Son of the cursed bear, p.1
Son of the Cursed Bear,
SON OF THE CURSED BEAR
(SONS OF BEASTS, BOOK 1)
By T. S. JOYCE
Other Books in this Series
Son of Kong – Coming August 2017
Son of the Dragon – Coming September 2017
Son of the Cursed Bear
Copyright © 2017 by T. S. Joyce
Copyright © 2017, T. S. Joyce
First electronic publication: July 2017
T. S. Joyce
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the author’s permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
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, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Published in the United States of America.
Cover Image: Wander Aguiar
Cover Model: Dylan Horsch
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Son of the Cursed Bear
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Nox Fuller hated just about everyone, but at the top of that list were the fire breathers.
It was a new hatred, thanks to Damon Daye summoning him like some bellman to his overpriced, cold-as-a-dead-fish cliff mansion and bullying him into being here. Right here—cruising past the Foxburg, Pennsylvania Population 183 sign. The blue dragon was a twat-muffin, and if it weren’t for his threat to kick Nox out of his mountains and/or fucking eat him, he would’ve been back home, relaxing in his trailer, enjoying rare-as-a-unicorn time off right now. But no. Instead of making his way through a six pack with a few steaks sizzling on his grill, he was here in between bounty hunting jobs, tracking down Damon Daye’s son, Vyr.
He should just kill Vyr. His bear rumbled a growl up his throat, because even though he was a beast, he was all about survival. If he killed the red dragon, then the Son of Kong would be all mad at Nox for murdering his best friend, and the asshole gorilla shifter would probably kill him before he even Changed into his grizzly. Everyone was scared of Vyr because he was an out-of-control fire breather, a man-eater, and blah blah blah. Everyone was scared of him but Nox.
Nah, Torren was the one to watch. Vyr only shifted into his dragon once every few weeks. Torren Changed all the time like he couldn’t help it. He was a fully mature silverback shifter gone years too long without a family group under him, and he was half off his rocker. He pretended he wasn’t, but Nox was the son of Clinton Fuller. He could spy crazy from a mile away.
Everyone thought Nox was the insane one, but he fucking wasn’t. He just hated everyone and didn’t want to play lets-talk-about-the-weather. Reclusive didn’t equal crazy. Torren and Vyr were the nut jobs.
Nox gripped the steering wheel as he coasted into the parking lot of the Foxburg Inn sitting pretty on the edge of the Allegheny River. Cute town if you were into scenic mountains and that small hometown feel. Everyone probably knew everyone here. The trees were different, the houses, and the smell of this place too, but in a way, it reminded him of home. Damon’s Mountains were a lot like these, which is probably why Vyr had picked the Appalachians.
Too bad he was going to shifter prison for a year.
That’s fuckin’ right. Nox was here to bounty hunt his fire-breathin’ ass, and he was good at his job. His phone dinged with a notification so Nox pulled to a stop to check it. Big Stupid Red Dragon just used his credit card at the local grocery store. Idiot didn’t understand the first thing about being on the lam. Cash only.
Nox moved to turn his old work truck around, but stopped midway through the first rotation of the steering wheel. As a man of deep instincts, the hair rose on the back of his neck. Sure, he had two devils on his shoulders, no angels, but those devils had kept him out of trouble a hundred times. And right now, they were whispering, “the timing is weird.”
It was. Vyr was a big, mindless sky lizard when he was Changed, but as a man? Vyr wasn’t that dumb. This was the second time using a credit card, and it happened right as Nox rolled into town? Hell no. Was he the one being hunted?
Nox narrowed his eyes at the line of shops down the street. He already knew this town. That’s what he did when he went on a hunt. He researched a place to death so there was less risk of being caught off-guard. He needed to ease into this one. Wait a minute and figure out what was going on before he charged the Red Dragon both guns a-blazin’. Or in his case, all claws out.
Nope. He wasn’t going after him right now. Both devils on his shoulders nodded in unison and gave sharp-toothed smiles.
Nox parked in the inn lot, right over the line so no human fart-knuckles got the genius idea to park right next to him, ding his work truck, and bring on the wrath of Nox’s bear. He lived alone deep in Damon’s Mountains for a reason. As he looked up at the inn, he sighed in irritation at the thought of being crammed in there with other people. His mood was about to take a turn for the worse, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it but blame the beast in his middle. He was a loner bear, rogue maybe, hell if he knew. All Nox knew was people—humans and shifters alike—made him want to rampage.
New plan. He was going to check into the inn, then wait until he knew the Red Dragon would be far away from the store, and then he was going to do some recon. Maybe tomorrow, if his instincts settled down, he would bring in the Red Dragon. This was dangerous because Vyr wasn’t careful. He was unpredictable, and with Torren as his bodyguard? Nox could have his throat ripped out and his carcass burned within seconds. They hated him, and the feeling was pretty fuckin’ mutual. Damon Daye wanted his son brought in as quietly as possible, so it meant Nox had no back-up and he had to be even more careful than usual.
