Thank you ARC readers!

The book is now live and I have to remove the ARC. However, it is .99 on Amazon. Happy Reading!

Bear’s Touch

From the world of Clan Conroy Brides

A woman who can heal—or kill—with a Touch. An Alpha determined to claim her to save his son. A dragon enemy threatening to take their territory by trickery…or deadly force.

Lea’s plan is to lie low, eat junk food, and not run afoul of one of the many alpha’s who claim and control rare Healers like herself. If she doesn’t bond soon, she runs the risk of going mad when using her magic. She’s good with that. But her clan Alpha instead sends her on assignment and the very thing she didn’t want, she runs smack into—

—all six foot, hard muscled, steely eyed worth of single-minded alpha bear shifter who will use her to save his dying son, whether she likes it or not.

Only there is more going on in his territory than he wants to let on. As they fight, and succumb to an irresistible, and unwanted, drive to mate, dragons rain fire from the skies, attempting to force the small but lethal bear clan from its rich territory. Lea’s skills as a Healer will be needed more than ever.

And when her mating results in the conception of a special baby, she’ll have to go all in whether she risks her independence or not.

Bear’s Touch is a paranormal bear shifter romance with a strong urban fantasy feel. Featuring a snarky, feisty heroine with a brick ton of sass, and a growly Alpha male who doesn’t mind killing to keep what he has claimed. For readers who enjoy fated mates, shifter conflicts, surprise baby and plenty of steamy action. Note: This full length romance novel was previously published as a 3 part trilogy, but has been re-edited and combined into one book for your seamless enjoyment.

CHAPTER ONE

“Lea–”

She waved a hand, halting whatever madness was about to spill forth from her cousin’s mouth. Two damn weeks. She wouldn’t waste all that effort because a pregnant woman had bad timing. A fiery explosion filled the screen–a silent fiery explosion. Lea wasn’t dumb enough to have the sound on.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

She dropped the control and leaned back in her chair, disgusted. Swiped her glasses off her face and hunted for the cloth to clean them as Niobe waddled forward. Lea glanced up at her, and away, Niobe’s narrowed eyes a clue to her temper.

“I know that face,” Niobe said. “Don’t fucking tell me you had me waiting on a game, I thought you were working.”

Lea blew on a lens. “That was my fifteen-minute break.”

“You are self-employed. You don’t get fifteen minute breaks.”

See, now that was just the mindless, worker-bee mentality of the masses. Since she worked from her laptop, the masses just assumed she had no set schedule, no method. How did anyone think she got any work done?

“What do you want?”

Probably not the best tone to use with one’s Alpha, but they were cousins and had grown up together. Plus, what was Niobe going to do to a Clan Healer? Not a damn thing.

Niobe’s fingers flexed. “You need to get the hell out of my house. This isn’t your crash pad.”

Lea leaned back in her–well, her cousin’s–chair, admiring her fresh scarlet pedicure, painted to match her nails and lip stain, of the week, choice. Had to make up for the stereotypical nerd glasses somehow. It was bad enough being half Asian- everyone assumed, albeit correctly, that she was smart. Computer savvy. Okay, so maybe she was a walking cliché. But she didn’t have to dress like one, despite shitty eyesight.

Lea began twirling in the chair for added effect. It was just so easy to screw with Niobe these days. And she was bored, so what the hell? She’d take a trip to Mordor right now, and she was more of a Shire kinda gal. Law, order and quiet trumped adventure any day. Leave adventure to video games and romance novels.

“I’m hurt, cuz. I feel protected here. Enveloped in the cocoon of your encroaching jail term…uh, motherhood.”

“You little shit.”

A deceptively delicate hand halted Lea’s twirling madness. She was dizzy anyway. Healers didn’t have the hardiness of other Bears.

They had other things.

Lea touched her cousin’s stomach, roiling with the antics of the cub inside her. Niobe winced, hunching for a split second. Brow furrowed, Lea flattened an entire palm against a foot, sending just the lightest trickle of power into the restless infant. Baby settled down, soothed. Feisty kid, like his mama. Lea wished he’d give his mom a little space. Niobe was already exhausted from keeping her berserker nature at bay during the pregnancy. Lea knew Baby couldn’t help it. With that dilettante for a sperm donor, who knew how he would turn out? But he was a Baumann, would soon be the newest member of their Clan, and that was all that counted.

Niobe released a breath, straightening. Lea rose from the seat, taking her arm and settling her down.

