Tamer: King of Dinosaurs - Chapter 3

Tamer: King of Dinosaurs - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

I ran for a long time before my adrenaline finally burned off. I was left wheezing from exertion at the edge of a small and surprisingly happy-looking creek. My brain begged me to keep going, but my lungs, heart, and legs told my brain to fuck off. They were the ones doing all the work.

I dropped my spear, hunched over my knees, and forced myself to take a break. The forest was alive with buzzing, squeaking, howling, and tweeting, but the one sound I feared inside the larger symphony of noise was nowhere to be found. The distinct chirping of those feathery raptors had been left far behind.

The creek tumbled over little rocky ledges from somewhere above and continued down pretty much in the direction I’d come from. The undergrowth was so thick I could only see the six or eight feet to the opposite bank and maybe fifty yards in either direction. The sweat of running combined with the relentless humidity of the jungle made my shirt and pants cling to me as if they were afraid of the dinosaurs too. A soak in the creek and a long, cool drink of that water were exactly what I needed.

But Beatrice’s screechy voice cautioned me. “Are you fucking stupid, kid? Didn’t they teach you nuthin’ at that fancy college? You can’t drink water on the ground. It’s got cow shit in it.”

She never listened to me when I tried to explain my community college was anything but fancy. But more to the point she never explained where all these cows were coming from and why they chose random streams as their toilets. I’d only seen a few cows in all my years at Mom and Dad’s clinic, and those were from wealthy people’s hobby farms.

I stared at the playful splashing of the clear water as it entered a little pool nearby. But cows and their bathroom habits were in my head now.

“Damn you, Beatrice,” I whispered. There undoubtedly were bacteria and parasites in the water, and it was probably in my best interest not to drink it.

As a compromise, I set my outback hat on a rock and dunked my head in the creek to cool off. It was surprisingly warm, like bathtub water. Still, it was cooler than my skin, and I did my best to just enjoy the refreshing feel.

I tried to look at my reflection in the water, but there were too many ripples across the surface of the creek. Maybe my face or eyes held some clue about what was happening to me, but something howled from the jungle downstream and cut off any thoughts of such research.

I grabbed my hat, slapped it on with a wet smack, and started up the stream bed. It was a sort of road through the impenetrable jungle. There were fewer tangles of vines and brush to hop through, and it instantly became a kind of landmark on my mental map. My dad was one of those guys who always liked to know where he was going. I did as well, but I had no way of knowing the best direction to go in this crazy alien world.

As I stumbled up the creek, I thought of everything but my parents and my missed visit with them. Exhaustion made that a lot easier.

Had I really been abducted by aliens and dropped on this world? Why? And why me?

A lifetime of playing video games, reading comic books, and watching videos of people playing video games and talking about comics should have given me some insight on what was happening to me, but it didn’t.

It wasn’t virtual reality. That had been grasping at straws from the beginning. It isn’t like there’s a simulation where your whole body can be inside the fake world. VR was crazy, but the idea of being captured by aliens seemed even more insane.

A coma? A disease? Terrorist attack? Was there some kind of threat reported on the television I’d missed? I never paid attention to the news.

Maybe it was time travel?

I chewed on that as I hopped up on a big rock next to the flowing water of the creek. I’d been walking for many minutes and was getting higher on the hillside, but I still couldn’t see anything below me besides more jungle. Maybe if I could see more of my surroundings, I could figure things out.

But time travel did make some sense. It would explain the dinosaurs, certainly, and the jungle had big ferns and funny looking trees I didn't remember ever seeing in the LA suburbs or the hills above them. And maybe the beach was actually Venice from 65 million years ago.

However, it didn’t explain the three strange-looking soldier-aliens or the second moon, so I threw out the time travel idea and went back to what I had first thought: The only other explanation was that I’d been abducted by aliens and deposited here. I wasn’t ready to declare “case closed,” but I still didn’t know the who, what, where, and whys of the situation.

I kicked around ideas about my abductors, but I was too tired to concentrate on them further. I needed to get to somewhere safe first, and then I could collect my thoughts and try to puzzle through my predicament.

