Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (8 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
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“Then why bother with all the restrictions on the Royals?” Grom asks, unconvinced. “If the Gift can be passed to anyone through their parents, like noses and fins, then why require the Royals to make a sacrifice every third generation?”

“I’ve thought about that,” Galen says. “I’m not sure if the Generals knew about genetics. But if they did, I think they had an ulterior motive for the mating tradition. The arrangement is obviously meant to keep the Syrena united. Having both houses come together every third generation is a way to force us to rely on each other. Instead of the humans.”

Nalia nods. “I would have to agree. Emma’s father and I discussed it several times. That thought had crossed our minds as well.”

Grom looks at Galen. “Is there anything
else
I should know? Anything at all?”

Galen feels it’s a bit hypocritical of his brother to point an accusing finger at him. After all, Grom did travel half the big land with him in the search for Emma and Nalia without once mentioning that he’d already been sealed to Paca.

Galen shakes his head. “I think that about covers it. What about you? Do you and Paca have any fingerlings on the way we should know about? Anything that could make this even more interesting?”

“Fingerlings?” Nalia sputters. “Grom, tell me you didn’t—”

“We didn’t,” Grom says. “Triton’s trident, there was no time for that, now was there? Galen and Toraf arrived right after the ceremony. Before we left for the island.”

“Well, what am I supposed to think? You’ve gone and mated yourself to—”


Knock it off!
” Emma is standing on the bed now, shoes and all, staring down at the rest of them like they’ve all been drinking salt water. “Do we have the luxury of arguing about every little thing? Or is this meeting with the Archives kind of a time-sensitive deal?”

Grom nods. “Emma is right. We’re wasting time.”

“So let’s get on with this. Go make the appeal,” Emma says. Galen knows she’s not overly excited to see her mother mated with Grom. But the only way to ensure that Galen isn’t the one to mate with her is to unseal Grom from Paca.

Not that Galen would ever take Nalia as his mate. He’d live on land and eat cheesecake for the rest of his life before that happened. But if there is a way to fix this without breaking any more laws, if there is a way to resolve this without leaving behind his heritage, Galen is in favor of at least trying.

Grom takes Emma’s hand in his and guides her back to the floor. Galen can tell she wants to recoil, but he’s proud of her when she doesn’t. He can only imagine what could be going through her mind right now, seeing the intimacy between Grom and Nalia. Even he is surprised by his brother’s sentimental behavior toward Nalia. Galen wonders if he’s getting a glimpse of Grom’s youth, of how he used to be before Nalia “died.”

Grom smiles down at Emma. “There is a matter you and I need to discuss, little one. Your mother would have to come with me. She will need to be present to prove that I have a basis for the unsealing. To prove that she’s alive. And I want to make sure that is agreeable to you.”

Galen sucks in a breath. Emma couldn’t possibly know the significance of what Grom is doing. It’s more than asking for her permission. More than taking into consideration her feelings. More, even, than respecting her opinion or whatever argument she could propose. This is not for Emma’s benefit at all. In doing all these things, Grom is showing Galen—and Nalia—that he approves of Emma. That her Half-Breed status is not something detestable to him personally. That his opinion, even as Triton king, does not necessarily agree with the law.

Which is no small thing, in Galen’s eyes. It gives him true hope that someday he will have Emma without betraying everything he’s ever known.

Galen glances at Nalia. She’s watching Grom and Emma with eyes brimming in tears. Nalia knows, too. She knows what Grom is saying between words.

Emma swallows. “The thing is, I don’t understand why any of this matters. Why is this even a discussion? Galen and Mom don’t want to mate with each other, so they won’t. They don’t ever have to go back. They could all stay all land. Even … even
you
could.”

Grom nods, thoughtful. Galen recognizes his brother’s diplomatic expression. “That’s true, Emma. I can’t force them back into the water, and I wouldn’t want it to come to that. And I think we all know there’s not much your mother can be forced to do.” Grom glances pointedly at Nalia, his eyes full of meaning. “But if I know anything about
my brother,
it’s that he’s loyal to his kind. To our legacy. If I know him at all, he’ll want to at least try to do this the right way first. Because he loves
you
enough to go through the trouble of setting things straight.”

