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Heal (Whisper Swamp Gators Book 2)

Heal (Whisper Swamp Gators Book 2)

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Click To Read The Synopsis

The Clock is ticking.

Zoe thought finding her brother would be the end of the supernatural nightmare she found herself in. She was wrong. After Jeremy takes a bite from a dangerous snake shifter and becomes infected with his potent venom, a race against time begins to save his life. One in which Zoe finds herself dragged even deeper into the world of supernaturals and shifters.

Kai knows his only hope in saving Jeremy and keeping Zoe safe from Dravus is to find a witch willing to cast a spell that would slow the venom in Jeremy’s system. There’s only one family of swamp witches powerful enough to perform a spell of such caliber, but getting them to agree to it will come at a cost. One Kai isn’t sure he’s willing to pay.

Click To Read Chapter One

Dark water splashed against Kai’s aluminum boat as we made our way through a section of water channels that led deep into Whisper Swamp. My gaze fixated on the area at the front of the boat illuminated by the spotlight Jackson worked. It lit up the trees that stood at the edge of the embankment like guards of the swamp, watching our every move. They dripped with Spanish moss and mingled with the other foliage, creating an impenetrable wall. While I wasn’t sure if Kai or the others needed the spotlight to see as we continued through the swamp, I was glad there was one because I couldn’t see a thing beyond its reach. The moon didn’t give off enough light for me to see by, and I doubted my night vision was as good as theirs. 

Reedy grass brushed alongside the boat as we rounded a bend, and I swore I felt something hop off and into my lap. When I felt around, I couldn’t find anything though. Kai slowed the boat as we reached another sharp bend in the channel, and the night sounds of the swamp floated to my ears now that the hum of the propeller had quieted. Frogs and bugs serenaded the night. There was a time when I would have thought the noises were soothing, exciting even, but knowing what I did now about the supernatural world, the noises put me on edge even more than I already was.

When would we be wherever we were going?

It felt like we’d been out here for hours. I shifted on the worn wooden bench seat beneath me, my butt sore from lack of padding, and glanced around. My eyes watered and I blinked rapidly as Kai kicked up our speed again while hitting a straight away. The icy wind whipped against my face, and I folded in on myself to hide from it, pulling the sleeves of my jacket over my hands. Trees in this section of the swamp were taller and had thicker trunks that were black and moldy-looking. The water here seemed eerily still with a layer of green algae floating across its surface. It was odd how much the scenery had changed in such a short distance. Something splashed through the water somewhere behind us and I jumped at the sudden sound. Something about this section of the swamp sent goose bumps prickling across my skin.

This was exactly where I imagined a swamp witch would live. 

The place seemed mysterious and creepy. While Kai continued to steer us down the twisting channel, I tried to think of something else besides where I was—something to distract me. Suddenly, I found myself thinking of Jeremy.

Had he woken yet?

It had been hard to leave him, especially after he’d taken such a turn for the worst, but I couldn’t sit in Kai’s living room, unable to do anything to help him. I handled things best when I was being productive and helping to remedy a situation. I’d never been one to sit around, doing nothing. It was how I worked.

An image of Jeremy lying on Kai’s couch before we left filled my head, and I found my mind circling back to the tarot cards I’d pulled before leaving for Magnolia Island. A knot formed in my stomach, and I couldn’t help wondering if the Death card had meant exactly that—that Jeremy would die. 

This venom was relentless. Not only was the area where Jeremy had been bitten swollen to the point of looking grotesque, it was also red and angry with splotches of black. His entire leg looked as though it was bruised and as if black blood ran through his veins. The sight of it had torn at the fragile edges of my heart and made me want to throw up. 

Tears pricked the corners of my eyes as I thought about how scared he must be, and how much pain he had to be in. Before we left in search of a witch, he’d passed out either from pure exhaustion or the pain. I didn’t know which, but there was a part of me that had felt a sense of relief.

He couldn’t feel pain if he was sleeping.

