Beary Guarded (Polar Bliss Book 2)By: Ruby Shae
Riley Holland jolted awake, sat up, and swung her legs over the edge of the bed to catch her breath. She gathered her long, black hair in one hand, lifted the damp locks off the back of her neck and focused on breathing in and out. A thin layer of moisture covered her whole body, and though it was snowing outside, she felt overdressed in the pink tank top and matching pajama shorts she’d worn to bed.
She’d started the night tucked under two blankets, and both were on the floor piled next to her pillow and the box of tissues she kept on her nightstand. After breaking one lamp, two alarm clocks, and cracking three containers of lotion—not to mention making enough noise to wake her brothers—she’d learned her lesson. Only light-weight non-breakables were allowed on the table next to her bed.
When her breathing was under control, she swallowed to try and soothe her aching throat, but it didn’t work. The mild ache turned into a scorching hot flame, and she subconsciously touched the long scar on her face. The wound was healed, confirming she was alive and safe, but it would always be a link to her past she couldn’t escape.
Just like the dreams.
They didn’t come as often as they used to, but when they did come, she relived the pain of that night as vividly as she had the first time. Unfortunately, the fact that he couldn’t hurt her again never surfaced in her dreams, and she had to wake in order to free herself from the nightmare she’d endured three years ago.
In reality she was free, but she still couldn’t get the nightmares to end.
She sighed and padded across the room in search of a scrunchie for her hair. Once the thick mass was secured in a loose, haphazard bun, she exited her bedroom en route to the kitchen.
She found her oldest brother, Ryker, sitting at the table waiting for her, and a bottle of water and a short glass rested on the worn wood in front of him.
She’d woken him again.
“Bad dream?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said, sitting across from him.
“It’s been awhile,” he said. “Everything okay?”
She smiled, and poured half of the bottle of water into the glass.
Her parents were killed in a hunting accident thirteen years ago, and Ryker had used his inheritance to open Polar Bliss, her family’s coffee house, and then he’d fought for custody of his three younger siblings, herself included. He’d only been eighteen years old, barely an adult himself, and yet he’d eagerly taken on the responsibility of raising three teenagers so his family could stay together. He’d been her guardian for nearly thirteen years, and she’d only managed to hide from him once.
Fortunately, it hadn’t been for long.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “It was the same old thing.”
“It’s been three years,” he said. “Maybe you should try dating again. Once you see that--”
“I know,” she said, shaking her head, “but I just can’t.”
Ryker had reminded her, many times, that her ex didn’t represent most men. Hell, if she were honest, she’d known that in the beginning. Her brothers were proof of that, and so were a majority of the men in the world, but the truth, or the fact that she’d been duped, didn’t make it easier to accept.
She didn’t need a man to be happy, and more importantly, she didn’t want one. She did, however, need to take control of her life.
“But, I’ve been thinking about moving out.”
“Why?” he asked, taking a drink from her water bottle.
“I’m twenty-five years old,” she said. “One day you and Ridge are going to find mates, and I can’t live with you forever. I need to be able to take care of myself.”
The house had been paid off before her parent’s accident, and except for Reid, they all still lived under the same roof. They hadn’t discussed the future, but she’d always thought Ryker would keep the house, and they’d all have their own places by now. She had a feeling once she left, Ridge would leave, too.
“This will always be your home, and you’ll always be welcome here,” Ryker said. “But if you think you’re ready, then I think moving out is a step in the right direction.”
“I’m also thinking about getting a dog.”
“Then you’re definitely moving out,” Ryker laughed. “It needs some work, but the apartment over Polar Bliss is a good place to start.”
Almost all of the businesses in Longmeadow had apartments built into the second floor, and Polar Bliss was no exception. She’d only been up there a couple of times since Ryker bought the building, but it had both a working kitchen and a bathroom, along with a decent sized living space and a separate bedroom. It would be perfect for her after a fresh coat of paint.
“Ridge doesn’t want to live there?”
“No, he’s got his eye on a little house by the lake.”
She shouldn’t be too surprised, especially considering how much time he and his best friend, Jane, spent at the lake, but that was the problem. She’d never imagined him sharing their spot with anyone else.