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Dangerous depths the sea.., p.1
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       Dangerous Depths (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.1

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
Dangerous Depths (The Sea Monster Memoirs)


  The Sea Monster Memoirs, #2

  By Karen Amanda Hooper

  Dangerous Depths

  Copyright © 2013 Karen Amanda Hooper

  ISBN ebook: 978-0-9855899-0-5

  ISBN paperback: 978-0-9855899-3-6

  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

  http://mwcoverdesign.blogspot.com

  Interior art by Steve Graham

  http://avurt.com

  Visit author Karen Amanda Hooper on the Web at

  http://www.karenamandahooper.com

  Dedication

  For my Father

  Whenever the waves crashed into me,

  you held my hand and helped me stay on my feet.

  Thank you for teaching me that the world is truly wondrous.

  No matter how much I adored—or disliked—my new sea monster traits, I still relished returning to human form and feeling sand between my toes.

  Three days had passed since my almost-death, my negotiations with Medusa and Poseidon, and my transformation into a mixture of mer, selkie, siren, gorgon, and human. Technically, the realm of Rathe was my new home, but Earth—particularly Eden’s Hammock—would fill a part of my heart that could never be replaced. Nothing and no one would ever change my love for the tiny island. Same with my love for sand between my toes. Some things just feel right.

  Up ahead, my uncle’s lighthouse stood tall and proud against a clear azure sky. Palm trees shimmered in the sunlight with each waft of tropical breeze. A chorus of birds sang from the beach and sky. Our tiny island hadn’t changed at all.

  My brown hair draped over my shoulders was a welcomed contrast to my white mermaid hair. Temporarily, I was regular old me again. No fins, no wings, no pressure of life-or-death responsibilities, no new magical realm to learn about and navigate. I let out a sigh of relief and lifted my face skyward to bask in the moment of familiarity and temporary freedom.

  “You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Treygan said.

  I couldn’t contain the grin that spread across my face. His thumb caressed my cheek as his cobalt eyes gazed down at me. I reached up and ran my fingers through his wet black hair. He looked just as gorgeous in human form. “Ditto.”

  My grin faded when I realized he had said those same words to me at Koraline’s healing ceremony. The thought of her ripped away my moment of bliss.

  Koraline had woken from her coma, but I hadn’t found the courage to visit her yet. I planned to soon, but how could I properly thank her for saving me from bloodthirsty sharks? Or adequately apologize for putting her in harm’s way?

  “What’s the matter?” Treygan asked. “You look sad.”

  “I’m fine.” Since we were in human form, my emotions weren’t given away by the changing color of my skin. When my emotions literally showed all over me, it was much harder to lie to him. For days I had been worried about how he’d react when he discovered I could lie. Merfolk didn’t possess the ability to lie, but I had negotiated a reprieve from that inconvenient restriction during my meeting with Medusa. Some lies were necessary to protect loved ones. If Medusa wanted me to help rule her realm of sea creatures, I needed the option of hiding some truths from people.

  I didn’t want to dampen the mood by explaining how worried I was about seeing Koraline again, or stressing over a million other issues. Instead, I changed the subject.

  “This dress isn’t too wrinkled?” I twirled around, kicking up sand as my billowing skirt kissed the top of my knees.

  “We’re attending a party filled with merfolk and selkies, all of whom are probably wearing clothes that were hidden around the island. Most likely everyone’s outfit will be wrinkled.”

  I eyed his khaki shorts and unbuttoned dress shirt. His shirt was more wrinkled than my sundress, but he looked incredible. His bangs dripped as he finished rolling up his sleeves. A bead of water ran down his forearm, momentarily revealing a silver and indigo hallmark in its path. Then it faded away, like a living tattoo flickering in and out of existence.

  Treygan pulled me close to him and lifted my chin. “Stop looking at me like that or we will never make it to the party. We’re already late as it is.”

  I rose up on my tippy toes and wrapped my arms around his neck. “Let’s just skip it.”

