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Hope you enjoy this sample from Chapter 16. Melanie Larson, one of the book's two heroines, is an unwilling guest in the Fae world's Dark Court, also referred to as the Unseelie Court.
Cupidon’s ocean excursion did indeed compare to flying and made my earlier dolphin experience seem like a bike ride with the training wheels on. He’d also provided a twist to our travel methods that made any snorkel or oxygen tank seem obsolete.
At first I thought he was planning to kiss me. I’d resisted when he tilted my head back and pressed his lips to mine. Instead of pressing for some tongue action, he blew a stream of air into my mouth. Before I could think to exhale, he spun around, positioning me below him. Face down in the water, I started to panic. He didn’t respond to my unease as I might have expected.
Not even close.
With a flip of his tail, we torpedoed into the ocean’s depths following a path of sunlight. Forget Dorothy skipping along the Yellow Brick Road; I was chasing a one way sunbeam straight to Davy’s Locker. It took several long and terrifying minutes before I realized breathing was no longer necessary. The air he’d shared had altered my lung functions. I could now see with perfect clarity. The salt water had ceased to burn my eyes.
We dove deeper. Acting as my merman guide, he pointed out a sunken vessel that looked like an ancient pirate ship. He showed me an array of vibrant fish, species so incredible I wished for my underwater camera. Some rubbed against me, tickling me with their feathery fins, their own curiosity getting the best of them. Others, malformed and sinister, kept to the shadows where they belonged. All the while, Cupidon kept one arm circled around my middle, supporting me safely through the watery wonderland.
We’d explored the ocean’s mysteries for what seemed like hours when my gurgling stomach alerted us both to my human need for sustenance.
Altering our course, we dropped further, and soon I spotted a castle. Even more amazing than the elaborate structure were the mermaids and other mermen that hurried to greet us. Their smiles were as blinding as Cupidon’s and they swam with such unequaled elegance I couldn’t stop staring. The females were beyond beautiful with their multicolored hair flowing behind in waves. Like human women, their uncovered breasts varied in size and shape, while their tails featured different shades and textures. I could have watched them for hours as they twirled through the water in a synchronized performance of acrobatic grace.
Once inside, I was shocked to discover everyone reverted to their human forms, and despite the lack of sealed doors and windows, the ocean remained outside, as if blocked from entering by an invisible border. I had to admit it felt good to be on solid ground even if I was at the bottom of a faery ocean.
My enjoyment was cut short by Kellen, who appeared from one of several side entrances, a sneer and narrowed eyes distorting his handsome features. “Enjoy your little sea adventure?” He turned to glare at Cupidon who’d taken several steps back.
The festive atmosphere had turned fearful as the merfolk inclined their heads acknowledging Kellen’s authority. An older man sailed into the room, his massive tail immediately replaced by two muscled legs. He radiated power and confidence in spite of his unwelcome visitor.
“Prince Kellen, to what do we owe this honor?” He approached to stand eye to eye with the prince.
“King of the Unseelie Sea, your son has violated our agreement.”
The king’s expression darkened. “Cupidon?”
“No, Kellen, he saved me!” I grasped at the prince’s arm. “I was drowning. I don’t know how I got out from my chamber. I swear.”
He shoved me away. I landed with humph on the floor. Cupidon dropped to his knees beside me.
“On your feet, Merman!” Kellen ordered. “Face your execution like a man, or a fish.” An evil snigger followed, making Kellen the ugliest, most revolting creature I’d ever laid eyes on.
“Let us reason. The human has stated my son rescued …” the king started.
“Silence! You old fool. Do you wish to join him?”
Something stronger than hatred was slinking through my mind, polluting every thought about forgiveness I’d entertained. Kellen’s temporary kindness last night had been a farce, another ploy to gain my affection. He’d given me food and a fancy room and I’d been impressed, relieved to avoid a less hospitable jail cell. I wouldn’t question his true nature again, and if possible, I’d kill him. The killing him idea was becoming a common occurrence. Perhaps all the vampire blood I’d consumed was messing with my beliefs on violence, or maybe the faery food had some bonus adverse effects. Either way, anyone who dared cross the new me was in for an unpleasant surprise. No more plain, average, nice girl Melanie.
“Any last words? I’d like to know why you disobeyed a direct order,” Kellen questioned Cupidon, ignoring the king’s call for reasoning. “Please, do enlighten me.”
