“Sam. Sam. What happened? I came as soon as I could. Got slowed up by a plow clearing the streets.” TC rushed into the ER and stamped his boots.

“Hey, TC. Glad you’re here. Listen, we have a major crisis here, and I thought you would want to know.” Sam placed a hand on TC’s shoulder. “Look, I know things aren’t exactly great between you and Eve…”

“Just spit it out, Sam,” TC shifted. “Has something happened to Eve?”

“Listen, you may find this hard to believe. I know I wouldn’t believe it had I not seen it with my own eyes.” He thought of the massive beast that was Julian Crane. He still found it incredible.

“Sam!” TC shouted. “What is going on?”

Sam jerked his head and stared at TC. “Julian Crane…”

“He’s dead, I hope,” TC spat.

“Would you get a grip!” Sam barked.

TC snorted.

“Like I said, you may find this hard to believe, but something really weird has happened.”

“Like what?” TC looked around. “Where is Eve?”

“First, have you ever seen the movie, “The Incredible Hulk?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, so?”

“Well, I don’t know how to say this, but what happened to the guy in the movie has happened to Julian.” Sam watched TC process the information.

“What?” With a frown, TC wrinkled his brow.

Sam leaned closer to TC. “Julian is ten feet tall and has more muscle than all the guys in the body building magazines combined.”

TC laughed, slapping his hand against his thigh. “Man, you really had me going there. You sounded so convincing that I almost believed…”

Sam shook his head. “It’s true, TC. Ask anyone here.” He jerked his thumb at the lobby full of nurses and doctors.

“Yes,” a nurse agreed. “There is a big hole in the roof in his room where he threw a bed through and escaped before the police got here.”

TC’s eyes narrowed as he brushed past Sam and headed toward the cubicles. “This one?” A nurse pointed.

Sam followed and stood next to TC. “Oh my God, you have to be kidding me! This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of.”

“Believe it, and that’s not the worst of it.” Sam kicked at some rubble.

TC turned. “What could be worse than this?”

“He took Eve,” Sam said.

“He what?!” TC roared. “I am going to kill him. I don’t care how much muscle he has. I am going to kill him for sure this time.” He headed for the exit. “I am going to kill that bastard.”

“TC…TC…” Sam rushed after him. “You don’t know what you are dealing with. This isn’t your typical 6-foot, 160-pound Julian we are talking about. He is tall and really, really strong. Hulk, remember, Hulk.” Sam followed him out to his truck.

“I don’t care, Sam.” TC opened his truck and jumped in. Reaching under the seat, he pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. “He may be a freak, but I doubt he’s slug proof!”

Sam stared, stunned. “You carry a shotgun around? Are you crazy?”

“I bought it tonight, from a guy down at the wharf. Julian has interfered with my family for the last time.” He cocked the gun for effect. “Get in or stay.”

Sam opened the passenger door and climbed in. He slammed the door shut. “I am not going to let you kill Julian.”

“Just try and stop me.” TC’s eyes grew menacing as he pointed the gun at Sam. “No one is going to stop me. Not even you.”

“What if you hurt Eve?” Sam asked.

“I won’t. I want her to watch that bastard die.” TC placed the gun on the dash and started the engine. He backed the truck onto the slippery road.

Eve shivered with cold as Julian clutched her in hand. “Ju…Julian.” Her teeth chattered.

The beast held Eve up in front of his face. A low rumble escaped his throat.

Eve put her fear aside. “I am freezing, Julian. Please. We need to get out of the cold. And you need some clothes.” She tried not to think of his nakedness. Her cheeks burned at the memory.

He grunted. Eve’s spirits lifted. He appeared to understand.

Julian pounded downtown. He stopped in front of a store. Driving his fist through the glass window, he shattered it and then howled in pain. Apparently his tolerance for pain didn’t grow with his body.

He stooped to place Eve on the ground. He emitted a growl. Eve’s hair stood on end. His eyes narrowed and watched her like a hawk. Escape would be futile.

Eve looked up the street. The snow-covered roads would make it hard for police to get to the store in a hurry.

When Julian finally released her, Eve rubbed her arms to try to warm herself. She thought of running for a moment, but at the same time, she didn’t want to leave him. Frightening as he was, he was still Julian. The man she loved. And God knows what was going to happen to him if she didn’t try to help him. “I will be right back, OK?” Eve looked up into his face.

Another low rumble escaped his throat. Eve took that as a ‘yes’ and carefully made her way through the window. It was a linen store. She looked around and grabbed a few towels and bed sheets. They would serve as a skirt for Julian’s naked form. Her cheeks grew warm again. A rumble from Julian forced her to grab a few other large towels, and then she hurried back out to the massive form on the street.

She hung onto his large fingers when he picked her up and hurried down the street toward the edge of town. As Julian was running, Eve burrowed herself against his palm and tried to keep warm. She sighed in relief when he took his other hand and engulfed her completely. His hands were very warm. Somewhere inside this beast, she knew Julian was still being Julian, looking out for her.

Across town, down at the wharf, Sam and TC drove up and down the streets looking for a sign of anything out of the ordinary.

“Where could he be?” TC grumbled. “You said he was ten feet tall; how hard can he be to find?” He now had his shotgun against his thigh and was tapping it absently.

Sam eyed TC’s fingers. “I am warning you, TC. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“I have had it with Julian, Sam. This time I will not stop until he is dead.” He turned the truck downtown.

