Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Beary Merry Christmas by Vonnie Davis

Chapter Two of Three

After struggling to open both doors, Danner accepted she’d have to crawl out of the car’s window to go for help. She struggled and wiggled to make her escape, falling face first into the snow. When she landed, she cut the edge of her hand on a jagged rock buried beneath. 
The unscheduled snow gymnastics caused her knit cap to blow away before she could snatch it. She grabbed for a pine branch to keep from sliding down the side of the mountain and gasped when the rough needles upbraided the inflamed skin around the cut. Scarlet drops colored the snow. Needing to move higher, Danner reached for a boulder and used it to aid in her climb upward. It made the most sense to head where she’d been. There was a road there and an inn where she could ask for help—in the warm.
Wind whipped the snowflakes around her. Snow fell down the back of her coat and her sneakers were caked with it. 

Good Lord, my teeth are chattering.
A bare branch was a foot beyond her reach, and she toed her way toward it--inch by frigid inch. She stretched and strained to grab it. The dead wood gave way and she tumbled down the steep hill, crying out in pain as her back hit the demolished car with a thud. She took a couple of deep breaths to see if she’d cracked any ribs.
When no pain caused her to gasp, she brushed snow from her face and wished again she’d gotten gloves yesterday at the little shop where she’d bought a scarf. 

She’d been so pleased to find her ancestors’ tartan—a pretty sky blue, celery green, and a marine blue weave. There were no matching gloves in stock. Today her hands were paying for the exposure. Her toes were stiff. Yeah, she could use a pair of those fur-lined boots so many women wore in the Highlands.
She rose to her hands and knees—and came face-to-face with a bear.
Oh, dear God!
She froze. So did her heart. It was no use to scream. Who would hear her out here?
The bear plopped onto its bottom as if to get a better view of her. She gaped. The beast had a wedding band on one of its digits just behind its long, black claw. Had it belonged to a previous victim? 

To her astonishment, the beast’s dark eyes bore kindness as it tilted its head to study her. That’s when she noticed a small gold hoop in its ear.
This was beyond bizarre. She had to be hallucinating. Really, what kind of bear wore jewelry? What did the carnivoran mammal do? Lumber into Zales and pick out some golden adornments? Where would he keep his credit card--in its fat folds? 
In the face of certain death, her mind must have slipped into the realm of insanity. Just as well; maybe she wouldn’t feel the pain when the bear tore her apart. She stood to face the inevitable and prayed it would be quick.
In like manner, the bear stood on its hind legs, towering over her. With gentle movements it brushed the snow from her coat. She trembled at its touch waiting for his claws to rip her to shreds. 

