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Bearly A Chance (Soulmate Shifters in Mystery, Alaska Book #3.5)
Ava drew a deep breath and crossed the empty street. The first streaks of dawn were warming the sky and the wind had completely died off. The wolf on her back however felt heavier than ever.
She might be six feet of strong muscled Reylean female, but this guy wasn’t small, and she’d been carrying him for miles. A person could only keep going for so long before thoughts of collapsing and crying and feeling sorry for one’s self started to inch into the forefront of a person’s mind.
But she was Ava Di’Brahth.
She was the daughter of a Tribal chief.
She wasn’t weak. She never gave up. She was strong.
She would’ve been a Vraka’s wife—a Mahadhri—had her life played out the way her parents thought. But it hadn’t. Her brother had been outcast. Her world had fallen apart. Then Reylea had burned.
Now she was here. On a new world. Finding a new way to survive. And Ryder was her mate. Fate had chosen him for her, and he would die if she couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Failure was unacceptable.
The morning was still. The only sound was the crunch crunch of Ava’s boots in the fresh snow. The solid pounding of her heart trying to leap from her chest. The heavy strained breathing of her mate slung over her shoulders. His heart was slowing down.
The medic’s truck was only a few feet away. There would be bandages there. Something to help her stop the bleeding. Reyleans healed fast, but Ryder had lost too much blood. The healing wouldn’t kick in until the blood loss was stemmed and all the movement from her carrying him down the mountain was slowing the healing too. But again, it was too cold to just lay down and rest somewhere.
A quick glance at the clinic doors, didn’t reveal anything. The lights were off. The truck was warm though and the snow had recently been cleared from the windshield. Also, a freshly broken trail stretched from the truck to the clinic.
Ava took a few steps closer to the clinic.
She waited and watched. The lights were off. If someone was there, they had to be in the back. Her lip curled, frustration bubbling inside her like a geyser about to release.
She turned her attention back to the truck. Getting in and out of a vehicle was going to draw much less attention than breaking into a building. And she certainly wasn’t going to attempt to break into a building with a person inside it.
Ava knelt and slid Ryder to the ground next to the truck. The snow beneath him was quickly stained red. Worry crept along her skin like a spider deciding where to bite. He’d taken a beating going down that mountain. So much so that he was still losing blood after all this time.
Her chest tightened and her throat closed up. Fear coiled in her stomach like a snake waiting to strike. She couldn’t lose him. Wolf or not. He was her mate. She wanted him and needed him and eventually she would love him.
Maybe not at this second, but the lack of love wouldn’t stop her from moving heaven and earth to save his black and blue ass.
He didn’t whine. Didn’t move. His breathing was shallow and his heart was slowing to a rate Ava was not comfortable with at all. “Don’t you dare die on me. You hear me?”
Still no response. His gold eyes were closed.
Ava stood and reached for the two back doors on the camper of the truck. She pulled once, judging the locking mechanism and then yanked again, pulling both handles right off the doors. She pushed the now swinging doors open all the way and dug through the red bags at the edge of the truck bed until she found some towels and gauze she could wrap around his body.
“You will not die on me.” The command gave her a semblance of control over a situation she knew in her gut wasn’t something she could change. She knelt at his side again, rolled Ryder over and pressed the towels against the oozing wounds.
“What the damn hell are you doing?”
Ava’s bear startled and she half-way roared at the intruder before she could pull back on the animal instinct. The tall human female had snuck up on her. She was getting careless or just distracted by Ryder’s wounds.
The EMT’s eyes widened. She drew the pistol strapped to her hip and pointed it right at Ava’s face. “This is the second time I’ve had a person roar at me. A person. I don’t know what you and your brother think is normal, but—” She shook the gun just a little, like waving the weapon would drive her point home better. “But roaring is not normal. It’s not polite either. And I want to know how you even are capable of making that sound.”
“I’m busy. Get that gun out of my face.” Ava shut down the rattle coming from her chest and the overwhelming desire to side-swipe the little human.
“You broke into my truck. You roared at me. I think I can point a gun if I want. I also think I’ll be calling the sheriff.”
