Loaded for Bear (Bear Country Grizzlies Book 2)(5)

By: Layla Nash & Callista Ball

Ethan gave her a disbelieving look. "You might have broken teeth or something wrong with your jaw, at least let me clean it up and —"

Kira drew breath to really protest, knowing it was just a matter of time until the cuts and split lip healed themselves up. If he got a good look at how bad things were right away, he'd know she wasn't human if she showed up to dinner with no more than a couple of bruises. "Really, I'm fine —"

But Simon appeared on the porch as Ethan dragged her toward the Lodge, and the dark-haired man stared at them both. "What the hell happened?"

Ethan shook his head, still hustling Kira faster than she thought possible into the Lodge and through a huge great-room complete with sheepskin rugs and Adirondack furniture, and jerked his head at the car. "I got a little overzealous with the trunk. I'll check her over in the infirmary, if you can grab her bag out of the back?"

Simon grumbled and muttered as he lumbered towards the car, and Kira held her breath as she blinked dark splotches from her vision. Maybe the trunk hit her harder than she thought. She managed to look at Ethan, puzzled as she tried to understand what the hell he was saying, before everything went hot and cold and loud and the floor reached up and grabbed her.


Ethan could have kicked himself. The girl looked nervous as hell, though he couldn't quite figure out why, and it just got worse as she couldn't get the trunk open. He tried to help and instead managed to split her lip and probably break off half her teeth. He didn't want to go on the hike, but he didn't want her injuries to be the reason the trip was called off. Ethan wanted to smack his own forehead as the girl wobbled and her knees went out in the hall. Adrenaline, no doubt, and the shock of sudden injury and blood. He’d seen it happen often enough, it shouldn’t have surprised him.

He lifted her up and carried her into the infirmary as she blinked at him with wide green eyes. Green as jade — dark, more like emeralds. He paused in the infirmary, staring at her as his bear began to pay attention. Ethan cleared his throat, and his voice came out husky and soft. "I really am sorry."

She blinked, pupils dilated until the black nearly overwhelmed the green, and her nose twitched. "I really am fine."

Ethan snorted, liking the comfortable feeling of her in his arms. As he struggled to think of what to say next, as his brain short-circuited and nothing seemed to work, Simon filled the doorway. "What the hell, man?"

Ethan just looked at him, stunned by the way she smelled — a little wild, a little familiar. Fresh and new, like spring, with the dizzying sweetness of honeysuckle in full bloom. His mouth watered, just from looking at her and inhaling her. Kira stared at him, still hiding her mouth with blood-covered hands. He could have watched her forever.

But Simon growled under his breath and smacked his shoulder. "Put her down, you jackass."

Ethan lurched forward, closer to the hospital bed, and forced his bear back as the beast started to growl. He had to control himself. The girl didn't know anything about shifters, didn't know they were bears. And she'd no doubt have serious reservations about going on a hiking trip with a man who turned into an animal. Most humans didn't even believe shifters were real.

Ethan cleared his throat and set her carefully on the hospital bed, not wanting to let her go, and squeezed her shoulder. "Here, let me take a look."

She shook her head, still watching them both with wide eyes, and Ethan wanted to groan and hide in his room for the next week. Blood covered her hands, dripped down her wrists and forearms, and probably ruined her clothes as well. It no doubt splattered the hall and the entryway to the Lodge; Ethan thought he could hear Cooper cheerfully getting the mop and bucket out of the nearby utility room, and made a mental note to thank the kid for cleaning up.

Simon frowned as he bent to peer at the girl's face. "If anything's broken, the nearest clinic is in town. If you need surgery, that's a couple of hours away. We can triage here — luckily, Ethan is the best doc we have."

"Combat medic," Ethan offered, trying to sound competent and not like the dumbass who'd opened the trunk into her face. "Really, let me have a look."