even through the sounds of his bones crunching and grinding, tendons expanding.
He rose slowly, letting the little deer up. The deer sniffed at Cross’s bear, then nuzzled his leg.
He knows me. Even in my bear, he knows me.
Cross grumbled softly at Buck.
Get the hell out of here, little fella. I’m gonna rain some hell on the bastards that killed your momma.
Man, that hit close to home for Cross. Thinking of losing his parents, seeing little Buck an orphan.
Anger coursed through him, driving the adrenaline through his bear with a ferocity that had never been matched in passion to the jobs he’d done as an Enforcer.
Those were jobs. This was personal.
As if he got it, as if he knew what Cross wanted him to do, the little deer sprinted back, behind the trees, standing in the shadows of tall brush, he watched Cross’s bear with alert eyes.
Cross bellowed. He released his wrath and his frustration with a roar. Rearing up on his hind legs, letting the men see the full extent of his height, the measure of lethal danger he could yield, Cross charged them.
He took round after round from each man, plowing through them, mowing them down like unwanted weeds.
Cross was bleeding from more bullet hole wounds than he could count, but he kept charging, mauling, lunging, fighting.
Until one pulled out the AK.
Things weren’t going to be as easy as he thought.
The first few rounds pierced his hide and yet Cross kept going.
It was the last few shots that did him in.
He catapulted into a headfirst fall, rolled and collapsed, his eyes looking to the sky that old Griz had told him was the place that he’d see him again one day.
Then he heard the growls.
The sound of roaring.
Followed by screaming.
A shadowy form flew over him. large, black and white stripes merging in thick fur.
He turned his head, his vision blurry.
White and dark.
A flurry of movement as his eyes closed.
P ain .
The worst pain Cross had ever felt. He would reach for the spots that stung, but there were too many of them.
Cross opened his eyes.
The last thing he remembered was being in his bear.
Cross was now in his human body. He raised his head.
God that hurt.
He was in the clearing. The area was littered with bodies, all of them the thugs who were trying to kill Ariadne.
He was surrounded by four bears and a white tiger.
What the fuck?
If he could have shaken his head to clear his mind and see things straighter he would have, but the effort it took to raise it was bad enough. Cross narrowed his eyes, squinting at the vision before him.
Indeed, four bears, and yeah, a white tiger.
The tiger turned his brilliant gaze toward Cross.
A few seconds, and with a minimum of bone-crunching and sinew-stretching sounds, the white tiger had morphed into a dark-haired man.
The bears followed suit, also shifting.
The tiger shifter looked at Cross, running an appraising gaze over him, then turned toward the grizzly shifters.
“How come every time I come back to the valley I have to save a bear’s ass?” His striking face had a smile on it. “I’m Vittorio Tiero. You can call me Vax.”
“Hey now.” This came from Kane, one of the grizzly shifters, the mate of Doc’s step daughter Astra. “You’re in the valley showing off your son. And don’t go pretending like you weren’t interested in a little bit of action.”
“You’re right.” Vax laughed.
Kane, Doc, and the two grizzly shifter brothers, Teague and Tanner joined in.
“Seriously,” Doc said. “He needs to shift and heal. I don’t think he’ll make it if he stays in his human body. Glad Mae insisted we come up here.”
“Agreed,” Tanner and Teague said simultaneously.
He felt arms lifting him onto a stretcher. His body was levitating. No, they were picking him up.
He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, he was in his own cabin, in his bed. His breathing was labored. His mind