Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.28Karen Amanda Hooper
She shivered and I pulled back, still scared I might hurt her, but she smiled and drew me back to her. She ran her fingers gently over my eyes, then down my cheek, muttering something about a constellation. She whispered, "Kiss me again."
When our lips met there was nothing soft about it. We devoured each other. The simple act of our breath and tongues tangling together was more incredible than anything I had ever felt. I lifted her up and she wrapped her legs around me. Even as we splashed into the water, I couldn't stop kissing her.
For over a decade I had planned on the Triple Eighteen being the end of me. Instead, it was a new chapter in a story of endless possibilities. I silently thanked Medusa and Poseidon for giving me a feisty, beautiful, loving and stubborn mermonster to swim beside me for the rest of my very long life.
The thin lines of moss above Stheno's eyes narrowed as I finished proposing my idea.
Even in the dim glow of the fire-lit grotto, I could see the disapproval on Euryale's leathery face. For a long time the only sound was the dripping of stalactites. The sisters took forever to think about everything. I had learned to be quiet and wait patiently for one of them to answer, otherwise it just turned into another argument.
We heard the call of the sirens and Euryale's fangs slid over her lip. The pictures in the history books had it wrong. Their fangs came out of their bottom teeth, and they were jagged, not smooth.
"Well," I said. "Sounds like your breakfast has arrived. We will discuss this later."
The water of the cave pool stirred. I stood at the edge, waiting for Mariza and Otabia to appear. The black and brown birds burst through the surface, shaking the water from their wings. Then they each morphed into their siren forms.
"Yara," Otabia nodded, slicking the water off her arms.
"Good morning, Otabia."
Mariza wiped blood from her chocolate lips with the back of her hand. I prepared to dive into the water, but paused. "Mariza, you didn't kill anyone last night, did you?"
"Only Stheno gets to know that answer," she cackled, crouching in front of the gorgon.
Otabia made her sickening, gagging sounds that meant she was about to regurgitate. I shook my head, transformed into bird form and dove into the pool. Twisting and turning through the narrow, water-filled tunnels of the grotto, I thought about my mother. She had lived this life. She had traveled these caves and flew around this realm. I never thought we had much in common. Turns out we were more alike than I could have ever imagined.
Daylight appeared at the small opening ahead and I shot through it, transforming into monster form in midair. Nixie sat atop the highest rock of the grotto. I flew over to her and sat beside her, both of our legs dangling over the side.
"I hate that your wings are bigger and prettier than mine," she snapped.
I retracted them. The puff of wind sent our hair whooshing over our faces. My snake disappeared too, which meant I wouldn't be able to think as clearly, but visits with Nixie didn't require excessive brainpower. "There, I'm back to normal. You have no competition."
She snickered, but seemed sad. "You are far from normal."
"What's wrong? You haven't been yourself the past couple days."
She glanced at me then stared down at the oceans below us. "I think she's gone."
Nixie hadn't mentioned my mother since she carried me to the gateway on the Triple Eighteen. I hadn't stopped thinking about her, but I didn't realize Nixie thought about her too.
"She is gone," I said. "I saw her cross over into the Eternal Falls."
Nixie's wings drooped, resting on the ground behind us. "That means she'll never come back. She doesn't need me anymore."
I turned to fully face her. "You said she bossed you around and made you do things you didn't want to do. I figured you would be happy to be free of her."
She picked at her red nails as if actual polish would come off. "I know, but now I feel sort of lost, like I serve no purpose. I don't even get to regurgitate memories like Otabia and Mariza because you refuse to drink blood."
I tried not to laugh. "Is that what you want? To spend your life throwing up stolen human memories for me?"
She shrugged. "At least it would give me something to do."
"Nix, you're still my siren, assigned to help me. We have some major changes in the works. When the time comes, I'm going to need your help and your abilities. I can't do it alone."
Her eyes twinkled. "You promise?"
"Yes, I promise."
She gently swung her knee-high boots against the rock wall below us. "It's hard losing her twice, isn't it?"
