The girl woke up laying on the ground in the middle of the woods. Her neck hurt so badly she could barely move it. Her body hurt as if she’d been severely beaten. When she tried to sit up, she failed because just moving sent excruciating pain through her neck. So, with a soft whimper, she lay still again until the pain receded.
Moving only her eyes, she saw it was dark. She didn’t know if it was night time, or was early morning?
She shivered in the cold air. Feeling down her body with one hand, she realized she was wearing nothing but her bra and panties. She also noticed she had a sticky substance all over her torso. Bringing her hand up, she smelled the coppery scent of blood and whimpered again.
She was bleeding, but how badly? Would she die of blood loss if someone didn’t find her soon? What had even happened to cause the bleeding? She couldn’t remember anything past going to the store with her brother for her mom!
How long had she been here? She had no watch, nothing to tell her.
Where was here? This forest couldn’t be near her home because it smelled a bit different somehow to her sensitive shifter nose.
Even with her pounding headache, she remembered her name was Taylee Harris. She also knew she was from Olympia, Washington. She was loved by her family, so she knew they would be looking for her. What she couldn’t remember was, what had happened to her that had caused her to end up with her being here. Wherever "here" was!
Taylee groaned again, bringing a hand to her head. Trying to remember anything made her head hurt worse. Gritting her teeth, she managed to sit up, lean back against a tree and begin looking around. In the light of the now rising sun, she saw no breaks in the trees, no paths. No sign that people passed through here. Tears streaked down her cheeks as a feeling of hopelessness filled her. Bowing her head, she sobbed.
A rustling to her left had her looking up. She stopped crying, almost stopped breathing, as a huge black bear stepped out of the trees.
The bear raised its head, grunting as it sniffed the air.
She knew the moment it caught her scent because it turned and looked straight at her. Then it headed her way!
This was it, this is how I’m going to die! She thought, fearing the worst, and then she fainted.
Bear moved slowly forward, smelling of the girl. She smelled of blood, yet under that smell was the sweet scent of cherry blossoms.
Mate, thought bear, hurt, need to fix.
So, he leaned in and began to gently lick at the wound on her neck. It looked as if something had bitten her there, almost ripping off a hunk of skin and flesh.
Bear pulled back as he caught the scent of another bear shifter on his mate’s skin.
Bear growled low, another bear tried to mark my mate.
From the looks of the bite, if the other bear had bitten any deeper, his mate would have been killed by her bleeding out. This, of course, was because she wasn’t that bear's mate to mark. If she had been, it would have healed no matter how deep. One should never try to take what does not belong to them, and they most definitely should not mark another!
Bear began to lick once more. His saliva would remove the other bear's scent, and heal his mates wound that was still bleeding. Once Bear was satisfied he’d healed her, he moved back.
The air shifted as the bear changed to his human form.
“How did you end up out here in the middle of the forest little one?” Tavis Orson murmured as he moved over to his newly found mate and picked her up gently. Kissing the top of her head, he then added, “No matter, I will protect you.”
He then carried her to his small cabin deeper into the woods. As he walked, he took quick glances at the girl in his arms. She looked to be no more than sixteen, maybe seventeen, and of Asian descent. Her hair was long and dark brown, her body petite. She was beautiful.
Walking inside his cabin, he lay her on the couch, laying a throw blanket over her. He then turned up his heat to warm the house up. Being bear, he didn’t need much heat, but his mate’s skin had looked almost blue she was so cold. He could smell that she was bear, but since she had not yet shifted, she would still feel the cold like a human.
He then found a bowl in his kitchen, filling it with warm water. Next, he found a rag. Moving back to where he’d left his mate, he began removing the blood his bear had missed from her body. When he was finished, he dumped the water out and headed for his room to dress. He also grabbed a warm sweater and socks for his mate.
Walking back into his living room, Tavis watched as her eyes fluttered open. He found himself looking into a beautiful pair of dark brown eyes. Softly, he said, “Hello little one, I’m Tavis Orson. Can you tell me your name?”
She just lay staring at him for a moment.
He stood still, torn between wanting to hold her, kiss her, and not wanting to scare her.
“My name is Taylee Harris. Could you please tell me where I am? I-I don’t think I live anywhere close to here,” she whispered, then shivered.
Tavis moved slowly forward, holding out the sweater as he said, “Here, put this on, you’re cold.”
Taylee sat up slowly, taking the sweater, and putting it on.
He then handed her the socks.
Taylee put the socks on quickly. She then wrapped back up in the blanket, still slightly shivering.
Having heard her hisses of pain as she moved around, he asked, “Would you like something for the pain?”
“No, I’ll be okay,” Taylee told him.
“Alright, but tell me if you change your mind,” Tavis said. “To answer your question, we’re in Oregon.”
He watched her eyes widen and tear up.
“Oh, please little one, don’t cry!” Tavis pleaded, moving to sit next to her. He pulled her gently into his arms and heard her sniffle.
“I live in Olympia, Washington, Tavis,” Taylee whispered. “How did I get here? I can’t remember, and it makes my head ache to try.”
Tavis ran his fingers through her hair, breathing in her addicting cherry blossom scent. “I don’t know little one. Sometimes, the mind does things to protect us. In time you will remember. For now, tell me of your family, with you so far from home, they must be worried.”
