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Claimed (Gem Creek Bears Book 3)

Claimed (Gem Creek Bears Book 3)

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Click To Read The Synopsis

Sometimes strength blooms from darkness.

Tris Abbott’s life has come full circle. She’s back in the clutches of the coyote shifters. The difference is this time they know for certain she has what they want—Mystic magic. Even so, Tris isn’t willing to help them.

However, her stubborn streak might be her undoing.

After the unexpected happens, Tris is forced to look at things in an all-new light. One where safety lies in agreeing to something she never thought she would—obtaining a bear.

Click To Read Chapter One

I was in hell. Fate, the universe, God, whatever you preferred, had abandoned me. One would think this thought would’ve come as Ezra wrapped his arms around my middle and slung me to the floor of the loft back at the old sawmill, but it didn’t. Instead, it came as I sat sandwiched between Ezra and Jessica in Marshall’s old pickup. Jessica sang TLC’s Waterfalls in her high-pitched voice while we continued toward the shitty farmhouse they lived in. She knew every word, even the rap verse. I would have been impressed if her voice didn’t remind me of nails on a chalkboard. If I survived this, I was positive that her rendition of the song—and the handful of other 90s classics on her playlist—would be all I’d hear whenever one played. 

What if I didn’t survive this, though? 

My heart thumped hard and fast, my mind spiraling with the possibility of the thought being true. 

How many times could I escape this pack? How many times could I survive them?

I knew the odds were stacked against me this time. Liam was badly hurt. Rafe and Cato, too. I hadn’t even seen Billie when they’d shoved me in the truck, which couldn’t be a good sign. Penny had been injured, but she was also human, which meant I didn’t expect her to come after me alone.

My teeth sank into my bottom lip. Everything had gone south so fast. I’d never expected to be back where I started—in the hands of these coyotes again.

My gaze drifted to Ezra. His grip was tight on the wheel, his knuckles white. The telltale blisters creeping up the side of his neck caught my eye.

Were there more since I first spotted them?

I couldn’t be sure, but I knew it was possible. An old curse caused the sickness that was lethal to shifters and it had the potential to kill fast. Ezra would waste no time bleeding me dry to save himself from it the second we reached his farmhouse. My blood wouldn’t heal him though. It wouldn’t cure his sickness. This was something Ezra didn’t know. In fact, he didn’t know much of anything about a Mystic’s magic. Neither did his pack. Part of me thought I could use their lack of knowledge on the subject in my favor and stall them until Liam and the others came for me, but another part thought I needed to focus on escaping in case they didn’t reach me in time.

Ezra turned the music down with a flick of his wrist. I shifted my eyes back to the road, thinking he might be about to call me out for staring.

“We’re not going inside,” Ezra said as we turned onto the dirt road that led to the farmhouse. His words seemed pointed at Jessica. Maybe he hadn’t caught me staring, or maybe he didn’t care. His skin was clammy, and he looked nauseous as we bounced along the road.

Jessica bristled on the bench seat beside me. She leaned forward and glared at her brother. “What do you mean we’re not going inside? I need to pack a bag if we’re skipping town, Ezra. I’m not leaving with nothing except this frumpy dress and my cell phone.”

My stomach somersaulted. If we weren’t staying at the farmhouse, then where? My mind drew a blank when I tried to think of anywhere that might be suitable for what they planned. They had to know I wouldn’t be silent while being bled, that I’d put up a fight and try to escape if a chance came. One would think they’d take me to a place where I could do all those things without drawing attention—like their farmhouse. It was a few miles away from the trailer park in the center of town I grew up in, but the house was surrounded by thick woods. No one would be able to hear me if I screamed.

A knot formed in my stomach as a new thought surfaced. 

Maybe they planned on drugging me so I’d be more compliant. Then, they’d be able to take all the blood they wanted, and I wouldn’t be able to stop them. I wouldn’t be able to scream.

Alarm buzzed through my insides.

