Read an Excerpt
Wild wind blowing, water swirling, pressure building, an untamed torrent assaulting from without and filling the blood within.
Daphne Moore found something fundamentally intoxicating about nature's violent tempests; storms had a way of clearing away toxic debris, cleansing the soul, baring what was important.
And they served as a reminder of why she'd chosen the sea over land nearly ten years ago, why she would permanently confirm that decision in one short week.
Beneath the churning surface of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California, the sea was calm still beautiful.
Leisurely swishing the fish tail that was her body from the waist down forth and back, she glided through the welcoming water, relishing the feel of it against the upper part of her body that was still human, her breasts tingling, her long red hair flowing back from her face as she went.
Land or sea?
When she was presented the choice on the day of her sixteenth birthday by her parents, she hadn't hesitated: the sea. It was here that she belonged; here that she was needed.
The chaos of man interested her not at all.
She eased to a stop, keeping herself stationary with a barely noticeable wave of her long, silvery green tail, watching a school of tuna swim by, a spectacle of movement and glinting silver, the storm raging above having little to do with their forever restless movements.
She smiled and reached out to skim her fingers against the smooth flesh of one of the dolphins that inevitably followed the tuna, on the lookout for the sharks that trailed them.
Down here, everything made sense. There was a natural order she found predictable, comforting, including mermaid rules.
At sixteen, a choice was extended to both children born of committed mermaids and those born of those who had chosen the human route: join us. Live life as a merperson or as a human. It was more of a ritual decision, since the ability to take either form remained.
Until you were twenty-five and asked to make a final choice.
Her mother had chosen life as a human. Daphne intended to choose life as a mermaid. The tuna and dolphins moved on, leaving her momentarily alone. If every now and again she experienced loneliness well, that was between her and the coral reef deep below. She understood it had nothing to do with her love of the sea.
Rather it was love, itself, that posed the problem. Both of the familial and romantic variety.
Sure, there were negative aspects connected to her decision, as there were with any choice. First and foremost, she didn't see her land-loving parents as much as she would have liked. Outside of her not-so-frequent land visits, and their occasional outings to see her on their sailing runs, she rarely saw them. And until they invented a cell phone that operated on something other than electricity well, she couldn't exactly call them at will.
The other ?
Well, there weren't very many of her kind making the same decision she had. Her breed was fast approaching extinction, the lure and luxuries of man proving too great a temptation to most at the tender age of sixteen, when all were asked to choose.
Which meant potential mates were sadly lacking.
And undoubtedly, her restlessness had a lot to do with her recent infatuation with a man who coasted on top of her beloved sea, but never ventured into it.
Daphne looked up toward the shifting surface, at the all too familiar hull of the sailboat some fifty yards to the west, the nearby anchor too far from the bottom to be effective against the storm's violent intentions.
His name was Kieran Morrison, his fifty-foot classic schooner was named Come Sail Away, and he fascinated her unlike any other human male before him.
Swishing her powerful tail, she swam upward, breaking through the surface just as lightning brightened the storm-darkened, early morning sky, bringing everything into electric blue relief. She immediately spotted Kieran, struggling with one of the sails that had lashed loose in the wind, his white T-shirt melded to his powerful torso, his jeans soaked to the core, his dark hair plastered to his forehead, his features pulled into a determined grimace.
He'd never seen her. And he never would. Her interest in him would have to remain one-sided. No matter how strongly she was drawn to him and the shadows that clung to him like his now wet clothes. No matter how much she wanted to smooth back his hair and kiss the deep, sad frown from his lips. No matter how much she longed to feel his magnificent hands on her skin and scales.
Another bolt of lightning lit the sky and she found herself staring straight into his midnight-black eyes. Daphne went still.
The first rule in merpeople relations was that there were no mermaid relations. In order to remain separate and protected, man must never know of their existence. They could never be anything more than a legend told by old sea captains or else suffer the consequences, which included relentless hunting by unique prey-seeking predators far more dangerous than any great white.
Yet in that one moment, Daphne found herself unable to break free from his gaze, every part of her tingling to brilliant, exciting life.
He was spending too much time at sea .
Kieran Morrison knew a moment of gravity as he stood staring out into the waves, sure he'd seen a woman bobbing out there in the thrashing water, looking calm in the midst of the storm.
But that was impossible. The marina manager had warned him not to go out, that to do so would be suicidal, so he hadn't expected anyone else to be out. And he'd seen no other boats. If she'd been tossed from a craft, surely she'd be signaling for help.
His schooner listed dangerously, forcing him to grab the main mast to steady himself. When he looked back out, the vision was gone.
And she had been a vision. All long red hair, huge green eyes, iridescent skin and high, stiff-tipped breasts that teased the water's surface.
Damn, he was losing it.
Of course, if you listened to his mother, he'd lost it long ago. Certainly before he'd married Clarissa Miles five years ago, although much less after their nasty divorce six months ago.
He dragged his hand across his wet hair and wiped the mixture of salt and rain water from his eyes. He was seeing things. It was as simple as that. There had been no woman bobbing in those waves looking at him with large, soulful eyes. He'd merely imagined her. She'd been nothing more than a fantasy conjured up from his sex-starved mind. Something his subconscious mind had created to give him an option more enticing than any he'd find on shore. An escape from money-hungry exes, over-worrying parents, demanding business partners and ceaselessly matchmaking friends.
The sailboat listed again, nearly tossing him overboard.
He, on the other, was very real, indeed. And although he may have vaguely wished for his end over the past few months, ever since he'd traded his hectic life at the successful commercial fishing venture he owned in partnership with his best friend Mike Dunlop for the tranquility of the sea itself, this wasn't exactly how he'd envisioned it.
Trying to steady the runaway boom, he was afraid his realization had come too late.
Damn it all to hell. Was he doomed to run into every wall life had to offer? He'd wanted nothing more than to.
His mind went blank.
That had been the way of things lately. He wasn't sure what he wanted anymore. He only knew that the only thing that brought him peace anymore was being out on his sailboat. And he was lucky to have worked hard over the past decade and was wealthy enough to afford to sail as little or as often as he liked. As far as women went.
Well, they weren't even a part of the landscape. Not after his last experience.
Why, then, was he imagining beautiful women bobbing in the stormy sea?
No, not womena woman.
A singularly phenomenal one who'd been looking back at him as intensely as he'd been looking at her.
Mike was right. He needed to get laid.
Problem was, he couldn't bring himself to talk to a woman long enough to get her number, much less get her back to his place.
He really needed to get his shit together.
The wind and rain whipped at him at once as if in agreement. .reminding him that he had more pressing matters to concern himself with at the moment.
The boom swung out of his grip. His bare feet slid on the deck as the sailboat listed toward starboard. He scrambled to grab on to the mast but it was just beyond his reach. He looked wildly around for something, anything to stop him from going overboard only to find the boom swinging back in his direction. He lifted his hands to stop it. Too late. It hit him clean in the head.
The last thing he saw was waterlots of itbefore sinking below the surface of the sea