Authors: Charlotte Rose
The Shifters of Alligator Bend 1
Adele Roche heads to the bayou for research. She doesn’t expect to encounter Oscar Valdez or Xavier Dupart. Nor does she expect to see them become alligators right before her eyes. But what shocks her most is that she’s their mate.
Two members of the gator clan are being held as aquarium exhibits, and a wealthy businessman wants to buy them for his private zoo. Adele is still reeling from the idea of being mated to not one but two shapeshifters, but she agrees to help the clan bring the trapped gators back.
As Adele spends time with Oscar and Xavier, she starts to like the idea of being mated to two sexy shape-shifters. But just as she’s starting to fall in love, everything falls apart. After a botched rescue attempt, blame falls on Adele. Can she find a way to rescue the trapped gators and claim her mates?
Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Shape-shifter
The Shifters of Alligator Bend 1
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Everlasting
Copyright © 2011 by Charlotte Rose
E-book ISBN: 1-61926-068-9
First E-book Publication: December 2011
Cover design by Les Byerley
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To Jon, for introducing me to New Orleans.
The Shifters of Alligator Bend 1
Copyright © 2011
Adele Roche glanced over her shoulder one last time to ensure that nobody was trailing her. Once she was finally convinced that she wasn’t being followed, she stepped into the small motorboat and revved the engine to life. She knew she was taking a huge risk going out alone, without any backup, but Georgina Fucher, the graduate student who was supposed to be acting as her research assistant, had failed to show up. This wasn’t the first time she’d blown off data collection. Adele, however, had a very narrow window in which to collect water samples for her newest experiment, and she wasn’t going to let Georgina ruin the entire project. She had plenty of safety equipment, including a radio. She’d be fine taking the samples on her own.
Setting out from the dock, she eased the boat out into the swamp, being mindful of her surroundings, taking care to protect both the wildlife and herself. She had to stay on her guard, but fortunately, the area was relatively clear. Although the southern Louisiana spring was starting to emerge, not all of the animals that went dormant in the cooler winter temperatures were completely active yet. Her beloved gators, however, were out and about, and occasionally she’d see one floating along, enjoying the warm bayou waters. Herons perched on stately, slim legs, and egrets dove through the sky, stealing fish that swam just below the surface.
After an hour of winding through marshes and mosquitoes, she finally arrived in Alligator Bend, the gator hot spot that was the focus of her most current research project. She’d been hired to evaluate current attempts at bayou restoration, and needed to collect environmental samples before the start of mating season.
Taking out her sampling kit, she reached down and gathered up water samples. Steering her boat over to a marshy bank and anchoring it, she waded out in her thigh-high rubber boots and collected mud from the bottom and then carefully took cuttings from plants. After an hour of work, she settled herself back into the boat and decided to rest for a while before heading back. The March sun was already hot, so she steered over to a shaded part of the swamp.
After securing her boat, she leaned back, looking up at the light filtering through the tree branches. At first, her thoughts turned to Georgina and how frustrating it was to have her as a research assistant. Adele didn’t want to kick her off the team, but she knew she had no choice. She was going to have to report her chronic absence to the department chair. Soon, though, the beauty of the swamp turned her thoughts away from her frustrations. She loved being out in the marshes, surrounded by the drone of wildlife. It wasn’t long before Adele stopped thinking entirely and dozed off in the tranquility of afternoon on the bayou.
The sound of a motorboat coming her way roused Adele from her nap. Carefully righting herself in her own vessel, she looked out to see two men heading in her direction. She noted that they were both shirtless, and the springtime sweat cast a sexy shine to their chests. They both had deep brown skin and black hair, though one had his cropped close while the other had his slightly longer, forming gentle waves along his head. The man with shorter hair was taller and darker, with skin almost the color of cocoa. The one with wavy hair had skin that was golden-brown. They both had well-defined muscles, including rigid pecs and six-packs that glistened beneath a sheen of sweat. Adele found her body wanting both men at once. Her pussy started to throb as she imagined herself between both of those hot brown chests, four hands caressing and stroking her.
At first, she was shocked by her own mind and shook her head to clear the thoughts away. She had no clue who these two men were, and yet all of a sudden, her mind was racing with salacious images of herself sandwiched between the two of them. It wasn’t as though she’d never had a fantasy before, but she had never had such explicit thoughts about two people she’d never seen before. Fantasizing about herself in a threesome was new as well. Never before had her body wanted two men equally.
Rather than trying to force her thoughts away, Adele allowed herself to continue fantasizing, to picture the jeans sliding off of those slim hips, to daydream about where two cocks might go if she actually got her wish. She felt her cunt become slick with desire as she let her imagination run wild.
Her illusions rushed away, however, when the men parked their boat, and the smaller of the men pulled two cans of beer out of a cooler. Adele snapped into full conservationist mode. This particular stretch of wetland was only open to researchers and conservationists, and it required weeks of paperwork and red tape to acquire the necessary permits. The general beer-drinking public was not permitted on these particular grounds. Adele ignored the fact that she’d been napping on the waters, justifying it because she was a researcher, and she wasn’t about to get drunk and toss empty beer cans into the fragile ecosystem.
“Hey, stop!” she called out, revving her boat’s engine back to life and steering toward them. “This is a protected space! This land is not open for recreational purposes!”
Then men both looked up at her with puzzled expressions on their faces.
“You’re not allowed out here!” she called, not sure what they didn’t understand. “The recreational portion of this bayou is five miles east of here!”
Adele wouldn’t have been surprised if the men had turned their boat around and left. On more than one occasion, she’d encountered people who had wound up there without realizing it was for research and conservation only.
