Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (5 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
5.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Okay. Ew.”

“Not like that, you brat. He said he’d seen my kind once before. In Alaska, swimming under the ice. He never told anyone, because he was sure they wouldn’t believe him. He asked if I’d let him study me. He said he was going to school to be a human doctor. He said he’d give me a place to stay, and he’d pay me.”

“An exchange. Kind of like Dr. Milligan and Galen.”

“Who?”

“Oh,” I say. “Dr. Milligan is a marine biologist who works at the Gulfarium in Florida.”

Mom raises her brow. “That trip you took to visit Galen’s dying grandmother? That was to see Dr. Milligan?”

I nod, not bothering to hide my cringe.

Mom sets her fork down. “Exactly how much does that man know about us?”

“Everything. But you don’t need to worry about it. He’s known Galen for years.”

“Oh?”

I roll my eyes, unwilling to let go of this juicy story in favor of fighting over Galen’s trustworthiness. Besides, she’s being a hypocrite. She trusted a human—my dad—so why can’t Galen trust Dr. Milligan? “So … it wasn’t love at first sight then? With Dad? You fell in love later?” I don’t know why I feel disappointed. I don’t even believe in love at first sight. Except where it applies to my parents being perfect for each other. And anyways, isn’t that a kind of child-myth that all kids want to believe?

“Sweetie … It was never love.”

Screw disappointment. Now I feel gut-kicked. “What do you mean? But you had to … Then how did I…?”

Mom sighs. “You were … the result of a moment of … weakness on my part.” But she takes too long to choose her words. I wonder what she thought of first, instead of “weakness.” Pity? Stupidity? She dabs her napkin at some imaginary syrup at the corner of her mouth. “The only weak moment we ever had, which is kind of extraordinary. Not that I regret it at all,” she says quickly. “I wouldn’t trade you for anything. You know that, right?”

I wonder if “I wouldn’t trade you for anything” is also a child-myth. “So I was an accident. Not even the normal kind of accident. Like, a one-night stand, or a oops-I-didn’t-take-my-pill accident. I was an oops-I-accidentally-mated-with-my-fish-experiment accident.” I put my head in my hands. “Lovely.”

“That man loved you, Emma, from the moment you were born. He’d be very upset to hear you talking like that right now. Frankly, I am, too. I was not some experiment.”

I bite my lip. “I know. It’s just … a lot, don’t you think?”

“That’s why we’re going to have two pieces of strawberry pie, Agnes,” Mom says, her voice strained.

I pull my stricken face from my hands and force it to smile. “Yes, please,” I say. I’m beginning to think Agnes isn’t a waitress for financial gain. I think she needs gossip to thrive. There’s no way a normal waitress would be or should be this attentive.

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” Mom chides when Agnes leaves. “Your father and I were very good friends.”

“This is so weird.” It hurts my feelings on behalf of my dad, which is stupid, because according to Mom, Dad was aware of all this friendship crap. And apparently, he was okay with it. “Did you ever tell Dad about Grom?”

“I told him everything. He always thought I should go back. Try to straighten things out. But after you were born, he changed his mind. He didn’t want to risk them keeping me, or finding out about you and coming to get you.”

We stop talking then. Maybe because I’ve met my threshold for mind-blowing information. Maybe because Mom’s met her threshold for being vulnerable. Whatever it is, we both seem to realize at the exact same moment that we just actually bonded, and now everything feels awkward, like old times. And that if we stay any longer, there might be some unspoken pressure to bond again.

“We’ll take some boxes for the pie and the check, please, whenever you’re ready, Agnes.”

* * *

In a few hours the sun will rise and we’ll have been driving for a solid twenty-four hours, only stopping for gas, coffee, or the resulting bathroom breaks. My hands feel like permanent fixtures of the steering wheel. When I finally do get to peel my fingers from it, they’ll surely be forever curled in place.

Fog hovers over the road in thin strips that look like layers of gauze floating above it. The rising sun will dispatch all those layers soon. After breakfast, it will be Mom’s turn to drive again. I glance at her, dozed off in the passenger seat. Either she’s starting to trust me again, or she’s got some way of knowing if I steer us off course.

The sad thing is, I
am
trustworthy now. I can’t let Galen find us until I’m ready for him to, until I have a plan B all sorted out in the event that he’s the one lying. But my trustworthiness has nothing to do with why I might steer us off course. We don’t have our cell phones, which means we don’t have GPS, which means I should be paying attention to road signs, which means I shouldn’t be blinking for more than two seconds at a time like I am.