Grom is more observant than Galen ever gave him credit for. Galen does want to do it the right way. It’s not a small thing to give up everything you’ve ever known. But it’s not a small thing to give up Emma, either. If there is even a slight possibility he can have them both—Emma
and
his heritage—then it’s certainly worth fighting for.

The small hope in him swells even bigger.

Grom looks at Galen, an obvious request for support. Galen nods down at her. “I think we should try, angelfish. It would mean a lot to me if we could try.”

“And then what?” she says, pulling her hand from Grom’s grasp. “Then Grom will mate with Mom and live happily ever after twenty thousand leagues under the sea? And what about you and me, Galen? How’s that going to work? What about college and—”

“Emma,” Nalia says softly. “These are all decisions that don’t need to be made right now. These are all decisions that
shouldn’t
be made right now.”

Grom nods. “Your mother is right. We need to do what we can now so we have the
freedom
to make these decisions later, when the time comes to make them. Would you not agree, Emma?”

Emma bites her lip. “I guess so.”

Nalia stands. “Let’s hit the road. I have some arrangements that need to be made before we can leave. I’ll change Rachel’s bandage before we go. We can set her up in the back of Galen’s SUV with some pillows.”

9

IT’S ONE
of those moments where life seems to pause, and the universe opens its mouth and vomits comprehension on you. It’s not knowledge, not cold hard facts that you can talk about in casual conversation, like we did in the motel room, surrounded by Galen and Rayna and Toraf. People who I’d already accepted could sprout a fin. Sure we’d talked about Mom being one of those people, too. But until now, until this, I guess I didn’t really believe it.

Even when Galen had stood there in my kitchen and accused my mom of being a dead fish monarch, I thought we’d be having an awkward conversation right now. Maybe trying to explain some inside joke he’d been telling. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Nalia.” Chuckle, chuckle.

Talk is talk is talk. Talk is what we did before true realization hit. Realization that there
had
been an inside joke, and I was the butt of it. For eighteen freaking years. Hardy. Har. Har.

But those were just facts. Knowledge. Like knowing how many feet are in a mile or knowing which city is the capital of China. Facts with no emotion attached. I’d even heard her on the phone a while ago, calling her employer to arrange a leave of absence, paying all the utilities way ahead, droning on about all the things I shouldn’t forget to do at the house. It was like planning a vacation or something.

But this? Watching my mom’s long silver fin move her through the water behind our house with none of the clumsiness of Natalie McIntosh, the wife-mother-nurse, and every bit the grace and precision you’d expect from Nalia, the long-lost Poseidon princess … This is slap-you-in-the-face comprehension.

And all I can do is watch.

Stretching and twisting, Mom seems relieved to ditch her human legs, the corners of her mouth pulling up in satisfaction. Watching her face, it’s easy to believe the transition feels as good as Galen describes. Her tail flits in controlled elegance, in a way that makes Galen’s and Rayna’s somehow look immature and unseasoned. But the grandeur of the scene seems cheapened by the fact that she’s still wearing her tank top—the same one she’d worn on the car ride home, when I still felt, in spite of everything that had happened, that she was just my mom.

She swims toward me now where I wait with my feet anchored into the sand in the shallow water to keep me floating to topside. As she approaches, I study everything about her, taking it all in and trying to process it, but it’s her face that gets me more than anything else; she doesn’t even have the decency to look apologetic. Guilty would be best, but I’d settle for apologetic. Because she’s about to use this tail, this secret extension of herself, this thing she kept hidden from me for eighteen years, to propel herself away, toward the open Atlantic.

And she seems okay with it.

“Surprise,” Mom whispers when she reaches me.

“You think?” Of all the anticlimactic ways to begin this farewell. I mean, we’re in the water behind the house where I grew up. Where she and my dad deposited me after birth, where she fixed me garbage eggs, where she grounded me for reasons valid and invalid.

She looks down at my legs. “So, you don’t have a fin.”

I shake my head. This seems to confirm something she already suspected. Her eyes get that serious, listen-to-your-mother glaze in them. “Emma.” She grabs my shoulders and pulls me close.

