Dan was grumpy the next morning, which was quite unusual for him. Nick and Tom both tried to bug him about it, but Dan wasn’t having any of it.
“Come on,” Nick grinned, elbowing him in the side. “What, now you’re the one who can’t take a joke? What’s the matter with you?”
Dan growled, shoving Nick away. “I didn’t get much sleep.”
“Oh, so that’s it!” Nick grinned. “Got her on your mind, have you?”
“So what is it then?”
Dan let out another long breath, not knowing what to say. Nick had got it in one guess, but Dan just didn't want to admit it. Lucy had been on his mind most of the night, and he'd barely gotten a wink of sleep.
“I think I need to run.”
Tom lifted one eyebrow. “Sounds like a good idea.”
“Jo is bringing Lucy down in about half an hour, so you’ve got until then. You don’t want to come walking out of the woods completely naked just as they pull up in the truck!”
Laughing at the image, Nick turned around and walked back into the mechanics, the sound echoing around the room. Tom, watching Dan for another second or two, soon followed after.
Stomping towards the woods, Dan lifted his shirt over his head, balling it up in his fists. He couldn’t explain why he was so mad this morning, but something was obviously getting to him. His bear had been restless too, needing to get out and run and roar and fight until the frustration and anger melted away.
Making sure he was out of sight of the shop, Dan stripped off the rest of his clothes and left them in a pile, before letting the bear tear out of his skin. Throwing himself forwards, Dan let out a long shout which ended in a roar as his bear came out of his body, finally free.
Shaking his fur, Dan felt his body fill with energy, which practically throbbed through his veins. Roaring again, he pushed himself forward onto his four paws and began to run through the woods.
He didn’t know how long he’d run for, or even in which direction he was going. All he cared about was getting the anger and frustration out of his body.
Coming to the lake – the one that Tom and Savannah used regularly – he didn’t hesitate. Throwing himself in, he let the cool water rush over his fur, cooling him down almost immediately. His paws pulled through the water almost effortlessly, as he swam to the other side.
Climbing up onto the bank, Dan let himself slowly relax. Shaking the water from his fur a few times, he sat back in the grass, leaning heavily against a tree.
All of a sudden, he knew what it was that was making him angry. It was this. This part of his life, the part that Lucy was rejecting.
With a harrumph, Dan pushed himself back up onto his four paws and began to amble back through the woods, using the scent of the mechanics to guide him back towards them. He needed to think about this more carefully, once he was back in his human skin.
Finding where he'd left his clothes, Dan slowly pushed the bear back down and let his human form come out. Bones snapped in two, muscles tore and reformed, forcing a scream from his throat. The bear didn't want to go away, it wanted to stay out. It wanted to keep running through the forest, but Dan knew it was time to head back. Breathing heavily, he slumped forward as the bear finally went away. He could barely get his breath. That change had been pretty painful.
Grabbing his clothes, he pulled on his pants and his shoes, before sitting down on an overturned log. He knew now what it was that had been filling him with frustration. Lucy.
He’d barely been able to believe that a woman like that had practically fallen into his lap. Not to mention she was a shifter. That didn’t mean he assumed she was completely and utterly in love with him or anything like that, but he had hoped there might be something between them, in the future at least. But when Lucy had said she didn’t shift, his heart had shattered into a million pieces.
Dan had always wanted someone who understood him completely, someone he could share his life with. That meant, it had to be a shifter. He'd imagined them running through the woods together, in the way Tom and Savannah did. Nick and Jo were very different since Jo wasn't a shifter and Nick had known that from the beginning. But to meet someone who was a shifter, but who didn't use that part of them, was something Dan couldn't wrap his head around.
In a way, it was as though all his hopes and dreams had shattered in a moment. He'd hoped, even after his disastrous first impression, that he might be able to move things forward with Lucy but now he didn't think he'd ever be able to consider a future with her. Not when she wouldn't shift.
Dan thumped his knee with his fist. He couldn’t understand it. Why would a shifter turn their back on what they knew? On what was a huge part of them? He shook his head, imagining the struggle she must go through. Her bear would want to be out, want to be free, and she was having to force it back down over and over and over again.
The sound of a truck pulling up met his ears. At least his shifter senses were good for something, he thought to himself as he heard Jo’s laugh echo through the trees. He knew Lucy was with her, although he couldn’t hear her voice yet.
Sighing heavily, Dan got to his feet and threw his shirt on over his head. Nick had told him repeatedly that he was now responsible for Lucy, and that meant he was to keep an eye on her throughout the day. It wasn’t something he particularly minded, given just how much he was attracted to her, but there was a sadness there now.
A sudden idea hit him. What if he was able to convince her that being a shifter wasn’t a bad thing?
A slow smile spread across his face. First of all, he’d have to find out her reasons for choosing not to shift, but he’d guess it had something to do with her lout of a brother. If all she’d ever known were shifters like Dominic, then he could understand why she didn’t want to shift. It would be up to him to show her that not all shifters were like that. It had been something he’d had to learn too. Coming from the Northern Wind pack to his one had shifted his entire way of thinking. Instead of seeing himself as a ruthless hunter, he’d learned that there were things like respect and consideration that were just as much a part of being a shifter.
His heart began to lift as he thought about Lucy. Nick would expect him to be spending a lot of time with her, and he would put that time to good use. Whether there was a future for him and Lucy or not, Dan vowed to try his best to show her that her bear side wasn't something she should just ignore. He would show her that it was a privilege, something that set them apart from the rest. Feeling much happier, and filled with a new sense of purpose, Dan walked towards the mechanic's shop, ready to start the day.