Authors: Liv Brywood
Tags: #BBW, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Holiday, #Paranormal, #Bear Shifter, #Claimed, #Mate, #Adult, #Erotic, #Human, #Suspense, #Short Story, #Supernatural, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Action & Adventure, #Curvy Bear Ranch, #Series, #Montana Ranch, #Shifter Secret, #Charade, #Mail-Order Bride, #False Identity, #Incognito, #Harrowing Ordeal, #Dangerous, #Online Dating, #Furious, #Secretly Craves, #Terrible Secret
The Cowbear’s Mail Order Bride
Cindy Blythe is tired of running from her dangerous past. She longs for a safe haven, but if she gets too comfortable, she might lose everything. When she finds the perfect man on an online dating website, she packs up what’s left of her life and drives out to the Curvy Bear Ranch. No one will ever find her in the remote Montana wilderness. She won’t have to divulge anything about her awful past. But when she meets panty-melting Drew Grant, her guilty heart wants to reveal everything. How can she tell him the truth when he doesn’t even know her real name?
When Drew finds out that a "helpful" relative has been posing as him on a dating website, he’s furious. He doesn’t need help finding a mate, especially since he doesn’t want one. He’s perfectly happy alone. But when Cindy arrives, his bear gets one look at her sexy, curvy figure and Drew knows he’s in trouble. She’s awakened the beast inside him and there’s only one way to calm him down. Unfortunately, he has no idea that the woman he secretly craves is hiding a terrible secret.
Drew reached for the tie at her waist. She took a step toward him. It was all the encouragement he needed. As he slipped the robe from her shoulders, she backed toward the lamp. With a flick of her fingers, she plunged the room into absolute darkness.
“I want to see you,” he whispered.
“Why? I think you’re gorgeous.”
He pushed the cloth aside, leaving twin trails of molten fire across her belly and hips. He smoothed his hands down over her buttocks.
“You’re so soft…” he murmured before grazing the top of her shoulder with his lips. His tongue darted out to trace a line across her collar bone. “…and sweet.”
Her head lolled back as he nibbled the edge of her neck. The robe fell past her hips to pool at her feet. She kicked it away.
“I’ve been wanting to do this all day,” he said. “From the moment I kissed you this morning.”
“Me too,” she said.
“I wasn’t sure.”
“I’m still not sure,” she admitted.
“You’re not?” He pulled back slightly. “If you want me to stop…”
“No. I don’t want you to stop. But I’m not sure what this means.”
“It means we’re two, hot-blooded people who need each other right now. If you can’t handle meaningless sex, I get it. I’ll stop. But…” He traced the edge of her breast with his fingers. “…I don’t want to stop.”
“I don’t either.”
“Then don’t,” he challenged.
She reached up and tangled her fingers in his hair and drew his face toward hers. When their lips met, the all-consuming need to forget everything but the play of his tongue across her mouth won. Every last thread of restraint unraveled as she gave herself over to him completely.
The Cowbear’s Mail Order Bride
The Cowbear’s Mail Order Bride
Copyright© 2016 Liv Brywood
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 permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cindy’s fingers trembled as she closed the laptop and stuffed it into a bag. Lies. All lies. After successfully telling thousands of little lies to Drew Grant, was she ready to pull off the biggest deception of all? Could she actually go through with what amounted to a mail-order marriage?
She’d only known him for three months and hadn’t even talked to him on the phone. The whole situation was insane, but what other choice did she have?
She slid off the rust-colored comforter and crossed the motel room. The dingy brown chair she’d propped up against the door handle hadn’t moved during the night. On the run for almost a year, she was sick of moving every two weeks. But if she didn’t move… she shook her head. It was better not to think about the past.
When she grabbed her suitcase from inside the closet, the flap opened. A pile of fake IDs spilled onto the mottled carpet. As she spread the driver’s licenses and birth certificates across the floor, she glanced at the tightly drawn curtains. She dug through the pile until she’d located the correct documents.
“Hello, I’m Sharon Blythe from Miami, Florida.” Saying the words aloud helped her remember who she was supposed to be. “Sharon, not Cindy. Sharon.”
She carried the open bag to the bed. If she left immediately, she could drive all night and make it to a motel on the Wyoming/Montana border by morning.
As she bent over to finish packing, a few strands of black hair fell forward. She tossed the silky locks back over her shoulder. At least the more expensive hair dye hadn’t shredded the ends. Eventually, she’d be able to grow out her natural color. She couldn’t wait to return to her California-blonde roots.
