Bear Pause (BBW / Bear Shifter Romance): A Billionaire Oil Bearons Romance (Bear Fursuits Book 6)

By Isadora Montrose

Romance, Paranormal

eBook

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262
7 mins

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Laura picked up the handwritten form Steve had turned into Rhonda. She had been thinking about this step for too long already. Another weekend had gone past, wasted with yet another of Cal’s city friends.

The only good thing that come of that visit, was that Calvin had gone over the report made by the security experts she had hired to look at the ranch computers. The IT people had not found any sign that they had been either hacked or downloaded a virus. Which meant that she had to either find two thousand head of cattle, or explain what had happened to them to the executors of the estate.

This was the invidious position that she had hoped to avoid. Rustlers were not something any ranch could claim never to have. That the Double B had lost ten times as many animals as was usual. They certainly couldn’t blame the missing stock on predators. There weren’t enough black bears, cougars and wolves left in Colorado to account for so many missing cows.

What she needed to do was get married. It looked more and more as if Steve Holden was her best chance to solve her problem. It was past time to check his references. She picked up the phone and called Yakima Ridge.

“Jenna says her cousin Will met his wife on bearmate.com.” Even though he was in his own house, and his cell was encrypted, Zeke Bascom lowered his voice to a raspy growl.

Laura understood. They had both been raised never to discuss their bears in public.

“Which one?” she whispered back.

“Will Enright. The Navy SEAL.”

Laura thought back to Zeke and Jenna’s boisterous wedding celebration in French Town. The church had been full of bear shifters who all seemed to be relatives of Zeke’s bride and keen to meet the Colorado Bascoms who were their distant relatives. The reception at the community center had been even more of a joyful muddle. Between the introductions, the hugging and laughing, and all the dancing, she hadn’t kept all those big men straight.

“Enright sounds familiar. But I don’t remember a Will,” she confessed.

Zeke chuckled. “Lot of Enrights,” he conceded. “Almost as many Enrights around here as there are Bascoms and Benoits. I knew Will in the service. Anyway, Jenna says Will and his Martha are happy and well matched, and they sure do seem to be. You might as well give bearmate.com a try.”

“I’m not marrying some dude I met on a website, Zeke Bascom! I can attract all the fortune hunters I want all by my lonesome.”

“Aw, Laura, there’s a guy out there that’s gonna love you for yourself,” Zeke’s rumble assured her. “And this place matches bears with other bears. I gotta tell you, it makes a difference.”

Laura knew that before Zeke had met his Jenna he had been depressed and lost. He had confided that he and his new wife spent a lot of time playing in the woods as bears. Or at least they had before their twins had been born. Laura couldn’t imagine it. Suppose someone shot them? Or the non-bear neighbors found out? The couple of times she had turned had been painful and scary. Doing it on purpose seemed foolish and dangerous.

“Cal and Pat are trying to fix me up.” she said as cheerfully as she could.
Zeke made a rude noise. “Puleeze,” he said. “What the devil are you going to have in common with those slick golfers they hang around with?”

“It doesn’t have to be forever,” she said. “Just until I have satisfied the conditions of the will.”

“You can’t marry intending to divorce, Lauralee. That’s no way to behave.”

Laura’s chuckle was hollow. “You’re adopting small town, bourgeois values, Zeke. How many wives has your daddy had?”

“Too damned many,” Zeke growled. “He and Diana just filed. Did I tell you?”

“Oh, Zeke, I hadn’t heard. I’m sorry,” Laura said. “But I don’t aim to deceive my husband. I plan to be straightforward and have Trevor Carmichael draw up a watertight contract – with a bonus for hanging around until after the baby is born. A sort of sperm donor and prenuptial agreement combo.”

“Lauralee,” Zeke sounded angry and worried. “That idea is twice as bad. No kind of man would agree to make a baby and walk away.”

Laura laughed cynically. “I’m guessing quite a few will be happy to do it for money. And that’s what I called to ask you about.”

