In the tradition of the Grimm tale, “Snow White and Rose Red”, A Bear in the Woods is the story of two sisters who must defend themselves and their land at all costs.
Rosa and Neve Carino are alone after the loss of their mother, trying to hold together the legacy of the land their father left to them—even with Harvey “the Dwarf” Malo trying to steal it out from under them. In a vicious winter storm, the women find a disheveled drifter who looks more like a bear than a man. Only after he wakes the next day do they discover he’s one of the two Bear brothers, Aedan, who they had played with as children.
Though fragile, sweet Neve—who is more at home with the wolf cubs in the forest than humans—is delighted to have her old friend back, fiery, red-headed Rosa is less than thrilled. She sees someone who has wasted his life—and another mouth to feed. Fighting her growing attraction for Aedan, she focuses on work and family, and making life difficult for him.
Aedan has a secret, though; one that threatens to bring disaster to them all. He’s investigating the death of his father—a loss that forced his family out when he and his brother, Hugh, were children. Sure that Malo is the man responsible, he calls in his brother. Together they pressure the Dwarf until he makes a desperate bid for control.
Hugh rekindles the budding romance with Neve that started when they were young. Then Neve goes missing, leaving Hugh distraught over her fate. An enraged Rosa leads the men to the wolves’ den to begin their search. The sounds of a distant scream and a gunshot send them on a chase the woods. Are they too late?
Word Count: 13,400
He awoke warm and dry. The linens were soft, smelling of lavender and cedar. The mattress felt as if it was made of eider down. How long had it been since he’d slept in a real bed?
His senses, honed from months spent living in the wilderness, were instantly alert to every nuance of his surroundings. Bright beams of sunlight illuminated the small room through sparkling window panes. The room was clean and cheerful, the walls decorated a soft yellow with pink flowers that looked to be hand-painted along the moldings. There was an ancient bureau, polished to a glossy finish, with a beveled mirror, a rocking chair with an embroidered cushion, and an old wash stand complete with pitcher and basin. The room touched a chord somewhere in his mind.
This was a woman’s place, that much was easy to see—and smell. The place smelled of soap, citrus oil, flowers and spice. The spice was cinnamon, to be exact. There was something else, too. He could detect the scent of baking bread. The fragrance had his stomach rumbling loudly.
Hauling himself from the bed, he began to search for his clothing. Only then did he realize how clean his own body was. Someone had taken the time to scrub him thoroughly, even getting the dirt from under his nails.
“You smell like a daisy,” he said aloud to the reflection in the mirror of the old bureau.
It had been awhile since he’d had a good look at himself. The face staring back at him was barely recognizable with its thick growth of beard and the brown shaggy hair that fell past his shoulders. The mirror reflected little more than two eyes peering through disheveled fur.
He heard a noise in the next room and, with no weapons—not even clothing—he felt more than just naked. Snatching a sheet from the bed, he wrapped it hastily about his middle, ready to do battle with whoever might walk through the open door.
“You’re up,” a pretty woman said as she stepped across the threshold. “You had us scared last night.”
Her smile was sweet, adorning an oblong face framed by hair so blond it was nearly white. The eyes that looked at him with such concern were impossibly blue and gentle as a spring day. She was slender, delicate-looking, holding a tray that appeared too heavy for her.
“Let me get that,” he said, taking the tray from her hands.
“You should be in bed,” the woman said as she followed him into the room. “I didn’t think you’d be up for days.”
“I have amazing recuperative powers.” He grinned amiably. “Would you mind telling me where I may find my clothes?”
With a startled yelp, the woman sprinted from the room, leaving him to ponder the strange ways of females. He had just deposited the tray on top of the bureau when she returned triumphantly, holding a garment out in front of her.
“What’s this?” he asked, taking it from her.
“It’s a nightshirt. I made it for you this morning. Your clothing was such a mess, there really was no hope for it.”
“Tell me you didn’t get rid of it,” he demanded, his voice growing louder.
“W-well, it was filthy, and—”
“Damnit, woman,” he bellowed, sending her fleeing like a trembling fawn.
He was immediately remorseful, wishing he could take the outburst back. The last thing he’d wanted to do was frighten the poor creature.
It wasn’t a moment later that another woman entered the room, just as he tossed the sheet he’d been wearing aside. This one didn’t look so gentle. Her flaming red curls looked as wild as the rage that glittered in her sea-green eyes. The heart shape of her face belied the angry set to her mouth. She was nothing short of stunning.
If she noticed that he was naked, she gave little clue. Her hands were on her hips, her back arrow-straight as she faced him.
“If you are quite finished terrifying my sister, I’ll tell you where you can find your filthy rags,” she said through clenched teeth, her chin jutting sharply upward.
It dawned on him why this house was so vaguely familiar. He saw it in the way she squared off against him. It was in the color of her hair and the fire that flashed in the depths of those great, green eyes. It was a memory he held with some fondness.
Slowly pulling the long nightshirt over his head to hide his grin, he waited until he had it all the way on before speaking to her. He needed the time to form the words.
“I didn’t mean to upset Neve, Rosa. I didn’t take time to think.”
“How do you know our names?”
A frown crinkled the delicate, pale skin between her brows. He had to work harder at hiding his amusement, actually biting his lower lip to conceal his smile.
“I’ve known your names since the first day we played together in those woods yonder. How could I forget the two prettiest girls in the countryside?”
“Don’t try to sweet-talk me. Who are you?”
This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 03 August, 2011.