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Bearly A Chance (Soulmate Shifters in Mystery, Alaska Book #3.5)
Every part of her wanted to hurl herself down the cliff after her mate.
He hit an embankment. Bones snapped. But he didn’t stop there. His body bounced like a runaway rubber tire and he went hurtling even further down the cliff into the tops of some snow-laden evergreens.
Ava scrabbled along the shelf. Her fingers were numb. Her face was numb. Breathing was difficult. She needed to shift. Her body was too cold. She couldn’t stay human much longer, but she couldn’t shift into her bear on this damn ledge.
Hurrying as fast as her stiff unfeeling limbs would allow, she finally made her way across the face of the mountain and back to a place where she could climb down and head toward where…she had to think for a moment. He’d told her his name. But the whole ‘falling to his death’ part had distracted her.
Ava shifted, instantly grateful for her bear’s thick coat and bigger lung capacity. The snow still burned under the pads of her beast’s feet, but it was better than feeling like her skin was slowly being burned off by frostbite.
The name came to her as she loped down the mountain toward the bank of trees where his body should be. As she neared, she slowed, fearful for what she would find.
He was a wolf. He might not want her at all because she was a bear. But like it or not, he was her mate and she wasn’t about to ignore it.
She just hoped Fate had intervened and kept him alive through the fall. Reylean bodies could take a beating and still recover, but…Ava glanced up the cliff side. She shuddered. Her heart thumped hard in her giant ribcage, making it feel like there was an entire animal trying to break free from inside her.
She sniffed the air and moved forward slowly, one large bear paw at a time. The snow was deeper beneath the trees, like it’d been gathering at the base of the cliff during the whole storm.
The scent of blood was on the air. Fresh.
Ava shifted and stumbled forward into the snow drifts, sucking in her breath as the snow soaked through her clothes. But, he had to be close. She’d seen him fall. He had to be here. Somewhere.
“Ryder?” she called. “Ryder?”
A low whine came from a few yards away behind a fallen tree. She crawled beneath the tree and gulped a breath. Ryder had shifted back to his wolf during the fall or after. The black animal took slow labored breaths. His sides shuddered in and out. Either way, his wolf could handle the cold and the injuries better than his human form.
She knelt next to him, her chest tightening. Tears brimmed in her eyes and trickled like fire down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, stroking the black fur. “I wasn’t fast enough to reach you. I’m so sorry.”
The wolf whined again and raised its head, swiping his tongue across her fingers.
She ran her fingers along his ribcage. His legs. Head. There were multiple broken bones and several deep lacerations from rocks or the trees as he’d come crashing down. He seemed responsive though and she didn’t see or feel any obvious injuries to his head or neck. His legs moved, pushing himself through the scarlet-stained-snow and closer to her.
Too much blood.
“I’ve got to get you off this mountain. You know that, right? All your running and we have to turn around and go the opposite way. You need to heal. Out of the cold. We won’t last a night out here if another storm like that blows through. Not even in our animal forms.”
Ryder snapped his jaws and huffed, laying his big head in her lap.
She tried not to panic, but she’d seen injuries that killed Reyleans before. Ryder’s were bad. She needed something to stop the bleeding. Help. Something.
She had to get him into town. To the clinic.
Ava slipped from underneath Ryder’s large body and looked down at the bloody mess of a wolf. At least he was black, or the gore level would be off the charts. As it was, he just looked…wet. She was going to look like something out of butcher’s shop by the time she got to town though.
She couldn’t patch him up with her clothes. Nothing she had on would wrap all the way around him.
Ava knelt on one knee, grabbed his front legs in one hand and slid him partially over her shoulder. She heaved a little and lifted, catching hold of his back legs with her other hand. Now the bulk of his weight was evenly distributed across her shoulders.
She stood carefully, adjusting to the load and moved slowly through the drifts of snow praying her footing would hold. The last thing he needed was to take another roll down the mountain.
“At least you weren’t a bear,” she said, trying to lighten the mood. “No way I could’ve carried you in that form.”
Ryder’s wolf chuffed, but he didn’t move. Not the whole way back to Mystery. Didn’t flinch when she tightened her grip down a really steep path. Didn’t complain when she nearly dropped him at least three times.
It was hours before she made it to the edge of the forest. It was near where the Jenkins lived, but the house was different. Same neighborhood, though, so at least Ava had a general idea where she was.
Her feet ached. Her body screamed at her under the stress of not only carrying a Reylean animal on her back but doing it down the side of a mountain trudging through snow banks.
The wind had calmed and the rainbow of colors mixed with moonlight was starting to fade into a sunrise that on any other day would’ve stopped her in her tracks. She loved the Alaskan sunrises. The bright oranges in the sky reminded her of Reylea. Of home. For just a few minutes she imagined she was still there.
But not today.
Today she couldn’t take time to appreciate the memories.
Today she had a mission.
The clinic was on the other side of town, near the diner where she worked. The only problem was that the clinic wasn’t staffed or open unless a call or appointment was made. It would be locked up tight and the police station was only a block away.
She would’ve gone to the Jenkins’ store, but she was pretty sure Owen and Tara weren’t there and the rest of the Tribe wasn’t going to be okay with her saving one of the enemy—even if Ryder was her fated mate.
Which meant she was going to have to get human help. Not Reylean help.
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