Instead, it picked her up and held her to him like a baby.
She screamed and its dark brown eyes glowed golden. Its muzzle lowered to her face and damned if she didn’t smell whisky on its breath as it made a jaw popping noise.
Yep, I have truly lost my mind.
The bear walked on its hind legs as it held her close. A deer dashed over and the bear loosened its hold on her as if to show off his trophy to the other animal.
Oh hell, why not? I am clearly crazy. The accident and exposure to the cold elements have taken away my ability to reason.
The furry beast carried her around a large group of pines, waded through a gurgling stream, and trod toward a log cabin in a small valley nestled between high ridges. He set her on the steps and growled while motioning toward the door. She had to be delirious.
Since when do bears live in cabins? He should be in his own habitat, hibernating.
Her vision blurred and everything Danner had learned over her lifetime fell into question. The bear before her changed into a man.
A naked man.
He stood in the full-moonlight and her ladybits broke into a stanza of “Santa Baby.” Good Lord, he had broad shoulders. His heavily muscled chest and biceps were decorated with tattoos. A narrow treasure trial of dark hair took her eyes on a journey to a fantasy kingdom.
First the caring, bejeweled bear and now a fine measure of the male species—all from one body. How could this be? Her over-stimulated mind shutdown at the incredulity of it all—and darkness overtook her.
~ * ~ * ~
Hughen stared at the slender woman passed out on his front steps. Bear! Why?
She’s yer new mate, Hugh. I carried her to ye while I was at the forefront.
He backed up a step, then two while Jack Frost nipped at his frosted arse. Nay. Och nay. I dinna need a mate. Me mate’s passed on.
Aye, and this is yer new one. She’s perfect fer ye. Take her inside and warm her. She was knocked around in a car wreck and then slid down part of Dendrick Ridge. Ye need to take care of her.
The red-haired woman did have a large knot on her forehead. Dried blood, too, where her hand was sliced. He scooped her lithe form into his arms and carried her up the wooden steps. Once inside, he laid her on the sofa, removed soaked sneakers and stockings before covering her with a wool blanket made of his tartan. The navy and forest green plaid would help warm her while he got dressed.
When he bent in front of the fireplace to scrunch his heavy stockings and tie his shoelaces, a feminine moan sounded behind him. Before he turned to check on his injured visitor, he grabbed his kilt and wrapped it around his naked hips. Faint alto lyrics filled the place with soft singing. “Chestnuts roasting by an open fire," made him smile.
An enticing sight met him when he glanced over his shoulder. An unusual sight, really—violet eyes like Highland heather stared at him. His heart thundered for a few beats before righting itself.  She was a true beauty even with her long ginger hair hanging in wet, tangled tresses.
“How are ye faring? Do ye need more blankets? Are ye in pain?” He tugged on his sweater and knelt beside the sofa, taking her hand to examine her palm.
She jerked it from his grasp, her violet eyes wary.
“Easy, lass. Ye’ve got a nasty cut. I’ll get me first aid kit. I’m Hughen Matheson, by the way, and this is me cabin. I’ll nay harm ye.” He stood and put some distance between them to ease her discomfort.
“How did I get here?” Her gaze darted around the large room. “How … how did I get here?” her voice rose with a tinge of fear.
“Warm up first and then we’ll talk.” In the kitchen, he removed the first aid kit from the pantry. He looked at the remaining drink in the pot. “Would ye like a cuppa hot chocolate to warm yer insides?”
She stared at him with those mesmerizing eyes. Poor thing was petrified.
He folded his arms over the counter between the living and kitchen areas of the big room. In an effort to calm her, he smiled. “I willna harm ye in any way. I ken ye must be feart, alone in a strange man’s house with nae recollection how ye got here. Once I’ve given ye some nourishment, fixed yer cut hand, and gotten ye warmed up by the fire, I promise we’ll talk. “Tis Christmas Eve. I never murder innocent women on Christmas Eve.”
The corners of her mouth twitched as if she fought a smile. “I’ll take that hot chocolate. Thank you for looking after me. I’m Danner MacKay.” Her voice was low and sultry like the summer winds over Loch Moray. She shifted under his plaid. “I’m grateful for the warmth although I have no clue how I got inside your cabin. I know I keep saying that, but this is all so strange. I need a lot of answers.”
“Fair enough.” He leaned to gauge the height of the gas flame beneath the pan, then stirred the contents while it heated. How could he explain her presence here without scaring her to death? The truth was always the best. As much as he could share with her, anyhow. “Ye were in a car accident. Ye have some minor injuries. Do ye recall what happened?”
She straightened into a sitting position and wrapped his plaid around her. “Some. Bits and pieces.” Her fingers ran through her wet hair. “I remember the car falling and thinking I was going to die. A bear came.” Her forehead wrinkled as if she were in deep thought. Her hand went to the darkened knot above her eyebrows. “Its … its eyes glowed a bright yellow. Golden.”
Och, she would remember that. “A bear, ye say?” Hughen reached for a mug and poured it nearly full of hot chocolate and shook a can of whipped cream to top it off. She was pale and that worried him. To help revive her, he added whisky to the sweet concoction.
A steaming cup in one hand and the first aid kit in the other, he returned to sit on the coffee table near her. He extended the warm mug and she wrapped her uninjured hand around it.
“This feels so good. I don’t know if I should drink it or bathe in it. I was almost an ice cycle out there.”
His mind had snagged on the vision of her bathing in hot chocolate … or a fragrant bubble bath … or in the stream near the cabin in the warm moonlight of summer. 

