After two years and a nearly complete rewrite from where I thought the book was going to go... it's almost finished. Now if my family can just keep their acts together for a few more weeks, I'll be able to ship this off to the publisher and start counting the days until the December release party!
In the meantime...
Here's another scene from the book not previously shared....
Shea saw Kae arrive late to the courtroom, swimming to her usual seat without even a glance around the amphitheater to find him. From his higher position in the grandstands, he watched as she clenched and unclenched her small hands, her silky blonde shining like gold in the morning light, her attention focused on the proceedings. A sad longing filled him, and he wished he sat next to her to calm her obvious anxiety.
Shea wondered what made her late. His stomach twisted into a tight knot as he pictured her with him. With Zan. Despite her protests, Shea knew their breakup had something to do with the sorcerer.
Maybe he’d go visit the guy in the dungeon after all. Was it fair to punch someone if they were already imprisoned?
When the court broke for a lunch recess, he followed the chattering gaggle of princesses toward the exit, still stuck in his own thoughts and paying no attention to their conversation. Prince Azul’s sister Layla kept trying to include him by asking questions, but Shea was distracted, wondering if he’d be allowed to visit Zan in the dungeon, and whether the sorcerer would tell him the truth of what was going on.
A hard tug on his arm caught his attention, but instead of Layla it was Kae swimming next to him. She leaned close, her blonde hair caressing the side of his neck as she whispered. “I can’t believe that sea snake got away with another murder. What did I miss at the beginning of the court session?”
Shea closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her breath tickling against his ear. Had he imagined the scene in the library? Had she changed her mind about breaking up? His hand found hers and twined their fingers for a second before she yanked her hand free as if he’d stung her, putting more distance between them.
A ball of ice formed in the pit of Shea’s stomach, his throat thick with a sudden rush of emotion. “I thought we were still friends.”
“We are. I mean…”
“I get it.” His jaw clenched. Everything he wanted to say to her jumbled in his head, a mishmash of jealous feelings about Zan and a longing to go back to when it was just the two of them alone, walking the beach at Windmill Point. Before all the complications of Atlantis and royalty and sorcerers wedged them apart.
The Pacific mermaids took notice of Kae, giggling behind their hands. Layla pressed close to Shea’s other side, wrapping long fingers around his bicep and giving Kae a dismissive smile. “What are you still doing hanging around the prince? Go away, little mermaid. You had your chance. The prince is moving on to better things now.”
He saw the shock and hurt wash across her face, quickly replaced by something else. Anger.
“Not wasting any time, are you, Layla?” Her eyes flashed at the blue-haired mermaid as the water around them warmed. “I hope by better things you’re not referring to yourself. You’ve already kissed half the merman in our class, and the first term is far from over.”
“If you haven’t even kissed poor Shea yet, no wonder he dumped you.”
“For the record, I broke up with him!”
Layla’s musical laughter sounded overly loud and drew curious stares from other students in the crowd, like a siren drawing her prey. “Why in Neptune’s name would you make up such a ridiculous tale?”
Kae’s hands balled into fists at her sides, her tail fin swishing a fast beat. Shea felt the low hum of magick vibrating the water. “Because it’s true.”
“Then you’re more the fool than I imagined,” Layla purred, running one finger up and down his bare arm, sending a zing of magick along his skin, magick that urged him to stay at her side. His eyes flew wide as he fought against her compulsion spell and slowly backed away.
Layla didn’t take notice, her complete focus now on Kae. “You’re a stupid serving wench. If the prince was my boyfriend, I’d never leave his side. And he’d never want me to go.”
Shea felt trapped, unable to form a coherent thought, let alone sentence, as the two traded increasingly barbed insults. A crowd of their classmates quickly gathered, goading the mermaids on. Several of Kae’s friends darted to her side to denigrate the loose morality of the royal lifestyle, while the rest of the princesses surrounded Layla to jeer at the “plebian class.” The sizzle of magick swirled through the crowd, and he realized each of the mermaids wore transmutare stones and didn’t seem afraid to turn the magick against their fellow classmates.
He found himself pushed further and further from the center of the fight as professors elbowed forward to break up the argument. The crackle of magick dissipated, washed away with the current as if he’d imagined it.
He realized this fight was not about him, not really, but more of a royals versus non-royals, the haves and have-nots. Shea flashed back to similar arguments back at his school in Oklahoma. How the rich townie kids made a sport of teasing Shea and his farmer friends. The ugly words here in Atlantis sounded the same, the only difference the undercurrent of magick in the water.
None of this had mattered on Cape Cod. As far as he could tell, his mother and Kae’s mother were best friends, despite their class differences. Why was it such an issue here in Atlantis? And how had he been so oblivious to it until now?
He swam out into the courtyard, passing the Doric columns at the entrance to his dormitory. He waved to a few mermen who called out to him but didn’t slow. He needed to find answers.