I glanced between Ezra and Jessica, hoping they’d give more information about where we were headed after our pit stop at the farmhouse. Ezra didn’t seem willing to discuss the situation further with Jessica, and she seemed too pissed to talk. She hadn’t known they’d be skipping town or else she would have prepared. This meant none of the others knew either. Ezra had changed their plans.


“I just need to run in and pack a bag,” Jessica insisted. “I’ll be quick.”

“No. We’re not going inside,” Ezra reiterated. His voice was firm, his jaw tense. 

Jessica huffed and slung herself against the seat, but didn’t argue with him. Instead, she folded her arms over her chest and pouted.

My heart thudded. Ezra would have to fill the others in on his change of plans. I hoped that when he did, I’d be able to hear him. Then, at least I’d know where I was being taken next. I chewed the inside of my cheek, deciding Ezra must have realized coming to the farmhouse was a dumb idea. It would be the first place Penny would have Liam and the others look. I prayed she’d already told them how to get here and that they weren’t far behind. Maybe they’d make it in time since Ezra would have to tell everyone of his new plan.

When the farmhouse came into view, my chest tightened. What if Penny couldn’t get Liam and the others here in time? What if right now was my only chance to escape?

I needed to come up with a plan. I needed to think of something. Anything.

My gaze drifted around the interior of the pickup truck, searching for anything I might be able to use as a weapon. There was nothing. The ancient truck was devoid of trash and clutter. Marshall took care of it well. I’d seen the inside of the farmhouse, and it looked nothing like this. It was filthy, which had led me to believe everyone in their pack was a slob.

I guess I’d been wrong.

“Let’s get her in my car,” Ezra said as he came to a stop in front of the old farmhouse and shifted into park. Knots formed in my stomach. 

“Then what?” Jessica asked as the others piled out of the back.

Ezra coughed. It was a horrible wet sound. The sickness was working its way further into his system. I stared at him, watching as sweat built across his skin. 

How long had he been this way? 

With any luck, he’d been sick awhile and would be dead in hours.

“Then we’ll head to Marshall’s cabin,” Ezra said once he finally stopped coughing long enough to speak.

Marshall’s cabin? Since when did he have a cabin? No one ever mentioned it before, not even him, which meant Penny wouldn’t know about it either.


The reality of how screwed I was officially sank in. I had no weapon and no idea where they were taking me. Marshall’s cabin could be anywhere, which meant the chances of Penny being able to help Liam and the others find me there were slim to none after we left the farmhouse.

“Where’s your tonic?” Jessica asked, leaning around me to get a better view of Ezra as he broke into another coughing fit. Specks of spit flew from his mouth and into the air. Instinctively, I held my breath even though I knew I couldn’t be infected with the sickness. “Your cough sounds awful again. You need another dose.”

Tonic? Was Ezra taking medicine for the sickness? Was that even a thing? Liam hadn’t mentioned it. Was it possible he and his clan didn’t know about it? 

“It’s not working,” Ezra insisted between coughs. He pounded on his chest with his fist as though it would help loosen whatever was making him cough. “She said this would happen. The sickness has got its damn claws in me too deep.”

“Don’t say that. You’ll be fine. We have the Mystic.” Jessica glanced at me. Her eyes glinted with all the hate she had for me before they shifted back to her brother. “It still might do something. Don’t discredit it completely. Take another sip.”

“I left my bottle at the mill,” Ezra said, wiping his nose on the back of his hand. His eyes watered. There was a slight rattle in his chest that floated through the cab of the truck, but it appeared whatever had caused him to cough so much had passed for the moment. “There’s another in the house though.”

“Where?” Jessica asked. 

When she popped open the passenger door, hope bloomed through my chest. She looked like she was about to hop out and tend to Ezra, completely forgetting about me being a prisoner. 

Maybe this was my chance to escape. 

If she was too focused on helping Ezra, she wouldn’t focus on me. I might be able to make a run for it and get away. The woods around the farmhouse were familiar to me. I knew where we were. I could head to a gas station, use their phone, and call Penny so she and Liam could come get me. 

“The living room.” Ezra coughed. “On the end table.”

