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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.1

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs)


  "Tangled Tides includes a delicious romance that even the most dispassionate soul can't refuse. I absolutely adored Yara and her strength in all things, including love. And Treygan? I seriously want in on that merman action. Blue has never been so sexy. Hooper has created a believable underwater world that will leave readers wishing for a tail instead of legs."

  Elana Johnson, author of POSSESSION

  "I adored this tale of sea monsters and forbidden love. Full of deception, romance, and intrigue, Tangled Tides is a story best savored but impossible to put down."

  PJ Hoover, author of SOLSTICE

  "Tangled Tides is a delightful, smartly plotted tale of adventure, family secrets, and sizzling romance. I couldn't put it down!"

  Rae Carson, author of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

  Published by Rhemalda Publishing

  P.O. Box 2912

  Wenatchee, WA 98801

  http://www.rhemalda.com

  Tangled Tides

  Copyright © 2011 Karen Amanda Hooper

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any mean without prior permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Cover art by Melissa Williams mwcoverdesign.blogspot.com

  Interior art by Alexandra Shostak www.AlexandraShostak.com

  Editing by Diane Dalton

  ISBN Paperback 978-1-936850-43-3

  ePUB 978-1-936850-44-0

  ePDF 978-1-936850-45-7

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2011939822

  Visit author Karen Amanda Hooper on the Web at www.KarenAmandaHooper.com

  Acknowledgements

  No woman is an island. That saying couldn't be truer about the creation of Tangled Tides. So many people contributed to making this novel a reality. I owe my eternal thanks to all of the following beloved folks:

  My parents, for being the best mom and dad in this (or any other) world, and for instilling my steadfast belief that dreams really can come true. You gifted me with the ability to see magic and it led me to my greatest joy: telling fantastical stories.

  Krista, my soul sister. Thank you for reigniting my love of fiction at the exact time I needed it, for chauffeuring me to my first writer convention, and for your instant faith that I would undoubtedly be published.

  John, my Peter Pan. You helped me stay afloat while allowing me to drown in my writing, and you indulge my playful spirit with our escapes to Neverland. Thank you for loving such a complicated pixie.

  Andrea, my twin Tinkerbell. Thank you for loving books, helping me name places in my story, and being a great friend.

  Steve Graham for creating the music to the Tangled Tides trailer and helping me with all things website and computer related. You were one of my first readers and biggest supporters. I'll always consider you family.

  Louise Geczy, my all-time favorite teacher who took my spark of passion for creative writing and fanned it into a roaring blaze. You told me that someday I would write a book; I'm sorry it took me so long to believe what you already knew.

  My M-N-Ms. Megan, Natalie and Marie: my original writing group and my transcendental trinity.

  Megan McBride, you make me dive deeper and bring the hidden details to the surface.

  Natalie Bahm, you keep my romance in check and my characters loveable.

  Marie Devers Jaskulka, you raise the writing bar while teaching me the rules and how to bend them.

  You three are wiser and more powerful than the gorgon sisters. Thank you for supporting and guiding me every step of the way. I would be lost without you.

  Sara McClung, my heaven-sent siren. You've been there through the good and bad, been my partner in mischief, and when my skies were stormy you parted the clouds and sent me sunshine.

  Alexandra Shostak, my miraculous mermaid. You swam by my side offering me advice, reassurance and undying help and support while keeping me entertained with your own stories and singing me songs.

  Rebecca Brown, for diving into my original draft back in 2009. You assured me I had a pearl then helped me buff it until it shined.

  Michelle Davidson Argyle, for encouraging me to submit to Rhemalda. You pointed me down one of the best roads I've ever traveled and you've been an amazing supporter along the way.

  Emmaline and the review team at Rhemalda. You read my story and believed it was worthy of publishing. How can I ever give adequate thanks for such a priceless gift?

  Rhett. You tackled and mastered the feat of rushing Tangled Tides to publication yet never let the quality or end result be compromised.

  Diane Dalton, my editor. While making my book cleaner and stronger you taught me how to forever be a better writer.

  Melissa Williams, the creator of my magical cover. You are the queen of patience and accommodation, and a master at making my vision a reality.

  Ron Schirmacher, for the beautiful designs on my blog and websites and answering my never-ending technical questions. You're a rock star.

  My incredible blog peeps, many whom I now consider friends. Your support, comments, and encouragement have meant more to me than you'll ever know.

  And last, but most certainly not least, to my readers. Sometimes it's hard to believe you're really out there. But for those who read Tangled Tides, imagine me reaching through these pages and hugging you. My gratitude is deeper than the oceans.

  Dedication

  For my Mother

  Even when the waters are rough or dark,

  you give me the faith and strength to

  keep swimming toward the light.

  Tangled Tides

  The Sea Monster Memoirs

  Karen Amanda Hooper

  Rhemalda Publishing

  Mon-ster (noun)

  1. a legendary animal combining features of animal and human form or having the forms of various animals in combination.

  2. any animal or human grotesquely deviating from the normal shape, behavior, or character.

