Stuck in camel form, Rudy loses all track of time while held in a small, exotic animal zoo run by a circle of witches. They even saddle him up and use him to give customers rides. When demons wipe out the witches and their acolytes, he’s certain he and the other shifters in the place will be next. Instead, the demons free them and take them to a shifter gang deep in the Louisiana bayou.
When Rudy and the several others who still can’t shift are ordered to hide from an arriving vehicle, they obey. Curious, he peeks through the trees and watches three figures emerge from a black SUV—two clearly federal agents and one not. As they disappear inside, the most wonderful aroma drifts across Rudy’s senses, and he realizes one of the visitors is his mate. Rudy longs to rush in and discover who, but he forces himself to wait, knowing he should only reveal himself to his one and only.
To Rudy’s great relief, the federal agents leave, and their scents don’t interest him. Even in camel form, Rudy makes it known that the visiting human—Gary Badoga—is his mate. Upon learning that Gary’s head has been filled with lies about shifters by witches, can Rudy figure out a way to connect when Gary seems afraid of his animal?
“I’m really sorry, guys,” Alpha Kontra stated, his attention sliding between them all. “We have some feds coming with a friend of Evan’s, so since you can’t shift, yet, we’re going to need you to hide amidst the trees.” While the big alpha clearly scented of remorse, his expression turned wry. “Some of you would be a little hard to explain without specialized permits.”
If Rudy could have chuckled while in camel form, he would have. Kontra’s statement couldn’t have been truer. In most states, permits were required to own exotic pets, and all five of them were classified as exotic in one way or another. The little group comprised of himself, a dromedary camel, as well as an African elephant, a gray wolf, a capybara, and a coral snake.
“As soon as they’re gone,” Kontra continued. “We’ll let you know.” With a grimace, the alpha added, “I hope to be able to get rid of them quickly.”
Rudy bobbed his head once in acknowledgment, as did the others. Turning, he flicked his tail toward his haunch to knock away a pesky bug. Then he wandered between cypress trees, mindful of each step he took. Rudy had no desire to get stuck in a bog, and with his size, he knew he would sink fast.
On Rudy’s right, he saw the African elephant doing the same, moving slowly and watching his step. He didn’t know the other shifter’s name—he didn’t know any of their names—for they’d all been trapped in animal form for the length of their captivity. The capybara stayed close to the elephant’s side, while the gray wolf bounded forward agilely, disappearing quickly. Rudy watched the coral snake slither up a tree branch and out of sight.
Damn witches. Lost nearly six years of my life to them.
Rudy hadn’t realized how much time had passed until they’d been rescued. His days had run together, blurring from one to the next. He was fed, gawked at, and even forced to give rides to customers during certain hours of the day.
Having been there so long, Rudy had practically given up all hope of rescue. After all, he didn’t have any family or herd that would be looking for him. He’d been on his own, a lone shifter, for almost eighty years before someone had run his pick-up off the road and tranquilized him.
Waking in his animal form, in a cage, Rudy had initially rebelled. The stun guns and shock sticks had adjusted his attitude pretty quickly. So had the spells the women cast, revealing that they were witches.
Then…the demons had come.
Rudy had never seen a demon before, but he’d heard stories…long ago. The winged creatures had swept through the place, dispatching the few witches who’d been there as well as the handful of acolytes working as guards and help. With the scent of blood on the wind, Rudy had been certain all the animals would be next, and he would end up being tossed in some unmarked grave with the rest of the coven’s animals.
Except, that hadn’t happened.
The demons had recognized that some of the animals were actually shifters. After a brief stint in the demon realm, which Rudy had found fascinating, the demons’ leader—the Horseman of Death—had brought Rudy and the others to Alpha Kontra Belikov. Evidently, the alpha had had some experience with combating chemicals and spells meant to hold a shifter in their animal form. They’d had blood drawn, and the alpha explained that it was being sent to a wolf shifter pack who had doctors that could analyze it.
Currently, they were waiting for the results.
The rumble of an engine drew Rudy’s attention. He’d never seen federal agents before, and his curiosity bloomed within him. Carefully, after a quick glance around confirmed that his body was well hidden, Rudy lifted his head high enough to see over a tree branch.
Rudy watched a large, non-descript SUV roll down the driveway, rocking a little as it hit a pot hole. The vehicle stopped ten feet before the large, aging Victorian home that was Alpha Kontra’s current home base. From what Rudy had heard, the biker gang was semi-nomadic, and they had a few places set up around the country in areas that were close to friends.
Considering the gang drove motorcycles as their means of transportation, coupled with the fact that Rudy and several others couldn’t shift, Alpha Kontra and his gang wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon. Fortunately, the owner of the home—Olson—was a human mated with a shifter, and he had welcomed the large crew. In return, the shifters were helping Olson fix up his old home.
As Rudy watched, the two front doors on the vehicle opened. A man appeared from the driver’s side door, and a woman stepped from the passenger side. Both sported the signature black suit and sunglasses, and Rudy found himself a little disappointed.
Guess I should have expected it considering all the police shows I’ve seen.
The pair said something to each other, but Rudy was too far away to hear what it was. He was just about to turn away when the rear passenger door opened. Clearly tentative, a slightly plump man eased from the vehicle. The man adjusted his gold-rimmed glasses before smoothing his nice polo shirt over his rounded belly.
With a hand, the woman beckoned to the timid-looking man, who jolted and hurried forward. Then the trio started toward the front of the house. They’d just reached the porch when the front door opened.
Sam stared at the group before saying something too quiet for Rudy to hear, but he assumed it was a greeting of some sort. The big Texas longhorn shifter, who was the gang’s beta, took a step backward, swinging the door wide. He waved a hand toward the inside of the home, clearly welcoming them.