Bear with Me (Half-breed Shifter Series)

 

 

BEAR WITH ME

 

Half-breed Shifter Series : Book 5

 

By

 

Miranda Stowe

 

 

Bear with Me

 

Copyright 2014 by Miranda Stowe

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to
actual persons living or dead, businesses or establishments, events, or
locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book—except in
the case of brief quotations in reviews—may be used or reproduced without
written permission of the author.

 

Contact Information : [email protected]

 

Cover Art : Kage Covers Design

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Brick Lowery didn’t have a
lot of friends. Aside from his asocial tendencies, large stocky body, enormous
gawky nose, shaggy hair and awkward gait, he was just plain weird. At least,
that’s what all his classmates told him.

Mama said he was merely going
through a stage. He’d grow into himself. But he had a feeling she had to say
that because she was his mother. Inside, he knew he was different. None of the
other kids at school could ever smell what he smelled, they didn’t like going
off by themselves as much as he did, and they over-valued some of the most
ridiculous things he thought were just plain meaningless.

But lately, his weirdness was
even creeping him out. It had started with the hair. As soon as puberty hit, it
had begun to grow...in the strangest places. He’d taken his concerns to Mama,
but she hadn’t even bothered to glance up from the magazine she was flipping
through before waving him off.

“Of course you’re growing
hair in strange places. You’re getting older. Everyone does.”

But he’d seen the other boys
changing for gym class and none of them had gotten quite as much hair as he
had. He’d taken to leaving his gym clothes on under his school clothes so no
one could see him without a shirt.

It was too bad he was the
product of a one-night stand; he’d really like to ask a father some questions
about other things too. But there was no adult male in his life. There was just
Mama, which was fine. He adored his mother to distraction.

But even his beloved Mama had
grown concerned when this winter had hit. Exhaustion bore down on Brick with a
vengeance, and he couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings for anything. It took
nearly an act of God for Mama to pull and yank and demand he get up and ready
for school. Finally, still half out of it, he’d stumble awake and slug through
each day, only to collapse on his mattress as soon as he made it back home. And
weekends...well, Mama had given up completely on trying to wake him during the
weekends.

They’d visited a doctor’s
office three times already, thinking he had mono or some kind of rare malady.
But every physician announced him as healthy as a horse. One had set his hands
on his hips and shaken his head in absolute bewilderment. “If I didn’t know any
better, I’d say you were trying to go into hibernation.”

The word stirred a warm
feeling of comfort inside Brick. Hibernation. Yes, that’s exactly what he
wanted to do. He just wanted to keep the blankets up over his windows, burrow
under his covers into a nice warm den, and hibernate until Spring.

Mama said that was
ridiculous, though, and she kept trying to force him awake every day for
school. Just like she did this fateful morning.

Mondays were the worst. After
his nice weekend nap, he was even more resistant to waking up.

“Brick!” she yelled, probably
for the fifth time in the past five minutes. “I mean it. Get your ass up or I’m
pouring a bucket of cold water on your head.”

He groaned something
unintelligible, still half out of it, and kept the five layers of blankets on
top of him firmly tucked in around him, covering him from head to toe. Then he
settled back in and began to drift off once more.

“That’s it!” His mother’s
scream two feet away roused him less than a minute later. “I’ve had enough of
this. You are going to wake up. NOW!”

The covers were promptly
ripped away, and icy cold water splashed him in the face, shocking him
completely awake. Pissed off to the extreme, he stood up on his bed, roaring,
“Mama!”

Except the word
Mama
didn’t leave his mouth. It’s what he meant to say, it’s what his brain told his
lips to shout, but it’s not at all what came out. Instead, an animalistic
rumble ominously echoed around the walls of the tiny chamber.

What was even more confusing
was that his head bumped the ceiling when he stood up.

