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Tangled tides the sea mo.., p.15
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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.15

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  The hurt in his voice sent a tremor through me. I couldn't take it anymore. I opened the door and he rocked backward, but caught himself and scooted over. I crawled beside him and laid my hand on his knee.

  "What happened?" I whispered.

  He dug his thumbnail into the floorboards. "She felt it happen and pushed me away. The kiss only lasted seconds, but her lips and part of her tongue turned to stone. I thought petrifying only happened through sight. I figured she would be fine. But it can be sight, saliva, or blood."

  I didn't know what to say. I imagined being that girl. Could she talk? Could she open her mouth? Who would ever want to be with someone who had stone lips? She would never be able to feel another kiss again.

  "With her it was just a silly kids' game," Treygan continued. "What I feel for you is … I can't bear to think of what I might do to you."

  I nodded, staring at the floor. "But Rownan is part gorgon and—" I didn't want to remind Treygan that I had kissed the brother he hated. I tried to forget it every day. "He never turned me to stone."

  "He didn't inherit that ability. His gorgon trait is that he can shadow other gorgons. Much less violent than what I'm cursed with."

  My heart ached. For him, for me, for some girl I didn't know who had been sentenced to a lonely life with a mouth of stone.

  He stared ahead at the wall. "You'll meet her tomorrow. I should tell you who she is now, so you're not blindsided."

  "Okay."

  He turned to face me. His eyes looked bluer than ever. "She is Kimber, Delmar's wife."

  Day 5

  Sitting outside of Koraline's resting pool until midnight had been draining, but I had to watch over Yara. I didn't want to leave her to harvest the crops, but I had no choice. Even though she was in capable hands, I rushed through my work so I could return to her.

  Delmar was on the couch reading when I returned. He didn't even look up at me, so I snatched the book out of his hands. "Why aren't you guarding the pool room?" I asked, louder than I intended.

  "Shh." He propped his feet up on the ottoman. "I am guarding her. You might feel the need to hover outside the door, but I'm confident the extra few feet won't make a difference if someone tries to break in."

  I glanced at the closed French doors. "Has she asked about me?"

  "Hasn't stirred once. If I didn't know better, I would think she was asleep. She'll never know you left. Don't worry, Prince Charming,"

  "Don't," I warned, handing his book back to him.

  "Don't what?" He leaned forward. "You think I don't see it? You're in love with her."

  "I don't know what love is. I've never even been on a date."

  "Sharkshit. You love so selflessly it's nauseating at times. Me, Kimber, Koraline. Hell, some days you even love Pango and Merrick. You've loved Yara since she was a child. Except now it's different. You're in love with her. And she's in love with you, but you're too scared to do anything about it."

  "In love. Like it's a pool you dive into. What if I turn the person I love to stone and she sinks to the bottom? Wouldn't it be safer to stay out of the water?"

  He chuckled. "No, it's always safer in the water. Always."

  "Thirteen sunsets, Delmar. That's all I have. It wouldn't be fair to her."

  "Thirteen is more than twelve or none. Shouldn't she have a say in whether it is or isn't enough time?"

  I flopped down on the couch beside him. "She asked me to kiss her last night. I can't even kiss her."

  "Well," he said, with a cheeky grin, "I can tell you from experience there are other ways to show love. Kissing isn't everything."

  "You and Kimber are different," I sighed. "And that's not the main issue. It would be greedy of me to act on my feelings, knowing I have to leave her behind."

  He spun his book in his hands, staring at it. "Reconsider your feelings on love, Treygan. As wonderful as our realm is, it's not the best thing in creation. Love is." He turned to face me. "Believe me, you'll never know how amazing life can be until you allow yourself to fall in love."

  I walked over to the resting room, looking through the glass at Yara. She floated peacefully in the dark water. Moonlight shone through the high windows, illuminating her skin and hair. "She takes my breath away."

  "Good. Enjoy it." Delmar opened the front door. "You've been breathing steadily for far too long."

