Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (3 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
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All I can really count on right now is that someone I love is lying to me and there’s only one way to find out who it is: get them face-to-face.

I know for a fact that if Galen went through all this trouble in seducing me to get to my mother, he will certainly send his hound dog, Rachel, to sniff us out. Galen will come for us, I’m certain of it. And when he does, he’ll either bring Grom with him like he claims, or he’ll bring the Syrena party to arrest my mom.

If I let it slip to Mom that he’ll give chase, she’ll keep on fleeing. She thinks she’s in danger and she thinks I’m in danger. She won’t ever stop. And somehow, I’ve got to find a way to bring them together and keep us safe at the same time.

Life just got sucky.

Real tears well in my eyes, but not the kind Mom is hoping for. She nods, misled sympathy etched into her features. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I know you really cared about him.”

I nod, too, and force the next words out of my mouth. Words that may or may not be true. “I’ve been so stupid, Mom. I believed everything he said. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

Mom gets up from the chair and sits next to me on the bed, pulling me to her with one arm. “Sweetie, you don’t have anything to apologize for. It was your first taste of love, and Galen took advantage of you. I’d like to say that’s only a Syrena trait, but it could have happened with any human boy, too. I’m here for you. We’ve got to stick together, you and me.”

The sincerity in her voice makes me feel as big as a thimble. Not only is she hurting for herself, and reliving Grom’s loss, but she’s hurting for me, and what she perceives as my loss of Galen. Whether it really is my loss of Galen remains to be seen, but I let her hold me anyway because I’m not brave enough to look into her eyes. Finally, she says, “I’m going to take a shower and wash the travel off me. Then we’ll see about dinner, and make a game plan together. Sound good?”

I nod and she squeezes my shoulder. She smiles the “mother smile” before she goes into the bathroom. When I hear the shower curtain close, I pick up the phone.

Galen’s wary voice answers. “Hello?”

“Hi,” I tell him, just as wary. In the background I hear a muffled hum and wonder where he is.

He breathes a sigh into the phone. “Emma.” The way he says my name hurts me and excites me at the same time. Hurts, because what if Mom’s right, and he’s using me? Excites, because what if she’s wrong, and he really does care about me enough to sound like my calling him completed his life? “What happened?” he says.

Before I can answer, I hear Rayna in the background. “I already told you what happened. Her mother is crazy as a caught fish.”

I snicker, but then peek at the bathroom in guilt. Lowering my voice, I say, “Yeah, pretty much. We’re at a hotel in…”

I fumble through the nightstand drawer as quietly as I can, looking for the usual motel stationery. Picking up the notepad, I tell him, “I’m in Uptown. At the Budget Motel.”

“I know,” he says. “Rachel tracked you down by your mom’s credit card. We’re on our way.” Of course Rachel found us. Being an ex-mobster makes you a Swiss Army knife of Skills People Shouldn’t Know. I just didn’t realize she would do it this fast. I won’t underestimate her again.

It sounds like Galen covers the phone with his hand. I hear something clink in the bathroom and I shove the notepad back in the drawer. “I don’t have a lot of time,” I whisper into the phone. “Mom’s in the shower, but she’ll be out soon.” I realize Mom takes short showers, not because she’s a busy ER nurse who’s eternally on call, but because, like me, she can’t enjoy the luxury of hot water. Her Syrena skin is too thick to feel the heat. For her—and for me now—showering is just a matter of hygiene. There is no lingering for enjoyment anymore.

“Galen,” I blurt. “Mom thinks Grom is dead. She thinks you’re going to arrest her for his murder.” I’d meant to keep that a secret until I could see his reaction in person, but the bigger part of me couldn’t keep it in. Now I’ve given him a chance to come up with a good story and make it sound believable. You know, if he’s not already telling the truth.

Silence. Then, “Emma, Grom is sitting next to me. He’s not dead. Why would she think that?” There’s a weirdness to his voice though. Something feels off. Or does it? Am I being hyper-paranoid?

“I don’t have time to explain. I think she just turned the shower off.”

“Do you think she’d believe it if she talked to him on the phone?”

I think about that for a second. It’s possible we could end this madness right now. Put Grom on the phone and have him chitchat with her until she’s satisfied it’s him. But Mom’s so adamant that Galen can’t be trusted that she’d probably just write it off as a trick. Then she’d know that I called Galen, and she wouldn’t trust me anymore, either. And she’d know Galen has a way of tracking us. The best way is to bring Grom to her in the flesh—if Grom really is alive.

