Authors: Amber Kell
Tags: #Paranormal, #erotic romance, #Gay, #shifter, #glbt
Protect those you love, annihilate everyone else.
For as long as he could remember Denton Stills has followed his friend Carey around. When Carey gets a mate Denton starts to consider maybe it is time for him to find his forever man. However the only one sniffing around is an obnoxious puma who seems to think Denton is as good as his. When saltwater crocodile shifters try to move into Denton’s territory he takes a page from Carey’s father “protect those you love, annihilate everyone else. Will Denton be able to hold back a shifter invasion with his friends or will he have to ask for help from the one man who makes him thinks happily ever after might be possible?
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To Catch A Croc
Copyright © 2013 Amber Kell
Cover art by Scott Carpenter
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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To Catch a Croc
Banded Brothers Book Two
This is in honor of road trips. Without that side trip to the reptile farm this book might never have been made. Creative license made them crocodiles instead of alligators. Shh don’t tell Denton!
Water surrounded him—colder than his kind generally tolerated. However, Denton Stills had lived in the Northwest most of his life and adapted years ago. Temperatures most crocodiles couldn’t tolerate no longer bothered him. He snapped playfully at a fish swimming by. He’d eaten a large dinner of spaghetti before swimming. Probably not his smartest move, but he’d been hungry and the pasta had it coming. Not to mention Harris had cooked and Denton didn’t have the heart to turn down anything the bear shifter prepared for him.
Harris might be a big guy, but he had a gooey marshmallowy center and Denton loved him like a brother. He’d eat enough pasta to make himself ill if it would make Harris smile.
Lashing his tail to propel through the water, Denton spied a white object at the bottom. A milk carton had lodged itself in a layer of silt. While Denton’s ecological heart bemoaned the added pollution, his creative side smiled, since the container was probably the remainder from last summer’s milk carton derby. He always enjoyed watching people try to cross the lake on at least fifty halves of the flimsy cartons. Of course his favorite part was when they sank and they bobbed in the lake like soggy party favors.
Humans did the stupidest things sometimes in the pursuit of fun. Crocodiles didn’t need anything more than a nice body of water and a heated spot afterward. The urge to return to his heated bit of sand sent Denton circling around to head back to shore. Although it was dark, after one bad encounter with a white haired lady and her yippy Chihuahua, Denton used more care when approaching shore.
He floated to the surface and took a good look around before walking to the edge and letting the transformation take him. A tingle like a thousand bug bites went across his skin as the reptile submerged beneath the surface to be taken over by Denton’s human form.
Denton sloshed the last few feet out of the lake and grabbed his clothes from the shrub he’d stashed them under. Another quick glance around proved no one had spotted him yet. Good. He also didn’t need another ticket for indecent exposure. Carey’s head would explode if he learned Denton had wandered to Green Lake alone at night to grab a swim. His friend always went on about how dangerous shifting in public was, as if a human knew about that sort of thing. Carey might be a superior human, but even he didn’t understand the shifter compulsion to wallow in its natural environment. Well, as natural as a lake in the middle of a city could be. Formed by the Vashon glacier fifty thousand years ago, the two hundred and fifty-three acre Green Lake always gave Denton a cozy feel. And unlike Lake Washington, it didn’t have idiots in speedboats trying to run over an innocent floating crocodile.
The cold breeze made him shiver. Denton hated winter. His sun-loving reptile half preferred warmer climates, but he wouldn’t leave his friends for all the toasty sand in the world. He just needed to go some place for vacation. Soon. He’d have to ask his friends what they thought about going to the Caribbean. Surely they could put all their pennies together and afford a little trip. Denton thought about all the hot locations they could visit—maybe go back to Australia. Memories of his parents’ horrible death at the hands of saltwater crocodile shifters halted that train of thought.
For all he knew, his family house still stood in all its bloodstained glory. He’d never gone back to check and he didn’t have any plans to do so now.
Hard objects rolled up Denton’s throat and filled his mouth. He played with them a bit with his tongue before spitting them onto the ground. The stones helped him sink lower in the water as a crocodile and luckily came back up when he returned to his two-legged form. Rocks in his human half would only result in a trip to the emergency room.
As he emerged from the shrubbery, the scent of people approaching made Denton freeze in his tracks. He hadn’t smelled that kind of shifter in a long, long time and in the cool Northwest country he’d never thought to smell them again. What were they doing here? Why had they invaded his home? Brutal memories sent fear icing over his chest and grabbed him by the throat. He started shaking again but this time not from cold.
“Hello there, Freshie,” a hard voice said.
Two large shapes appeared from the darker area of the park.
Crap! Saltwater crocodile shifters!
He’d hoped for once his nose had been wrong and that his gun wasn’t still in his Jeep. The saltwater or Indo-Pacific crocodiles were much larger than freshwater and it reflected in their human form. Denton knew he couldn’t take them, especially two of them. In his animal state, Denton would be several feet smaller than the strangers before him. Not to mention as a human, Denton was thin and lanky, nothing like the muscular beef-meisters standing before him. His mind raced as he tried to remember if anyone had mentioned salties moving into the area. He was pretty sure information like that would’ve stuck in his head.
