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Against The Grain – A BBW, BWWM Werebear And Werewolves Shifter Romance

Against The Grain - A BBW BWWM Werebear And Werewolves Shifter RomanceThe werebear cemetery is housed on the outskirts of the forest in a valley between two mountains the werebears refer to as large hills. The markers are not gravestones, an ugly invention by humans to memorialize people they love, but rather large trees that represent rebirth and life rather than a life gone. The family of the werebear who has passed goes into the forest and searches until he or she finds just the right sapling, digs it and its roots up, and replants it near where the body will be interred.

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Today, four saplings stood strong against a light breeze, swaying gently and whispering the words of the dead. Trees of all species spread across acres of what had been a lovely meadow. Some seemed taller than the mountains themselves, so long ago had the werebear died who the tree symbolized. The trees sighed in their sadness at the loss of the four werebears, crying silently as they peered down on the mourners who paraded slowly to the natural cemetery.

Alice and Susan walked together, holding hands, toward the tree Riley had found and the two of them had planted just that morning. Riley walked behind them, alone, lost in his thoughts. Alice glanced back at him, hoping he was all right. He had so many new stresses now; the loss of his mother had catapulted him into the role of leader of their clan. Although everyone knew he was more than ready to take on the role of leader, Alice knew he was filled with doubts.

And as the leader, Riley was in charge of conducting the speech for the memorial. However, out of respect for his clan and his mother, he’d asked one of the elders to deliver the speech. Alice had asked him why, even though she’d known the answer.

“I can’t give a speech at our mother’s memorial. I’d never be able to finish it. I’d lose it up there in front of the entire clan,” Riley had told her, looking into the forest rather than at her, blinking furiously. “The werewolf pack, too.”

“No one would think less of you, Riley,” Alice had reassured him, her voice thick with unshed tears. Watching his pain increased her own. He had shaken his head and walked away into the forest.

Alice glanced back at him again when she and Susan reached her mother’s tree. He walked up to her and looked at her, but he didn’t speak. He couldn’t. Susan leaned into him, and he wrapped an arm around each of his sisters and waited for the memorial to begin.

After a moment of silence wrapped in the arms of her family, Alice lifted her head and looked over the crowd. The entire clan was present, of course, and it looked as if most of the werewolf pack had trekked over the mountain to pay their respects as well. Alice felt a surge of pride at her part in the uneasy truce between the clan and the pack.

Her eyes met Alex’s, and all the love she had for him poured into that look. She could see his love for her shining in his eyes as well, and she smiled beautifully at him. There it was, one of the reasons for the truce: their “star-cross’d” love. The feud between their families seemed to have ended, thanks to love, and to the stand the clan and pack had made together against the poachers. Later today, Alice knew, Riley and John, the leader of the werewolf pack, were going to meet and discuss a real truce.

Alice focused on the memorial service when the elder who had been chosen to conduct the ceremony walked to the front of the crowd and cleared his throat.

“Good morning, everyone, and thank you for coming. Life is a celebration, and as death is a part of life, we aren’t here to mourn the loss of our loved ones, but to celebrate their lives.”

Alice smiled at his opening, a traditional werebear clan beginning to every memorial. She caught Alex’s eye, who smiled at her in support. Susan squeezed her hand; she looked at her and smiled, squeezing her hand in return. Riley had stepped closer to the sapling that represented their mother’s spirit, touching it lightly with his palm. Alice wanted to hold his hand as well, but he wouldn’t accept the gesture right now. Riley grieved privately, had done so when their father had passed as well.

The elder continued. “We lost four of our clan in a battle we should not have been in. But that’s a story for another day. The werebears whose lives we celebrate today fought bravely for the good of the clan. And through this battle, we’ve gained friends.” He gestured to the werewolf pack that had gathered behind the werebears. Several inclined their heads in acceptance, and some stared straight ahead, unmoved by his words. “Our friends also lost members of their family, and in honor of those brave werewolves, we will join our grief to theirs at another memorial service to honor the lives of their lost.”

John and Shara stood with Alex at the front of the werewolf pack. Shara smiled at the beautiful sentiment of the elder, but John’s face remained impassive. Alice wondered why he’d come at all if he didn’t want to be here, as his face clearly told anyone who looked his way. Because Shara made him, she answered herself. She shook her head sadly and thought about his vehement hatred of the relationship she and Alex had formed. As the elder’s oration continued, his topic the three werebears who had been killed alongside her mother, Alice thought of the life she and Alex might have.

