He saved her life when she would have certainly drowned…but now he's being hunted. Mermen, surfers, and a good dose of suspense in my next release "IMPACT ZONE," releasing worldwide on October 7. Here's the first chapter...
"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea-whether to watch or sail-we go to from whence we came."—JFK
Josie Wells pulled up the zipper of her wetsuit as she contemplated the empty beach surrounded by cliffs. Dawn had yet to break and the marine layer hung low over the sea like an ethereal blanket. Seals barked from beneath the Santa Cruz Wharf to the south, its length wrapped in fog.
She loved the beach before daybreak when she could pretend to be somewhere more remote with only her surfboard, the sea life, and the ocean as companions. With her board tucked beneath her arm, she walked toward the waves stroking the shore.
A look over her shoulder confirmed that the dawn patrol had arrived, four surfers total, including her, first to hit the beach each day as if it were their religion. The ocean undulated in front of them as their place of worship—the whitecaps their choir and the steady hum of the sea their hymn.
She stopped when she saw him, the swimmer who joined her every morning in silence. Nico Triton, the reclusive billionaire, stood waist deep in the water, his well-muscled back tapering to a narrow waist, and shoulder length black hair moving with the breeze. Although they had only spoken briefly in the past regarding business, she felt a bond with her silent companion who braved the cold water without a wetsuit. He stretched his arms over his head, mist swirling around his body, before he dove into an approaching wave and disappeared from sight.
The bite of the early morning breeze snipped at her face as she strode into the water, almost to the exact spot where he had been. She scanned the rolling waves for any sign of him. Even though they never acknowledged the other's presence, she derived a strange comfort from seeing him here each morning. Maybe he didn't surf, but he'd become as much of the dawn patrol as the lifelong friends who silently entered the water behind her.
Grinning at the sight of Triton surfacing about twenty feet ahead, she gripped her board and slammed into the surf. Maybe it was his unattainability that intrigued her or the way he tackled the ocean as if he owned it. Whatever the reason, she'd indulged in countless fantasies about him from the first time she'd seen him dive into a wave, had acted like a moron the two times they'd met for business related conversations, and liked knowing he shared the same stretch of beach she did every morning.
Maybe she needed to get laid. Fantasies and toys were no replacement for the true feel of a man between her thighs.
Board securely in her grasp, she dove beneath an oncoming wave and focused on clearing her mind. Thoughts of fucking a fantasy swimmer drifted to the back of her mind as she battled her way toward the surface.
Once settled at the line up, the point beyond the breaking waves, Josie straddled her board, shoved long strands of blonde hair from her eyes, and blinked toward the sky that glowed with the approaching sun. Other members of the dawn patrol joined her at a distance and remained silent while they bobbed along the rolling water waiting for their set.
She licked salt from her lips. Anticipation of the ride bubbled through her veins. Two-time world champion, competition had consumed most of her life; but now she spent most of her time in a corporate office.
Instinct propelled her forward, the energy of the wave compelling her to paddle before she could see it. She smiled at the surge of adrenaline. When the wave broke, she popped up, her feet quickly finding position as the board sliced into the wave's face. With a shake of her head to toss back stray curls from her eyes, she rode the water as if it would be her last time.
Dark figures on the beach broke her focus. From her vantage point, she watched them struggle. The whoosh of the ocean and the barking of seals competed with the distant shouts. Fog wrapped the two in a blanket of disguise for a moment and, when it moved, only one figure remained face down on the sand while the other had disappeared.
She stood straighter on the board while her gaze searched for the man who'd run away. A sea lion she'd nicknamed Ralf bodysurfed next to her, his cheerful face peering up from the water with innocent bliss as it twisted onto its back to get her attention.
Josie spun her board out of the curl and leapt into the water. Her strokes were long and sure as she swam the short distance remaining to shore with her board trailing behind her by the leash strapped to her ankle.
"Are you okay?" she yelled at the person who remained face down in the sand.
Grabbing her board, she jogged across damp sand and knelt next to the body. Josie turned the woman over and winced at the amount of blood oozing from the victim's forehead. Quick to act, she felt for a pulse before noticing the limpness of the woman's neck.