If all that hadn’t clued him
in that something was definitely wrong, Mama’s reaction definitely would have.
Her eyes bulged from their sockets before she dropped the bucket she was
holding and screamed bloody murder. The sound she made could’ve put a horror
flick heroine to shame. If Brick didn’t know any better, he would’ve thought
his mama was seriously terrified of him.

Trembling and clutching her
mouth, she backed toward the opened doorway behind her as if afraid any sudden
moment would prompt him into charging.

He cocked his head to the
side. “Mama?” But again, only a thunderous snarl emerged.

She screeched and turned to
race away.

Hoping off the bed to follow
her and find out what was wrong, Brick landed on all fours and the muscles in
his body jiggled from the landing as if he’d put on about three-hundred pounds.

Startled, he glanced down,
wondering why the heck he was standing on all fours like some kind of dog. When
he saw brown fur, he screamed, except yeah, only a growl emerged.

What the hell? He lifted his
arms, or front paws, or whatever the hell they were off the ground and, glad he
could still move on his back legs, he scrambled to the mirror. When a bear
stared back, he stumbled in reverse patting his face. Tripping over the clothes
on the floor that Mama told him to pick up last week, he sprawled backward,
landing on his ass.

A shock of pain speared
through him, and a tingling sensation spread from the base of his spine,
covering his skin, or fur, or whatever he had now. Scrambling upright again, he
regained his footing and returned to the mirror. But Brick—the human—was back
in the reflection. A naked Brick, which was odd because he distinctly
remembered being too tired to even strip off his shoes, much less his school
clothes, when he’d crawled into bed on Friday.

With a quick glance, he
confirmed his clothes and sneakers were a shredded mess on his mattress as if
he’d busted out of them like the Hulk...or a huge grizzly bear.

“What the fuck?” he
whispered, glad Mama hadn’t heard him swear, because he didn’t want to get
whacked on the back of his head by the palm of her hand for profanity. But if
there were ever a time to curse, it was now.

“Mama?” Snatching up a pair
of boxer shorts off the carpet that he’d just tripped over, Brick tried to
shimmy into them and run from the room at the same time, only managing to
stumble and jab his shoulder into the wall.

He found his mother in the
living room, her back to the hallway and a phone clutched to her ear. “Please
help me. Please help me! There’s a...there’s a...in my son’s bedroom.”

“Mama,” he gasped. She
screamed and whirled around, dropping the phone.

“Brick! Oh, my God. Oh, my
baby.” She pulled him close and hugged him as hard as she’d ever hugged him
before. Since he was already a foot taller than her, he pulled her in and let
her burrow her cheek against his heartbeat. For a full minute, they clung to
each other, the fear of both them soaking the room with relief that they were
both okay.

Finally, Mama pulled away and
gaped up at him. “But how did you get away? There was a...a bear in your room.
In your
bed
!”

He gulped, dread filling his
veins. “You saw it too?”

She bobbed her head up and
down. “Where did it go? What happened?”

Good question. “I don’t...I
don’t know. It just...it was like it was inside me. Or outside really, but I
was still inside, and there was...we were one. But then I was me again, and the
bear was gone.”

Mama blinked at him and
clutched her hands together just under her chin. “Baby, that don’t make no
sense. Just tell me where the bear went.”

“I...it didn’t
go
anywhere. I
was
the bear. And then...then I wasn’t.”

She stomped her foot and
scowled. “Brick Michael Lowery. There was a God damn
bear
in your
bedroom. Where. Did. It. Go?”

She didn’t understand. Or
maybe she was just refusing to listen. Brick held up a finger. Maybe he could
make it happen again. He’d returned to human just by willing it to happen.
Maybe...if he just concentrated...

He squinted up his face,
gnashed his teeth, strained his muscles. And pop!

His mother screamed and ran
from the living room.

A little excited it’d been so
easy to accomplish, he concentrated again, and wham! Human once more. And
boxerless...again.

