BENDING HER TO THE BEAR’S WILL
The human thinks I’m stalking her. Maybe I am.
But I’m not the only one.
There’s something evil in these woods and it preys on single women. I’m not about to let the sexy scientist fall into its lair.
Even if that means holding her prisoner in my cabin. Keeping her where I can see her at all times. Bending her to my bear’s will.
Just until the storm passes. Until her research is finished. Then I’ll let her go.
Snow crunches under my boots. I shake my head to clear the metallic scent of blood from my nose.
I’m going fucking nuts.
No, something evil lurks in these woods. It drew me out of my cabin this afternoon, sent me hiking through the brush.
It’s a prickle at the back of my neck.
The imagined scent of blood in my nostrils. I know the scent isn’t real because no matter how hard I look, I find nothing.
No mauled bodies left torn at the river’s edge. No screams of my mate and cub.
It could just be a figment of my brain. From the trauma of their still unexplained death three years ago. From spending too much time in bear form since then. I’m more beast than man these days, and I know it shows.
I heard the wolves in Tucson mutter about me when I was there for a fight last month.
That bear should’ve been put down after he lost his mate. He’s going to hurt someone one of these days.
Leaving my winter hibernation to go to Arizona and fight that grizzly was stupid. I should never have let the idiot wolfpack talk me into it. I should be holed up in my cabin for the winter. But they knew just how to poke the bear. They insinuated something dark about the grizzly I was going to fight, and damn if it didn’t make me have to go sniff the asshole myself.
Just in case he’s the bear who killed my family.
But at least I came home with the money from the fight. I was flat broke before it. I gave most of my earnings from summer construction to one of my co-workers whose little boy needed surgery, and the rest of it had dwindled. That’s the shit-can of taking winters off.
So I roused myself. Drove to the desert. Made enough money to keep me in blueberries and salmon for eight months.
But now I can’t settle back in. I’m out here letting my dick swing in the wind as I hike restlessly through the forest.
Another woman’s gone missing.
That’s part of why I can’t rest.
There’s a serial killer, or kidnapper loose up here.
I reach the main road sooner than I expect. I walked three miles across my land without noticing. A blue Subaru pulls around the bend. I don’t recognize it, which is strange.
I know most all the cars that come and go over this road, at least during winter. I stare into the SUV as it passes me and I give a low curse.
A single female. A sturdy redhead with a don’t-fuck-with-me look on her face. Alone, with overnight gear in her car.
The prickles on the back of my neck grow stronger.
I know where she’s going. She’s headed to the University of New Mexico Research Station. It’s a small cabin ten miles out on U.S. Forest road.
I wouldn’t give a shit except three single females have disappeared from this forest in the last eight months.
And I consider this to be my fucking forest. I’m the apex predator. No other creature—beast or human—should be bringing down humans.
I’m not charming or chivalrous, and I sure as hell have never been known as a gentleman, but protecting females is hard-wired into me.
I skirt along the ridge, watching her car. She pulls and parks at the only grocery / convenience store in our tiny town.
Looks like I’ll be spending the next week playing bodyguard to the determined researcher. The one too stupid to know not to come here in March. Alone.
Especially when there’s a serial killer on the loose.
I pull in at the roadside market in Pecos to get supplies for the week.
I didn’t plan on coming up here again until late spring, but my tree ring research couldn’t wait. I have a paper to publish by June and to meet that deadline, I need the numbers now.
Dr. Algore’s voice still rings in my head. “Another delay, and you lose funding. Get the numbers, now.”
When I argued that it was March, still winter in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the southernmost tip of the Rockies, and—
“I don’t see your fellow researchers asking for the same type of special treatment for their projects.”
My cheeks heat as he smirks at me. Around the table my fellow researchers, all male, smirk with him. I don’t need to look around to know they’re all laughing internally at me. They mirror everything Dr. Algore says or does. They even wear what he wears—right down to the fashion offensive plaid tie and brown Dockers.
“Fine,” I mutter, dropping my eyes to my yellow folder. It’s a bright spot of color in a drab room, and I choose it to give me a spark of joy in my otherwise weary day. But today it’s just yellow, the color of cowards.
“That’s it, sweetheart,” Dr. Alogore says to my blouse. I want to put my hand to my neckline, but stop myself in time. I feel the gaze of all my male colleagues resting on my modest sweater set. My grandma dresses less conservatively than I do, but I still get leers like I’m in lingerie. The way these guys look at me, I feel like they’re imagining me I’m naked. Maybe they are.
