Nell had graduated top of her class ten years ago, and had always thought of herself as the smartest cookie in her class. In fact, she’d fancied herself the smartest person in any and every room she’d ever entered.
So why, when her life literally depended on it, was the only thing she could think of was, ‘That is a mighty big bear that’s about to eat me!’ coupled with a meager instinct to run in a manner reserved for women in snowshoes trying to outrun a very angry grizzly bear.
She didn’t even have time to evaluate the irony that she was just telling herself that getting lost in the middle of the Canadian wilderness was about as bad as it could get. Wrong-o.
Possibly if she could think beyond the moment, she would decide that running in a dead-sprint into a deep, dark cave was a poor idea, even in the case of bear-survival, and screaming like a banshee as she did it.
There were, and are, thousands of similar caves in that part of Canada alone, and the bear and wolf population in those caves are actually pretty high, especially in the time of year when female bears are hibernating with their young. Nell knew this—she had done a report on bears in the fifth grade. She couldn’t remember even a single factoid from it at the moment. The more wild part of her brain she was just becoming acquainted with assured her that if the cave had a part that the grizzly could not fit into and chase her, then she had a fighting chance.
To her horror, the cave was so dark that she couldn’t find any such quarters and ran smack into a wall, flatting her to her back. Hopefully you’re not surprised that there was, indeed, a bear in that cave other than the one chasing her. I think all of us saw that one coming.
However, the next part would have been a surprise even to a smart girl like Nell when she wasn’t being chased by a bear.
Because of the dark, it was very hard to see what was going on except for the light filtering through the cave-hole. She got drooled on and a chunk of fur fell on her face, and she was very concerned with keeping her hands over her face, blocking out all of the action.
When she heard a bear scream and then a shadow disappear back out the way of the cave entrance, she was less than thrilled about the dying she was going to have to do. She hadn’t been thrilled about that for awhile, since she’d been lost in the woods and snow out there for at least seven hours and had realized (before the bear) that she was going to die unless she had a reserve of good luck she hadn’t been previously privy to.
Instead, she heard the sound of a man say, “Goddamn it!”
Well, that was unexpected. It was certainly growlish and deep like a bear, but it was definitely English words. She threw her hands from her face and looked around. She couldn’t see anything. “Hello?”
“Damn it, that hurt,” said the man, and then a light turned on from around the corner. Apparently, this cave wasn’t a cave, so much as a home for what she could only assume was a hobo that owned a pet bear somewhere. His silhouette suddenly stepped into the light. “You alright?” The visage stepped forward, and she could almost make out his dirty jeans and a flannel shirt.
She didn’t say anything for a second, trying to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating the whole ordeal. “Urrgh,” she said, making a round like a wounded ferret. “Urroo…”
The man stepped forward and knelt down next to her. “Injured?”
She shook her head, although the evidence did point, as fair as she was concerned, towards a serious concussion. “Did you…” she began asking it before her brain could stop her, “Turn into a bear?”
“No,” he grunted, and then slowly picked her up and pulled her to her feet. The man was gigantic, over six and a half feet tall. He was strong and well-chisteled, even, except for the blood that was oozing down his face from a deep slice in his nose.
She would have shrunk away from him if he didn’t radiate a delicious sort of heat. She smiled, as if she was silly to even ask, but then he said, “I turned into a man.”
“Oh.” Her mind began to do sommersaults, and her stomach followed suit. It felt like her entire being was being overloaded with what had happened. “Excuse me,” she said, holding up a finger so she turn and dry-heave against the side of the cave.
Bear-man put his hands around her and eventually led her back into the more lighted portion of the cave. It was more like an apartment in this part, especially when he pulled a door across the small walkway, shutting them out from the cold of the rest of the cave.
“You must have been hauling tail with those,” he finally said after about five minutes of silence. She was surprised to see that the man was smiling… And he was sort of handsome—in a mountain-main sort of way. “Must have been something to see. You’re lucky, though. If that bear wasn’t already injured, he would have had no trouble running you down in less than a blink.”
She blinked at him until he waved his hand in front of her face. “You sure you’re okay?” he asked her, raising a dark eyebrow.
She shook her head and shivered. “No. I don’t know what okay is anymore. It’s been a rough day.” What else, after all, was she supposed to say to a bear-man? She squinted at him with confusion. “Why are you grinning like that?”
“Sorry. I’ll get you somethin’ hot to drink. I actually have some coffee around here…” He looked around a shelving unit made from crates until he found the desired bag and brought it around to the gas cooker on the far side of the room, saying, “It’s just that… Well, not many people have seen me change. None have taken it so well.”
“I dry-heaved,” she admitted. “And I am owning most of this up to the cold, exhaustion, and shock. Really, I don’t think any of this is happening.”
He gave a laugh. “Well, we’ll get you warm and fed for now. First thing in the morning I’ll bring you down to the town. What’s brought you out here so far? I sometimes go months without hearing anyone this time of year.”
“Do you… live here?” She began to pull off her gloves and looked over her stiff, frozen fingers with pink nail polish.
“Can’t live in town. I guide hiking tours in the summer, then I hole up here. Sometimes I can’t control the change well, and I don’t want to go bear right in the middle of a pie-eating competition, if you get my meaning,” he said easily, but then he didn’t let the question go. “And you? What on this green earth has a girl like you, with nail polish and makeup and the whole bit—all the way up here? You’re miles off any trail.”
