(The Aquarathi #1)
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
THE DEEP CAN BE DEADLY…BUT LOVE CAN BE DEADLIER
Nerissa Marin is far from home. Though she lives an anonymous life on land during her cycle of human study, she is Aquarathi royalty by birth—and the future monarch of a hidden, undersea kingdom. But when her father is murdered, the human world becomes her only refuge.
Adrift and indifferent, Riss indulges her every whim, including her feelings for the new surf king of Dover Prep, Lokeane Seavon. But as the day she comes of age looms closer, old enemies appear and challenges are issued: If she forsakes her throne, her people will suffer for it.
To win her crown, she must become the queen she was born to be.
“So you surf and scuba. What else do you do?” Jenna asks, unaware of my slip-up as I maneuver the boat around La Jolla point to the adjoining cove.
“Those are my two favorite things,” Lo says. “I love the ocean, always have. My foster dad and I ran a marine wildlife support organization back home. We once took care of a baby dolphin for a whole year. I don’t know why I feel more comfortable with fish than people but I just do. Go figure, right?”
“Really?” I tease, trying to erase the sad look in his eyes. “I mean, weren’t you terrified of a leopard shark surfing the other day?”
“One, I wasn’t terrified. And two, it’s a shark. They eat people.”
“Not leopards,” I toss back with a grin.
“Well, I’m not taking any chances with the rulers of the ocean. They have long memories, sharks,” Lo says in a confident tone.
“Where’d you learn that?” Jenna asks.
Jenna snorts again and, this time, I can’t hide my own mirth. Grinning, she heads back to the stern to get the ropes ready for docking, but Lo remains with me. His face is flushed from the wind and fresh air, and he looks happy. It’s obvious he enjoys being on the water and hanging out with the two of us. Maybe Jenna’s right. I haven’t really been all that fair to him.
After all, he’s funny and sociable when he chooses to be, and anyone who loves the water as much as he obviously does can’t be that bad. I’m so caught up in my intense scrutiny of him and subsequent self-assessment that I don’t realize that Lo is talking to me.
“Like what you see?” he asks.
“What? No. I was looking through you,” I retort, mortified that he’d caught me mooning at him.
“Sure you were.”
I want to growl.
This is why we can’t be friends.
God, I want to punch that taunting, sexy smirk off his lips. Punch it or kiss it. Traitorous heat climbs into my cheeks and my warring desires make my words far sharper than they should be, demolishing all my previous good intentions.
“For your information, not everything is all about you. Can’t you take the hint? Some people just don’t like you.”
“Especially me,” I lie.
Lo just stands there, silent, watching me. I don’t know why I let him get me so riled up, but it’s like I can’t control myself. A part of me wants to apologize, to take back my throwaway comments, but instead I keep my eyes averted, feeling slightly ashamed but mostly furious with myself as I steer the boat back to the dock.
Eventually, as if he, too, wants to get as far away from me as possible, Lo follows Jenna to the rear of the boat, where she points out some of the landmarks on our way back. I don’t blame his retreat, but I feel the loss of his presence like something tangible. Lo looks back once in my direction, his lower lip trapped between his teeth, something thoughtful flitting across his face before he turns his attention to Jenna.
I stare blindly at the ocean, enumerating all the reasons that I don’t like him, gathering them like armor. I hate the way he looks at me as if he knows me, when he knows nothing about me at all. I hate the way he talks, and the way he struts, and the fact that everyone—including my own best friends—seems to adore him. I hate the way he smiles so easily at anything Jenna or Cara says, when all he can do is snap mocking comments at me.
I hate the way he makes me feel with one glance as if all the water in my body is electrified and I can’t breathe. I hate how he surfs, and how his lips curve into a grin of true happiness when he’s gliding down the face of a wave. I hate everything about him, especially his stupid lips.
Ignoring the tiny shiver coursing through me, I sigh and swallow past the knot in my throat, watching him laugh easily at something Jenna says. Jealousy slices through me like a fine-edged blade. I’m envious. Deeply, horribly, acutely envious because, deep down, I want him to be that way with me.
Effortless. Easy. Happy.
And then the truth hits me like a curling wave: I don’t hate him at all.
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AMALIE HOWARD is the award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, School Library Journal, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Kid’s INDIE NEXT selection. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was a #1 bestseller in gothic fiction, and the sequel, Bloodcraft, was a national IPPY silver medalist and Children’s Moonbeam Award winner. She is also the co-author of the #1 bestseller in Regency Romance, My Rogue, My Ruin, in the Lords of Essex historical romance series. She currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children. Visit her at www.amaliehoward.com.