“If that’s all, let’s head out to lunch. My treat,” the professor says. Everyone murmurs gratefully except me. Dr. Algore prefers lunch joints where the women dance on tables.
I grab my folder and scurry into the hall.
“Hey, Miranda,” one of my tall colleagues separates himself from the Docker wearing pack and comes to breath down my neck. I turn and get a face full of onion breath. He smiles like a shark, his eyes on my chest. “I’ll come up and help you collect that data.”
“No thank you,” I mutter and pull my cardigan closed. I’m not even baring cleavage. These guys are just creepers.
“Come on. I can help. It’s scary up there in the mountains this time of year,” he says with false concern. “We go up there together and I can help you grab everything in record time. You can buy me dinner afterwards, to thank me.” His grin gets bigger. “I can help you with the findings, and we’ll split the credit, half and half.”
And there it is. A blatant grab for my research.
“Ugh, no thank you,” I hunch my shoulders and hug the folder to my front. “What, you think you can swoop in at the last minute and I’ll let you put your name above mine on the paper?”
He shrugs. “Makes sense, alphabetically…”
“No. I got this.” I duck my head and walk as fast as my legs can carry me. No one is cheating me out of my research. Not this time.
This paper could make the difference between another shitty year as a postdoc in Dr. Algore’s lab and getting an actual professor position somewhere. Anywhere. Of course, a professor position still won’t guarantee me respect in my field. I’ve seen enough women in science have their careers belittled on a daily basis to know I’ll be fighting for my equal rights every step of the way. Probably until the day I retire.
I get out and grab my empty canvas shopping bags to fill. Inside, I blink as my eyes adjust to the dimly lit, somewhat depressing market. I’ve been here before, so I know what to expect, but it still makes my skin crawl. Unswept concrete floors, ancient canned goods with old-fashioned price tags. Like any convenience market near U.S. Forest, it carries extremely overpriced gas station fare. Loaves of Wonder Bread for almost five bucks, eight dollar jars of peanut butter.
I packed my own non-perishables in Albuquerque, so I head to the refrigerator case to grab a jug of milk, some eggs, bacon, and butter. That should be enough to get me by for the week.
I bring them up to the counter where an ancient man is talking to a local. He ignores me for a solid two minutes before he slowly drags the eggs toward the register while still gabbing away.
I clear my throat.
His companion, equally old, says goodbye and shuffles out. The owner turns and eyes me speculatively. “What brings you up here, young lady? Isn’t the right time of year for fishing or hiking.”
“I’m headed to the research lab for a few days,” I say politely. It’s the exact same conversation we had last time I was here. Granted, that was six months ago, but still. I doubt they get a ton of women camping or hiking alone.
“Oh right, right. University of New Mexico, aren’t you?”
He stops punching numbers into the cash register and squints at me. “You be careful up there alone. You’ve heard about the missing women?”
I push away the dread that ripples through me. The only thing to fear is fear itself. Right?
“I’ve heard, yes. But I’ve got my dog with me. And he’s very protective.”
That may or may not be true. I have a furry German Shepherd / Australian Shepherd mix who loves to play fetch. But he does have a ferocious-sounding bark.
“Well, you might have to protect your dog. You do know we have a bear problem in this forest, don’t you?”
Right, the bear problem. He told me about it the last time I was up here. As an ecologist, I rather dislike when humans assume the animals are the problem. Wouldn’t our overpopulation and the shrinkage of wildlife corridors be the actual problem?
When I was here this past summer, he had leaned on the counter and squinted at me. “You be careful up here. There’s a rabid bear roaming this wilderness. Tore a woman and her child to pieces a few years back.”
“If he was rabid a few years ago, he’d be dead by now, don’t you think?” I hated to use science and logic as a weapon, but…please.
“Well, he may not be rabid, but he’s definitely feral,” the old man had claimed.
I couldn’t help the scorn that must’ve crept over my face. “Bears can’t be feral. We don’t keep them as pets.”
The man thumped my change down on the counter and glared at me. “Crazy, then! There’s a crazy bear out there. Uncanny-like. Enormous animal with eyes that glow yellow and a real desire to destroy things. Same time that woman and her child got killed, the bear scored every tree in a three mile radius with his claws.”
“Yes, yes, I’ve heard about your bear,” I tell him now. “But you haven’t had any bear problems recently, right?”