  With a quiet click of the latch he was gone, on his way home to see Kimber and get ready for the big day. Soon the sun would rise. There wasn't enough time for me to rest, but there was one thing I wanted to do before Yara woke. I headed for Koraline's kitchen and searched through the drawers for scissors.

  "I can't lie around anymore," Yara said, pushing open the glass doors. "I'm too nervous about—"

  She stopped abruptly in front of the kitchen table and stared at me. I sat back in my chair, rubbing the back of my neck.

  "You cut your hair," she gasped.

  "I wanted to look shipshape for your special day."

  She walked toward me, staring at my head. "I just got used to it being long."

  "So you don't like it?" I felt like a fool. I grabbed my glass of juice and stood up.

  "No, I—" She touched my chest and looked up at me. "You look so ... young."

  "Is that good or bad?"

  "It's good, but," she bit her lip, "it's not even. I could fix it for you, if you want. I've been cutting my uncle's hair for years."

  "We don't have much time. We need to leave soon."

  "Where are the scissors?"

  "In the bathroom."

  By the time she came back with a towel and scissors she was laughing.

  "What's funny?" I asked.

  "You're such a guy. You didn't even attempt to clean up your mess in there."

  I moved past her. "Damn, I came out to get a drink and forgot."

  She caught my arm and pushed me back down in the chair. "Sit. You'll have more hair to sweep up when I'm through. You can clean while I'm getting ready."

  She wrapped a towel around my neck and ran her fingers through my hair. I closed my eyes, amazed at how good it felt. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, pull her onto my lap, anything to get her closer to me, but instead I slid my hands under my legs.

  She pulled two pieces of hair taught against my chin and bent down, evaluating me. "I may have to go a little shorter to make it even."

  "Fine."

  "Treygan." She looked at me longingly. "If we could kiss, I would definitely be kissing you right now."

  My fingers flexed under my thighs. I wanted her to know I felt the same way, but it wouldn't be fair. I leaned back and my hair slid out of her fingers. "Pango and Merrick will be here soon."

  Her brow wrinkled. She stood up straight and moved behind my chair. "Right."

  She tilted my head forward and began snipping. The only sound after that was the scraping of stainless steel blades as she attempted to fix the mess I had made. Areas of my chest and arms were bright white and silver, but it almost blended with my regular coloring. Hopefully she hadn't noticed how excited and happy she made me.

  As soon as Pango and Merrick arrived, Yara's questions began. What should she wear? What would she have to do all day? Did she have to talk to people? And on and on.

  I stood by silently, amused that Pango would be her new teacher. Given Koraline's condition, he volunteered to take over his sister's job. I assumed the Violets agreed so he would have something to take his mind off of his sister, and it seemed to be working.

  Several pearl hairpins bobbed between his lips as he mumbled, "Yara, my shimmering sunbeam." He secured more hair to the top of her head and took the pins out of his mouth. "Leave it to me. I will be your personal Sir Gawain today."

  "My who?" Yara asked.

  "Sir Gawain. One of King Arthur's knights. The exemplar of chivalry."

  "I've only heard of Sir Lancelot."

  "Yes, well." Pango gave her a hand mirror and leaned down in front of her. "We all know who is playing Lancelot, don
't we?"

  Her eyes met mine in the reflection of the mirror and she blushed. Pango looked over her shoulder at me and winked.

  "Yara should get dressed," Merrick interjected. "We're already late."

  "Fashionably late." Pango took the mirror from Yara. "Go, my lady, to the boudoir! Your gown awaits." He paddled her butt with the mirror and she giggled as she went to Koraline's bedroom. Pango looked at me and pumped his eyebrows twice before following her.

  Merrick mouthed the words, what are you doing?

  "I don't know." Others were noticing our attraction to each other and that couldn't be good, but I wasn't sure if I could stay away from Yara. Maybe it was the close call with the sharks. I felt guilty for not being there to protect her. Or maybe Delmar was right. Could I be falling in love with her?

