Authors: Arielle Lewenhart
By Arielle Lewenhart
Copyright 2015 Arielle Lewenhart
All Rights Reserved
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my my.
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Mason knew his role in the world. He was the Brimstone Bear, leader of the Tartarus MC. He had ascended to his position of Alpha through power and cunning. No one could tell him he didn't deserve his position. However, according to ancient tradition, Mason must take a mate within the next year to retain his position and guide the pack into a new era. And he had absolutely no idea what to do, so he asks his best friend and second in command, Jackson, to take care of it.
Katya Sharapova is a lonely girl dreaming of a better future, but she knows her options are limited. When her friend points her to a mail order bride website, Katya signs up hoping to for a new start. She never expects a man like Mason to want her.
But things are never as clear as they seem, and Jackson finds himself drawn to this quiet, lovely girl from a distant land. When he and Katya find themselves alone, he must do everything in his power to resist his impulses...and Katya must make a choice between the two men that will determine her entire future.
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The snow drifted from the overcast sky, a silent reminder of my isolation. The clouds, sleet gray, reached as far as I could see in every direction. There was not a sound to be heard anywhere; even the fire burning in the fireplace seemed quiet. I knew that outside the walls of my home, it would be no different; the snow would muffle my footsteps, mask my presence, and make it seem as though I were the last person on the planet.
Even if I were desperate for sound, walking through the snow would provide me with nothing but the still crunch of the powder as it compressed underneath my boots — and even my foot print would be gone within a few minutes. The winter was a stark reminder that I was moving through this world without leaving a trace of myself behind. If I were to vanish today, no one would notice.
I am lonely.
My name is Katya Sharapova. I’ve lived here, in the isolated reaches in northern Russia, a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle, for all of my twenty-one years on this Earth. Despite having a rather lively childhood and upbringing, I’ve always known my future would be different than I hoped.
As a young girl, I dreamed of living an exciting life — traveling around the globe, seeing these locales I’ve read about so many times in books and stories. I wanted to meet a nice man who would be not only a good husband, but also my best friend throughout life.
But then my sister married her long-time boyfriend and moved with him to Moscow. We rarely saw her after that. My aging parents became unable to move with the ease they once did, and I took over as caretaker, not only of the house, but also of them.
When they passed away, I was left with my childhood home, but little else. My village was so remote that we did not have access to the internet; it’s only been in the past several years that cable lines reached this far, connecting us to the rest of the world. Many of the villagers are elderly and refuse to use computers, not understanding the way electricity works and viewing it almost as a form of magic.
My parents were always very straightforward with me and encouraged education, something which was nearly unheard of for girls in my village. I understand how these things work, and I’ve begun to use my new-found internet access to learn more, as well as to pick up small-time jobs through various web organizations. It’s not much money, but it’s enough to get by on.
I fend for myself well enough, but it does get lonely here. With so few people my own age in the village, there isn’t much chance for socialization…or for meeting men my age. I’m in no rush to have children, but I would like the chance to start a family, to start a new life somewhere away from this tiny town. I just don’t know how that’s possible.
Mason felt the glass shatter in his hand, ignoring the searing pain as a shard broke the flesh. “What did you say?” His voice emerged in a growl, low and dangerous, and Jackson took an involuntary step backwards.
“I said that you have to choose a mate. And soon.”
Mason glared at his friend for a moment longer, then spun and walked out of the room. He was angry, and it wasn’t Jackson’s fault. He didn’t want to take his rage out on his friend. Instead, he would love to find the Elders and tear their heads from their bodies. Those hidebound old fogies didn’t know when to let go of long-outdated traditions and embrace the new age.
Mason did. He was the Alpha now. He was leader of the Tartarus MC. His enemies knew him as the Brimstone Bear. And yet he was supposed to bow to a 300 year old tradition, choosing a mate when he by no means wanted one? What kind of foolishness was that?
Blood began to drip from his hand, and Mason stared at it in disgust. The idea of forced mates was abhorrent to begin with, and it didn’t help that the types of women who hung around Tartarus were the last ones he would choose as a partner. Some of his men may have enjoyed their…companionship, but Mason wanted nothing to do with it. He’d even put a stop to much of the insanity that took place within the group.
When he had risen to power, eliminating the previous alpha in a fight, Mason had vowed to change the club. For too long it had been known as a den of thieves and shady characters, but he knew better than that. The last leader had been too lenient, allowing crimes to take place that should have been stopped long before. He had grown corrupt from the money and power, choosing to ignore indiscretions that put them all at risk.
Mason had finally snapped. Three years ago, at just twenty-four years old, he stood up during a pack meeting and stared down the old leader. Although the man was in his late 60s, he had years of fighting experience and was arguably the most powerful member there. It was suicide to fight him, but Mason hadn’t cared. He knew things needed to change.
“You aren’t fit to serve as our leader anymore,” Mason said, his jaw clenched so tightly that he thought his teeth would shatter. “And you have cowed this pack into submission, turned brave men into cowards. You have no right to power.” He drew a deep breath and spoke words he could never turn back from. “
Amat victoria curam.”
A wave of murmurs rose around the room, punctuated by a few gasps. Jackson had met Mason’s eyes from across the room, staring at him without comprehending.
Mason had just challenged the leader for his position, and it was an almost unheard-of act. The leader had risen from his seat, turned on a heel, and walked outside. Mason followed him wordlessly, as the entire group of people rose and followed them both out to see what would happen.
When Mason reached the exterior of the building, it had not been a man waiting for him, but a massive black bear.
I rubbed my eyes, weary and heavy after spending the evening working. I had been trying to finish a last-minute assignment from one of my American clients, and it had taken everything I had to stay awake long enough to wrap up the final leg of the project. The pay would be well worth it, but I suffered through sleep deprivation in order to get it done.
My phone rang, and I nearly jumped out of my seat; after living the first half of my life without a phone, I still wasn’t used to the unfamiliar warble of the device. I picked it up and answered; my friend, Maria, was on the other line. She was one of the few people I could consider to be my friend; we’d known each other since childhood. “Kat! What’s up?” she asked, her bubbly voice bleeding enthusiasm, even through the phone. I couldn’t help but smile when I talked to her.