It annoyed him that Carey had been right. He never should’ve come to a public lake to swim in his crocodile form. He’d hoped to escape detection in the dark. Apparently, although the humans didn’t see him, the other crocs knew exactly where to find him.
“Hello,” Denton said, keeping a wary eye on the salties. He didn’t trust saltwater crocs—they moved into territory and killed everything in their path. Sure, they couldn’t live in freshwater but that didn’t stop them from keeping everyone else from living there either, especially if an area had both.
“We came to give you a friendly warning,” the man on the left said. He had muddy brown hair and eyes that changed from black to brown in the dim street lights scattered around the park.
The man on the right stepped forward. “We thought you should know there’s a new bask in town and we don’t want no freshies tainting up the waters.”
“I see. Thanks for the warning, but aren’t you guys a little north for crocs?” Most croc shifters didn’t like to leave the warmer climates. Denton only lived in Seattle because that’s where his friends were. If given the choice, he’d go live in Florida or someplace hotter. Only his heated rock and almost scalding baths got him through the cold winters.
Denton kept his body facing them, not wanting to show the salties his back. Both of the men were wider and more muscled than him. He didn’t care to give them the chance to pounce him unaware. He knew how to protect himself, but with two men so much bigger and potentially more lethal, he didn’t stand a chance.
“Now that’s for us to say, isn’t it?” the croc on the left growled.
“I suppose it is.” Denton tried to keep his voice level and non-confrontational. He hoped to get away with minimal damage. His adoptive father, Aden Gale, was going to kick his ass once he learned Denton had traveled without a weapon on him.
One of the salties stepped forward, and Denton stepped back. Fear had his heart beating a rapid staccato in his chest. A bask of salt water crocs had destroyed his family when he was a young hatchling. Denton only escaped because he’d been out swimming. Coming home to find his family in pieces had gutted him.
He’d clung to the new friend he’d met at the watering hole. Carey, who was in Australia on vacation, persuaded his father to take Denton home with them. For some reason the tough mercenary couldn’t say no to his son who had him wrapped around his little kindergartener’s finger in an inescapable bind. To this day, he didn’t know how they’d smuggled him into the country. He didn’t want to know how they got him legal-looking paperwork.
He wished he’d told someone where he was going. Anyone. Instead he’d snuck out of the house without saying a word.
Now Denton yearned for his friend’s presence with the ferocity of a young child wishing for a pony for Christmas.
“The boss said we couldn’t leave any bodies lying around, so we’re only here to deliver a friendly reminder for you to get out of town.”
Before he could react, one huge fist punched Denton in the eye and sent him tumbling down to the ground.
Laughing, the saltwater crocs approached. “You have one day to evacuate.”
Still stunned by the first hit, Denton didn’t scramble out of the way fast enough. One giant steel-toed boot slammed into his ribs. He heard the crunch and snap of his bones shattering. He didn’t remember much after that because everything went black.
When Denton came to, the sky was still black. Since he lay across the middle of a popular jogging path, he doubted he’d been lying there twenty-four hours or someone would’ve had his body hauled away by now.
Sitting up made spots appear before his eyes. His stomach heaved from the pain. He had to stand. He tried for a little internal pep talk but his body apparently knew he was full of shit and ignored him.
Finally, Denton rolled over and crawled to his Jeep. Luckily, he’d found rare street parking close by. His hands were bleeding from the bits of gravel by the time he made it to his car. If he shifted now, his bones might reshape wrong or force him to stay a crocodile until he was completely healed. His face throbbed along with the pain throughout the rest of his body. Everything hurt.
He glanced around the Jeep to make sure there weren’t any unpleasant surprises waiting for him. A sniff didn’t reveal any strange scents. He didn’t know how the salties found him and he wasn’t sure if they were still watching him.
His first instinct was to go home but, with Eaton on his blind date. that would leave him with the bear shifter all alone. Harris would lose his temper if he saw Denton all battered and broken. Harris generally had a calm, artistic nature but he protected his friends with the fierceness of a mama bear with her cub. Denton didn’t have the energy to deal with that.
Normally, he would turn over problems like this to Carey but as soon as it became legal in Seattle, Broden had proposed to Carey, married him, and dragged him up to Victoria for a honeymoon.
Carey deserved time away without Denton crying to him because the bigger crocs had beat him up. He needed an alternative plan. The image forming in his mind of a tall dark-haired puma shifter gave him comfort. Isaac Graham would help him out. Denton knew Broden had asked Isaac to keep an eye on Carey’s friends while the alpha pair was gone. For the moment Denton needed a safe place to heal and some help investigating where the crocs were staying.
Isaac was perfect.
Maybe he could get Isaac to hunt around a bit. Crocodile shifters, especially salties, weren’t known for their subtlety. Denton was strange for his breed. He liked to be in the background unless he was playing in the band. He preferred to write songs and design earth-friendly landscaping for people. He didn’t want to bring trouble to his friends, but he knew if he disappeared they would be more hurt than if he filleted them with a knife.