I wrest from her grasp. “I don’t hug strangers.”

I must sound like a traumatized three-year-old, because Galen darts over to us. Mom waves away a stray piece of seaweed between us and puts her arm around me again. Galen has that look on his face, the one where he intends to drop everything and hold me. Normally that’s my favorite look.

But I don’t want to be tended to right now. More than that, I don’t want anyone to feel the
need
to tend to me right now. I need to keep all these bratty feelings to myself. My dad always told me that holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die. I don’t want to hold any more grudges. I don’t want to swallow poison.

“I know this is a lot to take in,” Galen says. He doesn’t move to touch me though, which I appreciate.

Grom swims up behind Mom and puts his hands on her shoulders in a “couple” sort of way and I don’t want to, but I hate it, hate it, hate it. I realize I’m going to have to try way harder to embrace my grown-up self. “We won’t keep her long, Emma,” he says. “We’ll be back before you know it. You and Rayna won’t even miss us.”

“What?” Rayna rasps. “I’m not staying here!”

Grom cuts her a look. “You and your mouth are staying with Emma. It’s not open for discussion. This is all going to take a very diplomatic approach, and frankly, diplomacy is not a gift of yours.”

Toraf wraps his arms around her from behind. “We need you here, princess. To protect Emma.”

She elbows him. “You need me out of the way.”

He nuzzles her neck. “You’re never in my way.”

Galen and Grom exchange an amused look, and I can’t help but think they’re hypocrites. At any given moment, I could reduce Galen to a cooing mess, and I’m certain my mom would have the same effect on Grom. Galen doesn’t miss the reproving look I give him. Before he can explain himself, Toraf cuts him off.

“I sense a party,” Toraf says, staring toward the deep. He stiffens, going from Romeo mode to Tracker mode in fast-point-two seconds. “Trackers from both houses. Archives from both houses. All grouped together, moving this way.” He looks at Galen and Grom, his eyes full of meaning I don’t understand. “I guess they’ve waited long enough for your return.”

Grom nods. “We need to hurry now,” he says to Mom.

Mom squeezes me again, eyes full of urgency. Even so, it occurs to me that she is in her true element right now. In Syrena form. Next to the man she has always loved. She is comfortable here in the water. Beautiful. I wonder if the human way of life ever satisfied her. How could it, really? I can’t imagine how making coffee, working double shifts, and painting the living room could ever compare to this. To what she has in the water.

“I love you, sweetie,” she says. “I’ll be back soon.” I want to say “Famous last words,” but I don’t know anyone who’s famous, and I don’t actually know anyone who’s ever said that and not come back. It just seems like one of those classic movie moments where the audience can sense that something bad is about to happen.

And I’m totally picking up on that kind of vibe right now.

As soon as she releases me, Galen grabs my hand and I don’t even have time to gasp before he snatches me to the surface and pulls me toward shore, only pausing to dislodge his pair of swimming trunks from under his favorite rock, where he had just moments before taken the time to hide them.

I know the routine and turn away so he can change, but it seems like no time before he hauls me onto the beach and drags me to the sand dunes in front of my house. “What are we doing?” I ask. His legs are longer than mine so for every two of his strides I have to take three, which feels a lot like running.

He stops us in between the dunes. “I’m doing something that is none of anyone else’s business.” Then he jerks me up against him and crushes his mouth on mine. And I see why he didn’t want an audience for this kiss. I wouldn’t want an audience for this kiss, either, especially if the audience included my mother. This is our first kiss after he announced that he wanted me for his mate. This kiss holds promises of things to come.

When he pulls away I feel drunk and excited and nervous and filled with a craving that I’m not sure can ever be satisfied. And Galen looks startled. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that,” he says. “That makes it about fifty times harder to leave, I think.”

He tucks my head under his chin and I wrap my arms around him until both our breathing returns to normal. I take the time to soak in his scent, his warmth, the hard contours of his—well, his everything. It’s really not fair that he has to leave when he’s only just gotten back. We didn’t have much time to talk on the way back home. We haven’t had much time for anything.

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
6.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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