The second novel in the Guardians Trilogy from the bestselling author of Stars of Fortune.
Mermaid Annika is from the sea, and it is there she must return after her quest to find the stars. New to this world, her purity and beauty are nothing less than breathtaking, along with her graceful athleticism, as her five new friends discovered when they retrieved the fire star.
Now, through space and time, traveler Sawyer King has brought the guardians to the island of Capri, where the water star is hidden. And as he watches Annika in her element, he finds himself drawn to her joyful spirit. But Sawyer knows that if he allows her into his heart, no compass could ever guide him back to solid ground...
And in the darkness, their enemy broods. She lost one star to the guardians, but there is still time for blood to be spilled—the mermaid’s in the water and the traveler’s on the land. For she has forged a dangerous new weapon. Something deadly and unpredictable. Something human.
Don't miss the other books in the Guardians Trilogy
Stars of Fortune
Island of Glass
About the Author
Date of Birth:1950
Place of Birth:Silver Spring, Maryland
Read an Excerpt
For an instant, like a single beat of wings, Annika scented the sea, heard the voices lifted in song. Here then gone, a blur within the blur of color and speed, but it swelled in her heart like love.
Then came a sigh, and the echoes of sighs, another kind of music. Bittersweet. And this washed through her like tears.
So with joy and sorrow mated in her heart, she fell. Tumbling, spiraling, spinning in a breathless rush that added a reckless thrill and a quick panic.
A thousand wings beat now, a thousand and a thousand more, with whipping wind, a wall of sound. And color flicked away into the dark as she landed abruptly enough to lose her breath.
For a moment she feared they'd landed in some deep, dark cave where spiders would crawl, and worse, much worse, where Nerezza waited to strike.
Then her vision cleared. She made out shadows, what she knew as moonlight, and felt the firm body beneath hers, the arms wrapped tight around her. She knew that shape, that scent, wanted to snuggle right in, Nerezza or not.
It was a wonder, a star-struck sea of wonder, to feel his heart beat, so fast and strong, against hers.
Then he shifted a little, and one hand slid up, then down her hair. The other skimmed wonderfully over her bottom.
She snuggled right in.
"Um." Both hands came to her shoulders now, but his voice spoke close enough to her heart that his breath tickled it. "Are you okay? Are you hurt? Everybody okay?"
She remembered her friends-not that she'd forgotten them, not ever. But she'd never lain so intimately on a man before-on Sawyer-and she liked it very, very much.
She heard grunts, short groans, some cursing. Doyle's voice, close by and annoyed, clearly said, "Fuck me," which she knew wasn't an invitation to mate, but an oath.
She didn't worry about Doyle. After all, he was an immortal.
"Sound off." That was Bran, somewhere a few feet away. "Did everybody make it? I've got Sasha. Riley?"
"What a ride!"
"One you finished with your knee in my balls," Doyle added.
Annika heard a thump, which she interpreted as Doyle shoving Riley and her knee aside-as balls, she'd learned, weren't just the round toy that bounced, but a man's sensitive area.
"I'm here," she called out, and experimented by wiggling a little on Sawyer's sensitive area. "Did we fall out of the sky?"
"Not far from it." Sawyer cleared his throat and, to Annika's disappointment, shifted again and sat up. "I couldn't slow it down. I've never taken six people this far. I misjudged, I guess."
"We're here, the six of us, and that's first on the list," Bran stated. "Now, are we where we aimed to be?"
"We're inside," Sasha commented. "I can see windows, and moonlight through them. Wherever we are, it's still night."
"Let's hope Sawyer and his time- and space-bending compass got us where and when we want. So let's find out."
Riley pushed to her feet. The scientist-archaeologist. Annika rolled the word in her mind as her people, the merpeople, had nothing to compare. They had no lycans either, she thought, so nothing and no one quite like Riley existed in Annika's world.
Dr. Riley Gwin-tough, compact body, wide-brimmed hat that had somehow stayed on her head-strode to the window.
"I can see water, but not the view from the villa on Corfu-we're higher up. A road, steep, narrow. We've got steps leading down to it. I'm pretty sure this is Capri, and this is the villa. Bull's-eye, Sawyer. Kudos to the traveler and his magic compass."
"I'll take them." He stood, hesitated, then held out a hand to help Annika up. Though her legs were strong and agile, she let him.
"Let me see if I can find the lights," Riley began.
"I can help with that."
Bran, on his feet, an arm around Sasha, held out his hand. The ball of light hovering over his palm illuminated the room.
Seeing her friends lifted her heart as the song had. Sasha, the seer, with her hair like the sun and her eyes of the sky, and Bran, the sorcerer, so handsome with his magick lighting him. And Riley, one hand on the butt of the gun on her hip-at the ready-her dark gold eyes looking everywhere at once as Doyle, a warrior through and through, stood with his sword already drawn.
And Sawyer, always Sawyer, with the compass of the traveler in his hand.
They might be bruised and bloodied from the last battle, but they were safe and together.
