Authors: Terry Bolryder
Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #Werewolves & Shifters
© 2015 by Terry Bolryder
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover Design by Melody Simmons of eBookindiecovers
or all the
fans who believed in Sam and his happily ever after.
am Weston didn’t know
what he’d been thinking when he’d offered to babysit all four of his grandkids at once. Perhaps he was just being an overeager grandpa. Perhaps he’d been feeling a little lonely. Perhaps he just thought he’d handled and raised three rambunctious boys, and he forgot they were all more than a year apart in age.
Perhaps he’d forgotten all four were precocious, pureblood polar bear shifters and, as a result, had shifted as soon as they could crawl.
Either way, he was now experiencing a bit of regret as four tiny polar bear cubs caused mayhem in his hotel suite.
Maddie and Mikey (twins from his youngest son, Sky, who hadn’t told the family they were expecting more than a boy due to being worried about some health issues during the pregnancy) were working together at tearing the bottom cuffs of his suit as he reached up to pull little Samantha (his middle son Sebastien’s daughter) off from where she’d been aggressively climbing his curtains. Meanwhile, Scott Junior was wrestling with a tropical plant he’d knocked over, gleefully kicking dirt all over the beige carpet.
Sam gathered Samantha into his arms and then ignored the twins that were attached to his pant leg by the teeth, dragging them with him as he went to pick up Scott, who growled and tried to get out of his arms. They were smaller than usual, so carrying them in his arms wasn’t as hard as it could have been. Sam’s height of 6’6” didn’t hurt either. As Scott junior crawled out of his arms and up onto his shoulder, Sam knelt down to gently pull the twins off his legs and into his arms.
With four squirming balls of fur trying to climb all over his arms and back, he stood slowly and carefully, wondering what to do with them now that he’d wrangled them up.
Cute little growls punctuated the air and made him smile wide. There was nothing to complain about. He had four healthy, happy grandkids, and all of them would grow up to be able to shift.
He carried them into the master bedroom and dumped them on the bed, laughing as they growled and rolled about, trying to regain their balance. Though they were tiny now, they would grow up to be much larger than regular polar bears. With any luck, they’d be a lot less mischievous by then. He wasn’t sure, though. Their parents could be troublesome when they wanted to be as well. In the past year, they’d been working without fail to try and match Sam up. Since he’d set each of them up with their mates, they’d been trying to do the same for him, flying out shifter women to meet him.
What they didn’t understand was there would never be another woman for Sam. There had only been one. There had always been one. And if he couldn’t be with her, he would just enjoy growing old with his children and grandchildren. There was lots to be grateful for.
A knock sounded at his hotel door and he screwed up his brows in confusion.
Who could that be?
He looked at the bears, all of whom were eyeing the edge of the bed and each other as if trying to see if it’d be smart to jump off and who should go first.
He looked at the door with a sigh and hoped the cubs wouldn’t get up to too much trouble while he went to answer it. He took one last look at the cubs as he closed the bedroom door and then walked to the front door to open it. He didn’t know why anyone would be at his suite. He owned the resort and several others, but his son Scott had been running it for years, and he didn’t know why a patron would need to speak to him.
Still, Sam didn’t believe in being rude to anyone. He was more easygoing and laidback than most of his sons, and most bear shifters in general. Maybe because of what he’d been through, maybe because of his age. But either way, he’d found now that he was easing into his late forties that he was quicker to let things go. Quicker to try and appease.
He put on a polite smile and swung open the door, trying not to think about what his grandkids were doing to his fancy sheets. But when he looked down at the woman standing in front of him, he felt his composure melt completely away as the past swirled up to catch him in the face like an icy blast, freezing him in place.
The years seemed to melt away as he stared at her, those familiar features, that beloved face. Twenty years since he’d seen her. Twenty years of worry, of wondering, of trying to sleep at night, ignoring the anguish that she wasn’t here. He took a step back, still in a complete state of shock.
She was of average height, maybe 5’6”, with sandy-blond hair in a shoulder-length bob, a calm, kind face with lively eyes the color of the sky. She had a small, snub nose but wide, luscious lips and a pointed little chin that had always fit perfectly in his hand when he’d tilted it up for a kiss.