Time had no meaning as I walked. I wore a watch on my wrist, but for the hundredth time, I checked it to confirm that the LCD numbers were still missing. It was quite old, so it wasn’t a huge shock the thing was dead. Watches always went out at the wrong time.

I guess I’d been slogging through the creek for an hour when I thought I heard those chirping monsters that killed Kelg. They cut through the ambient noise of the loud jungle like a scythe, and my heart jumped into my throat.

In moments I was fast-walking up the debris and rock-strewn little channel, but insta-stopped when a gigantic spider web wrapped around my face like a death mask.

Motion caught my eye to my left. A dinner-plate sized black and yellow spider hopped along its web to check me out. Its body was maybe twice the size of my thumb, but the long legs could probably wrap completely around my hand. And its two fangs had to be twice as lethal if this was the dinosaur age.

I didn’t hate spiders like lots of people did, but I still yelped and flung myself backward, slipping and falling on the wet rocks.

The spider hovered at the edge of the rip I’d caused in its home, and we both regarded each other. The web was a gigantic snare crossing the entire width of the creek. A ten-foot circle of perfect golden silk glowed in the sunlight.

I scrambled to my feet and ran my fingers over my face, neck, and ears in a moment of panic. I had an irrational urge to swing my spear and tear the whole web down, but it passed once I’d brushed the webbing off my face.

The spider still sat there watching me.

“Ugh.” It was gross for sure, but less so knowing the spider wasn’t crawling through my hair or down my shirt.

“Sorry, friend. Just passing through.”

Did spiders live in the time of dinosaurs? I couldn’t remember learning about them in my “fancy” college, but I figured the lesson was right in front of me. At least one did.

I trudged through the weedy undergrowth around the web and got back to the creek once I was clear. The spider still hadn’t moved, and it looked even bigger seeing it from its underside.

I slipped and fell again moments after turning back upstream, but I got to my feet as fast as I could. The water called to me as fervently as had Lacey’s bikini top, but I fought to keep my eyes from drinking from that dangerous well.

Sometime later I reached a small, mostly flat clearing of tall ferns next to the creek. It looked like an excellent place to collapse and rest, but the second I stepped into the greenery an explosion of blue feathers surrounded me.


I stumbled again but kept my feet as numerous small bird-like animals came out of the grass. Somehow they’d stayed hidden until I walked up to them.

They were about as tall as my work boot, vibrant blue like bluebirds, but shaped more like roadrunners. They ran and hopped and cackled loudly as they scattered. Their long blue tails flashed a white underside to them as they scurried away.

I laughed when I saw they were harmless. It was more of a maniacal giggle given my extreme thirst. These were the first animals I’d seen since arriving that didn’t appear to want to eat me.

“Beep, beep,” I said while thinking of the Roadrunner cartoons, which triggered more laughter.

I waved my hand in their direction to further chase off the stragglers, then took a seat at the grassy edge nearest the water. Chirps or no chirps in the distance, I had to take a break.

Once I was off my feet, I used my hat to fan myself and soon got lost in daydreaming and mindless staring. I may have drifted off or just zoned out until my extreme thirst snapped me back to reality. The sun was definitely getting dimmer compared to earlier in the day, so I estimated lots of time slipped by since I sat down.

“Nice. Kill yourself by daydreaming,” I said, but I didn’t bother to answer myself.

My hat must have slipped from my fingers at some point, and I reached down to grab it, but one of the little bird-things had hopped inside and squatted there like it was a nest.

I gave it a stern look. “Seriously? You have the whole jungle, and you have to sit there?”

It cocked its head like it was listening to me while those beady black eyes seemingly comprehended my words.

It was a very pretty animal, but I tipped my hat to dump it out.

“Shoo! Go play with your friends. I’m doing serious stuff here,” I said to the little dinosaur as I flailed my hat at it, then I checked it for bird poop before I put it on.

The little blue feathered bird was still next to me, and he gave a little chirp when I stood.