  We stood there, listening to Yara and Pango talk and laugh in the other room. I was certain Merrick was literally biting his tongue, wanting to remind me a relationship with Yara would be impossible—as if I wasn't aware of it every time I blinked.

  "Gentlemen," Pango announced, standing so tall that his green curls brushed the arch of the hallway. "May I present the pertinacious, catechizing, yet somehow enchanting Lady Yara."

  She walked out, and I swallowed my breath. Her dress accented every curve of her body. The plunging neckline and her hair pulled back made me wish we were alone so I could kiss every inch of her exposed skin.

  My own thoughts forced me back to reality. And then what? Turn her to stone? What was wrong with me? I never had urges like this.

  Yara curtsied and Merrick told her how lovely she looked. All three of them fixed their gazes on me.

  "You look nice," I said, trying to sound casual.

  Pango threw his hands up. "I doozied her up from head to toe, and you can't come up with something better than she looks nice?"

  Yara ignored Pango and thanked me.

  "I have something for you." I reached into my pocket and pulled out her armband, custom made to match her copper hallmarks. "In case you haven't noticed, every merfolk wears one, and today you're official."

  She lifted her arm. "Will you put it on?"

  I wrapped it around the top of her silky arm and our eyes met. "There's a gift inside for you."

  "Thank you," she smirked and rolled her eyes.

  I wanted to tell her there were more than just joints in the pouch, but Merrick cleared his throat and opened the front door, so we all filtered out.

  Pango and Yara walked ahead of me and Merrick. I admired the way Yara's hips shifted as she walked, the few loose tendrils bouncing against the nape of her neck, and the way her skin glowed under the sun hallmark between her shoulder blades. She was stunning, but I wouldn't be able to think of her that way for the rest of the day. If the Violets suspected my feelings or overheard my thoughts, it would cause problems.

  Today I would have to put on an award winning show of indifference for Yara—which, given the circumstances, seemed impossible.

  I had never worn a gown in my life. Each step I took, I feared I would trip and fall on the draping bottom, landing face-down in mud and ruining the dress forever. Treygan would have the perfect view, and once again I would be humiliated.

  Pango said my turquoise and yellow gown represented water and the sun, but why couldn't a comfy, short sundress represent the sun? I had never seen the guys wearing shirts before, so this was obviously a dressy occasion, but they looked comfortable in their khaki shorts and linen button-downs. I wanted to be comfortable too.

  When I glanced up from carefully placing my feet, I saw merfolk walking over a nearby hill toward the faint humming of voices and activity. The sun wasn't up yet, and it made me more nervous, hiking through the dawn to who-knows-where to gather with a bunch of strangers.

  Pango held my hand when we got closer. "You ready?"

  His soft hand felt huge closed over mine. It made me wish for Treygan's lean, rough fingers entwined with mine instead. I looked back at Treygan.

  "Take a calming breath," he said.

  Pango and I rounded the hill which opened up into a massive valley with a lake in the center. When I saw all the people I wanted to run in the other direction. Treygan said there would be just over a hundred of them, but to me it looked like a million.

  The mob of people gathered around the lake had skin in varying shades of white, silver, copper, or gold. Their hair represented every color of the rainbow. Some sat on blankets, others stood around talking. Several kids ran around laughing, chasing each other or tossing beach balls in the air.

  "Miss Yara!" Kai shouted. She was at least fifty yards away, waving vigorously while a red-haired toddler pulled on her other arm.

  More than a few heads turned in my direction. The crowd quieted as more people looked. Silence fell as everyone stopped moving. They were all watching me. I squeezed Pango's hand so hard I thought it might break, but he didn't flinch.

  "Am I supposed to do something?" I asked Pango, trying not to move my lips.

  "Just wave."

  My fingers barely flexed open before I shook my hand back and forth. As if on command, everyone broke into applause. Terrified, I glanced up at Pango, but he laughed and brushed his knuckle against my cheek. "We'll sit over there. It's the best view."

  I glanced over my shoulder again, but Treygan had disappeared. I scanned the people around us, searching for him, but Pango kept pulling me along, so I concentrated on not tripping on my dress.