“Mama!” He chased her down
the hall. “Wait. It’s me. See.” But she’d already slammed the door in his face.
Fisting his hand, he pounded. “Mama. What are you doing? It’s me. It’s Brick.
Your son.” The only answer he got was her muffled sobbing. “What’s happening to
me?” he demanded.

When she still hadn’t
answered him after five minutes, his fear and confusion was replaced by rage.
Fisting his hand, he pounded on the door...only to tear it off its hinges. As
it crumbled inward to the floor and opened a path to his mother, Mama gaped at
him from inside her bedroom before fleeing into her private bath where she
slammed the door and locked him out.

A little intimidated over
what he’d just done, Brick backed away, deciding to leave his mother alone for
a while. He retreated to his room and crawled into his bed, wrapping his
blankets up over his shoulders. Pulling his knees to his chest, he hugged
himself and rocked back and forth.

Before the day ended, his
entire world changed.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough
to learn to he could turn into an animal and back to human again all in one
day. No, his mother had to turn his life completely upside down on its head.

He ditched out on school, and
after learning what he’d just learned, his treasured sleep was also out of the
question. It was nearing dusk when he heard voices coming from the living room.
Curious what was going on, he shoved out of his blanket and crept down the
hall.

Two men, who looked entirely
too serious and formal for his liking, spoke in quiet, hushed tones with his
mother.

“I don’t care what you do
with that...
beast
. Just get it out of my house.” With her hand pressed
to her heart, his mother shook.

Worried about her, about how
much strain this whole bear-inside-her-son revelation was putting on her, Brick
stepped into the room. “Mama?”

She lurched away and
scrambled toward the men. One pulled her protectively behind him as he turned
to face Brick as if Brick was the threat...to his own mother.

Brick glanced back and forth
between the two men. One had his arms spread out to his side as if ready to
play high noon. And even more alarming, he actually had a gun strapped in a
holster at his waist. Yet even though he was armed, that guy seemed more
curious than he did aggressive. He merely eyed Brick as if Brick were a science
experiment.

“Take it away. Please,
just...get it out of my house.” His mother clutched the shirt of the
more-aggressive, less-curious man and buried her face into his spine.

The face of the armed guy
twitched before he said, “Ma’am, you do realize the creed of the Hunter
Association is to eliminate all shifters? You’re asking us to kill your son.”

All feeling fled Brick’s
limbs. “What?” he gasped, even as his mother snarled, “That is not my baby boy.
That monster killed him. And I want it gone...forever.”

Brick gasped. “No! Mama, I’m
right here.” He patted his own chest frantically. “Nothing killed me. I don’t
know what’s going on, but...I...I’m still me. I’m still your son.”

“Just get it out of here,”
she screamed, quivering as she cowered against a complete stranger. “Kill it.
Kill it.
Please
. Just kill it.”

“Mother!” What the hell was
she saying? “Are you crazy? I’m not an
it
. I’m still me. I’m Brick. Your
son.”

He moved toward her, but the
the twitchy Hunter pulled up a gun he’d been hiding behind his back and aimed
it at Brick’s head.

Brick knew something funky
was going on with him, but he was pretty sure his new abilities didn’t cover stopping
a speeding bullet...as least he wasn’t willing to test that theory just yet.

Realizing what was about to
happen, and that his own mother was sanctioning it, Brick stared at the end of
the gun as tears blurred his vision. It was a humiliating way to die. Boys
weren’t supposed to cry. And being a teenage boy made it even worse. But shit,
he was about to die...because his mother commanded it so.

The Hunter’s finger found the
trigger and Brick gulped, just as Hunter number two growled, “Wait. We don’t want
to stain Miss Lowery’s carpet, now do we?” He stepped toward Brick, and before
Brick knew what he was about to do, he produced a needle and plunged it into
the teen’s neck.

A sharp prick, and wham,
blackness overtook him.

When Brick next blinked
himself awake, he was sprawled in the backseat of a car. A motor hummed under
him, and the slight jostling back and forth told him the car was moving. It was
fully dark now, he had no idea where he was or where he was going.

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