A mermaid princess destined to wed a handsome king…
It sounds like a fairy tale, but the reality is far murkier.
Ink, Princess of the Florida Atlantic mers, is slated to wed the ancient enemy of her tribe, the King of the Gulfs. After years of war that led to countless mer deaths, as well as the genocide of aquatic shapeshifters and the freshwater mers of Florida, Ink’s marriage will bring lasting peace.
Or so it seems.
Mere hours before she’s supposed to leave the ocean for her customary year as a drywalker, Ink meets Hal, an alligator shifter who warns her that a storm is brewing. There is malicious intent behind Ink’s marriage—and worse, meeting Hal has also caused a storm to rage in Ink’s heart. Nevertheless, loyal to her tribe, Ink will put aside her feelings and journey to Miami to marry the decadent King Manx.
Ink soon learns that her only hope of surviving the crashing force swelling around her is to tap into a power deep inside—a forbidden power that might destroy them all.
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Melanie Karsak is the author of the Amazon best-selling series The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, and The Saga of Lady Macbeth. She grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania and earned a Master's degree in English from Gannon University. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and zombie whisperer, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.
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“Who are they?” I whispered to Indigo.
“The Gulf tribe,” she replied excitedly. “You’ve missed half the discussion. Apparently some deal has been struck.”
“What kind of deal?”
“I don’t know,” Indigo said with a shrug. “They talked about the contaminated conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and a plan to find a new home for the Gulfs. Did you see their young king? He’s handsome.”
“His name is Manx,” I told her. Seaton, who had met the new king of the Gulfs the year before in Pensacola, had not been impressed. He’d called him an overgrown and spoiled child. I hadn’t been interested enough to ask more. Nonetheless, I looked him over. Sunlight slanted through holes in the cave walls above the grotto and fell on Manx. His long, dark hair floated in the water around him. I studied his muscular body. He was a drywalker like me. He bore swirling tattoos on his arms. His tail was a dark blue, the color of the deepest pockets in the ocean, each scale trimmed with a filigree of red. His body was athletic, and from this angle, I could see he was handsome. But what of it? It wasn’t like he had the rugged charm of the nagual. A creature like Hal could make any mermaid’s heart beat faster. The nagual was a fine creature, not an overgrown child.
I looked away from Manx. I was an orphan of the war between the tribes. The Gulfs were our enemy. Peace or no peace, these people had killed our kind, my parents. It left a bitter taste in my mouth to see them in our grotto.
Indigo, however, was staring at him. I followed her gaze. We must have been eyeing him too intensely because this time Manx looked at us. Even from this distance, I could see his eyes were bright, green-blue. He smiled at us. I looked away.
“Well, that’s embarrassing,” Indigo whispered behind her hand.
It was then that I realized why the Gulfs were there. Something told me that the Gulf tribe was there for more than just a friendly, diplomatic meeting. Something told me there was a reason I was sent, with haste, to round up Indigo. Something about the way Manx held himself so gracefully before Creon told me that a bargain had, indeed, been struck. Something told me, when I saw the glimmer in Indigo’s eyes as she gazed at Manx, that my cousin suspected the same thing I did. All the words yet unsaid spoke a truth: the Gulfs had come for Indigo.
King Creon moved from his dais. All attention turned to him. I gazed back at Manx and was surprised to find him staring at me. He grinned, a bemused expression on his chiseled features.
I then saw an elder woman among Manx’s group motion for him to turn his attention back to the Atlantic king. Manx did as instructed, looking dutifully in front of him. The ancient-looking mermaid set her gaze on me. She had long white hair adorned with shells and bones. She was a frail looking thing, her skin deeply wrinkled. Her tail had started losing its green-gold pigment. The old mermaid was dying. She must have been the Queen Mother, the renowned ancient lady of the Gulf. Was she there to help broker the young king’s future? I held her gaze. She softened, nodding politely to me, then turned her attention to Creon.
“Noble king,” Manx said then, “We thank your highness for affording us this official visit to your court to discuss the joyous agreement drawn between our tribes.”
“We, too, are pleased with our negotiations. All will come to fruition in time. But today we shall share a special announcement.” Creon motioned for Indigo to come forward.
I was right. My cousin squeezed my hand, rose tepidly, and then moved toward the gathered troupe. In the very least, my cousin would be happy with a handsome king. Indigo’s tastes had always been very different from mine. I had no use for a puffed-up merman. Until that very morning, I’d never had use for any male save the friendships I shared with Seaton and Roald. Now, however, I couldn’t shake the nagual from my thoughts.
As Indigo moved forward, Lady Isla’s expression change from serene disconnect to worry. She rose quickly and motioned for her daughter to stop. She shook her head at Indigo who paused.
Creon cleared his throat. “My apologies, Lady Indigo. I had intended for Ink, Daughter of Dauphin and Coral, to come forward.”
Me? What in the hell did they want from me? I sat frozen.