Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (25 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
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Galen raises the blade above him.

Jagen closes his eyes. His trembling body suddenly sags, the harpoon the only thing holding his chin up.

The knife comes down, swift and sure and angry. With decisive, fluid movements, the human belt is off Jagen’s waist, and tied around his wrists. The blade clinks to the floor with finality. If only it really were over. “If Toraf dies,” Galen growls, cinching the belt to a painful tight, “I swear I’ll drag your body to the Tomb Chamber myself.”

Jagen nearly crumbles with relief.
He doesn’t deserve relief. He deserves to be afraid. He deserves to pay for all the pain he’s caused me and my family.
Galen is startled from his fury by Grom’s pulse. His brother is on the other side of the room, helping Woden untie Musa from some netting. In all truthfulness, Galen had forgotten about her. He’d been so focused on Jagen and Toraf that—

“Toraf,” Galen blurts.

Grom nods. “He’ll be fine. Rayna is tending to him. Nalia said his organs weren’t hit, but he’s in and out of consciousness because he’s lost a lot of blood. He’s in good spirits.”

Of course he is. He’s probably in a state of glee right now, hoarding all of Rayna’s attention to himself.
Galen almost cracks a grin, but something about Grom’s expression is not right. Securing the building is not the job of a Triton king. There are plenty of Trackers and hunters who can just as easily—and with less risk—help Musa from her bindings.
Why is Grom here?

Galen swallows the bile as Woden tugs Jagen from his grasp. “Emma? Is she—”

Grom tucks his hands behind his back. “Emma is uninjured, Galen.” The delicate way he swims toward Galen. As if Galen is a bubble and Grom is a lionfish. The way his mouth pulls down, as if fishing weights were hooked to each corner, tugging his mouth into a grimace. The tortured way his eyes search Galen’s. As if he’s asking Galen to say the words so that he doesn’t have to.

“Tell me,” Galen says, breathless.

Grom clasps Galen on the shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze. “I’m so sorry, Galen. We didn’t realize they brought her back to the island. We thought she was safe on the boat.”

“No,” Galen whispers, backing away from the stricken Triton king. “No.”

“We found her a few buildings over. The humans locked her in a room with bars. She couldn’t…”

Galen clenches his teeth. “Not Rachel. Not Rachel.” The room seems to cave in on him, or at least that’s how it feels.
No, not the room. Not this insignificant room with its fragile, exhausted frame. The whole world. The whole world, with its life cycles and seasons and tides, is caving in. The whole world is pressing in on me. All of it. On my chest. So heavy.

“The boat was headed in the opposite direction.
Away
from the island. I saw it myself.”

Grom sighs. “It must have returned during all the confusion. Maybe they came back to help and didn’t know what to do with her?”

Galen nods, closing his eyes. He will probably never have the answer. He will never know how Rachel came to be imprisoned on the island while he and his sister flooded it. While he and his sister sent wave after wave to drown her.

He shoves his fist in his mouth and screams into it. Then he screams again. And again. Grom keeps his distance, his hands laced together in front of him, useless in so many ways. Galen stops, holds his own hands in front of them. He examines them, scrutinizes them.
It’s not fair that I call Grom’s hands useless when these hands did nothing to save Rachel. They couldn’t even prevent Toraf from getting hurt. Or Emma.

“Don’t do that, little brother. Don’t blame yourself.”

Galen’s laugh is sharp, bitter. “Did I ever tell you how we met?”

Grom shakes his head almost indiscernibly.

“I saved her,” Galen says, nearly choking on the words. “From drowning. Ironic, isn’t it?”

“Calling it ironic is like saying she was always meant to drown. Don’t read too much into it, Galen. Be kind to yourself.”

“What does that even mean, Grom? Do you even know? What, I should try not to think about her if the memory is too painful? Is that how you survived all these years without Nalia?” As soon as he says the words he wants to snatch them back, to hide them back in his heart, in his serrated heart where vicious things like that shouldn’t even exist. “I’m sorry, Grom. I—”

“Take a moment to compose yourself. We’ll be waiting at the surface for you.” Grom slinks toward the door, but pauses at the threshold. He turns back to his brother. “I am very sorry, little brother.”