Dead. Broken neck. Blunt force to the head.
Although dressed in a wetsuit, the murdered woman hadn't been part of the local surfing community. Josie knew everyone, at least by face.
She disconnected the board from her ankle, abandoned it in the sand, and ran toward her car where she'd left her cell phone. As an afterthought, she looked over the expanse of beach again for the unknown assailant. Tufts of fog swirled over the sand as it lifted to make room for day. Further down the beach, hotel lights flickered against the dawn.
As her sandy fingers fumbled with the phone, she felt the hair stand up at the back of her neck. Turning, she noticed the shape of a man walking toward her through the fog. Not taking her gaze from him, she informed the police of what she'd found and promised to wait.
Nico Triton stepped toward her, frowning as he shoved long fingers through his wet hair. Dressed in a pair of wet green swim trunks that hugged his hips and outlined what looked like a significant package, Josie had a hard time knowing where to look. The term 'six-pack' failed to describe the rippling muscles of his chest and abdomen. Black hair grazed the top of his shoulders and stuck to his neck. When he came close enough for her to see his eyes, she forgot how to breathe—the color mirrored the bluest ocean.
He looked at her with curiosity when she wouldn't stop staring at him. "Is there something wrong?"
"There's been an attack on the beach, a murder. Did you see anything?" She tossed her phone inside her convertible and waited for him to answer while she battled to calm her out-of-control heartbeat.
Fuck it. I finally get a chance to talk to him and the subject is murder. I cannot catch a break in the romance department.
"Do you need my help?" Standing at least a foot taller than her own 5'5, he loomed above her.
Even though she had met him only twice before, she couldn't shake the feeling that she had a connection with him from somewhere long ago. An overwhelming sense of deja vu overtook her whenever they stood close to one another, as if things had been left unsaid and unresolved. Crazy, she realized, completely ludicrous.
"I saw a man fighting with her, but he vanished in the fog." She stepped backward until her hips collided with the passenger door of her car.
"Are you certain it was a man? You were far out and the haze was thick." He combed his fingers through his wet hair and narrowed his gaze toward Rex who ran toward the dead woman. "I only see the usual group here, no strangers."
"I was a little distracted, yes, and it wasn't clear, that's true, but—"
"The assailant simply vanished?" He frowned, hands now on his hips. "Could he or she have swum out?"
Edgy, she gestured wide with her hands. "I don't know. I suppose. I didn't consider that."
"Not everyone surfs, some simply enjoy swimming." He smiled before sliding his gaze over her. "Would you like me to stay with you until the police arrive?"
She frowned, rattled from witnessing a murder and from the strange effect he had on her. "You swim with me every day, but I just saw you out by the break point, how...I surfed in...how did you...?" She motioned with her arms from the ocean to the parking lot, feeling ridiculously incoherent.
"I bodysurfed in and came onto shore further down the beach." He looked amused at her observation. "Are you okay? Do you need to sit down? You look unsteady."
"I'm not accustomed to finding dead bodies on my beach." She cleared her throat. "I should go back to her."
"I'll come with you."
Ripples of apprehension rolled through her. She'd witnessed a fight from a distance, two people, one of whom lay dead twenty feet away. But where was the other one? What if it had been him? He'd gotten to shore too quickly in her mind, appeared out of the shadows from down the beach that happened to be the same direction the assailant must have run. How could he have not seen anything?
He narrowed his eyes. "Do you think I murdered the woman?"
She held her breath and pressed closer to her car. "The thought crossed my mind."
"Why would I do that?"
"I have no idea. Why does anyone do such a thing?"
"Greed, jealousy, revenge...a number of reasons, I'm sure." He shrugged his broad shoulders and looked toward the crowd gathering near the body. "Humans are a fickle species, nothing they do really makes sense. Why kill for the joy of killing? I'll never understand it."
Standing eye-level with the center of his chest, she couldn't help but take another long look at the tanned muscles inches from her face. Sand and sea salt clung to his skin in the most tempting of places. She bit her lip, clenched her hands at her sides, and fought the urge to touch him.
