Smiley Page 103

He grinned. ’’It is.’’ He clasped her hand and led her toward the edge of the river.

Vanni peered around but didn\ spot them at first. The wide expanse of river distracted her though. Heavy trees lined the other side and the sight of unspoiled natural beauty never ceased to amaze her. It\s why she\d chosen to live at Reservation. She loved their cabin in the woods. She\d even put out bird feeders and dozens of them visited their porch every day.

Smiley paused and drew her to a halt. ’’There they are.’’ He raised his free hand and pointed.

She followed the line of his finger and caught a glimpse of something light brown moving in the tall grass. It emerged at the edge of the river and she smiled. ’’He\s so big.’’

’’That\s Gus.’’

’’I thought they\d be dark brown.’’

’’Only when their coats are wet.’’

A second one, slightly larger than the first, came out of the grass. Smiley released her hand and hugged her around her waist. He absently rubbed her slightly extended belly. It was something he did often since they\d learned she was pregnant. It hadn\ happened right away but six months of trying had accomplished it. They\d just found out four weeks before.

’’That\s Pete. He\s a lazy thing. He\s also a good hundred pounds larger. He loves to sleep.’’

’’They hibernate in the winter, right?’’

’’Yes. They just came out of it not too long ago. They are actually much bigger at the end of summer. I\m going to go say hello and let you see how friendly they are. Stay here.’’

She clutched at him. ’’Are you sure it\s safe?’’

’’They are my friends.’’ He gave her a reassuring look. ’’You trust me.’’

’’You know it.’’

She hated to let him go but he never left her for long. He\d even cut his work hours to spend more time with her. He\d become more than her lover and her mate. He was her best friend. She hugged her middle and watched him slowly approach the pair of grizzlies. They either smelled or saw him, both turning their heads.

’’Your daddy is really brave,’’ she whispered.

’’I heard that,’’ Smiley called out but he didn\ glance over his shoulder to look her way. ’’Your mother is incredibly beautiful. I\d tell him you\ e se*y but he won\ understand that term until he\s old enough to notice females.’’

Vanni smiled. ’’Just be careful.’’

’’Always.’’

She was nervous when he walked right up to the pair. One of them opened his mouth and she tensed, expecting the bear to bite him. He didn\ . He actually turned his head and she watched in amazement as Smiley reached out, roughly rubbing the top of his head. The other one swaggered closer and bumped into his side. Smiley laughed and rubbed his head too.

’’Good boys,’’ she heard him say. ’’How have you been?’’

Pride and a little awe swept through Vanni. Her mate was amazing. He turned his head and grinned at her. ’’See? They\ve really adjusted to life at Reservation and accept us. They are downright friendly.’’

She was glad they didn\ attack him.

He left the bears and returned to her side. ’’They are fine with you this close to them.’’ He locked gazes with her. ’’You know I\d never allow anything to hurt you. Your scent is all over me. I made sure of it. They like it.’’

’’Not in the I-want-to-eat-you-for-dinner way, right?’’

’’That\s how I feel.’’ He winked. ’’I like to eat you all the time.’’

She didn\ blush anymore when he said things like that. ’’I like that too.’’

The bears just stared at her from a distance but didn\ seem to mind her presence. Smiley moved to put his body between her and them. He always took a protective stance when he thought she might be in danger and she appreciated it. He\d never let anything bad happen to her. She had faith.

The bears turned away and moved closer to the river. Smiley shifted his position and stepped behind her, wrapping his arms loosely around her waist.

She relaxed against him. ’’Thank you for bringing me here and sharing this.’’

He rested his chin on top of her head. ’’I want to share everything with you, babe. Life wouldn\ have meaning without you.’’

She blinked back tears. ’’If you tell me how much you love me, I\m going to sob. Damn hormones.’’

He made that soft rumbling sound she found so se*y. ’’I\ll show you later instead. You never shed tears when I strip you naked.’’

’’I\m getting hot.’’

’’We\ll go swimming a ways down the river, away from them. There\s this little spot I know where a pool has formed in the rocks and it\s not deep. The water won\ be as cold.’’

’’I think we should skip that and just go home.’’ She turned her head and looked up at him. ’’And get na**d in our tub.’’

’’We do love water.’’ His hand around her waist inched lower, his thumb teasing the area just under the waist of her shorts. ’’And being together.’’

’’We can watch the bears later.’’

’’I\m much rather watch you.’’

’’Now I\m really getting hot.’’

He chuckled. ’’We\ll see you tomorrow, boys. My mate needs me more. It\s all about priorities. One day we\ll hopefully find females for and you\ll understand. They are everything.’’


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