"Your mother," she said. "It mangled my heart when she died the first time, but then her spirit stayed for all those years. Now, it's like she died all over again. I miss her."
"It was different this time. She looked peaceful and happy crossing through the waterfall. It wasn't anything like finding her lifeless in bed."
"I agree. That was awful."
My head snapped up. "How do you know it was awful?"
"I was there. She knew death was coming, so she called to me and I held her while she died."
"No, she was alone in her bedroom. You weren't there."
Nixie smiled. "I disguised myself as the wind so you wouldn't see me. You were sitting on the porch swing. I flew right past you."
I grabbed Nixie's arm, my mouth hanging open. "You were the pretty pink wind?"
She nodded and flexed her lean muscles. "Who do you think helped you get her into the boat?"
My eyes bugged so wide I thought my brows would fly off my forehead. "Why did you let me put her in that boat? You must have known it would sink."
"We—my sisters and I—vowed not to show ourselves to you until you were eighteen. Your mother explained what you were doing." She twirled her ruby hair around her finger. "It was cute that you thought you were taking her to be with your father. Your mother liked the idea of her body disappearing into the ocean. She would have preferred evaporating into the sky, but that wasn't possible, was it?"
It all clicked into place as Nixie talked. "That night, were you the one who told Treygan where I was? That's how he knew I was drowning?"
"Guilty. Well, your mother made me tell him. She chose him as your guardian because he was the fastest of all merfolk. And good thing, because even he barely made it to you in time."
"How could I have been so clueless about everything?"
"Your mother was an expert at keeping secrets."
"No kidding," I grunted. "My whole life it was a secret that she cared about me at all."
Nixie took my hands in hers. Her talons dug into my skin. "She sucked at being human. She hated it. Imagine knowing what you know now about our existence, then returning to a human life. No powers, no flying, no sharing your soul with someone. Then imagine your soul mate dying."
My heart skipped a beat and I choked on my breath.
"Exactly," Nixie said. "Your mother was devastated when Vyron died. She blamed herself for everything: for making a deal with the gorgons so they could be human, promising you to that dark life in the grotto, making Vyron and herself so sick that it killed him and would eventually kill her and Lloyd. She hated herself and what she'd become."
"She hated me too. Otabia let me feel that for myself."
"Oh, Yara. Don't be a dimwit. If you had held on a little longer you would have seen that it was your mother who asked Lloyd to help them protect you. Your father agreed, of course. He loved you just as much as she did, but your mother asked for the spell to be cast. It was her idea to run away and protect you. Then more tragedy followed. The gate closing, Lloyd's kidneys shutting down, and Vyron dying in that fire. She couldn't take anymore. She thought she was doomed. She believed any action she took would make things worse."
"But she wished I was never born."
"She wished that because she never thought she would love you as
"Until what?" I prodded.
"Until she died and found out she could be your angel. Watch you live your life, help keep you safe, and make sure everything turned out okay. She and Liora were a team."
"You know about Liora?"
"Cleo told me years ago. Lloyd even hung their portraits side by side in his house."
The angel wall panel. I could picture the white-washed wings clearly. I always thought she resembled my mother. But in my memories my mother was sick, skinny, with sunken eyes and hating life. The angel looked healthy, strong, bright-eyed and joyful—just like she did after she crossed through the falls. "My mother is the angel wood portrait."
Nixie smiled and poked the wings hallmark on my back. "The siren portrait, but yes, angel is also appropriate."
My mother did love me. So did my father, Lloyd and Treygan. Even a twisted, sultry siren helped keep me safe. I had a whole secret team of supernatural creatures looking out for my wellbeing and I never knew it. At least, not that I could fully remember.
"She really loved me," I whispered.
Nixie put her arm around me and kissed my cheek. "She had to choose between giving herself the life she dreamed of, or giving you the life of your dreams. She chose you, Yara."
Tears streamed down my face. Happy tears. Through their rainbow blur I saw a streak of midnight blue in the water below. Treygan popped through the surface, smiling up at us. I waved, kissed Nixie's forehead, and stood up.
"You're coming to the celebration, right?" I asked.
