Between a Bear and a Hard Place

By: Lynn Red

Alpha Werebear Ménage Romance

A Broken Pine Bears novel





-1-


“It’s the jowls. They get me every time.”


-Claire Redmon


The medicinal taste of steroid inhaler filling her lungs, Claire Redmon took a deep breath, held it in for a few seconds, and let the cloud of science out of her mouth a moment later.

“That wasn’t so bad,” she announced to her empty bedroom as the rosy tendrils of a late winter dusk crept through the shades in her too-big and too-empty house. Her dog, Cleo, some kind of hilariously snorty, wonderfully stupid pit-bull mix, made a noise reminiscent of an old gate, and flopped over on her belly.

Claire snorted a laugh as she crawled off her giant recliner and knelt down beside the massive, gray, hippo-dog and laughed as the dog started groaning as Claire scratched her white stomach. The dog had a long, jagged scar across her stomach from where the Humane Society had to stitch up an injury when they found her, but Cleo never seemed to mind. In fact, she didn’t seem to mind much of anything.

Must be nice, Claire thought, just go on with your life, not worrying about all the stupid shit there is to worry about. She was still mindful of her short breaths, as she rubbed the writhing, groaning, moaning pup.

The tail end of Sanford and Son played as Cleo’s tongue flopped out of her mouth and her upside-down jowls hung like curtains down the sides of her drool-covered face. Sighing, Claire pushed herself to her feet and picked up a remote.

The first one she tried flicked on the cable box, but wouldn’t switch the TV off. The second one she tried did something to her surround system and the third somehow made the light on her fan turn off and on. With a sigh, she tossed the third remote onto the ruffled up blankets, and finally picked up the last one she could find.

Taking a stance like Superman about to save someone, she put one hand on her hip, one on the remote, pointed that bastard at the set and pushed the button.

The pleasant chime that played as the picture faded was the sweetest sound of all.

“I... really need some hobbies,” she told Cleo, who made a mewling sort of growl in response. “Maybe train sets? Could take up tennis?” The slight hiss in her breath made her rethink tennis in high school, but there was no reason she couldn’t take it up again.

The asthma had, for a long time, defined Claire Redmon’s life. She was the snorty girl, the one with the wheeze, the one who always had to sit out of PE. For a time it made her bitter, angry, and irritable, but then she realized she could use it to her advantage. All that time other people spent with sports or whatever else, she turned to thinking. By the time she was fifteen, she’d published two papers in biology journals, and won an award from Yale to use their lab for an experiment involving blood sugar in mice.

From there, it was a hop, a skip, a wheeze and a jump before she landed herself a spot in the biology department working for some exalted professor she saw four times in her eight years of school.

Reconsidering her decision, Claire turned the TV back on, and was thankful she hadn’t put the remote down, or else she’d have to do the shuffle again. The 1960s Batman had begun, with Adam West trapped in some nefarious and completely silly situation.

“Well, there’s always drinking,” Claire said, pouring a half-glass of Malbec and taking a sip. “Although I guess that’s not really much of a hobby. I wonder what it takes to get into moonshining?”

Then again, after the run through Yale, she ended up without much going on. She was, as a restless twenty-five year old with a PhD and nothing to do with it, an asthmatic counter clerk at a very hip, very expensive coffee bar in New Haven. She’d been sitting there, roasting beans and debating the finer points of whether or not Joy Division was new wave music or goth, when the call came, out of the blue.

She remembered it like it was yesterday. An old voice, rattling and slightly shaky, had asked if she was looking for work. At first, she’d said no, since she wasn’t, but then thought better of it, since being a hundred grand in the student loan hole and making ten bucks an hour wasn’t exactly an ideal situation.

The whole thing was strange, from the very beginning. The rattled voice never mentioned any names, and never mentioned what she’d be doing. They arranged a phone interview for later in the afternoon, and with a heavy, confused heart, Claire walked straight out of her extended adolescence and into a shadowy, slightly uncomfortable adulthood.

She walked straight into GlasCorp.

She’d heard of the pharmaceutical mega corporation. Everyone had – at Yale, the best and brightest biologists, chemists, physicists; they all ended up at one of a handful of companies to work. When she ended up at that coffee shop? It was a slap in the face, although she didn’t mind so much. The coffee shop was nice, the people were decent, and she didn’t have to do anything ethically confusing – if you discount selling a cup of black coffee for three bucks and change, anyway.

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