Gray Back Alpha Bear

By: T. S. Joyce
Chapter One

Gia Cromwell’s life had been ruined by a werebear.

And not just any werebear, but the dominant, hot as hell, irritatingly detached alpha of the notoriously reclusive Gray Back Crew.

“I can’t believe I’m back here,” she murmured as she spied the sign that read Grayland Mobile Park. The words were carved neatly into a long piece of rough lumber that was hung high above the chalky gravel road that was currently layering her black Mercedes with travel grit.

Peanut Butter yipped from the front seat, and she took her hand off the wheel long enough to pat the little brown and white pouf of long, luxurious fur his groomer had pulled into a pink rubber band on the top of his head. Her life had gone to shit, but at least her dog, Peanut Butter, still loved her.

Creed was going to freak out, and she couldn’t blame him. Hell, she was freaking out, which was why she was here. That, and she had nowhere else to go.

A wave of uncertainty doubled her over the wheel as she pulled to a stop in front of a semi-circle of trailer homes. She was in a real-life trailer park, in the middle of the wilderness, searching for a man she’d bucket-list diddled almost half a year ago.

She inhaled deeply and stared at the ghost town before her. Maybe the Gray Backs weren’t home. Good. She threw her car into reverse and prepared to bail. She could do this another time.

“Gia?” a woman’s voice echoed.

Gia slammed on the brake and lurched to a stop. She’d know that voice anywhere. Dread blasted through her, making it impossible to draw a full breath as she turned to look at her childhood best friend. What the hell was Willa doing here?

She couldn’t leave now without some sort of explanation.

Stalling, she parked the car and pulled an oversize sweater from the back seat, then pulled it over her too-tight T-shirt. She wrestled Peanut Butter into the purse carrier on the floorboard, and then kicked the car door open with her high-heeled boot.

The October air snapped against her forearms where the loose knitting of the baggy sweater allowed the weather in. Gia was from a small town, with plenty of beautiful country, but Mom had hounded her that to protect her skin from wrinkles, she needed to stay indoors. Here, the smell of pine was overwhelming.

She unfolded her long legs, which were stiff after the long drive up into the Wyoming mountains. “Hi.” Yep, this was awkward. Her last encounter with Willa at Bear Trap Falls still haunted her.

Willa stood beside the car, arms crossed over her tiny boobs, bright red dyed hair pulled back in spiky pigtails, and honey brown eyes narrowed suspiciously. Did her black sweater read Worms Rule in bright pink letters? Probably. That was Willa.

“What are you doing here, Gia? And don’t tell me it’s to apologize. From the look on your face, you didn’t know I was living here.”

“Living here? I thought you were just lying low around Minden since the road trip. I saw your dad at the grocery store just last week, and he said you were doing fine.” Why wouldn’t he have mentioned his daughter moved all the way out to BFE? Willa was all he had left. Instead, he’d smiled vacantly and talked about how proud he was of his daughter for blazing her own path in life.

Willa pursed her lips like Gia wouldn’t get any answers from her.

Scrunching up her nose and readjusting Peanut Butter’s soft carrier on her hip, Gia asked, “Is Creed around?”

Willa’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, and her eyes drifted to Gia’s carefully concealed stomach. “What do you want with him?” Oh, Willa was a smart one. Always had been.

Tears stung Gia’s eyes as another wave of remorse washed over her. “I think you know.”

Willa’s small shoulders lifted and fell in a long sigh. She still had her arms crossed over her like a shield, but her eyes softened. She only hesitated another few seconds before she stepped forward and pulled Gia into a hug.

Damn, it felt good. It was exactly what she’d needed. So far, no one in her life had realized she craved for someone, anyone, to tell her everything was going to be okay. And somehow Willa, the one who had the most right to hate her, was giving her the exact thing even her parents had withheld. “Oh, Gia. What have you gotten yourself into?”

Gia relaxed against Willa, hugging her back, and allowed one tear. One tear, and she would button up this emotional roller coaster. She’d messed up. It was her mistake and no one else’s, and she was going to handle this like the grown-ass woman she was. No more crying. She just needed to figure out what to do next.

“Come on, girl,” Willa murmured. “You look like you could use a jug of moonshine, but since fetuses can’t drink that shit, you’ll have to settle for lemonade instead.” Willa snorted and shook her head as she led her to the clean, shingled trailer on the end. “You sure picked the wrong crew to diddle your way into.”