“No, it’s been a few years. But something was wrong with the animal, I’m telling you. You mind your dog, or that bear might kill him just for sport—mark my words.” He points at the number on the register. “Twenty-eight twenty-two.”
Yeah, like I said—overpriced.
I hand over my money and try to quell the stirring in my stomach. “Okay, I’ll keep him close at all times. Thanks for the warning.”
Despite the fact that I’d put my reusable bags on the counter with the food, the guy has slid all my food into a plastic bag.
I take it and dump the food into my canvas sack and hand the bag back to him. “I don’t need this, thanks.”
As I head out the door, I hear him call after me, “You be careful, you hear?”
“Yep, I will. Thank you!”
Inside my Subaru, Bear gives a happy bark to see me return.
I open the door and toss the bag of groceries on the passenger seat while Bear lunges forward and tries to kiss my face from the back seat. “You ready to go to the cabin, boy?”
He chuffs and tries to lick some more.
I angle my face away and give him a quick head rub. “Go lie down,” I tell him.
He promptly hops over the back seat into the trunk area, where I put his bed, and curls into it.
I smile into the rear view mirror. “Good boy.”
Snowflakes hit my windshield as I start to drive.
It’s snowing. Hard.
All I can think about is the redhead and whether she made it to her cabin safely.
The good thing about the snow is it might deter the psycho who likes to prey on female hikers.
The bad thing is it makes the determined researcher far more vulnerable. If she’s snowed in there, she’ll have nowhere to run.
Stupid, headstrong female.
No, not stupid. She’s a scientist. Probably extremely smart.
But I push back my grudging admiration of sturdy, self-sufficient woman like her.
I consider the danger she might be in. There’s something out there that stalks pretty young women.
Doubtful it’s the same fuck who killed my family, but I’m after him, just the same. Because I know what it’s like to have someone you love taken from you. And I won’t stand by and let that tragedy fall others.
Not in my woods.
He must live somewhere close. Trouble is, I know everyone in town. And I think my instincts would tell me if there was someone off in Pecos. Plus, I would recognize the scent. You can’t fool a bear’s nose. A bear’s sense of smell is 2100 times better than a human’s. Seven times better than the best bloodhound. And I remember the smell that mingled with blood and death on my family. It wasn’t bear. It wasn’t human, either.
It wasn’t any kind of animal scent I recognize.
And maybe this is a lead, maybe it’s not, but I caught the scent of something similar in Tucson. Not the same—hell, it if had been the same, the guy would be dead. But there were a couple guys at the Fight Club. Some kind of shifters, but I couldn’t figure out what animal.
And that doesn’t make sense.
If I weren’t such an antisocial hermit, I might have stayed and asked questions about it. But being around all those shifters, being in the city—if you can call Tucson a city, and I do—made me cranky as hell. All I wanted to do was get back on I-10 and drive away as fast as I could.
I stand in my open doorway and stare out at the snow falling. Looks like going back into hibernation isn’t going to be an option. I have to go check on the human.
I’m not going to drive up to the research cabin—that would only scare the shit out of her. She’d think I’m the psycho stalker. I’m sure she’s been warned about the danger. It’s getting too cold to walk now, though. At least in human form.
I could wait until morning and hike over.
My bear rumbles.
Looks like we’re going for a four-legged hike through the snow.
I strip out of my clothes and stow them just inside the door. Outside, the snow stings my bare skin and the soles of my feet as I shut the door in human form. Then I close my eyes and drop to all fours, the bear always so close to the surface, ready to take over.
He fucking loves to run.
If he had his way, I’d give up all humanity. Roam these woods as bear. Forget all the pain, the tragedy. The life hardly worth living.
I almost gave into him in the months after Jen and Gretchen died. I wanted to. I hoped he’d swallow every last bit of Caleb, leave me without the ability to go back.
But the wolves intervened. I don’t know how they got word, but the Tucson pack showed up on their bikes, scaring the snot out of the inhabitants of Pecos.
They hunted me as a pack. Cornered me in a fight. They’re lucky I didn’t kill them all. The wolves kept me cornered and Garrett Green, their alpha, took his human form and ordered me to shift. He carried enough alpha command to make me do it.
They dragged me back to my cabin and stayed with me until I was human again. Forced me back to human form every time I tried to shift.
I guess they think I ought to be grateful.
I hate the fuckers.
They brought me back into my pain. Into a life I don’t want to lead.
