Authors: Alanis Knight
Tags: #BBW, #Bear, #Werebear, #Erotic Romance Fiction, #Alpha, #Adult, #Romance
Heart of the Bear
A BBW Shifter Romance
Appalachian Shifters #1
Curvaceous chef Penny Adams is a rising superstar in the culinary world. She’s landed a fantastic job working in Napa Valley, California for one of the world’s most famous chefs.
Penny’s never liked airplanes, but her mother insists she fly instead of taking a bus or a train to visit her in Charleston. She’s reluctant, but she finally gives in.
When the plane crashes in the Appalachian Mountains above Gatlinburg, Tennessee and leaves her gravely injured, she’s rescued by a mysterious man who looks like he should be a model on the cover of GQ magazine – not a paramedic forest ranger in the middle of nowhere.
There’s a lot more to Caleb Grainger than meets the eye. He’s ultra masculine and obsessively protective – but he’s got a sensitive side that leaves him vulnerable, too. Penny just can’t figure him out.
But when a heartbroken Caleb makes a grave mistake, he puts his whole pack’s future in danger, and Penny’s caught right in the middle. Caleb will do anything to make sure Penny is safe, but she’s not about to leave him when he’s in danger.
Penny’s about to learn that there’s a lot more to life than advancing her career, but it may be too late to hold onto the one thing she never realized she wanted until she found it… love.
I guess I was so wrapped up in the passion that was heating up in the book on my Kindle that I didn’t notice the turbulence, or the announcements that inevitably came afterward. I was nibbling on a fingernail when a sudden jolt caused me to tear my nail down to the quick. I cursed under my breath and turned my eyes away from my Kindle long enough to noticed worried looks on the faces of the other passengers around me.
“Mommy, are we gonna die?” I heard a delicate little voice ask somewhere nearby.
“No, baby, of course not,” returned a reassuring voice. But I could detect the faint jitter of anxiety in her voice. She added, “Planes go through turbulence all the time. Here, you want your juice?”
My stomach knotted into a solid lump and crawled up into my throat. I swallowed hard. This was exactly why I’d told my mother I’d rather take a bus or a train than fly out to see her, but she insisted that planes were perfectly safe and I’d be in South Carolina in no time.
Another jolt knocked me forward in my seat, and my forehead slapped against the seat in front of me. My Kindle jumped out of my hands and disappeared under the seats. I started to reach for it, but I heard static come over the airwaves, and I paused to listen.
“Attention, passengers, the Captain has asked that everyone please take their seats and put on their seatbelts at this time,” said a crackly voice. “This storm is a little stronger than we anticipated, and we’re just taking precautions to…”
The voice disappeared in a haze of static, and another jolt sent me spilling into the floor just as I was struggling to fasten my seatbelt. I heard a few screams, and a bright light flashed outside the windows, followed immediately by a deafening crack of thunder. Another explosive sound came right after, and my eyes widened in horror at the sight of the engine flaming outside the window across the aisle.
This is it,
I’m going to die.
I hardly had time to think of anything else. In moments, I was pushed against my seat with such force that I couldn’t pull myself back up into it. I was crouched in the floor with tears streaming down my face. I could hear a high-pitched whine, and I knew the plane was going down fast.
I tried to fumble in my pocket to find my phone. I wanted to text my mother to let her know I loved her and I didn’t blame her for talking me into flying. But I was pinned so hard against the seats that I couldn’t move a muscle. All around me I could hear screaming, and crying, and praying.
Suddenly, there was nothing but darkness.
I can’t say how long I was taken by the darkness, but I awoke to the feel of raindrops spattering across my face. I blinked in confusion, and my eyes adjusted to the sight of a canopy of tree limbs waving above me in the breeze, highlighted by a full moon that shone brightly through a blanket of clouds.
I tried to lift my head to look around me, but a searing pain shot down my spine from the name of my neck and I groaned. I couldn’t move.
“Help me,” I tried to call weakly, but my voice was swallowed up by the spattering rain. I swallowed and tried again, this time a little louder. “Please, help me!”
I heard movement nearby, and my heart began to race.
“Help! Over here!” I called out.
The movement got closer, and suddenly, standing over me, I noticed a pair of glowing hazel eyes peering down at me through a dark mass of fur. I gasped, and I struggled to back away, but the pain was too intense.
“Help!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs! “Help me!”
Lips curled upward over a set of impossibly long, sharp teeth, and I was certain this bear was about to rip me to shreds. I don’t know if it was terror, or blood loss, or shock, but I was quickly pulled back into the darkness I’d just come out of.
“You shouldn’t have brought her here, Caleb!”
The grating female voice snapped me back to reality. My eyes popped open, but quickly closed again against a flickering orange light that hurt my eyes.
“Keep your voice down!” hissed a male voice. “She’s in bad shape. She needs her rest.”
“She’ll get us all killed,” the female argued back. “She doesn’t belong here. She’s human.”
Human? What the hell was she talking about?
“She’s a living creature, Anna,” the male whispered. “And she’s injured. I couldn’t just leave her there.”
“Well, if we get discovered because of her, it’s on you,” the woman growled.
