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A shy billionaire hiding from the world. An easy-going hunk with a secret. Can they win the shifter games without losing each other? Handsome billionaire Marc Rochester hates the fame that comes with his infamous family’s fortune. He works as a small-time veterinarian and he keeps to himself, until his best friend pushes him to compete in a supernatural competition: the shifter games. When he meets Sylvester at the race, Marc finds there may be advantages to getting out of the house after all. Can Marc take the leap to let somebody in? Sylvester Burrows is a confident competitor who can't resist his passionate attraction for Marc. There’s one problem: in just a few short months, Sylvester is moving across the globe for his dream job. He tries not to get too close to the sexily aloof Marc, but Sylvester cannot deny his feelings for long. When fate pushes them together, Sylvester knows he will have to choose between his dreams or his love. Conquering the Bear is a standalone paranormal romance novella in the “Bear Shifter Games” series, set in a contemporary world filled with unexpected wonders, magic, and suspense. If you like steamy romance, muscle-bound shifters, and unbridled courage, you’ll love AJ Tipton’s breathtaking book. Buy Conquering the Bear to get in the game today!
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Copyright © AJ Tipton 2015 The right of AJ Tipton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (or other similar law, depending on your country). All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author, except in cases of brief quotations embodied in reviews or articles. It may not be edited, amended, lent, resold, hired out, distributed or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s written permission. Permission can be obtained from email@example.com
This book is for sale to adult audiences only. It contains substantial sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which may be considered offensive by some readers.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is purely coincidental.
All sexually active characters in this work are 18 years of age or older.
Cover art photos provided by BigStock.com, Morgue Files, Flickr.com, and Upsplash.com.
Created with Vellum
"I swear to all the gods, if you do not get your ass out here, I will skin it!" The stubborn look in Jadyn's eye was all too familiar, and once again Marc marveled at how somebody so small could force him into so many crazy situations.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming." Marc ran his fingers through his short, brown hair and took a deep breath. He stripped down to his skin, moving toward the group of naked shifters lining up in the woods behind the supernatural bar, AUDREY'S. Marc eyed his competitors: some rabbit shifters like Jadyn, a couple of lions, a penguin, a horse, and a few other shifters still in human form, all anxiously awaiting the start of the weekly shifter game.
This gods-damn race. Jadyn had been trying to get him to run this weird, supernatural obstacle course for months. She promised she’d let up if he’d just come to one shifter game, and Marc had finally acquiesced. He couldn't understand why Jadyn was so obsessed with pushing him out of the house. It wasn’t like he was some kind of shut-in. He didn't need his best friend--his sister in all but blood, really--to force him to socialize. He talked to people exactly as often as he wanted to.
It had all finally come to a head when Jadyn stopped by unannounced and found Marc in a heated debate with his pets over what kind of kibble they wanted to have for supper.
"You’re turning into the man equivalent of a crazy cat lady. You have to get out more." Jadyn then proceeded to annoy him for three hours until he caved.
The story of our lives.
Jadyn had stripped down as well, her hands on her narrow hips as she chatted with a few of the other racers. Everyone seemed to know her, clapping her on the shoulder and discussing people that Marc didn’t know. All around him, people were greeting each other, getting caught up since the last games.
For a second, Marc dreamed of what it would be like to be part of a community: people who all knew each other and truly cared about what was happening in each other’s lives. With a small sigh, he discounted the notion immediately.
He was a Rochester. Rochesters didn't have friends. They had staff, advisors, and the occasional trophy husband. A thriving social life was the one expense no Rochester--not even a black sheep like Marc--could afford.
Marc took a deep breath. Today isn't about making friends, it’s about getting Jadyn off my back. He picked his way through the crowd to reach Jadyn's side.
A clean-shaven man with ruffled black hair approached Jadyn from the other direction, the muscles on his arms and chest providing Marc with a whole new definition for rippling. The man had the laid-back smile and confident ease of someone with the back muscles of a Greek god. The smooth curve of the man's spine led down to the most perfectly-rounded ass Marc had ever seen.
Marc realized he was staring, and forced himself to look away before he blushed up to his hairline.
Perhaps there are advantages to getting out of the house after all.
Jadyn caught his eye and waved him closer. “Marc! Come meet Sylvester! He’s single!” She sang the last word with a little too much glee.
Marc froze. Sylvester looked over Jadyn’s shoulder and his brown eyes caught Marc’s. Sylvester's smile broadened, and Marc felt his insides curl into frozen knots of utter terror.
Talk to him? Even if Marc ever dated--which he didn't, not with his last name on the cover of every tabloid--the man was clearly out of Marc’s league. Marc had no idea how the guy could still be single. The casual, self-assured way Sylvester stood, how he seemed to know everybody at the competition, Sylvester wasn’t the sort to waste time talking to a socially-awkward veterinarian like Marc.
And if he did, Marc thought glumly, it would just be to say he'd rubbed shoulders with a billionaire.
Jadyn narrowed her eyes at him, her lips pressing into a stubborn line Marc knew all too well. It wasn't enough that he was at her game; she wanted him to mingle.
But he couldn't. His feet felt rooted to the ground.