Sam’s beeper rang. Pulling it out, he checked it. “I have to call the station,” he said, unsure how to get TC to back off with that gun. “Hi, Luis, it’s Sam. What’s up?” He listened for a moment. “We are heading that way now. I’ll check it out. And Luis, get all the men together that you can. We have a big problem.” He looked at TC for a moment. He was still drumming his fingers on his gun. “I will come down to the station and explain everything.” He snapped the phone shut. “Up the street there was a break-in. Let’s check it out before we go to the station. Maybe it was Julian.”

The truck swerved as TC sped up. The snow was getting heavier again.

As they drew near the store, Sam and TC stared at the damage. “Looks like it could have been them,” Sam said, noting the entire window, plus parts of the frame, were broken. They got out of the truck to investigate. Sam pulled his flashlight from his belt. “It definitely has to have been him, and look. It looks like he cut himself.” He shone the light at the bloody glass.

“Bastard. Wonder what he wanted here?” TC kicked some broken glass.

“I don’t know. Maybe some sheets or something; he is too big to wear regular clothing. I didn’t think he would care about that,” Sam said.

“But Eve would.” TC angrily threw a towel at a rack.

Sam approached him. “I am sorry about what happened between you and Eve tonight. I really am.”

TC faced him. “You know, it wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t Julian. I HATE him.” He pounded his fist into his palm and walked back out of the store. “He manipulated her to fall for his Crane charm,” TC ranted.

Sam sighed. “Well, Eve is a grown woman…”

“No, I have been thinking…it’s all his fault. He has completely confused her, and he is going to pay. With his life!” He headed for the truck.

Sam shook his head. I think you are going to be more of a problem than Julian. He spotted large tracks in the snow. “Looks like they went that way. There is only one set, so he must be carrying Eve still.” Sam bent to inspect the tracks.

Snow was falling heavier now. “We’d better hurry or we will lose them, Sam.” TC sounded normal again.

“You’re right, let’s go.” They jumped into the truck and headed for the station.

Outside of town, Julian shook the ground as he ran, Eve still cupped in his palms. She poked her head out between his fingers to see where they were. There were lots of trees, and they seemed to be heading up into the mountains. Does he know where he is going? A light appeared in the distance. Eve strained to see. It was the Crane cabin. She almost cried in relief. He was definitely still Julian…somewhere under all that muscle.

Julian approached the cabin. He stood almost level with the roof. Eve was sure he wouldn’t fit inside. Julian pushed against the door and it flew open. He placed Eve onto the snow and waited for her and her armful of towels and sheets to enter. Then he crawled in after her, breaking the doorway to accommodate his body. The cabin was large enough to hold his giant frame…if he sat on the floor.

Julian groaned and sat against the wall near the fireplace. His head brushed the ceiling. He stretched his giant legs out. Good thing the room is large. There was lots of room to spare beyond his feet.

He placed his arm on the ledge of the fireplace. It broke and came crashing down, along with all the expensive art pieces on it. “Oh, Julian, you have to be careful.” Eve bent to inspect the broken vase. He moaned.

Eve looked up. Blood trickled from his arm. She handed him a sheet she had been holding. “Cover yourself with this, and I will go see if I can find some things to bandage your wounds.”

A sudden tenderness shone in his eyes as he watched her. He held her gaze as he reached for the sheet she had given him. Even like this, her heart swelled with love for him. “I’ll be right back, OK?” She touched his hand. He nodded. Eve shuddered and tried to choke back tears. He understood her.

A giant finger lifted her face to look at him. He tried to brush her tears away. Eve smiled. “I know you are still in there, Julian,” she sniffed. “I am going to do everything I can to help you get back to being the man that I love.” Somehow!

A tear escaped his eye and rolled down his cheek. It hit the floor between his legs and splashed up, making Eve damp. She reached up with her hand, and he bent to allow her to touch him. “I do love you, beast or not.” She brushed her palm against his cheek to wipe the water from it. He squeezed his eyes shut. More water rushed from them. Crying a river suddenly didn’t seem so far-fetched.

Eve smiled. Her fear had left her completely now. He would never hurt her. He raised her up and tenderly placed a kiss on her face. Wet from the sudden display of affection, Eve started to chuckle. “We will have to figure out how to get past this giant problem between us. I don’t mind if you kiss me, but I am afraid you might accidentally eat me,” she teased. She was rewarded with a rumble of laughter. Suddenly things didn’t seem so bad.

In Harmony, as the snow was getting thicker on the ground, Sam, TC and the rest of the police force were trying to follow Julian’s tracks. The falling snow was making it almost impossible to do so. Before long, they were forced to stop. “Looks like we lost the trail, boys,” Sam said. “We might as well go back till tomorrow. It is obvious, though, that he has headed into the mountains. We will start a fresh search, here, in the morning.”

Everyone returned to their cars and drove off. Sam looked at TC. “Coming?”

TC shook his head. “No, I am going to keep looking. That bastard has my wife. I am not stopping till I rescue her from him.”

Sam approached him. “You can’t possibly get anywhere in this weather.”

“Go home with Luis, Sam. My mind is made up. I am continuing.”

“Well, if you’re going to be pig-headed, then I am going with you.” Sam waved goodbye to Luis.

“I don’t need a babysitter, Sam.” Annoyance laced his tone.

“I think you do,” Sam shot back.

TC glared at him. “Fine, come along then. But I am warning you, you aren’t going to stop me from getting my revenge.”

Sam’s heart sank. Somehow he just knew this was going to end badly.