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Cherished (Gem Creek Bears Book 8)

Cherished (Gem Creek Bears Book 8)

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Click To Read The Synopsis

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you.

Liam Orsin wants one thing this Thanksgiving—for it to be the best one his mate has ever had. In fact, he and his bear have made it their mission. All seems to be going well until a small pack of coyotes start lurking around the campground.

Their presence was hindrance enough, but then a familiar face is spotted among them.

Someone has come back and maintaining the safety of his clan, and his mate, shifts front and center in Liam’s mind. Suddenly, surviving the holiday without any casualties seems most important.

Click To Read Chapter One

Wisps of smoke curled into the chilly night air. I took a sip of my beer and allowed my gaze to drift upward. The stars were visible, making me feel small yet content all at once. A certain level of peace and comfort always settled over me when I paused to look at them. The fire popped, drawing my attention back to the present moment. A gentle breeze blew, rustling the leaves still clinging to the nearly skeletal branches of the trees. It was almost as though they were hanging on for dear life, resisting their descent into the rapidly approaching winter as much as possible. I understood this, and so did my bear. 

Winter temperatures made us crabby.

The backdoor to the cabin opened, and Tris stepped out.

“I can’t believe Thanksgiving is three days away,” she said, situating herself in the chair beside me again. 

We’d been sitting on our back deck, having a couple of drinks after dinner. I’d started a fire because Tris was cold, even with her hoodie and blanket.

“I know,” I said, smiling.

Tris handed me her hard apple cider, wanting me to open it for her. I did with a single twist of my palm before handing it back to her. 

“Thanks,” she said. “You know, this used to be my least favorite holiday.”

“Why?” I asked, legitimately wondering because it had always been my favorite. What was there not to like? There was plenty of food, dessert, and time with those you cared for. 

It was a shoo-in in my book.

Tris draped the soft, fuzzy blanket she’d brought outside with her earlier over her legs and took a sip from her drink. I didn’t know where the blankets continued to come from, but ever since she’d moved in, there seemed to be one everywhere I looked. It was like a magical never-ending supply. 

“My mom sucked at cooking, so we never had Thanksgiving dinner. Not a true one, anyway. We always ate at a restaurant or at her current boyfriend’s parents’ place if he invited us.” Her lip curled slightly, as though she found the memories pathetic or disgusting. “I’ve never had the Thanksgiving you see on TV. I’ve always wanted to experience one, though.” 

My heart ached for her, and my bear twitched with sympathy. He hated she’d never experienced what we had. He wanted the same thing I did for Tris—nothing but the best of everything. 

Thanksgiving had always been filled with warmth, happiness, and family for me. It was something I’d been excited for, like always, because of those things. However, I’d somehow forgotten Tris’s upbringing. 

“You’ll have it this year,” I told her with full conviction. I’d make sure it was the best Thanksgiving she’d ever had—one she’d always remember.

Tris smiled, mischief glittering in her beautiful eyes. “Is that so? Are you planning on seeing to it?”

“I am. Like I’ve said before, Thanksgiving is an Orsin tradition. We go all out.” I took another swig from my beer, my eyes never wavering from hers. “It was my mom’s favorite holiday.”

The smirk fell from Tris’s lips, and her face softened. “Oh. Did she like to cook?”

“Not really. It was a survival skill at best, definitely not something she did for fun. My dad was the one who enjoyed cooking. That’s where Nash gets it from. He was always helping Dad grill and smoke things.”

“I can relate to your mom. Cooking isn’t something I’d ever do for fun either. And enjoying a holiday is easier when you don’t have to do any of the work.” She grinned.

“My mom still cooked on Thanksgiving. We all did. There was something each of us was responsible for making. Dad made the turkeys. He always spent hours smoking them. I made the mashed potatoes. Nash made the stuffing. Rhett made the sweet potato casserole. And Rafe always made the green bean casserole. Mom was responsible for the rolls and gravy. The two easiest things on the menu.” I chuckled, remembering.

“And dessert? Who made that?” Tris asked, sipping from her drink.

My smile faded, and I swallowed hard. “Dottie. She brought a pumpkin pie from the diner for us and made her famous blueberry cobbler each year.”

I took another swig from my beer, hoping to wash down the lump that had formed in my throat. It was still hard to believe Dottie was gone. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without her. She was like a second mom to everyone in the clan, especially to my brothers and me. 

Her absence was felt greatly.

Tris touched my arm. Her fingers were like ice, but the sensation of her touch still settled my emotions and helped to calm my bear. He was as distraught over the loss of Dottie as I was.

“I miss her too,” Tris whispered.

Silence built between us as each of us became lost in our thoughts. Another chilly breeze kicked up, causing Tris to shiver. She pulled her blanket up over her shoulders, and I took it as a cue to add another log to the fire.

“Has the weather changed? Are we still supposed to get snow?” Tris asked.