  “Lloyd has been waiting days to see you. It would break his heart if you didn’t attend.”

  The mention of Uncle Lloyd rooted my feet back into the sand. Treygan had visited him while I was stuck in Rathe, but I needed to see my uncle and make sure he was okay. Plus, I really missed him. “You’re right. Let’s go.”

  Treygan took my hand and we walked along the path to Uncle Lloyd’s house. “Are you excited to see everyone?”

  “Kind of. It’s still hard to believe the selkies will be happy to see me. Last time I saw any of them they wanted me dead.”

  “Only because they thought it was their way to return home. To survive. You showed them a different way. You saved their lives, and they are grateful for that.”

  Treygan and Nixie were the only friendly faces I had seen since the Triple Eighteen. Most of my time had been spent sequestered in the grotto, taking care of crucial business with the gorgon sisters. Stheno and Euryale tolerated me, but I could tell they didn’t like me. I assumed that’s how most of my new fellow sea creatures would feel about me—with the exception of merfolk.

  The merfolk had become my treasured family over the last few weeks. I would do anything for them. Oddly, since the Triple Eighteen that same devotion filled me when I thought of the selkies. And the sirens. Even the menacing gorgons.

  A breeze blew my hair across my face. “Do you think they’ll recognize me now that I’m a brunette again in human form?”

  “They’ll recognize you. Light or dark, you’re still the same radiant soul.”

  I shot him my best attempt at a seductive glance. “Are you saying you like my dark side?”

  “Your dark side balances out my excessively joyful, overly optimistic, and cheerfully blinding bright side.”

  His sarcasm made me break out laughing. “Joyful? You were the most brooding person ever before I came along.”

  “My brooding was endearing, and you know it.”

  “It was not.” I playfully shoved his shoulder. “I didn’t even think you were attractive until the first time you laughed.”

  “Really?” He stopped walking and faced me. “What did I laugh at?”

  “Me.”

  “That makes sense.” He winked. “So, my laughter is what hooked you?”

  My cheeks warmed, recalling some of the many qualities that made me fall for him: strength, loyalty, selflessness. Even his brooding had been attractive at times, but I would never admit it to him. “Among other things.”

  “See, light and dark. We balance each other.” He twisted a lock of my hair around his finger. “I love you no matter what form you’re in, but wait until everyone sees you in the water with your white hair and tail. You look like an agape pearl.”

  I pressed my hand against my armband, confirming the agape pearl Treygan gave me was still safe in its secret pouch, and I rested my head on his shoulder. “I’ll miss looking like everyone else.”

  His hard bicep bounced against my cheek as he silently chuckled. “Yamabuki, you have never looked like everyone else. It’s one of the many reasons I’m so in love with you.”

  I sighed, deliriously happy but still a little in disbelief. Treygan was in love with me. Me. A smal
l-island girl who was a hodgepodge of human and sea creature, and whom, I shamefully admit, wasn’t all that nice to him in the beginning of our relationship. At least, the parts of our relationship I could remember.

  Most of the memories Delmar removed from my mind during my mermaid transformation were still gone, but I had a few moments from my past I could still recall. Like Treygan saving my life when I was five, and every minute of every day since I was turned mer. Happily, many of those minutes had been spent with Treygan.

  As we rounded the bend, it hit me that we were together for good. No impending doom, no more impossible decisions about sparing my life or his, no one forbidding us to see each other, no bloodthirsty gang of selkies wanting me sacrificed. Treygan and I had fought our way out of the darkness, together.

  “Hmm, that’s odd,” Treygan said, snapping me out of my thoughts.

  Uncle Lloyd’s house was in sight, but it didn’t look any different. “What’s odd?”

  Treygan picked up his pace, so I walked faster to keep up with him. “Merfolk should be surrounding the house in celebration. And selkies, for that matter.”

  “They’re probably inside.”

  “The selkies, maybe.” Treygan shook his head. “But merfolk would be outside in the sun. Besides, I don’t sense any merfolk. The party must have ended early.” His hand tightened around mine and his voice turned stony. “Something is wrong.”

