Excerpt - Bear Necessities

A Post-Apocalyptic Bear Shifter Romance

Selena Kitt

But it was locked. That damned door was locked, I know it was! I tried, but it wouldn’t open!

Whatever had come through the front door hadn’t encountered any barrier at all, it seemed. She whirled around, rising to her feet, tottering and unsteady, cringing at the way her ankle buckled and threatened to go out from under her. But she remained upright, just barely, as she heard footsteps coming down the hall.

Footsteps?

Whatever was coming, it wasn’t a bear.

Ivy leaned against the wall for support, raising the gun, suddenly more terrified than she had been when facing the enormous bear. She knew what those heavy footfalls meant, even though she wanted to deny it. There was a man coming down that hallway—a man wearing boots, perhaps. That’s exactly what it sounded like.

Ivy hadn’t seen another human being in years. The thought terrified her.

“Don’t come any closer!” Her voice shook, almost as much as her hands, but she managed to hold the rifle up as a man’s frame filled the doorway. He was still in shadow, and the light was growing dim, but she knew it was a man, no doubt about that. “If I were you, I’d just turn around and walk away.”

“You don’t want to shoot me.” It was a statement, not a question, and the man’s voice was deep, confident, as he stepped into the room. He filled all available space, his bare, bronze shoulders so broad they nearly brushed the sides of the door frame. It had been so long since she’d seen another human being, let alone a man, that she was almost struck dumb by the sight and sound of him.

“Maybe not, but I will.” Ivy found her voice and straightened on her one good leg, trying to make herself appear as tall as possible, making sure he could see the rifle she had aimed at his chest.

The man was wearing boots, just as she’d suspected, and a pair of pants that might have once been khakis, but above the waist, he was bare. His skin was sheened with sweat, as if he’d been working hard, or maybe running. Where in the world had he come from? She wondered, her gaze moving up over miles of ridged abdomen and sculpted muscle to meet his intense blue eyes. Even in the fading light, those eyes were bright and piercing, rooting her to the spot.

“I won’t hurt you.” He held his hands up to placate her, giving a little shake of his dark, shaggy head, flashing her half a smile from behind his dark beard. “I promise.”

“I’m the one with the gun.” She gave a little snort at his ‘promise,’ shaking her own head. “Not another step forward, or I swear, I will shoot you.”

“Have it your way.” He shrugged, leaning one bare shoulder against the door frame. “But I’m not the one who broke in.”

“Broke in?” she sputtered, looking around and giving a little laugh. “This place has been abandoned for ages. You don’t live here.”

“I do now.” He crossed his arms, pinning her with that sharp, blue gaze.

She contemplated this, chewing thoughtfully on her lower lip. Whoever he was, wherever he’d come from, it really didn’t matter. He was here now, and she was going to have to deal with him. It had been so long since she’d interacted with another human being, she’d almost forgotten how to do it.

“That’s fine.” She edged closer to the door. Her ankle was throbbing. How in the hell was she going to get home? She wondered, but that was the least of her worries now, wasn’t it? “I’ll just be going...”

He didn’t move, watching her fumble with the latch—she refused to take her gaze off him, even for a minute—as she struggled to get the door open one-handed, all while attempting to keep the rifle aimed in his general direction. She finally yanked it open—it had stuck fast when she slammed it closed with her foot—crying out when her weight went almost fully onto her bad leg. Just as she’d feared, her ankle couldn’t hold her weight, and she would have crumpled into a heap if it weren’t for him.

“Easy.” One minute he was leaning against the door frame, the next, he was beside her, one big hand gripping her elbow to keep her upright, the other going around her waist. “I got you.”

“Let me go,” she gasped, but she knew it was useless now. She couldn’t walk. Her ankle was screaming in pain and she felt tears sting her eyes as the man eased her back inside and closed the door again.

That’s when she remembered the bear. Was it still out there, sniffing around at the edge of the clearing? The danger lurking out there in the growing shadows was beginning to pale in comparison to the one in here.

“You’re hurt.” His voice was kind, even concerned, but Ivy still tried to pull away. Her ankle howled in protest, making her bite her lip to keep from howling, too.

“Hey!” She cried out when he sighed and picked her up, carrying her, rifle, backpack and all. “Put me down!”

“I am.” He lowered her carefully onto the mattress while Ivy struggled to push him away. It was like trying to move a mountain—one made of flesh and bone. “Easy. I’m not going to hurt you, remember?”

“I’m supposed to believe that?” she scoffed, pushing at his big, beefy hands as they inspected her injured leg. “How do I know you’re not going to rape me? Or—or eat me?”

“If I wanted to do either, you’d be naked already.” The man’s words made Ivy flush with heat. His hands moved swiftly down her shin and calf as he knelt beside the mattress. She whimpered when he squeezed her ankle. It was singing with pain now. A high-pitched operatic aria. “I’m Caleb, by the way. How did you twist your ankle?”

“Running from a bear,” she confessed, yelping when Caleb eased her shoe off her foot. He seemed less intimidating, now that he had a name—not that she was going to give him hers or anything. Besides, she knew he was right. If he wanted to hurt her—in any way—he could have done it already a hundred times over. “I was picking strawberries. So was he. We kind of ran into each other.”

“Why didn’t you shoot it?” the big man asked, peeling her sock down gently, revealing the swollen side of her foot. It was already bruised, turning the same pink and purple as the sky outside.

“I didn’t get a chance,” she lied, biting her lip as Caleb pushed and prodded and pulled at her foot, testing it, she knew, to see if it was broken. That didn’t make it any less painful. “Owwww! Ow ow ow! Fuck nuggets! Would you quit?”

“Sorry,” he apologized, grinning as he eased her sock back up. “You’re lucky, it’s just sprained—but it’s a bad one. You’re not going anywhere tonight.”

“Oh, yes, I am.” She reached for her shoe, scowling at him. “I have to. Nikon’s waiting for me at home.”

“Nikon?” He lifted one eyebrow.

“My dog,” she panted, trying to pull her shoe back on. It was an exercise in Twister torture. She gave up with a sigh. “I can’t leave him all night.”

“You may have to.” Caleb frowned at the fading light coming in from the broken window. “It’s getting dark—and you wouldn’t make it twenty feet on that ankle.”

“What are you proposing?” She blinked at him. “That I stay here? I don’t think so.”

“How far away is home?” He cocked his head at her.

The thought of telling this man where she lived made her belly clench with fear. He seemed to understand her predicament as he stood and went to the window to peer out. She made another attempt at putting her shoe on, but it was like trying to stuff biscuit dough back into a busted container. Her ankle was fat and purple and she wasn’t so sure it wasn’t broken.

And the thought of biscuit dough made her stomach growl—loudly.

“I’ll take you back.” The man sighed, turning back toward her, his big arms crossed over his broad chest.

“I’ll be fine,” Ivy insisted. 

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