Chapter no 8

Daughter of the Siren Queen

“THAT’S IT?” I SCREAM the words, though I know she can’t hear me. “Ava-lee! Get back here!”

Doesn’t she know I can’t follow her? Surely she knows what happens when I’m in the water? I can’t control myself! Can she? Is she the same person who was just talking to me? She’s not human. Does she turn into a monster when she’s underwater as I do?

She left. She’s gone.

I saved her. I put myself and others at risk for her. And now we’ve nothing to show for it.

Was it all a ruse? Her pretending that she cared? Was it all just a trick she used to get me to save her? Was the humanity an act?

A tapping at my back makes me flinch, but it is only little Roslyn.

“What happened, Captain? Who was the pretty lady? Do we throw her a rope?”

A voice that doesn’t seem to belong to me says, “She was no one. She doesn’t need our help anymore. Roslyn, go on back to your station. I need you to tell me if any ships gain on us.”


A numbness takes over me as I shut out all thoughts of my parents and what they’ve done. There is nothing except me and my crew. Nothing that matters except our safety and well-being. We are being hunted. What do we do?

She abandoned me. No—

I tamp down the thought.

Don’t think of anything else, Alosa. Your crew is counting on you.

“Kearan!” I say. “Find a suitable port to deposit our extra passengers.” Riden and Draxen are not part of my crew. The king isn’t hunting them down. There’s no reason to drag them into this.

But then you might never see Riden again.… A glimmer of feeling tries to sneak through the cracks. I board them up, let nothing but the numbness enter.

In a voice loud enough for all to hear, I say, “I brought the pirate king after us. There’s nothing I can do to change that now. But we can survive this.”

“What’s the plan, Captain?” Niridia asks.

“My father is so feared because he has nearly every man on the sea under his employ. If we’re to bring him down, we need to take that away.”

“Pirates are loyal only to whoever has the most gold to pay,” Mandsy says. “Present company excluded, of course.”

“Exactly. We have copies of all three pieces of the map. We’re sailing to the Isla de Canta and taking the sirens’ treasure for ourselves.”

Sorinda, who stands behind Kearan’s shoulder, says, “Then starts the reign of the pirate queen.”

“Rah!” cheers the crew.

Though I’m certain I have the support of all, I add, “If anyone has a problem with the plan, they can leave when we drop off our prisoners.”

A headache starts to pound between my eyes. My carefully built walls will crumble soon. I can’t keep them up forever.

“Kearan, keep us steady. Niridia, come get me if a ship follows us out of the keep.”

“Aye, Captain.” She comes to my side. Quieter, so no one else can hear, she adds, “We should talk about what just happened, Alosa.” She calls me this when addressing me as a friend rather than my first mate. I know she means my mother leaving, but I’m barely keeping it together as it is.

“Later,” I say, though I’ve no intention of discussing it. “Right now I need a moment. Alone.”

“Do what you need to. I’ll see that everything runs smoothly.” She always does.

I finally get a door between me and the rest of the world. And the walls come tumbling down.

My breathing turns to rasping. I grind my teeth and glare at everything in sight. My drapes. My glass-framed pictures. My bed. There’s this pressure building inside me, as though I will explode.

I don’t know how to let it out. I don’t think I’ve ever been so furious in my whole life.

A knock sounds at the door.

“Get away if you don’t want your head bashed in!” I shout. I punch a feather pillow on my bed. It’s not enough, though. It doesn’t do anything to let out the pressure. I need to hit something hard. Sturdy. Something that’ll push back. I want to scream, but the crew will hear that.

I’m so distraught that I don’t realize my door has opened and shut until a hand comes down on my shoulder. I spin around and thrust the low part of my palm outward, connecting with—

Riden’s chest.

He rubs at the spot but doesn’t complain. He won’t take his eyes off mine.

“I heard what happened,” he says. “I told you not to come in.”

“I didn’t listen.”

I send an elbow at his gut, but he turns sideways and catches my arm. “It wasn’t an empty warning,” I say.

“I know.”

“You’re an idiot.” I swipe his legs out from under him. “You haven’t fought against me before.”

He takes a few moments to find his feet. I think I knocked the wind from him. “We’ve fought many times,” he rasps.

“Aye, and I was going easy on you.” “Then do your worst now, lass.”

I do. At first. I move like an unbreakable current, forcing wave after crushing wave upon him. My legs lash out, my arms strike, even my head connects with him at one point. But he doesn’t come at me with his own blows, only tries to deflect me as best he can.

“Fight back, Riden.” “No,” he says stubbornly. “Why not?”

“It wouldn’t be right.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” “You’re hurt.”

“I’m not the one who will wake covered in bruises tomorrow.” “Not visible ones.”

I backhand him. It sends him to the ground. As soon as my hand makes contact, I regret the decision. I’m abusing his body. He is not here to be my whipping boy, yet that’s exactly how I’m treating him. I can’t strike my father. Or my mother. The woman who made me feel so loved and then left without a trace.