“As Alpha, I take full responsibility,” the male voice said. “And if you were anyone else, your attitude would have you in real trouble right now.”
“I’m not afraid of you, Caleb Grainger. You just remember that.”
I heard a door slam, and my heart jumped.
“You’re awake,” the male said.
I didn’t know how he knew that, but I cautiously opened my eyes. My breath hitched in my throat at the sight of the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen in my life. Granted, I couldn’t see him perfectly in the dim light in the room. But I could see him well enough to know he was absolutely stunning. His eyes were wide and brimming with charm. His hair was slightly tousled and a single strand fell awkwardly across his forehead as he peered down at me. His jaw was so perfectly chiseled it couldn’t be real. This had to be a dream.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“I… I feel…”
“Your heart rate is high,” he said, concern etched across every line of his face. “I’m not going to hurt you. You’re safe here.”
How could I explain how I was feeling? I was a muddled mass of confusion. I had no idea where I was, what had happened, or how I’d gotten here. And now I was confronted with the epitome of Adonis, and my whole body sparked to life in ways I’d forgotten it even could.
“I’m… I’m fine,” I stammered.
“Do you know where you are?” he asked gently, pulling a stool beside the bed I was lying on and sliding onto it.
“You were in a plane crash,” he said. “You’re in eastern Tennessee. I’m Caleb. Do you know your name?”
I actually had to think for a moment, but I finally responded, “Penny.”
“You’ve been hurt pretty badly, Penny,” Caleb said. “You’re going to be here for a long time while your body heals. Is there anyone I need to call for you? A husband, maybe?”
Heat spread across my cheeks at the implication. Was he asking because he was curious about my relationship status? I quickly pushed the thought from my mind. My brain must have been addled from the crash.
“My mother,” I said weakly.
“Is her number in your phone?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I answered. “Betty Henderson.”
I noticed he already had my phone, but I wasn’t about to question him about how he got it. He scrolled through it and found my mother’s number. Then he put the phone to his ear.
“Ms. Henderson? My name is Caleb Grainger. I’m a park ranger in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I have your daughter Penny here,” he said into the phone.
He paused for a moment, and I could hear my mother’s voice sounding frantic on the other line.
“Yes, ma’am, her plane went down,” Caleb said, but he quickly added, “but she’s fine. Luckily I came across the crash and I was able to pull her out of the wreckage. She has some pretty serious injuries, but she’ll be fine in a few weeks.”
He pushed the phone toward my ear, and I pressed my head against it.
“Penny! Are you alright? Where are you?” my mother demanded.
“I’m in Tennessee,” I answered. “Calm down, I’m fine.”
“Are you in a hospital?” she asked.
“No… I just woke up,” I told her. Hell, I didn’t even know what day it was.
“Why in the hell are you not in a hospital? Who is this Caleb person? What the hell is going on, Penny?” Mom ranted.
“Mom, chill, please,” I said. “I really don’t feel like playing twenty questions right now.”
“You need to get to a hospital!” my mother shouted at me. “Penelope Adams, you tell that park ranger fellow to get you to a doctor right now!”
Caleb pulled the phone away from my ear and placed it to his own.
“Ms. Henderson, the storms in the area right now would only put her in more danger if we tried to transport her to a hospital,” Caleb told her. “Her plane went down because of the storms, and we’re high on a mountain. If we got out in this, the chances are great that we’d never make it to the hospital. You have my word that we’ll take good care of her. I’m a paramedic. She’s in good hands.”
My mother’s voice sounded somewhat calmer on the other line, and he listened patiently to her for a few minutes.
“Yes, ma’am, I’ll keep you updated on her condition,” Caleb said. “Yes, ma’am, I’ll see that she’s looked after twenty-four seven. Alright. Bye.”
“Sorry,” I muttered.
“For what?” Caleb asked.
“My mother can be a bit overbearing,” I told him.
“She’s a mother,” he shrugged. “That’s what they do. Human, bear, cat… pretty much all mothers are the same.”
It was then that I remembered the glowing eyes I’d seen back at the crash site.
“The bear!” I gasped. “How did you get me away from that bear?”
I noticed a look spread across his face that I couldn’t decipher, but it quickly faded.
“What bear?” he asked.
“There was a bear,” I said. “I saw it when I came to.”
“There was no bear,” he said a little too quickly. “Maybe your injuries made you hallucinate.”
a bear,” I argued. “I saw it. I know what I saw!”
“Alright, alright,” he said gently. “Calm down. Did you pass out after you saw him? Maybe he lost interest after that.”
“Hmm,” I said, feeling quite suspicious. “Maybe.”
At this point, things were starting to swim around in my head. Call me crazy, but after hearing the exchange between Caleb and the woman when I’d first awakened and hearing her call me “human”, combined with his evasiveness about the bear… I was starting to wonder if perhaps I’d stumbled right across one of the very stories I liked to read about.
Then I smacked myself across the face. Well, not literally. But I realized how crazy it sounded that I was thinking Caleb might be one of those sexy shifters I’d been reading about. They didn’t exist. It was freaking fiction, for crying out loud! I was obviously addled. That was it. I had a head injury.