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Swamped by Fear

Critter Catchers Book Three

by Hank Edwards

While in Florida visiting Demetrius’s parents, best friends and business partners Cody and Demetrius realize their feelings for each other run deeper than just friendship. As they each struggle with emotions that promise to either detonate or deepen their relationship, Demetrius must also deal with his mother’s health issues. When a missing person’s case hits a little too close to home, the two tangle with a creature so frightening it’s scaring alligators out of the Everglades and into the swimming pools!

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Published:
Publisher: Independently Published
Editors:
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: MM
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay, Questioning
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: First Time, Friends to Lovers, Gay for You / Straight to Gay, Out for You
Word Count: 72000
Setting: Miami, FL
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Excerpt:

“Hey Mr. Gator," Demetrius said as he dipped the end of the leaf net in the water and made some splashing sounds. "Let's get you out of there, okay? You've got to hate the chlorine, don't you? I bet it's messing up your eyes, isn't it?"

The alligator floated closer to the edge of the pool. Demetrius took a step back, extending his reach to keep the edge of the leaf net just above the water.

"Careful Demmy," Cody said in a calm, gentle voice.

"Yep, absolutely."

He knew alligators could move fast, but when the thing lunged at the leaf rake, as prepared as he thought he was, it still surprised him. The gator grabbed the leaf rake in its strong jaws and twisted as it dove beneath the water. Demetrius reacted without thinking and tightened his grip instead of releasing the rake. As the gator pulled the leaf rake under, it pulled Demetrius into the pool and under the water as well.

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Fear flared inside him, hot and suffocating. He remembered to release the leaf rake and struggled up to the surface. This section of the pool was ten feet deep, so he couldn't touch the bottom. Every moment he expected to feel the alligator's jaws clamp down on his foot or his leg and drag him underwater for good.

Demetrius swam toward the pool's edge that seemed miles away instead of just a few feet. Cody was shouting something, but Demetrius couldn't make it out over the sound of his own panting breath and splashing water.

Something hit him in the back of the head and Demetrius screamed, thinking it was the alligator. But then he realized it was the life ring that Cody had thrown to him. He grabbed the ring to hold himself up and looked across the length of the pool as he reached out for the concrete edge. The alligator swam right for him, its snout creating a furrow through the water. Demetrius's heart pounded, and his breath came in short pants. He was never going to see how his mother's surgery went. He was never going to see his parents again. He was going to die with a whole list of things he had yet to do.

Cody was shouting his name over and over again, but Demetrius could not understand what he was saying. All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears and the sound of his own breathing. The alligator lifted its nose up out of the water and started to open its jaws. It was only a few feet from him now, and coming fast like a speedboat.

Demetrius pushed off from the wall, dragging the life ring along without thinking about it. The alligator missed him and hit the edge of the pool, sending a tidal wave of water out onto the deck. It thrashed its tail in anger. Demetrius did the sidestroke, heading for the shallow end of the pool as he kept the gator in sight, his left arm hooked through the life ring.

The alligator dove under the water and a sense of panic enveloped and consumed the fear inside him. The panic built on the fear, quadrupling then octupling it until it lived within him like some kind of invasive spirit, making it difficult for him to breathe.

Something tugged on the life ring, pulling him off his course and toward the side of the pool closest to the house. At that moment he felt the swell of displaced water behind him and it pushed him even closer to the house side of the pool. The alligator had surfaced right where he had been swimming, and if he hadn't been pulled out of the gator's path, it would have dragged him beneath the water and drowned him.

Cody crouched on the side of the pool, Hubert right behind him, both of them pulling on the rope tied to the life ring, dragging Demetrius through the water. Both men were shouting, but Demetrius still couldn't understand what they were saying as his heart pounded, his breath rasped in his throat, and the water sloshed around him. He touched the side of the pool and then reached up, feet kicking, stretching for the bottom but still unable to find it. How fucking deep was this pool, anyway? Then Cody had hold of his hands and lifted him out of the water and into his arms.

"I've got you," Cody said, holding him tight. "I've got you. You're safe."

Demetrius's heart pounded, and he could feel Cody's heart beating in time. They both had been frightened by his fall into the pool.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Hank Edwards is a curious mix of practical realist and feral dreamer. He is a fan of absurd comedy, as evidenced in the sizzling and hilarious Charlie Heggensford Fluffers, Inc. series, as well as Plus Ones, his wacky rom-com and Murder Most Lovely: Lacetown Murder Mysteries Case One, the first book in a rom-com murder mystery series, co-written with Deanna Wadsworth. He also loves a good suspense story, which inspired his Up to Trouble series, featuring FBI Agent Aaron Pearce and his lover Mark Beecher who met during one case and have gone on to solve others. His love of chills and thrills prompted him to create the Venom Valley series, which combines vampires and zombies with Old West cowboys, as well as the humorous and spooky seven book Critter Catchers series, featuring a slow-burning out-for-you storyline. He has also written a number of standalone stories, such as the humorous murder mystery Repossession is 9/10ths of the Law, the sexy crime thriller Buried Secrets, the medieval time travel gay romance thriller Destiny's Bastard, as well as the chilling and spooky Wicked Reflection.