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Length:
318 pages
4 hours
Released:
Aug 27, 2016
ISBN:
9781370560721
Format:
Book

Description

Water-phobic Nik discovers mermaids and mermen plan to make her a lab experiment. They can’t take no for an answer and will go to any lengths to get what they need.

In the small Florida town of Tarpon Springs, Greek-American Nik Aronopulos avoids water. She never goes to the beach and shuns restaurants with views of the Gulf of Mexico. When a gorgeous, dark-haired, infuriatingly arrogant merman tells her it’s her ability to stay out of water that interests his people, she’s stunned. There’s nothing special about her... or so she thinks.

Bas is the merman tasked with obtaining Nik’s cooperation to help his people overcome their greatest weakness—the need to rejuvenate in the Gulf so they won’t dehydrate and die. Although they can shapeshift to look like humans and have advantages over land dwellers, their dependence on water keeps them from freedom. There’s just one problem – the girl he’s meant to capture is hooking his heart.

When Bas is shot by a bullet meant for Nik, she must face her greatest fear to help him. Her decision plunges her into a desperate journey where her desire for self-preservation weighs against her growing feelings for this merman who once terrified her. Their forbidden relationship will endanger not only Nik and those close to her, but the merfolk who intend to remain a myth at all costs.

If you like the mystery and suspense of the television series Siren, but you want more romance, one-click to buy Water Dreams today!

Released:
Aug 27, 2016
ISBN:
9781370560721
Format:
Book

About the author

Katherine Eddinger Smits grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Although not from a Greek background, she fell in love with the Greek culture of the town and its close-knit community. She moved away years ago, but she still visits Tarpon Springs frequently to see old friends and classmates, walk the beaches or shop and eat at the Sponge Docks. Katherine was devastated to learn her first career choice—mermaid, was not realistic, so she started writing stories in grade school, and planned to write novels someday. She put off writing fiction while she raised her family and worked as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker at four different Veterans Affairs Medical Centers around the country. She found helping veterans and their families fulfilling, and managed to squeeze writing into her life. Whether recording clinical assessments, producing brochures for social programs or putting together newsletters for clubs and organizations, she always had some kind of creative project in the works. Katherine lives with her husband in Homosassa, Florida and Falling Waters, West Virginia. They have a daughter who resides in Alexandria, Virginia and a son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in Chesapeake, Virginia. Water Dreams, Katherine's debut novel, is a paranormal romance set in Tarpon Springs, Florida and is the first book in the Love's Siren Song series. Web Site: katherineeddingersmits.weebly.com E-Mail: katherinesmits@gmail.com

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Water Dreams - Katherine Eddinger Smits

WATER DREAMS

A novel by: Katherine Eddinger Smits

Foundations, LLC.

Brandon, MS 39047

www.foundationsbooks.com

Water Dreams

by Katherine Eddinger Smits

Cover Illustration Copyright © 2016

Cover art by: Dawné Domnique

Edited by: Mary Vallely

Copyright 2016© Katherine Eddinger Smits

Published in the United States of America

Worldwide Electronic & Digital Rights

Worldwide English Language Print Rights

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any form, including digital and electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the Publisher, except for brief quotes for use in reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to my family for their support during the long process of writing this book, to my two beta readers, Amanda Smits and Ann Higgs, and to Sunshine State Romance Authors.

edication

Water Dreams is dedicated to the amazing town of Tarpon Springs, Florida and especially to the class of 1969, my favorite teacher Agathaniki Curris, and my friends Terry Moon and George Zissimopulos.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

About the Author

Chapter One

Nik inched closer to the sturdy oak tree next to Spring Bayou, keeping her back pressed onto it. She scanned the crowd, searching for Aristos. Why did the boss insist on meeting her here today, of all days? Her eyes flicked toward the twelve teenage boys sitting in kayaks and canoes, waiting to dive for the cross. She shuddered. How can they tolerate the murky water? She averted her eyes, avoiding the sight of it.

She searched again, but still couldn't find Aristos. The busiest tourist day of the year for Tarpon Springs, and he picked today to talk. Why are all these people here anyway? The dive is a Greek Orthodox religious ceremony, the blessing of the waters. Most of these spectators probably aren't even Greek, yet thousands of them show up here in Florida every year on January 6th to watch the cross retrieval competition.