Galen watches as Grom propels himself out of the room. He’s not sure if it was his words or his actions that took the vitality out of the normally confident stroke of Grom’s fin. Probably both.

Galen closes his eyes.
How much more can I take?

23

I KNOW
the expression on Galen’s face. Not because I’ve ever seen it before on him, but because I’ve had the same look. The same feelings lurking behind the expression.

First, your mind is blown. You can’t accept that this person who was just with you at breakfast is now dead. She is floating in his arms, and he is gently stroking her cheek as if somehow her eyes will flutter open. Sometimes the waves nudge her head, so it looks like she moved. But she didn’t.

Soon, the memories of her will flood him. Their normal daily routine, the way she laughed, her favorite food. After Chloe died, I remembered the way Chloe would spritz her perfume into the air three good times then walk into the mist. Simple, everyday things that made them the person they were in your eyes. Even now, I remember the expert way Rachel cooked in high heels.

Then, with all the memories comes the guilt. You remember all the opportunities you had—and missed—to show them you loved them. Did they know? Did they
really
know how much I cared about them? I berated myself all the time when Dad died. I could have been so much nicer. I could have helped him more with little things. Like wash his car without complaining for once. When he left his coffee cup in the sink, would it have killed me to just wash it and put it away? I could have listened better when he talked about his childhood. Told him “I love you” without him having to tell me first.

This, the guilt, will be the hardest part for Galen. He already takes responsibility for so much that isn’t his fault. He will somehow blame himself for Rachel’s death. He will fall into a spiral of remorse, into a self-made pit of regret.

And I silently promise him to catch him when he does.

The Trackers around us work in respectful silence, gathering the human survivors together in boats, ready to send them on their way to the next island. The original plan was to swim them over, but since a few of the boats could be salvaged, it was decided that it would be best to let them go alone. After all, they have a fantastic story to tell, and chauffeuring them along would only lend credibility to it.

When boats take off, Grom motions for everyone to submerge. We follow quietly and gather around him at the bottom of the ocean. Only Galen remains at the surface. And Rachel.

“This area is off limits to our kind,” Grom says. “Humans have seen us here, and their stories will spread to more humans. Some will believe them, some will not. Those that do might come to investigate. We will not give them anything to find here.”

His command is met with solemn nods. “You must also realize,” he continues, “that it is only a matter of time now before this happens again. Maybe not in our generation, maybe not in the next. But the time is coming when humans will find us. We all must think about what this means for us individually, but most importantly, for our kind. Go home now to your families. Tell them what has happened. Talk with them about what might.”

The crowd of Trackers and other volunteers disperses and we are left alone with one another and our thoughts.

Mom wraps her arms around me, careful to avoid my wound. “How are you holding up?” she whispers. I shrug. There is truth in a shrug. The truth is that there is no answer.

“Me, too,” Mom says. “Me, too.”

“I think Toraf should come to Galen’s house to recover,” Rayna says to Grom. There is no fight left in her. Just words and feelings. “I think we should ask Dr. Milligan to come look at him.”

Grom nods. He is not in the mood for conflict, either. “I think you’re right, little sister.” He motions to the Trackers who hold an unconscious Toraf in their arms. “Take Princess Rayna and her mate wherever she bids you.” He turns to his sister and presses a quick kiss to her forehead. “Send word if you need anything from me.”

Mom had wrapped Toraf’s side with seaweed to stave off the bleeding, but a small red stain is starting to soak through. He had a close call and we all know it. Just because his organs were spared doesn’t mean his muscles will heal correctly. I hadn’t thought of calling Dr. Milligan. I’m glad Rayna did. Besides, Dr. Milligan will want to be updated on all the latest events. And we have to tell him about Rachel.

Rayna throws her arms around Grom in a fierce, short hug. “I will. I really will.”

This chokes me up a bit. Even Mom appreciates the obvious upgrade in their relationship—and she doesn’t even like Rayna. She gives my shoulder another squeeze. I pat her hand and lean into her. We’ve all been through so much. But we’ve been through it together. Even Grom and Rayna are grateful for each other today.

When Rayna and the Trackers leave, Grom glances topside. Then he lets his gaze settle on me. “Young Emma.” It doesn’t sound condescending at all, the way he says it. Just wistful. “The twins will need you now. More than they realize.” He eases closer to me, pensive. “It was difficult for them when we lost our mother. Losing Rachel is … They suffered a great loss today.”

