by Melissa Birling
Publication date: April 28th 2022
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
SECRECY IS SAFETY. SISTERHOOD IS EVERYTHING.
Seventeen-year-old Glacia didn’t plan to track a kidnapper, stick a middle finger to the government, and fall into a forbidden summer fling. This is simply what happens when you’re the resident odd girl out, in a shoal of all-female mermaids whose values are a little cracked. Or a lot cracked, if you consider government-endorsed murder and the seizure of male infants to be an issue.
When society rules, family, and romance collide, Glacia fights back the best way she knows how: by taking the matter into her own combat-trained hands and kicking some tail. The problem is, no amount of training can prepare Glacia for the crime circle she discovers, secrets she unveils, and human guy she can’t get out of her head. Glacia finds herself at a crossroads where she must decide whose rules to follow. Who she can trust. And ultimately…who lives and who dies.
We’ve been sitting on the ledge a while now, mostly staring at the view. I steal occasional glances at Tucker. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a force between us. Energy. A pulse. A magnet. Something. Every time I focus my thoughts elsewhere, he pulls me back in. It’s distracting.
“You ready to head down?” he asks.
“You might as well get started. I can’t climb down with all your equipment in the way.” “I have an extra harness. You should come down with me.” He reaches for his pack and stands up.
I jump up to join him. “No way. I’m not hooking myself into that death trap.” “Glacia, come on. This cliff is super challenging, and it’s way more difficult to climb down than up,” he says, his voice growing louder. Here we go again.
“I’ll be fine once you get your stuff out of the way.” I raise my volume to match his. “It’s not safe. I would feel horrible if I let you climb down and you got hurt.”
“Not let you. It’s your choice.”
“I choose NO.”
He clenches his jaw tightly and grinds his teeth. I take a few steps back in preparation.
There’s enough room up here to land a solid kick to the face. That should knock him out, then I’ll have to figure out a way to climb down his cat’s cradle setup. Tucker crosses one arm over his chest and raises a hand to cover his mouth. We glare at each other – at an impasse.
“Let’s make a deal,” he offers. “You climb down with me using a harness and rope, and I’ll take you on a boat ride.”
This catches my attention.
“That’s right, I saw you light up when I mentioned my dad’s boat shop,” he continues with a cocky air.
He’s more perceptive than I gave him credit for. Volatile and perceptive. A hefty combination.
“Have you ever been on a boat?” he asks.
I shake my head. I would love to go on a boat. Tucker knows how to fix them and can teach me everything a trainer could, plus more. What am I thinking? This is crazy. I can’t go on a boat with a human. What excuse would I give if I got caught? I can’t pretend I’m seducing. Everyone knows that’s not high on my priority list, and you’re not supposed to seduce alone. Maybe I could say that I’m collecting information to share with the girls I teach… Hmm. That’s almost believable, given my dedication to the studio.
Tucker can tell I’m on the fence about it and ups the ante. “I’ll teach you to drive the boat.”
Unfair. Of course, I want to learn how to drive a boat. That’s a beyond useful skill in my back pocket. I peek down the cliff face to assess the reliability of Tucker’s wedge-rope system. Stupid. Like I know what I’m looking for.
“Fine,” I agree. “We need to be hooked together, so if I die, you die.”
“AND I get to drive the boat.”
“Deal. Let’s see, today is Monday, and I already have plans tomorrow. Wednesday?” “What time?”
“Eleven a.m. on the Ula pier.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
Tucker flips his pack around, unclips a belt, and offers it to me. “Do you know how to wear a harness?”
I snatch it from him, compare it to his gear, and step into the leg holes. When I have it all clipped in, I throw my hands on my hips. “Now what?” I ask.
Tucker leans in toward me, rope in hand, then pulls back and reconsiders. “That’s not quite right,” he says haltingly. “Can I fix your harness?”
“I already agreed to this mess, didn’t I?”
He rolls his eyes. “I think that’s a yes. Pull the harness up – it has to sit higher on your hips.”
I follow his instructions, and he flops the rope over one arm. He moves in closer and bends down to reposition the harness. His fingers wrap around the loop against my leg as he pulls it up below my hip. My heart beats faster and my insides twists. I evaluate the top of Tucker’s head in an effort to distinguish these sensations from other emotions. He secures the loop and raises his gaze to meet mine.
“Is that too tight?” he asks. His hazel eyes penetrate mine. The edges are a deep brown that blend into a murky green with an amber starburst around the pupil.
I shake my head and look away. I hope he can’t tell how disoriented this is making me. “Pull the tabs on your waist tighter,” he instructs.
I cinch the waist while he rearranges the other loop on my leg. Why is this making me so agitated? He’s only fixing my gear so I don’t fall to my death. Tucker gathers the rope into his hand and reaches out to tie it to the front belt loop. As he does, his fingers brush my skin just below my belly button. A jolt of electricity shoots through my body. I take in a small gasp of air and hold my breath. He freezes, his fingers lingering on my stomach. Did he feel that too?
Melissa Birling strives to experience life from a “both and” rather than “either or” perspective. She enjoys living in metropolitan cities and on a small farm. She appreciates burn-your-tongue Mexican cuisine and delicious London pub food. Lately, Melissa spends her time engaging with cyber security professionals and mermaids. Not actual mermaids, although if you know any, she’d love to meet them.
The revelation that one can be both a successful corporate consultant and a fantasy author who writes about mermaids, encouraged Melissa to finish her debut novel, Ice Floe. The emotional high of typing “The End” at the completion of her first draft, triggered a writing spree that hasn’t stopped since. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you will find Melissa writing. She won’t respond to any attempts at human engagement, because she’s “at a good part,” but you’ll find her typing away, nevertheless.
Melissa lives with a ceaselessly supportive husband and their dog who enjoys hunting neighborhood skunks.
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