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Tangled tides the sea mo.., p.11
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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.11

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  Otabia's nails dug into my neck as she whispered in my ear. "Take the mermaid and leave our nest. I do not like to see my sisters argue. And while you appear to be in control, I don't trust you."

  Without hesitation, I stepped around Nixie and gathered Yara in my arms. Her eyelids fluttered briefly. The wound didn't look as bad as I imagined. The Violets would be able to heal her. Koraline, on the other hand—

  I pushed the worry from my mind. Otabia placed her hands under my arms and carried me and Yara out the window. As we flew away from the nest, Mariza's siren song echoed through the night sky, followed by the man's terror-stricken screaming. It sent a chill through me, and I held Yara tighter against me. Her warmth could have melted the iciest of souls.

  Even after we splashed into the ocean and Treygan started swimming, I waited to open my eyes in case Otabia watched from the sky. Nixie must have been able to see through the water when she dove in to rescue me, so her sister might have that ability too.

  Being carried like I was a helpless baby should have pissed me off. Instead, I was all too aware of how strong Treygan's arms were. He kept a firm grip on me as his body arched up and down, over and over, propelling us forward. My skin tingled every time it rubbed up against his. It had to be a mer thing.

  After opening my eyes, I reached up and touched his shoulder.

  You're safe, he assured me. You were attacked by sharks, but we're on our way to get you healed.

  First things first. Where's Koraline? Is she okay?

  She's with the Violets. She was severely injured.

  No! She was fighting. She— I felt sick. I recalled the look in Koraline's eyes after I yelled out to her. The next thing I knew I was swinging into a dark sky.

  The red siren—Nixie—she said Koraline would be okay. I begged her to go back and get her, but she promised she'd be fine.

  A siren's word means nothing. Wait, you spoke to Nixie?

  She saved me from the sharks. She told me where she was taking me. She said I had to act unconscious. No matter what I heard, I had to keep my eyes closed and try not to feel scared. She seemed nice, in a bizarre sort of way.

  His nostrils flared. Did you think she was nice when she sucked blood from your wounds?

  She warned me about that before she took me to the tree house. She wanted her sisters to think I was passed out. She said to focus on the pain of my wounds and try to ignore anything else, which wasn't hard. My shoulder feels like it's been run through a meat grinder.

  I didn't know which was more disturbing, two bird-women licking and sucking at my shoulder, or the awful, animal-like sounds of that man. The tree house—or nest, or whatever—was a house of horrors.

  She shouldn't have taken you there, Treygan said. It wasn't safe. Don't trust the sirens. Don't trust anyone except other merfolk.

  Not even gorgons?

  His bicep flexed against my skin, but his face remained unchanged. Especially gorgons.

  But you're part gorgon, right?

  His eyes bolted away from mine and he focused straight ahead. Underwater communication had its flaws. No eye contact, no more conversation.

  I tried wiggling out of his arms, but pain shot through my shoulder. Dull and achy pain, but it still packed a wallop. Treygan didn't let go of me. If anything, he held on tighter. Deep down I was happy to stop resisting. Everything felt like it hit me at once: the confusion of this new life, Rownan's lies, the fear and adrenaline of the shark attack, the disturbing experience with the sirens, the shock of hearing Treygan could turn things—and people—to stone.

  What else was he capable of? If he was part gorgon, then he had just warned me to never trust him. But he was definitely part merman, and mermen can't lie, so could I trust Treygan or not?

  He looked down at me again. May I ask you something?

  Sure.

  Are you in love with Rownan?

  I had already asked myself the same question. No. He lied to me. How could I be in love with him if I can't trust him? I'm not sure I even know what being in love means, but I'm pretty sure trust is a big part of it.

  Treygan squinted. I wasn't born with the romance gene, but I'm certain you're right about the trust part.

  Our speed increased, and I was too tired to keep holding my head up against the constant current. Reluctantly, I rested my head against Treygan's chest and closed my eyes, trying to ignore the fact that he felt so comfortable.

