Eventide of the Bear

By: Cherise Sinclair


Her paw impacted—the creature barely swayed—and she felt a hideous snapping as the toes of her forepaw broke.

As her claws scraped uselessly across its ridged armor plates, the hellhound whipped around. Its mammoth jaws closed on her hind leg. Razor-teeth sliced through her fur and into her flesh.

Pain.

Roaring, Emma slashed her undamaged forepaw across the thing’s head. Its armored head. She didn’t even scratch it.

The hellhound bit down viciously, and her bones shattered.

At the blast of agony, she panicked. Her paws battered at its head, but her claws were worthless against its armor. The armor covered its whole body—nothing was vulnerable. Except…

Instinctively, she twisted her foreleg and shoved her claws directly at the recessed left eye. One penetrated.

The creature shrieked horrifically and scrambled backward.

Freed, Emma tore away across the clearing, her savaged leg dragging behind her. At the forest’s edge, she hesitated. Turned.

Shaking its head, the hellhound splattered blood everywhere. With another shriek, it fled into the forest.

Victory. But at what cost? Head sagging, Emma moaned as the pain increased, a red fire encompassing her leg.

The humans stared at her. One lifted his branch—his weapon—threateningly. As if she could be a threat. On three legs. But she was a bear. Of course they were frightened.

As she forced herself to move away, the enormity of the disaster struck her. Her leg was past merely broken. Shattered bones wouldn’t heal.

She was crippled. Alone. But if a slow death was the price she had to pay, she was content. Because, with the Goddess’s help, she had saved the little ones.





Chapter Two







Farway, Deschutes Territory

“You have a cub. Just don’t tell that screaming shrew I was the one who ratted her out. I still have to live in the Deschutes Territory.”

Standing on the sidewalk in the town where he’d once lived, Ryder Llwyd remembered the pity and worry in Harold’s expression. The male had good reason for his anxiety; Genevieve held vicious grudges. Sliding his hand under his jacket, Ryder touched the rough bite and scratch scars on his left shoulder. Those weren’t the worst of the wounds she’d given him in their months together.

Apparently, she’d given him something else as well.

A cub. What the fuck would he do with a child? He wasn’t a female or good at nurturing. He was an unmated male who didn’t even have a littermate to help, because he’d chosen a malicious, self-centered female over his brother.

By the God, he was as stupid as a garbage-addicted gnome.

Deep in his soul, the frayed littermate bond ached far worse than any bite. Over the years, the link had grown more painful until he’d known he had to try to make amends. Only a week ago, he’d left the Garibaldi Territory in Canada, heading toward the Pacific Northwest.

Toward Ben.

His only hope was that his brother would be able to forgive him.

And then he’d run into Harold and ended up detouring to Farway.

“Your little girl is around four. And hate to say this, cat, but your cub isn’t loved. Isn’t taken care of. Looks worse each month.”

By Herne’s hairy balls.

Ryder scrubbed his hands over his face, feeling the rasp of unshaven skin. Genevieve with a cub? Tough to imagine. She loathed children.

He studied her house. It was a shit piece of construction. Even without a level, he could see the doorframe wasn’t square. Gaps showed around the windows, and the cracked roof shingles were going bald. The house color had probably been blue before fading to a mottled gray. The thought of a child of his living here under Genevieve’s care was…not to be borne.

After crossing the weed-filled lawn, he stood on a sagging step and listened. From inside came the distinctive mating sounds of slapping flesh and grunting. Obviously, the occupants were anticipating the full moon tomorrow.

Wait until she finishes? No. Ryder pounded on the door.

“Who the fuck is here?” a male snapped from inside.

Ryder knocked again.

Thumps and swearing. Footsteps. The door swung open, releasing the pungent scent of sex…and filth and rotting food. Genevieve was still a crap housekeeper, it seemed.

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