But four months later, bear shifter Shea Everett finds himself with a bun in the oven! Alone, pregnant, and half-frozen in the middle of Michigan, he has no recourse but to seek out the unsuspecting father of his cub. Merry Christmas, and guess what?
Alpha Viktor Vasiliev has three grown sons and no illusions he’ll ever find true love. But he can’t forget the sweet omega he hooked up with on a business trip to California. Right before Christmas, a pregnant Shea shows up on his doorstep, having no place to go. He refuses to name the cub’s other father, but Viktor takes him in, even if it isn’t his child.
There’s more to a family than blood, though. And even uncertain beginnings can have happy endings, since Viktor is determined to be the mate and father Shea and his cub deserve.
Shea dragged his feet through ankle-deep snow. He’d long given up cursing his frozen toes. Cursing sucked the frigid air into his lungs, which in turn made him cold from the inside. Or colder.
He refused to die out here. Shea was stubborn like that, even though he’d been born an omega bear shifter. Stubbornness wasn’t a lullaby that had been sung at his cradle, but Shea had found that hidden streak inside of him in the past couple of months.
Holding out his thumb when he heard a car approach, he turned just in time to see the driver was too far over on the right side of the road. Shea jumped out of the way. He staggered over a pile of frosted snow and tumbled ass over teakettle into a ditch filled with even more snow.
Shea spat out what snow he hadn’t swallowed and rubbed the slush out of his face. Then he raised his hand and flipped off the ruthless driver.
“Damn bastard,” he muttered as he crawled out of the ditch. Knocking the snow off his wet clothes, Shea fought against the urge to cry. He wouldn’t do it. Dammit. At twenty-eight, he was way past the age for desperate bawling. And a man of six feet would look ridiculous crying by the side of the road.
Rubbing his gloved hand under his running nose—nope, not crying at all—Shea continued his walk along an icy road running through Nowhere County in the middle of Michigan.
Just a few more miles. I can do it. For us.
Shea saw another car coming from the opposite direction. Not holding out much hope for a ride after his near-death-experience, he grunted in surprise when the big red truck slowed to a stop beside him. Bundled-up Christmas trees filled the truck bed to the brim.
The window lowered, and a man who appeared to be in his forties stuck out his bushy head. “Hey there. You look frozen, kid. You need a ride somewhere?” He looked Shea up and down.
The man was driving in the wrong direction, but Shea was beyond desperate. He pointed straight ahead. “I need a ride to Hazel Woods.” Didn’t that sound picturesque and boring? Holding his breath, he waited for the man’s refusal.
The man smiled warmly and waved him over. “It’s only about ten minutes. Come on. I can’t leave you out here in this weather. You’ll freeze your balls off.”
Pushing down a relieved sob, Shea hurried to the truck and got into the passenger seat. “Thank you so much. I thought I’d die out there.” The truck smelled like artificial cinnamon and the overwhelming scent of freshly cut pines. And coffee.
“Never been in Michigan before?” The man smiled as he turned the truck. “Where are you from? By the way, I’m Hank Loman.”
“Shea Everett.” He held his gaze pinned to a little air freshener in the shape of a Christmas tree that dangled from the rearview mirror. That must be the source of the cinnamon scent. Shea loved cinnamon, and the smell made his belly growl in hungry protest. “I’m from California.”
Hank whistled. “A long way from home. What are you doing here?” He cranked up the heat.
Shea shot him a grateful smile. Tugging off his gloves and rubbing his hands, Shea tried to get rid of the nasty prickles as feeling returned to his icy fingers. “Yeah. I…I’m searching for someone.”
“In Hazel Woods?” Hank pulled his bushy brows into a frown. “I’ve grown up in that town. Know almost everybody. Who are you looking for?”
Shea had to choose his next words wisely. Hank was human. Sniffing deeply, though, Shea detected the scent of a shifter clinging to his clothes. That could be a coincidence. “Do you know the Vasiliev family?”
“Sure. That family founded Hazel Woods back in the eighteenth century.” Hank grinned. “They’re good people. Very active in the community. Generous, too.”
Shea, slowly warming up in the heat of the truck, unzipped his heavy winter coat and loosened his scarf a little. “Could you…would you drive me to their house?” Shea had to take the risk. He had nowhere to go if the Vasilievs refused to take him in.
Hank looked wary. “How do you know them?” His gaze once again traveled down Shea’s body.
Pure instinct drove Shea to place his hand over the pouch of the sweater. He’d chosen the baggy garment hoping nobody would see. There was no way Hank, a human, would know his secret.
But Hank’s eyes widened in wonder. “Holy…you’re one of them!”
Shea felt the blood drain from his face. His heart beat faster in his chest as his whole body stiffened. He pressed his back against the passenger side door.
“Hey! No, it’s okay. Don’t worry,” Hank said hurriedly. “Crap. I’m messing this up.”
Shea swallowed thickly. He was trapped in a moving car, with no chance to flee if Hank meant him harm. “How…how do you…”
“I’m mated.” Hank shot him a quick look. “My Vivian’s a bear shifter. I won’t hurt you. Promise.”
Shea’s hand remained clenched over his belly. His other hand held onto the seat belt. Could he dare trust Hank? Sniffing, he once again caught a whiff of shifter. Hank’s mate?
Hank continued to babble as though nothing was wrong. “Is that why you want to visit Alpha Vasiliev? You’re a bear, too?”
“Alpha?” Shea wasn’t proud of his squeaky voice, but…alpha? “Are you talking about Viktor Vasiliev?”