Steady, man, ye need ta think on something else a'fore yer kilt tents.
“Are ye hurt anywhere else, Danner? Do ye need some ibuprofen?”
“That might help my headache. I’m sure I’ll be a mass of bruises tomorrow but for now the only pain I feel are in my head and hand.”
“Be right back with the pills.” He retrieved a bottle of extra-strength pain relievers and a class of water. On impulse, he poured himself a squat tumbler of whisky. Her appearance at his place had shaken him more than he cared to admit. What had possessed Bear to bring him a woman?
Once she took the pills, he sat on the coffee table again and sipped the whisky, its burn traveling down his chest to extinguish his own discomfort. Setting it aside, he opened the first aid kit. “Now, let’s get that hand taken care of. Is there anyone ye want to call to let them ken ye’re okay? I have a cell if ye have need of it.”
“No. There’s no one I need to call.”
He examined the depth of the cut. “Nae husband, Danner?”
“Not anymore. I’m divorced.”
Her confession pleased him and he stilled for a few seconds to absorb the feeling. She had the softest skin; it was almost pearlescent, glowing in the firelight. Peroxide bubbled when he poured it over the open wound. He wiped it off with gauze and squeezed antibiotic cream over the gash. Three butterflies held the swollen edges of her hand together before he wrapped a bandage around her hand.
Just because he could, he brought it to his lips and kissed the pressure point at her wrist. Her heartbeat fluttered against his lips.
“There. A kiss for yer boo-boo. Do ye use that term in America?” He feathered a second kiss to her wrist before he lifted his head to gauge her reaction. Her perfect lips were shaped into an “O” and a beautiful blush fanned across her cheeks.
She cleared her throat. “Y … yes, we do kiss boo-boos, although it’s been years since I’ve been the beneficiary of such tenderness.”
A burst of protectiveness and, aye, anger surged through him. “What kind of milksop were ye married to, Danner? Didna he treasure ye? Protect ye?”
“No.” She brought the mug to her lips and gulped her drink. Then, flog him blind, she slowly licked the whipped cream off her upper lip.
He watched the movement of her tongue and damn near groaned. There was a wee mole next to her upper lip that fascinated him. His own tongue brushed against the back of his two front teeth as it mimicked what he’d like to do to that small mole and her luscious looking lips.
“What about you, Hughen? Are you married?”
 “I lost me wife nearly two years ago.” To his surprise no pang of pain seized his heart at the mention of his loss. He’d mourned with every cell in his dual persona for his childhood sweetheart. Some claimed he’d mourned to excess, but he was a man who loved hard.
See? Yer new mate is healing ye already. ‘Tis time ye moved on, Hugh. Ye need someone to love.
He was a jumble of emotions. Unexpected desire for this strange woman warred with the memory of the only love he’d ever ken.
“So you live here alone?” Danner glanced around the great room.
“Aye, I do. Me two brothers and their families live on the other side of the hill. After Kaylee died, I sold our house in Mathe Bay and threw me energies into building this cabin. I wasna fit for civilization for a year after a sudden, murderous brain embolism took her. She was on her way home with a pregnancy test tucked in her purse.”
“Oh, how sad. I’m sorry for your loss. That must have been devastating.” Her eyes glistened with tears. “I can’t imagine that kind of deep pain.” Her tender heart was evident. “I went through a lot of pain, too, but nothing compared to yours. I lost both my husband and a close friend thanks to their affair. They’re getting married tonight. A romantic Christmas Eve wedding.”
Her voice carried a lot of pain and he understood. “Is that why ye came to Scotland from the States? Ye’re American, right?” A bloody beautiful American.
“Yes. I’m from Las Vegas. I teach biology at the University of Nevada.”
He laughed and she scowled at his behavior. “Danner, ye’ll never believe this. I’m a chemistry professor at Highlands College. How bizarre is that? Statistically, what are the chances?”
See, Hugh? I told ye she was perfect for ye. Now, claim her and show her what chemistry a Scot can ignite..