She wouldn’t even have been surprised if they’d gotten a little belligerent with her first—she didn’t imagine they’d appreciate having their leisure time interrupted. She wouldn’t even have been surprised if she’d had to radio the authorities to convince them to leave. More often than not, she’d had to use that tactic to handle trespassers who didn’t care.
What she didn’t expect was for the smaller man to stand up and punch the larger one in the face.
* * * *
There were three things Xavier Dupart did not understand. First, why the messy-haired, sunburned woman was yelling at them. Second, why Oscar Galvez had seen fit to punch him in the first place. And third, how Oscar had learned to throw a punch so hard that Xavier would be felled by the blow.
The only thing that made sense was when the woman started screaming. He’d heard stories about members of his congregation who accidentally shifted in front of people who had no clue that such things were possible. Screaming was typical, and if that’s all they did, the shifters considered themselves lucky.
He didn’t have long to ponder these thoughts, however, because his tipping weight capsized the boat, sending both him and Oscar into the water. The second he went under, Xavier thrashed around to come up for air, grab the cooler, and get the beer cans that fortunately had not been opened before the boat capsized. But just as his fingers brushed the cooler handle, his body started to quake with the change.
What the fuck?
He watched his fingers start to grow over with tough, green skin, and saw his fingernails extend into thick claws. Taking a deep breath, he cleared his mind of the confusion and focused on fighting the shift that threatened to overtake him. But try as he might to regain human form, he felt the tail extend from his lower back, and soon could see the snout that extended from his face. He felt his teeth change into the long, pointed instruments of destruction.
No. This is not happening
. He hadn’t lost control of a shift in five years. After years of training, he had been able to change between forms at will, and his body had ceased to shift without warning. He couldn’t understand why he suddenly had no influence over the form his body was taking.
In his peripheral vision, he saw Oscar thrashing in the water in full alligator form, apparently struggling with the same problem. He could hear the strange woman’s screams grow even louder, but knew there wasn’t anything he could do to calm her down. His vocal cords had disappeared when he changed.
What’s going on, man?
Xavier asked Oscar through their telepathic connection.
I don’t know! How do we make it stop?
If I knew the answer to that, I would have changed back by now
Well, what do we do?
What makes you think I know any more than you do?
You’re better at this shifting stuff than I am, man. You know that. Come on, we have to think of a way out of this, at least.
Suddenly, Xavier found himself less concerned over their predicament and extremely preoccupied by territory. It was as though when he shifted, his brain had changed along with his physical form. At first, he panicked. He’d spent years learning to control his body and his animal instincts, and now, they seemed to be running roughshod. It was as though he was still young, learning how to control his body. He searched his mind for reasons why this could be happening, but came up blank.
Suddenly, though, instinct shut down all capacity for rational, human thought. Not caring why he and Oscar were in this mess, or how they would get out, he arched his body up and slammed his head back to the surface of the water with a resounding crack.
Oscar, it seemed, was just as focused on territory, and slammed his own head into the water, sending droplets flying. Not to be outdone, Xavier slapped again, hoping to drive his friend away. But Oscar was undeterred, and it wasn’t until five more rounds of head slaps had passed before Xavier gave up and charged, sprinting through the water and snapping at Oscar. But his friend was also in attack mode, and turned around to use his tail to deliver a blow across Xavier’s snout.
Xavier flew into a rage, snapping his jaws harder and faster, slamming his head against the water, as though Oscar would concede and give up. Birds scattered from the trees with frightful shrieks, warnings to other fowl that might want to rest there. The fish swam away quickly, desperate for safer territory. Only the mosquitoes remained undeterred as Oscar and Xavier battled each other for dominance.
The gorgeous, dark-haired woman was screaming. Xavier knew, however, there was nothing he could do for her until he could shift back into human form and speak. Even if he could talk as a gator, he knew it wouldn’t do much good. If she was terrified by his sudden shift, he imagined she would be even more freaked out by the fact that he could speak.
Besides, he needed to concentrate on defending this territory, this congregation space he suddenly and irrationally felt the need to claim as his own. He kept lunging and biting, taking swings with his tail and attempting to dodge the blows that Oscar launched in his direction. No matter what Oscar tried to do, Xavier fought back with all of his strength. Nothing could tire him out. He was on a mission to defend his territory, and no force on Earth could stop him. Even when, half an hour later, he heard the rumble of a motorboat, he didn’t stop the fight.
It wasn’t until he heard Serafine Maxtent command, “Stop it, both of you, or I’ll see to it that you never shift back,” that they both pulled apart.
* * * *
Even at only five-foot-two, Serafine was one of the most intimidating people Oscar knew. As the voodoo queen of their congregation, she was more powerful than all of the other shifters combined. And while he was mostly sure that she wouldn’t curse him to stay in gator form forever, he wasn’t willing to test whether or not that was actually an idle threat.
“Now, what do we have here?” Serafine asked.
Oscar tried to open his mouth to answer but remembered that he no longer had vocal cords. He set his mind in tune with Serafine’s.
I have no idea.
Xavier’s voice entered into his consciousness.
Neither do I.
“What do the two of you boys plan to do about her?”
We don’t know
, Oscar replied.
“Sounds like the two of you ain’t got a clue about nothin’.”
That’d be correct
, Oscar said. He didn’t see any point in denying it.
Serafine sighed. “Well, I guess it’s my job to clean up y’all’s mess.”
She navigated her boat around them and pulled up next to the frightened woman.
“Hush now,” she said. “These gators ain’t gonna hurt you.”
“You—you don’t un–understand,” the woman gasped. “They’re not—they’re not gators. They–they were men, and they turned into animals right in front of me. I just don’t understand.”