1. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her. In the firelight, her red hair appeared to be a living flame. Shadows played around her eyes and cheekbones. Moisture on her lips made them glisten, and he fought the need to kiss them. To taste the coffee residue and breathe her coffee breath into his lungs. As he wondered how he could surreptitiously scoot closer to her, Charlie took it upon herself to stand, adjust her pants around her legs, and re-sit, moving a couple of inches closer.
2. Clint strode toward her, the keys dangling in his fingers as he approached. She crossed her arms over her chest not because she was cold, but because his nearness was having a direct effect on her heart and her breathing. For the first time in a very long time, she no longer felt like she had full control of the situation. Instead, she was floundering like a fish out of water, hesitant and full of doubt. She knew what she wanted to get out of this brand new relationship, but she had no idea how long it would last. Clint Abrams had knocked her proverbial feet out from under her, and she didn’t know if she liked this feeling of helplessness or not.
3. Clint hooked the walkie back onto his belt and glanced around. Other than the usual sounds of the swamp and the low growl of the incoming storm, there was nothing to let him know where the others were located. Cupping his mouth with his hands, he started to call out to them when a gunshot went off. His skin went cold and stiff as the single round echoed around him. There was no way he could tell where it originated, or which direction he should run. Reaching for his walkie, he was about to call for reinforcements when a second shot went off, followed immediately by a third. It was enough for him to hone in on, and he took off.
4. “I said cease fire!” Clint continued to wave his arms to get the group’s attention, when he noticed Dibs hand something to the man. Maxwell flapped his elbows in a gesture that left no doubt in his mind what the guy was about to do. Whirling around, he gestured for Charlie to turn and go back the way they’d come. “Run, Charlie! Go back! Run!”
5. Several people were waiting for them. A man wearing chinos and a sport shirt, and carrying a satchel followed Art as he took Clint into a bedroom on the first floor. Charlie started to go with him when the blonde woman named Billie stopped her. The woman gave her a hard stare and raised a hand up to eye level. Charlie glanced at it to see FBI credentials. “Sorry, Charlie, but I’m placing you under arrest. Come with me.”
6. The creature shifted and dissolved. The tail shrank back into the body. The legs lengthened and grew muscular. The claws became fingers, and the leathery body faded into flesh tones. The powerful jaws withdrew as the face rounded, and hair sprouted from the scalp. In less than a minute’s time, what once had been an alligator was now a man who continued to gaze at her with those bright blue eyes that had never changed.