She’d already thought about where they would live. Although she felt her family, and the entire clan, in fact, would more readily and easily accept her relationship with Alex and let them live within the clan camp, Alice thought it would be better for them to live with his family and the werewolf pack. This belief stemmed from practicality: Alex lived alone in his tent, while Alice shared her cabin with Susan. She wanted to live alone with him, and for now, that was the best option. She and Alex hadn’t discussed this with either her family or his, but she felt all would work out.

Her gaze returned to John, and her optimism shook a little. She couldn’t make out his eyes from this distance, but she was positive he was looking at her, judging her. He hated her, what she was doing to his family, Alice was sure of it. Ok, she thought, I’ll just have to win him over. She knew she could be charming. She’d just turn it up a notch.

As she was planning a dinner for Alex, Shara, John, and herself, Susan nudged her. She looked at her, and Susan gestured to the elder. He had almost finished talking about the other werebears. Her mother would now be honored as the clan leader. Alice returned her attention to the elder.

“And finally, we must honor our leader, who sacrificed her life for the better of our clan. Her bravery will live on through her children, one of whom will step into the role of our leader.” The elder inclined his head to Riley, who nodded back. All eyes were on him, werebear and werewolf; Riley could feel the weight of the eyes on him. He stared hard at the sky behind the elder, refusing to look at anyone at this moment. Alice and Susan took a hand each, and their support strengthened him.

“Cammie was a leader like none other we’ve had in the past. When her husband, our former leader, died, Riley wasn’t old enough to take his rightful place as our leader. Robert had no living brothers or sisters; Riley, Alice, and Susan were his only familial heirs. One of the elders proposed a solution; allow Cammie to lead us until Riley was of age. The other elders were strongly opposed to a woman leading our clan; our leaders had been males for decades. The opposition grew, until Cammie asked if she could address the elders as well as the clan to explain why she should lead the clan until her son was of age.

“She spoke so eloquently that all were silent. A squirrel could be heard gnawing on an acorn, the clan was so quiet. We all know what a rare thing that is,” He chuckled with the clan at his joke and shook his head. “Cammie explained to us what it meant to be a leader, speaking of her fallen husband as well as his father before him. She spoke of her own father, who had been the leader of another clan, but who has, sadly, since passed on.

“Cammie was surrounded by leaders her entire life, and she had learned the arts of diplomacy, responsibility, and commitment from the best. She applied those lessons and became a stronger leader than many of her predecessors.

“We must celebrate her life, and the lives of our other fallen brethren, rather than spend countless hours in sadness. They would not want that. Today, and forever, remember their contributions to this clan and to the world, and celebrate the fact that you knew them.”

He gestured to the four saplings, a signal for a moment of silence. Some of the werewolves tilted their heads, listening to the trees speaking their stories. Tears traced down the cheeks of many, werebear and werewolf alike.

After a few moments, the elder moved to the families, who still stood by the trees they had planted in honor of their loved ones. He hugged each member of the family, murmuring words of encouragement. When he reached Alice and her siblings, a tear slipped down his cheek. He hugged each of Cammie’s children, speaking only to Riley, who turned away when the elder released him. Alice watched as he wiped tears away before turning back to greet the rest of the clan as they walked by to whisper condolences. Another tradition in the werebear clan: only the person who presided over the memorial spoke in full voice; everyone else in attendance whispered.

Alex and the werewolf pack also joined the procession past the families of the dead, bringing up the rear. They shook hands or exchanged hugs, depending on the person. Shara hugged every one of the mourners, receptive or not. Her goal, Alice knew, was to push through this truce and create one big pack/clan rather than two enemies drawing lines in the sand. When she reached Alice, she smiled encouragingly and held her longer than any of the others.

“Alice, I’m so sorry for your loss,” Shara whispered to her, respecting the werebear whispering tradition. “I so wanted to be friends with your mother. I think we would have grown close and worked out this truce.”

“I agree, Shara,” Alice replied quietly. “I’m so happy the wolf pack came. This is a good start to the truce.”

“Yes, and we’re hoping the werebear clan will attend our memorial tomorrow.”

“We’ll be there. I’ve spoken with several of the werebears, and they agree that your dead deserve our respect as much as ours deserved yours. It meant a lot that y’all are here,” Alice told her, holding her hand in both her own.

