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Bearly A Chance (Soulmate Shifters in Mystery, Alaska Book #3.5)
Ava opened her eyes, stretched her arms, and sat up with a start. The room was bright and cheery and not home. Connie.I’m in Connie’s house. For a split second she’d forgotten completely. She’d been so tired. When had she fallen asleep? She didn’t remember curling up on the couch. She didn’t remember covering herself with a blanket.
She peered to her left, toward the crackling warmth of the wood stove. Ryder was still stretched out in front of it, covered now by a rainbow of blankets. His long dark hair sprawled across a bright blue throw pillow. Ava had the sudden urge to touch him. Bury her face against his skin. Taste him. All of him.
Approaching footsteps halted her lustful thoughts. She turned around and watched the hallway. A moment later Connie appeared around the corner wearing a matching set of fleece snowflake pajamas. She radiated warmth, happiness, joy, excitement, hope. All the things Ava needed and didn’t have right now. The small woman’s face lit up with a smile that would’ve urged the sun to rise faster.
Ava’s lips curved into a reciprocating grin and tucked a bit of her wayward mane of brown curls behind her ear. Maybe running into this human and sharing her secret wouldn’t end up being such a world-ending mistake.
“Feel better?” Connie asked, walking around the couch and plopping down in a small purple arm chair.
“I do, actually. How long have I been out?”
“Both of you have been out almost twenty-four hours.”
All the hope and happiness vanished. Ava’s stomach twisted in her gut like a wrung-out dishrag.” Dalmeck. She dug in her pocket for her cell phone. The screen showed multiple missed messages from Owen. And a couple from her boss at the diner. She messaged Owen first, telling him not to worry about her that she would come around when she was ready. The last thing she needed was him worrying and he probably already was.
He buzzed her back. And she told him not to worry again. He probably still would. But at least he wasn’t calling her and shouting. Which meant he was preoccupied with Tara—as well he should be.
“Everything okay?” Connie asked.
Ava released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “I think my brother will let it be for now. I hope.”
“So where are you guys from? Cause you’re new to town. Everyone knows that.” Connie wrapped her small body in a bright blue fleece blanket so that just her head was showing.
“Another world called Reylea.” No need to spare the details. She was all in with this girl at this point. Might as well be honest instead of spinning a web she’d later get tangled up inside. “Our world was dying. We came through a portal and dropped out in the Denali range just outside of town.”
No screaming. Connie’s cheeks were still pink. Her eyes sparkled with interest.
“Go on. I’m listening,” the small woman urged.
“That’s how we got here. I think your people call the time January when we arrived.”
Connie nodded, agreeing with her. “How many of you came through?”
“I’m not sure we really know. There were a lot more wolves than any of us from the other tribes realized. Not many of us made it. My brother and I along with four others are not wolves.”
“Out of a whole world?” Connie’s eyes glazed with unshed tears. “I’m so sorry. That must’ve been so terrifying and dreadful to lose so many. Is Alaska similar to where you’re from?”
“No. Reylea is…was warm. Tropical and desert mostly. There are some mountains, but they are covered with what you would call jungle vegetation. This cold and snow have been a shock to most of our systems. Col does fine. Nothing really affects him. But the rest of us don’t have quite the same internal fire.”
“Could there be others that you don’t know about?”
Ava shrugged and turned to gaze down at her mate on the floor. Ryder was still and quiet, except for the occasional huff of a heavier breath. “Anything is possible. If they came through our portal, they didn’t stay close to Mystery.”
“Your portal? Were there others?”
“Yes. Supposedly there were quite a few scattered across different areas of Reylea. At least that’s what I’d heard in my Tribe. But they must’ve gone to different places.”
“So these watery circles in the sky going around on the internet alien tabloids was you guys?” Connie pulled out her cell phone, tapped on the screen, then turned it to face Ava.
Ava’s throat closed off and for a moment her lungs refused to expand. There were pictures of the portals. Had they seen the Reyleans come through? Naomi had said the human population finding out about them was dangerous. Col’s mate had warned of government soldiers coming and taking them away. Killing them. Torturing them. Ava’s heart sped in her chest, thumping against her ribs painfully.