  I pulled out of his grasp and ran ahead of him.

  “Uncle Lloyd!” I yelled, barreling up the porch steps and through the front door. He didn’t answer me. He was standing in the living room with his hand resting against a carved wood panel hung on the wall. “Where’d everybody go?”

  Nixie strutted into the room. She leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms over her red corset. “Not the best time for a celebration, given the circumstances.”

  “What circumstances? What’s wrong?” I inched toward Uncle Lloyd, terrified of what he might tell me. Terrified of why the house felt ominous and why he looked so distraught. “Is it your kidneys?”

  He lifted his head, but didn’t look at me. Instead, he pulled a cloth out of his shirt pocket and polished the wood panel on the wall in front of him. “He was right, you know. I didn’t even have him represented in my own home.”

  “Who? What are you talking about?” I reached his side. The new portrait was an intricate carving of a male selkie. Dark hair, big dark eyes, broad shoulders, six-pack abs that led to his strong seal-like tail, and deadly claws opened proudly at his waist. Even his goatee had been etched into the wood. His name escaped my lips in a whisper, “Rownan.” I cleared my throat and pulled my focus away. “I’m surprised you had enough strength to carve it.”

  “Strength.” Uncle Lloyd huffed. “What does an old fool like me know about strength?”

  Nixie’s high-heeled boots clicked across the tile floors as she headed for the front door. “I’ll wait outside. You three have a lot to discuss.”

  My mer senses never detected Treygan walking up behind me—probably another glitch in my new sea monster wiring—so the sound of his voice was a surprise, and so were his words. “Is my brother all right?”

  Treygan had never spoken about Rownan with such concern. Yes, Treygan and Rownan were half-brothers, but they had been at war for eighteen years and despised each other. They had almost killed each other on the Triple Eighteen. The gate opening had ended the battle between the selkies and merfolk, but had it instantly repaired the damage between Treygan and Rownan?

  Uncle Lloyd stepped backward. His knees shook as if struggling to support his weight. He lowered himself into his chair, letting out a sigh. I couldn’t tell if it was relief, sadness, or exhaustion. “I’m afraid he won’t be all right.”

  “Why?” Treygan and I both asked at the same time.

  I walked over to my uncle and kneeled by his side. “Tell us what’s going on.”

  He finally looked at me, and I gasped. Based on his appearance, I would’ve guessed ten years had passed since I last saw him, but it had only been a few days. His face looked thinner, his skin was pale as a jellyfish, and milky clouds hovered over his slate gray eyes. “Uncle Lloyd,” I whispered, “can you see?”

  “My sweet, strong Yara.” He aimlessly moved his peeling, calloused hand between us until I took it and pressed it against my cheek.

  “I’m right here.” I fought back tears. His vision was failing. My worst fear was coming true. The man who had always been the sunshine of my life was fading into permanent darkness.

  He sank back into his chair and tried taking a deep breath, but it stuck in his chest. “Treygan.”

  Treygan rushed to his side. Deep worry lines creased his forehead. “I’m here.”

  Uncle Lloyd wheezed. “Rownan needs the two of you now more than ever.”

  “What do you mean?” Treygan asked.

  “Vienna.” Uncle Lloyd went into a coughing fit, so I hurried to the kitchen to get him a glass of water.

  Vienna. Rownan’s wife and true love. I said a silent prayer that she was okay. The gate to the sea creature realm had been sealed for eighteen years. What if, gods forbid, Vienna had become sick or died? After Uncle Lloyd took a few sips of water, his coughing calmed down.

  “What about Vienna?” Treygan pressed.

  Uncle Lloyd held the cool glass to his forehead. “She didn’t wait.”

  My heart deflated. Vienna didn’t wait for Rownan. She was with someone else. How could she? As much as Rownan loved her, he would have done anything to be reunited with her. He would have swum through hell itself to be with her again, and she couldn’t wait a measly eighteen years? “What a bitch.”

