, Forever Love
, Single Woman
, Mail-Order Bride
, Firebear Brides
, One Year
, Scheming Relatives
, Shifter Grove
, Family Homestead
, Uncle's Will
sleeping for a few more hours. With the exercise he had given her last night, that was a certainty in itself. A seed of an idea planted itself in his mind, and with a smirk, Royce shot back the cup of coffee and put it down on the handrail surrounding the porch. Light, fast steps carried him down and he kicked his boots off, leaving them on the grass as his toes sunk into the earth.
Taking a deep breath, he broke off in a run, his sweatpants making a soft swishing noise as his powerful thighs and legs carried him across the vast plains of his family’s lands. When the woods were just a few steps away, he let the shift take him. His body convulsed and seemed to explode outward, the change moving him in a shockwave of muscle, tendons, and fur. When his paws touched down on the first fallen branches of the dry, quiet forest, his bear had taken full control.
Letting out a soft growl, he charged forward, sprinting through the woods in a burst of euphoria. He seemed to feast on the smells and sounds of the forest, letting them sink into him the same way he plunged into Tiana’s delicious pussy the night before. It brought him close to heaven and kept him there, though given a choice between the two, he already knew he’d pick Tiana.
Something about the feel of her skin against his touch, the way she let out those wavering moans, and how she twisted when he touched her just right fed him in a way that the primal beast never could. Yet he needed both to survive.
After a while of seemingly directionless running, his steps slowed down to a steady trot and the location his bear was heading for became clearer. Royce heaved in breaths, noting the different smells and tastes that landed on his tongue. Something struck him as odd, wrong, but still so right. One more deep breath confirmed his suspicions: he was not alone. There was another bear not too far, inhabiting this agonized, parchment-dry neck of the woods.
Royce grumbled under his breath, though he knew there was nothing to be grouchy about. Around Shifter Grove, there were always plenty of other shifters out on their runs, making their tracks. Yet this one seemed different. Royce’s steps carried him steadfastly in one direction and when the small greenish-blue eye of water revealed itself to him in the midst of the thick forest, Royce understood what brought him there.
The water lapped slowly against the muddy, rocky bank, Royce’s steps leaving deep indentations in what must have been the only damp place within miles. The small lake was almost completely dried up now, the unseasonable heat wave having lowered the water levels by a substantial amount. The surprise of seeing Bear’s Eye Lake so low was overshadowed only by seeing the burly, thick form of another werebear standing on the opposite bank, deep chestnut eyes studying Royce with a glint of amusement to them.
For a second, Royce tensed, but then his shoulders relaxed and his posture released all the swiftly-gathered tension. He rose up on his back feet, whiffing the air and catching the all-too-familiar scent. The other bear padded slowly toward him, circling the lake easily because of its now diminutive size. When they were but a few dozen feet from each other, both bears released the animal from control and allowed the human side to take over.
Royce was grabbed into a warm, almost aggressive bear hug the moment he stood up on two feet, his still-bare feet digging into the squishy mud.
“Redmond Hamilton, as I live and breathe,” Royce laughed, returning the embrace. “Who thought I’d see you anywhere outside of Los Angeles!”
Royce pulled away, grinning widely at his little brother. Redmond Hamilton was obviously closely related to him. They shared the strong, wide build of their father and uncle and the chiseled lines of their jaws and nose. But Redmond had higher cheekbones and his eyes were a clear, bright blue like their mother’s had been, not the slate gray of their father. He had a healthy