A secret shifter prince. A poor American ballerina. To be together, they’ll have to defy a royal court.
Prince Andrei has found his mate. Her beauty and gentle spirit soothes his inner beast. He must woo her gently, though he craves to claim her at once. But she’s human, and American, and the royal court wants a shifter female of noble blood to bear his heirs.
It’s too late. His dancing princess is already with child, and he’ll protect her from anyone, including his own family.
She’s defied conservative parents and braved poverty to attend a prestigious arts university to major in dance. News that the royal house of Casakraine will attend the next student recital spreads like wildfire—but she almost doesn’t care.
For once, something is more important to Hannah than dance. His name is Andrew, and though he is kind and courtly, she senses something dark and feral under his quiet, intense exterior.
And Hannah’s right—he isn’t who he says he is. Andrew isn’t even his name.
Suddenly, she’s immersed into a world of wealth and power. She doesn’t belong, but she has no choice. Her secret prince will never let her go.
Bear Prince is a bwwm steamy paranormal bear shifter royalty romance for readers who love contemporary fairy tale like stories, royal alpha males and happily ever afters. This is Book 1 in the Royals of Casakraine series.
Download now because you love an intense, broody male who would defy a country to claim his mate.
A taste of freedom was worth the price of evading his guards. Stealing a few precious moments to himself in a foreign land where he blended into a sea of people as long as he dressed down and kept to himself?
He’d deal with the Queen’s temper later.
Prince Andrei observed everything, everyone, as he wandered the streets of downtown, a little amused at his own wonder. Casakraine didn’t boast cities of glass towers and cement, soaring high into the skyline. Their architecture was just as old, just as beautiful. . .but lower to the ground. Not as tempting to Mother Nature to tear down in retaliation for such arrogance. Wasn’t there a story in one of the human holy books about a tower?
Andrei halted, gaze caught, spending a few precious minutes eyeing a young dancer on a busy street corner, moving with the grace of a Fae princess, oblivious of the traffic around her. Her limbs long and toned, nearly Bear-like strength evident in the perceived effortlessness of her movements. She’d confined her long black curls in a simple tail at her nape, smooth bistre skin bared by a neutral camisole and dancer’s shorts.
Watching her eased the pain gathering behind his eyes, signaling the start of another migraine. He wondered if the dancer paid for her beauty and grace with some physical defect, the way he paid for his shifts with blinding headaches.
Her dancing should have been provocative. Her lush form, though athletic, was still bountiful. Andrei knew from listening to his mother and sister speak over the years that ballerinas with bodies outside the stick-thin model norms worked harder for acceptance. But there was an innocence in her movements, as if she wasn’t yet awake to the true potential of her body. The potential for pleasure, for joy.
People walked around him on the street, some giving him irritated glances. True, he hadn’t picked an out of the way spot to stop and stare at her—he’d simply stopped. So people glanced, but kept moving. The anonymity was a blessing to Prince Andrei, the eldest, the Heir. The one with no life outside duty.
His cell dinged, the ringtone a dark, classical tune about a witch in a forest. His mother, the Queen, must have called him the moment his guards reported his defection.
“Andrei,” she snapped. “What are you doing? Your guards have a job to do. You have to stop this.”
“Mother, if only you could see what I’m seeing right now,” he said, gaze trained on the dancer as if she would disappear if he blinked. “I’m sending you a video.”
He disconnected the call, swiped to the camera, and began recording. Watched her through the screen for several minutes and then sent the video clip to the Queen’s cell. He didn’t have to wait long.
“The dancing is beautiful, but unless she’s your mate, I want you to come back to the hotel now.”
Izobelle paused. “Get the girl’s information, if you please. If she isn’t already in formal training, she should be.”
Trust his mother to see the whole thing from the lens of her pet project—which was why he was accompanying her here in Chicago, to kick off a new foreign exchange student program at a prestigious university in the city with a strong Fine Arts department. Selected students would receive full scholarships to study in his country, and vice versa.
Watching the dancer, he idly imagined that she was his mate. Andrei smiled wryly. If he brought home a human ballerina his mother would either be ecstatic to add a dancer’s genes to the bloodline, or horrified. Strength, beauty, poise, grace. . .he could do far worse. Even if she was human.
* * *
Hannah danced. An early evening breeze against her skin reminded her she was all but naked, in public. Her mother would be aghast. Hannah pushed the thought away. Her body was an instrument, a vehicle for her art—not an object of shame.
People stopped to watch. She ignored them, mostly. Her instructor told her she had to stop turning inward when she danced, it was a flaw. She should dance outward, invite her audience to share her emotions. Hannah tried, but she was so used to pulling into herself, escaping into the power of her dreams that she struggled to break the habit. Even now, when she was months free of the confines of her rural, technology-free community.
A man crossed the street, eyes trained on her. She noticed because he walked with a dancer’s grace and a tourist’s foolishness, as if the cars would pass right through him. Hannah kept one wary eye on him, the intensity in his eyes. Fending off one creep on a daily basis was enough. Life in the city had scoured some naiveté off her—but she knew she still smelled like small-town girl. Like prey.
Hannah met pale eyes briefly. He was a few feet too far for her to tell what color they were—just that they weren’t like hers, dark as earth after a good rain. She saw a smile curve lips thinner than she was used to, and though she couldn’t quite smile back, she hoped he saw the gratitude in her dance when he dropped a folded bill into her open gym bag. If all he wanted was to look and admire, and support her education, then he was her guest. Some men, she had learned, thought her dancer’s leotard and a bill for her efforts meant she was required to speak to them—more, she feared. After a time, Hannah had tried to learn to differentiate those men from the decent ones who understood they didn’t own her. Busking was risky, she’d been warned by other women in her class, but she needed the money. And she loved to perform.
