Read Surrendering to the Sea Lord – Chapter 1 here: http://www.starlanight.com/posts/surrendering-to-the-sea-lord-chapter-one/
Uvim floated on a black sea of pain.
Something stroked his forehead. Long and cool. Tender seaweed? Kindness. Her soft touch soothed and comforted. Healed.
The pain receded.
A sweet voice was speaking. What? Unusual tones.
“…and I’m so, so sorry. I wanted to stop the vandals by myself. Please don’t be dead.”
The blackness faded.
His body floated…
A concerned face hovered over his. Light obscured her features, shining from behind her, blinding.
…and then he whumped onto the gritty rock. He shuddered. Everything ached. But he lived.
Her hand stilled. “Are you okay?”
The light eased and he saw her.
Dark tendrils of flowing hair. Narrow pink lips, a slender nose, an oval face, and brown eyes shimmering with tender concern.
A clear, bright light glowed in her chest. Resonance. She had a strong soul.
Her fingertips stroked his cheek.
His skin tingled.
She smiled. “Hi.”
Warmth glowed in his chest.
“You’re alive. Thank goodness.”
Words. Familiar words. His least-proficient human language. English.
His stomach dropped.
He was exposed. To humans!
Uvim grunted and tried to rise. Escape.
The horizon rotated. A giant fist pressed his chest to the ground.
“Whoah.” The human female hovered. “Take it easy. You had a shock.”
Someone called out to the female.
“He’s fine!” She turned and waved at someone over her shoulder. “Just surprised. Huh? Oh, no, he’s a tourist.”
Panic squeezed his chest.
“Exotic tattoos,” a voice said.
“You can get ink done in Horta. Just off the main street.”
“Ooh, so cool,” another voice chimed in.
More humans! Approaching!
“Yep. Okay, have a great night.” His female’s voice lowered to a gentle murmur. “Don’t worry. I’ll hold back the crowds.”
He opened his mouth. No sound emerged. Only a hiss.
“Don’t speak. Er, unless you want to.”
He had to escape.
Uvim tightened his abdomen and rolled upright.
The horizon tilted. Sky plunged into surf. He reeled.
“Oh! Sitting up.” She slid her slim arm around his back, steadying him. “Next time, warn me.”
But he couldn’t.
He mustn’t touch. He mustn’t speak. He mustn’t be here.
Uvim had to return to the ocean. Crawl or slither. Now. Before another moment passed and another human saw him.
She tightened her arm. “Relax.”
No. He mustn’t. He—
Her touch disabled him like a potent toxin. He had no choice but to obey.
She stroked his shoulder with her long fingers. “Good.”
Her soft breasts pressed his shoulder. The twin points of her nipples hardened into small pearls. Hardness and softness tantalized his over-worked senses.
Heat flooded his cock.
“I’m so sorry.” She lowered her healing fingers to rub his flexed shoulder blades. Her hands splayed across his bone in a soothing, enticing pattern. “I set the trap this afternoon. You must be extra sensitive to noise.”
Earlier today he had hidden his trident and daggers in a shallow sea cave, camouflaged himself with an orange waist-thigh covering the humans called “swim shorts,” and watched the beach empty.
Then, he’d emerged.
He’d crossed to dry rocks and nearly reached the lockbox when this female had called out to him. His foot had depressed a flat plate. A loud pain had blared in his ears.
Then, a whale had crushed his chest. Colors had faded and the sky had plunged into the sea.
He rubbed his chest with a flat palm.
Humans had developed terrifying weapons. No wonder the tyrannical All-Council ordered the mer away from the surface.
“I was trying to protect the lockbox.” His human lowered her eyes. “You must be so mad.”
He was not angry.
“I’ll make it up to you. Will you let me?”
Uvim opened his mouth. No words rolled across his leaden tongue.
He must reach her. He must communicate.
Uvim shook his head.
Her soul light darkened. “You won’t let me?”
No! That was not what he meant. He shook his head harder.
“Oh, you mean, you’re not mad?”
Her soul light brightened. “Thank you. That’s generous. You’re nice.”
Heat pooled in his chest and in his strangely hard cock.
She sighed. Her soul light dimmed again. “I feel like an idiot.”
Curse his silence!
Uvim forced the foreign English words. “You … are … kind.”
There. He had done it! He had spoken to a female. In her own language. With his tongue.