“Can’t take a hint, huh?” I asked, and he turned his head sideways like a confused dog.

I waved my arms and made my best impression of a sasquatch, and the little guy turned to flee into the thick forest. I chuckled as he disappeared into the brush.

“Adios,” I said quietly and then got moving.

Without thinking, I walked downstream for a full minute before I remembered I was supposed to be going up to the top of the hill so I could get my bearing.

I sighed heavily, but before I turned back around I saw something run across the creek down below. It was a yellow and black streak, but it wasn’t that big spider. It was about human-sized and clambered across the big rocks on all fours. By the time I’d focused my eyes on the shape it had disappeared, and I wondered if the movement had been a dehydration illusion.

I tilted my head back as I leaned against my spear and looked to the blue sky peeking through the high jungle canopy.

“Does everything want to kill me here?” I whispered to the heavens.

The animal I saw looked like a cheetah, but that was impossible. I studied cats a lot, including the big cats. And not just in college, but afterward too, because I was intrigued by them. My parent’s clinic often dealt in exotic pets and the like. Cats most definitely didn’t exist at the same time as dinosaurs.

I turned around and trotted up the creek as best I could. In the whole universe of things that could kill me in the age of dinosaurs, a cheetah almost didn’t register on the threat matrix. I had to treat it just like those chirping dinos and continue to run away.

I made it a good ways up the creek before I was sure the day was ending. Without my watch, there was no way of knowing how to gauge time, but I was pretty sure the earth would have had the same day and night cycles in the past. It was evening now, but the jungle was still oppressively hot, and my vision swam like the water of the creek near where I walked.

Some snippet of one of my lessons, or maybe a training video, reminded me that some animals tended to get active in the evening and at night. I felt like I’d been wrung out and stretched thin on a clothesline already, but the real action of the day was possibly still ahead of me. I’d never survive a night out in the open, so I had to find cover.

I scanned in all directions and saw nothing but trees, vines, ferns, and the occasional wet rock. I wished I’d watched all those survival shows because I probably would have known exactly what I should have been doing at that moment.

The only direction somewhat safe was up.

I wet my lips with the little moisture left in my mouth as I considered the energy required to climb a tree.

Then I glanced longingly at the flowing water next to me.

“Cow shit!” Beatrice’s voice reminded me.

I shook my head and debated drinking again. I couldn’t recall a time when I had ever been thirstier, but a drink from the creek now might mean a more painful death in a day when the parasites ripped through my stomach.

I searched for a few minutes before finding the tree I needed. Thick vines had grown with the tree, and it almost looked like a barbershop swirl of growth was wrapped around it. I gave one last look to the creek, almost changed my mind about drinking, and then dug my fingers into the vines.

The fifty-foot climb wasn’t as bad as I feared. My arms weren’t nearly as tired as my legs, and I managed to get well into the highest branches before I judged I was high enough to avoid any trouble from below. Kelg got himself killed because he chose too low a branch.

Or so I hoped. If dinosaurs could climb to the tops of every tree, I was a dead man.

I tried to stay on my task, but I noticed some small windows of open air where I could see beyond my immediate patch of jungle hell. I reached one that was more open than the others, and I glanced through the leaves with the small shred of hope I’d see a city or maybe a magic portal ready to take me back home.

“I’ll be damned,” I said through clenched teeth. My improved eyes made it easy to see to the edge of the ocean on the horizon. There in front of me was a distant island well beyond the beach where I’d first arrived.

“I hope I’m looking at Catalina Island.” The distant island was sometimes visible from the hill country above Los Angeles. Though my view was hampered by leaves and a strangely jungle-like environment, it sure looked like it was about the same distance from shore. If that was Catalina, then maybe I’d been sent back in time instead of taken to some alien world.

I was pretty sure it was Catalina.

Mostly sure.

But then I noticed that the Santa Monica Mountains weren’t where I thought they should be. Maybe I’d been teleported more south? The range should have been on the north side of the coast, but the land there looked flat.