I hate her for it.

My own ship mocks me with its name. I’m painting over it at the next opportunity.

Riden moves his jaw back and forth with his hand as he rises.

“You’re making me feel worse!” I shout at him. “Is that what you wanted?”

“No, I came to comfort you.” “You’re doing one hell of a job.”

He sets his jaw now. “You’re the one making this difficult.”

I shake my head once in outrage. “I’m supposed to make it easy for you to comfort me?”

“Let me hold you.”

The words startle me so much that at first I don’t know how to answer.

Then, “No! I don’t need your damned comfort. I want to hit things and scream. I told you what you could do to help. Give me something to fight. Otherwise get out before I kill you.”

“You have more self-control than that.”

“You don’t know me.”

My anger cools ever so slightly. These quick exchanges seem to be having some effect on me. For a moment, I let myself try to imagine what it would be like to simply be held by him. What would it feel like? To be caught in an embrace that wasn’t meant to do anything but soothe?

“I’m trying to,” he says. It takes me a moment to remember what we were talking about.

A new thought strikes me. No, an embrace is too slow. It’s not what I want.

I lunge at him. I see him stiffen for the blow as he registers my movement.

But that’s not what I want, either.

I place my lips over his so quickly, I think his eyes are still open when I reach him. I can’t tell for certain; mine are already closed so I can focus better on eliciting a response from him. My fingers slide into his hair, silky smooth and wonderful, until they reach the back of his head. I put pressure there to seal him in place.

He might be strong enough to resist fighting me, but this … He’s helpless against this.

It only takes him a second to get a hand in my hair. The other goes to the side of my face and neck so he can stroke the skin there with his fingertips. I open my mouth to draw in a breath, to draw in him. He uses it as an opportunity to deepen the kiss. His tongue slides in, completely bathing me in sensation. Stars, how did I manage to avoid him for two whole months?

Time wasted.

I grab his back to pull him closer. I need every inch of him touching me now. Right now. Nothing is fast enough. It’s the most glorious feeling in the world. This right here. Not having to think. Just feel.

I pull his shirt out from where it’s tucked into his breeches. He reaches down, as though to help me take it off, then pauses.

He presses his forehead against mine, breathing so quickly, I wonder how he manages to get words out. “Wait.”

“I don’t want to wait.” My hands are under his shirt now, sliding up his stomach, slowly pulling the cotton up with them. His breathing hitches, and

that only makes me pull it up slower, savoring the feel of his smooth skin and loving the way he reacts to everything I do.

“In the tunnels,” I say, “you said you wanted to talk about something with me. What was it?” I press a kiss to his neck.

“I wanted to talk about us.”

“I can think of something more fun than talking.”

He finally grabs my hands with his own. He doesn’t pull them away, only holds them in place so he can catch his breath. I tilt my mouth up to his lips again.

“Alosa, stop it.”

I open my eyes and look at him. “What’s the matter?” I say, irritated. “I want to stop.”

I give him a wicked grin and press my mouth to his ear. “But don’t you want to feel my lips here next?” I put more pressure against where he has my hands trapped against his chest.

His entire body shudders, and I lean back, triumphant.

“You don’t want me to stop. Now let me take off your shirt.” Riden pauses for a very. Long. Time.

But eventually, he shakes his head.

“What’s the matter? Are you tired of standing? Would you rather I kissed you in my bed?”

He releases my hands and steps back several paces until he comes into contact with a painting on the opposite wall. It lands on the floor, the glass shattering, but neither of us looks at it.

“What are you doing now?” I ask.

“You could make a monk break his vows.” “You’re no monk.”

“No, I’m worse. I—” He takes a deep breath. “You’ve been abandoned by your mother all over again, and you’ve just learned your father’s been lying to you your entire life. You’re vulnerable.”

Strangely, I feel like hitting him again. “I’m no weak thing. I know what I want.”

“I didn’t say you were weak.” He pulls his neckline outward, as though he needs more air. “Damn it, Alosa. deserve better than this. You come

find me when you’re not so emotional.”

Emotional? I’m beyond furious and confused now. Maybe a little hurt.

But I don’t let it show. I cloak my face in indifference.

His face falls and he takes a step forward. “Now I’ve hurt you. There’s nothing wrong with what you’re feeling. Take the time to feel it. I’m not rejecting you, Alosa! How could anyone reject you? Just take some time to adjust. Then you can come find me. But right now, you’re making me feel like some scoundrel taking advantage of—”

“I’m making you feel—well, it should be all about you, shouldn’t it?” I ask, my tone dripping with sarcasm.

“No, it shouldn’t be all about me, but it should have something to do with me. When we kiss, I want you thinking about me instead of everything that’s infuriating you. Until you’re ready for that, we won’t be kissing.”

Something about those words hits deep, and guilt sweeps in. I don’t need it on top of everything else! “Right now, you’re infuriating me. And there won’t be any more kissing. Now get out.”

I kick his arse on his way through the door.

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