyone, safer for them.

After
an hour of running they moved through the woods at a more relaxed pace, some of
the guys roughhousing with each other, their growls and the snaps of their jaws
playful.

When
they reached the tree line where their vehicles and Harleys were parked, one by
one they started shifting back into their human forms. They got dressed, the
energy still moving through them, among them. They were sweaty, their muscles
pumping with blood, their hearts racing from the exhilaration.

It
was midnight, the moon was full, the stillness surrounded them, and the sound
of his heart beating was a steady but quick rhythm in Mason’s ears. They were
at the edge of Steel Corner, all of the next generation Grizzly members
standing side-by-side now, their breathing returning back to normal, their
bears still at the surface, ready to be released again with just a thought.

Mason
looked down the line of guys, his brothers, his family. They were all here, all
of the males that had stood beside him since the time he could walk. They were
bear shifters, men that he’d pledged an oath to that he’d lay down his life for
them. He locked stares with
Jakob
, finding this peace
inside of him that they’d reconciled and they were once again brothers in arms,
stronger than before.

Bodhi
was the one to speak, to break the silence. “When are we going after them?” He
addressed Mason.

Mason
looked at the forest around him, playing that question through his head. He
knew where the men who’d fucked with him were, had known they’d stayed in River
Run, for whatever stupid reason. Even if, at first, he’d wanted to do this on
his own, his vengeance and anger so strong he hadn’t wanted help, not even from
his family, the club had kept track of the little bastards for Mason. The
police had never been involved, mainly because they hadn’t gotten any leads, no
witnesses, and the club and Mason hadn’t said shit. Hell, the cops didn’t know
the details about what had happened to Mason aside from the obvious clues
they’d picked up at the scene. But Mason had seen the ones who shot him and
knew it was the guys from the bonfire that had challenged them.

He
looked at the guys again, knowing that he wanted to do this alone, but also
knowing they wouldn’t let him. “Soon. I’m going after them soon.”


We’re
going after them,”
Jakob
said. “We do this together. We’re a family.”

All
the guys murmured in agreement. Mason could argue, but he didn’t want to. He
wanted these men beside him, wanted their loyalty and brotherly love. This was
what being in the club meant, and it was his life. Once he took care of this he
wouldn’t have to have it on his mind any longer. He could focus on
Ryeissa
, being with her, making the time with her special
without his vengeance always plaguing him. He had to do this not only for
himself, but for his future, the future he wanted with the woman he was falling
really damn hard for.

“We’ll
go after them soon, and make sure they realize fucking with the Grizzly MC
brings destruction down upon their heads.”

****

Ryeissa
knew there was something bothering
him from the moment they’d gotten in his SUV. They’d just finished dinner,
which had been low-key and not intimate as the restaurant had been packed, but
it had been perfect nonetheless. Although she wanted to spend the whole night
with him it was already pretty late. She’d gotten off work early today, picking
up a dayshift position for some extra money. Her internal clock was all messed
up since she usually worked nights. Since she didn’t see herself really
sleeping tonight anyway, and because she loved spending time with Mason, she’d
invited him out to dinner.

But
her invitation meant that he was the one to pick her up, pick the restaurant,
and even pay despite her protests. He didn’t want to think he was a gentleman,
or maybe he didn’t see himself as one, but did he realize that he was? Hell,
he’d even opened the doors for her tonight. It might have looked a little
strange given the fact he was nearing six and a half feet in height, was
covered in tattoos and facial scruff, and wore a biker leather vest that deemed
him part of the Grizzly MC, but he’d looked good doing it regardless.

Despite
the tension in the vehicle, the obviousness that something was on his mind,
Ryeissa
kept her mouth shut and allowed him the space it
was clear he needed.

The
windows were rolled partially down, the night air cool, seemingly still, even
though they were going over sixty miles an hour on this back stretch of road.

Looking
over at him and seeing the hard look on his face, the fact it was clear his
mind was full of things, his heart heavy given his tense expression,
Ryeissa
felt the need to show him some kind of physical
contact. She reached out and placed her hand on his thigh, felt the muscles
jump, and knew that he hadn’t been expecting it, even if he had senses that
were far more attuned than hers.

He
moved his big body slightly on the seat, as if he were uncomfortable all of a
sudden. The SUV rushed forward in the darkness. She wanted Mason, wanted him
more than she’d ever wanted another guy in her whole life, but taking her time,
really getting to know him was smart, too. Although she felt like she knew him,
like she knew about the darkness he harbored, she also wasn’t a fool in
thinking he didn’t have his own demons.

