Authors: Dee Carney
Gods damn it.
He tilted his head toward the surface and located the belly of the vessel, which had yet to move. Odd. He'd thought she would have sought the sanctuary of land by now.
Working in lazy spirals, he made his way toward the boat, knowing that it would move away at any moment. When it still floated in the same place by the time he reached it, his concern grew. A surge of concentrated energy transformed his tail into legs again and after a brief pause at the aft, he hauled himself over the ledge of the boat. Ignoring the immediate prickling sensation that enveloped his lower body, he took a deep breath when his first step shot a bolt of pain through him. It was somebody's idea of a joke that he could use the stupid things to walk on, but only after suffering for it for a few minutes first.
The open area was small and the last place he'd left her. His heart hammered with every step he took, but none found her waiting. Then he remembered the little cabin and headed toward it. The door swung open and as before, a large resting area waited in the middle. This time, she lay curled up on it.
Shivering and blue.
This was wrong. He knew enough about humans to know she shouldn't look like this.
Her entire body wracked with uncontrollable shudders, her breathing clumsy and rapid.
Lids fluttered over dark eyes as she fought against something that had taken control of her body. Something to which she was losing.
Danyl rushed to her side, and ran his hand over her shoulder, not knowing how to fix this. Glazed eyes opened wide. "S-so-so c-cold," she ground out through chattering teeth.
Gods, he didn't think. She wasn't used to the water he lived in. Her skin was cold to the touch. Nothing like when he'd found her not so long ago. Poseidon would have his way and claim her after all.
Sometimes it helped to have a friend with whom to transition into the next world. He didn't know her, this human, but he would gladly serve as her guide. He'd robbed her of an easy death beneath the sea and forced her through this torment in the dry air.
He climbed in beside her, wrapping his arms around her shivering body. His wet flesh clung to hers, but he held on to her, knowing it had to be better than nothing. Better than dying alone.
He'd done this to her and he was so sorry. His eyes moistened and he didn't know why.
He was just so very, very sorry.
* * * *
A warm body was snuggled behind her.
Not just a body. A man's body. There was no disguising the firm length of him—
both kinds—pressed against her back and between her ass cheeks. One arm was draped across her belly, the other lay curled beneath her head. While her mind screamed at her to run and get away, her body purred its contentment. Trying to find some middle ground between the two, she turned her head and found herself staring into familiar silver eyes.
"You are well?" he asked.
A nicely-hung, sculpted hero lay beside her on the bed and he wanted to know if she was well? Cutie had no idea just
well. "Yeah," she replied on a breath. "Thanks for saving my behind. Twice, in fact."
He broke eye contact to glance between their bodies. "It's a very nice behind. And well worth saving."
She could be outraged. She could be grateful. Instead, her body betrayed her with hardening nipples and an ache between her thighs. Thank God she still wore the drab black bikini. It provided at least an illusion of decency.
"Who are you?"
"My name's Danyl."
He smiled. "Close." He pronounced it again. When she mimicked the sound, he nodded his approval.
"My friends call me Di."
He quirked a brow at that. "Die? And what do those who aren't your friends call you?"
"Aphrodite." Even as she said it, her nose wrinkled in distaste.
. Born of the sea," he murmured.
She lifted a single shoulder and let it drop. "Or goddess of the sea, depending on who you ask."
His gaze followed the motion. A strand of her hair wrapped over her shoulder and she grimaced at the frizz, but then smiled to herself. Naked dude saved her life. Twice.
Naked dude now lay behind her in bed. And she was worried about her hair?
Danyl curled the errant strand around his finger and pushed it aside. He kept his eyes on hers when he lowered his head and swept his mouth across her skin. The goose bumps that erupted this time had nothing to do with the temperature.
"That's also true," he said before dropping another tender kiss. "And where I'm from, there's only one thing to do with a goddess."
Heart thudding so loudly people the next continent over probably heard it, Di asked,
"And what's that?"
Danyl didn't hesitate. "Worship her."
What did she say to that? Already he was kissing a trail of fire over her shoulder and down her arm. And his hand worked at the knot keeping her bikini top tied in place.
She'd never been one to sleep with just anyone who happened by, but from the first time she'd looked into those beautiful eyes, something sparked between their bodies, connecting them on a fundamental level and elevating them to an ethereal one. But this made no sense. It couldn't be real. Friends of hers dreamed of soul mates and instant attractions, but in the real world relationships came and went, passing her by and leaving with a greater bang than that upon which they arrived.
"Danyl, wait," she gasped, her body burning with need. It'd been so long. Did it really matter if she gave in to a whim just this one time? After another long hesitation she wanted to growl her frustration because of course it did. "I don't know you. I don't know who you are or anything … and I'm grateful, believe me I am—"
He stopped moving, but kept her body pressed tight to his. "I want to be near you, Di. With your permission?"
He shifted as if to kiss her body again, and despite the very warm flush it sent through her, she shook her head. "Wait."
She couldn't think with him pressed against her, every hard inch of him a testament to his thoughts. Shimmying away, Di turned so she could face him directly.
Only that was worse. At least before, she had the stark wall of the cabin to stare at.
Now, she had the daunting task of gazing at his glory. He wasn't the least bit embarrassed to be nude in front of her. If she didn't know better, she'd think it was just a normal part of his life.
"Why would you be out here in the middle of nowhere, Danyl? I know why I'm here, but you?"
"I'm searching for something."
"As am I."
"The uh, map I have says it's somewhere around here."
She narrowed her eyes. "So does mine."
"What are you searching for?"
"No way, buddy," she said, shaking her head. "You first."
His mouth edged up in a reluctant smile. Then he did the most unexpected thing.
