I was gonna prove to Generva and Rose that I was more than just their scatterbrained youngest sister. I squared my shoulders as I hopped onto my broom and sailed for the location I’d sensed in the glass of water this morning.
I’d waited till nightfall to seek out the male, mainly because I hadn’t wanted my sisters to try and follow me. They had a terrible habit of doubting me. Not that I’d given them cause not to. I had gotten into my fair share of scraps that they’d had to bail me out of pretty much our whole lives. But I was tired of being that sister. The one that almost always failed at every task she set her mind to.
Generva, she never failed. At anything. That’s why what was happening to Witches Dishes was so shocking, but in my heart I knew she’d figure out someway to turn this bad luck around for us. And Rose, well… Rose was special. It was impossible to hate Rose. Even if she got into trouble, which she so rarely did, Rose was just impossibly good and sweet and kind.
But me on the other hand, I had a bit of a reputation in town. It hadn’t gone beyond my notice that I was rarely invited to gatherings. I mean, that fire hadn’t really been my fault. It was just one series of crazy events after another that no one honestly believed, and yet, it had happened. That silly squirrel had quite ruined my reputation now; I was the town screw-up, no way around it.
But… no more. I’d decided when I’d heard that strange male’s voice, I would prove to one and all that Myrtle Monroe wasn’t a walking accident waiting to happen.
Beings that I was a witch, I was used to the uncommon, but even this was a little quirky for me. Sailing through the skies, at night, toward the very heart of Blue Moon Bay’s “haunted” forest. I didn’t exactly think it was haunted, I mean, there were lots of howls in the dead of night but this town was loaded with shifters. And yes, maybe there were instances of townsfolk vanishing…
Okay, so maybe it was a little haunted.
To be sure, I had no idea why I was so determined to head out into the unknown. But then, I did always have a bit more of the adventurer’s soul than either of my sisters. I wasn’t scared to be uncomfortable, and right now, I wasn’t gonna lie, I was pretty uncomfortable.
My broom began to slow as I descended and scanned the calm surface of the water line up ahead. Pines towered toward the heaves like gnarled giant’s fingers and I swallowed hard.
Was I being a fool flying off this way, toward the goddess only knew what? Probably. But I’d been sensing a change beginning in our town. Once cursed, now… maybe not quite so much.
For the longest time the only men in our township were the married kinds. Those already bonded to a paranormal but definitely not looking for any new partners. It was a wee bit depressing living in a place with hardly any men about. But lately I’d been noticing a rash of new blood popping up. True, the veil between our world and the mundane one was down, but never before the curse that I could recall, had other paranormals of the male persuasion come traipsing through.
And there was no doubt in my heart that whoever had called me through a glass of water this morning was just such a one.
The question though was why? Why me? I was a witch, and this male… whoever he was, was probably not. I couldn’t think of a single water witch in Blue Moon Bay, most of us were hearth witches, and then there was the odd earth and fire witch here or there.
Reaching inside my cape, I gently stroke the tip of my wand, nerves settling as its power hummed warmly through me. Whatever happened, I’d be prepared.
With a final deep breath, I descended the rest of the way. My broom hovered safely above the terrain, I hopped quickly off and scanned the waters. Looking for any signs of life beneath. Ripples. Air bubbles. Even some form of movement. But it was as still and placid as an ice float on a chilly winter’s night.
I frowned, lips pursing, and contemplating my options. One, I go. Leave and never look back. Which would be the smart choice, sure. Generva would probably be urging me most vehemently to do just that, why I could practically hear her shrill command of “Don’t be silly, Myrtle, of course you must leave.”
In fact, I heard it so clearly, that I knew that option was not going to work for me. I stood tall and straightened my shoulders. I was a powerful witch, and maybe Murphy’s Law liked me a little too much, but by bloody damn, I would not live my life in fear of uncertainty.
No, I shook my head, I was staying. I was staying and I was going to work through this bloody riddle and I was going to help secure the Witches Dishes, even if it bloody killed me.
I sniffed and nodded. Aye, that’s just what I’d do. And if this male thought to intimidate, well, he had another think coming. Because he’d messed with the wrong witch.
“Male,” I spoke up with my most commanding voice.
I hadn’t spoken loudly at all, but it was so still and quiet out there that my voice cut through the night like cannon blast.
“I am here, why have you summoned me?”
But the waters remained calm, barely even rippling. I eyed the waters, and felt a surge of pride and determination. I would not be bested again.
“Come out now,” I warned, “or face the consequences of ignoring me.”