“Two to three inches over the weekend.” I tossed her a smirk. “Still excited?”

“Heck yeah! The first snow of the year is always exciting. It’s like magic.” Her eyes glowed as she spoke, making her excitement almost contagious.


“I wish I thought of snow as magical,” I said, situating myself back in the chair after adding the log to the fire. It popped and crackled, sending more warmth out but also embers into the night air. “I think it’s depressing, actually.”

“Um. Rain is depressing. Not snow,” Tris balked.

I shook my head. “Think about it—it only snows when it’s cold enough for frozen water to fall from the sky. That’s depressing.”

Tris shoved me playfully. “You’re impossible. I’ve never met a person so negative about snow.”

“In my defense, it’s my bear who really hates snow. Most bears dislike it, actually. You’ll see. Our bears tend to get crabby during the winter months. Sometimes that trickles over into our human side.”

“Mine doesn’t seem to mind it.”

Yet, I wanted to say, but I didn’t. She’d merely thought of snow; she hadn’t actually been in it yet. She’d have to wait and see how her bear reacted to it then.

“Anyway… back to Thanksgiving talk. I think we should have two,” she said, surprising me.

“Two what?” I asked.

“Two Thanksgivings.” 

It wasn’t the worst idea I’d ever heard. 

“Hear me out,” she said before I could speak, as though I’d shot her idea down. “You know how me and the girls have been watching reruns of Friends on Friday nights?”

I nodded, because how could I forget? The cabin had been taken over every Friday night for a month now. 

“Well, they hosted Friendsgiving during last week’s binge, and I think it would be fun to host our own.” She took a sip from her drink.

“Who are you thinking of inviting?” I asked, knowing we’d already invited the entire clan for Thanksgiving dinner. 

“Some from the shifter groups we’ve met recently.” She flashed me a wide grin.

I arched a brow. “Like?”

“Maybe Gemma and Soren? Brynn?” Her eyes locked with mine. She was gauging my reaction, but I kept my expression neutral, giving nothing away. “It’s been a while since we’ve heard from them, and I’d like to make sure they’re all doing okay. I was thinking of inviting Kai and Nina, too. They helped us so much while we were in the swamp. What do you think?”

I cracked a grin. “I’ll make a few phone calls and see if they can come.”

“Really? You’re okay with hosting a Friendsgiving and inviting other shifters here to the campground?”

My bear grumbled. While I was okay with it, he wasn’t fully on board. I attributed it to him being crabby about the cold weather and not wanting to be around others. He’d be fine, though. I’d rein him in if needed because it was clear this was something Tris wanted to happen. Maybe this was a way to make this the most memorable Thanksgiving she’d had yet. 

Somehow this seemed to become my goal.

“Sure,” I said with a shrug. 

Tris leaned in and kissed me, her soft lips brushing against mine. I snaked my tongue inside her mouth, needing to deepen the kiss. Her fingers raked through my hair as she allowed me to explore her mouth. God, I loved her. The way she smelled. The way she tasted. The way she kissed.

I was a lucky man.

Tris broke our kiss. “Let’s take this inside,” she whispered in a husky tone that did things to me.

“After you.” I grinned, leaning in to skim my lips over hers once more. She made a noise and then gathered her blanket in her arms and stood, gripping her drink in her opposite hand. I loved the look she gave me as she walked past me, heading inside the cabin. I took another swig from my beer and followed her. She paused inside the door and spun around, nearly knocking my beer from my hand and causing me to bump into her.

“Sorry.” She laughed. “I forgot my phone.” 

“I’ll get it.”

“Thanks.” She lifted to the tips of her toes and placed a gentle kiss to my lips before flashing me a saucy look. “I’ll be waiting.”

This woman. She was sexy as hell. Loyal. Compassionate. She was the total package, and I was so damn thankful that she was mine. 

I walked to her chair and spotted her cell in the seat. I picked it up and shoved it into my back pocket. Another cool breeze blew, sending sparks flying from the fire. I grabbed the bucket of water beside the fire pit and doused the flames until the fire was completely out. As I did, a prickly sensation along the back of my neck captured my attention and I froze. My bear grew just as alert. 

I scanned the woods that lined the backyard, searching for the source of the unwanted sensation. I didn’t see anyone, but I could feel someone’s eyes on me. I stood to my full height, my body tense and my bear poised and ready. Another gust of wind blew. I sniffed, hoping to gain a clue as to who was watching me. 

The wind was clean. 

Whoever it was, they were standing downwind, or they’d moved on. I shook my thoughts away and headed inside to Tris, ready to pick up where we’d left off.

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you.

Liam Orsin wants one thing this Thanksgiving—for it to be the best one his mate has ever had. In fact, he and his bear have made it their mission. All seems to be going well until a small pack of coyotes start lurking around the campground.

Main Tropes

  • Holiday
  • Bear Shifters
  • Small Town

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