He rolled in the opposite direction and off the bed. Her gaze dropped again to his heavy cock and for the first time she noticed the lack of hair on his body. Not on his chest. Not on his arms or legs. Definitely nowhere to be found near his shaft.
"You are well now, goddess, so I don't feel remiss in leaving you." He backed toward the doorway and despite the protest and millions of questions poised on her lips, Di said nothing. "But I'll be back when I've found my object. And we'll continue this."
He grinned. "Whatever this is."
Her heart fluttered in such an uncharacteristic show of excitement, by the time it slowed, he'd left.
But wait. This wasn't right.
Her boat sat in the middle of the ocean, practically in the middle of God's nowhere and this man kept appearing and disappearing like an illusion. Di unfolded her legs and climbed off the bed. At a trot, she headed toward the aft, wanting to catch him before he could vanish into thin air, or water as the case may be, again.
Before she could reach the door, however, the distinct sound of displaced water came from the side of the boat. She could distinguish the waves crashing against the side.
Certainly knew the sound of a large body hitting open water. But this sound, this was the quiet welcome of a swimmer into his element. Whoever Danyl was, he knew how to handle himself in the water well.
She tried to peer at where he might have left from, but darkness greeted her from the horizon. Although she would have loved to search for him without the use of fluorescent lighting, she flicked the switch to the running lights. The moment they illuminated, she could see everything she needed to on the boat, but was blind to anything more than a foot or two out of its circumference.
The chill of a brisk wind electrified her exposed skin, and Di shivered. Stupid bikini had been a bad idea from the very beginning. With a sigh, she located her worn duffel bag. After a little rummaging, she pulled out a musty wetsuit and pulled it on. Better than nothing against the elements. A single bout of hypothermia was enough for one lifetime, thank you very much. The lightweight sarong she'd brought on this trip should have never even been packed. But hell, she hadn't planned on being out here all this time. In fact, she needed to get back. She had what she came for.
A splash in the distance caught her attention and before she could catch herself, Di looked up, expectant. Her heart raced with anticipation. A few minutes of staring into the darkness, searching for him, went by before she realized what she'd been doing.
Why was she so hung up on this man? She had bigger fish to fry and none of them were named Danyl. It was time to head home, and see what secrets the coin provided.
She ran through a quick mental checklist of tasks that needed to get done and set about making preparations to leave. Getting the anchor to rise this time took little effort at all. Neoprene gloves ensured her fingers didn't freeze while she worked and the wetsuit guarded against the almost frigid temperature. She didn't recall the weatherman saying the night air would drop like this, but she had no intention of getting in the water again tonight.
By the time she cranked the engine and headed toward shore, she'd stopped trying to see if Danyl might be just beyond the bow of the boat and concentrated on Greek freighters carrying exotic coins. Just think! If she'd found one coin, there were others—
hundreds of others—waiting to be found. A simple carbon-dating test at the local university would ensure this clue was the right one she'd been searching for. One coin would lead to the others which would then lead to the freighter. Obtaining grants to conduct other searches for even more valuable coins beneath the sea would then be child's play. Her future would be secured.
Excited, she pushed forward the throttle, ramping up speed. Her hair whipped about her face, stinging as it touched down before flying away again.
She'd buy another boat, maybe name it the
Sea Anemone II
, and hire a crew for it. If her searches became large enough, famous enough, maybe she could then buy larger boats, more staff, better equipment. It would be hard work, but damn, one day she'd be able to pick and choose which hunts they went on. Her prerogative would decide when she felt like being a part of the crew and when she felt like pushing paper back at the office.
Another glance at the GPS verified her heading, but the stupid thing had a bit of condensation in the corner. A quick swipe with her fingertip made the screen blurry, but readable. By the time she looked up, she was right on something protruding from the water.
Di tried to swerve before they made contact, but if she moved too quickly, she'd end up with a capsized boat for her troubles. She moved way too slowly to avoid it and the fiberglass of the boat screamed as the rock jutting out of the water sliced through its hull.
Where the hell had it come from? Damn it, damn it, damn it. She worked fast, throttling down until the boat drifted to idling speed.
Why hadn't she used the spotlight the entire way in? Of course she knew why. It would run down the battery and that was yet another tragedy for today that she didn't need. Then again, the night was as black as pitch. If only the stupid running lights lit the way in and didn't just alert other boaters to her presence.
Her heart sank as she grabbed the light mounted next to the control panel and inspected the side. A tear big enough to put both arms in stretched from the back end of the boat to where she stood. And worse, waves crashed against the side, some of the water entering the original puncture point.
God damn it!
It wouldn't be long before she started to sink.
This was now officially the worst day of her life.
* * * *
. She could be called nothing less. Gods, she even looked like the deity.
Long, curly hair tangled in locks that swept down her back. One look into her tantalizing green eyes or upon the generous curves of her body made his stomach clench and mouth go dry. He fought against every urge to kiss full lips that couldn't have been made for anything else. Except when he thought like that, the appendage between his legs grew hard and lengthened of its own accord.
On second thought, whoever heard of that kind of reaction? It was like he had zero control over the thing whatsoever.
When she'd awoken next to him, something soothing warmed through him. He'd been relieved to find her better, no doubt, but the way she looked upon him strengthened the beat of his heart. For a little while, he'd forgotten that he lay beside a human. The world of merfolk became a distant memory. The curiosity behind her stare brought him back to the present and the importance of a task he kept conveniently placing to the side.
A loud vibrating roar echoed through the water and he looked up in time to see the boat moving away. His pulse quickened, but he supposed her leaving was for the best for now. She kept becoming a distraction and he needed to find the key.