Donovan McGinnis, a veterinarian and conservationist at a research center in Sumatra, is fighting to save the rainforest from poachers and politicians alike. One day he discovers a tigress trapped by a snare, and while treating her injuries, she bites him. He becomes ill with strange symptoms that leave him feverish and dreaming of the jungle and blood.
Kersen and his family are part of the Harimau jadian, a clan of tiger shifters hidden away in a secret village near the rainforest. When Kersen’s sister is caught, he knows he must free her before she infects someone with their magic and reveals their secret.
But Donovan has already been turned, and only time will tell if he can control the tiger within. Kersen must help him, but will the fierce attraction between the pair bring ruin to them all? With the rainforest under threat from outside forces, they may be doomed anyway, unless Kersen and Donovan can find a way to defeat the danger from inside and out.
Gunung Leuser National Forest, Sumatra
May 14, 2013
Donovan McGinnis paused to wipe the sweat from his brow with his camouflage T-shirt, then peered through a dense curtain of strangler fig. Ahead of him, sunlight highlighted a small clearing in the rainforest. Behind him, three men, all members of the Tiger Conservation and Protection Rangers, held still and listened. They were kilometers into the rainforest—about two and a half hours away from their base camp near the village of Ketambe. It was important to keep quiet and tread carefully. Here in the jungle, wild animals weren’t the worst threat.
Worst were the poachers and their cleverly hidden snares.
This was the front line of an epic battle, but not one that most of the world was aware of. Every day, Donovan and his men fought to preserve what little rainforest was left on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, home to some of the rarest creatures on Earth. A lot of people didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Sumatran elephant or rhinoceros. The orangutans tended to draw the tourists, and their population was in better shape. But the most endangered of all was the creature he loved best.
The Sumatran tiger.
“Stay there,” Donovan whispered. Amin, his best tracker, nodded and signaled to the other men. Amin was in his early twenties, beardless as many of the locals near the jungle tended to be, with short black hair and brown skin. He wore cargo shorts and a dark-brown T-shirt, the better to blend in with the dark undergrowth of the rainforest. He was Donovan’s lead assistant at the research center.
Slowly, Donovan parted the vines and stepped into the clearing. Moving cautiously, he searched through a cluster of orchids on the forest floor, alert for signs of disturbance. High over their heads, leaves rustled, perhaps with the wind.
The jungle was quiet today. That wasn’t a good thing.
Using a long collapsible walking stick, he poked the underbrush, noting broken stems and vines which appeared to have been arranged. It didn’t take long for him to find something—a thin, braided rope beneath a cluster of vines. A taut line and a loop was a classic tiger snare. The poachers were here, all right. At least this one was empty. With deft fingers, Donovan felt for the trigger and deactivated it, breathing easier once it was done.
“Found a snare.” He waved for the others to come forward. They gathered up the pieces to throw into the evidence bag, as Amin logged the location.
“That’s eight you’ve uncovered so far today.” Amin sounded impressed. He took the bag once Donovan was done with it, handing it back to one of the porters.
Donovan sighed. Not yet sundown, and already so many traps. The poachers were getting more desperate—only about a hundred tigers were left in this particular forest, and the forest itself was being gnawed away by coffee and palm oil planters. The big corporations funneled money to the nearby farmers in the hopes they’d do the dirty work of clearing the forest and planting the illegal crops. Most of the time, the provincial government turned a blind eye. Sometimes trying to combat it all felt like a hopeless task. In fact, tomorrow he’d be over in Blangkejeren to testify against a paper company trying to take even more of the supposedly protected national park.
But despite the conflicts between the local government and conservationists like himself, Donovan loved Sumatra and this area in particular. The jungle was magical to him. The locals believed there was actual magic in the area and called this forest “Hutan Duri dan Cakar,” which translated into “Forest of Thorns and Claws.” The thorns referred to actual thorns in the plant life. Enduring the prick of such thorns was said to bring health and long life.
He kept hoping for a glimpse of the claws today. Claws of the tigers, that was.
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About the Author & Links:
J.T. Hall has been writing for many years under this name and others, and has appeared in magazines, anthologies, and online books. She earned her BA in creative writing from the University of Arizona, her Master’s in education from Argosy University, and works as an independent technical writer for state and federal programs. In her free time, she volunteers for the LGBT community and is active in the leather scene. She has a teenage daughter and a partner of over ten years. They live in sunny Arizona with three adorably cute dogs, three black cats, and a hamster who loves peanuts.