The sweet voice sang out to Beckett Holloway, urging him to descend the ladder of his bunk bed. The five-year-old bear shifter had already made up his mind: he would talk to her tonight.
His mother hadn’t believed him when he’d told her that he’d spied a pretty lady with black hair outside his window. Bonnie Holloway had shared one of those grown-up looks with Grandma Vi. They’d tittered over Beckett’s active imagination while Bonnie continued to nurse Hannah.
Pausing to peer out his window, Beckett beamed. The lady stood near the tall oaks. Even more snow had fallen in the hours since his mother had tucked him in for the night.
He’d need to be quiet. Though Beckett still struggled with his heightened senses, he’d already learned the individual sounds of his sleuth. His parents slept, though their respective inhale-exhale patterns were not as deep as they had been before Hannah’s arrival. His brand new baby sister, however, slept like a wild bear in hibernation. According to his father, Harrison, anyway.
Holding tight to the bannister, Beckett crept down the stairs without causing so much as a squeak from the wooden tread boards.
Rising onto his bare toes, Beckett reached for the lock on the front door. Sticking out his tongue, he squirmed and lifted himself higher. With a light flick, he unlocked the door and headed outside.
The powdery snow crunched beneath his feet. He did not feel the cold, but his mother always insisted he wear boots. Thinking she’d be mad if she discovered him out of his bed and outside with bare feet, Beckett plopped down on the porch steps and pulled on his green rain boots.
Tottering across the back yard, Beckett felt giddy. The snowbear he’d made with his father loomed tall under the moonlight.
The woman was still there. Her hair blew on the breeze. If Beckett had been older and wiser, he might have wondered how this was possible, considering the lack of wind.
He drew closer, sniffing the air to catch her scent.
“Everyone has a scent,” Harrison had recently told his son. “You can’t always tell if they’re good people or bad people just from a scent, but it’s important to take stock of all those individual smells.”
The pretty lady smelled like nothing.
She turned, her movements fluid and graceful. Her white dress danced on the air, billowing around her willowy frame. Her bare arms appeared as pale as the surrounding snow.
Beckett brightened at a sudden thought.
Maybe she was a shifter, too.
Racing forward, he didn’t pause to reconsider leaving the safety of his yard. Beckett was a big boy now that he had a baby sister to help protect. Even uncle Hud had said so.
With the snow squelching beneath the rubber soles of his boots, Beckett followed the pretty lady into the forest.