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Home (Whisper Swamp Gators Book 3)

Home (Whisper Swamp Gators Book 3)

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Click To Read The Synopsis

Sometimes fight or flight are the only options.

Zoe knows Dravus is coming for her. After taking his fangs, anyone would. What she doesn’t know is how diabolical he can actually be.

Kai has waited years to take Dravus down, but shifter law forbids it. Until now. The shifters of the swamp are in agreement that it’s time for Dravus to go. Now all they need is for him to make the first move. Then it’s game on.

When three from the crew go missing, suddenly more than Zoe’s safety is on the line. The final battle with Dravus has come. Who will remain standing?

Click To Read Chapter One

I folded my arms over my chest, my eyes glued to the swamp. Fog rolled over the water’s surface. The cold seeped through the drafty windows and penetrated my bones. Sometime in the night, it had started to drizzle too, making that chill throughout the house sink a little deeper. I wasn’t sure what today would hold weather-wise, but I hoped like hell it wasn’t more rain. 

A slight movement on the right side of the swamp captured my attention. My gator’s interest piqued too. He was as much on high alert today as I was. 

I zeroed in on the rustling of foliage near the bank, my eyes narrowing. 

Was that a snake?

Nope. A gray fox came into view to snag a sip of swamp water. Probably not the best source of drinking water, but whatever. I couldn’t pinpoint who the fox was from this distance, but I knew it was a shifter. So did my gator. We could sense it.

Since Serafina had sent Zoe the cryptic message yesterday afternoon saying Dravus was awake and that he wanted war, I hadn’t been able to relax and neither had my gator. Everyone was on edge and tense. We’d been waiting on Dravus and his den to make the first move. A part of me felt as though he already had and we hadn’t noticed yet. 

It was unsettling.

The sound of movement inside the house captured my attention. Footsteps headed down the hall toward the front door. They were light and secretive, and I knew who they belonged to—Zoe. 

When had I learned to pinpoint the sound of her footsteps? 

A smile tugged at my lips. I liked knowing something so simple and seemingly small about her. I liked knowing her. My heart pounded a little harder and a bit faster as I thought of her. My smile grew. It disappeared when I remembered she was heading out the front door. A memory from the last time she’d snuck out of the house in the night flashed through my mind, sending my gator into a tizzy.

A surge of adrenaline shot through my veins.

I rounded the corner of the sunroom, making my way into the hall as the front door clicked closed behind her. I hoped she hadn’t gotten another wild idea to go after Dravus on her own again. My gator huffed, trying to get me to move faster. He wanted me to stop her, to get her to come back inside where she’d be safe and warm.

Zoe was stubborn and independent, though. If she wanted to be outside, for whatever reason, she was going to be. I knew that much about her already, too. 

This woman was going to be the death of me, but I didn’t give a damn.

My pace quickened. When I reached the door, I swung it open without hesitation and spotted Zoe standing on the tiny porch. Her eyes widened at the sight of me, and a gasp escaped her as she paused in pulling on Nina’s thickest jacket. Her feet were bare, her toes almost purple, as she stood beside the pair of boots she’d brought outside with her.

Didn’t she own a pair of socks?

Why was this the first question that popped into my head when I looked at her? I should ask her where the heck she was going.

“Good grief,” she hissed, dropping her arms to her sides like a defeated child. I fought the desire to laugh at her expression. Clearly, she hadn’t expected anyone to bust her sneaking out of the house, especially me.

Had she thought I was sleeping?

If she’d stayed in my room instead of opting to sleep with Nina and Willow in her room, she would have known I couldn’t sleep. I’d been disappointed she hadn’t chosen to sleep with me, but in all honesty, I knew I wouldn’t have slept even if she had. Not because I expected something sexual in nature might happen between us, but because my mind was too preoccupied with keeping her safe—as well as the others of my crew—and the shifters of the island who’d signed on to help us fight against Dravus. 