“I don’t know any gigolos,” he said in his meanest voice. Since Zeke had spent his entire adult life as an officer in the US Army, he could do mean.
“Not a gigolo, but a guy we just hired here. He gave you as a reference.”

“Oh. Who is he?” Zeke barked.

“Steven Kenneth Holden. Says he was a sergeant, and that he served in Special Forces with you.”

Major Bascom’s laugh boomed in her ear. “If it’s the Holden I think it is, he didn’t say ‘with’ he said ‘under’, Lauralee.”

“That’s right, that’s what he said,” she confirmed. “Carlos hired him three weeks ago. Is he trustworthy?”

“Sure.”

Laura let out the breath she hadn’t intended to hold. “Okay.”

“But I don’t know what the hell Holden is doing in Success,” Zeke mused. “He resigned two, three years ago. Guy’s a whiz with computers. He should have had no trouble getting a job in IT.”

“He says he grew up on a farm in Idaho. Daddy says he knows horses and he certainly seems to be a hard worker. You know how fussy Carlos is.

Anyway, Carlos let him have Ramon’s cabin, and Rosa is feeding him twice a day in her own kitchen, and once in ours, so I guess he passed the tight-bed test.”

Zeke chuckled. “If it’s the same guy, and it sure sounds like it is, I’m not surprised he’s got Rosa eating out of his hand. Sergeant Holden is pretty much a charmer.”

“Cuts a swathe through women, huh?” Laura said merrily, as if his words didn’t make her heart sink. “A lover in every town?”

Zeke’s laugh rumbled down the line. “I admit we had some adventures, Laura, and Holden didn’t have any trouble leaving the bar with the prettiest girl. But he’s a good guy to have at your back.” He cleared his throat. “Um, you do realize he’s one of us?”

“What do you mean, one of us? A Green Beret?”

“No, no. He’s the same as you and me,” Zeke said obliquely.

“Oh.”

“You weren’t thinking of asking Holden to marry you?” Zeke blurted. “Bad idea.”

“Because of the b-e-a-r thing?”

“No, because of the decent guy thing.”


* * * * *
Steve roused himself from the cot in the tack room where he had been dozing for the last hour. He checked the blurry monitor. Like all the rest of the crappy security systems at the stud, it was an antique.

Laura and Carlos had a high-end breeding operation here. But the millions of dollars of horses and equipment were protected by a set of cameras that would have been sub-par outside a rundown gas station. He hadn’t liked the setup even before he and Lance had found the holes in the barn roof. Not that there were even crappy cameras monitoring the barn.

Every night one of the hands was delegated to spend the night in the tack room to keep an eye on the mares who were due. Once an hour they were supposed to rouse themselves and look at the monitor, and then check on the horses personally if there was trouble. Which would have made more sense if the feed had been crisp, instead of a jerky black and white smudge.

Right now, the grainy footage showed him that of the three mares who were due to foal, two were lying down, presumably still fast asleep. The third, Bright Star of Fortune, was standing up gazing blankly into the distance.

Steve hauled himself up and went to see why Star had gotten to her feet. Mares often stood up because it was more comfortable than lying down with a belly full of almost term foal. But standing was also how they gave birth.

By the time he got to her stall, Star was crowning. She acknowledged Steve but seemed to be in no distress. Her foal’s nose was barely visible and it would probably be born in the next few minutes. After just seven labors, he was certainly no expert. His instructions were to call Carlos to help with any birth. But the mare seemed to be handling her labor just fine.

He decided to summon the Boss. Rosa had hinted strongly at breakfast that she thought Carlos should be spending tonight sleeping in his own bed. Since he cherished Rosa Diego’s good opinion, he followed his inclinations and called Laura. He was just holding the foal’s sharp front hooves clear of the mare, as Dr. Freddie had shown him to, when he heard her boots thumping on the concrete floors of the aisle.

“How’s she doing?” Laura asked quietly.

