The unexpected and extremely vibrant roar in his head made Travis wobble on his feet, which sent people scurrying. He couldn’t blame them. A guy his size falling over could lead to some squished body parts and possible broken bones. Something he well knew given it happened to him during his scrawnier years when trying out for football.
What he couldn’t figure out was why his bear felt a need to vocalize at all. Sure Travis was injured, hence why he walked into the emergency room of their local clinic—his second home due to his accident-prone nature. But he’d gotten hurt worse in the past.
His bear rawred again, a happy grumble that was, this time, also joined by a hunger. Not a hunger of the belly—his ma kept him too well fed for that—but of the body, as in his manparts waking up.
Hello, why the hell was he having a boner moment? He’d thought those days of uncontrollable urges done and an embarrassment he’d outgrown.
The reason for his arousal soon became clear.
Whilst his bear might have smelled her first, as soon as Travis got within a few feet of the reception desk he saw her, did a double take, and ogled.
There she stood. The woman of his dreams.
A perfect creature who made his heart race, his palms sweat, and his bear roar. It also rolled around in his head as if drunk on honey and berries, but he ignored the less-than-dignified response of his beast side because the woman of his dreams probably would frown at such an immature reaction.
See, the female he vowed in that moment to make his mate was a doctor. A hot, redheaded one. A woman older than him, he judged, but only by a few years. It added an extra layer in his instant lust for her.
A lust unrequited.
Given he was making those waiting in the reception area wince, what with his arm hanging at an awkward angle, a nurse quickly booked him in—no need to fill out forms when you were a regular—and had him perched on a bed.
It wasn’t long before the redheaded goddess arrived at his bedside, where he sat holding his crooked arm courtesy of a football game that got a little rough. Also known as a future lecture from his mother about wearing equipment for sports.
As if a grizzly would stoop to wearing protective gear.
Only pussies—the cowardly kind, not the jungle cat variety—wore helmets and padding. And for those who might not know, calling any kind of feline a pussy never ended well, or without scars. Travis even bore a healthy respect for his mother’s Siamese cats, especially since the night he woke with one perched on his chest, sucking the life from him. He let out a very undignified scream and his mother, arriving in hair curlers and brandishing a lamp, chided him, “Stop your ruckus. My baby kitty is just showing how much he likes you.”
Showing affection indeed. He made sure to check his room now before going to bed, lest his mother’s satanic pets try and steal his soul.
“What happened?” his future mate asked as she placed her clipboard on the bed and gently palpated the injured area with latex-covered fingers.
It sent a thrill through him.
“I caught the perfect pass, but Boris tackled me, and I didn’t land right. Then Kyle landed on top of Boris, and, well—”
“You got squashed and your arm cracked.”
“Yeah. But I scored.” He shot her a smile, which might have worked better if she’d meet his gaze. Even if just once.
However, she didn’t. Dr. Weller, the new doctor for the clan—whom he’d heard about through the grapevine, headed by his mother—barely paid him any notice as she splinted his broken arm so it would heal straight.
At twenty-two, fit, and with a deadly smile that ensured his mother kept him supplied with heavy-duty condoms, Travis wasn’t used to women ignoring him.
He tried conversation. “So, you’re the new doctor, eh? I hear you just moved here. Where from?”
Still no eye contact. Even Travis had to wonder at her odd bedside manner. It was almost as if she intentionally wouldn’t meet his gaze.
Maybe because she feels the sizzling connection too.
But in that case, why pretend it wasn’t there? Was it some doctor/patient thing or something worse? Like was she dating?
Only one way to find out. “Hey, I know we just met and all, but are you free for dinner tonight?”
Without raising her eyes, she replied, but completely ignored his question. “Be sure to keep the cast on for at least three days. Otherwise, if you shift the bone while it’s healing, we’ll have to break and reset it.”
He couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “I know. This isn’t the first time I’ve broken something.”
“For such a young man,” emphasis on the young, “you seem quite accident prone. You have one of the thickest files around.”
“What can I say, I’m a vigorous fellow.” And yeah, he did emphasis it and threw in a dimpled smile for devastating effect.
“Maybe you should think of enlisting. I hear the military is a good channel for boys and their extra testosterone.” This jab did result in her meeting his gaze, her brown eyes dancing with mirth, even if her expression remained serious.
The remark hit home. His lips drooped. “I’ve thought about it, actually. But my mother…” He trailed off. Need he really say more?
The whole town knew his mother. Betty-Sue, queen of the baked goods and wielder of the mighty spoon. Even the slightest mention of him going anywhere for more than a night sent her into a despondent fit.
Part of it was overprotective theatrics, he knew that, but the second part was fear. Travis had lost his dad, his mom’s true love and mate, on a simple training exercise for the military. A fluke accident that, in one stroke, took someone they both loved from their lives.
She recovered by smothering Travis, and because he not only adored his mother but also worried about losing her too, he allowed it.
Then chafed at it in his teens.
Then growled at it when he graduated and got stuck in Kodiak Point at their tiny rinky-dink excuse of a college. Campus consisted of less than thirty kids. So much for the frat boy experience.
As he’d neared graduation, he’d hinted at perhaps enlisting.
“I can’t believe you’d do this to me,” she wailed. “It’s not bad enough the military made me a widow, but now they’re going to steal my baby boy too? I’ll be”—and yes, her lip trembled and her eyes welled with giant tears—”all alone.”
Deep down, he knew she’d played him, that she overdid the drama, and yet, a part of him recognized he could meet his father’s fate. While he could accept that risk, he knew it would utterly destroy his mother.
She might seem strong to those who’d crossed the bad side of her spoon, but Travis knew better. Ma needed him.
However, Travis couldn’t tell Dr. Weller—the hottest thing he’d met in Kodiak Point since the time Boris convinced him to try his three alarm chili—his reasons for not joining though. He’d learned enough from the men he admired, Boris, Brody, Reid, and the town flirt, Kyle, to know he’d lose any chance at ever becoming a part of their manclub if he admitted to such a weakness.
His attempts at more idle chitchat with the doctor failed. Arm set in a cast with instructions to take it easy for a few days, she sent him on his way.
But he went back, kind of regularly as a matter of fact. Funny how he couldn’t go a few weeks, sometimes days, without busting something. Of course, it wasn’t exactly clumsiness but more his mouthiness that got him in trouble.
However, no matter how often he ran into Doctor Weller, the woman he was obsessed with but who wouldn’t give him the time of day, he never received the slightest encouragement. On the contrary, after a while, it was almost as if she actively avoided him, leaving him to the less-than-tender care of her nursing staff, who didn’t make his bear rumble in excitement or his heart pitter-patter.
Travis knew he should give up on Dr. Jess, especially once he found out she was already married to a military fellow serving overseas, but instead, the longer her hubby stayed away, the more he was convinced he and Jess were meant to be together.
He just didn’t tell his mother. She would have beaten him with her spoon for sure if for one moment she suspected her baby boy was pining to leave her for another woman.