Story Excerpt
Odd Man Out

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Bear put the car in park and turned off the engine. He started to turn to talk to Andrew, but changed his mind when he saw the devastating terror in the man’s eyes. Even with the swelling around his eyes, the man’s fear shinned through like a beacon.

Bear climbed out of the car and opened the backdoor. He slid into the seat next to Andrew. Careful of his movements, he reached for Andrew, sliding an arm under his back to help him sit up.

“Careful now, Andrew,” he said in a low, soothing tone. “You’re in pretty bad shape.”

“Where?” Andrew winced when his tongue came out and slid across his swollen and split lips. “Where am I?”

“We’re in a car on the way to get you some help.”

The blue eyes that flickered up to him were still filled with fear but a little less so than a moment ago. “Who are…are you?”

“My name is Bear Black.” This was the dicey part. “We’ll talk about everything after you’ve seen a doctor. Right now, what you need to know is that you are safe.”

Every muscle in Andrew’s body went stiff as he whimpered. Bear knew from the increase of fear in the man’s eyes that he had just remembered getting beaten. When Bear saw a tear slide down Andrew’s bruised cheek, something inside of him snapped.

Bear scooped Andrew up in his arms and cradled him to his chest. He pressed his cheek against the side of the man’s head, murmuring to him, “Don’t cry, baby. I’ll keep you safe. I promise. No one is going to harm you ever again. I’ll make sure of it.”

Each cry that fell from Andrew’s lips tore at Bear’s heart until he wondered if it was bleeding just as much as Andrew was. Bear couldn’t explain what was going on inside of him if he tried. His emotions were so conflicted, he didn’t know which one to address first.

The overwhelming need streaming through Bear to keep Andrew safe and protected was overshadowed by his desire to keep the gorgeous doctor all to himself. And the rage building in his gut at what had been done to Andrew was tempered only by his need to see to it that Andrew was taken care of.

Bear didn’t try to analyze it too much either. His mother always told him that the spirits had a plan for everyone and he need only listen to the wind to find out what it was. The wind was telling Bear to hold on tight to Andrew Sutherland before the doctor slipped away and got lost in the breeze.

“H–hurt,” Andrew whispered.

“I know, baby.” Bear winced when he lifted a hand and brushed back the sweat dampened hair from Andrew’s face. Blood had dried in spots, caking his hair to his head. “I’m taking you to get you some help. Once the doc has seen you and you’re all cleaned up, then you can rest.”

“Ri–ribs bruised,” Andrew stuttered through pale lips. “Not broken.”

Just the way he said it told Bear that Andrew spoke from experience. His ribs had been broken before. It made Bear wonder what else had been broken. He would have asked but right then Andrew inhaled sharply and stiffened.

“What’s wrong, Andrew?” Bear asked quickly. “What hurts?” Dumb question, he knew, but this seemed a little more severe than a moment ago. “What can I do?”

“Just…” Andrew inhaled a slow and shaky breath. “Just need to rest.”

Bear was pretty sure Andrew needed a lot more than rest, but he wasn’t going to argue with the man. He gently laid Andrew back on the seat and then tucked the blanket back around him.

He lightly stroked his hand down the side of Andrew’s head, the one place he could find that didn’t seem to be swollen. “You rest. I’ll get us to where we’re going.”

Andrew nodded even as his eyelids slide closed. Bear watched him for a moment before climbing out of the car and shutting the door. He got back in the front seat and started the engine, and then drove slowly forward on the bumpy road.

Looking for a spot wide enough to turn around, Bear was surprised when the road ended in front of a small log cabin. He stopped the car and stared at the structure, taking in how well kept it seemed to be.

The wooden logs of the outer walls were old and faded with time but they were in good condition. And the place was clean, the bushes all kept back from around the small homestead and the grass at a manageable level. Someone obviously loved this little gem hidden in the woods and took good care of it.


Bear turned and glanced into the backseat. “What’s wrong, Andrew?”

“Have to”—Andrew’s pale face turned a little green when he swallowed, which matched perfectly to the shaking of his limbs—“to throw up.”

“Right.” Bear turned the car off and got to the backseat in a matter of seconds. He lifted Andrew out of the car and carried him over to some bushes. Bear held Andrew as he puked, grimacing at how painful it look.

By the time Andrew was done emptying the contents of his stomach, he was panting heavily and drenched in sweat. His hands clutched at Bear’s arms, his nails digging deep. His soft blue eyes echoed with agony as he stared up at Bear.


“I know, baby.” Bear glanced up at the cabin. He needed to get Andrew somewhere he could rest. Maybe he could get DB and Nick to come here instead of the tavern, wherever here was. He smiled down at Andrew as he lifted him up and started carrying him toward the cabin. “I’ll take care of you.”

Bear just prayed he could keep that promise. He also prayed that whoever owned the cabin wouldn’t blow a gasket when they learned it had been taken over by a bear.