Three of the tourists nearest her perch caught her attention. Two women and a man stood at the edge of the bayou. They all had dark hair and skin so pale it looked like they never went in the sun. Nik guessed they were a family, twins, or siblings very close in age, and their mother. They were unusual and fascinating. Maybe it was the jade colored highlights in their hair. Maybe it was just that the guy was gorgeous. She shook her head. Drooling over strangers in a crowd is not my style. Get a grip.

Nik caught sight of the procession heading toward the bayou from the Cathedral. The altar boys wore blue and white shirts with wide sleeves and pantaloons. The young girls were outfitted in traditional costumes, many carrying church banners that snapped smartly in the breeze. The dove bearer, the archbishop, other church officers, and local political figures made up the rest of the procession. Once they arrived at the water's edge, the girls and boys joined the waiting crowd.

The dove bearer and officials assembled on a small dock that jutted out into the deepest part of the bayou. Media personnel surrounded them. Police formed a line preventing the crowd from pushing too close to the archbishop. In the water, other officers wearing scuba equipment surveyed the scene from motor boats to make sure nothing happened to any of the divers. Loudspeakers broadcast the archbishop's prayers, all in Greek. Trying to distract herself from the nearness of the water, Nik focused on the archbishop rather than the divers, although she still saw the boys out of her peripheral vision.

When the archbishop finished, the dove bearer released the luminous white bird. Nik tracked it as it soared above them, eventually fading to a dot against the cloudless blue sky. The crowd sighed.

The archbishop raised the cross and flung it into the air. It sailed up and away, reflecting the sunlight. It hung in the sky for a second until down it plummeted, dropping into the bayou. The boys jostled each other as they dived off the boats toward the spot where the cross fell, their slim bodies hardly splashing when they entered the water. The crowd cheered.

The archbishop clutched his chest. He lurched from side to side and toppled from the end of the dock into the water. The boys swam to the place where the cross hit the water. The church officials on the dock shouted to the rescue divers, but their cries were nearly inaudible in the chaos. People in the crowd called to one another, asking what happened. Everyone pushed forward, trying to get a better view. The police boats revved their motors and headed for the archbishop, adding to the confusion.

Nik's perch on the slight hummock caused by the oak tree's roots afforded her a view over the heads of the people in front of her. A boy surfaced, waving the cross. Other boys popped up from beneath the water—one, two, three, and then several at once. The police boats reached the archbishop and the rescuers jumped into the water and grabbed him. Nik glanced away as they pulled him to the boat. A bubble of anxiety in her belly forced her to look at the boys.

Eleven heads bobbed above the surface. The winner held his prize above his head and swam toward the dock. Other boys reached over and grabbed his arm, either trying to help him keep the cross out of the water or trying to snatch it away from him. No one else seemed to pay any attention to them. The drama of the archbishop's rescue held the crowd spellbound.

As the seconds passed, a giant lead ball of anxiety expanded in Nik's stomach. She searched for the last boy, but he was missing from the group. Bubbles rose from a spot beneath one of the kayaks.

Nik opened her mouth and tried to scream. Like in her dreams of drowning, nothing but a hoarse whisper emerged. She pushed through her paralysis enough to grasp the arm of a young woman, one of the interesting trio who stood beside her.

Help him, Nik pleaded. The last boy didn't come up from the dive. Something trapped him underneath the water. See the bubbles?

The young woman flinched, perhaps in surprise from a stranger grabbing her. She met Nik's eyes, glanced at the boys' heads, and shifted her gaze to the area where Nik pointed.

Without a single word, she took a deep breath and dived into the water, right from the sidewalk. Weird, but Nik appreciated the woman's quick action.

Silt and mud clouded the bayou water where the divers stirred it up. It partially obscured Nik's vision, but she peered at the spots where the young woman went in the water and where the boy's bubbles came up. By looking closely, she saw him, struggling to free his leg from submerged tree limbs that entangled him and trapped him below the surface. His efforts seemed to slow, even as the seconds ticked on. She held her breath along with the boy.

Nik’s lungs burned. Although she knew the boy had trained for this event for years and learned to hold his breath longer than average, he must desperately need air.