Jessica moved to slip out of the truck. My muscles tensed, poised and ready to run. Her eyes shifted to me at the last second, and something on my face must have tipped her off to my thoughts because she shouted for Demi, her eyes never wavering from me. “Grab Ezra’s tonic from the living room. It’s on the end table. Everyone else, pack your crap. We’re heading to Marshall’s cabin.”

Damn it.

“Okay, I’ll get it,” Demi called back, her voice husky and smooth. I’d always thought she’d do well as a jazzy blues singer with a voice like that. Marshall and Chase said something in response to going to the cabin, but I didn’t pay them much attention because Jessica still stared at me.

“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t,” she growled. “You try something and I’ll tear your ass up. Got it?” Her eyes flashed silver. I knew it was her coyote coming to the surface to prove her point.

I nodded, but didn’t speak, and leaned back against the seat again. Ezra broke into another coughing fit, and Jessica shifted her attention to him. When blood sprayed across the steering wheel, I instinctively shifted away from him, grossed out by the sight. Jessica pulled open the glove compartment. The sharp corner stabbed into my knee. I watched as she grabbed a stack of napkins. She reached around me and handed them to Ezra. He took them, but coughed so hard he couldn’t make even the tiniest effort to clean himself up.

“Get out,” Jessica snapped. It took me a second to realize she was talking to me. “Go sit on the porch. No games. No crap. Understood?” Her eyes flashed silver again, making her look more vicious this time than before.

“Understood,” I said as I slid across the bench seat, my gaze dipping into the glove compartment as I went to take stock of its contents. Napkins. A few salt and pepper packets. A plastic spoon. I almost grabbed the spoon, but something else caught my eye—a permanent marker.

Jessica’s attention drifted over my shoulder to Ezra as he lost himself to another horrible fit of coughing again. I took advantage of the distraction and grabbed the permanent marker. While I knew it wouldn’t do crap in a fight against anyone, it would at least allow me to leave Penny a clue to where we were headed next.

“The porch. Now!” Jessica shouted. She grabbed hold of my arm and jerked me from the truck, then shoved me in the direction of the house. “Sit on the steps where everyone can see you. Chase, stay with her. Demi, where the hell is that tonic?”

Chase grumbled something as he made his way to my side. Clearly, he loathed me. I imagined it was because he blamed me for his brother’s death. Corbin’s death hadn’t been my fault though. He’d come after me of his own accord. If he’d left me alone, he would probably still be alive.

“Don’t try anything, Tris,” Chase muttered as we made our way across the gravel driveway to the front porch of the farmhouse, his eyes on me. “I have no problem hurting you, just so we’re clear.”

I didn’t react to his words. I could tell it bothered him from the way his jaw tensed. His eyes flared with anger, and I almost laughed. Not because he seemed ticked off at me, per se, but because of the situation. It was comical they all thought I’d do something to escape and seemed worried about it. At least they didn’t think I was a weak, mousy girl, too scared to try. 

A tiny sliver of satisfaction slipped along my spine.

When I moved to sit on the steps of the nearly dilapidated front porch to the farmhouse, I uncapped the permanent marker discreetly and held it at my side out of Chase’s view. My mind raced as I struggled to come up with a clue Penny would understand. I needed to write something that wouldn’t be noticeable when I stood up, but would be something she’d spot. It also needed to lead her in the right direction.

Demi darted out of the house, heading toward Jessica and Ezra. She gripped a cobalt blue glass bottle tight. I shifted my gaze to Ezra. He was leaning out of Marshall’s truck with his hands braced against his knees, still coughing. Jessica looked panicked. A smirk twisted the corners of my lips. I hoped he hurt like hell and was scared out of his mind because he was about to die.

He deserved all that and more after everything he’d done.

“Here.” Demi held the glass bottle out to Jessica. She jerked it from her, flashing her a nasty look.

“Took you long enough,” Jessica snapped. I watched as she twisted the lid off and squeezed some liquid into the dropper. “Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.”

Ezra did as she said. 