He felt heat rush through him, making his body feel more alive than it had been in so many years as he looked her over. She was curvaceous, as she’d always been. A generously built woman with wide hips and gorgeous breasts and just a lot of extra all over. His mouth watered as his eyes raked over the familiar curves that were suddenly within reach after dreaming about them for so long.
She was older now, there were lines around her eyes and mouth that weren’t there before, but they only heightened her beauty in his eyes, made her even more real to him. Told him this wasn’t a dream, that she was really here after all these years.
The only question was,
She twisted something in her hands, and he looked down to see she was holding a hotel brochure, which she was mutilating as she stared up into his eyes, confusion and grief warring with something else in her expression. “I… I don’t even know why I’m here. I know this sounds weird.” She looked away and shook her head. “But I… I saw you on a commercial. You see, I lost my memory some time ago, and I don’t know who I am. But anyway, I saw your commercial promoting tourism in the Caymans, and my heart just… Well, it skipped a beat. So I flew here to meet you.” She bit her lip. “But I know how weird this sounds. I…”
He crushed her into his arms, unable to resist, and she let out a little squeak but stayed there. When he gathered his composure somewhat, he pulled back to see her staring at him in confusion. But he hadn’t been able to resist touching her, feeling she was real, assuring himself she was flesh and blood and not a ghost come back to haunt him.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know you,” she said. “I just hoped you could tell me something about who I am.”
His heart sank. She truly didn’t know him at all. He’d hoped just touching her would magically bring her to life for him, but the way she was looking at him now, blank and concerned, worried him greatly.
But she was here now. That was all that mattered. He would finally know what had happened to his mate. At least some of it.
A growl sounded from the bedroom, and she looked up with wide eyes. “What was that?”
He grimaced and tried to think of a lie.
“You have a dog?” she asked, tilting her head. Damn, she was adorable.
“No, I, er… yes. Well, he can be a real bear,” he said.
She laughed and nodded. “Have I come at a bad time? Should I go?”
He quickly moved into action. “No. I mean, yes, but I’ll come see you later. I have lots to tell you. Lots to ask.”
“So we do know each other,” she said.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, we do.” He pulled out a spare room key he kept for one of the penthouses. He used it to hide when he didn’t want anyone to come up and see him. Even his sons didn’t know about the room. “Go to the room with this number, this key will work, and I’ll come get you for dinner. I have a few things to take care of before then.”
She nodded, looking down at the card silently. When she looked up at him, warm gratitude shone in her eyes. “Thank you for being patient with me. It’s been tough the past few years. Well, quite a few years actually. I, I haven’t had much vacation, and I wasn’t sure how I’d afford it.”
He nodded, ushering her gently outside as he heard a crash from the bedroom that meant one of the cubs had found his lamp. “It’s no trouble, really. I promise I’ll explain later.” She nodded and headed off toward the elevator. He hated seeing her so beaten down, so timid. The past years hadn’t been kind to her. They hadn’t been kind to him, but he’d had his sons to sustain him. What had she had? Another family? Another mate?
He couldn’t stand the thought of it. Despite how long she’d been gone, despite her betrayal, she was still his. She had to be.
Hopefully, even if her human had forgotten him, her bear remembered. He was more grateful than ever that he’d done that silly commercial. Scott had talked him into it, not telling him they also sent it to prospective mate candidates for him in their zeal to set him up.
Speaking of Scott, he needed to call him. If there was anyone who needed to know what was going on right now, it was Scott, who’d had it the rockiest over the years.
As soon as the elevator doors closed, taking her out of sight, Sam strode back into his suite. After a quick check to make sure the cubs were only destroying his bedroom and not hurting themselves or each other, he picked up the phone and dialed his oldest son. Scott picked up quickly.
“What’s wrong? Are the cubs okay? You shouldn’t have insisted on all four. We all knew it was too much. We were just waiting for you to admit—”
“It’s not the cubs,” Sam interjected in a harsh voice. “Scott, it’s your mother.”