"I live up there." He motioned toward the cliff house before turning that blue gaze back toward her face. "Nico Triton...our companies have done business together. Do you remember meeting me?"
Oh, hell, yes, I remember meeting you. Do I look that stupid? She cleared her throat and nodded. "Of course I do, partnering with Triton Industries has been remarkable. I wouldn't forget you."
"You usually speak with Damien, my brother. I wondered if you recognized me out of context. I'm not exactly wearing a suit." Hands on his hips, he grinned at her as if knowing exactly how he rattled her.
You are definitely not wearing a suit. "We should probably get back over there. I feel we should be doing something more than this."
He fell into stride next to her, proximity bringing all of those daydreams and fantasies immediately to the surface. Irritated with herself, she shook her head and concentrated on the situation.
She rubbed the back of her neck and resented the tremble in her fingers. Her surfboard company had contracted with his for Triton Industries' innovative materials used with the boards, wetsuits, and swimwear. The partnership proved revolutionary and had set the surf community on fire. Their few meetings usually involved his brother and various assistants, always conducted in outdoor cafes—her preference. When he had deigned to appear, he'd always worn sunglasses and kept mostly to the shadows, saying little while having others handle the day-to-day details.
"You must have a great view from up there." She looked over her shoulder to the cliff house. "Did you see anything unusual when you walked down this morning?"
"Nothing." He crossed his arms over his chest and surveyed the scene in front of them. "Why would she be out here? Was the person who ran away also dressed in a wetsuit?"
"I-I'm not sure. It was foggy and I was surfing. I guess I'm not such a reliable witness."
He squinted at her, the blue of his eyes almost piercing with their intensity as he searched her eyes. "Are you sure you're feeling okay?"
Damn, the man had a way about him that made her melt inside her wetsuit. She reached for the zipper and tugged at it before tearing her gaze away.
Nico looked from the woman toward the stairs leading to his home before glancing toward Pacific. Frowning, he rested his hands on his hips and focused his attention back toward the dead woman.
"Do you know her, Triton?" Erica, another member of the dawn patrol, squinted at him. "You look upset."
Josie looked up at him and decided that yes, he definitely appeared concerned.
"Everyone step back, we're probably contaminating the crime scene." Rex motioned with his arms as he stood. "Did anyone call the police?"
"I did, they're on the way." Dizziness spun through her head. She reached out for balance. Nico caught her arm and pulled her close to his side.
"You're not okay, are you? Sit. Let me help you."
"I'm fine," she said weakly, finding it hard to protest when her legs felt like they'd turned to noodles.
"Josie?" Rex frowned. "What's the matter with her?"
"Nothing is wrong with me." She shook her head before focusing on the dead woman. "What about her? Do you recognize her?"
"No, maybe she's a tourist. Going for a swim maybe? It looks like she has a broken neck. Are you sure this wasn't an accident?" Rex tossed shaggy brown hair from his eyes and squinted at her. "Maybe we missed pieces of a broken board. You know how dangerous surf is for a newbie with a confidence problem."
"It wasn't an accident. I know what I saw," she muttered. "We'd better not disturb anything else. I already turned her over and probably shouldn't have. Let her be."
"Visibility isn't optimal." Rex squinted toward the hotels down the beach stirring to life as sunlight burned off the remnants of the marine layer.
"I know a fight when I see it. He could have gone into any of the hotels—"
"You said 'he.' How can you be sure? I watched you catch that wave. You were in your own world as usual—"
"I know what I saw." She couldn't stop looking at the dead woman and thinking that if only she'd been quicker to get to shore that she could have stopped this.
Another assault of dizziness spun her world off its center.
"I'm taking her up to my house. She's had a shock." Nico scooped her into his arms. "Can you toss her board into the back of her car and let the police know where she's gone? She's a witness."
"I'm fine, I don't faint. I don't need—"
"Sure thing," Rex answered as if it were the most natural thing in the world to see her lifted off of her feet by a strange man.
"Put me down, I'm perfectly capable of standing on my own." She grimaced when she heard her slurred speech.