His
jaw was clenched tight, and she saw a muscle tick beneath the scruffy skin. She
went to remove her hand, but he placed his on top of hers. He was steering the
vehicle, or at least keeping it straight on the road with his thigh as he held
his hand on hers.

“I
like your touch,” he said in a gruff voice, smoothing his fingers over her
flesh, and then finally moving his hand back to the steering wheel. “I’m just
in a foul fucking mood.” He glanced over at her. “Sorry about the language.”

She
wanted things light between them, didn’t want him to feel like he couldn’t be himself
with her, even if that, at times, meant he wasn’t in the best frame of mind.
“You don’t need to apologize. I don’t want you to think you can’t be yourself
around me, even if you think being yourself is too crude.” She tightened her
hand on his thigh. “I like you, all of you, and besides I fucking swear all the
time.”

He
let out a burst of laughter, his big body shaking from the force of it. “You’re
something else,
Ryeissa
,” he said, smiling.

“I
hope that’s a good thing,” she said, teasing.

He
glanced at her again, his face taking on a more serious expression. “Yeah,
baby. It’s really fucking good.” He moved on the seat again, kept his focus on
her for what seemed like a long time, his eyes locked with hers. Maybe she
should have told him to watch the road, but the intensity in his gaze was too
encompassing for her to care about anything else.

When
he finally looked back at the road she let a breath leave her, not realizing
she’d held it in.

“I
don’t really want to go home, Mason. I’d like to spend more time with you.”
They hadn’t really spoken about doing anything after dinner, and because he
didn’t seem like he really wanted any company tonight she hadn’t mentioned
anything else. But she wanted to help his demons, wanted to be the person he
could go to if he needed consoling. He had a family, an MC, and he clearly
didn’t need her in that department, but she had a feeling the club members
didn’t share their emotions. She wanted to be that person for him.

She
could see him smiling, loved that her words had done that to him, broken
through that hard exterior of his.

“I
fucking love hearing you say that.”

“I
fucking mean it, too,” she said, swearing back, letting him know he didn’t have
to be someone he wasn’t just because of her.

They
both started laughing at the crude words being thrown around, but they sobered
when his phone rang. She looked out the window, giving him as much privacy as
she could given the fact they were in his SUV.

“Yeah?”
he said, his voice deep, scratchy … all male.

When
a chill slammed into her, goosebumps moving along her arms, she turned her head
and looked at him. Back was the hard mask covering his face, but it was more
intense, frighteningly so. The volume was up on his phone enough that she could
hear the person on the other end, kind of make out what they were saying.

“They’re
here, Mason,” the muffled, but clearly male voice on the other end of the phone
said.

“You’re
sure?” Mason asked.

“Pretty
fucking sure, man.”

Ryeissa
swallowed. She’d read his report
while he was in the hospital, knew he’d been shot at, gotten into a motorcycle
accident, and that he’d barely held onto his life. It had been a miracle he
survived at all. Someone had wanted to kill him, or at least hurt him enough
that his life was ruined.

She’d
been so focused on her thoughts that she’d zoned out, and before she knew it he
was off the phone. He held the cell in the hand that was gripped onto the
steering wheel, and she heard the phone crack in his powerful hold.

“Mason?”
she said his name softly, timidly almost. Taking her hand from his thighs, she
clasped her fingers together, feeling this pressure in the SUV, this tightness,
frigidness. He was angry. No, angry was too tame a word for the emotions he
threw off.

“I
have to take you home. I’m sorry, but I have something that I have to take care
of.”

She
wanted to talk to him, to tell him she was here for him, that he didn’t have to
do whatever he was going to go do. But she clenched her teeth, knowing now was
not the time. She had until she got home to think of a way to talk to him, to
make him
see
her right now, listen to
her.

Ryeissa
had to make Mason realize that she
wanted to be the person he could always count on, no matter how little time
wise they’d known each other. She needed to make him see that if they were
going to do this, to be together, they needed to be a team and trust each
other.

Chapter
Eleven

 

Mason
pulled into her driveway, but didn’t cut the engine. He kept his focus forward,
hating that he was being an asshole to her right now, but not able to wrap his
head around anything other than the phone call he’d just gotten and the fact he
was about to make things right.

He
could have taken these guys out sooner, had ways of finding out where they
were, lived, and worked. He could have dug deeper, and so could the club, but
he’d bided his time, healed, and he knew once the time was right he’d go after
them and finish this. But he’d needed to take care of himself first, get
himself whole. He’d shifted into his animal already, and his body almost
healed, despite his scars. He was ready to end this so he could move on with
the woman he’d grown to love more than anything else.

