Creed's Claim

By: Mina Carter
Chapter 1

The scent of blood filled the air, each fresh wave coinciding with the buzz of the tattoo iron as Creed moved it over his client’s skin. Lifting up, he wiped the surface free of ink and blood and started again on the next section of the design.

For most tattoo artists, the smell of blood would barely be noticeable, but Creed wasn’t most tattoo artists. For one thing, he wasn’t entirely human, but half bear, and for another, he was the only one, that he knew of anyway, who would tattoo werebears.

Like his current client. Jeb Watson was an old friend, a few years older than Creed himself, and a member of the same clan. The Lizard Lick clan. Yeah, sure, they got plenty of shit over that name, but none of them would change it for the world.

“Jesus Christ, son,” Jeb hissed through his teeth. “You trying to dig for fucking Australia with that thing?”

Creed chuckled and started to work on the second set of petals surrounding the roses he had tattooed on Jeb’s back. There were four. One for his wife and the other three for each of his daughters. Creed was still putting the finishing touches on the final one, for his youngest, born just a few weeks ago. All were happy, healthy little werebear girls. And, since Jeb and his wife were fated mates, all the girls should be able to shift.

Which meant in ten years’ time, Jeb was going to be fighting the boys off with a stick, claws and anything else that came to hand. Creed grinned at the thought. It would drive his friend insane but no one in the clan was under any illusion that the Watson girls would do anything other than exactly what they wanted. No matter what their poppa said. Werebear women were like that; intelligent, sassy and bold as brass.

Creed leaned in to concentrate on the fine detail. Jeb was his last booking of the day. When he was done here, he’d shower up and head on over to the Lizard Moon, the bear bar on the other side of town. He could do with a couple of beers to round off the day, and if he wore his tightest t-shirt, he might even get some interest from one of the local bear ladies for the evening.

He shaded a petal. And it would be just for the evening. His standing with the clan was an unusual one. At just under six foot and over two hundred twenty pounds, he was built like the bear equivalent of a tank and had the speed and strength of a shifter…but his bear was shy. In his adult life, he’d only managed to shift three times, and each of those had been so painful he’d have preferred to cover himself in honey and go roll in a pile of fire ants. At least he could crush those fuckers to death.

The ladies loved him for his size and strength, for what he could do for them and to them in the sack, but not a one of them would stand by his side and claim any association with him in the daylight. He was their dirty little secret when they had an itch to scratch.

But…it suited him. He didn’t want a bear woman, not to settle down with anyway.

He wanted one woman in particular—Kaitlyn Turner.

The trouble was, she wasn’t a bear, she was human. Worse, she was the sister of his dead best friend. The best friend who’d died in the accident he, Creed, had walked away from unscathed.

She was the last woman he could have, but she was the only woman he wanted.

He was a fucking idiot, mooning after a woman he couldn’t have. It was a good thing she’d moved away a couple of years ago, got herself some fancy job in the city and, last he’d heard, gotten a diamond ring on her finger courtesy of some high flying executive type.

He was happy for her, really he was. After all, what could a half-skin backcountry bear give her other than a clapped out old town house and free ink whenever she wanted it?

“You’re fucking enjoyin’ this,” Jeb groused as Creed wiped his skin with a little extra vigor. “Fucking sadist.”

“Yeah, yeah… you done with the sweet nothings? Or should I get Elisa in here for the pillow talk?” Creed threw back, flicking a glance up at the clock before he put needle to skin again.

“Ugh, no. I’m out of that madhouse for a while,” Jeb groused good-naturedly, but Creed could hear the affection in his words. “Just shut up and get on with it.”

Creed grunted in reply, working the details of the rose. Time passed to the steady hum of the tattoo machine and the occasional grunt from Jeb. A steady rhythm that was as familiar to Creed as it was comforting. He loved tattooing, loved to see the way skin responded to ink. A beautiful design, executed flawlessly, was as much a work of art to him as any hung on the walls of those fancy inner-city art galleries. Better, in fact, because it was a living part of the person who wore it.

The bell over the door jangled, making him look up. Because Jeb’s piece was across his back and not in a sensitive area, he hadn’t pulled across the middle door, giving him a good view of the shop. He bit back a sigh as a group of girls stumbled through the door, all giggling and laughing together. They were Lizard girls, that was for sure. The town was so off the beaten track visitors were few and far between.

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