He spared her a glance before carrying her toward the wooden steps leading up the cliff. "Not everyone can handle seeing all that blood. It's fine for you to admit you're about to faint."
"I have never..." She shuddered and lost her train of thought when lightheadedness rolled through her. She dropped her head against his shoulder.
"Oh, Josie, you don't always need to act invincible," he sighed as if he'd known her for years. He held her close as he walked up the stairs.
She tried to open her eyes, but they were heavy and uncooperative. Dreams that felt like memories flashed in her mind. Wiping out, twisting beneath a wave as one after the other crashed down upon her...her head striking the reef...blood in her eyes...and Nico Triton being there, pulling her free, kissing life back into her when she'd certainly drowned...swimming with her deep in the ocean, those blue eyes peering at her through the chaos...his body undulating against hers...a merman.
"Here you go." His hand pressed against the side of her face as he held a cup of tea to her lips. "Do I need to call a paramedic? You fainted"
She blinked her eyes open, confused between dreams and reality. She sat propped against pillows on a curving sofa. Her wetsuit had been stripped away to reveal her dry bikini. A faux fur blanket covered her from the waist down. She shifted and took the tea from him. Her head felt like it had been stuffed with cotton. Against her will, her gaze roamed over him. He'd pulled on a t-shirt and his hair had dried somewhat, but he definitely didn't have a tail or gills. She sipped the tea and closed her eyes.
Merman. What is wrong with me today? Maybe I'm having a stroke.
He squeezed her shoulder and leaned close. "You called me a merman. Why did you say that?"
"I said that out loud?" I cannot catch a break with this guy. He must think I'm a stereotypical blonde surfer chic with saltwater for brains.
"Maybe I should take you to the hospital." His gaze searched hers with an intensity that took her breath away.
She caught her lower lip between her teeth and shook her head 'no.' I suppose kissing him after acting like a foolish woman who faints and blurts out every thought would be out of line.
"Are the police here yet? I should give my statement and go home to shower. I need to get to the office." She scooted away and looked around the room to get her bearings. A wall of windows overlooked the Pacific that sparkled with reflected sunlight, the last of the morning fog swirling in thin wisps through the air. A patio stretched out along the cliff. Inside, hardwood floors flowed from one room to the next with comfortable modern furniture mixing with collectibles.
The floorboards creaked when another man walked into the room. He glanced at her and scrunched his nose as if smelling rotten fish. "Nico, the police are here. They'd like to speak to Ms. Wells."
"I'm not sure she's up for it," he answered.
"Yes, I am."
Nico's gaze traveled over her face as if searching for something before a crooked grin softened his rugged appearance. "Whatever you say, Josie. Tell them we're in here, Boreas."
"Where's my wetsuit? I really need to go." Being half-naked with him made her intensely aware of her long stretch of celibacy. Ever since the accident in Australia eighteen months ago that had ended her competitive career, she'd poured her passion into work rather than dating.
"I think you should take the day off. You've experienced a shock." His thumb touched her temple. Pinpricks of electrical shocks skittered through her skin where his fingers connected with her skin.
She flinched away, unsure why every sensation amplified around this man and uncertain how she felt about it. When his eyes immediately shadowed with regret and he dropped his hand onto his thigh, she wished she could press rewind.
"I surfed, witnessed a murder, got carried away by a...by you..." she shrugged and tried to make light of the situation, "typical day in the life of Josie Wells."
"I love the way you ride the waves. It's like you have a love affair with the sea." He looked wistful when his gaze met hers.
She couldn't explain her reaction to him. She felt like an addict in desperate need of a fix. She squirmed and hugged a pillow to her chest. "We share the waves together every day, why don't you ever talk to me?"
"You're always so focused. I didn't want to intrude."
"Feel free to intrude next time," she whispered. Hell, she'd already made a fool of herself so why not keep up the momentum?
"Uh-hem." The disapproving man he'd called Boreas stood next to the sofa with two other gentlemen. "The police need to speak with you, Ms. Wells."