“I don’t need to sit,” Niobe snapped.

“Whatever. Just keep my seat warm. You have plenty of booty heat these days.”

Lea trotted out of the room and down the stairs to the kitchen. Poor cousin didn’t realize she wasn’t babysitting Lea, Lea was babysitting her. Did Niobe think Lea’d crashed her cousin’s new place–the home of the Territory Alpha and his Consort–to play video games, presence unwelcome? Lea guessed pregnancy did that to females–it was likely she would go through it one day herself. Time was running out–the Clans wouldn’t let a Healer run around unbonded forever. Eventually someone would remember Lea existed. Pouring Niobe a glass of juice, she glanced up at the whisper of bare feet on stone tile.

“Hey, Lance.”

The Consort set a white box on the table, opening the lid to reveal a half-dozen gooey, cinnamon rolls. Mate to Abelard, Territory Alpha over Chicago and an entire three state region of Clans, Lance held considerable political power. Because a male-male union couldn’t produce cubs, they’d turned to Niobe to mother a child for them, the terms of the deal allowing Niobe to take over as her Clan’s Alpha–a well-deserved take over considering her berserker nature. After a Challenge to her authority, she’d more than proved her teeth and claws were big enough for the job. They’d asked Lea–as Clan Healer and Niobe’s cousin–to move in with them and keep Niobe company during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. One big happy family.

Lea eyed the rolls, suppressing a smirk. Man Candy was looking a little frazzled these days, his slick, pretty-boy exterior breaking down to something closer to the rest of the peons.

“Those for Niobe?” she asked.

Lance grimaced, running a hand through loose dark waves. “She nearly eviscerated me this morning,” he said in his cultured tenor. “I’m hoping the sugar will settle her nerves. Take one to her? She wouldn’t harm a Healer.”

Lea took two, one for herself as was her due, and went back up the stairs. Niobe was where she’d been left, head leaned back on the seat, eyes closed.

“I smell tribute,” she said without opening her eyes.

“Lance’s appeasement. What did he do this time?”

“Forget it.”

Placing the juice and rolls on the desk in front of her, Lea glanced at the screen of her laptop to make sure dear cousin hadn’t been snooping. Let Niobe beat level twelve on her own devices. Though Lea supposed in a few more weeks Niobe wouldn’t have time. Too bad.

Niobe ate a few bites, temper visibly soothed. “Lea, you have to find something to do. I can’t have you here hovering over me.”

She opened her mouth to head off that line of thought. Cuz wasn’t as slow as Lea’d thought, then.

Niobe shook her head, fixing Lea with a pale-blue glare. “I know Lance told you to watch me. I’m not having it. I need space and quiet, not a nursemaid. And you need to get up off your ass and get a real job.”

“I have a real job.” One that made her quite a nice living, thanks bunches. Indie publishing paid the bills and allowed her to make her own schedule.

“You never go outside, you don’t participate in Clan gatherings. You–”

“You know why I play least in sight.” She stared at Niobe, shredding her roll to get to the center.

Lea couldn’t go out more. She didn’t want to participate in Clan gatherings. She didn’t want to remind the Alphas she existed. An unmated Healer her age was unheard of, especially when the Mother’s Council made nearly all fertile females mate and have cubs. The only reason she’d escaped so far was because the turmoil of the last several years in the Baumann Clan provided cover. She knew Niobe wouldn’t take advantage, not like some Alphas. But how long before Abelard decided to press on the new Clan merger and ask for a…favor?

“I know, but you can’t do that forever. You’re spoiled, Lea. You want to escape the consequences of your nature. Well, you can’t. I’m an Alpha, and a berserker. I can’t get away from that. You can’t hide and hope you won’t have to be what you are. Healer.”

Was she serious? “No one can use you. You’re an Alpha and a berserker. Which means no one will try to bend your life and will to their political ambitions.”

Niobe stared at her, incredulity in the lift of her brow. “Are you that stupid? Being a Clan Alpha is all about bending to politics. You’re an asset, Lea. Either you figure out how to utilize your power in a useful manner, or I’ll figure it out for you. I can’t allow you to continue to drift–it makes me look weak.”

“And we can’t have that, now can we?” Niobe’s expression darkened. Lea waved a hand, forestalling a fit. “I heard you. I’ll figure some shit out. Jesus.”

“Yeah. Vacay is over, bitch.”