I sat back against the trunk of the tree while straddling the branch.

Nope. There was no question anymore. Maybe there should have never been. Even though the sun was setting beyond the ocean to the west, I wasn’t back home.

I was on another world for sure.

A distant roar resonated in my chest even though it had to be miles away. A few return calls came from another direction. I could only imagine what dinosaurs were making that racket or what they were saying.

“Fresh meat,” I said, thinking of myself and my dead companions.

I’d left my spear safely stowed on a branch lower to the ground. It became too tedious to climb with it since it tended to get caught up in the branches. However, I did have my hat. I took it off and intended to hang it from a little knob in the bark so I could stay cool. I reached for it--

I fell.

I don’t know how it happened. I just leaned over to hook the loop of my hat to that spot, and in the following second, I was sprawled over the next branch five feet below me. It punched all the air from my lungs, and I hung there for half a minute before I could breathe again.

I was four or five stories off the ground, and I’d almost killed myself because of a hat.

But it was my dad’s old hat.

I could think of a couple movies where people slept in trees, but I suddenly wanted nothing to do with one. Even if I somehow secured myself, I was sure I would manage to tumble out if or when I fell asleep.

I stood on the branch, sheepishly grabbed my hat, and began back down the vines.

I had plenty of time to consider where I would go next. The only somewhat safe spot would be a cave of some kind. That’s what I needed to find before nightfall.

The creek was still the fastest way to travel through the dense foliage, so I went immediately for the water. My thirst was so intense I almost broke down and ignored the rules of drinking. It occurred to me that there probably weren’t any cows up the creek, but there were almost certainly dinosaurs. In my dreary haze, I imagined microscopic dinosaurs chomping at me from inside drops of water.

Item ten million on the “cause of death” list, but I was going to have to either find a way out of this place or figure out how to boil some water by tomorrow. I supposed I was still thinking that I would get rescued, or that someone would tell me this was nothing more than an elaborate joke.

Even though I knew this was real, and I was stuck on this alien planet.

In those minutes before darkness fell I knew I heard those chirps. Not close, but not far, either. They were out there.

And I felt, rather than saw, the eyes of that cheetah on me. It really seemed like it was stalking me, too. I willed it to go fight the dinosaurs. Or maybe it was a paranoid fright. Or maybe I didn’t care anymore. I was so tired and thirsty.

“Shoo! Cheetah.” I giggled softly. I was babbling to myself, and I knew that it was the side effect of my dehydration. I was going to have to drink from the creek tomorrow.

The rainforest really came alive as the darkness draped itself over the already-hostile jungle. Rather than soothe, it seemed to aggravate the chaos. I tripped over giant centipedes. I ran around martial lines of peanut-sized ants. And all manner of oversized insects crawled on the edges of my tunnel vision.

Things jumped through the trees.

Feet clomped through the nearby brush.

The chatter of bigger beasts struck the jungle near and far like thunder and lightning in a pop-up thunderstorm.

And then I found what I was looking for.

A little to the left of the creek and slightly uphill there was a black tunnel drilled into a rough patch of reddish soil. If I was back home, I might think a badger or fox had made it. A really big badger or fox. Who knows? Maybe those were here, too. More threats to avoid. But it was almost the right size for me.

I stuck my spear in there and didn’t make contact with a living creature.

“Bingo!” I exclaimed as quietly as I could.

I used my spear to clear away the edges and made it just wide enough for me to slither inside on my belly. It was dry on the inside, and the previous owner had cleared out a little burrow that was only a bit wider than my body. It was like being zipped into a dirt sleeping bag and forced to share it with worms and other slithering bugs.

It took me about sixty seconds to situate myself how I wanted so I had my thick boots at the opening. I figured they’d be the least appetizing part of me if something found me and wanted a taste.

When I finished excavating, I realized it wasn’t comfortable at all, but I didn’t care. I fell asleep the instant I stopped moving.

I had terrible dreams. I often did. I ran from police sirens, but they always found me. Sometimes I was caught at the doorstep of my parent’s home. Sometimes it was in their clinic. A few times it was at the scene of their car wreck, but they always caught me.