"Drink your tea. I'll bring your car up while you make your statement." As soon as he stood, she missed the weight of his body next to her on the sofa.
She shoved her hand through the dried curls and winced when her fingers stuck in the mess. When she noticed Boreas watching her, she tensed. The man looked like a barracuda, skinny and predatory with slicked back white hair and sharp dark eyes. He crossed his arms across his chest, tilted his chin up, and kept his gaze locked on her until she looked away.
"Ms. Wells, I hope you're feeling better. I heard you fainted. Must have been a terrible shock." A detective with a perfectly pressed shirt, no tie, tanned skin, and gray hair sat next to her with a sympathetic smile. "I'm Detective Renaud. My daughter is a huge fan of yours. She took your summer surf camp. Sabrina is her name."
Thankful to be on a safe topic, she nodded with a smile. "Yeah, I remember Sabrina. She's a goofy foot with some wicked skills. Good kid."
"Yes, she is. Your posters are all over her room. You've been a true role model for her and her friends." Renaud smiled before reaching opening a notebook, his brown eyes shadowing with concern. "I hear you're our only eye witness. Are you certain you are alright?"
Damn, I must look worse than I feel judging by all these comments. Sighing, she set the cup of tea aside and stated what she'd witnessed as succinctly and clearly as possible. But with every word she spoke, certainty cemented in her heart that her role in this drama had only just begun.
* * *
Nico stood on the balcony overlooking the beach and watched the crime scene investigators scrutinize the beach. The marine layer had lifted with the rising of the sun, giving him an unobstructed view. He'd not only known the murdered woman, he'd hated her and wished her dead a hundred times.
Knowing Matilda Leslie as he had, he knew damn well the woman had been here to hunt him. She'd been following him for years from one place to the next, but hadn't been seen in months. No matter where he moved on earth, Matilda Leslie had eventually found him with her cameras and theories.
Founder of Triton Industries, he had homes all over the world and a team of people to protect his privacy. Matilda Leslie had circumvented all of that with perseverance and luck.
Today her luck had run out. Damn her to hell.
"Nico—I mean, Mr. Triton." Josie stepped onto the balcony, effectively disrupting his thoughts. She'd pulled a blue dress over her swimsuit, one that must have been stuffed in the backpack he'd brought in from the backseat of her car.
"Call me Nico." He smiled and turned his back on the Pacific. "The detectives are gone?"
"Yes, and I'm leaving, too. I wanted to say thank you for...everything." She motioned toward the beach with her hand. "I never faint, can't remember ever feeling like that, so am a little embarrassed, but thank you for being so kind. I appreciate it."
He folded his arms across his chest and leaned his hip against the railing. "Don't be embarrassed. It's not every day I get to carry a beautiful woman in my arms and play the role of hero. I should be thanking you."
She blushed and looked away. "Yeah, well, I need to rush home, take a shower, get to work..."
Yet she didn't leave. Instead she wandered to the railing and looked down at the police searching the sand for evidence. The hem of her dress fluttered around her knees, golden curls hid her profile from him, and her fingers tapped on the railing with barely restrained energy.
He ached to touch her again, but knew from her reaction that she'd felt his power despite his effort to contain it. He fisted his hands at his side and wished he knew what to say to make her stay. He'd wanted to get to know her better for a long time. Too long, too many missed opportunities. When a seagull swooped low to whisper of a threat, he sliced his hand through the air to dismiss it.
She noticed the abrupt motion and glanced toward the bird. "One of them stole my breakfast the other day. I'd been enjoying a great breakfast burrito, set it down on my passenger seat for a minute to answer my cellphone, and—wham—it grabbed it before I knew what was happening. Scoundrels."
"Sounds like we have a crime spree in Santa Cruz." He closed the gap between them and studied her profile.
"Look at the seals." She pointed toward the water. "They're bodysurfing. It's like they know something has happened because the humans aren't riding the waves so are checking it out for themselves."
"That's exactly what they're doing. Nosy little things." He laughed at her observation. Seals, sea lions, and seagulls were the biggest gossips in the sea.
