I blinked as the sun streamed into my window. I was pinned beneath a heavy weight and something jabbed me uncomfortably in my hip. Not to mention every part of my body ached. Memory stirred. Right. Mr. Frank and I had had sex. Multiple times. No wonder I was sore. I shifted to relieve pressure on one of my wings. I hated lying on my back!
Mr. Frank stirred. “Where…? Dariel!” He stared at me shock. “Where am I?”
“In my room. Could you move? You’re lying on one of my wings,” I explained at his outraged look.
“Oh. Sorry.” He obligingly got off the wing. He sat on the edge of bed with his head in his hands. I frowned. I Felt he was upset, but I wasn’t sure why
“Mr. Frank?” Hesitantly I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Did I do something wrong?”
He gave me an unreadable look. “No. I’m going to take a shower.” He rose and left me alone.
Sighing, I headed for my own shower. The soap stung in the numerous bites on my body. I didn’t remember getting half of them. Especially the ones in very intimate spots. The pleasure and pain blurred together after awhile.
I saw no sign of Mr. Frank when I left the room. On the other hand, the living room bore mute witness to our epic pillow fight. I sneezed as a stray bit of fluff tickled my nose. With a repressed sigh, I got out the vacuum.
I flopped on the couch after I finished cleaning. Mr. Frank hadn’t shown his face. Either he was sulking in his room (unlikely) or he’d slipped downstairs earlier before I’d left my room. I dug out one of my textbooks to read. Sure, classes didn’t start for a couple more weeks, but there was no reason not to get a jump on the material. Besides, it would distract me from my love life.
I jumped a little at the sound of Mr. Frank’s voice. My book thudded to the floor. “Sorry, sir. Did you want something?”
“Dinner.” He bent and handed my book to me. “Hardly light reading. Classes haven’t started yet, have they?”
“No.” I marked my place with the empty chip bag from my lunch. “I’m just getting a jump on the material. I haven’t started dinner.”
“Obviously.” He raised his eyebrow in gentle rebuke. “It needn’t be elaborate.”
I pointed to the kitchen. “You know where the peanut butter is.”
He snagged my finger. “Really? I was thinking of fish.”
I tugged my finger free. “Think away. I’m not cooking it.”
“Fish,” he repeated grabbing my wrist and pulling me into his arms. He nipped my earlobe. “Fish. With Mer for an appetizer.”
“Oh!” I twined my fingers in his hair. “That might be doable. But Mer aren’t fish.”
“Details,” he murmured against my neck.
I cried out in pain as the Siren’s mental voice sliced through my mind. I pushed Mr. Frank away and collapsed into the fetal position.
“Dariel?” He tentatively reached for me.
“Don’t touch me!” I ground out. :What?:
:The Queen commands your presence now.:
:I’m nearly two hours away from the beach by car.: I protested.
:Now. I suggest you get going. Tardiness will not make her inclined to be merciful. Twice you have avoided her. If you disobey her now…: The Siren trailed off.
My head pounded from the force of his Sending. I groaned and massaged my temples.
“Dariel?” Mr. Frank knelt before me with a concerned look on his face. “Are you alright? Should I call an ambulance?”
“Are you sure? You looked like you were having a seizure.”
“Yes. I need to go to the beach.”
“Now? I think you should see a doctor.”
I sighed. “Yes, now. That was a very powerful telepath expressing his displeasure.”
“Displeasure? Can’t he pick up a phone like the rest of us?”
I shook my head. “I don’t have to discuss this. I need to leave.” I stood up and swayed.
He caught me before I fell. “You’re in no shape to go swimming.”
“I have to go,” I insisted as black spots danced in my eyes.
“Fine. But I’m driving.” He put his arm around me and guided me to his car. I leaned gratefully against him. “I still think you should get your head examined,” he muttered as he fastened my seatbelt.
“By a neurologist…or a psychiatrist?”
“Both.” He turned on the radio to an oldies station. I didn’t mind as it gave me an excuse not to talk to him. “Do you want something?”
“Hmm?” I looked up. We were idling in the drive-thru lane of a fast food joint. “Maybe split some fries?”
He snorted. “Get your own fries. I’ll have a medium number one combo with a cola and another order of medium fries. Drink?”
“And an orange juice.”
He handed me a fragrant paper bag. The enticing odor of freshly made fries had me digging eagerly in the bag. I unwrapped his burger and handed it to him. “How much farther?”
“About twenty minutes according to the GPS. I got hungry. Someone made me miss dinner.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled around a mouthful of fries.
He waved my apology away. “It’s fine. Have a good nap?”
“Yes. I feel better. The food helped too.”
“So…why the sudden urge for a midnight swim?”
I squirmed a little in my seat. “I can’t tell you. It’s Mer business.”
“I see,” he replied neutrally.
He grunted in response. We passed the rest of the drive in silence. The car glided to a smooth stop in the parking lot.
“You’re really going to swim in that?” He nodded toward the inky waters.
“Yes. The cold won’t affect me.” I peeled my fingers from the handle. The sand crunched under my feet. Was it really only a week ago that I’d stood on a different beach watching my sister strip? A week since she’d tried to seduce me? I removed my clothes and carefully folded them and set them above the high water mark.
:Sometime today would be nice, nephew.:
:Sorry, aunt.: I took a deep breath and waded out into the chill ocean waters. I dug my nails into my palms as the waves lapped at my shins. I could do this. Far too soon for my comfort, the water rose high enough to force my transformation. I dove reluctantly underneath the waves to where my aunt, my queen, waited. All too familiar panic clawed at my throat as I descended.
:I see you took your sweet time.: A male commented.