  Breaking through the surface, I saw the tall bordering cliffs of Solis. Treygan released me and I floated to his side. His foot brushed up against my tail. His foot?

  "What the—?" I tried to see through the water, but the hallmarks on his chest were the last visible part of him. "Do you have legs right now?"

  "Yes," he said nonchalantly.

  "How is that possible?"

  "Unlike the folklore, we do control if we have legs or a tail."

  "No. I tried at Koraline's house to keep my tail outside of the water, but it changed instantly."

  "You haven't mastered your abilities yet. It will come in time."

  "Seriously?" I'd have no problem going back to Eden's Hammock and living a human life. I could even swim with legs.

  "I told you. We're amazing creatures. Would you like assistance out of the water?"

  "Um." I looked up at the towering rocks above us. No way would I be able to climb them. My shoulder throbbed just thinking about it. "I think I will need assistance. That doesn't look like an easy route."

  "My pleasure."

  He grasped my uninjured arm. With a swooping motion of his free hand, the water beneath us rose up and carried us into the air. The churning wave sounded like a hundred ice cube trays cracking as it hardened, forming a translucent bridge that stretched out in front of us, connecting to land.

  "Wow," I gasped, looking down in awe as we walked across. "It's like wet glass."

  Once we were on actual solid ground he lowered his arm. The bridge went soft and fell splashing into the ocean below. I stood at the edge of the rocks, looking down and gaping. "You'll teach me how to do that, right?"

  His lips twitched at the corners like he wanted to smile. "If you behave, yes, I'll teach you how to do that."

  "Deal."

  I squeezed water out of my dress and tried not to gawk at his chiseled body. I was curious to see if his hallmarks covered every part of him, but I couldn't lift my gaze from the scrolling artwork on my own feet. He must have noticed my nervous fidgeting.

  "I apologize for not having clothes on. We can follow this trail to the nearby stream. Once we're in the water—"

  "Treygan, its fine."

  His eyes drifted downward and lingered at the low-cut neckline of my dress. I stepped back and crossed my arms over my chest. "Exactly what are you staring at?"

  "Your emotions."

  "What?"

  "I'm trying to figure out what orange means."

  Looking down, I gasped. "Why is my skin orange?"

  "Your mer traits are developing. Our skin changes color when we feel strong emotions."

  "Oh, dandy. We're real-life mood rings." Koraline's skin had turned purple when she fought the sharks. Did purple mean scared?

  "So?" Treygan urged.

  "So what?"

  "Will you tell me what orange means?"

  "Don't you know what it means?"

  "Colors vary from person to person. What were you feeling when you turned orange?"

  I wanted to say offended or insulted, but I couldn't. It was more like embarrassed, but also flattered and excited, like my skin ached to be against Treygan's again. Every time he touched me it felt like a million dragonflies fluttering along my skin. If he knew that, I'd be humiliated. "I plead the fifth."

  "What?"

  "The right to remain silent. I choose not to answer."

  I scanned the moonlit mountains around us, trying to think about anything but the fervent sensations Treygan caused inside of me.

  The silence didn't last long. "We should get yo
u into a resting pool," he said. "I'll send for a Violet to heal your shoulder. In the meantime, Koraline will have supplies at her house to treat it."

  How could I be so self-centered? Koraline was attacked by sharks! Treygan should be the last thing on my mind. I turned to face him again. "How badly was she injured?"

  "Severely. She may have lost too much blood. They ate her fins away entirely."

  I threw up. It was pure water, but I buckled over and wretched, making awful, mortifying sounds. Treygan pulled my hair back, keeping it away from my face. A few more stomach spasms passed, but nothing else came up. I stood up, silently wishing it had been me instead of Koraline.

  "Gross. Sorry," I mumbled, convinced I would die from humiliation.

  The quizzical tilt of his head combined with the moonlight reflecting in his eyes almost made him look concerned. Between his hallmarks his glistening skin lightened. Speculating what the silvery shade might mean caused my heart to hammer in my chest. I looked up at the starry sky and squeezed water out of my dress again. This must be a mer thing. I could not be attracted to Treygan.

