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Hers to Take

By:Elena Aitken

Chapter One

"I really am sorry, ma'am. But as I've tried to explain, we just don't have any riverfront sites available for a unit your size." Kira Jackson spoke as sweetly as she could. Not that it mattered, because the woman who'd been demanding Kira upgrade her family's campsite to one of the premium spots still didn't look as though she was prepared to take no for an answer.

The truth was, even if Kira did have a campsite available in May-the start of the summer season-that would fit the nasty woman's monstrosity of an apartment on wheels, she likely still wouldn't have given it to her. Not that she was vindictive; it was just that reserving the prime spots for nice families who were on their once-in-a-lifetime family vacations to Yellowstone National Park was definitely more rewarding than giving them out to people like the woman in front of her, who'd been spewing all kinds of venom from the moment she'd walked up to Kira's window.

"I demand to speak to your manager." The woman slammed her fist on the counter.

With her practiced smile still on her face, Kira took a step back and turned away. She could speak to a manager all right. Too bad Kira was the manager. Not that she was about to volunteer that information. Because Kira seriously doubted it would make any difference to the woman.

"Sasha, there's a woman who would like to speak to you." Kira spoke through clenched teeth to her co-worker, who'd just returned from a break. Sasha instantly identified the problem. Sadly, it was a little too common for either of their liking.

"I'll handle this." Sasha patted Kira on the shoulder as she walked by. "Why don't you go check the wood supply?"

Kira knew enough to take the out when it was offered. With a sigh of relief, she left Sasha and the unreasonable woman behind and headed outside where they kept the overpriced boxes of wood they sold to the tourists who, despite the cramped campgrounds, wanted to feel as if they were really camping in Yellowstone.

Not that it was a bad place. Not at all. And besides the occasional bad guest, for the most part Kira enjoyed her job in Yellowstone. It was the perfect place for a bear shifter to hang out. Well, maybe not the perfect place. That would be back home in Jackson Valley with her family. But that was no longer an option.

She sighed and straightened her shoulders. There was no point dwelling on the fact that she likely wasn't welcome at home anymore. Especially considering it was her own fault. No. Yellowstone was her home now. And as far as places she could have picked to start over, it was pretty good.

Her job allowed her to work in the woods, where she could sneak off to let her bear run free when she needed to, which was less and less these days. She was relatively left alone to manage the Riverside campground on her own. As long as she was doing her job well, and running things efficiently, her bosses didn't seem to care what she did. The people she worked with were nice enough, which was a good thing because they lived together in a small grouping of even smaller cabins behind the registration office. 

She inhaled deeply and let out the breath slowly before she walked toward the wood pile. Selling the boxes for twenty dollars each didn't deter the tourists from buying them up, and the office was getting low. With the holiday weekend around the corner, they would definitely need to stock up. Which meant Kira needed to split the logs and fill the boxes.

Sasha thought Kira was crazy for always volunteering for the job, but ever since she was a little girl, Kira had always loved splitting wood. Her two oldest brothers, Axel and Luke, always tried to tell her she was too little, and girls shouldn't try to do a boy's job. A theory their grandfather subscribed to as well. It was Kade, her twin brother, who'd let her try his ax for the first time and taught her how to hold it. They'd always had a special relationship. A twin bond.

They used to be inseparable.

Used to be.

Kira shook it off and forced herself to focus on the present. It was getting harder and harder to avoid thinking of her brothers, especially Kade, but she'd made her choice and she'd live with it. No matter what.

She picked up the ax, set up the first log and hefted the ax over her head before she swung her arms down. Hard.

The log split easily. She picked up the smaller piece and repeated the action again and again, until finally her arms began to strain from the effort. She could have kept going, but Sasha's voice stopped her.

"You're a machine."

Kira turned to see her friend leaning against the wall, watching with wide eyes. She made a show of wiping her brow, despite the fact that she'd barely worked up a sweat.

"You've barely been out here twenty minutes." Sasha walked toward her. "How did you do that so fast?"

Kira shrugged. "Once I get going, I just get into a groove or something. Besides, we needed wood, so … "