"Is this our home now?" she wondered. "It's very pretty."
"Unless Sawyer dropped us at the wrong address, I say this is the new HQ." Though her hand stayed on her gun, Riley moved from the window.
The room had colorful cushions on a long bed-no, Annika reminded herself, a sofa. And chairs and tables with pretty lamps. The floor-they all had reason to know-was hard, with large tiles the color of sun-beaten sand.
Riley moved to one of the lamps, turned the switch and, with the magic of electricity, it lit.
"Let me get my bearings, make sure we're in the right place. We don't want a visit from the polizia."
Riley moved out of the room through a wide, arched opening. In seconds, more light poured through. Sheathing his sword, Doyle moved out after her.
"Here's all our stuff, at least it looks like all of it. And it looks like it had a softer landing than we did."
Annika peeked out. She didn't know what to call the space with its big door facing the sea, and the archways leading to other spaces. But their bags and boxes sat in a pile in the center of it.
And with a muttered curse, Doyle heaved his motorcycle upright.
"I had to drop the stuff first so we didn't end up landing on it," Sawyer said. "Bull's-eye or not, Riley?"
"It fits the description I got," Riley went on. "And the location. There's supposed to be a large living area with glass doors leading to a . . . And here we go."
More lights, and as Riley said, a large room with more of the sofas and chairs and pretty little things. But best, oh, best of all, the wide, wide glass to bring in the sky and sea.
When Annika rushed forward to open the glass, Riley stayed her hand.
"Don't. Not yet. There's an alarm system. I have the code. We need to turn it off before we open this, or anything else."
"Panel's right here," Sawyer told her, and tapped it.
"Give me a sec." Riley dug a piece of paper out of her pocket. "Didn't want to trust my memory in case the trip scrambled my brains."
"Shifting doesn't scramble brains." Grinning, Sawyer knocked his knuckles on Riley's head as she keyed in the code.
"Go ahead and open it, Annika."
When she did, she twirled out onto a wide terrace, where there was night and moon, sea and the scent of it all, all perfumed with lemons and flowers.
"It's beautiful! I've never seen it from so high."
"But you've seen it before?" Sawyer asked her. "Capri?"
"From the sea. And beneath, where there are blue caves and deep water and the bones of ships that sailed long ago. There are flowers!" She reached out to touch the petals of flowers spilling out of hefty pots in bright colors. "I can water and tend them. It can be my job."
"Deal. This is the place." With a satisfied nod, Riley set her hands on her hips. "Kudos again, Sawyer."
"We should check through it in any case." Bran stood at the opening, dark, intense eyes scanning the sky.
Nerezza often came from the sky.
"I'll be adding protection over the more usual alarm system," he continued. "We caused her pain, and harm, so it's unlikely she'll gather herself enough to come at us again tonight, if indeed she can find us. But we'll sleep better with a layer of magick over all."
"Split up." With his sword sheathed, his dark hair tumbled around his hard, handsome face, Doyle nodded agreement. "Go through the place, make certain it's clear and secured."
"Should be two bedrooms down here, four more upstairs, and another common space. It's not big and plush like the villa, and we won't have all that outdoor space."
"Or Apollo," Annika put in.
"Yeah." Riley smiled. "I'm going to miss that dog. But there's room, and it's well located. I'll take the upstairs."
"You just want first call on the bedrooms."
Riley grinned at Sasha, then frowned. "You okay, Sash? You're pale."
"Just a headache. A regular headache," she said when all eyes turned to her. "I don't try to fight the visions anymore. It's just been a very long day."
"And so it has." Bran drew her close to his side, whispered something in her ear that made her smile and nod. "We'll take upstairs as well," he said, and with Sasha, vanished.
"Oh, cheat! No fair using magick!" Riley charged toward the steps and up.
"Three up, so three down to clear this floor. I'd sooner bunk down here," Doyle said with a look around, "closer to the outside access."
"You and me down here then," Sawyer decided-to Annika's disappointment. "Closer to the kitchen and the food. Let's see what we've got."
The two bedrooms stood side by side. Not as big as the ones they'd left behind on Corfu, but with nice beds and pretty views from the windows.
"Works," Doyle stated.
"Works," Sawyer agreed after opening another door to a bathroom with a shower.
The door slid in and out of the wall, delighting Annika so she had to push it in, pull it out a few times before Sawyer grabbed her hand and pulled her away.
They found another room with what Sawyer called a bar, a big television on the wall (she loved television), and a large table where colorful balls stood in a triangle on a green top.
Annika stroked her hand over the top. "It isn't grass."
"Felt," Sawyer told her. "It's a pool table-a game. You play?" he asked Doyle.
"What man who's lived a few centuries hasn't played pool?"
"I've only lived a few decades, but I've played my share. We'll have to have a game."
There was a powder room-though no one powdered anything in them that Annika had seen-and then the kitchen and eating area. She knew immediately Sawyer was pleased.
