The Right to Bear Arms

By: Vivienne Savage

Wild Operatives Book 1




CHAPTER ONE

~DANIELA~

The black bear appeared in my yard for the first time one late Friday night.

I had just awakened from a nightmare around half past three. The recurring bad dream of my home on fire left me too unsettled to remain in bed for long, so I slid from beneath the blanket and pulled a light robe over my nude body. I preferred sleeping au naturel, with nothing between me and the silk sheets.

After stepping downstairs to fetch a glass of cool water, I peered through the sliding glass doors for a look into the moonlit rear yard. My landlord, as of six months ago, owned enough acreage for a forest preserve. With my house situated at the very edge of the woodland growth, I was often treated to an array of beautiful creatures. It made me feel like a Latina Snow White.

It was a completely different atmosphere than my last home in the suburbs. I thought I’d hate the hour long commute to work each day, but it gave me time to unwind behind the wheel, sip coffee, and sing to the morning radio. On the way home, I chatted with my mom, usually trying to convince her I was all right on my own. She didn’t trust that Michael would leave me alone.

Officially, I was ending my first month as a single woman after eleven years of an unhappy, emotionally and physically abusive marriage. Michael judged every aspect of my existence, from the style of my hair to the weight I gained during our marriage. Nothing made him happy, and in the end, when he lost his job and came home drunk, he fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his hand and cost us our home.

My parents saw the signs, and when we turned to them for a place to live, they forbid Michael to come into their home. He raged and swore at them, cursed at me, and finally pushed me over the edge until I accepted their ultimatum. A month later, I filed for divorce.

I was alone since then with my share of the insurance claim, starting fresh with the life I deserved in a little rural town in Texas named Quickdraw. I sighed and sipped my water. That was when I noticed the dark shape in my brand new hammock.

“What the hell?” I flipped on the porch light, casting a yellow glow over the formerly dark yard. A bear lay in the hammock, sprawled on its back, so deeply asleep that the light didn’t even disturb it.

The sight was so ridiculous that I spent the first minute giggling crazily after I turned out the light. Russ, my neighbor down the lane, had warned me when I moved in that all kinds of predatory creatures came out of the woods and to be careful if I had any pets. I didn’t. Not anymore. Mimi, my Sphynx kitten, had died in the fire.

I slept easier after seeing the bear and imagined that if my ex came tiptoeing through my yard, he’d have Yogi to deal with for his transgressions. Following a night of more peaceful dreams, I showered and squeezed into a pair of yoga pants with a sports bra and oversized t-shirt. My hair, curly and black, fell in damp ringlets down my back. I shook them out with one hand and stepped outside onto my porch with my unopened mail, a book, and a steaming mug of coffee.

The kiss of a morning breeze touched my cheeks and rustled my dark hair, waking me before I even had the first sip of my drink. I dropped into a patio chair and grunted when I saw the bill collection notices for Michael Rodriguez. I set those aside, making the snail mail trash pile. Taking comfort in the chirping birds, my eyes swept over the yard and noticed… the bear hadn’t moved. In my head, I decided the laziness made him a boy. He lay there, so still in the hammock that I thought he was dead. Squinting, I could see the steady rise and fall of his chest. Was he ill? Should I call animal control? What if they shot him?

I gulped down a few hot mouthfuls of coffee as if it were liquid courage before rushing inside to fetch steak leftovers from the fridge. I warmed them up in the microwave just enough to knock off the cold then tossed them in a pan before returning outside. My furry friend hadn’t left yet. He groggily raised his head to look at me with his big brown eyes. Friendly eyes. Docile eyes. In and out with each steady breath, I steeled my nerves and slowly proceeded forward with my offering. He watched me as closely as I watched him, maybe feeling the same amount of fear. I approached in two step increments, judged his reaction to the human encroaching on his space, then continued closer. Once I was about twenty yards from the bear, I placed the pan on the grass. My heart had never beat so fast, not even when Michael terrorized me in my own home. My ex-husband had been a monster, but this wild animal could take me as a threat and kill me within seconds.

“Would you like a nice, delicious breakfast?” I asked him in my calmest voice, as if I were speaking to a puppy. I saw him drop from the hammock, and as he moved closer, I distanced until I was inside. I watched him from the other side of the glass doors until he finished his meal and walked away.

Early Monday morning, I found him in the hammock again but awake, seeming to wait for me to emerge from the house to see him. Scared out of my wits again, I brought leftover taco casserole this time.

Something about his chocolate brown stare assured me I was safe. He didn’t rush me or make an aggressive move, never coming closer than the place where I set his food. This time, I settled tentatively in the patio chair and watched him eat out of the pan. Michael had never appreciated my cooking so much as this wild animal.

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