  “Bite your tongue, young lady,” Uncle Lloyd said. Was her really scolding me for bad language? I was eighteen. I had faced Poseidon and Medusa and demanded a position in the gorgon sister trinity. I pretty much had say over everything that happened in regards to sea creatures. Did he actually think he could still order me around? “Go get me a cough drop from the top drawer in the kitchen.”

  “Yes, sir.” I jumped up and hurried back to the kitchen. Okay, apparently he could still order me around.

  Treygan was pacing when I came back. I unwrapped a cough drop and placed it in Uncle Lloyd’s shaking hand. “So, where is Rownan?” I asked. “Drinking himself into a coma somewhere?”

  Uncle Lloyd popped the lozenge into his mouth and after a few seconds managed to say, “He’s going after her.”

  Treygan stopped pacing. “He can’t. That’s suicide.”

  “Yes, well.” Uncle Lloyd swallowed hard. “He believes life isn’t worth living without her, so he’s willing to risk it.”

  “Wait,” I said. “What are we talking about? Going after her … and finding her where? With some other guy?”

  “No.” Treygan pinched the bridge of his nose. “She didn’t wait for the gate to open. She tried getting back to Rownan a different way—an insane and perilous way.”

  Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t understand what was going on. “Elaborate, Treygan.”

  His eyes locked with mine. All of his inner light had been snuffed out. “She went to the damned realm. The realm of darkness and evil.”

  My head throbbed and my back burned. My sea monster traits tried to surface, but I kept them at bay. “There’s another realm? Besides here and Rathe?”

  “Yes,” Treygan said. “Harte.”

  He pronounced it “Hartay.” The name was foreign to me. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

  “We don’t discuss that place.” His tone made the hairs on my arms stand up.

  “Why? What’s so evil about it?”

  “You don’t want to know,” Uncle Lloyd grumbled.

  “Why would Vienna go there?”

  Treygan sat on the couch and rubbed his hands over his face. “She probably thought she could find another way back to this realm to be with Rownan.”

  “But I thought the gate was the only way.”

&nb
sp; “It is,” Uncle Lloyd confirmed.

  “Then why would she go to some damned world thinking she could find another way?”

  Treygan cracked his neck. “Because for decades there have been rumors that one soul in Harte figured out a way to travel into Earth’s realm. But the Violets say it isn’t possible.”

  Uncle Lloyd took another sip of water. “Legend says the gateway to Harte only works one way. Once you enter, there’s no returning.”

  “Then Rownan can’t go after her,” I shrieked. “He’ll never be able to come back!”

  “He has already made up his mind,” Treygan said. “When it comes to Vienna, there’s no stopping him.”

  “Sharkshit,” I argued. “I’ll stop him. I’ll ask Stheno and Euryale to close the gate to Harte.”

  “They won’t.” Uncle Lloyd sighed. “Medusa tried the same thing centuries ago. Stheno and Euryale wouldn’t listen.”

  If Medusa couldn’t make them do it, they definitely wouldn’t do it for me. “Where is Rownan right now?”

  “He left this morning.” Uncle Lloyd turned toward Treygan. “He said to tell you thank you. And that he wished things could have been better between you two for these last eighteen years.”

  “How can he be gone already?” My voice rose. “How could you let him go? Why didn’t you have Nixie send me a message?”

  “Yara, I’m at my rope’s end. My last bit of interfering caused me to lose my sight. I can hardly breathe. My kidneys are kaput.” Uncle Lloyd rubbed his neck, like holding up his head was too much effort. Like his life had become too much to bear. I wished I could carry all of his guilt, sorrow, and pain for him. “If I interfered one more time, even one gesture, one conversation with any intent to meddle, I might have died before I saw you again. Before I could say goodbye to you and Treygan.”

  Tears welled in my eyes. “But ….”

  Treygan rested his hand on Uncle Lloyd’s—his father’s—shoulder. “You’re the wisest and bravest man I have ever known. I’m honored and grateful to be your son.”

 
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