Lorelei Fischer is cursed. A mermaid who can’t shapeshift, can’t create portals, and is no longer fully who she was meant to be. Too ashamed to admit how badly she failed to her sisters, she takes refuge in a small town in northern California and opens a used bookstore. With no way to regain what she’s lost, she resigns herself to a life half-lived.
After nearly drowning under the dark of the new moon, there’s no escaping the truth. She’s being hunted, and this enemy will stop at nothing to take her.
Lorelei must find a way to reclaim her birthright and her abilities before it’s too late. Because the sea holds more monsters than she could have dreamed—and one of them wants her dead.
Look for other stories in this exciting Urban Fantasy series from Philippa Ballantine, Stacia D. Kelly, Lauren Harris, and Asa Maria Bradley.
I start for home, the wind and water turning my hair into blond snakes that whip around my head. Less than a quarter mile to my house and it might as well be on the moon. I pull my jacket tighter around my body and pick up my pace. Each harsh breath makes my chest ache, reminding me about the way this morning started.
I shouldn’t be alive.
There’s no other way to say it. When I closed my eyes, parted my lips, and inhaled… I made my choice. That I hadn’t died. That I woke up on the beach… Someone put me there, though I can’t begin to guess their purpose.
I jump and spin in a circle, searching for the source of the voice. There’s no one in sight. There isn’t even a single pair of headlights on the road. Just the trees whipping back and forth in front of me and the beach at my back. I turn slowly to face the beach—the water—and squint into the driving rain. No part of me is dry at this point, so I might as well investigate.
There it is again, barely more than a whisper on the wind. Calling me back to the water.
I take a step before what’s left of my self-preservation kicks in. “No.” I don’t mean to say the word aloud, but it settles something inside me. I am not some weak-willed creature to be drawn in by curiosity. Whatever has the power to reach me here on dry land is something I want no part of. “Get the fuck out of my head.” That’s where I must be hearing him. There’s no way he’s actually speaking to me on the wind.
Whoever he is.
I have something you want.
I freeze. The faintest tugging in my stomach dials it up a notch. It never really goes away, even when I’m sequestered in the bookstore and surrounded by earth instead of sea. That tug tells me the exact direction my necklace—my powers—lay. I never get more than a hint of water that’s such a dark blue, it might as well be black, or an intense pressure that conveys exactly how far from the surface my necklace is kept. Too deep for humans and their machines.
Too deep for me.
I start for the beach before I can think better of it. For over two years, I’ve been missing a vital piece of myself, walking around as only half of a whole. I might not be completely helpless in my current state, but I’m easy pickings for any supernatural creature who decides to gun for me. Last night more than proved that the sea will take me, one way or another
It might as well be on my terms.
Lightning flashes, bright enough that spots dance over my vision for the several seconds of silence before thunder rattles my bones. The storm isn’t directly overhead yet, but it will be soon. I’m a damn fool if I’m still out by that point.
I yank off my boots and socks and toss them onto the beach just out of reach of the waves coming faster and faster. One step, maybe two, and I’ll be submerged up to my ankles. My finding power will spiral out of me, instinctively seeking the one item I want more than anything in this goddamn world.
Not my sisters.
Not even the portal home.
No, what I want more than anything is to be whole again.
I should just turn around and go home. Whoever this voice belongs to, they mean nothing good for me. There’s a proper way to reach out, and it’s not by drawing a finless one of the merfolk into the ocean and nearly drowning her human body. Stepping into the ocean will boost what little magic I have left, and it will create a clear channel for him to speak to me.
I take that first step, and then the second. My power streaks out into the deep and then rebounds, slamming me with a vision of my necklace. It’s different than it’s been in the past. Barely any pressure to speak of. Blue-gray water that stretches for miles and miles and miles around without encountering land. A vaguely fishy taste on my tongue.
And then his voice is in my head, curling through me in a way that’s just shy of being invasive. Hello, pretty.
Telepathy isn’t one of my skills, but apparently his is so strong that it allows me to fire off a reply. Tell me what you want and get out of my head.
His chuckle is pure predator. More like I have something you want.
Surely not. The Deep Dwellers, sworn enemy to my people, wouldn’t be so foolish as to lose a coup like my necklace. In the endless history of wars between our kind, I can’t think of a single instance when they’ve managed to steal the very essence of what one of the merfolk is—to sever one of us from our power. It’s priceless. They wouldn’t have traded it—would have, in fact, guarded it with their lives. So why does this monster in my head have access to it?
I cross my arms over my chest and tell myself that the shiver racking my body is from the cold. I’m listening.
Come to me.
That surprises a laugh out of me. Pass.
You’d turn down a chance to regain yourself?
I’d turn down a chance to walk into a trap like an idiot. I shake my head. This is a waste of time. I turn for the shore when power slams into me, sending me to my knees. The water rushes in—or maybe I rush out—and the next thing I know, I’m up to my chest.
Don’t be a fool.
This deep, I finally have a sense of him. He must have held himself back up to this point, because he’s positively ancient. Older than anything I’ve ever felt—even my father—and so powerful that pain lances through my head. It would be so easy to give him what he wants, to stop fighting, to…
“Get the fuck out of my head!” I sprint for dry land. This deep, it’s more of a fast wade, but I curse and spit and fight the pull of the magic current trying to yank me off my feet. “No, no, no, no, get your stupid magic off me!”
He releases me all at once and I fly the last few feet and land in a heap just past the now-normal waves. I sit up and scrub sand from my face. Even without the water connection, his dark amusement slithers through me. Another time, pretty. His presence recedes faster than any tide, leaving the storm just a normal storm.
It’s official—I’m in even worse trouble than I could have imagined.
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it ‘a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension.” When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.