The rain was coming down heavier now, as if the sky had simply opened up and poured the entire weight of the Pacific onto us. Kona reached for me but I stumbled just out of his grasp, almost certain that I was going to be sick.
“Let me go!” I screamed as he walked toward me, a wealth of purpose in every step he took. “Just let me go!”
“I can’t. Don’t you think I would if I could?”
The rain had plastered his long, ebony hair to his skull and shoulders, had made his chest gleam and his tattoos shimmer until he looked more like an avenging god than a man. More like the fallen angel I had first compared him to than the mortal I had fallen half in love with over these last few days.
“Don’t you think I see how this whole change is tearing you apart?” He grabbed me, his huge, calloused hands closing around my biceps as he forced me to hold my ground. “I need you, Tempest. I need you!”
His words moved through me, had me staring at him as I tried to figure out the truth of his feelings for me. Was it possible he was as confused, as mixed up, as I was? But—“How can you? I’m nothing.” I tried to wrench myself away, but he held tight.
“Come on, Kona. Look around you! I’m a disaster—from the moment you first met me, I’ve done nothing but try to destroy you.” Images of the first time I saw him bombarded me, of him riding those monster waves. Waves I had caused. Waves that could have crushed him as surely as the storm that was swirling around us now.
“You’re young, unschooled. That doesn’t make you a disaster.” His voice was hoarse, his eyes wild slashes of silver against the suddenly harsh planes of his face.
“What does it make me then?” It was a rhetorical question, one I really didn’t expect an answer to. He gave me one anyway, though his words were so soft I had to strain to hear them.
I tried to close my eyes, to block out his words and the look in his eyes as he stared down at me. But I was spellbound, mesmerized, as wrapped up in him in that moment as I had been the first time I’d laid eyes on him.
Kona’s grip loosened and he smoothed his hands up my arms to my shoulders. His long fingers stroked my collarbone and the hollows of my throat before sliding up to cup my face. His fingers were rough, and the feel of them set off mini-explosions inside of me as they brushed over my eyebrows and down my cheeks.
I shuddered, my body humming like I was hooked up to my own personal generator. As his thumb glanced across my mouth, I darted my tongue out, licked him. He tasted of pomegranates and salt water and deep, dark chocolate.
And then he was bending his head, his lips brushing against mine, once, twice, and so much heat roared through me that I couldn’t imagine ever being cold again.
“I need you, Tempest.” He whispered the words against my mouth and I drew them inside of me, tasted them. They were sweet, sweeter than I could ever have imagined.
Around us the storm quieted, the lightning sizzling into nothingness even as the sweet silkiness of the rain continued to fall. I reached up, covered his hands with my own, and gave myself up to him and this kiss that I wanted more than I wanted my next breath.
His lips were soft and warm and they lit me up from the inside. I was glowing—I could feel it—but this time it had nothing to do with the water, with my so-called power, and everything to do with Kona. I closed my eyes and colors exploded against the darkness of my eyelids. It was like the finale at a Fourth of July celebration, like riding a roller coaster in the rain, like floating through meadows of beautiful, blooming things.
His hands slid over my face, tangled in my hair, tilted my head back until I was completely open to him. His tongue glanced over mine, then swept inside to explore the very essence of me. I let him do it—begged him to do it, with the press of my body against his and the tug of my own fingers in his wicked, wonderful hair.
I couldn’t have stopped, even if I wanted to. The taste—the feel—of him was addictive. Like surfing. Like flying. Like a thousand shooting stars streaking across the inky blackness of midnight over the Pacific, and in that moment, I swear I could feel him deep inside myself.
Time passed in a maelstrom of need and emotion—seconds, minutes, hours. I didn’t know how long we stood there, locked together, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that for the first moment in a very long time, I felt like things were going to be okay.
Kona pulled away too soon and I clutched at him, determined to hold him to me. But I didn’t need to worry; he wasn’t going anywhere. His arms were locked around me like a vice, his cheek resting against the top of my head as I listened to the pounding of his heart.
We stayed like that for a while, our breathing harsh and our bodies trembling. But eventually the real world crept in and with it all my fears and self-recrimination.
“How could I have hurt you like that?” I asked, stroking my fingers down the long, thin scar that sliced across the center of his chest.
He grabbed my hand, brought it to his lips, where he licked delicately across my palm. If another guy had done that I might have been totally weirded out, but with Kona it was okay. More than okay, as sparks shot through every part of me.
“It’s not your fault.”
“How could it not be? If I really can bring on storms—”
“There’s no if about it.” Kona held out his hand, palm up, and collected a few of the cool, sweet raindrops that were still falling. “But what makes you think you should be able to control it when no one has ever taught you how?”
“Is that what you’re supposed to be doing? Teaching me how to use my powers?” The word felt strange in my mouth.
He laughed. “How can I, when you have magic inside of you that I can only dream of? Tempest, I wasn’t kidding when I said you were special.”
The idea that I was special in the way he was describing was so far outside my realm of thought that I couldn’t touch it. Instead I focused on the mundane details—if there were such things with magic. “Still, how am I supposed to control it if nobody tells me anything? I don’t want to hurt you again. I don’t want to hurt anybody.”
“Shh.” He leaned forward so that his lips brushed against my temple. “You won’t hurt anyone.”
“How can you say that? I almost killed you.”
“But you didn’t. And no offense, but have you looked in a mirror lately?” He skimmed his fingers over a particularly deep gouge on my shoulder. “You’re in much worse shape than I am.”
Strangely, it was true. “Why is that, by the way? If water heals us—”
“It doesn’t. Just me. I keep telling you, selkies and mermaids are very different creatures.”
“Well, that doesn’t seem fair. You get hit by lightning and water heals you right away. I get scratched by a seashell and I’m stuck with it for days?”
“Most of these are a lot deeper than your average scratch. And I wouldn’t have healed so quickly if the wound had been inflicted with dark magic—only untainted wounds heal in the water. Besides, mermaids have other gifts.”
I snorted. “Yeah, like being able to kill people with lightning bolts. Whoop-de-do.”