Silence from the other side of the line and then crackling as Scott sounded like he was shifting the phone to the other side of his face. “What do you mean?”
“She’s back, Scott. And she doesn’t know who she is.”
re you in your suite
?” Scott asked, voice stern.
“I’m coming up.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Sam said. “I don’t know what to do.”
“I know,” Scott said. “We’ll figure it out together.” Then he hung up, leaving Sam with the fading adrenaline of seeing his mate.
Sam slumped in a chair and then realized he should be watching his grandkids. He walked into a master bedroom and sat in a chair across from the bed. The cubs had been wresting over a blanket and turned to look when he walked in.
Samantha, Sebastien’s daughter, toddled over to him and looked up with curious gray eyes. Then she growled and took hold of his pant leg, as if trying to get him to get up and play with her. But he just shook his head. He felt too drained. She continued to pull until he picked her up and set her in his lap, gently stroking her fur. The other tiny bears looked over, intrigued, and then one by one abandoned the blankets to toddle over to his chair. They climbed up his legs and into his lap, the twins sharing his lap, Scott Junior crawling up onto his chest, while Sam rested along the back of his shoulders and the top of the chair. Surrounded by furry warmth, Sam once against counted his blessings and tried to calm his mind so he could think clearly from here on out.
But how did one think clearly at a time like this?
The bedroom door opened, and Scott walked in, folding his arms at the sight in front of him. “Guess we were wrong. Look at Sam, the bear tamer.” The twins were sleepily nuzzling one another as they settled in, and Scott Junior was sliding down Sam’s chest as he fell asleep. They started to make little high-pitched snores, and Sam shared an amused look with Scott.
“Not a bear tamer,” he said in a hushed voice. “They just tired themselves out on my room and my pants.”
Scott looked around the room and then at his ruined pant cuffs and let out a belly laugh, throwing his head back. “Serves you right, thinking you were king of the bears or something.” He ignored Sam’s shushing motion and sat on the bed across from him.
Samantha started to topple off the chair, and Scott reached out to catch her. She let out a little growl and then settled into his arms, napping as he stroked her head and neck.
“Things sure are different, aren’t they?” Scott asked, looking at his dad.
Sam nodded. “In a good way.”
“Except for this new thing,” Scott said, looking stern again. “I had to come up here because I wasn’t sure if you really said what I thought you said. Our mother’s here?”
“And she doesn’t know who she is?”
Sam nodded again. “I hid the cubs before opening the door. That’s how they got the bedroom to this point.”
Scott nodded. “Thanks for protecting them.”
“No problem,” Sam said. “So anyway, she knocked on the door, didn’t recognize me or know who I was, but she saw me on the stupid commercial you made me film as a guise for hooking me up with women, and something about me shook her up and made her come here.”
“But where has she been for twenty years?” Scott said, sounding tense and frustrated. “Why did she just disappear? I mean, you looked and looked for her. I remember it as a kid. Until you realized you needed to focus on giving us as stable an environment as you could and moved us here.”
Sam nodded. “Not that I did the best job of it.”
Scott’s eyes flicked to his. In the past year, they’d grown closer, been able to heal over some of the things that had happened in the rough years after Scott’s mother left. “It was traumatic. It would have been for any shifter. You did your best.”
Sam put his hand over his forehead as he leaned on the chair, enjoying the gentle snores of his soft, fuzzy grandkids. “I appreciate you saying that. But what do I do now? I said I’d meet her for dinner.”
Scott let out a low growl. “Look, no matter what happened, she left us.”
“But what if she meant to come back and something stopped her? I have to know, Scott.”
Scott grimaced and let out a long breath. “I know. Just be careful. I don’t want to see you hurt again. What if she hasn’t changed?”
“She’s changed,” Sam said wearily. “She doesn’t know who she is or what’s going on, and she’s beaten down, not the defiant, independent woman I knew. The one that had to be free.”
Scott nodded. “Just try and keep it impersonal until you know more. The last thing I want is for you to get your heart broken again, just when things are going well.”