Marshall exited the farmhouse carrying a large duffle bag. “Hey, Jessica. Do you remember where the cabin is?”

Please say no. Please say no.

If he had to remind her, maybe I’d be able to jot down some directions for Penny. My heart hammered at the possibility of being able to leave a clue that big behind for her. It would mean I’d be found sooner.

“Somewhat,” Jessica said while helping Ezra to his feet. He groaned and muttered something, but I couldn’t hear what. Jessica grabbed her phone and held it out to Marshall. “Plug the address into my maps app just in case. Your grandfather’s stupid cabin was out in the middle of nowhere and I’d prefer not to get lost.”

Marshall chuckled as he took her phone. “It is pretty far out. Pops liked his privacy. That’s for sure.”

I chewed the inside of my cheek as I replayed their short conversation, trying to figure out if there was anything in it that might be useful to Penny. Not much had been said other than it was Marshall’s grandfather’s cabin. 

Maybe that was all that Penny would need though. 

She had always been a great reporter. When the huge tree in town square was about to be cut down and she’d tied herself to it in protest, she’d found loads of stuff to back her claim that it was a historical part of town square. It was too bad that none of what she’d found had been enough to save the tree. Still, she’d proven herself to be a regular Lois Lane in the reporter skills category.

If anyone could figure out where I’d been taken based on three words written on a porch step as a clue, it was Penny.

My gaze drifted to Chase before I wrote anything. I needed to make sure he wasn’t watching me. When I noticed his eyes were glued to his cell, I looked to the others. Marshall was still tapping in the address on Jessica’s phone. Jessica was still tending to Ezra. Ezra was busy trying not to die. And Demi seemed to be waiting for Jessica to bark more orders at her.

I placed the marker tip to the wooden step and started writing.

Marshall’s GFs Cabin.

Hopefully Penny would figure out what GF stood for and then hunt for the cabin. I tossed the marker into the overgrown flower bed beside the steps once I was finished. My gaze shifted to Chase as worry he might have heard it fall filled me. If he did, he didn’t let on. Instead, his eyes remained glued to his cell. I glanced at the step to see what I’d written. The words were small, but bold. 

Would Penny notice them?

Most likely she and everyone else would search the house. They’d walk right past my clue if I didn’t leave something else to make them look down.

Like what?

I didn’t have anything. The bracelet Natalie had given me was back at the sawmill, and I wasn’t wearing any other jewelry. Leaving my shirt or a shoe behind was out of the question.

Crap. There has to be something. Think, Tris, think.

A breeze blew, sending pieces of my hair into my face. I tucked the unruly strands behind my ears, but they didn’t stay. Too much had fallen free from my bun during the fighting at the sawmill. I took my hair down so I could put it back up again, and it was then I realized I had something I could leave behind—my hair tie.

It wasn’t much, but I hoped it would be enough. My hair was thick and long. I couldn’t get by using thin, rinky-dink hair ties. Instead, I had to use the ones that resembled bracelets. Hopefully, Penny would notice the hair tie on the step was mine and find the clue. If not, maybe Liam’s bear would pick up my scent from it. I placed the hair tie on the step, covering my words, and felt tension fill my muscles.

Please find the clue.

Ezra stopped coughing and released a loud groan that drew my attention to him. Jessica was helping him from the truck. He leaned against her as they walked toward his crappy car.

God, I hated that car.

“Pack me a bag really quick,” Jessica called to Demi. “Don’t forget my leather pants. Oh, and my hair stuff from my bathroom.”

“Okay,” Demi insisted, sounding less than thrilled to be Jessica’s personal maid. I leaned to the side, hoping to hide any view of my clue she might have as she made her way up the porch steps. There was no need though because she didn’t even look my way.

Jessica and Ezra were talking about something while she helped situate him in the passenger seat of his car. I couldn’t hear the conversation, and it made me nervous. I hoped they weren’t debating whether to toss me in the trunk again. Prickles of panic slid across my skin at the thought. 