Hannah tried not to look at the offerings before she was done each evening—she didn’t want discouragement to seep into her performance. There were days she made enough to eat over the weekend, there were days she came home with enough to buy a candy bar. It all depended on the mood of the crowd.
“You dance like the wind,” he said when her steps brought her a little closer.
Hannah slowed her movements, told herself it was good to interact with patrons sometimes.
“I’m a bit heavier than wind.”
He smiled. “You don’t move like it.”
A lilt of some place not America threaded through his words, bringing music to the quiet tenor of his voice.
“I train very hard to make it look easy.”
“Where do you train?”
She lowered her eyes. Hannah knew she had to protect herself from men who thought dancer meant exotic. He could be one of those men, but if he enjoyed dance, of course he would be curious where she trained.
“Loyola,” she said, moving back into her place to begin another set.
“What’s your name?”
Such a supposedly innocent question. She glanced at him, met patient eyes. Studied the face with even, classically sculpted features. Beauty didn’t mean goodness, though. Dark hair and a stern mouth—but somehow a warmth reached out and set her at ease. Maybe it was silly not to be more cautious—just because he was tall and handsome and spoke without the uncouth brashness she’d grown used to in men her age in this city, didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous. Too much authority in the broad set of his shoulders. Strength in the tall body. But. . . .
His head lowered in acknowledgment as she moved away to dance, as if he understood the decision she’d wrestled with in those few silent moments. He watched her for a few more minutes.
Every once in a while, she glanced at him from the corner of her eye, distracted. Something about his focus, an aura of utter confidence drew her out of herself. He stood so still, not even the breeze ruffling through his dark hair. After a while he crossed the street again and she forced herself to forget him. To just dance. Feel the burn of muscle telling her it was time to either be done for the evening or push past the discomfort to earn a few more dollars. To train a few more minutes on this harsh public stage. Endure the pain, tap into the energy she pulled from. . .wherever. The earth, God, her own inner fire. Wherever it came from, it fed her limbs when they wanted to collapse. Fed her spirit when it wanted to bend. She wouldn’t make the break from her family be worth nothing.
* * *
If he turned off the cell, it would make his mother go bat shit crazy. Ahhh. . .the colorful phrases he’d picked up here in America. The best souvenirs. So he put the ringer on silent and watched the young woman dance some more, even as bursts of light in his vision warned him he should head back to the hotel. Andrei pushed away the pain.
He’d moved away to give her space, sensing her unease at his proximity. The distance disturbed him, as if he were chilled to the bone by moving away from the warmth of a fire. Hannah was both older and younger than he’d expected, her eyes somber, a gravity one rarely found in college students. But when she spoke, her voice matched her movements, innocent and sensual. She glanced at him every once in a while, her attention gossamer light but burning through him with a fire he recognized as desire. Once he stopped admiring her as a piece of art, and imagined her as just a woman—well, Andrei had to yank his imagination away from where it was going. It felt. . .disrespectful of her, somehow. Of the discipline and determination he knew it took to learn her art, the courage to perform it alone, on a street corner, open to the judgment and danger of the world. Perhaps foolish courage. Was there no brother or father to stand guard with her? He frowned, and made himself her guard for the evening.
It was dark when she stilled, bending over to scoop up the duffel bag in which several bills fluttered. A paltry take compared to what could be had by buskers in his capital. The Queen and Princess, being avid supporters of fine arts and dancing, had made support of dancers and artists part of the fashion among the rich and noble. It was honorable for a noble house to patronize a promising young artist. In Casakraine, Hannah would have had her pick of patrons to support and fund her. Americans—what was wrong with them?
Andrei checked his phone out of morbid curiosity—yes. Over a dozen missed calls from Constin, ostensibly his head of security for this trip. A text from his mother, asking if he’d gotten the girl’s contact information.
He glanced up in time to see the woman walking towards a bus. Andrei cursed, running across traffic to catch the one right behind hers. He’d learned they stacked busses at rush hour—lucky for him. They were the same number, so he assumed they were going on the same route. He stood near the front, watching each stop through the wide glass windows to see when the dancer got off. Thanks to his mother for providing him with the excuse he needed—because he’d already decided before she'd walked away. Women like her were rare—he wanted to know more, see if the magic he glimpsed under the surface was real, or just his wishful, fanciful thinking.
It became apparent after a good thirty minutes that she was traveling to a less wealthy part of town. Which made sense—even with a scholarship, a student wouldn’t be able to afford the rent downtown unless her parents were well off. He was lucky another passenger pulled the rope to get off at the same time he saw Hannah emerge—he would have missed her.
Exiting, he looked around, realizing he’d come to a part of town that would piss his guards off. And all because he was pursuing—not stalking—a beautiful young woman as if she were his missing Cinderella—or mate. Andrei sighed. Well, had he really expected to get through the week without making at least one impulsive decision? His own inner restlessness had warned him days ago he was on the verge of doing something untoward.
He hoped Hannah might not think it odd of him to follow her. She didn’t know him, after all—certainly had no clue he was a Prince out on a freedom jaunt. It would be awkward if the woman he wanted didn’t want him back.