It hurts to have to think in that context. That Galen could be lying and tricking me as well. Which is why physical proof—a walking blob of Grom DNA—is needed. “She won’t believe it’s him. You have to bring him to us.”

He lets out a gust of air into the phone. “Emma, listen to me,” he says, and stupidly, I press the phone tighter to my ear. “I need you to stall your mom. We’re about two hours away from you. Don’t let her take off again.”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, it was stupid of me to let her drug me that last time. Really should have seen that one coming.”

I can almost hear Galen grin. “Be good, angelfish. We’ll be there soon.”

I hang up the phone and stare at it for a couple of seconds, at the dirt crusted around each number. This phone, this decaying hotel room, has probably seen a lot of things in its time. But I doubt it’s heard a conversation like that. A conversation in which a fish prince is trying to hunt down a dead fish princess and her half-human daughter using the stealth of an ex-mobster.

“I’d hoped we could trust each other, sweetie.”

I startle at Mom, who’s standing by the bathroom door, arms crossed. Fully dressed. Fully dry. The shower is still going full blast. She must have heard everything. “You don’t know for sure he’s lying,” I tell her, trying not to visibly gulp.

“Pack up. We’re leaving.”

“Grom’s in the car with Galen.” I pick up the phone again and point the earpiece at her. “You could talk to him if you don’t believe me.”

She walks over to me and takes the phone. She stares at it long enough for the receiver to start an impatient out-of-order buzz. She slams it down on the receiver. “It’s just a trick, Emma. Pack up.”

“I’m not going.”

“Oh, but you are.”

It’s the first time I realize my mom could probably take me in a tussle. She’s full-blooded Syrena. Her bones are harder, her skin ticker, her build more muscular. She fought off Galen and Toraf. Plus, there’s this look in her eye right now. A survival-instinct kind of look. A make-the-hard-choice kind of look. And she’s already proven to what lengths she’ll go to keep me “safe.”

It’s a weird feeling to size up your mom like this. I decide it’s so weird, so unnatural, that I don’t give it any more thought. So I can’t stall my mom here. The opportunity will present itself again, I’m sure. Some how, some way, I will put her face-to-face with Galen again. And I will find out the truth. I stand. “They’ll find us, you know.”

“We’ll see about that.”

4

GALEN PEERS
into the rearview mirror at Rayna and Toraf in the backseat. They’re leaned up against each other by their temples, sound asleep.
Must be nice.

But even if Galen didn’t have to drive, he still wouldn’t be able to sleep. Not with Grom here. Grom, wearing human clothes. Grom, buckled up in an SUV. Grom, cocking his head slightly toward the speaker in his door, trying to listen to the human music without appearing too interested.

Grom, who hasn’t said a single word since they left Emma’s house.

“She thinks you’re dead,” Galen tells his brother without looking at him. “She thinks she killed you. Why would she think that?” Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Grom glance in his direction. Still, he’s not expecting it when his brother actually answers.

“She’s probably blaming herself. For the explosion.”

“So, she came to land because of a guilty conscience?”

“She was always hoarding the blame for things that weren’t her fault.” Then his brother actually smiles. “Most things
were
her fault, mind you, but even when they weren’t, she wanted to keep the blame all to herself.” After a moment, he says, “I would have loved to see her tie Rayna up. When she was bent on something, there was very little that ever got in the way of doing it.”

This takes Galen by surprise. Up until now, Grom had always struck Galen as … well, as old-fashioned. Not that his brother ever had a choice—he was always destined to mate the firstborn third-generation heir of the Poseidon house. It didn’t mean he had to enjoy his union with Nalia, but by the looks of it, he was fairly smitten. Which doesn’t sound like the Grom Galen knows. Most Syrena males seek out docile females for their mates. It seems that noble Grom had fallen for the exact opposite. Nalia is the definition of feisty. And if she’s even a fraction of the feisty that Emma is, then Grom had his hands full all those years ago. And apparently, he liked it that way.
Join the club,
as Rachel always says.

“Was the explosion her fault?” Galen said as an afterthought. He regrets the question as soon as it leaves his mouth. But Grom doesn’t seem affected.