Once he was out, Kai had decided we needed to head deep into the swamp and find a witch to help. I’d wholeheartedly agreed with the decision because the sooner we found a witch capable of performing the spell we needed, the sooner Jeremy’s agony would end. Before I left with them, I’d kissed Jeremy on the forehead and made a silent vow to do everything in my power to find a witch to help him.

We rounded another bend, and I pulled the sleeves of the jacket Nina had let me borrow over my hands more, wondering if the temperature had dropped in the last few minutes. A chill slipped along my spine as I stared straight ahead, watching as more black-trunk trees dripping with Spanish moss sped past us. I exhaled a slow breath as I wrapped my arms around my middle. 

Everything I’d fallen into recently still felt so surreal. This felt like a bad dream I couldn’t wake from. I closed my eyes and was tossed back to the moment Dravus bit Jeremy. I should have seen him coming. I should have paid more attention to my surroundings, especially during that crazy ass fight. If I had, maybe Jeremy wouldn’t be on his deathbed.

I hated Dravus for what he’d done, but I also hated myself for not having stopped him.

I didn’t fault Jeremy for stepping in the way of Dravus’s bite. He’d done what he thought he had to do to protect me. I would have done the same for him. 

In a heartbeat.

I pulled in a deep breath of the briny, cold swamp air and tried not to lose it. Instead, I focused on the steps I knew we needed to take to ensure Jeremy’s safety—find a witch that would help us and get the cure. However, getting the cure seemed as though it would be harder than finding a witch, seeing as the cure was Dravus’s blood.

While I still wasn’t one hundred percent on all this shifter business, Kai had explained it to me as best he could. Dravus was a water moccasin. His venom was toxic. And the cure to his bite was in his blood. Each water moccasin shifter’s blood was the cure to their own venomous bite. It had something to do with the venom being unique to them.

The biggest hurdle with getting Dravus’s blood to cure Jeremy was that Dravus wasn’t going to simply hand it over. He would want something in exchange, and that something was me. He wanted to claim me as his Mystic. Doing so would mean I was forever linked to him and his den. While I wasn’t sure on all the specifics of what that meant, I knew I didn’t want it.

This only left us one option—steal Dravus’s blood.

However, considering he had a seer, I wasn’t sure how we’d be able to manage it. 

My gaze drifted around the boat. No one else seemed worried or nervous. They all seemed fine. As though heading deep into the swamp in the middle of the night to search for a witch and help save someone who’s life was hanging in the balance was normal.

Kai stiffened, and the boat slowed, the humming of its engine dying down.

“I’m gonna take it slow through here,” he said. “To be respectful.”

Respectful of what? Why had the energy of the others seemed to shift too? Had someone died here?

I stared at Kai. Even though I was positive he could tell I was looking at him, he kept his gaze fixed on something in the distance. When he swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing with the force, I knew he was upset about something. Heartbreak glinted in his eyes. It tugged at my heartstrings seconds later, and a strong desire to comfort him rushed through me.

How was it possible to care so much for someone I barely knew?

I opened my mouth to say something to him, but a strange prickly sensation pulsed through the air. The fine hairs along my body stood on end, and goose bumps spread across my skin.

What the heck was that?

I looked at everyone in the boat and confirmed that it wasn’t coming from any of them, even though I hadn’t expected it to be. This magic felt different from the magic of someone shifting, but I couldn’t explain how. 

As we drifted along, it grew stronger. 

I searched through the darkness for the source of the odd sensation lingering in the air here, but saw nothing besides a tiny shack a few feet away from the bank that caught my eye. I couldn’t be sure if that was where the magic stemmed from, but it seemed as though it might be. As we crept closer, the spotlight Jackson held allowed me to see the area more clearly. There was a dock that led from the dark water up to the shack. It connected to a tiny porch off the front of the place. There were no lights on inside, and oddly enough, the place gave off empty vibes.

Was this where the witch Kai wanted to ask for help lived?