She stood and put one hand on her hip. "It's the first time all the sea creatures have partied together in almost two decades. I wouldn't miss it."
Nixie spread her wings and flew off the cliff while I did a swan dive into the ocean and swam to Treygan.
"You ready?" he asked, giving me a long and passionate kiss before I could answer.
"Yes," I finally managed.
"I can't believe Lloyd agreed to throw the party at his place."
I laughed and ran my fingers through Treygan's nearly-black hair. "He wanted to celebrate his son reaching Indigo status."
"I could have been an Indigo a long time ago."
"I know, but you stayed a Blue to protect me."
He smiled his sexy, cocky grin. "That's right, so don't forget it."
We kissed again then I tugged his arm. "Come on, I can't wait to see everyone, especially Koraline and Rownan. And you better not ignore me like you did at the last party."
Treygan wrapped his arms around my waist. "Nothing and no one could ever separate us now."
When we swam through the gateway I expected to see others on their way to the party, but the Catacombs were empty. They weren't even catacombs anymore. All of the tombs had been taken back to Rathe and given to the family members of the lost souls. Only sand remained, and the remnants of forgotten plants.
Where is everyone, I asked Treygan.
The party started at sunrise. As Pango says, we're fashionably late.
We were nearing Eden's Hammock when Treygan dipped under me and swam backward facing me.
I laughed. What are you doing?
Between those words and that look he had in his eyes, I melted.
He pulled me on top of him and we floated upward, locked in a kiss. When his lips traveled down to my neck I lost control of all rational thought. I pulled his hair, moaning and making little sighs of pleasure. We broke through the surface just as his tongue grazed the ridge of my ear.
"I love you, Yamabuki," he whispered.
Fire spread through every part of me. My fingers raked down his chest and he gasped. He tried pulling away, which only made me want him more, so I dug in tighter and kissed him again.
"Claws," he grunted as I sucked on his bottom lip.
I let go and looked at my hands, shocked to see deadly, pearly claws. "Oh, my gosh! I'm so sorry."
I had reopened his wounds from Rownan's attack, but Treygan shrugged it off.
"Guess I know what your selkie trait is," he chuckled.
I instantly changed into human form.
"Oh, wow." He beamed.
"You're back to being a brunette."
"Yes!" I threw my head back, grinning triumphantly. "I hoped that would happen. I didn't look right as a blonde."
"Does this mean you'll never be a Green, or any of the other ranks?"
"I'm a White. Medusa said that will never change."
Treygan's hair and tail were darker because of his new Indigo rank, but thankfully his eyes remained the same cobalt blue I loved staring into. "Treygan, no matter what rank we are, or how we might change, will you promise me something?"
"If I can."
"You'll always be my guardian?"
He smiled, pulling me close again. "We'll guard each other."
"I like the sound of that." I snaked my body against his, leaning in for another kiss.
He shot me a questioning glance. "Careful, human skin is much more sensitive." He looked me up and down with more love in his eyes than I had ever seen, and more lust than any siren had ever shown.
I nibbled his ear and breathed heavily. "We've earned the right to lose control." He changed into human form, kissing my neck between his words. "We're going to be really late."
"They're good at waiting," I said breathlessly. "They had eighteen years of practice."
We bobbed in the water, two bodies and souls tangled up as one.
Delmar had told Treygan the truth. There was no better feeling than being in love. And I could now attest to Koraline's motto firsthand. We should love until it kills us, because there truly is nothing better worth dying for.
Karen Amanda Hooper
Born and bred in Baltimore, Karen has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. In high school she discovered her passion for putting her thoughts onto paper, but it wasn’t until her late twenties that she wrote her first novel. Due to her Disney upbringing, she still believes in fairytales and will forever sprinkle magic throughout all of her novels.
Karen is currently sunning and splashing around Florida with her two adorable dogs.
To learn more about Karen and her writing, visit her website at www.KarenAmandaHooper.com. You can also find her at www.YAconfidential.blogspot.com where she has teamed up with a stellar group of Young Adult authors and created a teen-focused blog for writers and readers.
Karen Amanda Hooper, Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs)
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