Read Love at First Roar (BBW Paranormal Shapeshifter Werebear Romance) (Grayslake Book 4) Online

Authors: Celia Kyle

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #werebear, #bbw

Love at First Roar (BBW Paranormal Shapeshifter Werebear Romance) (Grayslake Book 4)

BOOK: Love at First Roar (BBW Paranormal Shapeshifter Werebear Romance) (Grayslake Book 4)
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Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

About Celia Kyle

Copyright Page

Chapter One

 

Isaac understood the definition of “brittle smile.” It was an expression he’d held all day, and he didn’t imagine it would disappear any time soon. It’d been in place from the moment he climbed out of his SUV. It’d remained as he was met by his toddling niece, Sophia, and rapidly growing nephew, Parker. It’d grown shakier when he leaned over his sister-in-law Lauren’s shoulder and stroked her baby daughter’s cheek. It expanded when the rest of the werebear clan showed up for little Sophia’s first birthday party.

Werebear after werebear parked in front of the clan den. Men and women he’d known his entire life quickly made their way to the back of the house. Since his brother Ty was the clan’s Itan—werebear leader—his daughter’s birthday was celebrated by one and all, as it should be. Ty was a good Itan and a better father. If anyone deserved happiness, it was Isaac’s eldest brother.

Isaac just didn’t want to witness it. Not when it burned a hole in his heart. He remembered easing Sophia into the world as he helped Mia—the clan’s Itana and Ty’s mate—with the birth. He remembered Mia’s tears and the shininess of Ty’s eyes. He remembered their wonder and—

The heavy tread of someone approaching drew him from his heaping ball of self-pity and back to the rapidly growing party around him. He did what he always did—tucked himself against the house, in the shadows, away from the crowd. It hadn’t always been this way, but after… well, after, he wasn’t inclined to make a spectacle of himself.

Isaac brought his glass to his lips, tipping it back and swallowing the sweet tea infused with berries. Mia knew he didn’t really drink—a Healer always had to be ready to help—and the woman made sure he got his dose of sugar that soothed his bear. Saint Mia…

Those stomps drew closer, and he swiveled his head toward the source. Ash, a big-ass bruiser of a bear and one of the family’s most trusted guards, came his way with a woman in tow. Isaac sighed and lowered the cup. They really needed to stop doing this. It was becoming tedious.

Becoming? Hell, it already was. Over a year and a half had passed since the battle with the hyenas. A lot had happened that day, including Isaac acquiring a ton of scars—some more obvious than others. He gently traced the edge of one that ended near his chin. If women hadn’t approached him before now, it wasn’t going to change.

He turned toward the duo and pasted his semblance of a smile on his face. It wasn’t wide and welcoming, not anymore. The scar that bisected his cheek kept him flashing a grimace rather than the intended grin.

“Isaac,” Ash reached him, thumping his arm in welcome. “How are ya, man?”

God, no more patting his back.
Please
.

“Good, good. Busy as always.” He kept himself busy on purpose. Everyone knew that, even if the words weren’t voiced. Focusing on work meant he didn’t have time to be lonely.

“Yeah, yeah. I hear you.” Ash nodded and an uncomfortable silence surrounded them.

It was always this way. Isaac should stop him now before things got worse. Unfortunately, when he opened his mouth to end the farce, Ash pushed on.

“Oh, you remember my sister Eliza? She’s rejoining the clan. She decided to finish her degree up the road but will be staying with me.” Ash leaned close. “She wants to be close but can’t stand our parents.”

The woman in question rolled her eyes. “
Ash
.”

“What?” The male feigned innocence, adopting a look Isaac saw often at the clan den. He really enjoyed feeding Sophia and Parker sugar. When Mia caught them, he proclaimed he was nowhere
near
the raw cookie dough, and even if he was, it wasn’t like raw eggs could hurt big strong werebears. “I didn’t do anything.” Ash paused. “Or say anything that wasn’t true.”

Isaac rolled his eyes and shook his head, which brought the man’s attention back to him. Not only Ash’s but Eliza’s as well.

