“You are famous.”
“What are you saying?” I demanded, food forgotten as I leaned across the table at him. “You people really believe that stupid thing?”
“We do. The last few years have been unpleasant—this is what gives our people hope.”
“And you think all that stuff in there is about me?”
“I know it is.”
“Why? Because my name is Tempest? Because my tattoos are purple? The whole thing doesn’t make any sense.”
“Because you’re the daughter of the most powerful priestess in existence. Because you have more magic inside of you than anyone I’ve ever met. Because I look at you and I just know.”
Shock wound its way up my spine, down my arms. Curled inside of me until I could no longer feel the heat from the slowly rising sun. “I think you’re all confused. My mother’s a mermaid. Just a mermaid. And I don’t have any power—”
“Really? How do you think you moved me halfway across the room at your party? No one else could have done that—not even your mother. How do you think you followed me through the ocean?”
“You left a trail.”
“No, I didn’t. You saw a trail. You created it from sheer will. Anyone else would have been lost, but you followed me. You found me because you wanted to, even though my brothers went to great pains to hide my presence—and my injuries.”
His words lit a fire that burned through the cold of disbelief and denial. Because I knew he was right? Or because I wanted him to be wrong?
“The trail was there,” I insisted. “It was the same color as your eyes—clear as day. You didn’t see it because you were bleeding to death.”
“I didn’t see it because it was not there—at least not for anyone but you.”
I didn’t know how to argue with his certainty, so I let it go, though the memory of that shining silver path stayed with me—at least until his other words registered. “You said my mother is a priestess?”
“She is—an incredibly powerful one. Five hundred years ago she imprisoned Tiamat in a cage at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. It was so strong it’s taken her half a millennium to break free.”
“Do you really believe what you’re saying?” I asked, incredulous.
“But it’s ridiculous. The whole thing is crazy. My mother is thirty-nine.”
He laughed. “Your mother is well over six hundred years old.”
“Of course it is! Nobody lives that long.”
“Sure they do.” He smiled grimly. “I’m two hundred and twenty-four.”
I gaped at him, sure that this time I was the one whose mouth was moving like a fish’s. “Now I know you’re messing with me. You look like you’re nineteen. Maybe twenty. But two hundred? No way.”
He shook his head. “Selkies live a long time—we age normally until we become adults and then some kind of switch gets flipped and we start to age very slowly.”
“My parents are nearly five hundred years old and they’re in their prime. They won’t hit old age for another three hundred years or so.”
“And mermaids?” I asked faintly.
“Much the same.”
“So you’re telling me I’m going to live to be eight hundred?”
His expression turned serious. “Honestly, Tempest? I’m not sure you’ll make it to eighteen, let alone eight hundred. Not with the way Tiamat is gunning for you.”
I shoved back from the table, knocking over my chair as I tried to get away from him. Maybe I wasn’t ready for what he had to tell me, no matter how much I’d protested that I was.
Confused and more than a little freaked out, I made my way down the beach, his words spinning in my head. What he was suggesting was ridiculous, nonsensical. Not to mention completely bizarre.
And yet it fit. The way Kona always seemed so much more mature than Mark and the other guys I knew. The way he was so patient with me, despite the intensity I could feel inside of him. The way he kissed, with so much more finesse than any teenager should have.
The last thought stuck with me, though I did my best to banish it. With everything going on right now, kissing Kona should be the absolute last thing on my mind.
Be careful what you ask for. The old cliché came to me as I looked out at the ocean. You just might get it.
I’d wanted answers and I was getting them. But Kona had been right after all. Things were more complicated than I ever could have imagined and getting more so with each piece of the puzzle he gave me.
My mother was a priestess. I was—I didn’t know what I was, but it didn’t sound good. Tiamat was after me because of some stupid “prophecy” and the guy I’d been falling for was two hundred and seven years older than I was. Not to mention hoping to use me to save the entire freakin’ Pacific.
Around me the ocean seethed and thrashed, the waves growing bigger with each breath I took.
“I don’t want to relax!” I whirled on him. “How can I?”
He didn’t respond, just stared at me with eyes the same color as the clouds that were slowly rolling in above us. A fine mist of rain fell like a curtain, covering me with drops of water that sparkled like diamonds.
“Why does it always rain when I’m around you, anyway?”
Kona did respond then, with a laugh that was both harsh and sympathetic. “I think you have that backward.”
He shrugged. “I’m not doing this. You are.”
“What are you talking about? No one’s doing it—except maybe Mother Nature.”
“Are you so sure about that? Really? Look around, Tempest, and then tell me it isn’t you.”
“Of course it isn’t me. How could I possibly be responsible for all of this?”
But even as I denied it, I could feel the truth of his words deep inside me.
Could see all the times the ocean had clouded over and poured in the last couple of years when my emotions got to be too much for me.
Could hear the echoes of magic words in the unexplored corners of my soul.
A wave of denial rolled through me so fast and so hard that it nearly brought me to my knees. Lightning split the sky, slammed into the beach about ten feet from where Kona was sitting as thunder crackled directly above us.
“Control it, Tempest.” Kona’s voice was steady, unafraid. His eyes calm despite the sudden furor raging around us.
Another bolt of lightning hit, this one even closer to him than the first one had been. “Oh my God.” I did fall then, as an ugly truth started to dawn.
“It’s okay, Tempest.”
“How can it be okay?” I screamed to be heard over the suddenly raging storm. “I nearly killed you. I did kill you!”
“You saved me.” He crouched next to me in the sand, grabbed on to my hands and brought them to rest against his chest. “I’m fine now, because of you.”
“No!” I wrenched away from him as the sand beneath us trembled. “If I’m doing this now, that means I did it then. I hit you with lightning. Not Tiamat. Me!”