Beary Guarded (Polar Bliss Book 2)

By: Ruby Shae

“It’s a good thing I know how to cook a bird,” he laughed.

“Please don’t go out of your way for me,” she said, all humor gone. “I can eat anything.”

She didn’t understand that from now on, everything he did was for her, but hopefully, one day she would.

“I’m not going out of my way,” he said.

“Yes, you are,” she sighed. “I’m sure you would rather have steak or burgers, and so would your friends. Please don’t worry about me.”

He’d convinced her to come the office barbecue he was throwing a week from Saturday—he’d postponed planning for a couple weeks while trying to win her over—and now they were discussing the menu. He couldn’t wait to try the peach-apple cobbler she planned to bring for dessert.

“It’s too late for that, beautiful,” he laughed.

She frowned, took a sip of her soda, and then set the drink back on the table to the left of the original condensation ring. With her finger, she traced the ring, and then pulled several drops out to create something resembling a funky, abstract sun. The distance between them seemed to grow by the second, and as much as he wanted to see her happy, he wouldn’t let her hide.

“What happened?” he asked. “Did I say something wrong?”

Once again, she met his stare with one of her own.

“I know we’re mates, but you don’t have to call me beautiful,” she said, almost inaudibly. “I know I’m not, and so does everyone else.”

“I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks,” he growled, “and neither should you. I think you’re beautiful, and I plan on letting you know everyday for the rest of our lives.”

A small smile lifted one side of her face, but when the woman from the coffee shop approached their table, it fell again. God, he hated badge bunnies that couldn’t get a clue.

“Hiya sheriff,” she said, placing her knee on the edge of his side of the booth cushion. Even though the temperature outside was below forty degrees, she wore a pair of skin-tight denim shorts, and a tight, red silk blouse that was unbuttoned half way, revealing her black lace bra. She reached into her bra, pulled out a business card, and slid it across the table.

“If you get tired of doing charity work, then give me a call,” she said, turning to leave.

No way in hell!

Riley watched the woman, but never said a word. Not that Nate expected her to. She still didn’t believe he was only interested in her. When the woman walked away, Riley averted her eyes, and he knew the reason why.

She expected him to keep the invitation.

Fuck that!

This ends now!

He grabbed the card, read the woman’s name, and got out of the booth. He’d been civil the first time, but now that she’d insulted Riley, all bets were off.

“Lorena,” he barked, his voice booming across the crowded restaurant. All chatter and movement stopped, and the only audible noise came from the multiple televisions tuned into a popular digital sports channel. He raised his hand to reveal the card stashed between his first two fingers. “You forgot something.”

“No, I didn’t,” she called back, confidently.

“Yeah, you did,” he said, walking toward her. “Would you like me to read it out loud?”

She looked around the room and suddenly understood his intention. Only her name and number were printed on the card, but he could invent anything, and when their two reputations were placed side-by-side, most people would believe the new sheriff over a vindictive gossip with a bad reputation for cheating on her husband.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” she retorted, snatching the card back.

“Good,” Nate said, turning away from her and facing the crowd. “Now that I have your attention, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Nate McCallister, the new sheriff here in Longmeadow. I moved here two weeks ago, and I did arrive single, but that quickly changed when I walked into Polar Bliss and met my beautiful date, Riley Holland. Riley and I are dating exclusively now, and I have no interest in spending time with anyone else, so please don’t ask. I am your sheriff, but I am also a man, and I won’t tolerate rude or insulting behavior toward my woman. Please think before interrupting my personal life. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Lorena stormed out into the cold, and most of the patrons applauded or hollered out their approval, and by the time he made it back to their table, everyone had casually returned to their meals.

Now he had to face Riley.

He knew she’d be embarrassed, and possibly angry for so many things—defending her, making a scene, declaring his intentions to a room full of strangers—but he stood by his actions. Lorena and the rest of the badge bunnies needed to know he was off the market for good.

He slid back into the seat across from her, and prepared himself for the worst.

Before she could say anything, the waiter returned with their food.

“Can I get you guys anything else?”

Riley smiled at the younger, redheaded male bear and Nate barely stifled the warning growl that threatened to escape. The bear was friendly, but he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and Riley seemed to like him.