Melted By The Bear(7)

By: Amira Rain



But now my decision to volunteer didn’t strike me as the very best of choices. I hadn’t fully thought through the fact that I’d likely be “assigned” a complete stranger to sleep with in hopes of producing a child, and I also hadn’t fully thought through the fact that that complete stranger might be someone I’d never want to sleep with, for any reason, like it seemed Commander Blackthorn likely was.

There was no path at all heading north, so I trotted through the forest as quickly as I could while stepping over debris on the ground and occasionally having to stomp down thickets before going through them. Despite the fact that the day wasn’t exceptionally warm, mid-sixties, if that, I was soon perspiring a bit. I didn’t slow, though, just kept heading straight north, even beginning to relax and enjoy the peaceful quiet of the forest, quiet occasionally broken by the beautiful sound of birdsong, as I continued forward.

I’d hiked a mile or so, perhaps more like a mile-and-a-half, before three things hit me nearly at once, in the span of just a few seconds, as if some hidden file containing important information had suddenly finished downloading in my brain. The first thing that had hit me was the realization that I didn’t know when Commander Blackthorn would be returning from his surveillance mission, or from which direction. I hoped he wouldn’t be returning to the village from the north, and soon. The second thing that had hit me was the realization that it was possible that Jane, and perhaps even Alice, would be blamed for not preventing my escape from the hospital. This realization made me stop dead in my tracks, just in time for realization number three.

This was when I realized that some hazy, coal-gray shape a good distance ahead of me in the forest wasn’t just a shadow. It was a shadow bear.





CHAPTER TWO





Of all the different things I’d contemplated on my hike through the woods, the possibility of encountering a shadow bear during my journey to New Sunnyvale hadn’t been one of them.

As I stood stock-still in the woods, my voice came out in a faint whisper, seemingly of its own accord.

“Idiot.”

He’d already seen me, probably had a minute or so earlier, when I’d spotted the hazy, dark gray area a fair distance ahead of me, the area I’d thought was just a large shadow created by a treetop. With it being a sunny day, and with the trees being so densely packed, shadows dotted the forest floor everywhere. None of those shadows had eyes, though, eyes that were clearly focused on me. Even from a distance of thirty or forty feet, it had been the glint of those eyes that had first caught my attention. Then, I’d seen that the shadow was in the shape of a bear.

Against a backdrop of trees beginning to turn the light golds and faint oranges of early fall, he was now lumbering toward me, snarling. Now I was going to die, I was sure, and on the very same day I’d been thawed. Jane had said that shadow bears killed just for fun.

Any small shred of hope I had that maybe this shadow bear was too shadowy to really get a hold of me and hurt me was dashed when I saw and heard fallen branches being cracked beneath his paws. For a creature that seemed to be made of dark mist, it was clear that, somehow, his form still held weight and heft, just like any regular bear. So, it just stood to reason that his teeth and claws would be just as sharp. Very, very unfortunately for me.

He was advancing slowly, gaze locked on me, as if relishing my reaction to his approach. I wasn’t sure how good a shadow bear’s eyesight was at a distance, but if they had sharper-than-usual sight, like I’d heard many shifters did, this particular shifter was likely enjoying the sight of my pulse pounding in my throat. I was sure it was visible. With my heart beating like a drum, I could feel my pulse like a butterfly wing fluttering against my skin from the inside out.

At least ten long seconds had ticked by since I’d first realized what the shadow bear was, and during that time, I hadn’t been able to move a muscle for some reason. The bear, however, had covered at least ten or fifteen feet, lumbering along as if he had all the time in the world to do whatever he wanted to do to me, which really, he did. There wasn’t a soul around to save me, I had to save myself, I realized. Not like I had any clue how I might attempt to do that, though. Since I knew that even regular bears could easily outrun humans, I had no doubt that any kind of shifter bear would have no problem at all. Even at a hard sprint, I probably wouldn’t make it three feet, let alone all the way back to the hospital, a mile and a half or so away.

However, adrenaline surging through my veins was now urging my muscles to move, to do something. If I was going to die, I didn’t want to go out without a fight. Being frozen for hundreds of years only to allow myself to be killed would seem like some sort of insult to the universe.

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