Bear with Me

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7. Family

CALLUM

The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled my cabin as I finished fixing myself a late breakfast of fried eggs, bacon and toast. It was a beautiful sunny day outside, so I poured myself a generous cup of the dark brew, grabbed my full plate and headed out to the veranda to enjoy my food and the weather.

The Alpha’s cabin was at the top of the hill, overseeing all the other log cabins that were nestled between the giant redwood tree and that formed the Highland Sleuth. Bears in the wild preferred the solitary life but bear shifters thrived living together, just like many other shifters.

Our hierarchy was much simpler though- there was the Alpha, leading the sleuth, and his Beta, who was usually his right-hand man. Unlike many other shifter kinds, for bears, the Alpha position was not passed from an Alpha to the heir. No, for us, it was something that every Alpha had to legitimately win by facing off other contenders- men and women- just like I had when my predecessor had to step down.

The first year that I took over the sleuth was not easy- I had to prove to my bears my worth as the Alpha, even if I had won the title fair and square. With time, the sleuth learnt to trust me and I, in turn, gave my everything to ensure that we thrived and prospered. The wood construction business that we ran expanded three-folds in just a few years under my leadership and all the bears were content with how our sleuth was doing.

Yet Jack’s comments from the previous days put me at unease- it was not that I was attached to the position but I was not happy with anyone doubting my ability to lead because someone was spreading false rumours that I was not deemed worthy enough by the Sun Goddess to have a mate.

I dug into my food, although I was practically stabbing it with my fork, thanks to my annoyance. The flavours burst into my mouth until I washed them down with a sip of coffee. Caffeine didn’t really work on shifters but a nice cup of coffee was still refreshing.

Everyone in the sleuth was busy, running around with various errands, but I enjoyed taking a moment to appreciate the rhythm. I took another bite of my food when I spotted Fergus and his mother, Catriona, approach.

Catriona was one of the female elders of the sleuth and a mother figure to many of us, including myself. She became my mentor and one of my most trusted advisers when I took over as Alpha. But even long before that, it was Catriona who raised me and filled the void that was left from never knowing the family that had abandoned me at the doorstep of the sleuth when I was a baby- a fact that Fergus was never too pleased about.

“Callum, my dear, I am happy to see you are taking the time to feed yourself,” she exclaimed from a distance, pulling me in for a hug when she reached me. “I keep on telling you, son- you need to find a mate to take care of you finally.”

Without meaning to, I found myself noticing as Fergus rolled his eyes, huffing and puffing over the fact that his mother was fretting over me.

“Callum,” he muttered politely, not saying more than he had to.

“Fergus.”

The two of us never had the best relationship but it certainly felt like things had become a lot tenser ever since I became Alpha. The pride that Catriona took in my leadership of the sleuth seemed to rub Fergus the wrong way, the way it did when a child thought that his mother preferred his brother. Still, we always remained civil for her sake. I treasured her guidance and support too much to upset her with a silly spat between her son and me, forcing her to pick sides.

“Look at this place,” Catriona continued, rearranging things inside my cabin as she spoke.”It really needs the touch of a woman. And your bear needs its mate, dear boy. You can’t stay a bachelor forever.”

When she smiled at me, the softness in her gaze reminded me how her presence also soothed me and my anxieties as I was growing up. She taught me how to be an exemplary bear and a valuable member of the pack, instilling the notion of responsibilities and tradition in the lost boy that she took in, and I was forever grateful for that, even if sometimes she had a bit of old-fashioned thinking on things, such as my love life.

I chuckled when I saw her head for my kitchen, ready to check out whether I had enough food to eat, without a doubt.

“Catriona, stop worrying and come enjoy a nice cup of coffee with me.” I waved her over, and for once, she listened to me.

Fergus certainly didn’t need an invitation- he grabbed one of the chairs on the veranda and sat on the opposite end of the table.

“You seem different, Callum.” I felt two eyes study me intently as she tried to figure out the change in me. “Lighter. Happier. What are you not telling me, dear boy?”

Ah, she knew me so well. I should have known that there was no chance that I could have hidden my news from her. Not that I wanted to hide it from her. Or from anyone for that matter- hell, I wanted to scream from the top of the hill that the most amazing firecracker was my mate. But first, I needed to get Scarlett also to see that this was something spectacular.

“I found my mate, Catty. A remarkable woman that the Sun Goddess picked for me.”