He wandered through it. A tall, lean body that moved, she thought, as if never hurried. Her fingers wanted to brush through all the dark gold hair the sun had streaked, shaggy and windblown from the traveling. And eyes, gray like the sea in the first silver light of dawn, that made her want to sigh.
"The Italians understand cooking-and eating. This is excellent."
She knew something about cooking now, had even learned to make a few dishes, so she recognized the big stove with its many burners, and the ovens for baking and roasting. A center island held its own sink, which charmed her, and another sink-wider-stood under a window.
Sawyer opened the box that kept things cold-the refrigerator, she remembered. "Already stocked. Riley doesn't miss a trick. Beer?"
"Oh, absolutely," Doyle said.
"I don't like the beer very much. Is there something else?"
"Got your soft drinks, some fruit juice. And wait." He pointed up to a rack holding bottles. "Wine."
"I like the wine."
"Got you covered then." He chose a bottle, passed a beer to Doyle, took one for himself, then wandered to a door. "Pantry, also stocked. We're in business."
He opened drawers until he found the tool to open the wine. Corkscrew-such a funny word.
"I don't know about anybody else, but I'm starved. Shifting that many that far, it hulls you out."
"I could eat," Doyle decided.
"I'm going to throw something together. Riley was right, Sasha looks pale. We'll eat, drink, decompress."
"Have at it then. I'm going to check outside." With his sword still sheathed on his back, Doyle went through another wide glass door.
"I can help you make the food."
"Don't you want to grab up a bedroom?"
"I like to help make the food." With you, most of all, she thought.
"Okay, let's keep it simple. Quick pasta, tossed with butter and herbs. And we've got . . . yeah, we've got tomatoes, mozzarella." He pulled the cheese from the refrigerator, handed her a tomato from the bowl on the counter. "You remember how to slice these up?"
"Yes, I can slice very well."
"You slice them up, then find a plate or tray or platter." He spread his hands to show her size.
He had strong hands, but was gentle with them. Annika thought gentleness was its own kind of strength.
"And you lay them out with the cheese on top of the tomato," he continued, so she knew to pay attention. "Drizzle this olive oil over them." He set a container on the counter.
"Drizzle is like rain, but only a little."
"You got it. Then you're going to take this." He walked over to the windowsill, where some pots sat, and broke off a stem with leaves. "It's basil."
"I remember. It adds flavor."
"Yeah. Chop it up some, sprinkle it over everything, grind a little pepper on there, too, and that's a wrap."
"It's a wrap."
"It's finished," he explained.
"I will wrap it for you."
Pleased, she braided her waist-length black hair back and away. She got to work while he put a pot of water on the stove, poured her wine, drank his beer.
She liked the quiet times with him, and had learned to savor them. There would be more fighting; she knew, accepted. There would be more pain. She would accept that, too. But she had been given a gift. The legs that allowed her to walk out of the sea and onto land, if only for a short time. The friends who were more precious than gold. The purpose that was her legacy and her duty.
And most of all, Sawyer, whom she'd loved before he even knew she existed.
"Do you dream, Sawyer?"
"What?" Distracted, he glanced back at her as he found a colander. "Sure. Sure, most everybody does."
"Do you dream of when we've done our duty, when we have all three stars? When the Stars of Fortune are safe from Nerezza? When there is no more fighting?"
Reading Group Guide
1. Although the Guardians trilogy is set in the modern world, there is a heavy emphasis on mythology throughout. In the ancient world, gods and goddesses provided explanations for how the world worked. How do you think mythology and legend affect our world today, and why have these stories remained so prominent in our culture?
2. Annika, the heroine of Bay of Sighs, is a mermaid in a group that also includes a time traveler, a lycan, a magician, and a seer. What qualities do you think made her a valuable addition to the group? What shortcomings did she need the group’s help to overcome?
3. The first book in the trilogy was set in Cofu, Greece, but with Bay of Sighs the group moves to Capri, Italy. How do you think the new setting reflects the particular challenges, failures, and victories that the group experiences in this novel? If you could set the conclusion to the trilogy anywhere, where would it be?
4. Because Annika grew up around mermaids, with limited contact with humans, she often has trouble understanding or relating to the rest of the group. Have you had similar experiences in your life? How did you overcome or embrace the difference, and how did you learn from it? How do you think Annika’s different perspective is a challenge, and how is it an advantage?
5. Sawyer has the ability to travel through space and time at will. How do you think this has affected his personality and the choices he has made? Do you think it played a part in his acceptance of and attraction to Annika?
6. Nerezza is a truly evil villain. Did she remind you of any other villains in literature, movies, mythology, or popular culture? In what ways is she drawn from history and culture, and in what ways is she unique?
7. Annika and Sawyer eventually fall in love and commit to each other, despite the fact that she will eventually lose her legs and return to mermaid form. If you were Annika and Sawyer, would you sacrifice normality for love? Would you start a relationship knowing you could never have a normal life?
8. By the end of the book, the group has made progress on their quest, but still has a long way to go. What events did you expect from Bay of Sighs before you read it, and what was surprising to you? What do you predict will take place in the final book in the trilogy?