  "You're bleeding." He stepped closer and examined my shoulder. "Let's get it taken care of. A stream to the village is just around that bend."

  Blood made me queasy so I didn't look at it, but I felt the warmth trickling down my arm. We walked side by side as he guided us along a pathway.

  "Too bad the sirens aren't around," I joked. "They could clean this up for me."

  "Don't let them drink from you again. If they ever attempt to make you drink blood, refuse it. No matter what they say or promise."

  "Ew, I would never drink blood. That's disgusting."

  "Glad to hear you feel that way. Now that you've seen it firsthand, you might as well know that selkies are also blood drinkers."

  The beginning of a laugh escaped my lips. Surely he was kidding. Then I froze. My legs went numb and I stopped walking, remembering the mystery juice at Rownan's house. No. It couldn't have been. I would've known if I had been drinking blood.

  Events of the night clicked into place, one after another: the red liquid, spilling it all over myself, wiping the counter clean with my dress, Koraline asking if I was bleeding, the frenzied sharks, and my last glance at Koraline's wide, green eyes.

  "Oh, my God, Koraline," I blurted out, clutching my stomach. Treygan had walked ahead, but he turned and made his way back to me. "I'll never forgive myself."

  His voice softened. "You're not to blame."

  He could say that because he didn't know yet. But I was to blame. I should have never left to find Rownan. I should have stayed and let Koraline teach me what I needed to know. She would still be safe. I would have never drunk— My stomach flipped over just thinking about it. An entire container. Almost a gallon of it.

  "Treygan." I glanced apprehensively at my wound. The blood didn't make me queasy. It should have, but it didn't. When my mouth watered it confirmed my fear. I swallowed hard. "What would happen if I did drink blood?"

  By the look on his face you would have thought I had ripped his heart out.

  Day 4

  Morning shed a new light on things. I gawked at the empty bottle sitting in the sink. It had to mean something, but what? Merfolk didn't drink blood. They were repulsed by it.

  I searched the trash can for any sign she had just spilled the blood and cleaned it up. I found nothing. She drank our blood. A lot of selkie blood.

  This wasn't in any of the rule books. This went against the natural order of things. What if the instinct to live like us—to be one of us—ran deeper than we thought?

  "This could change everything," I said, slapping my hands against the counter. What would Treygan do when he found out his precious mermaid had become a blood guzzler? I grabbed my coat and the keys to my bike and flew out the door. This newsflash had to be broadcasted as soon as possible.

  Jack Frost's wasn't open yet, so I used my key and let myself in the back door.

  "Jack?" I shouted. No answer.

  Jack was like a father to me, but I couldn't predict his roaming patterns. If he was in the water, I could guess where to find him. If he was in human form, he could be in any female's bed anywhere in the Keys.

  I made my way down the hidden corridor and slid open the door to the walk-in freezer. Steel screeching against the floor and the smell of wet animal hair triggered the memory of the man who had died here.

  A human patron found our hiding place once, years ago. If humans knew we were selkies and that we sometimes kept our skins hidden in the bar's freezer, they would probably steal them. Without our seal skin we couldn't return to the ocean—much less to Rathe. We had to make sure a siren drained the trespasser of every memory he had of the bar. The problem was we asked Mariza to do it.

  After his death we made sure the myst on the freezer was ironclad. No human had come close to this room since. Regardless of what merfolk believe about selkies, we don't like watching others die needlessly.

  Jack's black seal skin hung in its place. He was on land somewhere, but there wasn't enough time to look for him. I needed to go to the Catacombs and start working.

  I heard the sound of footsteps approaching and my claws shot out reflexively.

  Dina walked into the freezer and laughed at me. "Easy, killer. It's only me."

  "She drank our blood," I blurted out, itching to tell someone.

  She hung her wet coat on her appointed hook. "Who did?"

  "Yara."

  Dina's head snapped around so fast her wet hair sprayed droplets across my face. "Legit?"