Come back tomorrow for the final chapter of "A Beary Merry Christmas."


Margo Hoornstra said...

Santa Baby. Fantasy kingdom. Oh, Vonnie. Luckily I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time or I’d have to go change my clothes. Will definitely be back tomorrow. Have a great day.

Vonnie Davis said...

If I made you chuckle, then my writing goal is completed. Thanks, Margo.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Warmth...and lots of it I'm thinkin'...hearts warming to each other, a fire, hot chocolate, a wool blanket. I'm carrying a fire extinguisher when I read tomorrow. We're talking a'blaze! Looking forward!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Woo! Yeah, baby, on with the chemistry.

Alicia Dean said...

Love it! I can definitely feel the chemistry brewing, and I appreciate the morning chuckle. Looking forward to Part 3!

Vonnie Davis said...

Rolynn, it's hard to get to a blaze in 3 chapters. Right. Right? Och, ye ken what I'm talking aboot. I'm reading a cozy mystery right now set in Edinburgh. The author concentrates on different words to weave in the Scottish brogue. Aboot, being one. But a fire extinguisher couldna hurt. LOL

Vonnie Davis said...

Glad to see you back, Brenda. I wasn't sure if a paranormal would suit this crowd. Not everyone likes shifters.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, Alicia. I'm thrilled you're enjoying the read.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm fascinated by Hughen's inner bear. I can't wait to see how you wrap this up tomorrow!

Vonnie Davis said...

Yeah, if you or I were in her spot how would we handle a shifter? I'd be so out of there...snow, or not. Can Hughen keep half of his identity a secret? Would this man of character do that? How much of himself can he expose? He'd kind of like to keep this intelligent woman around. What to do? What to do?

Alison Henderson said...

This is so much fun--funny and sweet. I laughed out loud at the vision of a bear lumbering into Zales.

Vonnie Davis said...

How else would he have gotten jewelry. Imagine one bear piercing another's ears. Or maybe the fox jammed the needle in. ONe's mind can run amuck at all the possibilities.

remullins said...

In love and wanting a beary bear for myself.

Vonnie Davis said...

Bear shifters are amazing. Real bears in the wild, not so much. Thanks, RE Mullins.

originalchele said...

love it

Diane Burton said...

Love "Santa Baby". LOL And the bear going into Zales for jewelry. Vonnie, you always weave in such fun. The bear has good advice. Will Hughen heed it? I hope so. Can't wait for tomorrow.

Christine DePetrillo said...

Almost makes getting into a car accident worth it, right? Love it!

Vonnie Davis said...

Chele, how nice of you to stop by and leave a comment. As always...Muah!

Leah St. James said...

You crack me up, Vonnie...hiding a credit card in his fat folds. :-) And what a guy. I think even I might enjoy a bit of snowy weather with this guy. Can't wait to read the conclusion!

Vonnie Davis said...

Diane, I hope the finale is worth the wait. Thanks for your kind comments.

Vonnie Davis said...

I've been in enough car accidents, Christine. I'll chose another way to meet my shifter. LOL

Vonnie Davis said...

Leah, haven't you ever slipped change in your bra if you're in too much of a hurry to retrieve your purse from your wallet? I knew Bear wouldn't be wearing a bra, but hey, he'd have fat folds. Don't tell me I'm the only one who thinks like this. LOL

Leah St. James said... :-) I usually just dump it into the quagmire that is my purse.

Vonnie Davis said...

You deserve a hug for that, Leah. Bwahahaha. I just love ya ta bits.