Comrade Bear by Mary Winter
Nanook Warriors Book 4
erotic gay bear shifter romance
novel length (approx 55,000 words)
Cover Art by Valerie Tibbs
Trent had always been the outsider on the team. When one-by-one Bjorn, Kjell, Hans, and Mark found mates, Trent knew he’d always stand alone. The European military structure might be more tolerant towards homosexuality; he wondered if his commanding officer and team members would be. Then Vik brings Aleksander back to the team. The Russian is the one man who can prove to be Trent’s undoing. But betrayal and uncertainty run deep, and when Aleksander is asked to go undercover with a band of Russian shifters, Trent wonders if he can truly consider Aleksander is comrade, or if the man he’s always loved might become his enemy.
Trent cast a sidelong glance at his teammate across the counter. Aleksander piled cold cuts and cheese on two slices of crusty bread, then doused the mixture with spicy mustard. Trent glanced at his own, nearly identical sandwich and decided to pass on the mustard.
Damn it! Yet one more thing that we share: our taste in sandwiches. We’re also the only two sane guys in this outpost, never mind that he turned traitor against his country not once, but twice.
That still bugged Trent.
He grabbed his sandwich and shoved away from the counter. Deep inside him, his bear twitched, hungry for food and for a run. They’d been holed up in here since the last raid on the Russian Corporation. Vik, the general who ran this EU Special Forces unit, had told them to stay low while he dug up some information. Apparently that’s what Louhi was doing, too. Though watching the Shami woman leave the building wearing little more than a light jacket to shake her rattle kind of wierded him out. If it couldn’t be seen or touched, then as far as Trent was concerned, it didn’t really exist. And the Bear spirits with whom she spoke could barely be seen, and definitely not touched.
He glanced out the window and wondered if she were out there now, probably with her mates, the twins Marc and Hans Svetter.
“I think Louhi is in the lab talking to Sigrid,” Aleksander said. He sat down across from Trent and bit into his sandwich.
“Okay,” Trent said, not quite comfortable with the easy way Aleksander seemed to be able to read his thoughts. Of course, he had good reason, but still—Trent reached for his plate, then grabbed his glass of water instead. Taking a big drink, he stared at his teammate. “So why are you here?”
“I was hungry?” Aleksander arched an eyebrow. “Or do you mean here, on Vik’s team.”
“You know damn well what I mean.” Trent picked up his sandwich.
“And you damn well know the reason why.” Alexander pushed away from the table. Grabbing his now-empty plate, he turned toward the sink. “I was going to talk to you about Louhi’s work, about this crazy Bear Clan shit, but if you’re going to snarl, then go back to hibernation.”
“Can’t hibernate around here. We have work to do.”
“Yes, we do.” Dishes clanked in the sink. A moment later the dishwasher racks rattled, then the door thumped closed. Aleksander stomped back to the table. Pulling out the chair, he straddled it, resting his arms on the thin back. He glared at Trent. “I don’t think you like this any more than I do. We’re in the military. Fighting is what we do, and we fight with guns, with weapons we can hold and feel. And, we fight with our bears if we have to. This spiritual stuff…” Aleksander shrugged. “I do what I’m told. That’s it.”
“You take orders from higher ranking officers,” Trent corrected. “But yeah, that about sums it up. Vik’s gathering intelligence. I’m sure he’ll have work for us to do soon.”
“And until then, the twins guard Louhi. Cameron takes care of Sigrid in the lab. And we sit around.” Aleksander curled his fingers into a fist and lifted it, then must have thought better because he slowly rested his hand on the table. “Something will happen.”
“You’re Russian,” Trent countered. “You always think something will happen, none if it good.”
A smile quirked the corners of Aleksander’s mouth. Humor twinkled in his blue eyes and for a moment, Trent saw a glimpse of something other than the dour Russian soldier. “It never is good.” Aleksander quickly sobered.
Trent bit back a remark. “Even if we don’t believe in the Bear Clan and the Night Demons, we’ve seen them both. And they’re a part of this battle whether we like it or not.” He modulated his voice, hid that little niggle of doubt that maybe it was true, maybe they were part of some special group of people once lost from the shamans like Louhi. Shaking his head he pushed back his chair. “That means we take those orders and we fight to the best of our ability.”
“You think I don’t?”
“I didn’t say that.” Trent caught and held the challenging gaze Aleksander threw at him. “Didn’t say that all. We simply do our jobs until Vik tells us otherwise. It’s what we do.” This time, Trent smiled.
“It’s what we do. Until something happens.” Aleksander chuckled.
Trent joined in, caught up in the moment of camaraderie between two team members. He’d worked for Vik long enough to know how things went. Lots of waiting with little spurts of action in between. Presumably Aleksander had had those same experiences, though Trent didn’t know exactly how long he’d worked for Vik. Aleksander had never said.
Silence grew between them. Trent glanced at the clock, too early to check in for briefing. Somewhat at loose ends, he decided to sit and see where the conversation went.
They both spoke at the same time.
A memory, harsh and fleeting, crossed Trent’s mind and he shoved it away before it could spark another. “Will you hear from any of the team you were working with before?”
Aleksander shook his head. “If they found me, they’d kill me. I’m a traitor to them. If Vik’s right, then only the small group knew who I was and most of them are dead. If I have to go back, hopefully my cover won’t be blown.”
“They wouldn’t send you back, would they?” Trent furrowed his brow. Vik never sent them directly into hell, only around the edges, as the old man often said. To send one of their team back knowing he could be killed at any moment seemed a bit brutal, even for this mission.
“I go where I’m needed.” Aleksander stood. “Want a beer?”
“But we’re on duty.” The words slipped from Trent’s lips before he could remind himself of the Europeans’ different attitudes toward spirits.
“When in Rome…or rather, Norway,” Aleksander suggested.