“Oh, I’m sure she thinks it was. But it was my fault.
Only
my fault.” His brother laughs, a sharp gust that sounds more like disgust than humor. “You know the irony in all this, little brother? The whole reason we were arguing that day was because she wanted to explore land. She had a fascination with humans. And as soon as she opened up to me about it, I took it upon myself to crush her dreams. To protect her.”

The silence that follows is noisy with the past, with memories that belong solely to Grom and Nalia. Their last day together. Their last words. The explosion. Galen can tell his brother is reliving the emotions, but still storing the details inside, where he’s kept them all these years. It feels like seeing a shipwreck from afar through murky water. The outline is there, the damage is visible. But the specifics of how it sunk, how it came to sit on the bottom of the ocean, are still unknown to all except those who experienced it.

Then all at once, Grom clears the murk. “I refused to explore land with her. But I didn’t just stop there. I also forbade her from doing it anymore.”

“Anymore?”

“She’d been keeping a supply of human clothes on an island close to land. She changed into them on the island, then took a rowboat to land and actually walked among the humans. She even brought things back to Mother, for her collection of human relics.”

Galen’s mouth almost drops to his lap. “Mother knew she was breaking the law?”

Grom snorts, then shakes his head. “She knew and encouraged it. You know how she loved her human relics.”

Galen did know. She’d left behind an entire cave full of them when she died—and Rayna had picked up where their mother had left off.
Are daughters always so much like their mothers?
Rayna takes after their mother in almost every way. And apparently Emma takes after Nalia in many aspects. For instance, Galen knows forbidding Emma to do anything is the best way to get her to do it. “So that made her angry and she fled from you,” Galen says, almost to himself. He imagines Emma doing the exact same thing. And it almost chokes him. “Into the mine.”

“Oh, not directly into the mine. She allowed me to chase her all over the territories first. Of course, I could have stopped. I could have let her go, let her calm down for a while. It might have saved us from making such a Royal spectacle. But the look in her eyes did not settle well with me. The disappointment there clearly said I’d failed an important test.” Grom adjusts in his seat, so he can face Galen. “And you should know that she didn’t set off the explosion in the mines. The humans did. At the time, it seemed humans all over the world were at war with one another, and they brought their disagreement to our territories. They built giant ships that could go underwater instead of skim on top of it.”

Galen already knew this. When he’d first told Rachel about what happened and how long ago, she’d researched it for him. According to human history records, Nalia had disappeared in the middle of what came to be called World War II. It was not a good time to be human. He wonders if Nalia knew the condition of the human world at the time before she decided to become part of it.

“But she knew that going ashore with the humans was against the law. She should have known you’d be upset.”

Grom raises a brow, taking care to scrutinize his surroundings, starting from the clothes on his own body, to the window and everything outside it, and finally resting his gaze on Galen’s hands clutching the steering wheel. “Tell me, brother, how concerned were you about the law when you were so busy amassing such an extensive collection of human things?”

Galen grimaces. “Good point. But you should know that I was always concerned about the law, even if I was breaking it. I still
am
concerned about the law.”
Especially about certain aspects of it.

His brother does not miss his meaning. “The law regarding Half-Breeds has been in place for many centuries, Galen. It is deeply entrenched into the hearts of our kind.”

“That’s not the answer I was looking for.”

“I know.”

“I won’t be without her.”

“I know.”

By the look on his face, Grom does know. But what can be done? If there was a way around the Half-Breed law, wouldn’t Grom ease his mind by offering the solution? So even though the law is what it is, is Grom giving his unspoken consent for Galen to be with Emma regardless? Or is he given an unspoken command that Galen end his relationship with her?

Galen wants to ask, wants to settle things now before they get any more complicated—and while Grom is in a vulnerable, divulging mood. But Galen hasn’t been responsible in looking for road signs since this conversation first started. Even now, another exit—maybe theirs—zooms by them. He’s in a bit of awe of human drivers who seem to be able to conduct all sorts of business while driving. Apparently, Galen isn’t capable of carrying on a simple conversation while watching for road signs. The worst part is, they
should
be reaching their exit any time now. But then again, Galen hasn’t been able to drive the speed limit. Every time he gets up to speed, Grom tenses up and scowls at him until he slows down.
Old people
.

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
5.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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