There now, that had come out strong and forceful. My voice hadn’t quivered in the slightest.
One second. Two. Three…
I frowned, I really thought that might work. Generally, I was a pacifist. But sometimes pacifism was overrated. Monsters like us didn’t always respond well to kindness, but we all responded to a challenge.
Squaring my shoulders I grabbed hold of my wand with determination and gave a nod. With an elegant swirl through the air, the tip glowed lambent blue and little sparks of power glittered from off it like fairy dust.
“Now, you have ten more seconds to come up and speak with me, or I shall evaporate your waters and leave you gasping and looking like a dried out husk. Your choice, male. One. Two.” I lifted my wand and wouldn’t you know it, but the large pond began to stir with ripples.
I smirked, watching with wry amusement as it frothed and boiled over, much like a witch’s brew would.
I honestly didn’t have a clue why I hadn’t just tucked tail and left already, but in for a penny in for a pound, or however that blasted saying went. I was crap with sayings, everyone knew it. I didn’t much care; I figured my butchered sayings were easily understood as well.
The waters rolled back on either side and I opened my mouth, ready to tear the stranger a new one for acting like such a childish prat, when I finally caught sight of his face.
And to say that I liked it was a bloody understatement. He was gorgeous.
Skin that gleamed like the inside of an abalone’s shell in moonlight reflected off the surface of the water, it actually cast a glow it was so startlingly bright.
His hair was long, and gleamed like freshly churned butter from Pasteur raised cows. Like the really golden honey color, not that drivel you bought in stores that was just barely yellow it might as well be white. It too cast a glow upon the waters. His chest was bare, and va va voom it was nice and tight and toned and sigh…
And his face, oh his face. Kissed by the gods, or the divine, whatever one preferred. He had the kind of looks that only existed in HollyWeird. A bit of young Marlon with Dean’s smolder and a just a smidge of Warren Beatty’s cocky arrogance.
I thought I felt a little slide of drool form in the corner of my mouth and surreptitiously wiped at it with my wrist. How mortifying if he’d caught me literally drooling that way.
Sure, the dry spell had been long enough that I was pretty sure I’d grown dust on it down there, but bloody hell this was embarrassing. My pulse was racing like a steam powered locomotive tearing down the tracks, my knees were weak, and I swear but my palms felt as slick as a teenage male touching a boob for the first time.
I wiped my hands down my cape, biting onto the corner of my lip. Hoping like the bloody underworld that he couldn’t scent arousal because I was pinging on all cylinders right now.
I smiled, or at least that’s what I hoped it looked like. I’d been told before that my face looked a little psycho when I got excited. Braining was hard for me sometimes when I got overly emotional, I wouldn’t deny it.
He smirked and I swear to the gods, he had to know the thoughts going through my mind right now with how he looked at me. Like I was dinner and he was a hungry lion, or rather in his case, shark. I’d just spied his tail, it was green. But not like grass, more like the carapace of a beetle in the sunlight. Glinting with several different colors beneath.
Up until now I’d thought we’d only had one mermaid in Blue Moon Bay, I mean, there could have been more. I’d never actually taken the time to know for certain. But I knew for a fact that we hadn’t had a male siren. That was for sure.
I frowned. Wait, was there even such a thing as a male siren? Legends always told of killer maidens, not men.
“There aren’t many of us, to be sure,” he said and his voice, ye gods! I squeaked, like literally squeaked. My cheeks flamed. And if a hole could open up beneath my feet right now I’d be so grateful. But there was no stupid hole to save me and when he laughed, I swear my nipples turned into beady little projectiles of death rubbing mercilessly against the silk of my shirt and making me all hot and twitchy.
Had I said my thought aloud? Judging by his expression, I must have. How embarrassing.
I nibbled on the corner of my lips.
“Myrtle, are you quite all right?”
This time when I frowned it had nothing to do with how hot he was, and oh lawdy, but he was that. No, it had everything to do with the fact that twice now he’d called me by name.
I cocked my head. “And how exactly is it that you know me? Mate?”
His brows lifted, and great Johosephat, but it was hot. I saw someone say that on the boob tube the other day, that such and such was hot. Which I thought a little ridiculous because how could someone else know that such and such was hot, but apparently it was the on trend word of today. And if I prided myself on one thing, it was staying hip to the times.
“Not yet, love, but we’ll get there, I promise.”
“Huh?” I blinked, lost to what he was saying.