Ava’s lip curled. She continued wrapping Ryder’s chest with bandages but turned her head to face the woman. She let her bear rise to the surface, just enough that her eyes would flicker gold and her fangs would descend somewhat, showing her not-human side. She’d kill the human if that’s what it took to save her mate. And she’d do it before the woman had a chance to call the sheriff.
“That wouldn’t be smart.” Her voice was sharper than the blade she had strapped to her ankle. But she wouldn’t use a knife to end the little female, she’d use her claws. The local police would just look for a bear. They’d never suspect a person.
“What are you?”
“Something you don’t want to piss off.”
The two women just stared at each other for a few moments. Time ticking by like the human was trying to decide which of them would win if it came down to it. In the end, the EMT holstered her gun and walked to the back of her truck.
“You wrecked these doors. How the hell—never mind. I don’t want to know.” She turned, meeting Ava’s gaze once more. “Why are you bandaging a giant wolf? Where did he even come from? Are you involved with someone crossing wolves and sled dogs?”
Ava watched her every move. The female dug around in the same red bag she’d found bandages in.
“You need to use this. Those wounds are deep.” She held out a plastic package that read—WoundSeal. “Rip it open over the wound and pack it. Then wrap him up. It’ll help until you can get him to a vet.”
“He’s not a sled dog. And I’m not taking him to a vet. I just need to get the bleeding to stop. He’ll be fine if I can just get the bleeding to stop and get him somewhere warmer.” Ava followed the directions, packing the powder into the wound. Ryder still didn’t stir. Didn’t whine. Didn’t make a sound. Not good. But the powder did work. The blood stopped oozing out and his pulse strengthened almost immediately.
The tension in her body went from a twenty down to a ten, like she’d been carrying the entire Alaskan sky on her back and it just slid off. He wasn’t out of the woods yet, but this was a definite improvement.
“Is it wild?”
“Is what wild?”
“The wolf. He’s wild isn’t he?”
There was the question she couldn’t answer. She’d already scared the woman with a hint of her bear. Eyes. Fangs. No way Ava could tell the human that the giant wolf at her feet was really a man. However, the EMT apparently didn’t scare easily because she hadn’t moved forward with calling the sheriff and she wasn’t running for the hills either.
“I have some sedative to keep him knocked out and I can drive you to Fairfield. That’s the closest vet.”
Ava shook her head. “He doesn’t need a vet. I just need to get him somewhere warm so he can rest.”
“I’m guessing your place isn’t an option? The last time I saw your brother he was losing his mind over the call at the Jenkins place. Sheriff said Tara was missing. Do you know what happened? No one will tell me.”
Ava shook her head. “I think he found her, not sure. I got—”
“Distracted by a wolf?”
“Yes. I’m sure they’ll find Tara. Col is a—” Ava caught herself and snapped her teeth together. She couldn’t tell this woman…could she? The one rule everyone had agreed on was not involving humans. Not telling them about Reylea unless they were Fated Mates. She’d heard the spiel from Naomi and Penny about how the government would come and take them away and lock them up and probably kill them. If that really was the case, she’s already gone too far with this female. She’d shown her too much. Killing her was still an option…
She traced the hilt of the blade she kept strapped to her ankle.
“I can shoot you before you get that blade off your leg.” The woman leaned against the back of the truck, watching Ava with a caution that reminded Ava of herself. “Whatever is going on with you and your brother, that’s between you and him. I would really appreciate you keeping the funky eyes and fangs to yourself too. Whatever you are—government experiment gone wrong or freak of nature—I don’t want any trouble.”
“If you say something—”
“You’ll kill me just for the fun of it before they come haul your ass off to Area 51, yeah. I gotcha.”
The hair on the back of Ava’s neck prickled at the underlying threat. “Area 51?” She’d never heard that name and if it was a real thing, the others would want to know eventually. If they ever spoke to her again.
“Area 51. Where they take aliens.”
Ava dug through things she read or watched on television but came up blank. “It is a prison?”
The other female’s stance softened, not enough that her hand came off the butt of her holstered gun, but her pressed lips parted slightly and her gaze warmed. The tension in her shoulders loosened. “Look, are you going to hurt me if I keep my mouth shut?”
