Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)(3)By: Kimber White
This wasn’t right. This wasn’t natural. Bears aren’t supposed to be this big. Are they? I should have been terrified. But, I wasn’t. Instead I was…enthralled. That was the best word I could come up with to describe it. It was if that sleeping bear held some kind of power over me, making me stay. I needed to be close to it. I was meant to be here. I was crazy.
I wanted to touch it. No. I needed to touch it. With trembling fingers, I reached forward. He was just a foot away. Yes. He. The certainty of that knowledge filled me as I stretched my arm forward. Coarse bristles brushed against my fingertips. Heat flooded through me, making my pulse trip as if I’d received an electric shock. The bear felt something too. Because the instant I made contact, one hooded eyelid snapped open. The great, black orb beneath it clouded over for an instant then went clear, focusing straight on me.
I took a staggering step backward. That huge eye blinked once. Twice. Then he raised his head, his movements lumbering, unsteady. I took another step back, my heart pounding. He crawled forward and turned so we faced each other straight on. I took another step back. At the bottom of a small hill, I had to step up to step away. He put one giant paw forward, then the other, kicking up wet leaves and earth as he did it. He let out a chuffing breath that blew hot across my skin.
I reached behind me, grasping for something to swing at him in case I needed it. A branch maybe. He tilted his head from one side to the next as if he were shaking the cobwebs loose after his long slumber.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. It seemed important. “I didn’t mean to…”
He was up now, standing on all fours in front of me. God, he was huge. His head hung inches above mine. He staggered sideways, and I knew this might be my only chance. So strong with powerful haunches he could have split me in two with one swipe of those deadly front claws. He arched his back and craned his head forward. Taking one great breath that seemed to kick up the wind all around me, he let out a thunderous roar, his lips curling at the force of it. The sound filled the world around me, rattling tree branches and vibrating down to the marrow of my bones.
A declaration. A warning.
Only then did I scream. Only then did the urge to run overtake whatever power compelled me to touch him. Turning, I tripped over tangled branches and clawed my way up the side of the hill before me.
He roared again, the sound disturbing the birds and every other living thing around me. They knew to get the hell away from him instantly. Why hadn’t I? I ran past the log cabin, heading toward what I hoped was north as fast as my legs would carry me. But it wouldn’t be fast enough. It could never be fast enough. I stumbled and fell, scraping my knee against the bark of a fallen branch. Another piece of wood stabbed into my hand where I broke my fall. Blood pooled in the well of my palm and poured down my wrist. I found the strength to haul myself back to my feet and keep on running.
I looked behind me, one of the millions of mistakes I seemed to have made that day. Some detached voice in my head told me those mistakes would be what killed me. I had no one to blame but myself. The bear roared again and it seemed so much closer. I chanced a look behind me. He’d woken with a fury and came toward me. He didn’t run. He didn’t have to. Stumbling backward, I watched him rise to his full height on two legs. Oh, God. He was a monster. He seemed more than twice as tall as any man I’d ever known.
I screamed again. Hot tears streamed down my face and mixed with the blood from the scrape along my cheek.
I lost my way. The woods spun around me. The trees themselves seemed to come to life, gnarled branches pointing the way in every direction and none of them right. I took one last look over my shoulder and saw a blur of brown fur as the bear closed in.
The bear woke before I did. Light and sound crashed through me, jarring me out of the darkness. But, the bear was already on the move before I could see anything. His hunger was mine. His fury too. Something had dragged him into consciousness, and it had nothing to do with me. I felt only primal need and aching hunger. One clear thought tore through him and finally reached me.
It finally made me open my eyes to see what the bear did.