After she’d shoved the last sweater into the bag, she paused. She didn’t want to look at the photograph. Not again. Not right now…but she couldn’t resist the compulsion. She felt along the lining until she found the hidden slit. As she pulled the small picture out, her breath caught in her throat.
“Brooke,” she whispered as she ran a thumb across the slick photo paper. The six-year-old little girl peering back at her with golden hair and dimpled cheeks broke her heart. “If I could do it all over again…”
Cindy choked back a sob. Her complacency had cost her the only thing that mattered in her life—her daughter. As an obstetrician, she should have known better. If she’d swallowed her pride and had left sooner, she wouldn’t be on the run now. But she’d been too stubborn.
For a moment, she contemplated making the call. Would they even put Brooke on the phone? Did she want to go through the pain of hearing her daughter beg for her mother again? After the last call, the agony in her chest was so acute that she’d thought she was having a heart attack. The emergency room doctor had diagnosed her with a panic attack. She’d burned through a perfectly good ID for nothing.
But the longer she fought the urge, the more she wanted to make the call. She finally slumped down onto the side of the bed closest to the phone. Her hand hovered over it for a second before she caved. After snatching up the handset, she punched in the phone number on the back of the anonymous calling card, then dialed her parents’ house.
“Hello?” Her mom’s voice pierced her heart.
“Mom, it’s me.”
“I told you not to call here,” her mom said in an agitated whisper. “You know it’s not safe. Haven’t you already put her in enough danger?”
“I know. I’m sorry. I just need to talk to her,” Cindy said.
“I can’t let you do this to her again. Do you know how long she cried after the last time you called? Until you can come home for good, I can’t let you talk to her.”
“Cindy.” Her dad’s gruff voice crackled through the line. “Your mother’s right. You should come home and face the situation head-on. You can’t run forever.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking me to do,” she said.
thing to do,” he said.
“Since when has playing by the rules worked for me?” she snapped. “I tried that and look at where it got me.”
“You chose to go down this path. I could have paid for another lawyer.”
“How can you turn on me, knowing everything that happened?” she asked.
“Enough’s enough. You’ve been running for a year,” his voice cracked. “Come home. This isn’t just hard on Brooke. It’s hard on your mom too…and me.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. I should have listened to you.”
“I warned you,” he said. “I told you something like this could happen.”
“I know.” She hung her head. “I know. I wish every day that I could go back and change things.”
“You can’t change the past. You need to learn to accept it and move on,” he said softly. “Don’t call back until you’re ready to come home.”
The line went dead. She stared at the handset in disbelief. He’d never hung up on her before. She’d listened to all of his advice until that one fateful day. If she could go back and slap her twenty-five-year-old self in the face, she would. What a difference seven years could make.
She set the phone down and returned to her bag. Less than a minute later, the phone rang. She frowned before answering it.
When no one responded, she waited.
A subtle shift of sound carried through the line. It wasn’t a breath, but it wasn’t static either. Someone was on the other end. Listening.
She slammed the handset down and scurried to zip the bag shut. In her rush, she knocked the photo onto the floor. In the second it took to retrieve it, a knock sounded on the door.
She froze. Her heart pounded in her chest.
“You in there, Nancy?” a man’s voice called.
She quickly ran through a list of her aliases. Oh, right. She’d checked in as Nancy.
She ran to the window and peeked out. The barrel-bellied manager stood with his thumbs hooked into the pockets of his overalls. She quickly opened the door.
“I’m here,” she said.
“You paid through last night but not for today. Either pay up, or get out,” he said.
“I was just leaving.”
She forced a smile while cursing her mistake. Usually she’d pay for an extra night and sneak away before the reservation ran out. But with her money running low, she’d only paid through last night.
“All right,” he said. “Bring the key up when you’re done.”
As he shuffled away, she glanced around the parking lot. Three tall lamps cast faint pools of light through the darkness. Overhead, a thin slice of moon rose up like an executioner’s scythe. She backed into the room and grabbed her bag. She dropped the key on the nightstand before racing out to the car.
She tossed the luggage in the backseat, slid into the driver’s side, and then slammed the door. After locking it, she turned on the engine. It sputtered and coughed but she couldn’t complain. The man she’d bought it from hadn’t asked any questions and had let her pay cash.
As she turned onto the road, she adjusted the rearview mirror. She searched for trailing headlights. After crisscrossing and doubling back over several streets, she pulled onto the highway.
She didn’t take a full breath until she’d crossed the state line.
“Goodbye, Nebraska. Hello, Wyoming.”
She glanced at the odometer. Only 540 miles to go.
“Curvy Bear Ranch, here I come.”