Maybe tomorrow he would be the missile that blew Vyr’s fucking world out of the water.
Tonight? The devils on his shoulders were too loud. They wanted to survive Vyr’s fire.
Tonight he hunted on the outskirts of the Red Dragon’s new territory, and quietly.
Nevada Foxburg exhaled a long, shaky breath and tried to gather the courage to push open the door of her silver Maxima. Just do it. There’s not that many people here.
This was the talk she had with herself every time she went grocery shopping.
Social anxiety was a B-word to deal with on a good day, but this week it had been particularly draining.
She tried again, but yanked her hand away from the door handle and then, in frus
It wasn’t even the thought of going into the store and picking out food in the nighttime hours when most women wouldn’t have dreamed of shopping alone. It was the number of cars in the parking lot. There were five. Two of them belonged to the cashier, Jimmy, and the manager of the small grocery store, Esmerelda, but that left three other cars that had to be customers. It was eleven o’clock on a Tuesday, and it wasn’t usually this busy. She’d systematically come at different times to figure out when was the least busy, but this Tuesday had bucked the trend. She needed peanut butter and bananas and cheese crackers and toothpaste and bread and a gallon of vanilla ice cream to deal with this week’s tomfoolery. Yet here she sat, tracking the progress of two guys in work-out clothes chattering happily as they walked across the parking lot and into the store.
Why couldn’t she be like them? Stores and crowds obviously bothered them zero percent.
And they were human. They didn’t have an animal to call on when they were defensive. Not like her. She was the wussiest shifter that had ever been born.
Pouting out her lip, Nevada closed her eyes and counted to five, then forced herself to push open the door. Essie’s Pantry was the only grocery store within thirty miles open this late, and it was closing in an hour. She needed to get this over with.
Focus on one step in front of the other. Don’t be weird if someone says hi. People do that out of politeness, not rudeness. Good grief, where was her animal? Right now, she couldn’t even feel it. The little critter had holed up deep inside of her, terrified as usual, curled into such a tight little ball she felt non-existent.
The car beeped when she locked it with her key. She gathered her purse close to her like a shield and made her way across the small two lanes between the parking lot and Essie’s. Eyes on the sliding glass doors, she nearly jumped out of her skin when a truck locked up their brakes and skidded to a stop right next to her. Nevada lurched back and screamed in terror as the rusty, old red and silver Dodge Ram rocked to a stop.
“What the fuck, lady?” the guy behind the wheel yelled out his open window. “Watch where I’m driving!”
Nevada stood frozen in the middle of the road, trapped in the man’s furious, piercing blue gaze, her thighs only inches from the front bumper of the truck. Oh, he was mean. So mean she couldn’t make herself move if she tried. His beard was thick and covered the bottom half of his face, but his blond hair was cut short on the sides and grown out longer on top. He looked like a Viking. Even from here, she could see his muscular shoulders pressing against the plaid material of his shirt. His size made him even more intimidating, but it was the direct way he held her gaze that scared her the most.
“Hellooo?” he asked, waving a hand in front of his face.
No response from her. She might as well have been a popsicle right now. A terrified popsicle.
The man sighed loudly, and then it tapered into something horrifying. A loud, snarling rumble emanated from the truck as he clenched his bright white teeth around the sound. He narrowed his eyes and dragged his attention to her tits, then back up to her eyes. “Kindly, get out of the way,” he gritted out.
He’d been the one who almost hit her! She was on the crosswalk and had the right of way. “You’re really mean,” she whispered in a shaking breath.
The man looked taken aback, and some of the anger faded from his face. “Thank…you.”
“Okay then,” she murmured with a nod. He was a weird one, clearly, and she was also a weird one, and this conversation wouldn’t go anywhere productive. She ducked her head and made her way into the store in quick, jerky steps at a speed walk her trainer would be proud of.
She wished she could go right back to her car, drive out of here, and survive on air for dinner, but she didn’t want to give that animal the satisfaction of watching her run away like the little chicken she was. That’s what she should’ve been—a chicken shifter. Bock, bock.
Cheeks on fire, she shook her head and tried to stop herself from replaying how awkward she’d been with that man. She always did that—went over and over how strange she was in conversations—and it never solved anything. It just made her feel bad about herself.
With trembling hands, she pulled her list out of her purse, along with a purple pen, and then made a beeline for the produce, determined to stock up on everything so she didn’t have to shop for another two weeks.
