Authors: Emily Minton,Julia Keith
Snapping my mouth shut, my teeth hit together with a clang before I turn stumbling into Amelia and make my way toward the stairs as fast as I possibly can.
I’m barely half way up the stairs before I hear the thundering of paws coming up behind me. Looking over my shoulder, I see the giant animal racing after me as I scramble to get up the stairs. Letting another scream loose, I swing back around and push at Amelia in an attempt to make her go faster.
Just as I’m reaching the top of the stairs, a loud crash sounds behind me, and I can’t help but turn to look at what has just happened.
Looking over my shoulder, I see that the one bear has lunged at the bear attempting to come after us and has bulldozed him straight through the wall. They’re lying on the floor in a heap of dust and drywall scraps as the one pins the other to the floor.
Rearing his head back, I can tell by the posture of his body that he is preparing to give the final blow to the bear beneath him. Once again, I find myself frozen in my tracks, unable to look away.
Just as his head comes down, I feel the same electrical current as before and hear Eli yell, “No! Ethan, no!”
Swinging my head frantically in search of Eli, I spot him crouched on the other side of the room. Standing up, he begins to approach the other two bears with his hands out in front of him in a gesture of surrender.
As I watch him walking across the room, I can’t help but notice that he is bare-ass naked, and my eyes all but bug right out of my head.
“Ethan, no. Please, don’t do this. He’s my father. Let me sedate him and we can deal with him after.”
Making a chuffing sound, the one bear begins swinging his head from side to side in what appears to be a no.
“Please, Ethan,” Eli pleads as he reaches down under the couch and pulls out a dart gun. “Let me do this. Please, I’m begging you.”
With a huff, the one bear clambers off of the other one and rears back on his hind feet before releasing a massive roar. Slamming down to all fours, his body begins to shake before a shimmer of sorts seems to spread across his big body. In what seems like the blink of an eye, I am no longer looking at a giant black bear, but instead, I’m looking at Ethan’s naked ass.
Unable to do anything but stare at the two naked men standing in front of the bear, I miss Amelia’s movements behind me. Wrapping her arms around me, she makes a cooing sound in my ear that I suppose is meant to calm me, but does anything but.
Turning my head toward her, I ignore the horrifying mess in front of me and demand, “Amelia, you need to tell me right now what the fuck is going on here.”
“Shh, Liza, you need to calm down. You’re shaking like a leaf. Just focus on breathing.”
She squeezes me tighter as her one hand comes up and cradles the back of my head, pulling me into her chest. Working on doing as she says, I pull in one deep breath before I hear a pop, and another mighty roar.
Turning back quickly, I see that Eli has the gun aimed at the bear, and there is now a dart sticking out of the bear’s shoulder. Attempting to stand, the bear stumbles around for a few seconds before collapsing to the ground.
Before I know it, the bear’s breathing slows and the same shimmer begins to spread across him.
“What the fuck?” I whisper out as the shimmering gets brighter.
For a few heartbeats, the massive animal’s body contorts in front of us, before his limbs begin to change right before my very eyes. In the next moment, the fur and paws are gone, and I am now staring down at Eli’s dad, who is also disturbingly naked.
“Eli,” I whisper out in a trembling voice.
Turning toward me, Eli has a look of utter horror on his face as he springs into action and takes the steps two at a time. Pulling me from Amelia’s arms, he cups my face in his big hands and looks me in the eyes before saying, “I’m so sorry, Angel. Please, give me a moment to explain everything to you. Please, let me fix this.”
Unable to say anything, I just shake my head back and forth before I burst into tears.
Crushing my head into his muscular chest, Eli says, “Please, don’t leave me, Angel. I know how this looks, but just let me explain everything to you.”
The anguish in his voice is enough to have me pulling back from his hold. Releasing a sob, I continue to stand there shaking my head from side to side. “None of this makes any sense, Eli. This is all so fucked up, and I don’t even know where to begin with what I just saw.”
“Shh, Angel, I promise I’ll answer any questions you have. Just please give me the chance to do that before you leave me.”
Glancing up into his gorgeous amber eyes, I begin to feel a fog come over my body and mind. Desperate to ask the one thing at the forefront of my mind, I say, “Why the fuck is everyone naked?”
Just as everything goes black, I hear Ethan let out a bark of laughter and say, “Only Liza would be more concerned about nudity than bears in the house.”
limp body upstairs, I take her to the room we’ve been sharing and lay her down on the bed. Brushing her hair off of her face, I lean down and place a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Come on, Angel. Wake up and talk to me,” I plead as I sit beside her on the bed.
As I continue to run the back of my hand across her beautiful face, she begins to stir. Her eyelids flutter for a few seconds before she opens her eyes and blinks up at me with a look of confusion on her face. “Eli? What the hell is going on? Why am I in bed?”
“You don’t remember anything that happened downstairs earlier?” I ask.
She stops for a moment, and I can tell she’s trying to think back upon the events from earlier. In just a couple of heartbeats, a gasp leaves her mouth and she jerks out of my hold, scrambling across the bed.
Jumping up, I place my hands in front of me and say, “It’s all right, Angel. I’m not going to hurt you, but we need to talk. Please, just let me explain everything before you freak out anymore.”
Looking up at me, I can see the confusion over everything running amuck inside her head. She takes a moment to assess my sincerity before nodding her head once, in a move I take as her permission to continue.
Unable to stay away from her for even a moment longer, I kneel on the bed and reach toward her slowly. Apprehension crosses her features, but when I wrap my hands around her arms, she doesn’t resist but rather comes willingly as I pull her into my lap.
“Fine, Eli. Talk, but this better be good or my ass is out of here.” She nods, holding herself taut in my lap.
Trying to pick my words carefully, I start off with the most obvious. “I guess you’ve figured out that I’m a shifter.”