Shara moved to Susan, and Alex stepped in front of Alice. He took her hand and raised it to his lips, not caring that both of their families and all of their friends could see. Alice’s eyes were only for him, so she didn’t notice the raised eyebrows the gesture caused.

“You look beautiful, Alice,” Alex whispered to her. “If it’s ok, I’m going to wait for you and attend the dinner after?”

“I was going to ask you to come,” Alice beamed. “I’m so glad you’re here. I felt better knowing it.”

Forbidden Love BWWM paranormal romance“I’ll be by your side as long as you’ll let me,” he teased with a goofy grin. She smiled at him and thought about leaning in for a chaste peck on the lips when a slightly raised whisper-yell interrupted their discussion.

John and Riley were firmly shaking hands and discussing the meeting they planned to have later. Riley had tried to remove his hand from John’s grip, and Shara had her hand on John’s arm. Susan was glaring at John with hatred and anger in her expression.

“This is our mother’s memorial, John. This is not the place for your anger.” Susan scolded him as if he were a naughty schoolboy and she his teacher, but he ignored her and continued his conversation with Riley while their families listened.

“This discussion needs to take place soon,” John claimed, finally releasing Riley’s hand. “How do you want to do this?”

Riley glared at him, astonished at his behavior, but Riley knew now that he was leader, he would have to deal with this. “John, I have a dinner in an hour to honor my mother. Tomorrow is the memorial for your friends. Any meeting or discussion should take place after that.”

Shara nodded her agreement. “Riley and his family deserve the evening to grieve and celebrate the life of their mother. This isn’t the time.”

“I just want to set up a time and make sure we’re on the page about this meeting,” John assured his wife. “The day after tomorrow, let’s meet at the picnic area on the south side of the mountain at sunset. That’s neutral territory, and we shouldn’t be interrupted.”

Riley nodded. “Is this just you and me? I was thinking we’d bring two of our most trusted advisers with us.”

“Agreed. We need more than two minds for this.”

“Ok, that’s settled. Come on, John, let’s leave them alone,” Shara said, pulling on his arm.

Alice stepped forward. “John, thank you for coming. It means a lot that the leader of the pack attended my mother’s memorial.”

John stared at her as if trying to figure out her game; when he saw nothing but sincerity in her eyes, he smiled at her. “Your mother was an outstanding woman. Even I knew that.”

“Thank you.”

John looked at Riley again. “See you tomorrow night, son.” He turned and walked away without waiting for a reply, the dig about Riley’s age obvious to everyone who heard it.

*****

Alex waited for Alice near the eating area, taking her hand when he saw her. Tradition dictated that the families of the dead eat first. The meal had been prepared by the clan, a sumptuous feast with four kinds of meat, tons of side dishes, and even more desserts. Grief was always eased by food.

The couple walked through the line together, last of all the members of the families. They sat across from Riley and Susan. Susan chattered away, asking questions about the werewolf pack traditions, if they were like the clan’s, things like that, as they ate. Alex answered all her questions happily, knowing one way to break down the hate was knowledge.

“Let me tell you an interesting tale that I think I understand so much better after today,” he said to Susan and Alice. “All werewolves, when they reach puberty, can hear and understand the whispers of the trees. We’ve always believed, like the clan, apparently, that the whispers we could hear were the spirits of our dead telling us the history of our world. Now I know that’s true. The spirits of your people are in the trees, just like the spirits of our people. And if you know how to listen, you can learn the history of both the werewolves and the werebears.”

Susan had been listening in awe. Alice too. Susan asked, “One day will you tell us some of the stories the trees whisper to you?”

“I would love to,” he said with a smile. “Some of the stories I’ve heard, and my family have heard and told me, are fascinating. Can the werebears hear the trees?”

Riley, who hadn’t spoken at all but who had listened carefully, commented. “We can only hear if we enter a meditative state, not just when we’re walking through the forest.”

“That’s too bad,” Alex commented.

Susan spoke. “We have visions, though.”

“Susan, that is not something we share with others,” Riley admonished.

“Riley, if this truce is going to work, knowledge is the first step. There’s no harm in telling the werewolves, especially Alex, about the visions we sometimes have,” Alice retorted.

“Visions, huh? What kind of visions?” Alex asked, leaning forward, intrigued.

“Yep. Some see more than others, but we all have the ability,” Susan answered.

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