She scrambled around, speed-shopping, but as she was shoving nectarines into a plastic bag, a low catcall whistle sounded. Mortified, she looked up, expecting it to be the strange man who had almost squashed her on the pavement like a bug under a boot. It wasn’t, though. It was one of the guys in the workout clothes she’d seen earlier. The dark-haired one was nodding and looking at her like she was a piece of steak, and the other was staring directly at her tits with a gross, predatory smile that gave her chills across her forearms. Great. The exact kind of attention she hated. She didn’t recognize them, and the town was basically a village. She’d grown up in Foxburg and knew everyone. These guys were probably tourists.
She jerked her attention away from them and scurried to the next aisle. So she was a few nectarines short—better to be safe than sorry. An older man was there, staring at the frozen vegetables behind the glass freezer doors. When he looked at her and offered a friendly smile, she fought the urge to turn around and find somewhere unoccupied.
“Good evening,” he said, shoving his glasses farther up his nose.
“I’m fine, thank you.” Oh my gosh, what was that? Embarrassed, she grabbed a loaf of bread and plopped it in her basket without even checking the expiration date.
Motoring her legs, she booked it to the Pop Tarts, but those guys were there. She skidded to a stop at the entrance and backed out slowly. Only the guys followed, casting each other glances, laughing. Messing with her. Jerks.
She whipped the cart around and made her way to the back. Milk and eggs. And some oxygen because she couldn’t breathe right now. Her chest was so tight she was on the verge of panicking. She’d done that before too, walked out of a store and left all her groceries in the basket just because she couldn’t handle the crowd.
“What’s your name?” the dark-haired guy asked.
Chills, chills, chills everywhere, and this wasn’t just social anxiety anymore. Her inner fox had woken up and was growling. There was something wrong with these men. They prickled her instincts and made her want to run, or fight, or maybe both.
Fast as she could, Nevada yanked a gallon of one-percent milk from the fridge and then shoved her cart toward the eggs.
“Come on, don’t play hard to get. I’m only asking your name.” He was moving toward her slowly, flanked by his friend.
Freak the eggs, she couldn’t stay here. Nevada pushed her cart around a fridge full of bacon and slice-and-bake cookies. But when she tried to maneuver into a new aisle, the dark-haired man was there, hands out in placation, an empty smile on his face.
“It was just a question, and you’re running like I’m after you. Chill. I’m just talking.”
Nevada was trapped between the center aisle fridges unless she backed up, but when she went to turn her cart, the other guy was behind her with a feral smile. When the dark-haired man approached, she abandoned the cart, ready to jump over one of the fridges to get away from them. The other guy was closing in, and she really couldn’t draw a breath into her lungs right now. Tears burned her eyes. Weak. She had a knife in her purse. Why would a shifter ever have to carry a knife when they had teeth and claws? Because her animal was no help. Never had been. She might as well have been human.
She fumbled for the knife, but it wasn’t in the pocket where she usually kept it, and both of them were too close. Too close!
Her butt hit the fridge as she looked back and forth between the two men.
“Fuckwit number one and fuckwit number two, back away from the lad
Nevada jerked her gaze to the bearded man from the parking lot, leaning on the other side of the fridge like he’d been there all along. His voice had come out completely calm, but his eyes were an inhuman silver color, and his face was twisted into something terrifying.
“Fuck off, shifter,” the dark-haired one said. “We’re just talking to her.”
Giant Weirdo with a Beardo gave an empty smile and scratched his jaw with his thumbnail. The chuckle that emanated from him was downright scary. It knocked around in her head, and the heaviness wafting from the man clogged Nevada’s lungs. Can’t. Breathe! Oh, this man was a monster, and these humans didn’t have the instincts she did. They should run. She should run. No one should be in the same building with him.
There was a loaded moment, and then the dark-haired man let off a laugh and waved his hand. “This isn’t that serious.” He backed away and jerked his chin at his friend. “See ya around, pretty girl,” he said. His eyes were empty when he cast her a long glance over his shoulder.
“Th-thank you,” she whispered.
“Save your thank yous for someone who wants them. I ain’t nobody’s hero. Those douche-pickles were blocking my path to the bacon. So are you. Vamoose.” The bearded man waved his hand impatiently at her.
She stood there shocked, up until the point where he strode past her, carefully stepping over her sneakers and lifting his hands as though he didn’t want to touch her grotesque skin.
And then he grabbed six packages of bacon, cradled them in his arm like a baby, and strode off toward the checkout counters up front, dried mud trailing behind him from where he stomped it off his dirty boots.
Alrighty then. He was possibly the rudest man she’d ever met. But he’d just saved her, kind of. He was built like a tank. His longer hair up top was shaved into a laid-down mohawk, and tattoos peeked out from under his plaid shirt at the back of his thick neck. He walked with the confident grace of a man who knew his exact place in the world—at the top of the food chain.