  Gro-tesque (adjective)

  1. odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.

  2. fantastic in the shaping and combination of forms, as in decorative work combining incongruous human and animal figures with scrolls, foliage, etc.

  The Storm

  I needed to choose between the angel and the mermaid.

  "Alright, ladies, which one of you are willing to sacrifice yourself?" I asked.

  The angel's lips looked serious. The mermaid wore a mischievous smile.

  Uncle Lloyd loved his hand-carved wall panels of mythical creatures, but the six-foot rectangular slabs of teak were the only things big and strong enough to protect the living room window. We used all the plywood we had as window coverings during the last hurricane. My uncle said he would replace it, but he must have forgotten. Poseidon was my first choice. He looked all tough, holding his trident high above his head, but the sea angel and mermaid were closest to the front door.

  The wind howled outside. I said another prayer that my uncle would be safe. He was stuck on the mainland, but at least he had the shelter of a hospital, and hopefully they had given him his dialysis treatment.

  I peered out the window to make sure the lighthouse was still shining strong. If any boaters were caught in this sudden storm they would see the steady beacon of light and take shelter here until it passed. They were my favorite kind of visitors. Sea dwellers always had such interesting and exciting stories to tell.

  Mother Nature nudged me to choose between the wall panels by throwing a palm frond against the window. The fronds slapping against the glass made me jump. The downpour of rain sounded like pe
bbles pelting the roof and porch. Only one thing left to do.

  I chose the mermaid.

  She would have to take one for the team while the angel watched over me and the house.

  After some serious struggling I lifted the heavy panel of wood off the wall. It thudded against the floor, missing my toes by a hair. I gripped the edge and began pushing it along the tile floor.

  "Good grief, you're heavy," I grunted.

  I needed to get the mermaid outside to block the window, but when I opened the front door the wind knocked me sideways. Thick, low-hanging clouds moved quickly, breaking apart then swirling together, forming constantly changing ink splotches in the sky. Rownan was out there somewhere, hopefully safe in the Keys. Part of me wished we could have been stormed in together, listening to the wind and rain while cuddling on the couch by candlelight.

  No time to daydream, though. I had a home to protect. I slid the wooden panel a few more inches then stopped when it hit the doorsill.

  "Come on," I groaned, leaning into it with all my weight. My flip-flops squeaked across the damp tile. My feet walked in place as I pushed, but the mermaid wouldn't budge. Between my groans and the wailing wind I thought I imagined a voice outside—until I heard it again.

  "Would you like help with that?"

  I jerked my head up to see a guy standing on the porch wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, the wind whipping his long, dark hair around his face.

  "Who are you? Where did—get in here!" I urged as a rumble of thunder shook the house.

  He squeezed between the door and the mermaid panel, glancing at it as he smoothed back his wet hair.

  I didn't see any boats arrive. Did I read the reservation log wrong? Did my uncle rent out one of the cottages this weekend?

  "Are you a guest?" I asked.

  His cobalt eyes met mine for the first time. He looked familiar, but I couldn't place him. Maybe his family vacationed here before. He looked about twenty, not much older than me.

  "A guest?" he questioned.

  "You're vacationing on the island, right?"

  "No. I'm not." He nodded at the slab of wood beside us. "Any reason you're pushing that outside during a hurricane?"

  "I need to get it on the porch to protect that." I pointed at the living room window. "More importantly, who are you and why are you here?"

  He stepped close to me and I backed up against the wall, thinking he was about to touch me. Instead, he grabbed the top of the panel and rocked it up on one corner. His wet forearms, biceps and back muscles bulged and flexed as he maneuvered the panel over the doorsill and pushed it onto the porch.

  I'm not sure why I stood there watching like a helpless mute. Maybe it was the shock of seeing someone else on the island, in my uncle's house, no less. The guy's shorts were soaked and hanging dangerously low on his hips. Rownan would so not approve of my gawking. By the time I snapped out of it, Mr. Mysterious had slid the panel in front of the window, blanketing the living room in darkness. He walked through the open doorway, backlit by storm clouds.

  "My name is Treygan. Do you need help with anything else?"

  How did this guy end up at Eden's Hammock during a hurricane? Should I be scared of him? If he wanted to hurt me or rob my uncle, he wouldn't help me with manual labor first, right?

  "No, that's it," I replied. "Everything is boarded up." We just stood there looking at each other until I noticed the puddle forming at his feet. "Be right back."

  I left him dripping in the entryway while I ran into the bathroom and grabbed a towel.

  "Didn't you hear the hurricane warning?" I called over my shoulder. I raced back with the towel, but when I reached him I slipped on the wet tiles. He caught me by the arm and I blushed. I tried to cover my embarrassment by handing him the towel, but he just held it, not drying off or wrapping it around himself like I expected. He stood there silently.

  "Um, you'll be safe here if you need a place to stay during the storm." I glanced around, pulling my damp hair into a ponytail and trying not to stare at his half-naked body. "If you need to, you could borrow some clothes from my—"

  "Yara," he quietly interrupted.