  I nodded.

  "What does that mean?"

  "I don't know. That's why I need to talk to Jack."

  She pulled a seagarette out of her wristband, tapping it against the top of her hand. "Did she enjoy it?"

  "Must have. She downed an entire bottle."

  A grin spread across her face. Dina would be wondering the same thing as me. Did this mean Yara was meant to take our side? Be on our side?

  "Jack thought this would happen," she said. "Genes have major influence. You should tell her the truth about her father. Imagine how much stronger that would make our case."

  Many times I had wanted Yara to know her father had been a selkie, but if her own parents kept it a secret, what right did I have to tell her? "Vyron made it very clear that none of us could tell her anything about selkies."

  "Only until she turned eighteen."

  "The eighteen stipulation was her mom's idea. If Vyron had his way, Yara would never know about any of us."

  "Screw Vyron! He broke his promise. Did he care when the gorgons sealed the gate? No! He abandoned us. Tell his mongrel child what she really is. Maybe she has daddy issues and she'll come running to us," she pouted and continued in a baby voice, "hoping we'll give her the love and acceptance she never had as a child."

  "Dina, stop it. The girl's been through enough."

  She rocked on her heels, scanning the seal skins and frozen goods surrounding us. "Would it matter, though?" she asked, suddenly thoughtful. "Surely the merfolk will tell her what needs to be done to open the gate—their interpretation and ours. Even if she prefers our way of existence, she wouldn't give up her life for us."

  "Maybe not for only us," Jack said, startling me. He was so light on his feet that I hadn't heard him approach. A seag bobbed between his chapped lips. "But she'll have a hard time condemning both species to this world for eternity. That's a lot of lives to ruin."

  Jack had a way of finding a solution to every problem. His casual lean against the doorway made me relax.

  "You know, don't you?" I asked. His smile revealed the gap in his teeth. "How'd you hear about it already?"

  "Ran into Nixie. You know how she likes to gossip."

  "How did she know?" Dina asked.

  Jack tossed his seagarette on the floor and smashed it with his boot. "Who cares? It's true, right? Yara drank from you?"

  "Nah. She drank a donor container from my fridge."


  "Did she enjoy it?"

  "No idea. I was asleep. She probably didn't know what it was."

  Dina laughed. "If she drank the whole thing then she must have loved it. We've got her, fellas. She's as good as addicted."

  Jack shook his head. I knew what he was thinking before he said it. "She needs to drink from you, Rownan. Direct from the tap. Then she'll be addicted."

  Jack knew I refused to drink directly from anyone, or vice versa. Everyone knew. "It would crush Vienna if I shared myself with someone else."

  "You're the only one she would ever consider drinking from. If you don't do this, you may never see Vienna again. Yara needs to bond with you. Really bond. It's our one sure shot."

  Dina voiced the concern I didn't want to say out loud. "Jack, if she drinks from him, she'll consume his gorgon blood. Look at what that did to Vienna. What if it works against us?"

  Jack and I glared at each other, but for different reasons. I wanted to curse him to hell for making me do this. He wanted to knock me upside my head for being so vulnerable. As if I had any say in who or what my father was.

  "Why couldn't you have gotten Treygan's power?" Jack grunted.

  At that comment I left the room. As part gorgon I inherited the ability to shadow other gorgons, dial in on their location, watch over them and sometimes see through their eyes. The first time Vienna drank my blood she developed the same ability. We were connected, always able to find each other, until the gate closed.

  "You have to do it," Jack called out behind me.

  I kept walking, but he was right. Soon Yara would crave blood again, and when that time came, she would have to drink mine.

  We had been at it for hours. Yara and I were mentally drained from the ongoing Q and A session, but she wanted to learn more.

  "Okay." Yara looked up from her history book. "Let me get this straight. Medusa was turned into a gorgon because she shacked up with Poseidon in Athena's temple. She was banished to live in a cold, dark, secluded grotto along with her two sisters, Stheno and Euryale. All of them could turn living things to stone."

 
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