"Helen, c'mon babe, time to eat," Sam spoke softly, shaking my shoulder.
"Uh huh," I mumbled sleepily.
"Babe, we're leaving soon," Sam spoke once more.
My eyes opened slowly. I felt as if I'd been hit by a bus. I wasn't sure how much more I could take, sleeping rough in a tent. What? I was in the tent....how? My eyes grew wide as they darted around, scanning my surroundings.
"How did I get here? Did you carry me?" I asked Sam.
"I sure did. You fell asleep on me down at the falls," Sam replied, his face full of amusement.
"Shit, sorry," I mumbled, rubbing my eyes.
"What do you want to eat? We got fish, fish, oh, and guess what?" Sam muttered with sarcasm.
I cocked an eyebrow. "Let me guess, more fish?" I replied as equally sarcastic.
Sam winked, clicking his tongue whilst pointing his index finger at me. "You got it," he said with a chuckle.
I hated fish. I really, really, fucking hated fish. But I was starving and beggars couldn't be choosers. "Yum, sounds great," I muttered, trying to sound excited. I then crawled out of the tent, bone tired, with my hair looking as wild as Jon Bon Jovi's did, back in the eighties.
It got wet last night and my hair wasn't naturally straight. My hair straightener was my best friend. One ounce of moisture in the air made it frizz like cotton candy.
"Sleeping beauty's awake," Luke chirped.
"Aww thanks, Luke, that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me," I responded, sardonically.
"Wasn't a compliment, princess. Just meant you could sleep for one hundred years," he responded with his usual sass.
"Asshole," I mumbled.
As I walked past, I swatted the back of his head. He chuckled whilst attempting to lean out of the way.
"I'm kidding," he reassured. "Oh, congratulations on being mated, by the way."
My hand shot up to my neck. I'd forgotten that Sam had bitten me. By the roughened texture against my fingertips, I could feel that it had already started to heal over. It didn't even hurt, which was weird, because I was pretty sure that it bled quite a lot.
"Is that what this means?" I asked, tilting my neck to show him the bite mark.
"Yeah, you're mated now. That's as good as being Sam's wife," he explained.
"What does it look like? I wanna know," I asked, keen to see.
Luke rummaged around in his rucksack and pulled out a pocket-sized mirror. The type you see Bear Grylls using to reflect light to signal with. He handed it over to me and I took it, excited to see the mark.
"Oh wow. I can see the shape of his teeth marks," I exclaimed with amazement.
"That's as good as a wedding ring in our community," Luke commented.
Sam came back over with more filleted fish that he'd just gutted and cleaned in the water.
"What're you guys talking about?" He asked as he caught a glimpse of Luke smirking at me.
"Luke was just congratulating us on becoming mates. Do I get a ring? My mom got a ring," I said with a shrug.
"Yeah, that's the thing. Our parents are married, they're not mated. My dad hasn't told her about our kind yet," Sam explained.
"I sort of gathered that. She's crazy about him though; he should say something, I'm sure she'll understand," I replied.
"Will she understand about us, though? In our community, our relationship outweighs theirs. We're fated mates," he responded.
Luke gave a nod in agreement.
"You guys will have to report to the elders. All newly mated couples do. I don't know how Jack hasn't been pulled up on this already. You got to talk to him Sam, you got to make him see sense. You know my dad and I will have your backs but you know the rules. He could be forced out of the community because of this," Luke warned.
"I hear you, man, I'll talk to him tonight. Helen, have you ever rode bear back before?" Sam asked, wiggling his eyebrows at me.
My mouth hung open in shock at his innuendo. I immediately thought he meant something dirty. I almost reminded him that we had done twice but then he told me what he meant.
"I'll carry Helen on my back. I don't want to wait until tomorrow. The sooner I get this over with, the more time I get to spend with my girl. She goes back to college in a week and a half," Sam mentioned to Luke.
I tried my best not to laugh and dragged my mind from out of the gutter. After we had eaten the fish that Sam and Luke had prepared (to be honest, it wasn't all that bad) it was time for us to head home. I felt full and contented and I was more than ready to face Mom and Jack.
Luke and Sam had both shifted into their bear forms. Luke held the strap of his rucksack in his mouth and took off, back in the direction of Mom and Jack's cabin.
Sam had crouched down so that I could climb onto his back. I wasn't happy about it and had tried to vote against the idea but as you could imagine, I was outvoted two to one. So here I was, climbing onto the back of a grizzly bear and holding on for dear life. Once I held onto Sam's fur, he took off at full speed, right behind Luke.
My stomach swirled with nerves as we walked into Mom and Jack's cabin. It was going to be obvious to Jack that we were now mated. I knew he didn't mind so much but it was Mom I was more concerned about.
"Helen, is that you, honey?" Mom called out from the kitchen.
