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Tangled tides the sea mo.., p.19
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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.19

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  She glanced up at me and smiled. "I've never smelled an apple blossom. Do they smell good?"

  "If we had more time I would take you to climb apple trees, so you could know what you smell like."

  She kissed my shoulder. "You taste like saltwater taffy. But your smell is like—I don't know. It's what I imagine heaven smells like."

  I laughed hard. "My gods, is this the kind of cheesy stuff couples say to each other?"

  Yara laughed too. "I guess so. Are we a couple?"

  More cracks splintered the wall around my heart. My thoughts spilled out of me uncontrollably. "All I want to do is protect you, hold you, and show you how much I care about you. Those thoughts and words feel so foreign to me, but they're always there. I'm constantly fighting the urge to say them to you. I want to promise you forever, but I can't. At sunset on the Triple Eighteen I will leave to live in the grotto. Forever."

  Yara spun around and positioned herself in front of me, kneeling between my legs. "It's time for you to tell me. What will happen on the Triple Eighteen? The specifics."

  I took a deep breath. "I have to sacrifice myself completely to the gorgons. All trace of me being mer has to be removed from my soul. I have to be ready and willing to fully become a gorgon."

  Her fingers tapped against my knees while she tried to figure out what it meant. "We share souls through our memories, so is it like what Delmar did to me? Someone has to take your memories from you?"

  "Yes."

  She scrunched up her face, looking repulsed. "And Delmar agreed to do that?"

  "Delmar can't do it. It's different than what he did to you."

  "How is it different?"

  "It must be a total sacrifice. My memories and my soul must be consumed entirely."

  She cringed. "Like what the sirens do?"

  "Sort of, except to take every bit of mer and human life force from me it has to be someone with mer and human blood, and also siren blood so they can remove my songs forever." I swallowed down the bitter taste in my mouth. "Because of your unique genes, you are the only soul who can do it."

  Her head jerked backward. "Me? They want me to take your memories from you?"

  "By sunset of the Triple Eighteen, you have to drain me of my songs. All of them."

  "I would never do that!"

  "Yara, the Violets spent years interpreting the spell. The only way to open the gates is for a total sacrifice of the soul. I willingly give mine, and the gate opens."

  "But, I don't even know how. You share your memories with me. I have no idea how to take them from you."

  "You have your mother's siren blood in you. The Violets think it will happen naturally once you start. You'll get absorbed, it will become addicting and you'll keep taking more. We've been preparing for this for years. We'll coach you through the process."

  "No. Find someone else."

  "There is no one else. You are the mixed blood mentioned in the poem. You were the soul originally promised, and the only one they'll allow at the gate. The only reason I can get near it is because I have gorgon blood in me. I meet the requirements for taking Medusa's place—human and monster blood. You are the only soul who can go to the gate and drain me. It has to be you."

  "Without your memories, you'll be … empty. If I take them all, then you would have no soul left. Won't you—"

  "Die? In a way, yes. Until the gorgons make me whole again. My soul will be transformed into whatever they need me to be."

  "No! You have decades of memories. The other realm, your people, weddings, your parents, your friends, me, us."

  "Do you think I want to remember those things? I'll be taking Medusa's place in the trinity. I won't ever be able to leave the grotto. I'll never see the sun again unless it's through a secondhand experience delivered by the sirens. I won't be able to talk to you. I won't even be able to see you unless I use their mirror to watch over you like a spying god. Do you know how hard it would be to miss you, or ache to be near you and not be able to do anything about it? I want to forget who I am, and how good my life has been. You'll be helping me by erasing it all. I couldn't do it any other way."

  She rubbed her hands over her face. "I hate this. I hate that anyone has to live in the grotto. Of all people, why does it have to be you? How am I supposed to live with myself, knowing you exist in some awful, cold, dark place? That you went there because of me. That it's supposed to be me down there and not you."

  "As long as you absorb all my memories, I won't suffer. I won't remember being mer or living this life."