Sam frowned. He wanted to say that things going well lately was still different than how things would be going well if he had his mate back, but he didn’t. All he knew was that if there was even the smallest chance in the world of having her with him again, he had to take it. He’d suffered for years. What was a little more?
“I know that look on your face,” Scott said. “You’re going through with this, all in. Fine. But all I ask is you’re careful about this with the family. We don’t need to hurt them either.”
Sam nodded. “I’ll try to let the only one hurt be me, if someone has to be.”
“That’s not fair either,” Scott said, staring off out the window.
“I know, son,” Sam said. “But life isn’t fair. We can’t make it that way. But we can try to make it good. That’s all I’m trying to do here.”
Scott sighed. “Fine. I’m not going to stop you. Just remember what she did to you. To us. Remember what it’s been like.”
Sam nodded his agreement. How could he ever forget?
He helped Scott gather the cubs and called the others to come back, and when they were all gone, having exchanged hugs and jokes and kind words, he was left alone in his decimated suite, heart pounding as he anticipated seeing his mate again.
He walked to the closet and stood in front of it for a long time. What did one wear to meet a lost love who shows up after twenty years?
He supposed it didn’t matter as long as he got to see her again. He pulled something on and walked out the door, heartbeat speeding up with every step that took him closer.
His mate was just seconds away.
on the bed in the beautiful suite the mysterious Sam Weston had given her.
She didn’t know what to make of his reaction toward her. Shock, relief, disbelief. Whatever she had been to him, she’d been important.
But how could she have been anything to the incredible-looking man who owned all of this? And how had she somehow become so separate from him?
She rubbed her arm absentmindedly. Sometimes she could still feel the bullet ringing through her. Right before the one that struck her in the head. She didn’t feel that one. She couldn’t remember who had hurt her, where she’d been, what had happened. But the memory of pain, phantom pain from the bullet, still haunted her at times.
Like Sam Weston’s vivid blue-green eyes haunted her now. He’d been even more gorgeous than the commercial, with exquisite blond hair just dusted with wings of white and gray. It only made him look more distinguished. He had a face that looked like it had laughed and lived, deep laugh lines scoring the side of a deliciously kissable mouth. A strong jaw that looked like it would line up with a ruler. A gorgeous chin with a deep dimple she’d wanted to press her thumb into. She had the feeling she’d done that before.
She reached a hand up to her lips, touching her mouth absent-mindedly. Yes, there was something about Sam Weston that was familiar, too familiar.
She’d even felt her body respond to him. And she hadn’t responded like that to anyone, not since she’d woken up. She’d just assumed something had happened to her sex drive when she was hurt, that maybe when she woke up from her coma, she’d left her libido behind. But the minute she looked at his 6’6”, heavily muscled body in that elegant, professional gray suit, she’d felt her body light on fire like a furnace that hadn’t been lit in too long.
She opened her suitcase, wishing she had more stylish things to choose from for their date.
Wait, was it a date? Would a man like him be interested in her? She’d never had any of the men around her at home look at her that way. She bit her lip and spread out her available dresses on her bed with a sigh. There hadn’t been much cause to wear pretty dresses in the past years.
One of the dresses was a simple red dress made out of a stretchy material she found flattering and comfortable. And she needed to be comfortable tonight, because she was sure it was going to be one of the most uncomfortable nights of her life.
Even though something in her body was already buzzing in anticipation of seeing Sam all over again.
She walked to the window to shut the blinds but paused and looked out at the ocean. She opened the sliding door and walked onto the deck of her balcony, leaning on the rail and letting ocean breeze sweep over her. Between the beautiful tropical scent of the air and the wide blue of the ocean in front of her, she thought it was the most beautiful place she’d ever seen.
A part of her felt connected to this in some way, as if she’d once wanted to be here. But she pushed it away, as she did when something arose that seemed only half-baked. She didn’t know what she was simply imagining and what was actually a memory from her past life. Plus, she really didn’t think she’d ever been here.