It’s just that this road is so straight and boring with hardly any other cars and I can’t turn the radio on because Mom is sleeping and since Mom is sleeping there’s no one to talk to and—

Whoa. My eyes must be playing tricks on me.

Did we just pass Rachel?

No, it couldn’t be. It wasn’t even Rachel’s car; Galen just bought her a classy little white BMW. The one that passed was a four-door blue something that Rachel wouldn’t be caught dead in. Except, the driver looked like her twin sister. All big hair and red lipstick and matching acrylic nails draped menacingly over the steering wheel.

I adjust the rearview mirror and follow the blue car with my eyes without blinking, until my eyes feel like they’ve pickled inside my head. Just when I think we’re in the clear, just when I think I’m letting my imagination run wild, the blue non-Rachel car stops. Makes a sloppy U-turn. Starts speeding toward us with hazard lights flashing.

Fan-flipping-tastic. I stomp on the gas. “Mom, wake up. We’ve got a problem.”

She startles awake and whips a suspicious glance around as if
I’m
the one who’s kidnapped
her
. Nice. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know, but Rachel—the woman we told you was Galen’s mom—found us. She’s behind us in that blue car. What do you want me to do?”

Mom’s head jerks around to the back window. She curses under her breath. “Who
is
that woman? How did she find us?”

“She’s ex-Mafia.” I inhale, like I just admitted I’m ex-Mafia or something. It doesn’t help that Mom glares at me as if I just confessed to it, too.

“Seriously, ex-Mafia? Like,
the
Mafia?”

I nod.

“Poseidon’s beard,” she mutters.

I’m pretty sure I won’t get used to my mom using fishy cuss words anytime soon.

“Try to lose her.”

“It’s a long straight road with hardly any turns.”

“Well, speed up!” She pops open the glove compartment. Then pulls out a freaking gun.

“Mom—”

“Don’t start. It’s just to scare her. Usually all you have to do is show someone that you have a gun and that you’re not going to take any crap—”

“Did you hear what I said? She’s ex-Mob. Her gun probably eats guns like that for breakfast.”

She clicks the gun like a pro and three bullets pop out into her hand. Watching your mother do something like this is surreal—even under the circumstances. “Three,” she breathes. “It’ll have to do.”

Panic closes off my windpipe. “What happened to just showing it to her?”

“Like you said. She’s ex-Mob.”

“You can’t shoot her. You just can’t.” But she reloads like maybe she can. Suddenly I’m having a hard time staying in my lane on this long, straight road.

“I’m not going to shoot her. I’m just going to shoot
at
her.” Then that freaking lunatic rolls down the window. “Besides,” she grunts, “if I wanted to kill someone, it would have been Rayna.” She hangs her head out and pulls the gun through with her.

Options, options, options. Sometimes options are a luxury. Sometimes there is only one option, and usually that one option sucks. Like this time, for instance.

So, I take my one option and swerve off the road.

I hear the gunshot right before we hit.

6

GROM IS
playing a game on Galen’s cell phone when it rings. Startled, he drops it as if it burned his hand. Galen laughs before he can stop himself. Grom shoots him a sour look but hands him the phone.

“Hey, Rachel,” Galen says, still grinning.

“Where are you?” Her voice sounds shaken—something Galen’s never heard before.

“We just passed a town called Freeport. Why?”

“You’re close then. Good. I found Emma and her mom.”

Relief swirls through him, but he knows better than to trust it. Especially with the way Rachel’s voice sounds strained. “Where? Are they with you?”

“Galen.” Rachel never calls him Galen, only sweet pea. Even when she’s mad at him, she just says it through clenched teeth. Terror stabs him all over.

“What? What is it?”

“They were in a car accident. Her mom … I think her mom shot herself.” That last part sounded more like a question than a statement.

“What?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure she shot herself. In the shoulder. She didn’t do it on purpose and I don’t think it’s life threatening, but I haven’t seen it up close yet. There’s definitely blood. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to call an ambulance because of their … background. Unless you think I should.”

Galen groans into the phone.
Her mom shot herself
. Calling an ambulance that will take her to a human doctor is a bad idea. According to Dr. Milligan, it’s immediately evident that the Syrena bone structure is much different from human’s. They can’t risk any kind of thorough exam of Nalia, like X-rays or extracting her blood.