  "But I'll suffer!" Tears formed in her eyes, shimmering with every color of the rainbow. "I'll live my whole life loving you and missing you, knowing you have no idea I exist."

  A lump formed in my throat. I stared at her tiny hands, wanting so badly to hold them. "I know. I hate myself for hurting you this way, but I had no other choice."

  "You did! You should've never turned me. I could have lived with the gorgons."

  "I promised your mother. She thought this through, Yara. The gorgons wouldn't have drained you to turn you into one of them. Who knows how painful the transformation would have been? Plus, you would have gone to the grotto with all your human memories and feelings. You would always know what a horrible existence you were sentenced to. I promised her I wouldn't let that happen."

  I couldn't fight it anymore. My hands linked with hers. "I can protect you and open the gate. For fourteen years that's been my mission. I wanted to do this, and I made the right choice. What I didn't know is that we would fall for each other. If I would've known that, I may have done things differently, but I can't change the past. This is the only way it can play out."

  She jumped to her feet, pacing again. "We can run away. It's a huge world, they'll never find us."

  "You're thinking in terms of you and me. This is infinitely bigger than us. So many merfolk have been suffering for the last eighteen years, clinging to hope and believing that you and I will be the key to returning to a world they love."

  "But—"

  "There is no but." I stood up and held her shoulders. "You've seen how beautiful our realm is. Our people have loved ones on the other side. Some of the children born here have never even seen Rathe. Are you willing to let so many people never see their home again just so I can retain my memories?"

  "Y-y-ye—" She struggled to get the word out.

  "No, Yara. The answer is no. Deep down you know that."

  Just then we heard shouting in the distance. Kai waded through the surf.

  "Miss Yara, Mister Treygan," Kai yelled. "We have been searching for you for hours."

  "What's wrong?" I called to her.

  "I do not know, but all messengers were sent to find you. Mister Caspian has ordered you to return to Solis immediately."

  My pulse quickened. Yara must have seen the worry on my face.

  "What do you think it is?" she asked.

  "I'm not sure, but something horrible must have happened for Caspian to give that kind of order."

  "Koraline," she gasped, and ran into the surf.

  I followed, but if my instincts were correct it had nothing to do with Koraline and everything to do with my bastard brother and his slimy selkies.

  I had never seen Paragon Castle above water, but I was grateful to be in human form with normal communication. Jack and Caspian did most of the talking, and if we were underwater I may have missed some parts.

  Indrea glared at me from across the table most of the morning. Her purple eyes unnerved me. I had never spent much time around a Violet. All the other colors I could handle, but Caspian and Indrea gave off a disturbing mind-reader vibe. No one had ever mentioned any merfolk could read minds out of the water, but maybe it was one of their protected secrets.

  For the past two hours I had randomly been thinking outrageous comments to see if Indrea would flinch: Your husband's hair looks like purple cabbage. Yara is a blood guzzler. There's a bomb in this castle!

  There was no bomb, but I figured sh
e couldn't ignore that one. Her brow didn't furrow, her nose didn't twitch. No indication whatsoever that she heard me.

  Jack shifted in his chair. "I don't see why we need to wait around for the two of them to show up."

  Caspian kept his hands folded in front of him. "If your accusations are true, we may need to reevaluate our plan. Nothing seems to be unfolding as we had hoped on our end."

  "That's because your plan was bullshit from the start," Jack grunted.

  Caspian stood up and leaned stiff-armed over the table. Indrea placed her hand on his. I cracked my knuckles, ready to fight on Jack's behalf. After a long staring contest between him and Jack, Caspian sat down.

  "Look," Jack said. "The gate needs to be opened. I don't care if Medusa rises from the dead and chains the girl to the grotto. Me and my people just want to go home. You do have the same goal, right?"

  "Of course," Caspian answered.

  "Then let's not let these love birds screw it up for the rest of us."

  Caspian opened his mouth and I thought we were about to suffer through another speech about Treygan's loyalty, how he would never be so irresponsible, blahdy blah, but footsteps in the hallway caught everyone's attention. Two Indigos entered first, Yara and Treygan followed. The shock on their faces when they saw us sitting at the table with their untouchable Violets was priceless.