“You’re a damn bear. Who ever heard of a bear shifter? I grew up with Mom and Amelia reading me stories of the big bad wolf. Sure, everyone knows about werewolves in fairy tales, but I’ve never heard of freaking were bears. Even with werewolves, it’s just made up stories. It’s not real, Eli. This whole thing is just crazy.”
“There are wolf shifters, too, Liza, and they aren’t just make-believe. My mom was one. She was the most beautiful grey wolf I’ve have ever seen. She was majestic and strong,” I say, picturing my mother in my head.
“Seriously?” she asks as I nod. “What happened to her?” Liza asks, turning her head to look into my eyes.
Scooting back, I lean against the headboard and turn Liza around in my lap so she is straddling me. “She was killed by hunters when I was a boy. They took her tail as a trophy and left her body in the woods to rot.”
Her anger and fear are forgotten for a moment as she reaches out and cups my cheeks. “I’m so sorry, Eli. I know what it’s like to lose a parent. The pain never fades.”
Leaning into her palm, I briefly close my eyes. “No, it doesn’t.”
I have to get the conversation back on track, so I open my eyes and start telling her all I know about shifter history. “No one really knows how shifters were created. It’s a lot like humans; there are a million different theories, but no one knows what is true or not.”
“What do you believe?” she asks, forgetting her promise to not question me until I’m done.
“My mother and father are both religious, and they’ve passed that down to me. We were at church every Sunday before Mom died. Our preacher taught us that we were created by God, just like you were. He said our shifter side is a gift we were given, for being such loyal subjects. I’m not sure if he’s right, but I like to think he is.”
Liza simply nods, waiting for me to continue. It takes me a minute to think of what to tell her next. “There are shifters for every animal you can imagine, from iguana to hippo.”
“Oh, wow. A hippo shifter, I’d love to see that.” She lets out a little laugh.
I chuckle along with her. “My father and I visited Africa a few years ago, and we met an elephant shifter. He was huge. I swear, the man weighed four-hundred pounds and was seven feet tall. He was as slow as molasses, too.”
She looks at me, searching my face. “So, the human looks like its shifter side.”
“That’s what I’ve always been told, but I don’t think I look much like a bear.”
She smiles at me, still studying my face. “You do in a way. You’re hairy and you’re huge. You’re also grumpy as a bear.”
I smile at her, glad she is starting to relax and attempting to joke. “Every shifter is different. Even if they are both the same animal, they can be the exact opposite in their human forms. Still, they share some of the same animal traits. As bears, Ethan and I both eat a lot, and we also sleep more than a cat shifter would.”
She nods her understanding. “I can see that. You and Ethan are different, but I see a lot of similarities.”
“There is one thing all shifters have in common. We all need a mate,” I tell her, looking into her eyes. “We spend our entire life looking for that one person who will make us whole. If we never find them, we live a lonely life.”
Her body goes stiff, but I push on. “You are my mate. I knew it the moment my eyes landed on you. Your smell and your taste only proved I was right.”
Looking up at me with startled eyes, her body goes stiff as she asks, “So, you mean to tell me that we’re mates? Like, we are meant to be with each other for the rest of our lives?”
Nodding my head, I reach up and begin rubbing soothing circles across her back as I give her a moment to let everything soak in.
“So, what you’re telling me is that, not only do I have to accept the fact that you’re a bear, but I also have to accept the fact that you’re the only man I’ll be with for the rest of my life?” she asks, her voice rising as she continues.
Before I can answer her, she jumps from my lap and starts pacing across the bedroom floor. Deciding it’s best to just stay put and give her some time to process everything, I keep my ass on the bed and fight my natural urge to go to her and sooth her.
She paces back and forth, mumbling to herself for what seems like ages, before she suddenly stops and turns on her heel until she’s facing me. Running her hands through her hair, she continues to stand completely still and just stare at me.
Finally, she begins to open her mouth but quickly snaps it shut, unwilling or unable to say what she’s thinking. I’m not sure which one it is, though.
Shaking her head, she lets out a huff before walking up to me and stepping between my spread legs. Placing her hands on my shoulders, she leans down and places a kiss upon my head before pulling me toward her chest as she wraps her arms around me.
Breathing out a sigh of relief, my arms come up and wrap around her waist as I squeeze her tightly to me. “Please, don’t leave me,” I whisper into her chest.
Running her hand up the back of my head, she fists my hair before giving it a slight tug and angling my face up toward her. “I’m not going to lie to you, Eli. This whole thing is bat shit crazy, and it’s going to take some time for me to wrap my head around everything. However, at the same time, for some strange reason, I am nowhere near as freaked out as I should be.”
“I’ll never hurt you, Angel. You never need to be scared or freaked out by me. I would die for you. Please, never doubt that.”
Nodding her head in silent understanding, she says, “I know, Eli. I think that’s the main reason I’m not running out of here screaming like a lunatic right now. Regardless of everything that has happened in the last hour or so, I trust you. I have from the moment I met you. When I’m with you, I feel safe. Hell, I feel whole, and I’ve never had that feeling in my entire life.”
“That’s because we’re each other’s other half. You’re the missing piece to my soul, Liza. We were meant to be with each other for eternity.”
Without giving her a moment to respond, I drag my arms up her body and cup her face with my hands before pulling her down toward me and crashing my mouth upon hers.
Deep down, I realize that I probably need to give her some time to go over everything that’s happened, but the animal inside of me is winning out with his need to dominate her and show her exactly who it is that she belongs to.
Continuing to devour her luscious lips, I quickly stand without separating from her and flip her down onto the mattress. Blanketing her body with my own, I thread my fingers through her silky hair and begin to slip my tongue in and out of her mouth, mimicking the same fucking motion I yearn for.