The young woman reached the teen and released him from the branches. The boy shot upward. Only then did Nik gulp air again herself. At the surface, the boy gasped and yelled for help.

Her paralysis broke and Nik turned toward the commotion around the dock. Rescuers bundled the archbishop into the police boat and roared to shore. Paramedics helped him climb out and wrapped him in blankets before strapping him onto a stretcher and loading him into an ambulance, which took off with lights flashing and sirens screaming.

The crowd's attention shifted to the boy in the water. Many hands reached to help him out. People shouted and called to one another, Did you see what happened? What's going on? Soon the crowd surrounded the boy.

Nik looked around for the young woman, but she did not reappear. Anxiety spiked again. Nik scanned beneath the water, but no bubbles rose to the surface.

She turned to the man and woman she thought were with the young woman. Where is your friend who rescued the cross diver from drowning? What happened to her?

The two glanced at each other and shrugged. The man shook his head. We were not with anyone. We did not observe any such occurrence.

Nik stared. But she was standing right here—right next to you. I thought you were together. She looked a lot like you. Except for the fact that you look like you live in a gym, the two of you might be twins. Nik spoke to the older woman. And you look like their mother. You must know her. Is she all right? Where did she go?

The woman frowned. Did you start the Glendi a little early, dear? Apparently you have consumed quite a bit of Ouzo.

She turned to the man. Come, Basileus. It is time for us to go now. I am sure you are as ready to leave as I am. Taking his arm, the woman pulled him toward the street. The man allowed her to tow him along, but he tuned his head and stared over his shoulder at Nik until the two disappeared into the crowd.

Basileus, stop looking at the human girl and pay attention to where you are walking. Mara Cantonous glared at her son. She will realize you are staring at her, and become even more curious about us.

Bas had never set eyes on a more attractive woman, human or Nerei. He had heard of Aphrodite Agathaniki Aronopulos, the part-human, part-Nerei, who might provide the answer to their most pressing problem, but he never expected her to appear so much like one of them, yet so exotic.

Aphrodite's dark eyes held a softness Bas had never found in a Nerei woman. Her body was as rounded and full as any male of their kind would want. He didn't understand the human males who worshiped half-starved looking waifs with no curves. His fingers twitched when he thought of pulling the tie from her waist-length hair. Bas cleared an odd hoarseness from his throat. He turned back again, but the crowd closed in and he lost sight of her.

Please, Mother, call me Bas, as I have asked you to do many times. I was not staring at her. I glanced behind me for a minute. That is all. Why did we leave so precipitously? We plan to talk to her. Why not do it now?

Mara shook her head. Have you lost all your sense of decorum? We cannot tell her we are Nerei and ask for her help in the middle of this human ceremony, especially after what happened with the young diver. Think, Basileus. I assume you possess the ability.

Bas sighed. His mother would never call him by the name he preferred, and she would never stop humiliating him. However, he would insist she explain her thought process, no matter how impatient she might appear. If I knew what you had in mind, I would not have asked. Why can we not talk to the human now?

Because, Basileus, we need to sit down with her, prepare her for our revelation, and explain how important it is for her to allow us to test her. She needs to be in a receptive frame of mind when we tell her. Otherwise, she will deny what we say and refuse to help us.

All right, when will we talk to her? When will be the right time? Bas hoped the even tone he adopted would soothe his mother.

We will talk to her when I say it is time and no sooner. Remember who the clan matriarch is, my son. The decision is mine alone. Now we must find your sister and make sure no one connects her with the rescue of the young cross diver.

That is another concern, mother. Bas lowered his voice so no bystanders would overhear. Why did Deme dive in the water and risk exposure in such a manner? She should have alerted someone else to save the boy. She took too much of a chance. We cannot allow humans to realize we exist. I know she understands that.

Deme has a soft heart. She would not risk the boy drowning merely to protect our anonymity. Her heart rules her head. She cares too much. I do not agree with her actions, but I understand. Do you think she should have allowed the boy to drown?

No, I would not have stood by while he drowned, even if he is human. Nevertheless, Deme took a big chance by jumping into the water without thinking. Anyone might have seen her.

