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Stone Bear:Sentinel(Stone Bears Book 1)

By:Amelia Jade

Stone Bear:Sentinel(Stone Bears Book 1)
Amelia Jade

       Stone Bears Book 1







Chapter One


Gabriel

She was there.

He cursed silently while doing his best to maintain his typical air of implacableness. He was Gabriel. A Stone Bear. There wasn't a bear shifter in Genesis Valley who could hold a candle to him. He was bigger than the rest. Faster than them. Stronger than each one.

And she made him weak in the knees.

Caia.

He only knew her first name.

It was so exotic and absolutely perfect. His bear growled and lunged, eager to make her acquaintance. He reined it in, tightening the hold over the feral, animal side that lived within him.

"Hello Gabriel," she said, her voice as sweet as honey, but tinged with a steel he dared not test, nervous that he might not be worthy of its mettle.

It likely had something to do with the first and only other time they had met, he thought ruefully.

"Hello Caia," he replied smoothly, letting his velvety bass voice fill the small waiting room. She may make him wild, but he knew that it wasn't entirely a one-way street as he watched her take a sharp breath in as he spoke.

"Mr. Kedyn will be a few minutes," she said, ticking off something on the thick black ledger that sat on the desktop in front of her.

"Of course he will. I am, after all, five minutes early."

Caia made a noncommittal noise, returning her attention to the computer screen to which she had been glued when he first entered the room. Gabriel very carefully did not notice the glances she sent his way every so often. It wouldn't do to be improper. She was a professional, and also the assistant to his boss, who happened to be a very powerful man.

It was, he reflected, a much better accommodation this time around. His mind wandered back to the first time they had met …

***





Three days earlier

Gabriel pushed open the swinging door that led to the antechamber next to Marcus's office.

The door swung easily and without squeaking, despite the thickness and weight of the solid oak from which it was built. Marcus Kedyn didn't tolerate poor craftsmanship. He demanded the best. That applied to those who worked for him as well. Marcus and his twin brother Valen treated their employees well. They expected greatness, and they paid extremely well for it. The door to their office was always open, especially to those who could suggest ways to make things better.

The twins ran Lionshead Mining Consortium. It was a bit of a play on their heritage. They were gryphon shifters. The first time Gabriel had learned that, he had had a chuckle over their sense of humor. Gryphons, he knew, had the body of a lion, and not the head. Their mining company operated out of Genesis Valley, a small community in the mountains. It wasn't much, but for Gabriel it was home. He was employed by the Kedyns as one of their best, and they expected that from him day in and day out.

Which also meant not being late for a meeting with them.

His long legs took him quickly and smoothly across the small room, toward the door that led into Marcus's office. At this point Gabriel was on autopilot, having moved through the room many a time before. Thus, it took him until he was almost halfway across the richly carpeted floor before he realized he wasn't alone.

There was a woman sitting at a desk that spanned most of the far side of the room from where he had entered. The desk, he knew, had been there before. But in the entire eight-and-a-half years that Gabriel had been working for Marcus, the desk had been unoccupied. It was either a showpiece to fill the space, or a reminder of a different time, when perhaps he had had a secretary of sorts.

Now, however, a rather voluptuous woman filled the seat. The raven-haired woman was looking up at him expectantly too, he realized.

Gabriel blinked. He inclined his head in greeting-he didn't want to come across as impolite-and then began to continue his progress across the room.

The woman cleared her throat.

He stopped walking and looked over at her.

Gabriel was a hair under seven feet tall. The smaller, but still beautiful woman couldn't have been more than five foot nine, maybe ten. Yet he had to give her credit; she looked up at him unafraid. There was some strength in her, he realized, truly looking at her for the first time.

"Mr. Kedyn will be a few minutes," she said, swallowing hard after saying it, but meeting his stare nonetheless.

The midnight-hued hair of hers came down to just past her jaw, and was almost razor-straight in its cut. Many of the women in Origin, the only real settlement in Genesis Valley, preferred to keep their hair long. But not this woman.