“Sitting with you is the least I can do.” She lifted her head. “The Sea Festival starts next week. I wanted to stop the vandals before someone got hurt. Oh, the irony! If Vaw Vaw’s sons had set the trap, it would’ve worked.”
Vaw Vaw. An affectionate name for a grandmother in Portuguese.
But this female predominantly spoke English.
He rehearsed his sentences.
“Your bravery … is honorable. Your trap … is effective.”
“Effective. Yeah.” Her soul light brightened.
He had comforted her.
“I’ll pick up the trap before anyone else gets hurt.” She released him and jumped to her feet.
Cold unease seeped into his skin.
Without her distracting touch, his reasons for surfacing slammed into him: His city was under attack.
He rocked to his knees.
The horizon rotated.
“Oh! You stay here.” She eased him onto his knees. “You’re trying to call Zara, right? I’ll get the cell phone.”
He closed his eyes. A headache pressed on the back of his skull.
Around him, Milly — for if she was protecting the lockbox, she must be Queen Zara’s sister Milly — waded into the long grass. She unearthed heavy-looking planks and dragged them away. She scooped up the lockbox key from where he’d dropped it and returned with the cell phone.
The “cell phone” was a smooth silver rectangle. It was heavier and smaller than the carved stone he’d practiced with in the city.
He pressed the side button. A “screen” flickered. Once it steadied, he traced the “triangle” pattern.
“Oh, did I set up the replacement wrong?” She leaned over his shoulder and drew a square. The cell phone flashed the expected colors. “I didn’t know how Zara set up the first cell phone.”
He pressed the pattern to contact Queen Zara. The cell phone emitted a strident ring.
Milly knelt facing him.
Zara’s voice emerged. “I’m not answering the phone right now so please leave a message.”
He stated the message his elders had composed. “A Newas hunting party camps at the edge of our territory.”
Perfect. Every syllable enunciated. He had practiced endlessly on his long journey to the surface.
Milly whispered, “Why does Zara care?”
Why? Because it was an invasion.
Milly frowned. “How big is this hunting party?”
He splayed his hand. Five.
She wrinkled her brows. “Five warriors are a threat to your city?”
“Okay… Well, hang up. Zara will call you back. Oh, you know what? Tell her to call me back,” Milly said. “Go ahead. Say, ‘call your sister.’”
“C-call your sister,” he repeated, stumbling over the unpracticed words.
She leaned over and swished the screen. The light turned to black. Then she took the cell phone and fixed the operations to match his training.
“Zara will call back soon. It’s morning in California.” Milly locked away the cell phone and brought him the key. “She must be driving or interviewing someone.”
His fingers closed around the toothed metal.
Delay cost lives. His warriors needed the answer now. The defense of the city rested on his shoulders. He must give his elders an answer.
Milly chewed her lip. “Is a little hunting party really an emergency?”
“I don’t get it.”
He measured his words. “Raiders…”
“Raiders? I thought you said it was a hunting party.”
The foreign warriors appeared to be hunting. But they might scout for an All-Council army or be terrorists intent on maiming lone patrols.
“So why don’t you force these potential raiders out?”
A hunting party must be treated with respect. The laws of honor required it.
She sighed. “I guess assigning a patrol to them is not an option. You have a vast territory and a shrinking population.”
Milly understood. If even this human understood, then Queen Zara would rule wisely.
He willed Queen Zara to call now.
“So … I thought your king normally decides stuff like this. Why ask Zara?”
Because Queen Zara had said the king could no longer rule unopposed. Elders and warriors must agree with his ruling. She called it a special name. What was it?
He remembered. “Democracy.”
“In a democracy, everybody votes.”
Yes. Everybody had “voted.” But they could not agree. And since their king was no longer allowed to issue the final decree, Queen Zara must do so.
Milly blew air, pushing her lower lip so short tendrils of dark hair at her crown danced. “Well, Zara’s going to love that.”
Would she? Good. Queen Zara clung to much anger. And she had a strong reason to hate Uvim.
If she loved this question, her feelings would soften. She might forgive the elders — and forgive him.
“Mermen don’t get sarcasm.” Milly’s lips pulled to one side. “Sorry. I was kidding. She’s going to be pissed.”
His stomach dropped. Another reason for her anger. Did she not have enough reasons already?
A family of humans carried sand buckets past. They gawked.
Queen Zara had also ordered the mer to avoid humans.
Uvim rose to his knees.
The horizon rotated.
He bent over, braced, and pushed up.
The world whirled.