I draw in a breath. If we weren’t underwater, tears would be spilling down my cheeks instead of getting sopped up by the gentle current. I wonder how many tears the ocean has swallowed, how much of the ocean is actually made of tears.

“Grom, I hate to ask something like this, but what will we do with her body?” Mom says.

“What do humans normally do with their dead?”

“They bury them on land, or burn them. But the humans have rules and restrictions on that sort of thing. And Rachel wasn’t exactly … Rachel has a complicated past. A past that makes it impossible to properly bury her.”

I can tell this has already been weighing on Grom’s mind. Is this the sort of thing adults think about when someone dies, to take care of these matters first and grieve later? A look of understanding passes between Grom and my mom. “I’ll talk to the council about the Tomb Chamber,” he says. “I hardly think they’ll put up much of a resistance after today.”

“I would like that,” Galen says from behind his brother. I swim to him and he meets me halfway. His big arms encircle me. It’s not a bear hug, or a sensual touch. It feels like Galen is clinging to me for dear life. Like he is caught in a riptide and I am his anchor.

“I’m so sorry,” I whisper into his neck. The words almost lodge in my throat. He clutches me to him tighter, and rests his chin on the top of my hair.

“Woden has her,” he tells Grom. “Until we decide what’s best.”

Grom doesn’t answer. In fact, after a few minutes, I sense the pulses of Mom and Grom moving away from us. After several more minutes, I can’t sense them at all. The only pulse I feel is Galen’s. It drums against me, through me, around me.

Things will change without Rachel. Life will not run as smoothly. But this will not change. The way we fit together. The way we know each other.

Epilogue

“YOU’RE SURE
you want to do this,” Galen says, eyeing me like I’ve grown a tiara of snakes on my head.

“Absolutely.” I unstrap the four-hundred-dollar silver heels and spike them into the sand. When he starts unraveling his tie, I throw out my hand. “No! Leave it. Leave everything on.”

Galen frowns. “Rachel would kill us both. In our sleep. She would torture us first.”

“This is our prom night. Rachel would want us to enjoy ourselves.” I pull the thousand-or-so bobby pins from my hair and toss them in the sand. Really, both of us are right. She
would
want us to be happy. But she would also want us to stay in our designer clothes.

Leaning over, I shake my head like a wet dog, dispelling the magic of hairspray. Tossing my hair back, I look at Galen.

His crooked smile almost melts me where I stand. I’m just glad to see a smile on his face at all. The last six months have been rough. “Your mother will want pictures,” he tells me.

“And what will she do with pictures? There aren’t exactly picture frames in the Royal Caverns.” Mom’s decision to mate with Grom and live as his queen didn’t surprise me. After all, I am eighteen years old, an adult, and can take care of myself. Besides, she’s just a swim away.

“She keeps picture frames at her house though. She could still enjoy them while she and Grom come to shore to—”

“Okay, ew. Don’t say it. That’s where I draw the line.”

Galen laughs and takes off his shoes. I forget all about Mom and Grom. Galen, barefoot in the sand, wearing an Armani tux. What more could a girl ask for?

“Don’t look at me like that, angelfish,” he says, his voice husky. “Disappointing your grandfather is the last thing I want to do.”

My stomach cartwheels. Swallowing doesn’t help. “I can’t admire you, even from afar?” I can’t quite squeeze enough innocence in there to make it believable, to make it sound like I wasn’t thinking the same thing he was.

Clearing his throat, he nods. “Let’s get on with this.” He closes the distance between us, making foot-size potholes with his stride. Grabbing my hand, he pulls me to the water. At the edge of the wet sand, just out of reach of the most ambitious wave, we stop.

“You’re sure?” he says again.

“More than sure,” I tell him, giddiness swimming through my veins like a sneaking eel. Images of the conference center downtown spring up in my mind. Red and white balloons, streamers, a loud, cheesy DJ yelling over the starting chorus of the next song. Kids grinding against one another on the dance floor to lure the chaperones’ attention away from a punch bowl just waiting to be spiked. Dresses spilling over with skin, matching corsages, awkward gaits due to six-inch heels. The prom Chloe and I dreamed of.

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
5.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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