Home > Alpha's Rescue (Shifter Ops #5)

Alpha's Rescue (Shifter Ops #5)
Author: Renee Rose

 


1

 

 

Teddy

The sun warms my side of Bad Bear Mountain by the time I set out on the trail for my morning run. Something in the wind pulls me toward the summit.

Typically, I head past the town or towards the family cabin, but it’s later in the day than usual, and I don’t want to be accosted by my neighbors or any of my brothers. The town of Bad Bear has a population of only two hundred spread over the mountain, but some days, it feels like a fishbowl, and lately everyone's been beating a path to my door.

If I go this way, I can avoid seeing anyone and get some peace. That’s what I tell myself, anyway, but the decision feels less rational than instinctual. My bear’s guiding me.

Maybe there are early berries up on the peak.

I need a good hard run, and then maybe a long flight to take my mind off things. How long has it been since I’ve been in my bird? The helicopter taxi business has been slower than usual, but that’s another thing I don’t want to think about. I could contact the Black Wolf pack up in Taos to get jobs, but I keep putting it off.

Maybe my brothers are right, and I am becoming a hermit. But my bear has been riled up, more surly than usual, ever since our last mission. I took a break, even stopped doing flights up to Taos or visiting my wolf pack friends. I told myself I was giving them space, but the truth is, the sight of them happy with their mates brings up too much shit.

No matter how hard I run, I can’t outpace the past.

The day is fine with a clear blue sky, but a gust of wind tells me we’re getting a rain storm this afternoon. It’s been a wet spring, and more flowers are blooming than usual. But the flash of bright pink ahead of me on the trail isn’t a native flower blooming in the wild.

There. My bear wants me to charge forward. Instead, I stop running and slip into stealth mode, sidling up to a cluster of pines that can hide my bulk.

The pink color belongs to a floral scented human. Her dark skin is set off by bright pink. Even her water bottle is the same outrageous color. Who goes hiking dressed like that?

The wind shifts, and I catch her scent again. Flowers and honey, and something more. Most human women smell fussy with the fake scents of body lotion. But this human smells clean as rain, like creosote.

I stalk her a few paces before I realize what I’m doing. Usually, I stay away from humans, especially females. They’re trouble, and I’d ban them from the mountain if I could. Which I can’t. Our little town loves tourists, and no matter how much I protest, the mayor keeps coming up with schemes to lure more of them here.

Of course, if more of the tourists looked like this one, I wouldn’t mind. After a few minutes of stalking, I’m close enough to get a clear view of her when she stops to drink some water. With her free hand, she flips her long braids–black with neon pink tips– behind her shoulder, then props her fist on her well-rounded hip. The move makes her breasts jiggle. There's some glorious cleavage packed into that eye-wateringly offensive outfit. I don’t normally have anything against the color pink, but this shade is bright and blinding, as subtle as an ice pick to the eye.

I can’t stop staring.

She moves along the trail, head high, braids swishing over her swaying backside.

I keep following quietly, keeping my distance. I’m barefoot, in old jeans that have more holes than denim and a shirt so threadbare it’s almost see-through. My beard is reaching Biblical proportions. It’s soft though.

I realize I’m rubbing my face and drop my hand. Why do I care what I look like? It’s not like I’m heading to a date. I don’t date. Not anymore.

Even if I did date, I wouldn’t date a human again. I made that rule when I was eighteen and haven’t broken it once since then. I haven’t even been tempted to break it.

So why is the scent of this little human hitting so hard?

Overhead, a bird lands on a branch and chirps. Then it sees me and falls silent.

The little human whirls around. “Bentley? Is that you?”

I freeze, but like all werebears, I’ve been hunting and tracking since I could walk. What didn’t come naturally, I learned in my special forces unit. There’s a vale of pine trees, three laurel bushes, and a boulder between her and me. The distance and the sun dappled shadows camouflage me, and I’m standing downwind. Not that she can scent me. Humans never can.

“Bentley,” she calls again. “I know you’re there. You’re not funny.”

From the trail above, another human comes crashing through the brush. A male human, pasty pale and smelling sour.

“I’m right here. Jesus, Lana,” he says. “I had to take a leak.”

What an asshole. I hate the way he talks to her.

“Oh,” her voice softens. “Just tell me next time. I thought you were a bear.”

“I’d be so lucky,” the guy mutters, and I have to stifle a growl.

“I heard that,” she retorts, with more fondness than her rude companion warrants. If it were me, I’d bite his head off.

Maybe I still will.

The two continue huffing and puffing their way up the mountain, bickering like a couple on a sitcom. I follow, listening closely. I don’t know why I don’t just move on. They’re two hikers. Nothing special. But my bear doesn’t want me to lose sight of them.

“Mom and Dad would have loved this,” she says. Her voice is smooth and musical as a dove’s, while her companion whines like a circular saw.

So Lana and Bentley are not a couple—they’re brother and sister. Stepsiblings.

He’s munching on overpriced beef jerky and tosses the yellow wrapper on the side of the trail when he finishes his snack. The female whirls on him. “No. Absolutely not. We do not litter.”

He mumbles something but picks it up and thrusts it in his pack. Next he goes to toss away a half eaten granola bar and she chides him again. “We’re not supposed to leave human food, Bentley. Remember? Don't feed the bears.”

“Yeah, yeah…” He waves a hand like he’s swatting a fly.

Disappointment flashes over the woman’s face, and I find myself a few feet closer to the hikers than I should be, half a second from introducing my fist to the asshole’s face.

She flourishes a bright pink canteen. “Do you want some water?”

“No.”

“Trail mix? I made it myself.” She pulls out a bag filled with what looks like almond slivers and M&Ms. “Only the good stuff.” She scoops a handful into her mouth and chomps. “Mmmm, so good. Come on, big bro, have a taste.”

“Let’s just get this over with. How far do we have to go?” He props his boot up on a rock and ties it, glowering at the white flowers blooming at his feet as if they’re a pile of dog poop.

“All the way to the top.”

“They won't know if we just dump their ashes off the side here.” He gestures to a nearby ledge.

She props her hands on her hips. “We're supposed to be remembering them. This is a memorial hike. Just you and me.” She swings a pink and black pack down and pulls out a fancy urn. The gold leaf painted in swirls along the side flashes in the spring sunlight. She holds it up. “Look, I know this is hard…”

The brother crosses his arms, a bored expression on his face. He looks as though he’s waiting for his latte order, not grieving dead parents.

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