Squaring his shoulders, Cupidon, who now appeared far younger than I’d first thought, faced the prince. I realized that he, too, was a prince in his own right. A prince of this fantastical water kingdom nestled in the midst the dark faeries’ court. As far as I could tell the merfolk were gentle and gracious. Why they weren’t under the authority of the Seelie Court was mind boggling.
Cupidon glanced at his peers, several gave encouraging smiles. “Prince Kellen, all I wanted was to see an actual human. I asked a fire pixie for help. She owed me a boon. Through the flames she reached out to Melanie, who willingly accepted her invitation.” He gave me a sorrowful look and continued. “I created a life-threatening scenario so I could rescue her, be the hero.” His eyes pleaded for my forgiveness. “Sorry about the dolphins.”
He just didn’t get it. Despite the great time we’d had, he, too, had violated my trust. Something I could no longer tolerate and refused to put up with.
Unaware of my latest vow, he ended his explanation with an odd confession. “Once I had her, I wanted to keep her. She’s unlike anything I’ve ever beheld.”
Keep me? Like a pet. The whole thing sounded creepy with him starring as the creepiest creeper.
Kellen had calmed himself and appeared amused by the drama unfolding. “I understand your fascination, but other than the Unseelie royals, no one is to interfere with humans. Not until matters have been settled to our satisfaction.”
“I am a royal,” Cupidon offered hesitantly.
I could see Kellen’s eyes darken. He shook his head. “I was prepared to change my mind and present you with an alternative to execution. Unfortunately, what you just said is treason. You are a water royal, not a full blooded royal.” Kellen turned to the king. “What have you been teaching your people? Do you need a history lesson?”
“You shouldn’t be a royal! You’re harsh, dishonest, and …”
“Silence, son!” the king bellowed. “You’ve done enough. You’ve shamed our family and your court.”
Kellen was far from finished. “Why don’t you tell our guest what mermen do to humans after all the swimming and picnics on the beach are over? Tell her what your true intentions were.”
Cupidon looked stricken, refusing to speak. With death assured, his decision to remain silent no longer mattered.
Kellen stared at the merman. “I’d be embarrassed to tell her too, so instead, I’ll leave that to your father.”
The king faced me, his face hard, menacing even. It occurred to me that my first impression might have been wrong. Maybe there was a reason they were part of the Dark Court. His next words confirmed why.
“We breed with human females. Once a female has delivered our offspring, we feed her to the children as their first meal.”
“Would you kill her and then feed your young?” Kellen pressed.
I glanced at Cupidon. His head hung and he’d turned away from his father.
“No, your highness. We’d rip off pieces of her flesh and internal organs with our teeth, while she lived. It is tradition, and most nourishing for the babes.”
“Show the nutritious human your teeth,” Kellen commanded.
“Father … no!” Cupidon pleaded.
Kellen backhanded him.
Furious, the Mer-King hissed; his jaw unhinged and his mouth expanded into a gaping maw of razor sharp spikes, hundreds of them.
I flinched and let out a little cry.
“Now aren’t you glad I found you?” Kellen drawled. “I’ve saved you from being raped and impregnated by over a hundred fish, and then eaten by your own offspring while you watched your intestines spill from your stomach.”
“Melanie, I promise, I wouldn’t have allowed that. I wanted you as my own. Never would I have shared you. You have to believe me.” Cupidon’s eyes pleaded, but all I could picture was a replica of his father’s massive shark-like mouth plastered on his perfect face.
Kellen nodded my direction. “You know something, I feel generous today. I’ll allow Melanie to determine your punishment.”
Minus even a hint of hesitation, I made my final judgment.
The Fae were all rotten on the inside no matter how appealing they appeared on the outside. Rotten fruit, rotten meat, rotten faeries shared something in common. Rotten things needed to be disposed of.
“Kill him,” I whispered.
Cupidon’s face turned ashen and he blinked rapidly.
“Kill him,” I said again, louder this time, making certain everyone heard the merman’s fate.
“Why, Melanie? Why?” he asked, regaining his composure.
“Because she doesn’t like fish,” Kellen answered for me.
If you're waiting for the paperback version, your wait is almost over. I'm excited to report that you will be able to actually hold a real "live" book in your hand by the end of the month. The publisher is prepping for publication. Woo Hoo! For me, as much as I love my Kindle Fire, the smell of a new book, hot off the press, is irreplaceable.
Either way, go on and take a bite out of Werewolves of the West series. I think you'll like the taste!