The weight of the world felt like it rested on my shoulders. Sleep would have to come later because of it.  

I plucked my toothpick from my mouth and cracked a grin at Zoe, my eyes locking with hers. “Mornin’, darlin’. Where are you runnin’ off to?”

Zoe’s lips pursed together as she resumed pulling Nina’s jacket on. She zipped it to her chin without looking at me, and then bent to pull the pair of boots on. “Nowhere in particular.”

Was she irritated with me because I’d caught her sneaking around, or had something happened that I wasn’t aware of? Did someone in the house screw with her? Was it someone from my crew, or someone from one of the other shifter groups who’d stayed behind? 

My gator bristled, sending sparks of anger lapping through my insides. I didn’t like the idea of anyone screwing with her, and neither did he. We also didn’t like the idea of her being irritated with us.

“I’m just going for a walk,” she insisted. “I need to clear my head and walk off some of this energy.” She shook her hands out at her sides and rolled her shoulders like something had given her the heebie-jeebies. 

“Energy? You seem aggravated. By what?” I asked. The look she sent my way had me questioning whether I should have said anything to her at all. Again, I wondered if something had happened. “Did someone say somethin’ to you? Do somethin’ to you?” My brows pinched together as I stared at her, waiting for her to answer. My gator made his way to the surface, ready to tear into whoever she named the instant she let a name fly. 

My eyes flashed with his presence. I could feel them. I tried to rein him in but he had a lot of pent up energy coursing through him, energy I knew could spiral out of control fast and allow him to overtake me if I wasn’t careful. 

Maybe I needed to go on a walk too. Spending a minute in nature might soothe him since it was too cold to go for a swim, which was what he really wanted.

Zoe shook her head. “No one said anything to me. I’m just feeling crabby. I haven’t had much sleep. I’m stressed beyond my max, and I felt like everyone was staring at me earlier. Like they were judging me.” She sighed and her shoulders slumped.

I cocked my head to the side, her reply taking me by surprise. “Why?”

“Because of my part in this mess.” She smoothed a few stray hairs away from her face as an icy wind blew at us from the side. 

“No one thinks negatively of you. What’s happened has happened. It’s not your fault,” I insisted, meaning it.

“I just—I need to go for a walk,” she said, her eyes locking with mine. A challenge reflected in them that almost made me smirk. I fought against the urge though, knowing that if I gave in, it would piss her off. 

She looked so damn cute when she was flustered and pissed.

I put my toothpick back in my mouth, letting it dangle off my bottom lip, and then shoved my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. The cold was getting to me, but I’d stand here forever talking to her if I needed to. “Care for some company on your walk?” 

She folded her arms over her chest. “Do I really have a choice?” Her tone was firm, and her eyes never wavered from mine. Even so, I could still see the slight quirk of her lips as a smile tugged at her mouth.

“Nope,” I said with a shake of my head.

“I didn’t think so.” She nodded to the door behind me. “Get some shoes on and a jacket. I’ll wait.”

I flashed her a wicked grin as I stepped back inside, being sure to leave the door open in case she bolted. My boots were next to the door. After I slid them on, I grabbed my jacket from its hook and pulled it on, then made my way back out to her.

“Am I followin’ or leadin’?” I asked once I’d closed the door behind me.

“I don’t care. I just need to walk.”

“Okay,” I said, dragging the word out. “Guess I’m leadin’, then.”

It was what I’d wanted anyway. I had a place in mind. When I headed around the side of the house, cutting through the backyard, Zoe kept pace beside me. We passed Angela and Rusty, both from the gray fox crew. Zoe tensed and moved closer to me. 

Was that what was bothering her? How deep she’d fallen down the rabbit hole of the shifter world?

My gator paced. Worry he made her uncomfortable flashed through us both, hot and fast. When her arm brushed mine as she walked, I discredited the idea and calmed my gator. 

