Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)(4)By: Kimber White
She couldn’t be real. It wasn’t possible. How in God’s name could someone like her have found her way back here? Not even another bear would dare to trespass here. And yet, she had.
There was just an instant when she wasn’t afraid. If I’d been able to get control of the bear, it might have been different. I would have kept him still so she’d think he was dead or even just sleeping. But, the bear was fully in control at that moment and all I could do was look at her. She had robin’s egg blue eyes, wide and bright. She blinked once and did the unthinkable. She reached for me. She reached for the bear. Long, slender fingers came closer.
Her scent. Her touch. Heat speared through me. Desire flared through my synapses, short circuiting my thoughts and the bear’s with it. God, he wouldn’t mean to, but he might kill her if I couldn’t stop him from reaching for her. I was him and he was me. The same thought tore through both of us.
She froze then staggered backward. Golden blonde hair framed her face in spiral curls that bounced like springs as she tried to get her footing. We inhaled, the bear and me. Impossible. She was just a girl.
Her screams filled the air and stabbed into me. Stop! I wanted to shout. Or run, perhaps. But, the bear was still in control. The roar rose through me and out through the bear. I saw her in a kaleidoscope of colors through the bear’s eyes. Shimmering gold like the color of her hair. Red heat. Her lips as they formed a small “O” before she finally turned to run. Pale whites. Her soft skin where it wasn’t flushed with heat and fear.
I knew I should rein the bear in. But, I was still stuck between waking and sleep, somehow. She might just be a hibernation dream. They could be vivid and disjointed. But in that fraction of a second as she turned, her hair snapped around and brushed my face. The bear’s face. Soft curls and honeysuckle. A few golden strands caught in my claw as I raised my hand…my paw to touch her. Lightning seemed to tear through my veins.
I moved toward her. Just one step. Then another. She screamed again and scrambled up the hill. I meant to stand still and let her go, but the bear still had enough control, and he covered massive amounts of ground as she fled. Finally, as the bear leaped forward and cleared a fallen log, I came into myself all the way. Jarring, painful, bones breaking, flesh ripping and reknitting. I tasted blood in my mouth. She didn’t turn back. Good girl. She didn’t see as one black claw stretched forward, then receded, brown fur turning to tanned flesh and I curled my hand and pulled it against my sweat-covered chest.
I staggered forward on two shaky legs, crouched low to the ground then dove for cover behind a bush. The girl screamed one last time, then disappeared through the thick foliage. I nearly called out to her then; she was going the wrong way. She’d find nothing but the cliff face and a forty foot drop down. There could be worse things out there than a hibernating werebear. The words formed in my brain, but my voice was still too raw to use.
Nora. I shouldn’t know her name, and yet on some instinctual level I knew I was right. Nora. She was Nora. And I still wanted her.
I tore a hand through my hair. Sweat poured down my face and into my eyes. God. How long had I been out? The trees were in full bloom now and on some of the highest branches, they even started to brown. Summer? Late summer? I crawled forward and put my hand on the nearest tree trunk, using it to steady myself as I got my legs under me.
Nora. It took everything in me not to call out to her. Her scent was everywhere, sweet and strong. She was afraid. Terrified. But, there was something else there too. Something dark and wicked. It was the thing that drew her to me as I slept in the hollow of a decaying oak tree. No woman in her right mind would have done what she did. And yet…she did.
“Fuck,” I muttered to myself as I got to my feet. It killed me to do it, but I had to go the other way, away from Nora and back toward the cabin. I couldn’t go after her like this, naked and sweating from the exertion of my shift. Plus, I needed a minute or two to catch my breath and make sure I had the bear well and fully under control before I saw her again.
The easy thing, the safe thing to do would have been to simply leave the ridge for a while and stay the hell away from her. I couldn’t do that though. She was running. She was scared. She’d get lost or hurt, and it would be all my fault. The image of Nora hurt, lying on the ground, dying tore through my consciousness and nearly drove me to my knees again.