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When Sid was twenty-two, a summer storm took her. The morning began as perfection. Four strangers joined up to charter a day’s sail, their northern skin tinged red at the start of their vacation. The burning blue sky held fluffy, tabletop clouds. They sailed above idyllic, cerulean waves, a shade only the tropics could produce. It all disappeared in approximately ten minutes. A grey wall rose from the horizon, sucked the colour from the sky, the heat from the air, and blocked out the sun. She knew fear when the storm came so fast. She knew terror as they worked to take the boat back to the resort. Radioing in their distress, the four were silent and tense while they motored as fast as they could in the twenty-foot swells. She knew she was going to die when she washed overboard, and the cleat she’d tied her safety line to snapped off. Her life preserver hardly mattered as she was battered wildly in the black water. None of that morning’s August heat was left. Breathing was a challenge between the cold and the spray. Everyone knew the ocean could be a real bitch. But even with her lifetime of experience, Sid was shocked at how quickly and completely the grand dame had turned today. As horrible as it was, she never quit struggling to stay on the surface, to grab a breath. Her brain was shouting, You’re done. You’re dead. But her arms fought the waves, her feet fought to move through the paralyzing cold, her eyes struggled to find the boat’s running lights. Then the noise, the awful howling wind and ripping water, simply shut off. And in the silence, she knew peace. There was no pretty light or angelic voices. Just silence and the cold that took her panic, and the slap of the spray. Every bitter wash of icy salt ordered her, commanded her. Stay awake. Stay alive. Breathe. Don’t give up. Wait. All she could hear was her desperately gasping breath, angry and harsh . That’s when the merman came to her. Her beautiful miracle. Strong arms rose up behind her and surrounded her. She knew at once he wasn’t from the ship. He was too big and muscular to be any of the people she’d left the marina with. Plus he was nude. And warm. Through her Gore-tex raincoat and pants, she could feel his heat. It was unbelievably stunning, if not very comfortable. Her skin burned and pricked at the difference. Efficiently, he peeled off the yellow life vest and dragged her under. Sid laughed. The violence above was present only in the surging pull and push of water pressure on her body, and that passed too as he sank lower. The nude man moved through the water with a bubble of air around his face, peeling her clothes off as he undulated with a dolphin fluke that came out of his spine, a dorsal fin where his ass should be. He was almost twice as long as she. He slowed the most to undo her shoes, spiralling around her like a snake. Then he was back to flicking his tail steadily, his hands busily removing t-shirt, bra, as he pulled her along. She didn’t resist in the slightest. Her clothes were foreign entities only hindering her movement in this realm. They floated away in the darkness behind them, like petals peeled from a flower. Yes. This was perfect. This was destiny. He was hers. Of course, he’d come for her. Yes. He was strong and safe and magical. Everything about his presence made her pulse the word yes. She finally noticed she also had a bubble of air. While he worked her pants off, Sid played with putting her hands in and out of the face mask of air. It conformed perfectly to her hairline, scooping to include her ears, where it then jumped to her jaw. She could put her wet hands on her face, breathe on her cupped fingers, then pull them out and watch the silver line of the water’s skin move up and down her hands. She liked it when just her fingertips were stuck through, little raisin-puckered nubs, glowing in the dimness. The storm was so dark, with occasional flashes of lightning turning the water bright. Her skin was very tan. Much darker than his ghostly grey. He came up along her back, so hot, so hard, and his arm floated easily under hers and claimed her. She stared at the hand splayed wide on her upper chest. Yes. It was webbed, with short, conical talons instead of square nails. His skin was dark grey, although the long, muscled twelve pack she could glimpse on his belly was a lighter grey. She put her hand on his. Her tummy somersaulted at the energy that flashed between them. The skin was thick, almost like a calloused palm would feel. It was not the sandpaper of a dolphin’s skin, or the one-way suede of a shark. It was like leather. Smooth but tough. Not particularly soft, but interesting.