Bear In The Rough: Book 1: Treasure Hunt (BBW Bear Shifter Romance)

 

Bear in the rough

 

 

 

Book 1

 

 

Treasure Hunt

 

 

(BBW Bear Shifter Romance)

 

 

by

 

 

L. Foster

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright and Disclaimer

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by L. Foster

 

All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or inroduced  into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any forms or by any means, (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission.

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Epilogue

 

Bonus Books

 

 

             

Chapter 1—Olivia

 

 

 

             

              Carrie Darren had just finished wiping down the counter when I walked in that night.

 

              “Any mail?” I asked, stretching my tired bones, as I approached the bar.

 

              “No mail,” she said tersely. “No males, either.”

 

              “Color me shocked.”

 

              She laughed, and I gazed for a minute at the menu in silence. Grilled swordfish was the night’s special—not an uncommon occurrence in a coastal tavern like this one—prepared and cooked by Carrie herself. This frumpy, bespectacled woman who wore her hair in a tight bun and looked like she belonged behind the counter at a Waffle House, had turned out to be the best thing about my current archeological expedition.

 

              Not that she had had much competition.

 

              “How’s Gaston?” asked Carrie. “Gaston” was her name for Devin Garner, the leader of my archeological expedition, whose constant come-ons and ass-slappings were threatening to ruin what might otherwise have been a fairly pleasant trip.

 

              For the last month I had been sweating myself dry in the tropical sun to recover a fabled treasure that was said to exist in a giant octagonal sand pit on an island just a few miles off the coast. So far no trace of the supposed treasure had been recovered and tempers were beginning to flare—none more so than my boss, whose only source of comfort in life was harassing those beneath him and making unwanted sexual advances because he was feeling bored or lonely or fed up with his sad life.

 

              Seeing the cloud that fell over my face at the mention of his name, Carrie gingerly set down a tower of plates and faced me at eye-level.

 

              “You know that you can report him, right?” she asked, in a voice only I could hear.

 

              “To whom?” I said, in a harsher tone than I had intended. “If you hadn’t noticed, we’re a little bit out of the way here. A man does what he wants.”

 

              “You shouldn’t have to put up with it.”

 

              “I don’t have a choice.” The coldness in my voice put an end to any further discussion.

 

              I ordered a bowl of clam chowder with crackers and a mug of beer, which Carrie brought out and set down before me without a word, and ate hungrily. All I had had for lunch was a bottle of Gatorade and half a Snickers bar. Lately we had been working overtime, convinced we were approaching the goal of our excavations, the fabled Oak Island money pit.

 

              A loud scraping noise beside me jarred me out of my reverie. Someone—an old man—was pulling a chair up to the bar.

 

              “Cold night, in’it?” he mumbled. Given that there was no one else in the vicinity, I assumed he was talking to me.

 

              I grunted in response, which must have irritated him, because he said in a louder voice, “How late you stay up at night?”

 

              I threw him an annoyed look, but undeterred, he pressed on. “I always pass by your room on my way to bed. Your light never goes out. You up studying?”

 

              “I’m reading,” I said. Reading. Just like I had done when I was a little girl. Just like I had always done.

 

              “Bet you get awful lonesome in there at night.”

 

             
Here it comes.
I began slowly edging away from the table.

 

              “Some of us prefer to be alone at night,” I said acidly.

 

              “Well, if you ever want company—” he began to say, but then with an almighty
thwack!
he had crashed to the floor, and never managed to complete his sentence. That’s the danger of setting your stool too close to me—it could go toppling over at the slightest hint of danger.

 

              The old man dusted himself off, took his stool and retreated to the furthest corner of the room. Carrie glared at me—she had come walking in just as I kicked him over.
“He was hitting on me!”
I mouthed in protest.

 

              “Liv, what have I told you about tripping guests,” said Carrie, in more of a statement than a question.

 

              “I maintain that if the guest had it coming,” I replied, “said person should be tripped, and tripped hard.”

 

              She then brought me vanilla ice cream with wafers (“on the house,” she said, without bothering to explain why), which I ate with relish though I was so absorbed in my own thoughts I could barely taste them. Yes, now that he brought it up, there were times when I felt lonely. More than one man had thought he was the one who was destined to melt my cold heart. More than one man had been wrong.

 

              The problem with most men was… well, they were
just
men. Hardly better than boys, if you asked me. I had a yearning to wrestle with thunder, and I didn’t care if the thunder won in the end.

 

              Lately I had given up on ordinary men completely, and had spent hours alone in my room—when I should’ve been studying—browsing the shifter dating sites. The revelation 10 or 15 years ago that there was an entire community of shape-shifting humans was a boon for dating companies, with sites like Dare2Bear and Roar4More and Coogars.com springing up seemingly overnight.