If Fergus weren’t sitting, he would have certainly passed out from his surprise. The audible gasp he let out and the chair nearly flipping backwards gave away that this was not a development that he had expected- yet another thing that I had beaten him to, even if he was a bit younger than me and I was considered too old for finding a mate. Catriona, on the other hand, beamed with contentment.

Without wasting any time, she rushed over to me and wrapped her arms around me, enveloping me with her happiness.

“Oh, Callum, that’s so wonderful. Isn’t it, Fergus?” Her eyes shifted over to her son, who averted her gaze.

“Yes...Splendid,” he muttered before he got up and nodded at both of us. “If you’ll excuse me, I forgot I had some things to take care of. See you home, mum. Alpha.” And without uttering anything else, he was gone.

Catty gave me an awkward smile, acknowledging that things between Fergus and me were not as one would have hoped. I couldn’t help but wrap my arms around her as well, embracing her.

“Don’t mind him. I am sure he is happy deep down—enough about Fergus. Tell me about this mate of yours. What is she like? When can I meet her?” The words were coming out of her mouth at such a rate that she was left breathless when she finally paused. Her eyes twinkled in a way that I had not seen in a while.

The excitement she exuded was contagious and slightly overwhelming, like she had been waiting for this moment for a long time.

“Easy there, Catty- wouldn’t want you to scare her away with your eagerness. The girl might think that I had no other options.” My laughter echoed in the air as she slapped my shoulder gently, scolding me.

“Don’t be silly, boy. Any she-bear will know that she is lucky to call herself your mate. So many would be willing to give up everything to be in her position. And not to mention that you are an amazing young man.”

There it was- the elephant in the room. I couldn’t care less that Scarlett was human but some of my bears were definitely not going to be pleased about it. I only hoped that Catriona would remain happy for me and this was probably as good a time as any to tell her everything.

“It’s funny you say that,” I took a deep breath,” because she is not actually a bear.”

Her eyes widened in surprise before her brows furrowed. Her expression turned to one of confusion while she paced up and down the veranda.

“I don’t get what you mean, son- bears are always mated to bears. Is she a wolf?” I shook my head.

“A fox?”

Another shake from my side. The guessing game was a fun way to mess with Jack the day before but with Catriona, every guess made me tenser as I waited to reveal the truth.

“A dragon?” She asked at a loss.

I shook my head a final time, finally giving her the answer. “She is human, actually.”

Catriona’s head snapped in my direction the second that I revealed Flame was not a shifter like us. Her pressed lips and tense jaw were a definite sign that she was not thrilled about it. A million scenarios played out in my head as I readied myself for her verbal reaction. Sure, I was the Alpha, so it was my word that counted, and the Sun Goddess herself had picked Flame to be my mate but I was still hoping to have the blessing of the closest person to a mother in my life.

“A human…” Her voice trailed off as she repeated what I had just shared. “That’s….unexpected.”

I tensed further at the seeming disapproval from her side but then I caught her gaze as she looked into my eyes. My disappointment must have been written on my face because Catriona’s expression softened all of sudden, just like it did whenever she wanted to comfort me as a kid.

“As long as you are happy, my dear, that’s all that matters. Now, let me make you some lunch for later,” she said and disappeared back into my cabin with a quick step.

I looked back down at the bustling sleuth as I stayed on the veranda. Catty’s words eased me in a way that I didn’t even know I needed but I was not quite happy yet because my mate was not by my side. I knew it was only a matter of time though- I just needed to persuade Flame to give me and our bond a chance.

How hard could that possibly be?

************

I think that he is in for a surprise there 🤔

And poor Callum- I can't believe that his parents abandoned him as a baby. 🥺😭 What do you think about Fergus and Catriona?

I'm sorry that the chapter is a bit late lovelies- my LO woke up as I was editing it and, in my efforts to put him to sleep again, I ended up falling asleep myself 🙈🙈

Hope you are ready for Tuesday when we will be getting more Callum and Scarlett antics. Here is a sneak peek 😉

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that you are unhappy to see me, Flame.” He searched my eyes but I was not going to give him the satisfaction of establishing eye contact.


Nope. No way.


Instead, I rolled my eyes as far back as I could.


“What makes you think it’s not the case?”


“Well, for starters,” he muttered as he leaned close to me, “your whole body seems to hum the closer I get.”

See you on Tuesday,
Iveto xx

P.s. Forgot to mention my inspirations for Fergus (inspired by Stian Bjornes) and Catriona (inspired by actress Ellen Burstyn). I'll post their pics on my Inkitt profile in a bit 😊

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