“You’re a shape-shifter too, you know.”
It took a minute for his words to register. “I’m human.”
“You’re mermaid, you just aren’t ready to acknowledge it yet.”
Anger whipped through me, burning me with its meteoric rise. “You only see what you want to see. I have a choice—I can be human. I will be human.”
“You want to be human. That’s not the same thing. Besides, I know you, Tempest. I know you won’t turn your back on us.”
His words were confusing, too confusing to deal with when my emotions were a maelstrom inside of me, so I did what I did best—I ignored them. The last few weeks had made me an expert at thinking about only what was right under my feet.
“So, can I take that shower you promised me?” I changed the subject abruptly.
“Of course. My bathroom’s through there.” He pointed toward a door in the left wall of his bedroom.
“No problem. I’ll go ask around, see if one of my sisters has something you can wear.”
“You have sisters too?”
“Five of them.”
I stared at him, aghast. “There are nine of you?”
“And none of you were twins?”
“What, was your mother insane?” Maybe I shouldn’t have asked that, but really? Nine?
He laughed. “No. Just determined to contribute to the selkie population. There are a lot less of us than there used to be.”
“So you’re an endangered species?”
“I wouldn’t call us a species. More like an endangered people.”
“Oh. Right.” Was I ever going to stop putting my foot in my mouth around him? Doubtful, Tempest, I told myself. Very doubtful.
Not to mention the fact that Kona’s lips were twisted once again into that sexy grin of his, the one that got my hormones all tied into a knot. I needed to escape, quickly. Before I did something that I probably wouldn’t regret. “I’m going to go take that shower now. Tell your sister thanks for the clothes.”
“I will.” But he didn’t move, just kept watching me with those enigmatic eyes until I closed the bathroom door behind me.
Whew. I leaned against the door for a second, tried to get my brain back together. That guy should come complete with a warning label—or three.
I had planned on taking a quick shower, but once I got beneath the hot spray I couldn’t make myself leave. It felt too good, especially as the water hit the knotted muscles in my shoulders and upper back.
As I let the shower wash over me, I wondered, again, just how far I’d traveled. I’d spent my life paddling out to catch the next wave—my shoulder muscles were some of the strongest on my body. If my late-night swim had worn them out to the point of soreness, I must have been in the water a very long time.
But even worse than the soreness were the jagged cuts all over my body. Some were minuscule—from flying shells and debris—and some were huge, like the long, painful slice on the outside of my left thigh. And after being submerged in ocean water for hours, I could only imagine what bacteria had gotten into them.
I did my best to wash them out with soap. But it burned like hell—especially my ankles. They looked like someone really had clawed the skin off them. Raw and oozing, they were completely disgusting. Just one more thing I had to thank the sea witch for …
Eventually, the soap and hot water and shampoo made me feel almost human again. Plus I figured I’d been in there so long that Kona would be wondering if I’d jumped out a window.
With a sigh of regret, I shut off the water and reached for one of the thick blue towels that were hanging on the towel rack next to the shower. The pain had done a good job of keeping my mind blank while I was cleaning up, but as I dried off, I couldn’t help thinking about Kona’s last words.
“I’ve got some clothes out here for you, Tempest.” Kona’s voice came through the wall as if he’d been standing around, waiting for the shower to turn off.
“Great.” I opened the door just enough to take them from him, then rushed to pull on the jean shorts and tank top. It took me longer than expected, since I had to fight to get the stupid shorts buttoned. All I can say is his sister must be a lot smaller than Kona. I mean, even the shirt was a little too tight—and a little too low-cut—for my comfort. But it wasn’t like I had so many better options: Kona’s robe now smelled like drowned mermaid, and not in a good way.
By the time I got out to Kona, I was in a crappy mood. The shorts I was wearing were so tight that I swore they were cutting off circulation to my butt, I was starving, and I still hadn’t had most of my questions answered. In fact, everything he’d told me had only given me more things to think about and more questions to ask.
Kona’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head when he saw me. “Wow. You look—”
“Don’t even. One word and I swear to God I’m going to hit you. Hard.”
He was silent for a second, but I guess the temptation proved too much, because he gave me a huge smirk as he said, “It’s a good thing you didn’t say ‘kick me.’ I don’t think those shorts could take it. They’d probably split right down the—”
I nudged his shoulder, not superhard as he was injured, but definitely with enough force to let him know I was serious. He must have gotten the message, because he shut up. Fast.
He sat on the bed, gestured for me to join him. But I wasn’t sure the jeans—or my hormones—could handle the extra pressure, so I stayed near the window, looking at the ocean and the setting sun.
My dad must be freaking out. And Moku—who had made him pancakes this morning? Or helped him put together his new puzzle? “Has it really been almost twenty-four hours since I took off after you?”
I shot him a look over my shoulder—I was sick to death of his cryptic answers. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Time passes differently here than it does on your side.”
“My side? What are we, in the middle of a Greek epic or something? Are you a siren, holding me captive on Circe’s island?”
“Sirens are mermaids, not selkies.”
“I know that.” I shoved a hand through my hair in frustration, tugging at the ends so hard it was amazing I didn’t make myself bald. “But what did you mean? If it’s Sunday night here—”
“It’s probably Tuesday morning in San Diego.”
“Tuesday morning? But I left when it was still Saturday night. Are you saying I’ve lost two days?”
“In the human world? Yes.”
God. My father was probably going nuts and Mark—I didn’t even want to imagine what Mark was thinking. Seeing as how the last time I’d seen him I’d been glowing purple and ogling Kona … I shook my head. Yeah, in his mind I was probably up for the worst-girlfriend-of-all-time award. Not that I exactly blamed him.
“How are your cuts?” Kona crossed to the dresser, holding out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some bandages with the air of a captive waving the white flag. I smiled despite myself.