"Yeah, Mom. Sam and Luke are here with me too," I replied.
"You kids want some lunch?" Mom called out. I cringed when she referred to us as kids. I couldn't see this going down too well.
I entered the kitchen first and instantly Mom noticed my neck. There was no way I could have hidden it from her unless I wore a scarf, permanently.
"My God, Helen, what happened to you?" She rushed over to get a closer look. "Oh my God! Those are teeth marks. Honey, we should take you to the hospital." She panicked.
"Elena," Jack's face paled as he spoke.
He stood up from where he was sitting at the kitchen table. His eyes landed on my mark and his eyes bulged.
"Jack, she needs to get that checked out, that's an animal bite," Mom shrieked, completely freaking out.
Jack scrubbed a hand over his face. "Elena, stop. She's fine. Just take it easy and sit down. There's something I need to talk to you about." He walked over to Mom and held her hands in his. Her brows furrowed in confusion, looking at him as if he was deluded.
"My daughter has been attacked by a wild animal and you're telling me I should relax...are you kidding me, right now?" She threw her hands up as she yelled.
"Mom," I cut over her.
She swung round to face me, clearly worried sick about me. "What the hell happened? Somebody better start taking!" She yelled, in a state of distress.
"Mom!" I had to increase the volume of my voice so that I could be heard over hers. This time she waited for me to talk.
"Sam did it. We're mated, Mom," I explained carefully.
A baffled frown lined her forehead. She shook her head as if she was hearing nonsense.
"Mated? Sam bit you and you're mated," she repeated my words, trying to process it all.
Luke exhaled a forced breath and turned to look at Jack, silently urging him to fix this.
Meanwhile, Sam had come to stand beside me. He wrapped his arm around me protectively. Mom's eyes widened as she started putting two and two together but only getting half right.
"You're together, like together-together as in a couple?" She mumbled whilst holding a hand to her forehead.
Mom stumbled backward in a daze.
"I know it looks bad, Mom, but...." I started to explain but Jack butt in.
"We are bear shifters, Elena. Sam is Helen's soulmate," he informed her, looking down to the floor in shame.
Mom slumped down in one of the kitchen chairs in shock. She had that bombarded look on her face, suggesting that tears were imminent. I rushed forward and crouched down beside her, taking her hand in mine. The last thing I wanted was to freak her out and force her to say something that she would regret. I doubted very much that the so-called bear community would let her leave. Especially now she knew their secret.
"Mom, it's alright." I shook her limp hand as she stared into space. "Hey, look at me, I want this, I want Sam. You love Jack, right? Nothing else matters," I nudged the truth, eyeing her pleadingly.
I knew that she loved Jack. An idiot could see it.
She nodded in affirmation, thank God. She's smart enough to realize the predicament we were in.
"Guys, can I have a moment alone with my wife," Jack spoke, sounding crestfallen.
The poor guy looked crushed. He was probably going to try and explain why he kept all this from her and why he hadn't been honest from the start. I nodded and left the them to it. Sam and Luke's muffled voices could be heard in the Livingroom. Instead of joining them, I decided to grab a quick shower and change my clothes. Once I finished, I padded across to my nightstand and retrieved my phone. Emma had text asking how things were going. I exhaled a soft chuckle as I read the second text asking me whether I had seen any bears.
I flopped on my bed as I sent a reply, moving my thumbs cross the touchscreen keypad. 'Hey, sorry about the late reply. You all good?'
The delivery report flashed on screen and then the text bubble pulsed as Emma typed her reply.
Her response hit the screen and my eyes scanned across her words. 'Meh? I'd be better if you were here. So how's Sam?' She ended her text with a wink emoji.
I chewed my top lip as I wrote a reply. 'Dreamy. Can't talk more, I'll fill you in later.'
She responded back with the words, 'You better!'
The grin was still plastered across my face as I tossed my phone aside and stretched. My body ached all over from sleeping rough and all that exercise. Most of it was pleasurable. I was far too busy replaying all the hot sex in my head that I forgot something very important.
Sam's voice filtered through the cabin and I rolled from the bed, onto my feet. By the time that I reached the bottom stair, the phone started ringing in the hall. I raced over to grab it quickly so that it didn't disturb Jack and Mom's talk. I picked up the receiver and pressed it against my ear.
"Hello?" I asked, then paused for a reply.
I listened to the raspy voice on the other end of the line before replacing the handset in a fluster of nerves. It was bad...very bad, and now I had to break it to the boys. As I entered the living room where the boys were waiting, both their heads snapped up as I stood there in shock, wringing my hands. It took me a good few seconds to find my voice after what I had just heard.
Both Sam and Luke wore worried frowns as they waited for me to say something.
"Mom and Jack have to go to the town hall within the hour for questioning, or else they're going to face a full public trial," I broke down in tears, racing forward to bury my face into Sam's chest.