Steve grinned at her. She was as excited as he was. “Fine,” he said. “Star doesn’t need either one of us, not really.”

As Laura shrugged off her parka to give him a hand, he saw that she had dressed in a hurry. She hadn’t bothered with a bra under her shirt. Well, he was a trained observer. And what he observed was that she had the finest pair he ever hoped to see. Which he had certainly suspected, but was nice to have confirmed.

She stood at his elbow, smelling of ripe woman and bear. As if he had brought her into season. As he was hoping he had. With the staff she was friendly but not familiar. She treated him no differently than she treated Cory or Lance or any of the others. Whereas, he wanted her to respond to him as he always did to her. Like a bear to her mate.

As she bent to examine Star, her hair fell forward and brushed his cheek and just like that his c**k sprang to attention.

“Darn it,” she said, and scooped her fall of soft curls up into a ponytail on top of her head. She rummaged in the pocket of her jeans and found a linty hair elastic and turned the ponytail into a bun. “Sorry about that, Steve.”

What could he say? He didn’t mind being touched by her. But it was clear she was not the type to hit on an employee. Or to recognize her own arousal. Besides they had work to do. He grunted.

“Nearly there,” she crooned to the mare.

Star looked back as if she wondered what was taking her baby so long. She didn’t appear to be concerned. Her birth canal visibly contracted and the foal was born on a gush of fluid. Steve caught it and helped it to the ground. Star turned around and began to nibble at the sack still enclosing the foal.

“Let her do it,” Laura said. “It’s better for her if she eats as much of the afterbirth as she wants.”

“I’ll go wash my hands and get the disinfectant to clean them up,” Steve said.
“Okay. Bring a pitchfork. I want to clear this old straw out.”

“I’m on it.” Steve went whistling for the wheelbarrow full of essentials that he had placed at the end of the aisle for dealing with the cleanup that was routine after the birth of a foal. He felt like a pro after dealing with foal number eight.

Together he and Laura dipped the foal’s umbilicus and swabbed Star’s udder before letting the baby suckle. Laura moved mama and baby to one side of the roomy foaling stall while he dealt with the soiled straw and sloshed some more disinfectant around. They repeated the process on the other side, and then Laura told him to bring Star her post-delivery rations.

Laura was still gazing misty-eyed at the mare and nursing foal when he returned with the special feed. “Look how strong he is,” she exclaimed.

The colt’s spindly legs were marginally less wobbly than they had been when he had first tried to use them. He was now standing under his mother suckling lustily. Like his dam, he had a bright white blotch on his forehead. But he was a less dark brown than she was. Steve felt a tenderness towards both animals that still surprised him. The first time he had been asked to forgo a night’s sleep he had resented it. But each birth had turned out to be a special event.

“She’s of my breeding, did you know?” Laura said.

“I did.” Steve leaned against the stall wall and enjoyed the loveliness of both the Boss and the horses. “Beautiful.”

“She is. And the colt is out of my Guardian of Colorado.” Pride and joy mingled in her voice. “What shall we call him?”

“Surely you have a name all picked out and ready for the stud book?” he teased.

She nodded. “Of course. I meant his real name. The one he’ll answer to for the rest of his life.”

“I thought their stud book names were the real ones.”

“Oh, no,” she looked at him her blue eyes glistening in the dim light that was all that was permitted in the foaling stall. Horses were nocturnal deliverers and strong lights could panic mares in labor. “A horse’s real name is the one he knows.”

Steve thought. “With that mark, he ought to be called ‘Star’, but I guess that name’s taken.”

“Yeah,” her voice was soft and sultry. Probably his imagination.

“He’s a strong little cuss. How about ‘Atlas’?”

“How about ‘Hero’?” she suggested.

Those blue eyes were looking right at him, so he did what he had been wanting to do from the first moment he set eyes on her. He kissed her. A soft kiss. Just the barest brushing of lips on lips. But her mouth opened under his like a flower to the sun and he deepened the kiss and pulled her hard against his chest.



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