  I stiffened. I could've sworn his blue eyes darkened and teal lightning flashed around his pupils. "How do you know my name?"

  "I need you to trust me." His voice was like a soothing rumble of thunder. "Let me take you someplace safe."

  Again, teal lightning bolts streaked across his irises. I couldn't stop staring at them. My head felt hazy and disconnected from my neck, but I nodded.

  He took my hands in his and I didn't resist. I should have, but I couldn't. His words stretched through the space between us like warm taffy. "If you want me to take you someplace safe, you have to say that's your wish."

  I had no control of the words that came out of my mouth. My lips felt fuzzy as I spoke. "I wish for you to take me someplace safe."

  An invisible ribbon that felt like velvet wrapped around us, pulling us close and tying us together. The house and everything in it fell away. We began floating through a mesmerizing silver fog.

  Were we dancing? We glided and twirled in different directions. The steady beat of his heart pounded against mine. A scent of honey mixed with salty ocean air kissed my nose, evoking muddled memories from my childhood. Rain drops tickled my skin as the sound of howling winds and crashing waves grew louder yet more melodic. I held Treygan tighter, never wanting whatever this was to end.

  Water caressed my legs, like I was sinking into a warm, inviting bath. I felt calm, peaceful, and safe. Treygan's tranquil voice echoed inside my cloud of euphoria.

  "Take a deep breath," he whispered into my ear.

  So I did.

  Day 1

  I didn't know where I was. When I opened my eyes to a sea of aquamarine, I mentally processed the water surrounding me. I was underwater, yet not drowning. Breathing felt normal. Definitely a dream.

  The slab of rock I was lying on jabbed into my back. Two dolphins spun around each other a few feet above me, stirring the water. Strands of my hair, the color of a Yellow Tang fish, floated around my face. Air bubbles drifted past me as I sat up.

  Realizing I was naked from the waist up, I crossed my arms over my chest and looked down. What the crap? My boobs were still there—not that I had much curvage to brag about—but my skin was covered with shiny drawings of intricate twisting vines and symbols that looked like glowing tattoos. Sleeves of copper leaves crept up my arms, connecting with a maze of artwork that spread across my chest and ended just below my stomach. A golden tail lay stretched out in front of me where my legs should be. I dug my fingers into it, expecting the pain to wake me from my dream, but instead I felt slick scales dig under my nails. I touched my stomach and forearms, but my golden skin, if it was still called skin, no longer felt human—it was too satiny, too slippery. It reminded me of the time my uncle and I petted stingrays at the aquarium.

  I bobbed my head back and forth, trying to figure out what my imagination had created. I looked up, down and side-to-side, but the water forced me to move in slow motion. Lack of sunlight indicated I was deep in the ocean, but somehow I could see clearly. Plants in vibrant shades of purple, green and yellow swayed back and forth. Coral in neon hues of pink, orange and blue stretched like crooked fingers, reaching for the fish swimming around them.

  A ghostly pale merman with blue-black hair and the same color tail swam toward me. He slithered through the water like a menacing snake, stopping several inches from where I sat.

  Do you know where you are? His words were clear, but his lips didn't move.

  Did I just hear his thoughts? I wondered.

  Yes, it's how we communicate. Again, his mouth stayed closed. His voice was only in my head. That could only happen in dreams. Do you know where you are?

  My yellow hair floated around my face again. I pushed the strands away. Yes, I'm in a crazy—yet kind of cool—dream.

  Dream?

  This. I motioned to everything around
us. Imagining a world underwater where people are part fish.

  He blinked a few times, then his pale lips turned upward into an almost-smile. I assure you, you are not dreaming. This, he opened his hands to his sides, is your new home.

  Memories of the storm came rushing back to me: pushing the mermaid panel through the house, the stranger in the low-hanging shorts, the feeling of being in a trance, Mr. Mysterious saying he would take me someplace safe.

  My hands trembled. My breath came so fast I started to hyperventilate—except I breathed in water, which should have been impossible. I felt lightheaded, like I might float away. The water surrounding me seemed to pulse with every rapid beat of my heart. I gripped the rock under me, trying to cling to something solid—something real.

  "No!" I screamed, slamming my hands against the rock. But my yelling came out like muffled meowing, and trying to slam something underwater didn't have nearly the effect it did on land.

  My boyfriend had told me horror stories about merfolk. He said they kidnapped humans and stole their memories, then used them as play toys. Over the past week he had been stuck on the topic, warning me to stay away from them. I thought it was his way of making fun of my uncle's obsessive art collection. Merfolk couldn't be real. People didn't live underwater!

  I took a few deep breaths, proving without a doubt that I could breathe underwater. It wasn't a dream. This was actually happening. But accepting it as real would be insane. Had I gone insane? Could that be the explanation?

  According to Rownan, merfolk were conniving and mean-spirited. The guy floating in front of me looked like he fit that description. Had I really been kidnapped and turned into a monster? If so, I wasn't going down without a fight.

 
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