  "What's going on here?" Treygan asked.

  "Treygan, Yara, please sit," Caspian ordered.

  Treygan pulled out a chair for Yara. She sat down, but couldn't peel her confused eyes away from me.

  "I prefer to stand," Treygan said.

  "Jack," Caspian began, "would you please tell Treygan and Yara why you are here?"

  Jack kicked his boots up, resting them on the table. "This harebrained plan of yours has always seemed like a surefire failure, but after I saw you two at our party last night, there ain't no way we believe you'll go through with it."

  Treygan stood tall, speaking only to Caspian and Indrea. "We are going through with it."

  Indrea leaned forward. "Jack and Rownan seem to think the two of you," she waved a finger at him and Yara, "are falling in love with each other."

  Yara whipped her head around to look at me. "You have no right to discuss my personal life with anyone!"

  Jack slammed his feet to the floor. "You haven't been part of this long enough to grasp how important you are to our world. We'll discuss you whenever we please, and we'll do whatever it takes to make sure you don't blow our one shot at opening the gate."

  "Enough," Indrea interrupted. "Yara, you know what you have to do on the Triple Eighteen, and you are willing to do it, correct?"

  Yara lowered her eyes.

  "She won't do it," I said. "I know her better than any of you. I've seen how Treygan looks at her. He won't do his part, either."

  Treygan bolted toward me, but Jack jumped up and stopped him. Treygan's gaze stayed locked on mine over Jack's shoulder. "You have no idea what I'm capable of," Treygan snarled through clenched teeth. "How dare you come here and question my loyalty!"

  All we needed was to plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of the Violets. I had never seen Treygan look at any girl the way he looked at Yara. He wouldn't be able to lie about it. "So prove me wrong. Tell us you aren't falling in love with Yara. That you don't care the days are numbered until you have to forget she exists."

  His skin looked like it was bruising right before our eyes. Shades of blue, gray and green swirled around his hallmarks. Sadness, anger and shame all surfacing for the Violets to see.

  "Treygan," Caspian said firmly.

  Scattered clouds of red deepened against Yara's golden skin. I hadn't known her as a mermaid long enough to know what it meant, but I assumed it was sadness.

  Treygan faced Caspian and Indrea. "We will do whatever it takes to open the gate."

  "Good," Jack said. "I'm sure Yara sees our plan is the logical one, now that she's a blood guzzler."

  "What?" Indrea gasped.

  Treygan grabbed the back of Yara's chair. The muscles in his neck and arms rippled. He hadn't told the Violets about Yara's blood-drinking incident. If he hid something that major, what else would they suspect him of keeping from them?

  "Yara drank my blood," I said.

  The stone chair broke into pieces under Treygan's grip. "That's a lie! She did drink selkie blood, but not directly from you."

  "And you kept this information from us?" Caspian asked him accusingly.

  "I explained it to her. I explained the cravings, that she would have to fight them and never drink again. She endured the withdrawal." He sounded desperate and guilty. "Examine her. She has no moon hallmark. The coldness isn't a part of her."

  Yara looked terrified. I wondered if she had ever seen the power of Treygan's temper. Crumbling chairs was child's play for him.

  "That's not the point," Indrea chided. "You kept it hidden from us, along with your feelings for Yara. Pango said he hasn't even had a chance to teach her how to share memories. None of this is very promising to the success of our plan."

  "But I do know how to share memories!" Yara exclaimed.

  "Yara," Treygan said. "Please hush."

  "Why should she hush?" Indrea asked. "Let her speak."

  Treygan and Yara exchanged a glance that said something, but I couldn't tell what. Yara hesitated but then faced Indrea. "Treygan and I have shared memories several times."

  Indrea and Caspian's eyes widened. Treygan dropped his head in his hands. This just kept getting better.

  Caspian walked over to him. "You shared a memory with her? You were her first? Did we not forbid that very thing? That bond is stronger than any other! Do you realize what you have done?"

