Melted By The Bear(9)

By: Amira Rain

A second or two ticked by, and since it was now obvious that the growling bears surrounding us were not friends of his, I would have thought that the shadow bear would be displaying signs of the same fear I was feeling. To my surprise, though, he was just surveying the other bears with seeming contempt, lip curled into an almost human-looking sneer. But then he turned that sneer to me. And suddenly began charging.

Though I didn’t want to die screaming, I couldn’t help it. Hands flying reflexively to cover my face, I screamed so loudly that my throat instantly hurt. I knew this pain was soon to get a lot worse, though, probably within an instant. An instant came and went, though, and I felt no further pain. My scream tapered off, and I heard the growling all around me suddenly turn to roaring, followed by the sound of a thud that I felt more than heard. A near-imperceptible quake had rippled through the ground beneath my feet. I could only assume that the shadow bear had been tackled, and I was next.

But another instant came and went, then another, and another. And although the volume of the roaring all around me had even increased, making me think all the bears were even closer to me now, I didn’t feel myself being knocked off my feet, or clawed, or bitten. After another few seconds, I dared to take in a lungful of air, realizing I’d stopped breathing. Another few seconds after that, I dared to open my eyes, praying that the sight I’d see wouldn’t be that of a bear charging me, jaws wide.

I didn’t see that. In fact, none of the bears were even immediately near me. Most were still in ring formation around the clearing; a few were just inside, and the shadow bear and a massive black bear were fighting on the ground, rolling and clawing at each other, about twenty feet ahead of me.

Wondering if an escape might still be possible, I glanced behind me but saw that bears still blocked the way. There was nothing for me to do but watch the two fighting bears, hoping that the others would continue to hold their positions and not attack me.

The fight moved the bears closer to where I stood, maybe just ten feet away from me, but it didn’t last long at all. With the non-shadow bear being much bigger, and surely stronger, than the shadow bear, he quickly gained the upper hand, slamming the shadow bear on his back and holding him there. The shadow bear struggled, growling, but the other bear kept him pinned. The shadow bear couldn’t even escape when the larger bear lifted one paw, looking as if he intended to slash the shadow bear’s face with his long claws, which glinted in the sun.

I thought I was about to watch the shadow bear get killed, though I couldn’t look away. Doing so would have forced me to look at the other bears still surrounding me in a ring around the clearing, and I was afraid the action might anger them. But soon, to my astonishment, the larger bear didn’t go about trying to injure or kill the shadow bear. Instead, after a long moment just hovering above the pinned shadow bear, paw held aloft, he lowered it and shoved himself off the shadow bear with a growl. And then, within a blink, he was standing. Not as a bear, though, not on hind legs, but as a human man. A tall, muscular, devastatingly attractive human man with dark, nearly black, hair, and eyes that even from eight or ten feet away, I could see were a deep, dark jewel green. I had an idea about who this man might be, and my heartbeat, which had slowed a degree or two, now accelerated, once again hammering in my ears.


Folding his arms across his broad chest, the green-eyed man fixed the shadow bear with a glare. “Had enough?”

The shadow bear, who was flipped on his back like a turtle, now shifted into a completely solid, non-shadowy man as well, rolled onto his feet, and then stood, massaging his neck. “I have to admit, big brother, being slammed on my back like that really hurt. Very uncalled-for of you. What would our dearly-departed parents think?”

With dark, blackish hair and a similar build and square jaw, this man looked a lot like the green-eyed man, though he wasn’t quite as tall, and his eyes appeared to be gray. Though he was undeniably handsome, he wasn’t nearly as handsome as the green-eyed man. Not even close.

In response to what the shorter man had said, the green-eyed man just glared even harder and spoke in a low voice full of menace. “This was the final time, and this will be your only warning. Brother of mine or not, if you come within five miles of Blackthorn City ever again, I will kill you.”

The shorter man frowned, shaking his head. “Mm...I’m not too sure that that’s the way things are going to play out. See, in all my taking little peeks around your village over the past several years, I’ve never seen the girl standing just a few feet from us. She’s brand-new, isn’t she? And from the way she was heading away from the village when I came upon her, I’d almost guess that she’s a frozen woman who awoke in a bit of a panic. I know many do. I also know from things I’ve heard here and there that as of very recently, you only had one frozen woman left... the very last one, who you were saving all for yourself, to thaw at just the right time, which you and I both know, is not right now. Not in this tenth year. Which makes me a bit surprised that you went ahead and began her thawing process anyway. Unless you didn’t. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might think that some enemy was able to sneak past the guards at your cryo tank storage building one night, and damage this particular woman’s tank so that all the liquid nitrogen leaked out, causing her to begin thawing before you could catch it or reverse the process without killing her.”

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