A Bear's Protection(9)

By: Roxie Noir



And what had she been thinking flirting with that police officer? The last time she’d had any kind of relationship, even one that consisted entirely of two not-great dates, it had led to months of stalking.

Plus, he was a shifter, and even though she’d scolded her sister for calling them sex perverts, there was something a little odd about their family structure. The thought of being in a three-way relationship was just... different.

You don’t need a man right now, she reminded herself. You need calm, rest, and relaxation.

Unbidden, his handsome face with that warm smile floated into her mind.

Rest and relaxation! she reminded herself.

To distract herself, she turned the radio up and sang along at the top of her lungs, zooming along the highway.





To put it politely, the Little Hill Inn was quaint. To put it less politely, it was shabby. Clean, but shabby, and run by an elderly man who seemed to know exactly where to hit every piece of plumbing and machinery to make it work again.

Exhausted after her long drive, Cora flopped onto the double bed in her room, covered in a dark green bedspread, and flipped through the books in the room. Mostly they were tourist stuff: restaurants in Granite Valley, places to see, hikes she could take. It seemed like a very nice, if slightly small, town in the mountains - population of about ten thousand, smaller than Charlesville.

She’d come here for a break, though, she reminded herself.

The literature did give a brief overview of Cascadia and its split from California and Oregon, a topic that Cora already knew plenty about.

About twenty years ago, shifters had suddenly burst onto the national scene — literally. When a senator was giving a stump speech somewhere in Appalachia, one of the audience members, a guy in his early twenties, had suddenly shifted into a mountain lion and slaughtered the senator.

It had caused an absolute uproar.

At the time, most of the American public had no idea that there were people who could turn into animals. Shifters tended to live in more rural areas, mostly in the mountains, away from humans.

Then, after about a year, just as people were calming down and starting to accept shifters, another bombshell dropped: the basis of shifter family life wasn’t a couple, but a triad.

The American public, prudish at best and puritanical at worst, had flipped.

Two men and one woman, all in a relationship together?

Talking heads on TV had ranted about a moral panic, about allowing shifters to teach children or coach school teams, or even allowing them to live in the same neighborhoods as regular humans. Religious figures argued that shifters heralded the coming apocalypse. Legislators constantly tried to pass laws limiting shifter rights. Protestors picketed outside courthouses and boycotted shifter-run companies.

Thankfully, cooler heads had prevailed, though it had taken a while.

The cooler heads had also pointed out that shifters, particularly if they lived as triads, had different legal needs from humans. There had been a lot of politics, a lot of debate, and a lot of Thanksgiving dinners ruined by bickering, but in 1999, three shifter states had been founded where the majority of shifters lived.

There was Cumberland, formerly western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and parts of southern Virginia and Kentucky.

Then there was Meriweather, comprising parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

And finally, there was Cascadia, taken from northern California and southern Oregon.

Cora rolled onto her back, staring at the ceiling. Her stomach growled, but she really, really didn’t want to leave the bed right then — she’d driven for nearly twelve hours, gotten pulled over, and she was still practically jumping out of her skin every time she pulled over at a rest area.

You’re okay, she told herself again. He’s not coming after you.

Growl.

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