This time they caught me by biting my leg.

“What the fuck?” I shouted.

I was trapped in a coffin.

No, I was in a hole in the ground. Not a grave.

Something nipped at my leg just above the leather upper of my boot, and I screeched as I kicked my feet. I tried to wiggle my way out of my protective hole, got turned around, found my spear, and then sprang out of the hole with the weapon in my hands.

It was daylight again, and I gasped with relief when I saw that my attacker was just one of those little blue roadrunner birds. It cocked its head in exactly the same way as the one that had been in my hat.

I must have looked crazy pointing my spear at it, but I took a moment to study my surroundings. The jungle was back to its normal level of background noise, and I guessed the sun was pretty much above me again. I’d slept all night and well into the next day.

“You following me?” I spoke quietly because I was sure there were bigger threats just beyond earshot.

It simply waited there with its head all funny. It really did look like a roadrunner, or even one of those chocobo birds from the video games. It even stood like one. It was as if the long feathery tail acted as a counterbalance to its body and bird-like head.

“So what the hell are you?” As an animal lover, I liked to encounter new ones. You’d think working at an animal clinic would help with that, and it did a little, but 99% of our cases were dogs and cats. There weren’t a lot of pet owners willing to pony up money to care for their exotic tree frogs or imported lizards. And interesting birds were just as rare. Most were macaws or parakeets.

This little guy defied classification. It had the head of a bird. Tiny front arms and talons attached to the edges of small wings. Vicious-looking claws on its feet, the long feathery tail of a roadrunner, and its plumage was blue like a bluebird. Judging by the small wings I didn’t think it could fly, but I wasn’t sure if a real roadrunner could, either.

Come to think of it, the blue bird was a pint-sized version of the velociraptor, which made me recoil a bit, even though he looked overly friendly.

“Are you going to decide to eat me?” I chuckled at it.

My blue friend looked at me with curiosity, then it raised its little wings, spun on its heels, and ran into the jungle.

“Whatever you are, you’re weird.”

The instant that distraction disappeared I remembered I was parched. I couldn’t even wet my lips anymore, and they felt like sandpaper.

“Beatrice, I have to do it.” I looked at the flowing water.

I was very unsteady walking the few feet to the edge of the creek, but I was so close. I stood on a flat rock right at the water’s edge.

“I’m going to do it,” I said again since my voice had come out as a whisper the first time.

I felt eyes on me once again, and I froze there and surveyed the jungle as best I could from on top that rock. Distant roars and barking chirps suddenly seemed remote threats. Whatever was watching me was very close.

I don’t know how far I went the previous night, but the downstream side was particularly dense with trees. Upstream, was much more open, so that’s where I wanted to go.

Instead of indulging my urge to drink, I forced my way toward the brighter open area up the creek. As I got near, I almost cheered when I saw what looked like a clearing and waterfall above me. I had to scale a small rocky cliffside next to the tumbling waterfall. When I popped my head over the top edge, I almost cried with joy.

It was a large pond. Probably the size of a couple of football fields put next to each other. And most importantly it looked blue, clear, undisturbed, and safe.

The water looked heavenly. Nearest to me were some reeds and big lily pads, but the rest of the lake was pretty open and clear. Animals had long ago crushed and destroyed all vegetation on the outer rim of the lake. A sign this was a well-used watering hole.

I got to my feet and experienced a head rush.

“Think. Before you drink.” Beatrice’s voice was calm but distant.

“Screw you, Beatrice. I’m drinking,” I replied as I took a hesitant step toward the water.

I looked over the cliff back into the dark jungle. The feeling of being watched was with me again, but being in the open air of the lake gave me a new sense of security. I’d at least see the threat coming because there were no trees along the shore.

I walked through some of the reeds near where the lake met the waterfall but was soon clear of any obstructions between me and open water. A fist-sized mosquito-looking creature buzzed past me and was then followed by something that looked like a dragonfly. The blood-sucker gave me one more idea for a potential cause of death: malaria.

