Cherished by a Bear (Mate Me book 5)

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Rob came home from work around eight. It had been another long day. Setting up his business had been easy, what he hadn’t expected was the amount of work he’d been slammed with. He rarely spent more than an hour a day during the week with Adam. It made him feel guilty leaving him with Ellie all the time.

“Hi Rob,” Ellie called when she came down the stairs from putting Ava to bed.

“Hi Ellie, where’s Adam?” he asked, slipping off his shoes and tucking them in the basket Ellie kept by the front door.

“In his room sulking,” she answered, and he raised an eyebrow.

“I noticed today he didn’t come home from swim class until almost one. I know you drop him off at nine and the class is an hour. Which means he should be home by eleven. I asked where he was and he yelled at me telling me to mind my own business. Well, Marcus heard him and roared,” Ellie explained, heating his dinner in the microwave.

“I’m sorry, Ellie. I’ve been thinking of taking a week off soon to take Adam to see my parents. He’s been moody lately and I know it’s because I am not around. I thought he might make friends at swim class. He’s always been wary of pools. That’s how his mom died. She was high and gell in hitting her head and drowned,” she shared.

“Do you know if he is even going to class?” Ellie asked Rob stopped a forkful of pork chop to his mouth.

“Why?” He knew Ellie well enough to know she had an idea.

“Because when I emptied his swim bag, I found this,” she said, handing him a folded paper. He opened it to find an application for a White Valley public library card. Highlighted was the parent signature line. The librarian Myra Juleston had already signed it.

“Maybe he went after swim class. The library is next to the rec center,” he suggested.

“I suppose,” she replied, and he knew she didn’t agree.

“I’ll talk to him,” he said, shoveling in his dinner then cleaning his plate in record time. Adam had always been a quiet child, but since their move, he’d been even more withdrawn. Sighing, he made his way to Adam’s room. They needed to move out of Marcus’ home, they’d been here a year. Ellie was a godsend.. She’d taken Adam with her to and from school. It was time for him to find a home or contact Preston Reese about building one. He’d heard from Marcus, Preston was building an addition to Georgia and Jordan Howard’s home.

“Adam,” he called, knocking on the door.

“What?” Adam growled. Rob was taken aback at his tone.

“Try again,” he demanded in a deadly soft tone. His son had never spoken to him like that before.

“Yes, Dad?” Adam replied, opening the door. Adam looked exactly like him as a child and was already tall for his age.

“Can we talk about today?” he asked, crossing his arms and looking down at him.

“I apologized to Aunt Ellie already.” Rob watched his son deflate and sighed.

“It’s not just about Aunt Ellie,” he replied and saw a flash of fear go through Adam’s eyes.

“It isn’t?” Adam asked and Rob shook his head.

“Can I come in and we talk in private?” Adam nodded and moved to sit on his bed. Rob closed the door and lowered himself into the desk chair.

“Were you at the public library today?” Rob decided to start with the obvious.

“Yes. I went after swim class,” Adam replied, and Rob could smell the partial lie in his words.

“Which part are you lying about?” he asked, crossing his arms and staring his son down.

“I don’t go to swim class. I don’t like the instructor. He is mean,” Adam admitted. Rob sensed there was more but couldn’t detect a lie in his words.

“What about him don’t you like?” Rob asked, trying to stay calm.

“He yelled at me the first time I wouldn’t get in the pool. After that, I’ve been going to read at the library. It is quiet and no one bothers me. Miss Myra gave me a library card form. Can I get one?” Adam gave him a hopeful look and Rob sighed.

“Okay. Are there any programs at the library? Maybe you can spend some time there. I know it can get loud here with all the babies.” Rob watched Adam’s eyes light up.

“Yes! I can ask Miss Myra. I told her I would come Friday, and we’d read Harry Potter together,” Adam told him. It surprised him, Adam’s excitement. When he was Adam’s age he hated being inside and would avoid reading any chance he could get.

“Who is Miss Myra?”

“She is a super cool librarian/ She helped me read Harry Potter. We ate lunch in the park,” Adam explained, and Rob growled.

