Loaded for Bear (Bear Country Grizzlies Book 2)(7)

By: Layla Nash & Callista Ball

"Every now and then." Ethan concentrated on lining up the pill packs in the cupboard, almost afraid to face those dark green eyes. He'd never been a coward, but something about that girl made him uncertain. The bear liked her. A lot. He handed her some wet towels so she could start cleaning up her hands. "Since it's a long drive down the mountain to the clinic, and tourists around here manage to twist their ankles and get stung by bees or surprise bears left and right, we figured it made sense. I already had the training, so might as well use it."

"Huh," she said, and blinked long and slow at him. Almost sleepy.

His heart sank. Just great. He'd probably given her a concussion as well. "Are you tired?"

Kira closed one eye to squint at him, then tried focusing with the other eye. "I don't think so. It's hard to tell."

"Hard to tell?" Ethan snorted, then picked up the ice pack to apply against her jaw and the growing lump under her chin. "Ringing in your ears? Nausea? Feel sweaty or clammy?"

"Yes," she said, soft and a little hesitant.

He stood there, trapped in her gaze, and could only stare into her bottomless eyes. Beautiful. Complex. Unique. Perfect. His heart jumped to his throat. She couldn't be his mate. The bear liked her because Ethan hadn't been on a date in forever. That was it. And he felt bad for almost breaking her jaw.

But he could have stood there forever, just looking at her eyes and breathing in her scent, if not for Cooper leaning through the door. "Boss asked how things are going."

Ethan jumped, putting himself between Cooper and the girl, and he had to clear his throat several times to get the growl out of it. The younger man's eyebrows rose as Ethan folded his arms. "I'm evaluating Kira for a concussion. We'll be done in a bit."

"Roger," Cooper said, though he gave Ethan a skeptical look. "Is she going to want dinner?"

"Yes, please," Kira said, leaning around Ethan's side to look at Cooper. "But you might have to puree it."

The kid snorted, not bothering to hide his grin. "Soup for you? Got it." He retreated before Ethan could say anything else.

Kira sighed, then started to wiggle to the edge of the bed, as if she would get up and walk away. "Grad students, you know? Any chance to eat..."

Her feet hit the floor and her legs immediately buckled. She would have fallen in a heap if Ethan hadn't caught her, wrapped his arms around her, and held her to his chest. He took a deep breath, trying to memorize the way she smelled so he could find her anywhere in the world. He could track her to the ends of the earth, unless she got lost in a tropical paradise.

He held her up and didn't want to let her go, particularly as her head rested on his shoulder and she sighed, content. But Ethan knew it wouldn't work. She didn't belong at the Lodge, and she had no plans to stay. She was there to do a job, that was it. So he took a deep breath to steel himself for letting her go, and carefully maneuvered her so she could lean against the hospital bed. Ethan held her face, pretending to evaluate her pupils, though his own racing heart wouldn't let him concentrate.

"You okay?" he asked, wishing he could have talked about anything else.

"Just a little shaky," she said. She touched her forehead and shook herself, as if fighting off disorientation, and she sat back on the bed. She maneuvered until she lay flat on the bed, instead of just sitting on the side, and looked around the room with a hint of uncertainty. "Can I rest here a bit? Until dinner?"

"I'll bring dinner to you," Ethan said. He loved the idea of feeding her. But her dazed expression worried him. "But you shouldn't sleep, particularly if you've got a concussion. Just stay awake for a bit longer."

"Right," she said, blinking long and slow again, and in a sudden rush that had him leaning forward, he knew he wanted to kiss her. Kira took a shaky breath, as if she were about to speak, then bent over and threw up all over his favorite hiking boots.


It was not Kira's finest moment. The room felt too small and the walls were too close, and with the taste of blood still coating her teeth, nausea bubbled up and overwhelmed her just as she debated kissing Ethan and blaming it on a concussion. Her ears rang and everything tilted and spun as Ethan reacted remarkably calmly. He retreated a little, though he continued to hold her shoulders so she didn't pitch forward on her face, and he called for the dude with the mop. The kid darkened the doorway, taking up even more of the small room, and Kira's heart started to race. The walls collapsed slowly toward her, the air grew as thick as tapioca. She couldn't breathe.