And she, like many other women in the clan, met his eyes for a moment—recognition in her gaze—before shifting to the deep, wide scar that marred his face. The mirth filling her bright green orbs quickly died and her attention shifted to his other cheek. The clean one, the one not marred by evidence of his battle with the hyenas.

More silence enveloped them and he fought to fill the quiet. It wasn’t her fault his disfigurement distressed her. It bothered many women. Not the men, they saw it as proof he’d fought for the clan and then put his fellow bears’ recovery before his own. They looked at him with pride, thrilled to have a Healer of his skill and selflessness in their ranks.

The women pretended he didn’t exist.

Which was fine.
Fine.
He wasn’t sounding like some pussy-whining bear.

“Nice to meet you again, Eliza. I’m not sure when you left us, but Ty bought more land surrounding Grayslake recently. There are plenty of new beautiful spots along the water to hike and do some fishing.” Her gaze didn’t waver from Isaac’s unblemished cheek. He supposed she needed to stare at some part of his face. Steeling himself for what was to come, he played his part in Ash’s matchmaking scheme. “If you’d like me to show you around, just say the word. I spend a lot of time at my office, but I always have evenings free.”

Ash smiled widely, obviously thrilled with Isaac’s invitation.

Not so fast.

He’d become adept at reading expressions and noticing body language. He knew what her response would be even before she said the words.

“I-I-I… um, Ash promised to take me on a tour of the town and stuff.” Ash’s expression turned to a thunderous glare at Eliza. He almost stepped in, but he knew there was more. “Brother-sister time, you know? Maybe some other time.”

The smile was fake, but he had to hand it to her. At least she tried.

“Of course,” he nodded, ignoring the stinging scent of Ash’s rage, the strength managing to overwhelm the flavors of berries and tea that filled his nose. “Some other time.”

Like never
.

“If you’ll excuse me,” he let his gaze scan the crowd, hunting for a reason to leave the two siblings. When his attention finally landed on his brother, he refocused on the duo. “I need to talk to Ty real quick.” He gave Eliza another tight-lipped smile. “It was nice to meet you.”

Isaac escaped as Ash and Eliza said their goodbyes, striding away before he caught Eliza’s relieved sigh. At least he assumed there would be one. Every other female shoved before him reacted the same way. Hushed whispers followed him, Ash’s overshadowing Eliza’s, and he was glad when they were out of earshot.

That encounter rounded out an even three dozen similar meetings and he was… done. He thought time away from Grayslake after the fight would make a difference. But he’d been proven wrong, hadn’t he? Even strangers shied from his scarring. He wished…

No, he didn’t wish anything. Looking across the yard, at the men he’d saved, at those he’d healed, he would take the pain again and again rather than push it on another. Rather than lose another.

Shaking his head, he kept on his path, finding his brother by following Sophia’s high-pitched squeals and Parker’s playful growls. He rounded a group of men, taking a few thumps and pats on his back as he passed. Those who didn’t touch him, grunted a hello.

As the males parted, he found what he’d expected. A shifted Parker chasing the toddling Sophia while Mia kept an eye on them. The boy was the girl’s protector and playmate in one. No one looked at Sophia cross-eyed or got near her if Parker had any say about it.

Isaac sidled up to his eldest brother, easing onto the bench beside him, watching the romping children.

“What’s up?” Ty started the conversation, and a sudden bout of nerves assaulted him. This would hurt his family, upset the women—especially his mother—and anger the males.

Well, there was no nice way to lay things out. They’d be pissed, but he wasn’t changing his mind. There was no other choice at this point. “I’m leaving Grayslake. Permanently. Alone.”

Alone was the important part of his statement. He’d left the town briefly with Mia’s father when the older male acted as Guardian of his hometown. Seven months later, he returned. It’d been a year since, and things hadn’t changed. It was time.

Maybe after he accomplished his goals, he could return to Grayslake, but for now he needed to be gone.