“You don’t know this woman. There will be no more park trips! The only interaction you should have with her is in the library. Do you know how dangerous it is to be with an unknown adult?” he demanded.

“She isn’t unknown! I like her. She didn’t yell at me for not going swimming. You moved me away from everyone and I can’t make any friends. All the kids at school call me weird. Miss Myra doesn’t care that I’m a bear,” Adam shouted.

“I thought moving would help bud.” Rob deflated, he didn’t like Adam being with a strange woman.

“What if we went together to the library, and I meet Miss Myra?” Rob asked.

“Fine, but moving here was the worst. I miss Grandma and Grandpa.” Adam started to cry, Rob pulled his son into his arms.

“I’m sorry bud. I moved us here to help my bear,” he explained. Adam’s sobbing broke his heart.

“What’s wrong with your bear?” Adam asked once he’d calmed down.

“It is sad seeing your uncles finding their mates. Uncle Marcus and Aunt Ellie met here. They suggested White Valley might be the place. That’s why I go to Mrs. Josie’s parties,” Rob explained.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Adam asked and Rob paused.

“I hadn’t thought to. I thought I’d find my mate sooner than now,” he shared.

“Miss Myra is your mate. She makes me happy,” Adam declared, and Rob laughed.

“How do you know?” he asked, ruffling Adam’s hair.

“Because she is awesome,” Adam answered with a watery smile.

“Okay, bud. I’m thinking of taking off a week once I finish my current project. We can go visit Grandma and Grandpa,” Rob offered.

“Yes! I miss them a lot.” Adam gave him a hug.

“Me too. Tomorrow on my lunch I’ll try to go to the library and check out the programs they have,” Rob promised.

“And meet Miss Myra. I want to see her and read Harry Potter. Oh! Mrs. Georgia is sharing her new book tomorrow at three. Can I go?” Adam gave him a hopeful smile.

“I’ll ask Aunt Ellie. You need an adult because she is very popular,” Rob explained, and Adam nodded.

“Good. Now off to bed,” Rob ordered and gave him a pat on the back.

“Can we read for twenty minutes?” Adam begged, pulling out one of his favorite graphic novels. Rob felt tired and honestly wanted to go to bed, but with one look in Adam’s eyes, he knew he’d read with him.

“Okay, get in bed,” he said and Adam gave a cheer diving under the covers.

“Before we read, how would you feel about finding a house of our own? Not an apartment like in Texas, but a house with a backyard?” he asked, opening the book to page one and leaning back in the chair.

“Yes! You have to sit in bed with me. I can’t see the pictures,” Adam informed him. Rob was taken aback, Adam hadn’t wanted to snuggle in a long time. Not one to pass up an opportunity, he moved over to the bed. Adam fell fast asleep in twenty minutes and Rob took a few extra minutes to watch his son. He thought about Adam’s rough start to life. Rob hadn’t known about Rob for the first three months of his life. Clarisse had been a drunken one-night stand, and the two didn’t date afterward. A state official contacted him to let him know Child Protective Services had taken away Adam after they had arrested Clarisse on drug possession. She gave them his name as Adam’s biological father. After a paternity test, they gave him custody of Adam. When Adam was six his mother died and Rob became his only parent. Rob’s parents helped as best they could until his web design business took off. In his thirty-two years, he would finally have enough to afford his own home. It was a liberating feeling. Carefully, he climbed out of bed and left Adam to sleep peacefully.

“Hey man,” Marcus whispered coming out of Ava’s room.

“She okay?” he asked, nodding at Ava’s door.

“Dirty diaper,” Marcus answered.

“Been there. Hey, I want to thank you and Ellie,” he began.

“For what?” Marcus walked back down the hall toward his room.

“For putting up with Adam and me. I talked to him and we’re going to find a house. It is way past the time we stop intruding. You have a new family and we should let you enjoy it,” Rob explained, he saw the look of understanding in Marcus’ eyes.

“Let me know how I can help,” he replied and Rob nodded. The two parted ways into their own rooms for the night. Rob stayed up for another hour researching homes for sale. He didn’t want to wait for a home to be built.

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