 

              “It’s fine,” said a low, breathy voice beside me. “If you don’t have a room, I can sleep outside.”

 

              A man had entered the tavern and was standing a few feet away at the bar, talking to Carrie. He was arrayed in full Aragorn-getup, with a long cloak concealing most of his features. Water was pooling onto the floor in a puddle at his feet—evidently he had been caught in the rainstorm that had ended my digging an hour early tonight.

 

              “I’m sorry I can’t be of more assistance,” said Carrie, “but you don’t have to try and make me feel guilty.”

 

              “No,” he said. “I don’t have to try.” He turned and swept from the room, his cloak trailing behind him like the wings of a giant bat. Pausing for a moment at the door, he looked directly at me. My heart gave a nervous jolt—I was being judged and measured, all in a single glance—and I strove to respond in kind, but a veil of mystery concealed him. By the time he finally walked out of the tavern, I felt like he knew everything about me. And I had learned nothing.

 

              Morosely I handed Carrie my bowl and meandered up to my room. Oddly, both the chat with the old man and the sight of the young man—was he young? It was hard to tell, his face was so grizzled and rugged—had stirred deep longings in me. Longings that were best left unexpressed, or ignored altogether.

 

              I stayed up late in my armchair reading, long after the footsteps of my besotted dinner partner had passed the bedroom door for the last time. The small print ran together, forming a single blur on the yellowed pages. At around two, feeling myself beginning to nod off, I dragged myself to my laptop to record the day’s findings—a two-inch clay shard and an empty root beer glass. This done, I logged into Dare2Bear.

 

              It was the world’s premier website for those who craved flings with bear-shifters. The last few weeks I had been pursuing an occasionally heated flirtation with the world’s most stubborn and delectable man-bear. As with most dating sites, I had initially been attracted to his pictures—his body, mostly, given his tendency to obscure his face in most of them. I told myself I was just fascinated, as an archeologist, with the strange tattoo on his chest, a tattoo inscribed with some symbolic markings that I couldn’t quite make out, given the poor quality of the photo. The truth was, I was probably drawn to him for the same reasons I had been drawn to archeology as a child, for the love of all things that are mysterious and unknown.

 

             
Hey girl,
he had messaged me during our last conversation over a month ago.
What’s going on.

 

             
Not much
, I said, playing coy.
Just studying, reading books, looking at old maps. The good life.

 

             
Sounds like a party
, he replied.

 

              This is how it was most of the time, this harmless banter that never threatened to become anything serious. That night we had talked about our favorite TV shows (his was
Lost
, mine was
House Hunters International
but I said
Breaking Bad)
and the slightly more risky subject of whether we wanted kids, and how many we wanted (I was willing, but he was reluctant). Then somehow the subject had gotten onto the subject of his looks—I had never seen a clear picture of him—and the conversation had spun wildly out of control.

 

             
Why u wanna know what I look like
, he had typed.
So u can judge me?

 

              At first I thought he was joking, so attempted to play along, but this turned out to be an even more costly mistake.

 

             
It’s not funny
, he said.
A woman who truly cared about me wouldn’t be demanding to know what I look like. Ur just trying to decide whether or not u should bail before u make too big an investment.

 

              No, it’s not that
, I had said helplessly.
It isn’t that at all

 

              It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Wasn’t it usually the case that the man demanded pictures, preferably nudes, and the woman got offended and sulked because she knew she was being judged by the quality of her assets? How had the script gotten flipped the other way? But then I reminded myself that I wasn’t dealing with a script, I was dealing with people, and people were unique and not easily reducible to gendered stereotypes.

 

              That was the last I had heard from him. Of course he had mentioned towards the end of the conversation that he was taking an unexpected trip across the world and might not be able to reply for many weeks, but I naturally assumed (and all my friends agreed) that this was a copout designed to extricate him from our burgeoning online flirtation as painlessly as possible. Sure enough, he hadn’t been online since the fight and he hadn’t responded to any of my messages. Eventually I just gave up trying.

 

              Before I went to bed that night I checked my inbox, but he hadn’t replied to my last message. That was the most frustrating thing about him. One day we were cracking jokes and trading songs; the next, it was like he had never met me. Though, come to think of it, I guess he really hadn’t.

 

              With a final shake of my head I rolled into bed, wondering why men were so frustrating and whether I might have better luck with the stranger in the bar, the one who was sleeping outside, lulled to sleep by the pounding surf. I had to remind myself that sometimes people were stupid, sometimes men were stupid, and it wasn’t your fault. You did the best you could and they still ended up being jerks. I just had just to let it go and move on. By throwing a tantrum, he had only proven that he wasn’t worth my time.

 

             

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