It wasn't just his family. Marc’s tongue glued to the roof of his mouth just thinking about talking to Jadyn's gorgeous friend. Marc wasn’t great with new people in the best of times–his favorite place at a party was in a corner, hidden by houseplants–-but in front of someone as gorgeous as Sylvester? Forget it. Marc knew he'd be lucky to get out a “Hi”. The last time Jadyn dragged him to a party, he had barely managed to get one-syllable out, and it was, “Ugyyi”.
Sylvester winked at him and Marc found he could move again.
In the opposite direction.
Marc inched backwards through the crowd, putting as many people between himself and Sylvester as possible. He knew Jadyn would be furious, but he hadn’t promised that he would talk to people. He promised he would play this stupid game, and then go home.
"Welcome to the shifter games!” A pale woman called from the top of a tall chair built like a lifeguard stand next to the starting line. Her hair was jet black and woven into a hundred small braids that waved above her head like sea anemone. Rose tattoos twined all across her chest, their vines curling down into the décolletage of her low-cut tank top. Marc was amused to see her shirt read, “Zombies taste like chicken”.
At her voice, the competitors stopped milling around, and came to silent attention. Out of the corner of his eye, Marc saw Jadyn still waving at him and pointing to Sylvester, but he ignored her. He was here to run this damned race, not to get involved with Jadyn’s matchmaking fantasy.
“For those who are new to the games…” The woman’s voice carried easily all the way across the field. “I’m Lola. Bartender, game master, and—” she winked. “Whatever I want to be today.” The tattoos on her chest swirled and danced as she spoke. “The rules are simple: cross the obstacles, don't touch any of your fellow racers, and whoever passes the finish line first is the winner. None of today’s obstacles are too life threatening. And I promise none of the...effects will be permanent.”
The crowd around Marc seemed to relax, but the hair on the back of Marc’s neck was standing straight up. Permanent effects? He caught Jadyn’s eye and gave her his usual expression of What-Did-You-Get-Me-Into-This-Time? Jadyn flashed back her usual response: a blithe smile of nonchalance, then two thumbs up.
Gods help me. Marc clenched his fists, took a deep breath. Let’s do this.
Lola pulled a starter pistol and pointed it toward the clouds. "Racers! To your places!"
Marc found his place on the line, equal distance from the other racers. In front of him, a patch of sand about fifty feet across ended in a wooden wall twice Marc’s height. Tiny divots in the wall promised minimal, but hopefully efficient, handholds for climbing.
Anticipation built in his chest. The sand pit wasn’t that wide, and–with his bear’s enhanced ability to climb–the second obstacle would be more about balance and speed than strength. He couldn’t see beyond the wall, and his imagination began to concoct increasingly-terrifying worse case scenarios. Piranha tanks? Will-o-the-wisp-infested woods?
Mark stretched and took a deep breath, calming his thoughts. He was hardly a weakling; when he wasn’t at work or volunteering at the local dog shelter, he strength-trained in both human and bear form. Some sand, a wall, and whatever lay beyond should be no problem.
He looked over at Jadyn. Her jaw was set, her legs already in a sprinter’s ready position. He mirrored her stance. She caught his eye and the side of her mouth quirked up in a slight smile.
Marc’s competitive side came roaring to the surface. The corner of his mouth twitched up in response. Jadyn nodded, clenching her jaw. Challenge accepted.
Movement from a few racers down the line drew Marc's eye, and he found himself staring again at the ridiculously-attractive Sylvester. The man was stretching his arms above his head, elongating his powerful abs, and making his pecs look even more impressive. Sylvester's eyes caught Marc's. His eyebrow lifted slightly and Marc looked away, hoping his pounding heartbeat wasn’t audible to Sylvester's keen shifter-hearing.
"On your marks…" Lola’s voice was a laughing bark. "Get set…" Her grip on her starter gun tightened and Marc leaned forward, ready to spring. "Go!"
The gun rang out, and all around him, wolves, tigers, rabbits, skunks, lions, and horses pounded across the sand. Marc sprinted forward, his bear form beginning to emerge as his claws lengthened and black fur sprouted along his back.
Then his feet hit the sand.
The temperature of the air increased to sweltering. A hot wind filled with the distinct smell of jasmine and wet camel struck him like a punch. Marc stumbled and barely caught his footing as the sand slid beneath his bare, still-human toes. All around him, other shifters were struggling as well, pressing into the wind or shifting back to human so they could get relief from the thick coats of their animal forms.
Jadyn--damn her, the wily, little rabbit--was jumping ahead quicker than all the rest, her silver-grey coat flashing in the sun.
Oh, no you don’t. Marc grit his teeth.
Marc leaned low and narrowed his eyes to avoid the grains of sand whipped up by the wind and the footsteps of the other players. He sprinted forward with all his power, keeping his gait light so each step was less a run and more a quick sequence of jumps from one outstretched foot to the next. The closer he got to the end of the patch of sand, the hotter the air became.
The sun, which had felt so friendly under the protective cover of the forest, now beamed down scorching rays, branding the top of his tanned shoulders. The wind shifted to blow directly in his face, the strong scent of wet camel growing stronger. Marc blessed all his days working as a veterinarian; the scent of animal hair (and worse) was something he was so accustomed to, it almost smelled like home. He leaned into it, forcing his feet through the last few steps of sand.
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