I shut it out. My entire being was focused on the water.

I knew enough not to jump in. I probably wouldn’t have done that even back at home. I always had an aversion to deep water. Probably from playing too many video games or watching horror movies. There’s always something lurking below, even in suburban storm ponds.

I got on my knees, threw aside my hat and spear, and looked at the water gently lapping against the bank below me.

“Here goes nothing.”

I stuck my head all the way in. When I came back up, I wiped my face, savoring the relative coolness of the sun-warmed water. Then I got down to the serious business of drinking. I did think of cows and dinosaurs and what they could have done in this watering hole, but I didn’t care. I’d be dead by sunset if I didn’t get hydrated.

I sucked down the water as if I would never get a chance to drink again, but I pulled up seconds later because my stomach was about to pop.

I sat there for a long while savoring the best tasting water I’d ever had. I didn’t care if it was tepid and a bit murky near the shore where I drank. I pretended there were no germs, whatsoever, and that I’d be just fine.

Then my stomach started to feel a little nauseous, and I figured I had drank too much too quickly. I groaned with annoyance, but then I noticed the water shift in front of me. It started to rise up in one spot. It kind of looked like a log was in the water, or it looked like a bunch of rocks in the shape of a log.

It actually looked like the head of a massive crocodile.

“Fuck me!” I slide-scooted up the bank and slipped on the mud like I was in one of those awful slasher flicks.

I saw the teeth first. The gigantic snout was bristling with grimy white mountains of ivory. It wasn’t one knife coming at me, but hundreds of them in a row that just wouldn’t end. At the top of the snout were the malevolent eyes. Though they were underwater, I knew they were singularly focused on me.

I continued up the slope on my butt as the creature exploded from below the surface and threw itself at me on the shore. I didn’t even know how big it was because most of it remained in the water. The head was gigantic, and I could probably lie down comfortably in its maw. It had missed me on its first lunge and then it kind of waited at the water’s edge as if debating if I was worth more effort.

By some miracle, I managed to get a hand on my spear, though it felt like it had shrunk by half in the face of the record-breaking huge crocodile coming for me.

I continued scooting backward.

The croc called out, unlike anything I’d ever heard. It had a deep mechanical-sounding bellow, kind of like a souped-up hot rod engine left on idle. I felt it in my lungs, and I shook despite the heat. Its nostrils flared, and the top half of its jaw lifted a little when it roared.

It was like a hot rod driver was stomping on the gas, and every muscle in my body seized up with terror as the monster shot all the way out of the water and raced toward me.

He was about the size of Old Guss.

The best I could with my spear under extreme pressure was kind of toss it in the direction of the monster. My throw missed, and the giant dino-crocodile raced up the slippery bank without even noticing my counterattack.

I figured I was going to die. I recoiled and shielded my head in what was going to be a futile final act, but I caught motion from my right. Some kind of animal slammed into the side of the croc’s head and diverted it away from me.

I had a precious few seconds and took advantage by continuing to scramble back to the safety of the treeline a dozen feet behind me.

In that time the new attacker had repeatedly stabbed the thing’s left eye until it was a pulpy mess. My savior was a woman with a mane of long blonde hair, and she fell over as the lizard’s maw snapped at her.

The oversized crocodile emerged fully from the water, and I could see its impressive length. It would fit inside the back of a tractor trailer, but wouldn’t have much room to spare. The monster had a patchwork of brown, green, and yellow scales all over its back. As all thirty feet of the behemoth chased the woman into the reeds, I got to see how it kind of blended into them.

Though I was covered in mud and highly delirious from my lack of water, I ran to grab my weapon. I wanted to help the woman, but just as I got to my feet on the slippery shore, the angry croc roared and came back out of the reeds. The warrior woman screamed furiously while she rode the monster’s back, and she worked her spear like a butter churn into the head of the gigantic lizard.

I fully expected it to roll over to throw her off, but it simply wiggled itself my way and tried to escape into the open water.

