Horace Broussard knows he needs to learn how to say no to his brother, Herbert. His older, larger brother always seems to drag him into trouble. Except, the two times he’d gathered the courage, Herbert had explained why it was a bad idea…with his fists and feet. The first time had left him pissing blood for days. The second time had culminated in a broken wrist. Horace doesn’t say no to his brother anymore, which is how he ends up poaching gators in the swamp…again.
When they spot a small pack of wolves running through the cypress trees, Herbert orders that they go after them, claiming a wolf pelt on his floor would be cool.
Just like many of Herbert’s bad ideas, Horace ends up in hot water. They’re caught by the owners of the wolves—a fierce biker gang. Except, then something crazy happens. A huge African elephant grabs Horace in its trunk and carries him into the swamp. When other animals arrive and turn into men, he wonders if he’s hit his head and is hallucinating. Can the paranormal be real, and if so, how can he keep this revelation from his dominating brother?
Reader Advisory: The first chapter of this tale overlaps with the last chapter in Pursuit by Camelback.
Taking a sip of coffee, Horace Broussard hid his wince. He didn’t care for coffee at the best of times, but his brother’s coffee tasted even more vile. Herbert loved strong coffee. He claimed it put hair on his chest.
Horace didn’t think Herbert needed more hair on his chest. His older brother had plenty of body hair, and he liked to lounge in his boxer briefs most evenings watching TV, which showed it off. It was not a good look, so Horace spent most evenings out back whittling, enjoying the fresh night air.
When Horace scooped two heaping spoonfuls of sugar into his coffee, he ignored Herbert’s sneer.
It was better than trying to choke down Herbert’s vile excuse that he called coffee. Normally, Horace made the coffee in the mornings. He was usually up at least an hour before his brother because the man expected breakfast to be ready for him first thing.
So why the crapballs is Herbert up at seven AM on a Saturday?
Horace knew for a fact that Herbert hadn’t gotten in from the bar until nearly midnight. His brother had made a hell of a lot of noise coming in—so had his fuck for the evening. The woman’s giggles and moans had given Horace the creeps.
God, how can guys think those sorts of noises are sexy?
Having known he was gay since the age of fourteen, Horace had been damn careful to keep it under wraps. Ten years later, he was still a virgin, and he figured he would remain that way until the day he died…or Herbert died.
Unless I figure out a way to get away from my brother.
Unfortunately, Horace’s couple of prior attempts hadn’t gone so well.
Horace shut down those thoughts, not wanting to think about the injuries he’d ended up with. Instead, he pulled out a couple of skillets and started breakfast.
“Hurry up,” Herbert ordered, sitting at the table with his coffee. “I wanna get out on the water.”
“The water?” Even as Horace couldn’t help but ask, he grabbed the bacon and eggs from the fridge.
“Yup. Got a tip last night from Florent.” Herbert’s grin didn’t soothe Horace’s unease upon finding his brother already awake and waiting for him in the kitchen. His next words only made his gut twist even more. “He spotted a clutch of gator eggs near Great Cypress Swamp.” After slurping his coffee, Herbert claimed, “It’ll be quiet out there this time of the morning. Let’s go get us some gators.”
As Horace flipped the three over-easy eggs for Herbert, he couldn’t help but comment, “Gators aren’t in season.”
In fact, they wouldn’t be for months.
With a snort, Herbert sneered. “I don’t give a shit.”
Of course, he didn’t.
Horace grimaced as he flipped the bacon in a second skillet. “I’ll, uh, I’ll get the boat gassed up for you while you eat,” he offered, hoping to avoid his brother dragging him along with him.
“Naw, I’ll do it while you clean the kitchen and eat,” Herbert told him. “Hurry up with the food. We need to get a move on.”
Swallowing his unhappy sigh, Horace obeyed his brother and quickly finished making his brother’s breakfast. He set a plate with the over-easy eggs as well as two slices of toast, heavily buttered, and half a dozen strips of bacon. Then he returned to the stove and cracked two more eggs into the pan. After scrambling them, he began crunching his way through his first of the four bacon strips he’d kept for himself. Then Horace began cleaning up the toaster crumbs and bacon pan while waiting for his eggs.
Once the eggs were done, Horace loaded them onto his two slices of toast. He picked up the first one and started eating. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Herbert had finished his food. Horace moved toward the table as he polished off his toast and eggs.
Herbert drained his coffee before leaving the mug on the table beside the plate. Rising, he told him, “I’ll get the boat ready. Don’t be long.”
As Herbert left the room, Horace picked up his brother’s dishes. Once the man had left out the back door, he allowed himself to shake his head. He sighed deeply. After placing the dishes in the sink, Horace turned on the water before rubbing his palms over his face.
“I wonder if he’d track me down if I went to New Orleans,” Horace muttered under his breath. “Maybe I could lose myself in the big city long enough for him to decide to leave me alone.”
Except, as Horace cleaned the kitchen, he didn’t think that was possible. His brother had his buddies keeping an eye on him not only when he was at work but also when he did something as mundane as grocery shopping. His brother didn’t plan to let his servant go anywhere.
After Horace had finished eating and cleaning the kitchen, he hurried to his bedroom. He quickly changed into an old shirt and a faded pair of jeans with fray-holes starting to form along the seams. Horace pulled an old flannel shirt over his tee before tugging on a pair of socks.
Horace padded through the small house to the back door. Stepping on the back porch, he spotted his brother sitting in the boat, doing something with the engine. As Horace tugged on his hiking boots, he could say one thing for the man, Herbert was good with engines. Otherwise, the small boat would have crapped out years ago.
“This is going to suck,” Horace muttered as he trudged down to the dock.
As Horace climbed into the boat, Herbert fired up the engine. He’d just settled onto the bench seat, propping his feet against the side to keep himself steady, when his brother hit the throttle. Gripping the side of the boat, Horace watched their dock and home quickly disappear between the cypress trees.