Demi exited the house minutes later carrying an overstuffed leopard print bag. She handed it to Jessica. “I’m pretty sure I got everything you wanted,” she said.

Jessica took the bag and slung it over her shoulder. “Thanks. We’re going to head out now. Ezra said you guys need to pack up food and stuff, we’ll need to stay at that damn cabin for a while. We’ll see you in a few.” She bent to fold the driver seat forward and then glared at me. “Get in. Hurry up.”

I blinked, surprised I wasn’t going to be shoved in the trunk. I didn’t plan on questioning it though. The backseat was way better than the freaking trunk.

I hesitantly stood, praying no one noticed my clue, and headed toward Jessica. I was steps away from Ezra’s car when Jessica flashed me a smirk and held up her index finger. She moved to the back of the car and popped open the trunk. All the air left my lungs, and anger simmered through my veins. Seriously? She’d just been screwing with me about sitting in the backseat before. God, I hated her.

Jessica tossed her bag in the trunk and then grabbed a piece of rope. She held it out to me with a smirk. “Oh, come on,” she chirped, cocking her hip to the side. “You didn’t think I’d let you sit in the backseat without tying your hands together first, did you?”

Actually, I had. Jessica wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. 

I held her gaze but didn’t speak. The smirk twisting her lips grew. I wanted to knock it off her face, but kept my hands to myself. This wasn’t a battle worth fighting. 

Jessica draped the rope around my wrists and jerked it tight, securing them together. Then, she shoved me toward the backseat of Ezra’s car. Once I was inside, she slammed the seat back into place and slid behind the wheel. The engine cranked to life, and my stomach dipped.

“Don’t screw my car up, okay?” Ezra insisted as Jessica shifted into reverse and gave the beater of a car too much gas. We zoomed backward, kicking up gravel. “Take it easy. Jesus.”

“You said we needed to get out of here.” She snickered. “I’m getting us out of here.”

Ezra gave her a look that said she was testing his patience.

I noticed that he looked better. Not much healthier, but slightly. He’d also stopped coughing. Whatever was in that tonic had worked. I wondered if the witch he’d gotten the tonic from was the same one who’d clued him into the Mystic being in Opal Pine.

“Chill. I’m not going to screw your car up,” Jessica snapped as she barreled down the dirt driveway, dust swirling up behind us.

The farmhouse faded into the trees and dust as we made our way to the main road. Jessica took a left, and I tried to think of where she could be headed. There were too many possibilities. Opal Pine was like every other small town—there were too many back roads that led to places.

The car swerved. Jessica was focused on her cell. I really hoped she wasn’t pulling up her playlist again and was about to have another sing-along moment.

“Get off your phone and pay attention to the road,” Ezra snapped. He released a puff of air and pinched the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb. “Are you trying to kill me?”

“Oh my God, don’t be so dramatic and don’t be a backseat driver. You know how much I hate it when you do that,” she muttered as she continued doing whatever she was on her cell while driving. “I’m pulling up directions. Marshall typed the address in but didn’t hit go. Give me a second.”

“I know how to get there,” Ezra growled. It was animalistic and slightly terrifying. Goose bumps prickled across my skin at the sound. “You don’t need an app. Just drive.”

“Yeah right. You look like death walked over you. I’m not trusting your brain to give me directions to somewhere you’ve been like twice. Thanks, but I’ll use an app.” Jessica placed her phone in a cup holder with the speaker facing down. The voice of the GPS narrator was muffled slightly, but it was also magnified, as it directed her to stay on this street for another 2.6 miles.

“Whatever,” Ezra grumbled. “Just drive. We need to get out of here. Now.”

Fear lingered in his tone. I knew it was because he knew Penny, Liam, and the others were headed our way.

Sometimes strength blooms from darkness.

Tris Abbott’s life has come full circle. She’s back in the clutches of the coyote shifters. The difference is this time they know for certain she has what they want—Mystic magic. Even so, Tris isn’t willing to help them.

Main Tropes

  • Small-Town
  • Bear Shifters
  • High-Stakes

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