Even in those five seconds, the woman, who looked as if she dressed like a cheetah, pumped that spear deeper and deeper into the brainpan. She let out a scream each time she slammed down with her javelin, and each of her strikes was rewarded with a spray of bright crimson blood.

A few feet before the monster reached the pond, it sank to the sand on the shore, and then slid a little down the mud bank with a melancholy groan.

Then it rested in silence with one scaled front foot in the water.

I could barely stand, despite the adrenaline rush, but managed to keep myself upright long enough to watch her yank the spear from her kill, swish it in the water, and then dismount onto the bank in front of me. She turned toward me, and I felt my heart threaten to slam through the ribs in my chest.

My savior wasn’t wearing much for clothes, just a small piece of colorless cloth tied around her hips. It looked as if the garment might have once been a bikini bottom, but it was torn and ripped in over a dozen places, and it was one tug away from disintegrating. She had the physique of one of those fitness models found on health magazine covers. She rocked a lean body with just the right amount of muscles, washboard abs, feminine arms, and breasts that looked almost fake since they were so perfectly proportioned. She had another thin piece of gray cloth tied around her chest, and her nipples pushed against the soft material with a distracting urgency.

She partly turned around to look at her kill, giving me another chance to gawk and try to classify her. She wasn’t human, but her frame was pretty much a duplicate of one.

My savior seemed to be some kind of cat-woman.

A super thin coat of blonde fur came out of her skin and poked through the holes of her two raggedy bits of clothing. The fur looked soft and luxurious, but she had thicker patches of dark fur on her shoulders and forearms. It was only blemished by the mud and grime she’d picked up from fighting the croc. As I looked at the spear she used, I noticed that her fingers ended in cat-like claws. Her hair was almost like a horse’s mane. It was a bit lighter hue of blonde than her fur, and it came down past her tight butt with a heavy wave.

I knew cats. The woman was as far from a cheetah as I was from a tabby, but the fur and spots on her shoulders gave me that impression. I was absolutely sure she’d been following me, and I wondered if she intended to kill me now.

I could think of a lot worse ways to die.

I got one last look at her taut ass before she turned to study me. Her face was a heart shape and as beautiful as the rest of her body. Her facial features were almost human, except that her eyes were big, golden, and had an elliptical iris. She also had the light coat of fur on her face, but somehow it made her look even more attractive.

“You are welcome,” she said with a nod, but I was still a bit dumbfounded by how good looking she was, the giant crocodile that had almost eaten me, and how efficiently she’d killed the beast.

 “You do not speak?” she asked, and her perfect lips frowned with disappointment. She breathed with a little exertion from her fight.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah, I can speak. Thank you,” I said as I gestured to the now dead crocodile and tried to pretend that my legs weren’t trembling.

“We have a camp,” she said. Her frown had left when I spoke, but she wasn’t exactly smiling.

“A camp?” I asked like an idiot. Damn, she was all sorts of distracting. Her voice was husky and had a strange accent that sounded almost Australian, but yet not.

“Hmmm,” she kind of growled as she studied me. I may have been dehydrated, and she may have been an alien cat-woman, but it seemed that she was starting to think I was an idiot.

“Uhhh, I would like to go with you. To your camp. Yes.” My words probably weren’t helping her think I was intelligent, but my head was really starting to spin again. “Wait, you said ‘we’? Are there more of you?”

“Yes. I have two female companions. We are camped in a cave a mile and a half in that direction.” She pointed off to the side with a spear, but I found myself focusing on her abs and the lower area of her stomach right above her torn and almost non-existent bikini bottom. I could spend a solid week licking chocolate off those abs.

“Do they both look like you?” I forced my eyes up to meet her’s with a great deal of effort.

“No. They do not,” she said as her golden eyes narrowed a bit. “I followed you through the jungle. You are weak and lack basic survival skills, but we are stronger together than apart.”

“Uhhh. I guess I’ll come with you,” I said.

But then the world spun, and I felt the hot sand on my face.

Then I felt nothing but the cold embrace of darkness.

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