* * *

She left her cousin with a belly full of cinnamon sugar, curled up in the plush leather recliner. Niobe had taken to sleeping there, saying it was more comfortable than the bed. Whatever. Lea had errands to run that actually required her to expose her baby-soft skin to sunlight, and besides–she knew Abelard would be home soon. She really preferred to avoid him whenever possible. It was only a matter of time. An Alpha didn’t come to rule a Territory by not utilizing every tool in his belt.

She was almost out the door when a deep voice called out behind her.

“Lea.”

Damn. Alpha was early. And Lea would bet her Mac it wasn’t by coincidence. She turned, hefting her messenger bag from one shoulder to the other, keys jangling in her hand.

Hint, fucking, hint.

Abelard stood framed in the wide, rounded entry between the open-concept living/dining room and the kitchen. Tall, broad–handsome to some, she supposed. But Lea liked a little brain to go with brawn, and, so far, she hadn’t seen much in Abelard’s silent, hulking presence to recommend him as anything other than the typical power-clogged bully his kind all seemed to be.

“Alpha.”

“Funny I should catch you just as you were leaving,” Abelard said, words inflectionless.

Okay. “Did you need to speak with me? I was just about to head out, but–”

“Thank you for making the time,” he said, gesturing in the direction of his office.

Dark eyes…glinted…as trite as the impression was. Lea suppressed a frown, and the feeling the Territory Alpha was laughing at her. She didn’t know him well enough, despite the fact that her cousin was involved in a triumvirate with him and Lance. So she couldn’t count on familiarity to give her clues as to when she could be her usual snarky self, and when to dig deep–real, real deep–for something resembling respect.

Lea preceded Abelard to his office–his public office. She knew for a fact–because she had ears, thanks–that Abelard and Lance did most of the real work in the study attached to their bedroom. Well, if cementing their bond was considered work. Lea supposed if one was a Consort that was part of the job description.

Abelard waited until Lea took a seat, choosing to perch on the edge of his desk rather than settle in the high backed office chair. The Alpha studied her for a few moments, arms folded. After a while, the silence began to unnerve Lea…she felt nothing from the male facing her. Usually an Alpha had an aura, a taste to their personality that allowed a Healer to tell if one was mated or single. Calm or frenetic. If they had an illness, mental or otherwise, that required healing. But from Abelard…a blank wall. Nothing.

“Alpha?” she asked, hoping her tone would be misconstrued as polite. “You wanted to speak to me?”

“I appreciate how you’ve been helping Lance,” he said, words measured. “He’s…concerned about impending fatherhood, and Niobe’s health. You’ve given him some breathing room. I owe you.”

No. No, no, no, no. Lea blinked rapidly, repositioning the glasses sliding off her nose. “No, Alpha, no debt. You don’t owe me anything.”

Abelard smiled. Lea stilled, seeing a glimpse of the real male behind the quiet, affable exterior.

“We’ll call it a personal debt, hmm? Between family. We are family.”

Even worse, but Lea couldn’t contradict him.

“But I’m afraid I’ll need to impose on your helpfulness in a more trying fashion.”

“Alpha?”

“I have a…friend…in Washington State. An Alpha of a small, close-knit Clan. He has need of a Healer rather urgently. There’s been an injury requiring intervention.”

Did Abelard think she was stupid? No one called a Clan Healer for a simple injury. “What’s wrong with the Bear? I’m sorry, Sire, but I’m unmated. There’s a limit to what I can do without risking myself.”

“We are aware of that. Yurii has offered to do what is necessary while you are there, and impose on you no further than the favor requested.”

Meaning this Yurii wouldn’t try to create a permanent bond between them in order to keep Lea in his Clan, knowing that as a Healer she would be pulled towards him as an anchor.

“Do I have to?”

The Alpha’s expression changed. “You don’t have to do anything, Lea. There is always a choice. I am aware Niobe has asked you to take up your duties in the Territory as a Healer–become the asset to the Clan that you were meant to be.”

Lea swallowed the sour bile in her throat. “I was thinking more along the lines of some outreach. Reading stories to kids in the local library.”

Abelard laughed. Warm, rich with amusement. “Funny. I like you, Lea. You’re a bit of a lay about–but you’re young, and haven’t found a true purpose yet, so it’s to be expected.” He paused. “You have nothing in your life you’re passionate about. That passion is what will unlock your true power.”

Whatever, Obi-Wan. She suppressed an eyeroll, barely. “So do I have to go?”

“What do you think?”

Yeah. That’s exactly what she’d thought.