Beary Overdue (Polar Bliss 1)
Chapter One
     
    Jillian Masters took a deep breath and studied the coffee shop across the street from the driver’s seat of her rental car. Polar Bliss. The secret play on words had always made her smile, as did the year-around snowflakes and white twinkling lights in the windows, but the owners had warmed her heart.
    Her smile fell as she thought about how long it had been since she’d seen her friends. Seven years was too long, and yet it didn’t seem long enough when she thought about Reid.
    Reid Holland.
    Tall, muscular, gorgeous.
    All of the Holland siblings had the same dark, blue-black hair, and the same dark brown, almost black eyes, but to her, that’s where their similarities ended. Sure, the men were all tall and muscular, and their sister had a beauty that could only be defined as magical, but Reid would always hold a special place in her heart.
    The third Holland sibling was her best friend’s older brother, her high school boyfriend, a polar bear shifter…and the only man she’d ever loved.
    Unfortunately, that hadn’t been enough.
    When a shifter found their mate, they mated for life, but she hadn’t been mate material. She’d left town seven years ago with a broken heart, and she hadn’t been back since.
    Luckily, she knew her friends would understand.
    Ten years ago, she’d moved to Longmeadow when her mother remarried a wealthy man from a small town in northern Pennsylvania. She’d been fifteen years old, curvier than most teens, and forced to start a new life in a small town a million miles away from the big city, the only home she’d ever known.
    Her first friend was the girl with the boy’s name, Riley Holland, and her second was Riley’s brother Reid. When she met the other two older Holland brothers a few days later, she’d found her home away from home, and her love for the little town grew, even after her mother got sick.
    Though living in Longmeadow was out of the question—she couldn’t be that close to Reid—she knew she would never live in a big city again.
    After graduating from college, she’d taken up residence in the quaint little town of Charity, nearly three hundred miles south of the place that would always hold her heart, and made it her home. She had a good job teaching first grade at the elementary school, a spacious apartment, and though Charity only snowed three months out of the year instead of six, and it had more sun than Longmeadow, she liked her life despite the fact that she would always be alone.
    If the past seven years had taught her anything about love, it was the fact that she would never find another man like Reid. He’d only been twenty when she’d left, two years older than her eighteen-year-old self, but he’d been decent and good. His innate inner strength, kindness and integrity, combined with his muscular form and the fierce protective and dominating instincts of his bear, had made him the perfect man. His love, and the way he made her feel, had made him the perfect man for her.
    Leaving Reid had been one of the hardest things she’d ever done, but she’d done it anyway. She couldn’t risk forcing him into a relationship he didn’t want, and worse, if he did find his true mate, she couldn’t bear to see him with anyone else on a daily basis. Even now, the thought of seeing him with another woman kept her legs immobile as she stared at the shop and thought back to the day she’d left.
    Although she and her mother’s husband, Fred, had never been anything more than cordial, he’d fulfilled his obligation as her guardian. When the pair had married, the man had wanted a wife, and merely tolerated her teenage daughter. A year later, he’d had a daughter, but no wife.
    Though he hadn’t replaced her mother’s love, Fred had given her food and shelter until she’d graduated high school, and then he’d provided her with a full education, a brand-new used car, and the means to support herself until she finished her degree. What she did

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