Alaskan Tigers Book Seventeen
A small wooden jewelry box had Roseanna’s life squealing to a halt. Countless times she searched the house, never finding the treasure, until she finally gave up hope. Now years later, there it is, and she’s terrified the man who is the rightful owner of the contents won’t acknowledge her presence. After all, she is the one who got his sister killed.
Almost twenty-five years had passed since Mark laid eyes on his sister’s best friend, Roseanna. Now forced, at Christmas time no less, to make the trip across country to retrieve items that belonged to his family, he’s more annoyed than thankful. Roseanna could never do things the logical way, making her determined they should meet again after all these years to return the jewelry.
At fifty-three, Mark had searched high and low and around the country for his elusive mate. Now suddenly, she’s standing in front of him, only she’s his sister’s best friend. Past mistakes left hurdles for them to overcome, but if Mark doesn’t want to be alone for the rest of his life, he needs to not only accept the past but help Roseanna as well.
Surrounded by items of yesteryear Roseanna sat on the floor, jewelry box in hand as her heart frantically beat against her chest. This can’t be it. Even as she held it, she knew it was. More than twenty-five years she’d looked for this box, never finding it. Now as she cleaned out her childhood home in preparation of the sale, the box fell into her lap. Literally.
She glanced up at the shelf that had only moments ago gave way, sending boxes and spare bedding tumbling down onto her as she gathered the last of the clothes stored below. The wooden shelf hung precariously by only one end. Had this jewelry box been up there all this time? Hadn’t she’d checked years ago?
“This doesn’t make any sense. How did it get up there? I’d have never put it up there.” Her gaze returned to the jewelry box as she ran her fingers over the expertly carved butterfly on the top. A gift from Margret nearly thirty years ago and something she’d cherished every day until it had suddenly disappeared.
This is where we put it. It’s got to be in there. Her stomach twisted as she sat there holding the box. Part of her desperately wanted to unhook the latch and open the box, while the other half wanted to preserve the pain that would come with the contents. “I’ve got a duty to return them.” Her fingers slid over the latch and her breath caught in her throat.
“You okay in there? I heard something fall.” Footsteps sounded on the hardwood floor as someone came to check on her.
She quickly grabbed the blanket that had fallen from the shelf and hid the jewelry box. She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to cover it, but she finally had it back and didn’t want to share that knowledge with anyone. She had just gotten it covered as Otis stepped into the doorframe. His dark blue overalls with the words O’Reilly’s Moving Company stitched onto the breast pocket made him look different than the young boy she remembered babysitting. Sixteen now he was working weekends and summers as his father’s right-hand man for the family’s moving company.
“Miss Roseanna, let me help.”
“No, no.” She smiled up at him as he moved closer. “This is the last few items. I’ll toss them into a box, and they’ll be ready when you move out the furniture in this bedroom. Go on now. I know you have plenty of other work to do before the day ends.”
“Don’t Miss Roseanna me. I made the mess. I’ll clean it up. Just as I taught you.” She eyed him, knowing he was always stubborn, just like his father.
“If you remember, you used to help me clean up my messes.” Even as he said it, he nodded. “I’ll just be in the other room if you need help.”
“Thank you, Otis.” She reached for the empty box she’d brought in for the clothes she knew were still hanging in the closet and then loaded up the belongings as Otis retreated from her childhood bedroom. As she added the last of the items, she looked at the blanket covering the jewelry box. “I can’t do this here,” she whispered to herself.
Rising from the floor, she grabbed the box and then moved toward the items she was taking. Most of the belongings in the bag were pictures but a porcelain snowman figurine her father had given her mother when she was born was also enclosed. It was to mark the birth of her since she’d decided to come in the middle of a rather nasty snowstorm. Our little snowflake was anxious to see snow, he always said whenever they reminisced about her birth.
* * *
Hours later, alone in her hotel room, she sat at a small round table, the jewelry box in front of her. The calzone she’d picked up on her way back sat barely touched in front of her. Since the jewelry box had crashed back into her life her stomach had been in knots. Excitement and fear mixed, forming lead weights in her stomach.
“Let’s get this over with.” Her finger brushed along the cold metal latch, making the unease grow within her.
Instead of pausing she unclasped the latch and then pushed up the lid. A worn, yellow-with-time paper laid across the top. Odd. She remembered as she’d placed Margret’s jewelry inside there was nothing else in it. Unfolding the note, she was surprised to find her mother’s handwriting.
My darling Roseanna,
I hope when you find this box the pain and loss you’re feeling has subsided. I’ve hidden it away because I know seeing this box will only remind you of Margret, causing you more heartache now. I promise one day you’ll look at the carved butterfly and remember all the special memories you shared.
My sweet daughter, losing a friend is hard. Margret was much like a second daughter to me, so I feel your pain. She was such an amazing, compassionate girl. Even with her dying act, she put others before herself. You’re still with us because of Margret’s actions. Had things gone differently I would be burying you too. I will forever be thankful to Margret and will think of her every day until my dying breath.
She will always be with you.
Tears spilled from her eyes as she stared down at the note. Her mother had placed the jewelry box in the closet behind the spare bedding because she knew it wouldn’t be found quickly. After Margret’s death, there was no need for the spare pillow and blanket because no one had ever stayed over, except Margret.
Setting the note aside she blinked, trying to clear her vision to focus on the remaining items.
The necklace barely caught her attention. Instead, she focused on the gold ring. The custom-made heirloom with a large onyx in the center with small diamond accents surrounding it was just as she remembered. Margret’s most cherished item as her brother had given it to her, after their grandmother had passed it to him as part of their family’s custom that the oldest grandchild should inherit it.
“Mark, where are you?” She hadn’t thought about him in years, but now that she finally had the ring in her possession, she needed to find him and return it. Not only was it the right thing to do, it was also what Margret would have wanted.
“I’ll find him, Margret,” she promised as she dragged her finger over the ring.
“Rosy, don’t.” He reached out and placed his hand on hers. “She—” Electricity sizzled through their touch as if shocked and his tiger rushed forward.
“What was that?” Rosy’s eyes widened with surprise, but she didn’t pull away.
“Mine.” The word came out more as a growl than anything as he tried to push his beast back down.
“Excuse me?” She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip on her hand.
All the years he’d searched for his mate and now there she was. He didn’t want her to slip away, even her moving her hand out from under his enraged his tiger. He needed her touch more than he needed his next breath.
“Mark…” Her words caught in her throat as he met her gaze. “Your eyes!”
“It’s okay.” Even as he said it, he heard the deepness in his voice from his beast.
“You’re, uhh…I think you should leave. Take the jewelry.” She sat completely still as she watched him.
He felt her fear and he forced himself to loosen his grip on her hand. “Rosy, I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I…” The words caught in her throat, and she shook her head.
“My sweet Rosy, I didn’t intent to scare you.” Since she didn’t pull her hand away, he ran his thumb along her knuckles, gently caressing.
“I don’t know what happened, but this is what you came for.” She tipped her head toward the jewelry box.
“This trip brought me more than that.” His tiger roared within him in agreement. “Listen, Rosy, what I have to say might add to your fear, but I need you to hear me out. Just as you did with Margret all those years ago when she told you about shifters.”
“I think I have enough secrets already but thanks.” She slid her hand out from under his and then rose from the table.