:My apologies for my tardiness, Majesty, Patriarch. I did express concern regarding the distance when summoned.:
:Enough! Healer, you will examine Dariel. Then you may speak with him, Patriarch.:
:Majesty. Highness. If you will follow me?:
I nodded and swam after him to a secluded nook. No one had mentioned my bite marks so far, but I was certain my aunt had noticed. The Healer examined me in silence. I had no idea what he was looking for. Could he tell I was no longer a virgin? When it was over, the Patriarch swam over.
He smiled nastily. :Now, Highness, you will tell me everything you’ve done since you arrived among the two-leggers…:
:They’re called humans.: I flinched at the wave of disgust he sent to me. I tried to push him away but he was too strong and he dug ruthlessly through my mind. Every single interaction I had was brutally laid bare and pawed over. I wanted to curl into a ball and weep after his violation.
:Filthy, perverted mongrel.: He sneered. :It would be better if the queen took a mate. Started a new dynasty. You disgrace your family.:
I swam slowly after him. My aunt didn’t appear to notice how he’d treated me. She dismissed me to wait on the beach while they consulted. I huddled miserably on the sand.
“Dariel?” Mr. Frank draped my coat over my bare shoulders. “Everything okay?”
“Can we leave now?”
I shook my head. “She needs to give her permission.”
“And if she refuses?”
I swallowed. “Then l have to go back with her.” My breathing sped up and I trembled at the thought of living in the Mer community permanently. I flinched away when he reached for me. “Don’t.”
“I was just going to…”
“Not now. Don’t give her a reason to refuse.”
“My attending school was contingent on my being celibate and chaste.”
“Ah. She knows?”
I shrugged. “The Patriarch does. The Healer might. Whether or not they told her…” I dug my hands into the sand as panic threatened to overwhelm me.
He regarded me silently for a long moment. “I don’t want you to go away.”
“I don’t want to go.”
“Mmm…nice night. Clear. You can see the stars.”
“Do you know what constellation that is?”
I followed his pointing finger. “No,” I answered unenthusiastically. It looked like any other bunch of stars to me.
“I’m trying to distract you.”
I gave him a wan smile. “Sorry. It’s just…”
He nodded and smiled at me before taking up his astronomy lecture. I made noises occasionally in response. I think he knew I wasn’t really paying attention to his monologue. I did appreciate the effort.
My aunt strode out of the water. Mr. Frank blushed and looked away. Humans and their nudity taboos.
:So, nephew, the Patriarch believes the humans have irrecoverably contaminated you with their perversions. He believes you should be returned to Pacifica and Joined immediately. He believes a child or two would sufficiently distract you from your abnormal lusts:
:Silence! I am not finished speaking! I lost your father because I was not willing to accept him as he was. The people will not accept a non-Mer for your mate. Nor will they accept your mating with Athena.: Her mental voice softened. :You may finish your year of school.:
:Yes, Majesty.: I replied meekly.
“As for you, human…harm my nephew and you will not live to regret it. Are we clear?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Mr. Frank nodded. “I have no intention of hurting him.”
She snorted. “What do call what you’ve done with him already?”
He shot me a glare before replaying. “A game played by consenting adults. And quite frankly, none of your business.”
“My nephew’s virtue is most certainly my business, human! No decent female will Join with a male of loose morals.”
Mr. Frank laughed. “In case you haven’t noticed, Madame, your nephew has little interest with Joining with any female, decent or not.”
“His wants matter little. He will Join as I command.”
“Who the frell are you to dictate Dariel’s love life?” He snarled.
“I am his queen. Be grateful that I do not slay you out of hand for daring to touch him.” Even nude she looked the very image of an outraged monarch.
He glared at l her in disgust. “No wonder he doesn’t want to go home if this to how he’s treated.”
“And your treatment is better?”
“He has every right to refuse.”
“And you obey?”
He sighed. “It’s about trust. I trust him to know his limits and speak up if necessary. He trusts that I will respect those limits. And I do.”
I coughed. “I’m right here.”
“Sorry, Dariel. That was rude of me.”
Typically, my aunt ignored me. “You know nothing of our culture.”
“Yeah, well, I’m glad of that, lady, ’cause I don’t like what I do know. C’mon, Dariel, let’s go home.”
I scrambled to my feet to follow him. :You would choose this human over your own kind, Dariel?: My aunt’s mental voice smothered me. I struggled to push it aside as I began to hyperventilate. I fell into the car and slammed the door behind me.
“Go!” I urged Mr. Frank. The pressure eased as he peeled out of the parking lot. Luckily it was late enough that there were few cars on the road. Even better, there weren’t any cop cars. “Pull over.”
I clamped a hand over my mouth. “Now!” I demanded between my fingers. Gravel crunched as the car’s tires hit the shoulder. I opened the door and retched. My stomach heaved again.
I nodded and wiped my mouth. “Can we go home now?”
“Sure.” He smoothly accelerated. “Let me know if you need to pull over again.”
I nodded. I still felt queasy and over-heated. I swallowed as bile filled my mouth. He turned off the heat and rolled down my window. The air helped a bit. Wisely, Mr. Frank opted to delay our conversation until we were home.
I shivered as he pulled into the drive. “Cold?”
“Only a little.”
“Right. How about a hot shower?” He guided me into the house and down the hall to the bathroom. I hadn’t bothered to dress after my swim (another reason to be grateful for a lack of cops) so it was easy enough to get in the shower. The heat helped with the physical chill, but not the icy ball of fear in my stomach. Mr. Frank tucked me into bed.
“Don’t go,” I begged as he turned to leave.
“Please? Just for a little while?”
He sighed but sat beside me. Gently he stroked my hair. The terror eased a bit. My eyelids began to droop.