“Well, isn’t it obvious, Myrtle? Aren’t you at all happy to see me? You just called me mate after all.” He winked.
“As in, friend. Isn’t that what it means?” I asked him with a twirl of my wrist. “I’ve heard other people say that to one another. ‘How are ye, mate?’ I never thought they meant literally mate as in life partner. Wait!” My eyes widened and I took a mini-step back. “You didn’t think I meant life partner, because nooooo.”
He chuckled as thought greatly amused by my sudden terror.
I frowned harder, pulling on my bottom lip so forcefully now that it was in very real danger of being bled. But I was confused and when I was confused braining got hard.
“Excuse me, but… I don’t know you?” I meant it to come out a declaration, instead it had sounded a little like a purring mewling question. I groaned and clenched my hands into tight little fists of annoyance.
His big booming laughter both grated on my nerves and made me feel oddly hot under the collar. Hm.
He tipped his head back, laughing unabashedly and I felt myself grow a little dizzy watching as the moonlight stroked its fingers across his sunkissed flesh. How was he so bronzed if he lived under the sea? Curiouser and curiouser. Wait… I was supposed to be grumpy with him right now.
Focus, Myrtle! I mentally chided myself.
I bit my bottom lip and swallowed hard.
His blue eyes danced with laughter when he finally glanced back at me. “You jest. I enjoy this game. But now, no more. Come, for we have much to do before our nuptials.”
I frowned. At no point had this gorgeous mermale looked in any sort of danger. “Wait a moment,” I held up my hand as I cocked out my left hip, “you called to me this morning.”
He nodded knowingly, smug arrogant Marlon Brando lips tipped up at the corners. “Mmhm.” He gave an unintelligible sort of mumble. “That I did, my queen.”
My. Queen? I mouthed the words, more than a little confused now. Was this man high on stonefish venom?
I shook my head, sure that he must not have understood my statement, so I made sure to phrase it clearly as a question this time. “So, why did you beckon me again? And how is that you know me so well?”
He sighed deeply, looking a little put off finally. Long fingers that were webbed with translucent skin, stroked his square cut jaw. “Have you truly forgotten me, princess?”
I frowned harder. Queen first. Now princess?
“I don’t think I know you, sir. This was a very bad idea coming here. I should leave now. Tootles.” I finger waved at him, having every intention of leaving him to it. This mermale was clearly drunk on hippo piss. Or something. I could picture my sisters just laughing at my sheer folly already. I almost groaned at the thought. Gods, why did I always seem to find myself in these sorts of pickles?
But as I lifted my foot to take that first step so that I could finally skedaddle and go hunt out some actual clients that weren’t bat poop loco I felt a webbing of great power freeze me fast.
A tiny squeak issued from my stunned mouth. I flicked a glance upward and saw that it was crazy handsome’s doing. How? How? How the devil had he frozen me? A level ten witch?
“You’ve—” I began, but then I felt an invisible seal wrap itself around my mouth and no matter how much I grunted and strained, not a peep issued from between my lips.
“Myrtle, honestly, my darling, I thought at first that maybe it was this cursed town that had wiped me from your mind, but I think I see what this is now.” He sighed deeply, steepled his fingers together in front of him and looking every inch the contrite suitor I seriously doubted he was, said, “I know what you think you saw that day.”
My brows lifted high. I’d never seen crazy handsome before in my life. But I was pretty sure I knew where this was leading. I shook my head.
And he shook his harder. “No my dear one, I do know. You thought you saw me kissing Varinka, yes.”
I garbled nonsense in the back of my throat. He sighed longingly.
“Oh my love, I do wish you would have just come to me first before deciding to run away to the land of the leggers.” He shuddered with an exaggerated sigh. “Fifty years we’ve been apart, and I couldn’t even come to you before now. This damned land wouldn’t allow me in. It was Erich, Myrtle. My twin. He and Varinka are wed now. You missed it. Lovely wedding. And now, it’s time to have ours. I’ve waited for you long enough, let you have your little tantrum. But I miss you, my darling. And my biological clock is ticking.”
At that I screamed. Literally screamed. Screamed so hard my face must have turned red and the veins were bulging in the side of my neck. If crazy handsome thought to make me his baby mama he had another think coming. I opened these legs to no man.
Well… not really. If I’d had men to open my legs to that I’d actually, yanno, liked, it might have been a different story. Which was neither here nor there, because crazy handsome was swimming up to me fast. The water rippled like a wave upon a shore as he barreled down upon me. I tried to run. I really did.