This was bad.
Much worse than her explaining Reylean’s to this one human female.
“I’ll take your wide eyes and silence as confirmation.” Connie shoved the phone back beneath the expanse of blankets covering her small body where it perched in the purple chair. “As far as the public is concerned it’s someone’s attempt at a science fiction prank. It’s being explained away with holograms and projection equipment and such.”
“But that’s not what they were. They weren’t a joke.”
“Well, I know that and you know that and your friends know that.”
“What about the government?” Ava asked, visions of herself and her mate and everyone in Mystery being carted off to a deep dark hole of a prison crawled up her spine and threatened to suffocate her completely.
Connie frowned. “There’s no telling. I mean I have a brother in who works for the government, some high-level something position. He’s vague about it. But even if he did know something about something, there’s no way he’d break protocol and tell me classified information. But if there was a way to tell anything about them. I would bet the government knows something. They were reported to have been visible for hours all around the globe. Reporters call it the most coordinated prank in history.”
“So they at least know they aren’t fake.”
“Yeah. There’re no public videos of anything coming through the portals. So, if that was ever posted the government took it down before it could spread. Did you guys come through as people or animals?”
“We came through as bears. Most I saw were in beast form for protection. We had no idea of what environment we were entering, and we are stronger in beast form than our human shape.”
“Well that probably works in your advantage. At least they don’t have your faces on camera.”
Ava sighed, Connie’s words took the slightest edge off the tension eating at her insides.
“The dragons will be a problem,” Ava said, knowing from talking to Naomi that there were no natural dragons on this world. So far all the other animals were similar or the same to natural born animals on Earth.
Connie’s mouth opened. Shut. Opened. Shut. Then she shook her head and frowned. “Nope. Nope. Nope. You can’t be serious.”
She hopped up from the purple chair and flung the blanket to the floor. “Dragons aren’t real. They are made up stories that belong in King Arthur legends. Definitely not in Alaska. Please say there aren’t any dragons here. I’m pretty sure that will not go over well with the locals.”
“I…” Ava started and then stopped. She really shouldn’t say. It wasn’t her place. It was really bad enough that Connie knew about their existence at all. A play by play of their Tribal species wasn’t necessary.
“You know what. You shouldn’t tell me. It’ll be better if I don’t know.” She nodded, crossed her arms over her chest and paced the room behind the couch where Ava sat. “Nobody has seen them. And I know it would’ve been in the gossip mill around her faster than snow drops in January if they had. So, if they are here, they are staying off the radar. Good for them. Also, I think if the government was going to poke it’s nose around in Mystery, we would’ve heard about it by now. Gossip mills and all.”
Ava nodded, hoping the woman was right.
“You ever want to know the what’s what, you go play dominos with the old farts down at the MCC or knit with the grandmas on Tuesdays.” Connie whirled and headed for the small kitchen. “I’m gonna make us some breakfast. You think he can keep anything down?” she hollered over her shoulder.
Ava took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind. Connie was right. There would’ve been signs if someone was looking for them. This was a small town. Everyone knew everything. Which is why she and Owen and everyone else had been so extremely careful to hide what they really were. Or what they weren’t—which was not human. The tension she’d been holding in her neck melted away just a little.
They were safe in this little out of the way town. That’s why they’d stayed. There was a tiny airport. A sheriff’s office and a deputy. A tiny shoebox of a post office and city hall officials met in the community center for meetings. They would know if someone showed up unannounced because Connie was right, the whole town would be chattering about it.
The whole town had chattered about them when they’d shown up in January. But they’d been kind. Everyone had been helpful with finding a place to stay. Getting them jobs. People had prodded for information for a while, but they hadn’t been rude about it and eventually they’d accepted that she and her brother weren’t going to share their story.
Ava stood from the couch. “Sorry. Yes.” She joined Connie in the kitchen. “What can I help with? I’m sure he will be able to eat something. It will be good for him.”
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