“Mason,
please look at me.”

He
closed his eyes at the soft sound of
Ryeissa’s
voice.
He didn’t want to be like this around her, but he also couldn’t just block out
what had plagued him for the last several months. Mason couldn’t hide who he
was. He’d always been this easygoing guy, maybe a little hotheaded and ill-tempered
at times, especially when drinking, but he felt empty anymore, even though this
sweet female was giving him her support.

He
turned and looked at her, the shadows wrapping around her like this thick
cloak. She had broken through that exterior he’d covered himself in, used to
block everyone else away. She’d been the only one to see through his bullshit,
seen him for the man he wanted to be again. At least that’s how he felt, how
she made him feel.

“I’m
sorry, but there’s something I have to do.” He didn’t want to get into this
with her, didn’t want to tell her all of the baggage he honestly carried. What
would she do if he revealed he was going to possibly kill someone? That had
been on his mind since the accident, and all he could see was blood and
destruction.

“Mason,
whatever you feel you have to do we can talk about it.”

God,
if only it were that simple. He shook his head, turned away from her to face
out the windshield, and knew that staying here longer, trying to explain things
to her, would only have this night ending badly.

“I
know I haven’t proved myself to you, that I can be trusted—”

“I
trust you,” he said without hesitation, stopping her from continuing. “I trust
you completely,
Ryeissa
.”

“Then
let me help you get through whatever this is. I know it’s about the accident,
and that you want to go after whoever hurt you, but I’m here for you. You don’t
have to solve anything with violence.”

“You
want me?” he said, changing subjects for a second. She knitted her eyebrows.

“Of
course.”

“Then
you need to really understand, like really fucking understand, that this is who
I am.” He curled his hand into a fist and slammed it against his chest. “I am
violent to my enemies. I’ll hurt them when they cross me and anyone I care
about. I have no problem killing someone who fucks with what’s mine,
Ryeissa
.” He held her gaze for a long second, letting his
words sink in. “You saying I don’t have to solve violence with violence lets me
know you don’t really understand who I am.”

“No,
I understand, Mason,” she whispered. “I just think you can be stronger than
that. I can help you.”

He
shook his head and laughed humorlessly. “If only it were that simple.” He was
getting angrier, needing to get out of here, get away from the one good thing
he had going in his life right now—
Ryeissa
. He didn’t
want to screw this up even more, and if he stayed he knew he would. Mason
fucking cared about her, loved her. Yeah, after only this short amount of time
he fucking wanted her like he’d never wanted a woman before. Did she know he’d
die for her, kill for her? “I can’t do this with you right now,
Ryeissa
.”

“Why?”

He
closed his eyes and grappled with his control. His bear was right there,
pacing, wanting out, wanting to finish this so he could move on. He turned and
looked at her, let her see the flash of his bear, and saw her eyes widen.
“Because if I talk about this with you anymore I’ll end up ruining this between
us because I am so on edge, feeling so raw right now. And I don’t want that.”
He was pleading with her in his own hardened way, and when he saw the way her
eyes became glossy, saw that she was so emotional right now, baring it all for
him, he felt like the biggest damn asshole.

“I
need to go, to do this, and I need you to just not push me.”

The
silence stretched between them.

“Please,
Ryeissa
,” he said harder this time, his bear coming
out. “I have to fucking go.” His voice was distorted, and although he wasn’t
upset with her, his anger over those motherfuckers and the adrenaline pumping
through him made him volatile right now. He was becoming more animal than
human. His bear would never hurt her, and neither would his human, but he knew
he’d scare her, and he didn’t want that.

“I
want you to know that if you would have given me a chance I could have been
there for you, tried to help you work through this. I would have been by your
side, Mason. It might not have been in the way you liked, but I wouldn’t have
turned my back on you.”

That
sounded like a final goodbye, like she realized she couldn’t handle it. Her
emotions thickened the air between them, a mixture of her sadness, annoyance,
frustration, and the fact she cared for him. But the latter was buried deep
beneath the others, and he knew he’d fucked this up because of his own selfish,
hardheaded reasons. Despite that he still couldn’t be a man and put his anger
aside for her, for the woman he cared about.

She
was out of the car before he could say anything, even if he had planned on it.
He watched her walk up the front steps and opened her front door. And without
looking back at him she stepped in her house and shut the door, closing him
off, ending it. He didn’t know if that was it between them, but if it was he’d
brought it on himself.

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