Home > Bride For The Soldier Bear

Bride For The Soldier Bear
Author: Meg Ripley




“I just can’t get over this dress,” Annie gushed as she helped fasten all the tiny buttons that went up the back of it. “The embroidery alone is exquisite, and the way it drapes on you is just beautiful. It’s a shame that we wait until our wedding days to wear such pretty things.”

Mali smiled in the long mirror. So much had already gone into this day, and she wanted to look perfect. She knew that perfection had different definitions for different people, but she’d never been more excited in her life. She was about to marry her one true mate. “I thought it was a bit too expensive, but Reid insisted.”

“He didn’t see you in it, did he?” asked a horrified Mrs. Hoffman from where she sat perched on the corner of the bed. Mali was quickly learning that despite being a shifter and raising two rowdy boys, Reid and Jude Sutton, she was still an old-fashioned woman.

“No, I just told him how gorgeous it was, and he insisted that I go ahead and get it. He’s been like that ever since we arrived in the States.” Mali looked down at the way the fluttery, gauzy sleeves of the wedding gown draped to her elbows. She could feel the way the neckline dipped in the back, and the silk underskirt was pure heaven against her legs. The dress was spectacular, and she hoped it was a sign of how promising the future would be for them.

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” Annie said with a smile, smoothing the fabric and making sure she didn’t miss a button.

Her fiancé had told her all about the Special Ops Shifter Force when she’d agreed to leave Thailand with him. She knew that it was an elite force of veteran special ops soldiers who were also shifters, and that they spent their time protecting and serving the shifter community. He’d explained just how many shifters there were in the U.S., even though the human population had no clue of their existence, and that the Force was always trying to ensure peace among the various clans. Reid’s particular unit covered Los Angeles and its surrounding area, but there was also a unit in Washington, D.C., and another in Dallas.

What he hadn’t told her was just how incredible the mates of the other soldiers were. Even though Annie was the closest thing Mali would have to a sister-in-law, Emersyn, Katalin, and Penny had welcomed her so warmly that she was quickly settling in to life in California. They were all there that day, surrounding her with love and giving helpful tips. She’d never expected to have an instant family waiting for her on the other side of the world.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Mali finally replied. “Still, I feel a little woozy.”

Emersyn had been styling Penny’s hair, but she set down her comb and came to press her hand against Mali’s forehead. As the resident physician, who spent her time both with shifters and inner-city humans, she was the expert on these matters. “I’m sure you’re just nervous. That’s pretty normal for a woman on her wedding day. Still, nerves can do a number on you. Sip some water, remember to breathe, and make sure you don’t lock your knees. I have some meds that would help if you’d like them.”

Mali shook her head. “Thanks, but I’m good. I want to be fully present today. I don’t want to miss a thing.” She smiled, reminding herself that the dizziness and nervous energy she felt was pure excitement about making her love known before a large group of people. She and Reid were fated to each other, and the bond their inner bears had made was permanent, but it was extra special to celebrate it with everyone else.

“How did the two of you meet, anyway?” Katalin asked. The vampiress was centuries old and had heard every story there ever was to tell, but she loved hearing Mali talk about her homeland. Katalin and her mate, Amar, liked to travel when they got a chance to get away from the Force.

“It was random, really,” Mali admitted. “The kind of thing I never expected to happen. Since we’re from two completely different parts of the world, we’re lucky we met at all.”

“I know the feeling,” Katalin replied with a smile as she handed Mali her earrings. She was living in Hungary when Amar happened to come through on his travels.

“It’s common for the U.S. military to cross-train with Thai soldiers, and Reid was in my country with his unit. One day, a friend of mine suggested we go out to the field where they were training and check out the hotties. I had plenty of work to do, but I would’ve worried about Lamai if I’d let her go on her own.” Mali smiled a little to herself. She and Lamai had always been good friends, even though they were polar opposites. While Mali was concerned about getting her education and finding a decent job, Lamai wanted to blow off all her responsibilities and have fun. In fact, if Mali had gotten in trouble growing up, it was usually because Lamai had roped her into doing something stupid. “My friend always had this notion that she’d meet some wealthy American and run off with him.”

“Are things really like that over there?” Penny asked. “I mean, we’ve heard stories like that, but I didn’t know if they were true.”

Mali’s mind momentarily flashed to the destiny that might’ve been waiting for her if she hadn’t found Reid. “You could say that things aren’t always ideal, and many people are looking for a better way of life.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked,” Penny mumbled.

“No, it’s fine. I mean, that was why Lamai and I were there in the first place. She always got excited when she happened to meet a tourist or anyone who might give her insight into a different life. We shifted into our animal forms so that we wouldn’t be so obvious. I didn’t expect any of the soldiers to be shifters, so I thought we’d go unnoticed.” It hadn’t been that long ago, but Mali’s life had changed so much since then. She still remembered the thick dew that rubbed onto her coat that one fateful morning as she moved through the tree line with Lamai, trying to get a glimpse of the foreign soldiers.

“Are there a lot of shifters back home?” Katalin asked.

“Yeah, they’re just split apart more than they are over here,” Mali explained. “While some live in the cities, a lot of us live rural lives. We’re not with other shifters very often, and they’re not talked about. I’ve just gone most of my life treating everyone else as human unless I pick up on an animal scent.”

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