Zoe was comfortable with me—with us. I remembered then that she’d said so before.

Once we hit the thick foliage of the swamp at the side of the house, I directed Zoe to a narrow footpath and motioned for her to follow it ahead of me. Her boots sank into the brine scented muck, and she looked back at me, making a disgusted face.

“Um. This stuff is like quicksand. Are you sure it’s safe to walk back here? We’re so close to the edge of the swamp. Won’t this crap get worse as we go deeper?” she asked, irritation sparking through her tone.

I smirked at her, unable to help myself, and she gave me another nasty look. Why the hell did I think she was so damn cute when she was pissed? It was going to get me in a shitload of trouble if I wasn’t careful.

I forced the smirk away and held her stare. “We’ll be fine. Trust me. Just keep walkin’. Stay on the path and keep your eyes peeled for snakes.” 

A visible shiver slid down her spine at the mention of snakes. I hated that my words were the cause of it, but the reminder was necessary. Even though shifters patrolled the area, it didn’t mean we were safe. Anyone from Dravus’s den could be hidden among the thick foliage and muck, waiting for a chance to strike.

Snakes were sneaky like that, especially ones affiliated with Dravus.

My gaze swept around, searching. I felt my gator tense, his alarm building. He didn’t like that we were out here, walking through the swamp when so much potential danger loomed. He wanted Zoe inside the house. Safe. However, I wanted her happy and for her stress to ease. If going on a walk was what she thought would do it, then that was what we’d do. Also, it gave me another chance to connect with her.

Which was why I was leading her to my favorite place. 

The path we walked on was special to me. It was a place where you could see the channels of the swamp for miles. I loved coming here in the summer when the frogs croaked and the fireflies danced. 

It was like a little slice of heaven.

Zoe nearly tripped over a branch, snapping my attention back to her. I reached out to steady her, but she didn’t need it. She’d already righted herself. When she looked back at me with a wide smile that reached the corners of her eyes, I noticed the tense energy around her had already faded. Being in nature had melted it away and put her mind at ease.

I was glad.

“Oops,” she said with a chuckle. “I didn’t see that there.”

My grin grew. “I noticed.”

Zoe kept walking, her cheeks pinker than they had been before. She was embarrassed. I didn’t call her out on it. Instead, I walked behind her, my gaze drifting from side to side. So far, no one lurked in the shadows.

“Does this path lead somewhere?” Zoe asked.

“Of course it does.”

She cast a quick glance at me from over her shoulder, making a face. “You know what I mean. Does it lead to the swamp or somewhere else?”

“You’ll see. Just keep goin’. We’re almost there.”

“And where is there?” she asked.

“One of my favorite places in our territory,” I said without hesitation. 

Zoe seemed motivated by my words. Her pace quickened, and so did mine. When we finally came to the end of the path in the little clearing, I grabbed her wrist to force her to a standstill. Then I parted the thick foliage that had woven together since the last time I’d been here, revealing the view.

“Oh, wow! This place is beautiful,” Zoe said, her eyes wide as she stared out at the twisting channels of Whisper Swamp. The sun had lifted higher into the sky during our walk, casting shades of orange and pink that reflected along the water’s surface. “I mean, geez. It’s postcard pretty.”

I smirked. Mainly at the thought of postcards. Who even used them anymore? 

“I know,” I insisted, my gaze soaking it all in as well. “My mom found this place. She liked to go off on her own and make hikin’ trails and pathways through the swamp all the time. When she found this place, she knew I’d love it too. We used to pack blueberry muffins and come here durin’ the summer to watch the sunrise before my dad and Nina woke up. It was our place.”

Zoe grabbed my hand, linking her fingers through mine. “Thanks for sharing it with me.” She flashed me a small smile. “It’s beautiful. I’m glad you brought me out here.” She shifted back to the view and inhaled another deep breath. When she exhaled, she smiled.

“What had you so wound up?” I asked, curiosity getting the best of me.