She walked back inside, shut the door and the blinds, and slowly changed into the dress she’d been wearing. Then she dug into a small pocket of her bag and pulled out her only real treasured possession. A small pair of ruby earrings she’d had on when she was injured. She put them in her ears and ran a brush through her hair and took a look in the mirror.
Was she beautiful? She really hadn’t cared much over the years. She hadn’t needed to be very beautiful in her day-to-day work as a grocery store clerk. A boring, redundant job that had nonetheless kept the demons away. Kept her busy until she went home at night to an empty house and lay awake for long hours, trying to remember who she was and trying to suppress it at the same time. It was like fighting to get out of a prison but having a part of you on the other side holding the door shut.
She supposed that however she looked, it would have to do. She looked at the clock and saw it was time for Sam to come, just as she heard a knock at the door.
“Coming,” she said.
When she opened the door, he was standing there with a single red rose, long-stemmed and beautiful, just about to bloom. He handed it to her with a small smile and she took it and sniffed it. The scent was heavenly.
“Here,” he said, moving past her into the room. “I’ll get you a glass to put it in.” He disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a tall, narrow glass filled with water. He took the rose from her, put it in, and then arranged it nicely on her bedside table. “There, something to keep you comfortable while you’re here. I hope you’re staying for a while.”
“That was the hope,” she said. “As long as it seemed like there was something I could learn. You don’t understand. I’ve been waiting so long to find out about me.”
“Oh,” he said, face going serious as he raised to his full, intimidating height. “Trust me, I completely understand.” Then he let out a deep laugh that shook her to the core. This man had experienced pain. She only prayed it hadn’t been because of her.
The longer he was in the room with her, the more claustrophobic she felt and the more her body begged to get on top of him. He turned to open the door for her and she was shocked when her eyes went automatically to his absolutely gorgeous butt. He handed her through the door with a polite smile, placing her hand on the inside of his arm in a familiar moment that seemed like he’d done it a thousand times before, and she felt a deep blush move over her face.
Here he was being a complete gentleman, and she couldn’t keep thoughts of having him in her bed out of her mind. As they took the elevator down to the main level, she felt images swirling through her. Images she shouldn’t have had, of him making love to her, sweaty and intense as he pumped into her.
How could she remember that? Had they been lovers? He certainly looked at her that way sometimes. Even now, she could sense his intent gaze on her, heating her from head to toe, like every nerve in her responded to him.
She wanted badly to ask him what they were, but she worried if she did they’d end up back in her bedroom, with her on her back and him driving into her, if she didn’t wait to talk until they were seated in the dining room.
She hadn’t known chemistry like this could exist between two people, but there were more important things than sex right now. Like finding out what he could tell her about her past. A fling could wait, but she had to know everything she could about who she was.
He led her to the nicest restaurant in the hotel, and the hostess greeted him cordially and led them to a private table at the very back of the restaurant that was closed off from the other tables and overlooked the ocean. The sun was beginning to set and Jo didn’t know how she could have gotten so lucky as to deserve watching a beautiful tropical sunset here with a beautiful man. She looked up to see him watching her. As she did, she saw the hostess looking at him over her shoulder and stifled a growl as a wave of possessiveness rolled through her.
Then she calmed herself, smoothing her napkin over her lap. Of course she had no claim on this beautiful, dignified man who seemed to have everything.
He reached across the table and took her hands in his, stroking lightly over the top of them, sending electric sparks shooting through her as a deep ache took up residence in her heart. “I still can’t believe I’m looking at you, right across from me. I’m so glad you’re home safe.”
“Home?” she snapped, pulling back her hands. He let her go, looking reluctant about it, and then looked out at the sunset with a sigh.
“I suppose not. I’m going too fast. I’m not sure what to do with you. I can see you don’t feel about me the way I feel about you, but I don’t know how much of that is real and how much of it is part of what happened to you when you were away from me.”
She swallowed. “I don’t know what to tell you. All I know is my name.” And that she was shot, but she thought she’d leave that out until she knew he could be trusted. For all she knew, he was the one who had hurt her. A stabbing pain went through her head and she put up a hand to rub at her temple. Damn her memory.