They would have thought one human helped another. Yes, they might find her disappearance afterward strange, but I doubt any of them noticed it, except for the half-breed. The rest only cared about the boy. Come, let us find Deme and go back to the clan house. We will plan our strategy for approaching Ms. Aronopulos.

Bas nodded. He did not want his mother to guess how much he yearned to meet the beautiful human woman. Mara would not approve of his fascination with her. Therefore, he would be careful not to reveal his interest—but he could not help smiling. As he walked beside Mara, his steps seemed lighter than they had in a long time.

Nik loved the Glendi; it was the best part of Epiphany, certainly better than the cross dive. Yet she brooded over the encounter with the odd strangers. She hoped she might find them at the celebration with the other tourists who came for the dive and later joined the party at the sponge docks.

When she arrived at the Sponge Exchange in the heart of the docks, the Glendi celebration was going strong. Greek boys and girls in traditional costumes circled up and demonstrated Greek folk dances. After the tourists tasted some of the imported wines offered for sale at the shops lining Dodecanese Avenue, many joined in the dancing. From the frequent stumbling, most of the tourists didn't know what they were doing. She smiled and shook her head. I doubt anyone minds. Musicians played the bouzouki and other traditional instruments. Restaurants and gift shops opened their doors. The owners stood outside, urging the tourists to enter. People strolled along the sidewalks eating baklava, or sat in the central square at cafe tables and sipped beer, wine, or Ouzo from plastic cups.

Every five minutes or so, someone yelled, Opa, and everyone took another swig. Most of the time, Nik enjoyed people having fun, even though she would never be comfortable enough with the spotlight to participate herself. However, today the crowd annoyed her. All the people made it hard to spot the man and woman.

She hunted for them everywhere, but found no trace of them. It was as if they had evaporated into thin air. Nik described them to some of the shopkeepers. She thought such a distinctive couple would stand out from the crowd, but the many tourists in town camouflaged them and no one remembered seeing the two she sought.

Frustrated, Nik walked over to where the young cross diver sat at a table, surrounded by the other divers and a mixed group of tourists and town boys.

A giant squid grabbed my ankle and tried to pull me down into the underwater caves beneath the bayou. I fought as hard as I could, but I couldn't pull free. I needed air. I thought I would drown for sure. Then, a green-haired sea witch wrestled with the monster and pulled me away.

No help there.

Nik inhaled the spicy aroma of the food, the scents from the stores selling olive oil soap and lotion, and the pungent smell of the shrimp boats. She watched the young people in their colorful Greek costumes, and listened to the sound of the street hawkers trying to lure tourists into the shops or persuade them to take a ride on a sponge boat. Everywhere, Nik heard Greek spoken along with English. People jostled against her on the boulevard, spilled from the sidewalk to the street, and blocked traffic. The experience meshed into a stew of sights and sounds she found overwhelming. She could barely move. She couldn't wait to get away.

Nik pushed through the throng until she came to the Tarpon Taverna. She ordered two servings of Moussaka to go. She smiled as she thought about how much her elderly neighbor, Don, loved the combination of meat, eggplant, and potatoes. She also bought a loaf of Greek bread, baked early in the morning and still warm. The aroma of fresh bread and Greek spices, relief about the cross diver's safety, and curiosity about the girl who rescued him all worked together to make her lightheaded. What else could she to do to figure out what happened to the girl? No ideas. She headed back home.

I'll discuss all this with Don and ask what he thinks. He always takes me seriously.

A hand on her shoulder stopped her progress. She turned. Aristos stood behind her, his steely gray eyes boring into her.

Great. Now you show up, when I'm on my way home. I told you today would be a bad day to try to talk. Why couldn't we wait until tomorrow while I'm at work?

I'm sorry, Nik. I know it's your day off, but there's someone I want you to meet.

This isn't a set-up, is it? Because I've told you before, I'm not interested in meeting anyone. I just want to continue working on my degree and preparing for my career. Romance isn't on my agenda.

Aristos shook his head. You know me better than that. I have a good reason for introducing you to this person. Come back to the shop with me.

Nik muttered under her breath about having to go to the shop on her day off, but she followed Aristos back to Sponger Souvenirs. She reminded herself she needed this job, with its flexible hours, to finance her degree in psychology. Besides, one of the conditions her parents placed on her moving out of the family home was working for Aristos. She didn't want to risk them telling her she had to move back to their place. Oh no. She would put up with a lot to avoid going home.