What else could possibly go wrong?

“There’s something else,” Rachel says, making the hairs on his neck stand up.

Galen answers her with an impatient grunt.

“I’ve been shot, too. I can’t drive.”

If Galen weren’t driving, he’d bang his head on the steering wheel. Hard. “How far away are we from you?”

Rachel’s breath is short and fast. It’s possibly the worst sound he’s ever heard. “About thirty minutes yet.”

He’s hoping she means it’s thirty minutes if he adheres to the posted speed limit. “Emma’s mother is a human nurse. Maybe she can help you.”

“So far she hasn’t come over here. I think she’s about to skedaddle.”

“Is skedaddling bad?”

“It means she’s about to leave again, and I can’t follow.”

“Try to stall them. I’ll be there soon, I swear it.”

Galen hangs up and bears down on the gas pedal, ignoring Grom’s hand when it clutches his forearm. “Nalia’s been hurt, Grom. We need to get to her.” To his relief, his brother lets go.

And Galen mashes the pedal to the floor.

7

I WATCH
as Rachel hangs up the phone and slumps against her car, sliding down the passenger side door and plopping sloppily into the grass. She presses her hand to her stomach in a way that makes my own stomach twist. Her face is pale, her lips quiver. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this woman in tears. And I don’t like it.

With one hand, Mom drops the hood of our car and claps her hands together to dislodge the miscellaneous car gunk from them. She walks to where I’m standing at the trunk and touches my hand. “See if you can start it now, sweetie. I think the battery cable was just loosed because of the impact.” When I don’t answer, she follows my gaze to Rachel. “You know she just told them where we are, Emma. We have to go.”

I move away from her. “She’s hurt. You have to help her.”

“We have to get away from here.”

“You’re a nurse, for God’s sake! This is what nurses do. We can’t just leave her. You
shot
her.”

I start toward Rachel, but Mom grabs my hand. “She has a cell phone. She can call an ambulance if she’s hurt badly.”

“She’ll never do it. She won’t risk the interrogation involved with going to a hospital with a gunshot wound. And we don’t want that, either. Every cop in the area will be looking for us. She’ll tell them about us, so they’ll pick us up. Come on, Mom. You know this has to be reported if we do it all ‘official.’”

Mom crosses her arms. “It sounds like you’ve covered for this woman quite a bit.”

I stagger backward and nod toward Rachel. “
Help
.
Her
. At least make sure she’ll be okay.” Mom glances at Rachel and back to me. I can tell she’s thinking of arguing some more. But I won’t budge. “If you don’t help her, you’ll have to drag me away kicking and screaming. It’ll be a fair fight this time. No chloroform advantage.” Plus, Mom’s got a nick on her arm from when the gun went off after we hit the embankment. It’s nothing like a gory gunshot wound you see in the movies—in fact, I’m not sure if it’s even a gunshot wound because the hole in her shirt is more like a tear than an actual hole. Maybe she scratched herself on the window when it shattered. There’s no chunky flesh flapping in the wind or anything and the bloodstain isn’t bigger than a fist—and it seems to have stopped seeping through her shirt. My mom is tough and probably wouldn’t show pain if she was actually in any, so I don’t know how serious it really is. I remember then that Dr. Milligan had said Syrena blood clots faster than human blood. That Syrena wounds heal faster. Still, shattered glass couldn’t cut her thick Syrena skin.
Is she shot after all?

While I’m studying Mom, she’s studying Rachel. She’s waging war with herself and it’s all over her face:

Leave her.

But Emma will fight.

We have no choice but to leave her.

But Emma will make it difficult.

LEAVE HER.

Finally, she sighs and her face changes from war to resignation. I’m not sure if her conscience weighed more than her flight instinct, or if she just didn’t want to scrap with me out in broad daylight for anyone to see.

Together, we walk the ten feet back to Rachel’s car. The driver’s side door is still ajar and the alerting jingle might just give me an eye twitch. I shut the door before joining my mom and Rachel.

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
5.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Courting Ruth by Emma Miller
Foresworn by Rinda Elliott
One of These Nights by Kendra Leigh Castle
Look at Me by Anita Brookner
Nikolas by Faith Gibson
The Horny Leprechaun by King, Nikita
Bloodlines by Lindsay Anne Kendal