Something on the bank captured my attention before I could ask him.

“I didn’t know you came here after,” Nina said, her tone so soft I could barely hear her over the low hum of the boat’s engine. “I would have come with you if I’d known.” 

My gaze locked on what we all stared at—a bench made of driftwood that sat at the edge of the bank. It looked as though it belonged there, like it had always sat overlooking the murky water of the swamp.

“I wanted to be alone,” Kai said. The heartbreak in his tone caused my stomach to flutter.

Was this where their parents had passed away?

I knew we shared that horrible reality, but I hadn’t asked for any details about their passing. There was a good chance this was the location where it had happened. Maybe this was another house his family owned.

“I would have liked to have been with you when you paid your respects,” Nina insisted. “Ophelia meant something to me too, Kai.” The sharp bite to her words surprised me. 

I glanced at her and then shifted my gaze to Kai. Clearly, this place had nothing to do with their parents.

So then, who was Ophelia?

A burning sensation rolled through my lower stomach, hot and fast. I’d never been the jealous type, but seeing the emotion in his eyes and the firm set to his jaw, I knew Ophelia had meant something to him and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

“I know she did,” Kai said, his voice cracking with the emotion I saw in his eyes. He steered the boat closer to the bank and cut the engine, letting us coast. “It was just somethin’ I made. It’s not a big deal. I like to come out here and sit sometimes. To think and get my head on straight again.”

The jealousy I’d felt evaporated at the sound of his sorrow. My heart hurt for him.

“How often do you come here?” Nina asked, concern for her brother spinning through her words. 

“As often as I like.”

My gaze swept over the bench again now that we were closer. The prickly sensation that continued to pulse through the air found its way to me again. My palms warmed, and I glanced down to look at them, thinking my Mystic magic would be visible. It wasn’t. There was no golden glowing light, but I could feel it. It rested a scratch beneath the surface.

“You feel her, don’t you?” Kai asked. The hope etched in his words drew my attention to him. “She’s still here, isn’t she? I thought she was. Well, her essence anyway.” A small smile twisted his lips.

“Who is she?” I asked, not confirming or denying anything. 

“Ophelia was the original Mystic,” Kai said. His words splashed over me like ice water.

I hadn’t known what I was long enough to question the origins of Mystic magic or how it had chosen me, but I knew it had to come from somewhere. 

“Was?” I asked, noticing he talked about her in a past tense. “What happened to her?” I shoved my hands beneath my thighs and sat on them, putting the warmth that built there to good use.

The boat drifted to the bank until it bumped into it gently. I shifted to get a better look at Kai, waiting for him to answer my question. The available moonlight lit his face enough for me to see that his expression was one of pure agony.

“She died durin’ a spell she did with my friend, Tris,” he said, his lips clamping together once the words spilled free.

My stomach twisted. Logically, I knew there had to be a downside to using magic. It couldn’t always be rainbows and sunshine with nothing but good outcomes. Still, having someone die during a spell seemed too harsh of an outcome.

“I’m sorry,” I said. While it didn’t help ease the sadness in his features, it had seemed like the right thing to say. However, questions now swirled through my mind. “What kind of spell were they performing?” I hadn’t wanted to ask, but I wasn’t able to stop myself. 

Curiosity had gotten the best of me. 

“To know what the spell was for, you have to know that there was originally another part to the shifter sickness,” Jackson chimed in when Kai didn’t seem as though he wanted to answer.

“Another part?” I didn’t understand. Wasn’t that awful sickness enough for shifters to deal with?

Kai nodded. “Yeah, there was only a single Mystic allowed to be awoken at a time. Tris was that Mystic. Until she died and was brought back. Somethin’ glitched when that happened, and then there were two Mystics walkin’ around,” he said. “Tris’s magic became unstable, and she got sick. She came here in search of Ophelia. The two of them performed a spell that woke potential Mystics, includin’ you.” His eyes flashed when he said this, and I wondered if it was because he was grateful for what they’d done or if I was merely a walking reminder of the woman he’d lost.

