Lord of the Bears (Wild Ridge Bears Book 1)(5)By: Kimber White
“Fuck!” I shouted to the sky. What the hell was she doing out here anyway?
I got back down to the cabin and went inside. The door creaked as I had to nearly pull it off its hinges to open it. I should have woken long before this and fixed the place. That had been the plan. God, it was a mess of piled leaves and nesting material of the bolder critters who’d used the place when I wasn’t here to chase them off. I had an old cedar chest shoved up against one wall under a tarp. I threw the tarp to the side and opened the lid. As quickly as my stiff limbs would let me, I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I had a pair of old hiking boots in there too. I shoved my feet into them, bones creaking, then stretched as well as I could.
I had ground to cover. Nora was still running. It would take me nothing to catch up to her, but I didn’t want to scare her again. I had an empty canteen on a hook on the wall and grabbed that too. Let her think I was just a hiker who happened upon her. Plausible enough, and her mind would want to accept it. It made sense. It was logical, sort of. But I knew her heart and heated blood might try to tell her something different.
“Quiet, bear,” I said to myself. “You’ve caused me enough trouble for one day.”
I walked out of the cabin and took a deep breath, filling my lungs with fresh, crisp air. My bones ached. My stomach growled. It would be hard to stay focused. It wasn’t good for me to come out of it like this. If I’d had my way, I would have risen slowly. Peacefully. I would have stayed in the bear for a few days after waking. Tracking. Hunting. Fishing. After I’d gotten used to the feel of the earth beneath my paws again and had surveyed every corner of my territory, only then would I have come back into myself and dealt with civilization.
Still, it felt good to use my legs. Adrenaline shot through me, warming my blood as I broke into a brisk jog and headed north toward the cliffs. The tangy scent of the lake filled my nostrils, practically calling me to it. Off in the distance, I could scent the tankers rushing along the shipping lanes on Lake Superior. Human smells. Normal things. It helped curb the wildness simmering just beneath. I just hoped it would be enough to tether me when I found Nora and quiet the bear. It would have to be. I couldn’t risk letting her see me shift. I knew nothing about her except that she didn’t belong here. I’d been asleep for months at least. Almost a year, most likely. Until I knew how things were along Wild Ridge, the sooner I could get Nora safely away, the better.
She was getting very close to the cliffs and still running. Slower now. I was gaining on her. She’d changed directions at least twice. She must have thought she was heading for the highway. Not quite. She went too far east. And she wasn’t in a wild panic anymore. That would help. Otherwise, with my luck she’d try to mace my ass or something the minute I got close. No way I could keep the bear in check if that happened.
The roaring waterfall of the highest cliffs reached my ears. She was close. I darted behind the trees to stay hidden. But then, I saw her. Nora reached the cliff face and turned around, cupping her hand to her brow to shield her eyes from the sun.
God. My heart dropped to my feet. I’d only seen her through the bear’s eyes at first. She was stunning. That mass of blonde curls framed her face, wild and unruly. Without the curls I’d guess it would have hung to the middle of her back. But, it sprang in all directions, bobbing just at her shoulders. I moved closer. She still didn’t see me. Soon, I’d have to make a noise or call out to her. But, I wanted this moment. I wanted to watch her, study her, know her. Something told me everything would change the instant she turned and looked at me. So for now, I just wanted this.
She swore at her phone as she held it up to her ear then tapped at the screen. Dead battery or no signal. Maybe both. Shit. I didn’t have a phone either. I’d have to walk her back down the ridge. If she’d even trust me enough to come with me. A very long time to keep the bear under control around her. My stomach growled and my spine prickled. Oh yes, the bear was there, just under the surface, hungry and waiting.
Steeling myself with a deep intake of air, I stepped out of the tree line and walked toward her. I stopped myself just before I called out to her. I shouldn’t know her name yet, except I did. I pushed back the thoughts about what that could mean.