Her teeth sank into her bottom lip. Whatever it was, she didn’t want to tell me. Alarm prickled through me. 

“Everything,” she finally said with a sigh. “I feel like I’m the cause of this gigantic mess. Like it might be better if I left. Maybe things would settle down for everyone, then.”

I swallowed hard. It might be better if I left. Her words repeated through my mind and even my gator felt the weight of them. My heart slammed against my ribs.

Her leaving was the last thing either of us wanted. 


“Why do you think that?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even. It killed me that this was where her head was. I pulled in a deep breath and held it, waiting for her to answer. Her admittance of her thoughts shouldn’t have had such an effect on me, but it did. It was one thing to think she might leave, but it was another to have her say it out loud.

“Dravus is going to come for me. When he does, he’s going to kill everyone in his path,” Zoe said, her gaze still glued to the postcard image in front of us. “I took his fangs, Kai. While I might not know much about the supernatural world of shifters and how it works, I know that has to be grounds for killing someone.” She shifted to look at me, her eyes wild with fear. “I can’t have you, or any of the others on the island, risking their lives to protect me. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt because of me. What happened to you with Dravus was enough. What happened to Jeremy was more than enough. Nothing like that needs to happen again. It can’t.”

I stared at her. She worried so much about protecting those around her, about making sure they stayed safe, but she didn’t worry about herself or her own safety. 

Not even for a second.

“Do you really think Dravus will let you off this island alive?” I hated saying that, but it was the truth.

Zoe licked her lips and shifted to look at me. “I don’t want to leave, but I feel like I have to. It’s the only way to make sure none of you get hurt. I know it might not be easy getting off the island without him knowing, but I have to try. I won’t risk anyone else’s life.”

My gator hissed. He didn’t like this conversation and he wanted me to fix it.

“He’s made two failed attempts to claim you, Zoe. What makes you think he won’t succeed when he tries again?” I asked, my eyes never wavering from hers. She needed to realize what a bad idea leaving was. I couldn’t protect her then, and neither could my gator. None of us could. “He’ll find you, and when he does, you won’t have the protection you have right now. Would leavin’ be worth that risk?”

My gator surfaced, and I forced my gaze away from her to look at the swamp. I pulled in a deep breath to rein him in and calm myself down. It didn’t work.

What the hell was she thinking?

Seconds ticked away, feeling like hours while I waited for her to see reason. My last question seemed to hang suspended in the air between us.

Did she know how much more to those six words there were?

Would leavin’ be worth it? They looped through my mind once more, sending sparks of heartache shooting through me.

Zoe didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sure if it was because she was busy pulling apart what I’d said or if she was biting back harsh words.

“I have to get Jeremy out of here, then,” she finally said, breaking the silence we’d been locked in for too many heartbeats. “He doesn’t need to be here when all hell breaks loose. I know he’s not going to want to leave, but he needs to. He’s human. One hundred percent human. Plus, he’s only seventeen. He doesn’t need to be here; he needs to go home.”

My gator made a guttural noise. He didn’t like that she thought of where she’d come from as home.

I ignored him and nodded to Zoe, agreeing with her. The island was no place for Jeremy right now. Not with Dravus on the warpath and unpredictable. It wasn’t safe for him here. He could be used as leverage again.

I opened my mouth to say so, but something slithering toward us from behind caught my attention. My arm extended out to wrap around Zoe’s waist, and in one swift movement, I pulled her flush against me.

“What the?” The words rushed from her mouth as her body slammed into mine.

“Members of Dravus’s den. They’re here,” I whispered, nodding toward the snakes making their way to us. 

Shit. We were surrounded.

Sometimes fight or flight are the only options.

Zoe knows Dravus is coming for her. After taking his fangs, anyone would. What she doesn’t know is how diabolical he can actually be.

Main Tropes

  • Secrets & A Disappearance
  • Gator Shifters
  • Small Town

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