Tavis felt her nod against his chest.
“Well, I’m adopted, my parents are Ron and Sara Harris,” she began. “I have an older brother Ron Jr., and a little sister Charlotte. Dad sells real estate and Mom is a dentist. Jr is eighteen, he just graduated, and Charlotte is nine.”
“How old are you?”
“Sixteen, what about you?”
“I’m twenty, and my parents live about a half an hour from here. I also have one brother, Ervin,” Tavis answered. Staring down at her in his arms, he wondered if she even realized he was a shifter. Did she not remember seeing his bear? “Taylee, do you remember being in the forest and waking up?”
She looked at him wide-eyed and exclaimed, “A bear, there was a really big bear! I thought he was going to eat me! Did you see him?”
Tavis chuckled and shook his head as he informed her, “It would be hard to miss him since he is me!” He knew she was like him, but did she not know what she was? Had she not grown up around bears of any kind? She had mentioned she was adopted though, so maybe not. “Little one, do you know what kind of shifter you are?”
He heard her swallow, and she looked away from him. “No. As I said, I’m adopted.”
“Were you adopted by humans or Shifters?” He asked her.
“Shifters,” Taylee whispered.
“Wolf,” she answered.
“Ah, that explains so much,” Tavis murmured.
Taylee turned her gaze back to him. “What do you mean?”
“The wolf could smell that you are a shifter, but only that you aren’t a wolf. You are a bear, like me,” Tavis explained.
“Yes, let me tell you a little of our kind. Male bears generally change forms around the age of eighteen and began their search for a mate. Females don’t change forms until they find their mate, and are fully mated. Female bears are rare though, so if a male finds out a female bear is his mate, he feels twice blessed by fate.”
“Yes, because true mates are hard to find, to begin with. To find out your true mate is your own kind…?”
“Ah,” she said in understanding. “So, once I’m claimed by my mate, and mated with him, I’ll receive my bear spirit?”
She frowned, as if in thought before grabbing at her head. “Ah… ow!”
“What is wrong?”
She whimpered and buried her face in his neck. “My head! For a moment, I had a flash of memory.”
He kissed the top of her head and murmured, “Relax little one, let it come back naturally.”
She sighed and relaxed before murmuring, “Why do I feel so safe with you, someone I just met? Why do you smell so good? Like musk and pine.”
He chuckled, kissing her head again, unable to resist the pull of his mate as he explained, “The musk is my natural bear scent. The pine, I suppose, is my mate scent. You feel safe with me, little one because I am your mate. Even though your bear spirit has yet to awaken, she feels her mate, and feels safe, contented with me.”
“My mate… the man, he said I was his mate…!” Taylee whimpered looking at him with wide eyes.
Tavis brushed her hair back from her face. He then locked his eyes with her teary ones as he asked, “What man?”
She took a deep breath. “Mom asked Jr and me to go to the store for her. She was making dinner and realized she’d forgotten to get everything to make her cake. After we’d bought what we needed, Jr. decided he wanted a soda. Since he had the groceries, I offered to get it for him. He said he’d carry the groceries to the car, then pull up in front of the store to get me because it was getting dark. I agreed.” She paused, her body trembling. “I remember bending over to grab the drink and feeling someone move in behind me. Then, they grabbed me, covering my mouth with a funny smelling rag before I could scream. I passed out and when I awakened I was laying on a bed half naked. There was a man lying almost naked next to me.”
“Did you know him?”
“No,” Taylee told him as she shook her head. “He looked older, maybe thirty or something. He told me I was his mate and we would be so happy together. He scared me because he was so huge, and his eyes had a crazy look in them. He moved over to straddle me, and said he needed to claim me before his brother returned because he’d take me away.”
“The way he was trying to claim you before his brother returned tells me he knew you are a bear. He must have been the bear I smelled on you. If his brother decided he wanted you, they would have fought over you. If you were already claimed though, no fight. If he knew that, he should also have known the claim wouldn’t take if you weren’t his true mate. So, why did he bite you?” Tavis mused.
“I don’t know. I don’t have the answers to any of your questions. All I know is, he looked crazy! I also know his bite hurt! It felt like he was trying to rip my neck off. I screamed and screamed, but he just bit me harder. I felt my consciousness fading as the door slammed open. I saw a younger man there who yelled, “what are you doing”? This caused the man on top of me to finally let my neck go. He told the younger man that I was his mate, and he was claiming me. The younger man told him, “no”, that he was killing me. That’s when I passed out. Then, I woke up in the woods,” she finished explaining.
“Oh, Taylee. I’m so sorry this happened to you,” Tavis said with a heavy heart. “My bear cleaned your wound, so it’s now almost healed.”
“But you said I’m your mate. That means you will want to bite me too!” She whispered.
Tavis huffed before saying, “Yes, but I won’t, not until you’re ready. For now, how about I feed you. Then we’ll figure out how to get you back to your family.”
Tavis didn’t want to take her back to them, but she was traumatized by what had happened. She needed to be where things were familiar, and she needed her family. She was also under-aged, so he needed her parents’ permission to keep her with him. He just hoped she wouldn’t refuse him because of what had happened to her.
“Okay. I am a bit hungry,” Taylee admitted.