He fought nausea and staggered to his feet.
“Hey!” Milly wrapped her arms around his torso and braced him upright. “I said to give me some warning.”
Sweat broke out on his chilled body. “The ocean…”
“Hold on to me.”
Milly was a small woman. Her soft breasts cushioned his hard torso. One curvy thigh braced his damp waist. Her dark hair slid across his fingers like ribbons of sea-silk.
Uvim sucked in a breath and tried to straighten.
She squeezed him. “I’ve got you.”
Her voice teased his ear and her soft breath tickled his lobe.
His cock strained.
Why? Her chest glowed. Brighter than sunlight, brighter than stars, and brighter than any soul on this beach. Why did her light affect him so?
Knowledge teased his unsettled mind, probing for a way in.
But he could not think. He leaned too heavily on her small frame.
“I will … crush … you…”
“Nah. I’ve been power-lifting Snuba gear all summer.” Her fingertips traced his hard vertebrae. The tender strokes deeply comforted. “Anyway, I’m lucky you don’t want me fired.”
“Relieved of duties. Voted off the island. Exiled to a dreary fate.”
His throat tightened.
Even in this injured state, he would fight to the death to protect a bright-souled female like her — a bride — from exile.
“Never a bride,” he vowed.
“That’s a relief. But I’m not anyone’s bride.”
Of course she was. A soul this bright belonged in the sea.
Milly pulled back. “Did you hit your head?” She stroked his forehead. “Let’s go to my place and rest.”
Desire warred with duty. Her warm soul light bathed him with soothing radiance.
He resisted. “Humans cannot see…”
“You’ve already revealed yourself to me.” She eased a step forward. Her soft hip grazed his hard cock. “Nobody’s at my house. I promise.”
“I must … report.”
“Report what? That you left a message? You can barely stand. How can you swim?”
“I’d feel terrible if you got hurt worse.”
“I must not…”
“Right? So rest.”
She eased him toward a slab of smooth, black stone covered in rows of metal-glass boxes. She angled him to the maroon metal-glass box she had called out to him from. The heavy plates were stacked beside its thick wheels.
“If you’re not better by the time Zara calls, I’ll grab my scuba gear and try to help.”
This small human was offering to help him go to the echo point? Underwater?
The echo point was far. Surrounded by predators. Deep.
He shook his head violently.
She laughed. “I said I’d try. Not that I’d actually do you any good.”
“Oh yeah? If it’s too dangerous for me at full health, it’s definitely too dangerous for you now.”
Curse it. His duty…
“Don’t stress out. Zara will call tonight. Rest at my place until you’ve got something to report.”
He set his feet, resisting her movement. “Here.”
“You can’t rest here. See that sign? No camping.”
He shook his head.
“Vandals are trying to blow up the lockbox.”
Then he would remain to protect it.
She eyed him sideways. “You’d rather stay here and expose yourself to the human vandals? In this state? All alone?”
“I ‘faced them’ from that cliff.” She pointed at a distant, grassy headland. “With a spyglass. And a half-baked idea about reporting their license plate to the policía.”
Hmm. He did not wish to interfere with human patrols.
They staggered to the slab and he collapsed against the sun-warm maroon metal. She stowed the heavy plates in the rear and fitted a toothed key into its body.
Going to Milly’s private castle was improper. Wrong. Only partly because he wanted it so much.
“Huh? I told you I’m not married.”
“Future husband?” She cocked an amused brow. “Let me tell you. My future husband, whoever he is, will understand. I got you into this mess. I’m going to get you out.”
“And if you won’t come to my cozy, safe house, I’ll stay here. Then I risk getting in trouble with vandals or the law or both and I spend an uncomfortable night on the beach with rocks jabbing into my back.”
He shook his head. She must not remain here.
“I have to.” She smiled with an edge. “You’re my responsibility now.”
He ground his teeth.
She swung the door open and took his elbow to help him enter.
He stopped her.
“In the past … they cut off…” He wiggled the fingers of his hand. “For touching … another male’s bride.”
“Well, that was the past.” She wedged her shoulder under his arm again. “Zara doesn’t remove body parts.”
He had violated her future husband’s rights many times on this beach. Leaned his full body against Milly. Savored her curves.
And he wished to caress the swell of her breasts beneath her lavender covering. Touch her more.
What was the meaning?
He pined over this attractive female and her bright soul light.
But his fascination was impossible.
It was not his turn to pursue a bride.
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