“She saved me once,” Nina said, causing my attention to shift to her. Her eyes were fixated on the bench Kai had made. “Ophelia did. She saved my life.” 

I blinked. “Really? How?”

Nina tucked a few stray strands of her blond hair behind her ear. “I was ten. I went walking through the water near our house when a water moccasin came out of nowhere and bit me.”

“A water moccasin?” My brows knitted together. “As in the real-life snake version or the shifter one?” I didn’t know how anyone could tell the difference between the two. If I was honest, this entire supernatural world I’d found myself forced into was more than a little confusing.

“It was Dravus,” Kai insisted through clenched teeth. His expression grew hard, and even in the moonlight I could see that his eyes flashed with his gator. “I was never able to prove it, but I know it was that bastard. He was the one who bit Nina. I know it was him because we’d had an argument earlier that day. He told me then that I’d be sorry. Nina was bitten about an hour later.” 

A shiver slid through me. This guy was vicious. It made me wonder how we were going to get his blood without me being claimed by him or anyone getting hurt.

“The ferry had already gone for the day, and as you know, there isn’t a hospital on the island,” Nina said. “Not that it would have mattered. No anti-venom any hospital has access to would have helped me, anyway.”

“Right. Shifter water moccasin venom is different,” I said, reiterating what I’d already been told.

“Yeah,” Nina insisted. “Gosh, it was the most pain I’ve ever felt before too. I remember screaming as loud as I could, hoping someone would hear me before I blacked out from the pain.”

“I heard her and came runnin’. By the time I got to where she was, she was already on the ground, burnin’ up with a fever.” Kai’s expression grew tense. “I picked her up and ran as fast as I could to the boat. The only person I thought who might be able to help was Ophelia. So, I brought Nina here to see her. I knew Ophelia was powerful, and that if anyone could save her, it was her. Everyone on the island knew how strong Ophelia’s magic was. Not because we knew she’d been around more years than she looked, but because when you were in her presence, you could sense there was ancient magic in her. You could feel it in the air.” Kai paused, his head dipping as he swallowed hard. I wanted to reach out and touch him, to offer him comfort, but I didn’t. Mainly, because I didn’t know if he wanted me to.

“She healed you?” I asked Nina, shifting my attention to her.

Nina nodded. “Yeah, she did.” 

“Because she saved Nina’s life that day, I vowed to do everythin’ I could to look out for her, to protect her, because of it. As the original Mystic, and the creator of the shifter sickness, she took a lot of crap in the shifter community. A lot of crap on this island,” he said, his tone growing bitter.

“She was the creator of the shifter sickness and the original Mystic?” I asked, unbelieving the paradox there.

“She was, and because of it, anytime someone came down with the shifter sickness, they blamed her because they knew she was the cause. What they didn’t know was that she could also be the cure. They never gave her the chance to do any good here. They never saw how much remorse she had for the mess she’d caused,” Kai insisted. “Me, I was lucky enough to see that side of her. The one not many cared to look for. Ophelia wasn’t as bad as everyone made her out to be. She tried to do good. That had to count for somethin’.” His teeth ground together and I questioned whether he cared for her more than he wanted to admit. 

The thought made me uncomfortable, but only because it made me realize how much I cared for him in such a short amount of time.

“You cared for her,” I said, my gaze never wavering from him. “A lot.”

He nodded. “She was my friend.”

The unease festering inside me, mingling with sensations of jealousy, dissipated at his words. Maybe it was wrong of me, but I felt a sense of relief in knowing that he’d thought of her as a friend and nothing more.

I was awful.

The Clock is ticking.

Zoe thought finding her brother would be the end of the supernatural nightmare she found herself in. She was wrong. After Jeremy takes a bite from a dangerous snake shifter and becomes infected with his potent venom, a race against time begins to save his life.

Main Tropes

  • Secrets & A Disappearance
  • Gator Shifters
  • Small Town

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