  Merrick spread a blanket over the grass. Most people had returned to their conversations and sat down facing the lake. Blues or Indigos were spaced around the perimeter every few feet. They stood watching the sky and each other like they were waiting to dive into the water at the same time.

  "This is crazy," I murmured to Pango. "All these people are here just because I've been turned into a mermaid?"

  "Yes, twinkle bug. You're quite the celebrity in the world of sea monsters. And wait until they find out you and Treygan are falling in love. The paparazzi will have a field day!"

  "What! Falling in love?"

  "Oh, please. Have you seen how giddy you are around him? Have you seen the way he looks at you, and protects you like you're his precious jewel?"

  "He's doing his job as my guardian." I looked for Treygan again and found him standing in the distance.

  "No, seriously." Pango adjusted one of the pins in my hair. "I'm asking if anyone has showed you yet? Because if not, I'll take you into my pretty head right now and let you watch the magic the rest of us see. It's better than any reality TV show the human world has come up with."

  A high, whistling sound cut through the air, interrupting our conversation. Delmar pointed across the lake. Treygan stood a few feet away from him, squinting in the same direction. I looked at where Delmar pointed and saw the top of the sun peeking over the horizon.

  A man blew into a conch shell and the sound echoed over the lake. The crowd fell silent again. Someone started singing a song I hadn't heard before, then all the Blues and Indigos joined in. On one particular note they all opened their hands at their sides, and for a minute—when the singing stopped—I thought we were being hit by an earthquake.

  The still surface of the lake trembled. Then the water rippled outward toward the shore, creating a giant cyclone-shaped hole. The reflection of the rising sun melted into the lake, creating a swirling pool of orange, but in the center was empty darkness. I leaned forward, half expecting the large funnel to suck us all in, until a glint of ivory sparkled in the center of it. Something was rising out of the water.

  Pango leaned against my shoulder. "Paragon Castle, in a fanciful light."

  The highest turret rose in front of us, then another, and another, followed by the rest of the huge palace. Underwater I hadn't appreciated the exquisiteness of the castle. The exterior shimmered like mother-of-pearl. The windows and doors made of different colored sea glass reflected beams of rainbows across the lake. As it continued to emerge, towering high above us, water dri
pped from its roofs and walls like a giant god rising out of a bath.

  I realized I had been holding my breath and let it out. "It's gorgeous."

  "Yes, it is," Pango sighed, holding hands with me and Merrick.

  As the castle finished settling on the lake, I watched Treygan. He and the others circling the perimeter were in the same stance: arms low at their sides, fingers stretched wide, focusing fiercely on the water.

  "Are they lifting it?" I asked Pango.

  "Merfolk are up here and down below, working together and controlling the water to make it rise. Next they'll create a plate of hardened water beneath it so it remains above the surface for the rest of your celebration."

  How freaking cool. "They do this for every new merfolk?"

  "What can I say? We love a reason to celebrate."

  I looked around at the crowd. Most people watched with a smile, but some hardly paid attention. To me, a glistening castle rising out of a lake was the most unbelievable thing I had ever seen, but most merfolk almost looked bored.

  Merrick leaned over Pango's lap and winked at me. "Wait until you see the parties we throw in our realm."

  That explained it. As spectacular as this seemed to me, it was probably tame compared to what these people were used to. But how could anything be better than this?

  My focus landed on Treygan and my question was answered. He would make anything better. Even from a distance I could see the muscles in his forearms, taut and flexing. The guy could lift castles into the air. Eat your heart out, Cinderella.

  The main doors to the castle opened and Indrea and Caspian walked out first, followed by the other Violets. Like the rest of the crowd, they were dressed in fancy clothes. I was thankful Koraline had planned ahead and picked out an appropriate dress for me.

  "Caspian and Indrea are like the king and queen of the Violets?" I asked.

  Pango chuckled. "Not according to them, but we all think of them that way."

  "Why?"

  He plucked at the grass by his feet. "Do you know about the day the gates closed, yet?"

 
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