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Books. Change. Lives.

Copyright © 2021 by MaryJanice Davidson

Cover and internal design © 2021 by Sourcebooks

Cover design by Stephanie Gafron/Sourcebooks

Cover art by Aleta Rafton

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

All brand names and product names used in this book are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names of their respective holders. Sourcebooks is not associated with any product or vendor in this book.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900



Front Cover

Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Author’s Note

Excerpt from Bears Behaving Badly

Chapter 1

About the Author

Back Cover

For Elinor

Chapter 1

She was just getting the hang of the ambulance when she hit the wolf.

The thing was bulky and difficult to control (the ambulance, not the wolf), and whenever she got it back from its semiannual mechanically induced coma, it took her a few minutes to get the hang of driving it again.

She stood on the brakes

(oh shit oh shit oh shit)

and braced for the double-thump of the tires running over the animal, which didn’t come.

Lila Kai collapsed back into her seat, her heart pounding so hard she could taste metal. She pulled over to the side of the street. A street, not a country road on the way from nowhere to somewhere. This was Lilydale, not Hastings. And even Hastings didn’t have wolves in their streets. Just deer. So what the hell?

She put the ambulance in Park, kept the engine running, and hopped down. She checked the headlights—nothing. The side of the road—nothing. She even took a tentative couple of steps into the brown brush lining the ditch

(don’t think about the zillions of horror movies that start like this)

—nothing. No wolf, limping or otherwise. Or…coyote, maybe?

Which made sense, now that she thought about it. Because whatever it was, it hadn’t been just huge, it had been fast, too. It had come out of nowhere and to nowhere it returned, all in the space of half a second. Maybe she just clipped it.

Is that a metaphor for something? Life? Death? Taxes? Transitions? Romance?

Mmmm…probably not the latter. There was just no way to twist clipping a random wolf into an allegory about her nonexistent dating life. The fact that she’d given even half a second of thought to that was proof that she needed to lay off the Cosmos (the drink and the magazine).

She went back to her decommissioned ambulance, rebuckled her seat belt, put it in Drive, checked her rearview, ignored the urge to ponder more metaphors-that-weren’t, then pulled out, and headed back toward her rental house. The adrenaline rush had been unwelcome as always, but—

“God damn it!”

Two kids had darted out from nowhere

(what the hell is up with this street?)

and were flagging her down, waving their little arms around so fast they looked like little bony windmills in a gale.

This time, at least, she didn’t have to stand on the brakes, and once she had stopped, she rolled down her window. “What’s going on, li’l weirdos?”

Both children were gesturing frantically. “C’mere, you have to help, she’s hurt!”

And more than a few horror movies start like this, too.

Again with park, unbuckling, opening door, climbing out. The boy and girl who had jumped in front of her looked like they were about eight, dressed in the de rigeur kid gear of jeans and sweatshirts and battered sneakers. They had the corn-fed reddish-blond looks of many Minnesotans. “Who’s hurt?”

“I dunno, she just is, we found her, come on. Bring your ambulance gear!”

“It’s not an ambulance.”

“’Course it’s an ambulance!”

“No, I mean it’s decommissioned, so it’s not really an amb—”

Tiring of her explanation, the girl seized Lila’s hand and started hauling her up the street. Lila looked behind her, half expecting to see the wolf creeping up on them and felt a little let down to see the way was clear. Which was insane. Strange enough to see such a creature under any circumstances, never mind smack in the middle of town. But she wanted to see it again; how was that for nuts?

I probably need a nap.

The girl hauled on her hand again and hooked left

“Jeez, kid. Do you work out?”

and then led her down a short alley, to where a small huddled form was curled into a blanket.

“See?” the girl asked, clamping down hard on Lila’s fingers in her excitement.

“Yeah, see?” the boy, presumably her brother, added. “She’s right there!”

“Isn’t this a school night?” But she bent over the small figure, blinked as her brain tried to process the image, gently touched it on the shoulder, then pinched her own leg

(Nope. Not dreaming.)

and looked up at the kids. “All right, first, that’s not a kid, it’s a bear cub for some reason. Second, I’m not a vet. Most important, I’m not an EMT, either.”

Instead of answering, the girl whacked the boy on the arm and hissed something that sounded like, “Unstable!”

“My high school guidance counselor would agree.” Lila bent back over the curled up mass of black, fluffy, whimpering fur that cowered

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