She tucked her wild hair behind her ears and finally looked him in the eye again after their interlude on the sofa. "Do you ever go out? You know...to have fun? I never see you anywhere unless it's business or swimming related."
Fun hadn't been a priority of his in a very long time. For once, Nico Triton literally had no idea what to say.
"You know what? Never mind. That's none of my business." She turned toward the door. "Thanks again. Are my keys inside?"
"I have them." He grabbed them from his pocket and held them out to her. "And, no, I rarely go out or have the kind of fun I think you mean."
She turned on a heel and looked at him with curiosity brewing in her hazel eyes. "The kind of fun you think I mean? What kind of fun is that?"
"Casual?" He guessed, feeling like he'd put his foot in his mouth.
She took the keys from him, careful not to brush against his skin. "My company hosts a weekly happy hour at the Surf Club. It's a PR thing...maybe you'd enjoy coming out sometime...having a beer and picking up women, you know, my kind of fun."
Is she flirting with me? He frowned, unable to figure her out.
Doubt flickered in her eyes. A billionaire probably doesn't do happy hours with beach bums. I need to get the hell out of here and give up on this man.
He heard her thoughts and regretted his hesitation.
"I would like to come." He stepped closer. Sometimes reading another person's thoughts proved useful. "I don't stay away from people because I'm anti-social, Josie. Unless it's a fundraiser or a business deal, no one asks me. Maybe they believe I'd say no."
Relief showed in her smile. "Tonight is Thirsty Thursday. My company hosts it and you're one of my partners so call it business if that makes you more comfortable."
"But it's not business, is it? Your invitation to me is personal, right?" Running an international business and ruling an empire had always been easier for him than understanding women.
"I'd like it if you came. It could be fun."
"Fun?" He allowed the word to roll through his mind. With the way the day had begun he had serious doubts about it improving. Rather than saying that, he took another step toward her. "I'll do my best to be there. If not tonight, then soon."
She let her gaze slide up his legs and over his torso until skimming his face. "I really need to go, get in the shower, and all of that. I'm sure there's a meeting I'm missing. Seems to always be a meeting I'm missing."
He followed her into the foyer where she scooped up her backpack. He heard the voices of his council arriving through the kitchen door. Urgent energy resonated throughout the house.
With a frustrated sigh at the overall situation, he rubbed his forehead with his fingertips. Sometimes being the ruler of the merfolk really fucked up his personal life.
"I can relate to meetings, lately that is all I do," he said. "Everyone is always in a panic and every event is a crisis."
She hesitated with her hand on the doorknob. "The party starts at five, but I don't usually arrive until six or so. I would cancel it after this morning, but we're showcasing a new line of surfboards that my friend Rex designed and there are reporters coming from the major industry magazines. That sounds really bad, doesn't it? Heartless?"
"Life is for the living, Josie. Don't cancel anything because of this morning. It had nothing do with you." Renewed anger for Matilda Leslie and her group of paranormal investigators clawed away at his restraint.
"Sir, the council has arrived and there is much to discuss." Boreas stepped behind him. "Did you need anything else, Ms. Wells?"
She looked past him to where his assistant stood and shook her head 'no.' "Until tonight then, Merman."
"Why do you keep calling me that?" He closed the distance between them with two strides and searched her eyes for a clue.
Her sharp intake of breath at their proximity and the widening of her eyes made him yearn to kiss her, just reach out, pin her against the door, and grind his mouth against hers until she sagged against him.
"I'd better go." She backed out the door.
She knows, somehow a part of her remembers. He stiffened, immediately on guard. She'd become his weakness over the past year and a half; at least that's what Boreas suggested.
He watched her walk to her convertible where her surfboard stuck precariously out of the backseat. With a smile, she opened the door and waved.
"You can't be with her alone." Boreas stood directly behind him. "After this morning, everything is unraveling. We need to leave the country, not socialize with the locals. I can have the yacht ready to leave in an hour."
"I know you can, but we're not going anywhere." He closed the door and brushed past Boreas.
He strode toward his office where four men—Damien, Stephan, Jarrod, and Boreas—along with one woman, Miranda, waited. The morning's events had sent alarm bells throughout his inner circle. Matilda Leslie had gotten too close to him and had died because of it.