But I only succeeded on listing side to side. Whatever bloody enchantment he had me under it was powerful. Powerful enough that I couldn’t raise my hand to flick my wand and call forth my own power.
Bloody hell, Generva was going to hate me once she learned of this. She would never believe I’d been kidnapped by a seriously gorgeous and yet unnervingly crazy mermale. Ever. I mean, who would? But I should never be surprised when these sorts of things happened to me, because I was a magnet for crazy. Apparently.
I tried shaking my head, or clicking my tongue at him, or hell, I’d have even been okay with tinkling on his tail if I could have worked up a little protest urine. But I was a frozen chunk of breathing flesh.
His hands were surprisingly warm and very gentle as he wrapped them around my middle. Taking care, I guessed, not to injure me.
“Your parents are going to be thrilled to finally have you home. You know, they’ve never liked me, you know that, right? No one was ever good enough for their little siren. Blame me for your leaving. I’m sorry, Mry. For everything. You must know that. I was so angry with you at first, but I’ve had decades to think this through and I know that I would have reacted the same if I’d been you. So I forgive you, if you promise to forgive me because you mean the world to me, female.” He stroked my cheek and I should be so ragey with him right now. I’d had every intention of being so.
I mean, for a modern day witch I certainly wasn’t acting like one. And yet, I was touched by his words. I felt his truth in them and couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor sap. I wasn’t sure how he could mistake me and yet I rather thought the mermale didn’t actually mean me any harm.
He grinned and shrugged almost bashfully and bloody hell, it was cute.
“You must think me a great big sap, and I am sorry for how I’m handling this, I understand it’s not ideal.”
Really. I thinned my lips, because I was a little irked now by the reminder of why I should be irked. I felt like a trussed up Thanksgiving turkey right now.
“But I think all will finally be forgiven and we can get on with our lives now. I’ve missed you, Myrtle. So, so much,” he whispered the last bit, and I swear but for just a moment, I actually felt the sincerity in his tone.
I wanted to scream at him. He was a Neanderthal. A clear caveman with narcissistic male toxicity—another little gem I’d recently learned of—and yet for some bloody reason I thought he might actually mean what he was saying. Which confused the snot out of me, because I did not know him.
And there was no mistaking my memory here. I didn’t much care for water. Never had really.
Oh. Emm. Gee.
My eyes grew wide as he moved me off land and toward the pool. I felt the first touch of its cool water slide against my toes. “Mmmhhhmmmhhh,” I shook my head violently.
I couldn’t swim. Like at all. Like not even a little. As in, I didn’t even bathe because of a fear of accidentally striking my head and submerging myself. To someone as accident prone as me, that was a real fear. I showered. And never buried my head in the spray, that’s how much I didn’t like to be in water.
He continued to glide forward. “Now, now, Myrtle, truly, you can’t have forgotten how to swim? You’re still a siren, take your form, darling so that we might dive and finally be rid of this strange realm full of vulgar leggers.”
For a second I’d thought him stupidly sweet, now I just thought of him as stupid. I went rigid as a board in his arms when the water hovered at my breasts. My skin was covered in chicken pebbles. Oh gods, I was going to die by the hands of a crazy handsome.
Again I tried shrieking at him. Head going all black and spinny from my lack of breathing properly.
“My dear, are you trying to say something?”
I wanted to literally bite his stupidly handsome mouth of his stupidly handsome face, go full on zombie on him. But I couldn’t, because flesh was vile and I was no zombie. Also, he was too far away from my mouth.
I grumbled some more. Demanding he remove this damned geis. This misunderstanding could be cleared up if he’d just let me speak for one second. I was beginning to have a gut feeling that who he’d actually been searching for was another female, an acquaintance of mine. The only siren I knew of in Blue Moon Bay whose name coincidentally started with the same first letter as my own. Meri. Meri Undine. Who looked nothing like me, by the by.
I was prettier. No, I wasn’t. But I felt petty right now.
But he heard none of what I was mumbling at him. Instead he wore his cocky Warren Beatty smile and nodded. “Ah, I see. Too long wearing those land legs, have you? Forgotten how to change? Well, never fear my beautiful darling. We can share breath.”
And how exactly did one share breath, I wondered idly.
“I’m sure you’ll remember soon enough,” he finished and then he was leaning into me. Fast. So swift in fact that I’d quite forgotten to bite off his stupidly handsome mouth, and then said stupidly handsome mouth was on mine and I felt a push of air so sweet and wonderful fill my entire being. It was like I was literally crafted of air.