House Of Bears 7 - Samantha Snow
Holly Smart lifted her face into the sun streaming through tall, evergreen trees. Golden beams shone to the damp forest floor. She shut her eyes, inhaled a deep lungful of the fragrant air, and heaved a blissful sigh.
Garret Harris examined her on the side and frowned. “Are you all right? Do you feel okay? If you’re tired, we can go back to the house.”
“I don’t want to go back.” She gazed into the sunbeams feasting her whole soul on the beauty and grandeur of the woods. “I feel fine. In fact, I feel great.” She cocked her head to think for a second. “Come to think of it, I can’t remember ever feeling this good.”
She walked deeper into the forest, but he hung back. He cast a backward glance in the direction they’d come, but when she didn’t turn, he tagged after her.
The farther she went and the farther away she got from her house, the house she inherited from her grandmother Pearl, the better she felt. Surges of happiness, energy, and contentment flooded through her.
When Garret drew level with her, she slipped her hand into his and smiled up at him. “This is wonderful. I should spend more time out here.”
He scanned the area, but he didn’t recognize anything out of the ordinary. He and the other firstborn sons of the bear shifter clans ventured into the forest all the time. They spent most of their youth out here. Over the years, it became a second home to them and more natural than living in a house.
“I’m sure if you want to come out here,” Garret told her, “you’ll have no trouble finding someone to come with you. No one expects you to stay cooped up in the house all the time.”
“I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to realize just how beautiful and…well nourishing it is. It’s almost as though…” She surveyed the forest gleaming with sparkling dew. The sunbeams illuminated them into a million glistening stars that refracted prismatic rainbows everywhere. “It’s almost as though the very sight of it feeds me and gives me a nutrient I’ve been missing.”
“Well, it’s like that for us,” he conceded, “but we’re bear shifters. You’re human.”
He didn’t look all that happy about her delight. He scowled even harder. She couldn’t stand to see him so tense and irritable. She shot him a crazy grin and nudged him in the ribs. “Maybe it’s not a shifter thing. Did you ever think of that?”
“No, I didn’t. How could it be anything else?”
“I don’t know.” She went back to looking around. Every sight that met her eyes filled her with more happiness and beauty than she could contain. She never wanted to leave these woods—not ever. “That’s just the way I feel. I can’t explain it.”
“I can,” he returned. “You’re happy because we finally have the peace we all craved and fought for so long. Now that we have defeated all our enemies, you can finally slow down and appreciate this place without people threatening to kill you and kidnap you all the time. This is the first time since you came to Silver Spruce that you’ve been able to take a nice, peaceful, undisturbed walk in these woods. It’s no wonder you’re happy. We all are.”
“You’re right. I didn’t think of that.”
They ambled up a small hill to an open field of tall grass at the top. Wildflowers nodded in the warm breeze and brought fresh scents to Holly’s nose. From up here, she surveyed the landscape spreading to the mountains against the horizon.
Garret broke in on her thoughts. “I meant what I said. I don’t want you straining yourself. If you’re too tired to walk all that way back, I can carry you. Don’t try to be a hero.”
She burst out laughing from sheer unbridled happiness, but when she looked back the way they’d come, she couldn’t see the house she shared with these men. She couldn’t even tell which valley behind her contained the house. The woods closed up behind her until they presented an impenetrable wall. They appeared completely uninhabited. That alone made them so much more appealing.
“I’m not a hero, and I’m not tired,” she told him. “I keep telling you I feel great. I feel better than I ever have. I feel like…I feel like doing something amazing, something really crazy.” Another burst of excited laughter escaped her. It came from somewhere deep inside her, somewhere forgotten. She might have been suppressing it for years, and