“Funny,” she grumbled, “I was just wondering the same thing.” She rolled her eyes after the bear-man kept his eyebrows raised, obviously expecting more of an explanation than she had given. “Snow-shoe hike gone horribly wrong. My friends are sort of adventure-types and wanted me to go on this with them. Said I’d love it.” She frowned. “I’ve been on much more fun things.”
“You wanna give ‘em a call with your emergency phone? Just to tell them you know where you are now and you’ll be in town before noon tomorrow.”
She snorted. “If I had an emergency phone, I wouldn’t be out here by myself,” she assured.
Now he was the one frowning. “So… you brought emergency supplies—extra blanket and stuff like that, right?”
His eyes grew dark. “Where you from, again?”
“Seattle.” Her lips puckered as she grew quickly defensive. “Don’t give me that look! How was I to know I’d get lost?” Deep down, she knew that this whole thing was a cluster screw even before she had to be picked up by a man who had some serious issues.
He gave a low growl and, as if re-realizing that his nose was still bleeding, pulled a handerchief up to his nose. His eyes barely left hers—they were accusing.
“Fine. It was dumb. I got chased by a bear for it, and now I’m rethinking my confidence in natural law.”
“Honey, if I wasn’t there to save your miserable hide, you’d be food right now. Keep that in mind that I put my neck out there. I looked prettier before this mess.”
“And thank you, bear guy,” she sighed with exasperation.
“Hooper. My name’s Hooper,” he told her.
“Nell,” she replied, but was pursing her lips. “Look, can you stop looking at me like I’m a kid that got caught playing ball in the house? I’m sort of beyond the age of lecturing.”
Another growl, and he stirred the coffee. She watched him, pulled off her coat, and eventually got comfortable on his sofa until he clapped his hands, signaling he was done with the job.
She really hadn’t expected him to walk over to her, grab her arm, and drag her over his knee, and even when he did, she couldn’t quite comprehend why until his hand began to fly down over the seat of her jeans.
She was filled more with indignity than anything else. The last time she’d been spanked was when she came home with her last ‘F’ in the fourth grade. “You might be beyond the age of lecturing, honey girl, but you’re never too old to be taught a good lesson,” he gritted.
Do not go snow-shoeing in Canada without survival supplies, do not stand upwind from bears, and do not antagonize a shape-shifter. It was a day of lessons.
“Ouch!” she screamed, and then reached around like she was a wild animal to attempt to bite him. It all ended in a short-lived struggle that ended up with the wall-sized man pinned her hand behind her back and breaking the seam in her snow pants in the attempt to pull them down.
She was screaming, of course, but knew there was nobody probably on this whole mountain that could hear her even if she was swearing and fighting a million times louder than she was.
The worst part was that when she was sprawled bear-assed across him, the pain wasn’t the only thing she was worried about. She was worried about if he thought her ass was attractive. Not that it should matter—there were surely a whole list of things baring a relationship or rendezvous since he was a bear from Alaska and she was a nurse anesthetist from Seattle, but admittedly the thought of her ass, and his consideration of it, did jump into her mind.
“You’re going to kill me!” she heaved, out of breath from being hauled over his strong thighs. She was beginning to cry… Which was odd. She hadn’t done that even when she thought she was going to freeze to death.
She couldn’t help her embarrassment, and the spanking seemed to make it that much worse. “Please!” she cried.
He grunted again and then sighed before pulling her off his knees and into the sofa. “Sorry about that,” he grunted. “I have this thing about females, and safety, and I get a little crazy,” he admitted softly. “I don’t know you well enough to do that to you.”
She wiped some hot tears from the corner of her eye and swallowed. Hooper, and she didn’t know him well, didn’t seem like the type to apologize lightly. Strangely, though, the apology sort of sounded like if he knew her better, he would have spanked her harder.
She looked around, feeling a little sorry for him. Chances were, looking at his hobo-like existence, that he didn’t know anyone very well. Yet he still rushed in to save her anyway. She eyed the cut on his nose and chewed her lip.
“I bet you’re about the rag me out for being macho,” he grumbled, sounding upset at himself. “I’m not saying that what you did wasn’t worth spankin’ for, but maybe—”
“Actually,” she said, reaching behind her to see the damage of her pants, “I was just going to ask you for a cup of that coffee and a warm pair of pants…” At his surprised look, she shrugged, “Priorities are priorities.”
He slowly broke into a boyish grin. “So you don’t want to run out the door screaming yet?” he asked, already getting up to fetch what she asked for.
She shook her head, trying to ignore the tingling pain in her ass that was making her face go red. “Not yet. But the night’s not over yet.”
Thanks for reading my short story (which I kept at 2,000 words–wow, that goes by in a wink…)! Now for the prizes!
James actually asked me to write this because he wants to try out a new set of shifter books with bears instead of wolves like usual. I think he was also a bit inspired by Beorn (from The Hobbit). SO please do comment, BUT also fill out the form below so we can judge interest. Add your email to the list, and then using Rafflecopter, that email might be the winner of a $20 Amazon Gift Card!
Thanks so much for all of you who filled out my questionaire for the prize! It was a fantastic turnout with a huge number of applicants! Tomorrow I’ll be in contact with the winner of the $20 prize for this blog!
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