"Mr. Kedyn called me and said to come down to his office immediately. That was perhaps ten minutes ago," he said coolly.

She may have been beautiful, her dark hair highlighting the cool icy blue of her eyes, but that didn't mean he was going to let her dictate to him. Gabriel was one of the Kedyns handful of chosen elites. Nobody told him what to do.                       
       
           



       

"So," he said with a brisk, clearly fake cheerfulness, "immediately means five minutes ago. Ten minutes have passed since he called. That makes me fifteen minutes late. I don't like to be late, and Marcus"-he intentionally used his employer's first name this time around, to emphasize the relationship he had with him-"does not like it when people are late."

None of it fazed her.

"I'm aware of that. But Mr. Kedyn," she stressed his formal name tartly, "received a phone call in the intervening time. So until he finishes that phone call, he would like you to stay out here."

"With you," Gabriel said, turning to face her straight on.

"With me," she echoed.

"And who are you?" he asked, phrasing the question as politely as possible.

"I am an executive assistant to the Kedyns."

"You're new," he stated, seeking knowledge on whether she had transferred from elsewhere, or was just completely new to the Mining Consortium.

"I am," she stated. "Is that going to be a problem?" she asked after a half-second pause. There was a challenge in her voice.

He liked that.

"Not at all..." he trailed off, hoping to get a name.

The intercom on her phone buzzed.

"Caia, please send Gabriel in now."

He dutifully ignored the quick blaze of anger that flashed in her eyes as the opportunity to deprive him of her name was taken from her by the hunk of metal in front of her that emitted her boss's voice.

"Thank you Caia," he said. There might have been a hint of a smile, but only a hint.

"Have a wonderful day," she had said, hitting him full bore with a gorgeous smile of her own.

His heart nearly stopped.

My God, she's stunning.

Gabriel's hand missed the knob on the door. Frantically he commanded his brain to obey, to look at the door, to resume his walk, and exit the room.

But he couldn't. His eyes were glued to hers. The smile on her face became a full-blown grin as his hand flapped around uselessly, looking for the protruding bit of metal that would allow him to move forward.

"Everything okay Gabriel?" she said, her voice anything but sarcastic, and yet dripping with it at the same time.

How did she do that?

He wanted to know more. To ask her who she was. And most importantly, to find out how she had such an incredible hold over him.

You are a trained machine. Get a hold of yourself. You can enjoy her, but you can't lose control around her. That could be deadly.

A small sliver of logic entered his brain from that thought, and proved to be the pebble that started the avalanche as he returned to himself as swiftly as she had taken him away.

"It is now," he managed to return far more smoothly than he felt, blasting her with a smile of his own.

The door opened of its own accord, but before he turned to see how, Gabriel was positive he saw a tiny tremor run through her body.

Perfect.

He took a step forward into the office, eager to put her behind him and regain some semblance of control.

Gabriel ran into a brick wall.

"Oomph," he grunted.

A brick wall of suede and cotton.

Shit.

"Sorry Marcus," he said, awkwardly stepping around his boss, trying to cover the fact that he had just been staring at his assistant.

"Everything all right?" Marcus Kedyn asked, giving Gabriel a strange and rather disapproving look. "You took a long time coming in, so I wondered if perhaps the intercom was broken.

He deserved that look too. Gabriel was paid well to remain in control at all times, and to be aware of his surroundings. Walking into his boss like he was a wall was not a good impression to give. Especially not if the meeting was about what he thought it would be.

"Good to go sir," he replied.

"Very well. Take a seat then."

The reproachful look he received wasn't quite bad enough to make him flinch, but it was close. He would have to be extra alert during the meeting. His boss seemed on edge about something more than being run into by one of his subordinates. Not that he had been fazed by the collision despite the handful-and-change of inches and hundred-plus-pound size difference. Gryphon shifters were simply more powerful than a bear shifter. Gabriel had practically bounced off of him.

"Do you know why I called you in here?" It was a dangerous leading question, but he had no choice but to answer it.

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