Tension filled Ty, the man’s muscles frozen and firm, hand stilling halfway to his mouth. Without lowering the glass, his brother turned his head and stared at him.

“I don’t think I heard you right.” The words weren’t the deep rumble of his brother, but the chilling calm of Isaac’s Itan.

He was damned if he’d call the words back. “No, your hearing is fine.”

“No,” the word was slow and consumed with deadly quiet. “I did not.”

Deadly? Did it matter? No, Ty wouldn’t hurt a hair on his head. Not after everything Isaac had “sacrificed” for the clan.

“Yes.” Isaac nodded. “It’s time. You know it. You don’t have to like it, but you know it.”

Part of Ty’s change rippled over the man, skin swelling and relaxing in unhurried waves. Fur slid from his pores, peppering his arm, and Isaac fought to keep his own bear in check. Ty was angrier than he anticipated, but Isaac refused to back down. Not about this.

“I deny your petition.” Of course Ty did.

After nearly losing Keen due to the family’s stupidity, Ty had become very devoted to Van, Keen, and Isaac. The clan den rested atop a high hill and Van lived at its base. Ty was actively trying to get Keen to build a home beside Van’s.

Isaac shrugged. “And Terrence already approved my application for relocation.”

Terrence Jensen was the Southeast Itan, a scary as hell bear, but also Keen’s uncle-in-law. The male was happy to help Isaac, which in turn helped his niece’s family.

“He can’t…” A shudder overtook Ty’s body and his brother made a tight fist.

Unfortunately, it was the hand still clutching his cup. Berry infused tea splashed over Ty’s pants, soaking him in the sweet mixture. The rush of liquid and ice had Ty freezing in place. The Itan tilted his head down and then refocused on Isaac. His brother’s anger at his announcement was filled with frustration as well.

Rather than give his brother a chance to collect his thoughts, Isaac plowed on. “You know he’s authorized to take petitions in the event a clan’s Itan is prejudiced against—”

Ty snarled, “I’m not prejudiced—”

“You wouldn’t let me leave if he hadn’t already—”

“Damn right, you’re not leaving,” Ty snapped.

“Ty!” Mia’s gasped yell didn’t slow Isaac in the least.

“Yes, I am. There’s nothing here for me, Ty. You know it. In your heart, you know if I stay I’ll never have what you have with Mia, Parker, and Sophia.” The words were hard to say, the naked truth always something he shied from, but there was no denying reality.

“Isaac—” Ty’s voice was overridden by Sophia’s high-pitched squeal. She wobbled toward them, apparently indifferent to the tension that lingered between Isaac and his brother. The moment she was within reaching distance, she raised her arms, calling for Isaac.

“A-a-a-a.” Sophia still babbled, but she had specific sounds for most of the family members, the girl quickly taught
them
what
she
wanted.

Isaac was powerless beneath her bright-eyed gaze. “Hey, cub-cub.”

He picked her up, settling her on his lap, tiny toes on his thighs as she clutched his hands. She loved bouncing, standing on his legs, and giving him toothy grins. “A-a-a-a.”

Ty’s voice was low, much calmer now that Sophia was present. “You’ll miss this if you leave.”

Isaac turned his attention back to Ty, careful of his precious cargo but also intent on his brother. “I’ll never have this if I stay.”

* * *

Kira rubbed her forehead, fighting the headache that threatened. She wasn’t sure if it came from the stress of moving or the constant yammering of her best friend.

She clutched her cell phone, pushing back the tears that loomed, and tried explaining things to Zoey once again. “You know why I couldn’t stay.”

“I do, but I don’t.”

Another crash, the tinkling and crunching of glass had stinging moisture blurring her vision. Or rather, blurring it more than it was naturally blurred. Er. Right. The point was, no matter the destruction, she wasn’t gonna let the tears trail down her cheeks. No crying, no whining, no sniffling, and no boo-hooing. Nope. None of it.

“Yes, you really do, Zoey. We’ve talked about this.” And talked about it and talked about it and… Yeah.

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