He shoved both hands through his hair, took his time looking out the large bay window toward the cliffs of Santa Cruz, and waited for one of his council to speak.
"Matilda didn't come here alone," Damien, his younger brother, spoke first. "We suspect—"
"Suspect or know?"
"Suspect that she came with her investigative crew. Her latest blog entry—"
"I only care about facts not theories," he said.
"I know they were in Catalina a few months ago, but then they dropped off the grid and were careful." Miranda, a tall woman with waist long auburn hair, perched her hip on the side of his desk. "What did the surfer see?"
"Why do you care? Do you have a confession to make?" He met her gaze. She'd been his brother's girlfriend for years and he trusted her, but Nico also knew she wouldn't hesitate to break someone's neck to protect those she loved.
"I hear she's the only witness." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and narrowed her gaze. "I didn't murder anyone. Ask your brother. We were in bed together."
Nico sat in the high backed chair behind his desk and tapped his fingers against his thigh. Matilda had been a thorn in his side for over a decade. Lead investigator of a paranormal team determined to prove the existence of aliens, Bigfoot, and other mythological phenomena like merfolk, she had gotten too close to his people more than once.
But for her to end up dead at the foot of his stairs...that meant more trouble than any of them had anticipated.
He slammed his fist on the desk, fracturing it into two pieces. The entire room shook. The men in his presence stepped back. Son of Poseidon, Triton's fury could cause natural disasters if not kept in check. A demigod, he did as he pleased when he pleased and humans like Matilda Leslie needed to learn to leave well enough alone.
"Who did this? Which one of you killed her? If not you, Miranda, then who? We have other ways, peaceful alternatives to violence. Tell me now." He looked long and hard into each one's face, his powers of observation failing to find guilt.
"It wasn't one of us. Maybe it was one of the others being overly ambitious, but it was no one on the council." Damien stood straighter and met his gaze without flinching. "Nico, you must calm down."
"How did she find us this time? We have gone to great lengths to conceal ourselves from her."
"Not lately," Boreas corrected. "Your daily swims with the surfer have been too predictable. I warned you of this."
He gritted his teeth, the need to feel the wind on his face to calm him down rattled through his bones.
"Find the rest of them, make sure they leave. I don't care what you need to do to persuade them, use your powers of persuasion." His lip curled at the word, tired of repressing part of himself out of concern of being captured and turned into a lab rat. "Make sure that there is no connection to any of us. We need to take the offense here; we've played defense for too long. If they want to know who they're hunting, let's leave no doubt about what we can do." He pushed away from the desk and looked each of them in the eye. "I trust I won't need to hear about this again until we have answers?"
"No, sir, you won't be bothered with the details. We will do what needs to be done." Jarrod, his head of security, held a corner of the cracked desk to keep it the computer from crashing to the floor. "We'll replace the desk by the end of the day as well."
"I still say you need to leave the country. That surfer is going to bring you down, Triton." Exasperation animated Boreas' normally neutral expression.
"I am not leaving, not yet."
"I don't understand. That human is—"
"Is what?" He stared at Boreas until the other man looked away. Satisfied that he'd made his intentions clear, he took a minute to look at each council member one-by-one. "Does anyone else doubt me?"
"No, Nico." Damien caught the lamp as it fell from the imploding desk. "We have everything under control."
"That has yet to be seen."
He left them to deal with the mess he'd made of his desk. He pushed through the wide doors leading to the balcony, leaned heavily against the railing, observed the seals playing in the surf below, and inhaled the rich salt-filled air. With the whispers of the sea breeze cautioning him about an increasing threat, he bowed his head and looked at his folded hands against the railing. Heartbeat hammered heavily inside his chest. Closing his eyes, he allowed the scents and sounds of the ocean to restore his being with peace despite the sense of doom creeping along the coastline.
* * *
Available worldwide October 7
A new episode of UNCHARTED TERRITORY posts next Monday where Josh and Bethany are exploring in a new location. Stay tuned!