Ava shook her head slowly. She wouldn’t. She didn’t want to kill or hurt anyone. If it was necessary, that was another story. But if the woman cooperated, she’d rather not have blood on her claws.
The other woman took her hand off her gun and extended it toward Ava. “I’m Connie by the way. Connie Callahan.”
Ava shook her hand and nodded. “Ava Di’Brahth. This is Ryder,” she said, gesturing down to the wolf. She’d explain later that he wasn’t just an animal, but for now it was her secret. Right now she just needed the place to hunker down with him and rest out of sight of the rest of the Tribe. She couldn’t really leave town. She didn’t have a vehicle. Ryder needed to rest and heal. And where would she go? Mystery was really the only place she knew on this whole world.
“If you need a place for the wolf to rest, bring him to my place. I’ve got a barn out behind the house. It’s sealed up tight against the wind and I have extra blankets.”
“Why would you help me?” She didn’t know Connie. She’d never met the woman beyond serving her lunch a few times at Lily’s.
Connie shrugged. “What can I say, I’m a sucker for a wounded animal. And you look desperate and a little scared. Your brother isn’t going to come beating on my door is he? I’m tall and not usually intimidated by men, but he’s a damn fracking giant and if he has teeth like yours, I might pee myself just a bit.”
“To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t think any of them will bother you. They’ll be mad at me when the see the wolf.”
“They? I’m guessing your brother is like you. And you said Col’s name earlier, so I’m guessing the strangely-named-new-to-Mystery-Li’Vhrams are also part of the not-so-normal-club. And Kann? Seriously, who names their kid after a tiger?”
What? A tiger? Kann wasn’t a tiger, but obviously their names isolated them more than anyone realized. Ava hissed under her breath. How could she have been so careless? Had she really been so focused on Ryder that all the warnings and all the care everyone from Reylea took to remain undisclosed to the humans had just been tossed to the wind?
She was really was botching this whole thing up. But she needed to go somewhere, and she couldn’t take Ryder back to her and Owen’s place. Hopefully Connie’s was close enough she could walk to the diner for work. She had a shift tomorrow morning she hadn’t been able to get covered.
“Look. Just don’t say anything to anyone. If they don’t think you know anything, then you won’t even be a concern.”
“Fair’nough. If I do become a concern, I expect you to back me up.”
Ava lifted Ryder from the ground and tipped her chin at the truck. “Can we get to your place? For your help, I owe you a debt. No one will so much as breathe on you without repercussions from me.”
“Okay then. You sound like some kind of mafia family.” Connie walked around to the passenger side back door of the truck, put up the seat and gestured to the plastic floor mat. “Put him there. I’ve got a blanket in the back you can put over him.”
Ava did her best to fit the over-sized wolf onto the floor behind the front seat. It was like trying to figure out how to get into a tiny public bathroom stall without climbing on top of the toilet—an experience Ava had not found pleasant.
She finally got all his legs and tail and head situated where it hopefully wasn’t too uncomfortable. At least he was out cold. His pulse and breathing were steady, but he was not responsive otherwise.
Connie returned to her side, blanket in hand. Ava took it and covered Ryder’s body then made sure his feet and tail were out of the way before closing the door.
“Thank you, Connie.”
The tall brunette smiled. “You’re welcome. It’ll be nice to have the inside beat on what’s going on with you newcomers. You know you’re all the gossip of the town.”
Ava froze in place and stared. People were talking? About them? Her stomach recoiled and that same fear from earlier returned, constricting around her intestines even tighter. The like a small fire, anger replaced the fear, burning through the worry and blossoming into indignant rage.
“You can’t—” Her voice rose, and her chest rattled with a growl from her bear.
“I know, I know,” Connie said, backing up a couple steps. “I just meant it would be nice to know the truth, instead of listening to everyone make up shit and postulate about where they think you all came from and why you’re in Mystery. There’re quite the conspiracy circles in town. But I’m not going to tell anyone anything. I promise. I like all of my body parts intact and attached and functioning.”
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