  Yara stood. "He didn't do anything wrong. I made him teach me. He tried to tell—"

  "Yara, stop," Treygan said. "I apologize, Caspian. She hated our kind. Hated what she had become. Koraline was clinging to life with minimal hope of recovery. Yara needed to understand more about us, and to connect with one of our kind."

  "Yes, but not you!" Caspian roared. "Anyone but you, Treygan. Good oceans and heavens, you've made it impossible for us to believe you two will proceed with our plan."

  "No!" Treygan grabbed Caspian's arm. "We will, I swear it. You know how strong my loyalty is."

  "Your loyalty, yes, but your actions have set up an impossible task for Yara." Caspian glanced at Yara who stood watching nervously. "She couldn't possibly do what will be asked of her."

  Treygan tried speaking softly so no one else would hear. But Jack and I were close enough. "Please, let me explain it to her. I will make her understand. She'll do it."

  Caspian studied him for a moment and turned to Yara. "Are you in love with Treygan?"

  Her eyes darted toward Treygan then back at Caspian. "I prefer not to answer."

  Caspian folded his hands in front of him. "I will ask you one more time, Yara. If you choose not to answer, I will arrange it so this will be the last time you see Treygan. Ever."

  She swallowed hard, panic flashed in her eyes.

  "Are you in love with Treygan?" Caspian asked again.

  Yara bowed her head and closed her eyes. "Yes."

  Jack smacked me on the back. A dull pain surged across my chest, but I didn't understand why. I didn't love Yara. What did I care if she fell for Treygan?

  "Indrea, a word in private." Caspian motioned to the doorway. She rose and they left the room together.

  Treygan stared at Yara. She kept her head down, but Treygan lifted her face.

  "Why is it such a horrible thing for me to love you?" she asked. "Why are they acting like we committed a crime?"

  Jack had the nerve to speak. "Because Treygan is—"

  "Shut up, Jack!" Treygan turned on him with fury burning in his eyes. "Why are you still here? You accomplished your goal. Go back to your filthy bar."

  "Listen, you worthless—"

  I stood between them. "Jack, stop. He's right. We're no longer needed here."
>
  "You were never needed here," Treygan hissed.

  Caspian and Indrea came back into the room with four Indigos. None of them were Delmar, which wasn't a good sign. Treygan knew it too. He stepped in front of Yara, putting his arms out protectively like he could shield her from what was about to happen.

  Caspian stepped forward. "You and Yara will be separated until the morning of the Triple Eighteen."

  "No!" Treygan argued.

  "Yes," Caspian insisted. "Pango will continue her education, and you will stay away from her."

  "You can't do this!" Yara shouted, trying to move around Treygan.

  "We can, Yara, and it must be done. This isn't your fault. Treygan committed careless actions which have serious consequences. We are taking this step to protect you."

  "Treygan protects me! He's my guardian—the one who saved my life. He would never do anything to hurt me."

  Treygan's expression became stony. I couldn't decipher it.

  He slowly turned to look at Yara. He bent his knees so they were eye to eye and cradled her face in his hands. "Yara, listen to me. They're right."

  "No," she whimpered, shaking her head. "You didn't do anything wrong. We shouldn't be apart."

  "We have to be."

  "They can't order us to stay away from each other!"

  "I'm agreeing to it," he said somberly. "I've done too much damage as it is."

  "No!"

  "Enough," Caspian announced. "Treygan, go to my private quarters."

  Treygan ran his thumb down Yara's cheek. "Goodbye, Yamabuki."

  "No!" She clutched his hands.

  It pained even me to watch him pull free of her and walk out. She started to go after him, but two Indigos held her back. She kicked and struggled while shouting Treygan's name.

  I should've been ecstatic. We did what we came to do. But as much as I disagreed with the merfolk's plan, and as sure as I was that Yara had to be sacrificed for our future, I felt sick. Jack wore a satisfied grin.

  "Yara, calm down," Indrea pleaded. "Causing a scene will not help the situation."

 
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