In the wilderness, danger waits...
Fleeing to a secluded Minnesota cabin after an ugly divorce, Lindy Anderson has sworn off men—until she finds a wounded naked man sprawled on her porch. Reluctantly taking him in, she discovers an ancient secret: Gareth is a Bearwalker, a shapeshifter able to exist as a human or a bear. His legendary clan has been hiding deep in the wilderness, safe from humankind. But now someone has learned of their existence and wants them dead.
As Lindy is drawn into Gareth's secretive clan and vows to help save them from the humans who threaten their survival, she finds herself falling in love with the clan's powerful Guardian. But Marin has taken his own vow to protect his people from all humans, even her, and even at the most terrible of costs.
Their fates now entwined, all three must risk their lives—and hearts—if the Bearwalkers are to survive.
Being followed by a black bear in Wisconsin's Northwoods was the inspiration behind Lori Johnson's fascination with the lore and natural history of these beautiful creatures, and the impetus behind her first book, People of the Bear.
After earning a Biology degree from Valparaiso University, she combined her love of nature and writing to publish numerous nonfiction articles in local and national magazines. She lives in Illinois with her husband, daughter and a menagerie of pets.
Explore Lori's world of black bears at www.lori-johnson.com
She stood immobile, staring at the forest straight ahead of her. A sound was coming from the shadows in the underbrush, coming loud and fast, and then she saw that the sound came from the throat of a huge black bear. The animal moved so fast its paws were a black blur under its massive body, and its jaws snapped open and shut, spewing flecks of foamy spittle as it ran. Its deep-set eyes had only one thing in sight. Her.
"NO!" Gareth screamed. He ran to her as fast as he could, knowing he would arrive too late, and watched helplessly while the bear charged her and knocked her down. Lindy crashed to the ground and rolled in the bear's grasp in a deafening whirl of human screams and ursine roars. Her body disappeared beneath a mass of blue-tinted ebony fur.
He dashed forward and lunged at the snarling animal, trying to place his own body between it and Lindy. They were thrashing furiously at each other and Lindy had no chance of winning the fight. "No Marin!" he cried, grabbing a handful of fur on the bear's shoulder. He could feel the bear's powerful shoulder muscles move smoothly beneath his grasp with each swipe of its paw and he strained to pull the huge animal back but it wouldn't budge.
The bruin had her pinned on her back between its huge front legs. Heat streamed off its panting body, radiating on her sweating face until she thought she would pass out. The bear's breath was hot on her neck, her face only inches from its long white canines. Its curved claws slashed by her head as she struggled beneath it, trying to beat it away with blows from her fists.
"Marin, no!" Gareth screamed again, his voice barely audible over the bear's roars. "Please." He still held the dark fur in his grip, afraid to let go. He yanked the long strands until his fingers trembled from the exertion, but Marin was too powerful for him to pull back alone.
Then, as if hearing Gareth's plea for the first time, the bear snorted and swung its shaggy head to look at him. Saliva dripped from its panting mouth in foamy white splotches.
"She knows everything and I trust her. She saved my life, Marin. I trust her." He withdrew his hand from the bear's shoulder and let it fall against his own side, clenched into a fist. "Please stand up, Marin. Please. Talk to me."
Lindy watched in terror as the bruin dropped its head to stare into her eyes again. She knew it wanted to kill her, could almost see the deadly determination in its eyes. It huffed in her face, deep panted exhalations from the adrenaline coursing through its body, and stood immobile for a long time, just watching her, daring her to move. The ebony fur of its chest began to move closer to her face, making her recoil deeper into the litter of the forest floor when suddenly the bear backed up and arched away from her. In one fluid movement, its thick forelimbs lifted off the ground, slimming and lengthening to become muscular human arms. The furred hind legs stretched into smooth, powerful human legs. The long, tooth-filled muzzle shortened into a human face that looked down at her. What had been dark fur was now smooth olive skin. With his legs straddling her, the man towered above her and glared down with hate on his face.
Gareth reached down and grasped Lindy's hand to help her to her feet. She was shaking so badly her legs would hardly hold her and her teeth were chattering together loudly. He pulled her into his arms to calm her trembling and felt her heart racing against his bare chest in hard pulses. She couldn't speak, but could only stare in shock at the tall naked man glaring back at her from the spot where the bear had stood a moment before. He wondered if she was in shock.
"It's okay, Lindy," he said, running his arm up and down across her quivering back to soothe her. "This is Marin, our Guardian." He saw Marin's eyes following the movement of his hand on Lindy's body and he felt like he was melting from the heat of his disapproving stare. A lump formed in his throat at the thought of the trouble he was in.
"How badly are you hurt?" Marin asked him, ignoring the woman. His voice was deep and stern and rumbled from his throat when he swept his gaze over Gareth's body to assess his condition.
Gareth knew instinctively that Marin was questioning not only the damage done by the hunters but any harm that had been inflicted by Lindy, as well. "I'm healed, thanks to her good care." He swung his healing shoulder toward him as evidence.
The Guardian lowered his gaze to examine the wound before resuming his glare at the woman. He saw that she had stopped trembling in the safety of Gareth's arms and was now sweeping her gaze across his own body. Her eyes were wide at the sight of him.
Lindy tried to look away but she couldn't. The imposing man standing before her was well over six feet tall and like Gareth, was hairless except for his head and between his legs. His face was framed by ragged tufts of black hair so shaggy it could have been barbered by a child. The darkness of his hair matched the black depths of his eyes and fell haphazardly over them so that when he looked at her, he appeared to be peering through a tangled curtain of black. She wanted to run her fingers through that mess and sweep the hair out of his eyes. They were just too beautiful to cover.
Marin followed her gaze and as if reading her mind, raised one huge hand to his forehead to sweep the hair away. She realized then that it wasn't just his eyes that were beautiful. His face was long and angular, still vaguely bear shaped, with high cheekbones and a square chin. His mouth was full and strong, melding with his other features to form a face that was rugged and wildly handsome. She couldn't take her eyes off him.
Marin stood immobile and watched her look at him, not the least bit embarrassed by his nudity. His eyes followed hers as they lowered from his face, traveled across the width of his broad shoulders, following down the sleek curves of his muscular chest and flat stomach. Lindy didn't even notice that he was watching her. She couldn't force her gaze away from his body. She'd seen plenty of men in her life, but never one that oozed raw sexuality the way this man did.