Aristos pulled out his key ring and found the one that fit the door to the shop. They went inside. The bell above the door tinkled as they walked in. Nik sighed. That bell got on her last nerve. Once inside, she sensed the presence of the wood sculpture Aristos added to their inventory a couple of weeks ago.

The Heartless Mermaid, a former ship's prow, weathered from years of life at sea, glowered at her from its position at the top of the far wall. Her pulse raced and her mouth went dry. Bad enough with Aristos in the shop with her, but on the days when she worked alone and tried to ignore it, the thing called to her and she caught herself staring at it, fascinated and repelled at the same time.

I will not freak out over an inanimate object. It's just a piece of wood.

Okay, who is this person you want me to meet? She folded her arms in front of her and stuck out her chin. Just try and make me like someone. I dare you.

Nik, this is Rowan Magnusson.

Chapter Two

Nik turned. A man stood in the doorway. He had long hair, almost reaching his shoulders and leaned on an ornately carved walking stick. Her heart beat a little faster when she gazed into his hazel eyes and he smiled.

He came inside and walked over to her. I’m sorry about the inconvenience of this meeting. Aristos told me today is your day off and it’s the Epiphany holiday too.

No problem. This has turned out to be an unusual day. What can I do for you, Mr. Magnusson?

I saw you looking at the old ship’s prow. Creepy, isn’t it?

Yes, I guess the piece is valuable since Aristos insisted on putting it in the shop, but I don’t like it. The mermaid is beautiful, with her long flowing hair and beautiful figure, but there’s something about the expression on her face that I don’t like. It’s like she’s waiting to lure sailors with her beautiful voice and then send their ships to be wrecked on the rocks.

I agree with you on that. Never trust a mermaid.

Nik smiled, but he didn’t smile back. He’s joking, isn’t he?

He held out his hand and she shook automatically. Ms. Aronopulos, Aristos told me some things about you. This may be presumptuous, but I have a good reason for asking. Why don’t you let anyone call you by your first or middle names?

Oh God, here we go. I’m going to have to explain my name yet again. She hoped she wouldn’t babble like an idiot. I only go by Nik. Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. What kind of parents name their child after her? I’m so far from her that it’s embarrassing. And Agathaniki sounds like a grandmother’s name. Niki is too girly. Not that I dislike being a girl, but I don’t want anyone thinking of me as some fragile flower who needs rescuing all the time. I prefer Nik. Please, just call me Nik. Yup, there was the babbling. Stop talking now, Nik.

Nik it is. No worries. And I’m Rowan. He smiled and it felt like the sun had just emerged from behind a cloud. Wow.

Nik squirmed but held fast to her dignity. So, why did you want to talk to me?

Rowan smiled again and took back his hand. Nik had not realized she still held it. Heat rushed to her cheeks and she ducked her head so her hair would fall forward and hide her face.

I have to tell you something. I doubt you will believe me, but I must try to warn you.

Nik frowned. What?

Some people will contact you soon. They want your assistance, but I don’t think you should have anything to do with them.

Really? What do they want with me?

They’re interested in your water phobia. They want information about how you can stay away from water when they’re tied to it.

Nik rolled her eyes. I just don’t go to the beach.

Yeah, but something else—

What else can there be?

Please tell me about how it all started. Were you upset by something as a child?

No, my parents never could understand it. All of a sudden, I just stopped wanting anything to do with water. They tried to teach me to swim as a toddler, but I wouldn’t have any part of it. I just didn’t want to be around it.

Well, these people want to know about your fear of water. They think you’re something special. They’re going to ask you to let them study you.

I’m not a Guinea pig.

Of course not. So, just tell them that when they approach you.

Yeah, I will. But why do you care whether I help them or not?

Rowan captured her eyes. I don’t think they have your best interest at heart. They’re different from us.

How?

I’m going to tell you something. I’m a mage and I am acquainted with these people. They’re not like us. Their priorities are not the same as ours. You need to be careful right now. They won’t accept no very easily.

You’re what?

A mage. I work from the swamps and employ certain powers to—

"You’re

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