Drew stood next to the wooden stand and inspected the dark brown leather on his favorite saddle. He’d spent an hour cleaning and conditioning it until it gleamed in the afternoon light. Usually, he’d work on tack maintenance in the barn, but being holed up inside seemed like a waste on such a clear February day. The next storm would blow in soon enough. Until then, he intended to suck up as much sunshine as possible.
Footsteps crunched through the snow. He turned to find Mack striding toward him. Madison trailed behind. Her belly poked out so far he wondered if she was packing twins in there. She wasn’t due for another month, but he wasn’t sure she’d make it that long. Shifter babies could be unpredictable. Some came in as little as three months, but others took upwards of nine. Their unusual metabolism was to blame.
“How’s the cleaning going?” Mack asked.
“Good. I finished all the bridals and most of the saddles.”
“Hey, Drew,” Madison said without meeting his gaze.
Strange. She was normally so bubbly. Although she hadn’t been feeling well for the last few days and her cheeks were paler than normal.
“How are you doing?” Drew asked.
When neither of them spoke, he set the sponge down in a tray and wiped his hands on his jeans.
“What’s up?” he asked as he looked from his brother to his brother’s fiancée and back.
“Madison has something she needs to tell you,” Mack said.
She flashed a pleading look at Mack before dropping her gaze to the floor.
“I was just trying to help,” she mumbled.
“Help with what?” Drew asked with a smile. “Come on, spit it out. Did you try to burn down the kitchen again?”
“No,” she whispered.
Drew frowned and stuffed his hands in his pockets. His brother sighed.
“Do you want me to tell him?” Mack asked.
“She found you a wife,” Mack said.
“I was only trying to help,” Madison said again. “I didn’t mean to take it this far.”
“What do you mean?” Drew asked.
“She signed up for one of those online dating sites and found a woman who’s perfect for you,” Mack said while rolling his eyes.
“Are you kidding?” Drew asked incredulously. He turned to Madison. “He’s kidding, right? What is this, an early April Fools’ joke?”
“I wish,” Madison said.
“You’re not kidding?” Drew asked.
“Oh, but there’s more,” Mack said as he slipped his arm around his pregnant mate. “Go on, honey. Tell him the rest of it.”
“She’s coming to meet you.”
?” Drew yelled.
“I was bored one day so I went online and… it just happened,” she said.
“She basically fake-cheated on me with a woman,” Mack said with an arched brow.
“How can you think that this is funny?” Drew asked.
“It’s so ridiculous that it’s kind of hilarious,” Mack said. “You have to admit it’s amusing.”
“Tell that to the woman coming here,” Drew said. “What exactly is this woman expecting?”
“Well…” Madison’s voice faded. “She thinks she’s coming here to get married.”
“Holy shit,” Drew said.
“Pretty much.” Mack nodded.
“I just thought you might be lonely,” she said.
“So you went online, pretended to be me, and tricked a poor woman into coming to the ranch to marry me?” Drew asked. “I mean, I know pregnancy hormones can make women crazy, but this… this is insane.”
“Well, now.” Mack held up a hand. “It’s bad, but it’s not a disaster. She sounds like a nice girl.”
“Who?” Drew asked.
“Sharon,” Madison said.
“Have you lost your mind too?” Drew asked his brother.
“No. But what’s done is done. Madison tried to e-mail Sharon to tell her not to come, but she hasn’t responded.”
“Well, you two are going to have to fix this,” Drew said. “I don’t want any part of it.”
He yanked the saddle off the rack and hauled it inside. After hanging it over another rack, he stomped back to get the rest of the equipment he’d left outside.
When he found Madison and Mack standing in the same spot, his chest tightened. He could only rein in his anger so long. If they didn’t leave soon, he’d tell them what he really thought about Madison’s little revelation.
As he snapped up the folding saddle rack, Madison approached him.
“I’m sorry, Drew,” she said.
He collapsed the folding saddle rack and slipped it over his shoulder. Why didn’t she understand that he was perfectly happy alone? Just because all of his brothers found mates didn’t mean he needed to find one too. And what right did she have to pick someone for him? He was perfectly capable of getting a date if he wanted one. Okay, maybe it
been a while since his last date, but that was only because he didn’t feel like dating.
Madison approached him cautiously. Although his blood was boiling, he wouldn’t scream at her in her current state. She’d been having enough problems with her pregnancy without him adding to it.
“Go away, Madison.”
Her face fell. She turned and let Mack take her into his arms.
Drew looked away. It must be nice to have someone to hold onto. He’d be lying if he didn’t think about cuddling up with a woman from time to time. But he wasn’t going to force something that wasn’t meant to be. If fate had someone in store for him, then it had better serve his mate up on a silver platter.