And bears are generally solo animals, but there is something about knowing an entire pack of shifters have my back.
Because they could’ve just as easily come up here and put me down.
They probably should have.
I lope through the snow, my bear chuffing with pleasure at the snow on my snout, the taste of it on my tongue, the crisp air cooling my furry ears.
The trip to the research cabin takes no time at all with my giant bear stride.
I circle it twice, getting a sense for the scents.
That’s good. I’m glad she’s not entirely alone.
And the female’s scent.
It’s a pleasant tickle in my nose. Like strawberries and vanilla ice cream, only not that sweet. I don’t expect to enjoy it so much. It’s a human scent, after all. Not my thing.
The dog starts to bark when I get closer to the cabin. Smart animal.
The alpha in my growls, like I want to put him in his place, but he’s doing his job. Protecting his human as he should.
I amble toward the back of the cabin. I probably don’t need to stay more. I don’t detect any other scents here. But something pulls me closer. Some idle curiosity about the fearless female who thinks coming up here alone in a snowstorm with a killer on the loose is a good plan.
I stand on my hind legs and put my paws on the windowsill, peering in.
The girl—scratch that, she’s all woman, even though she’s young—has built too big a fire. I know it’s too big because she’s stripped down to a soft pink tank top. A very small soft pink tank top. One that strains to contain her large, lush breasts. A pretty tattoo winds around her upper arm—green vines and a cobalt blue butterfly.
My bear growls.
She’s fucking beautiful. Human females aren’t my type—not at all. But if they were, I’d pick her kind. She looks like a Swiss milkmaid. A Viking princess. No, with that red hair, she’d be Irish farmstock. She’s sturdy. Big-boned, well-padded. Full-bodied with wide enough hips to carry a bear cub. Full strawberry lips. Smooth creamy white skin.
She’s healthy as fuck.
With brains to boot.
She will make some human asshole a very lucky man if she hasn’t already.
The dog, a furry black shepherd of some kind goes nuts when I growl, baring his teeth and snarling toward the window.
I should turn away, but I don’t. I haven’t looked my fill, yet.
I’m still staring when the hot scientist whirls and catches sight of me. Her eyes fly wide and she shrieks. More of a yelp, really. Almost a battle cry. She lunges for her dog as if he might be in imminent danger and grabs him by the collar.
“Bear, stay back.” She doesn’t take her eyes from me.
The command tickles something in me. An inner smile. How cute that she thinks she can command a bear.
But then, she repeats, “Bear, no,” and I realize she’s talking to the dog.
It’s crazy—not like me at all—but I slowly push the sleeping bag down to see more of the man’s chest. I tell myself I just want to see the rest of the tattooes.
Instead I’m awed by a 12-pack of abdominal muscles. The way his body is both lean and large at the same time. I’m tempted to touch the curls in his dark beard, but I know that would be going too far.
Bear lifts his head and thumps his tail.
I don’t speak to him because I don’t want to wake up my rescuer. Not until I’m safely out of this sleeping bag and find some clothes.
I continue my ridiculous shimmy, army crawling my way out of the bag and he snorts, curving up the arm that was under my head and is now at waist level and capturing me.
My breast now brushes the top of his head, and my pussy’s wetter than before just from feeling his strength.
I imagine him using that strength to hold me down and bring those sensuous lips to my nipple.
I’m crazy. Hold me down? Definitely not a fantasy I’ve ever had before. I don’t go for cocky, dominant men who thing they need to take charge in the relationship or bed.
I try to keep shimmying, but his arm around my waist is banded tight, even though he’s fallen back into gentle snores.
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR RENEE ROSE is a naughty wordsmith who writes kinky BDSM novels. Named Eroticon USA’s Next Top Erotic Author in 2013, she has also won The Romance Reviews Best Historical Romance, and Spanking Romance Reviews’ Best Sci-fi, Paranormal, Historical, Erotic, Ageplay and favorite couple and author. She’s hit #1 on Amazon in multiple categories in the U.S. and U.K., is often found on the list of Amazon’s Top Author list. She also pens BDSM stories under the name Darling Adams.
Lee Savino has grandiose goals but most days can’t find her wallet or her keys so she just stays at home and writes. While she was studying creative writing at Hollins University, her first manuscript won the Hollins Fiction Prize.
She lives in Richmond, Va with her awesome family> You can find her on Facebook in the Goddess Group (which you totally should join).