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The coronation is over.
But the battle has just begun.
Nerissa Marin has won her crown. But can she keep it? Already, her ties to the human realm are driving a wedge between Nerissa and her people. When word arrives that her part-human prince consort, Lo, has been poisoned, she makes the difficult choice to leave Waterfell and return landside. As the royal courts debate her decision, even more disturbing rumors surface: a plot is rising against her, led by someone she least expects.
On land, Nerissa learns another shocking truth: Lo does not remember who she is. As her choice to try to save him threatens her hold on her crown, changing loyalties and uncertainty test her courage in ways she could never have imagined. Nerissa will have one last chance to prove herself as a queen …and save the undersea kingdom she loves.
Breezing past Kevin at the Marine Center and yelling out that I’m taking the boat, I don’t even bother to change. I kick my shoes off at the bottom of the pier, let my toes sink into the sand and haul breath by cleansing breath into my lungs. And then I’m in the boat, speeding out to sea with spray on my face and freedom like salt on my tongue. For the first time that I can remember, I don’t want to be on land. I want to be down there—in the deep water, where I belong.
Where everything makes sense, even with the rivalry between the courts. At least there I am wholly me…not some creature pretending to be human and forced into a double life I’ve nearly grown out of. Now I understand why the Aquarathi aren’t meant to live with humans more than necessary. They drain us. I can’t play the catty games with Cara. I can’t try to be a flirt to make Lo fall in love with me. I can’t win. Not this time.
The boat veers past San Clemente Island. Out here, the water is so blue it’s nearly black. I have to force myself not to think that it’s the exact color of Lo’seyes. I close mine, not even sure what I’m running away from. There’s no way I can leave him behind while I return to Waterfell. Releasing the throttle on the boat, I drop anchor and let it sway gently in the wide rolling waves of the open sea.
The breadth of the ocean is unbroken, the deeper blue of the water nearly merging into the lighter blue of the sky in the distance. I hold my breath, turning my face to the sun. Golden shimmers of air dance across the top of the glasslike surface of the sea, and for a second not a drop of wind stirs. I am suspended between my worlds—the ever-reaching deep below me and the endless stretching sky above.
Where do I belong?
A shimmery glitter catches my eye as a school of dolphins breaks the surface, swimming nearer as if drawn to me. They circle the boat like playful children, their sounds happy and light. Leaning over the side of the boat, I let my hand drift through the rippling waves lapping against the side. Several dolphins pass below me, bouncing upward barely enough to let the slick rubber of their skins graze the human fuzz of mine. A trickle of golden light ignites at the electric tingle of their bodies, firing along the length of my palms. The water inside me surges to the surface in desperate response.
There’s only one place I can be at peace.
Bands of dewy green light shimmer along my bare arms as I strip off my clothing and somersault into the ocean, letting my body sink as it begins the transformation from girl to monster. The dolphins scatter, their shrieks turning fretful as I go from friend to foe. Bones crack and lengthen, pushing outward through soft skin as fiery green lights explode like fireworks along my entire span. I am something immense erupting from something insignificant. Hardened golden scales shimmer over fragile human tissue as a ridge of fins emerges from my spine, fanning into sharp, iridescent existence to the barbed tip of my tail. Fingers curl into talons and feet extend into claws as a crown of coral thorns sprouts in a fierce semicircle on my forehead—my glorious crown of bones—the final mark of what I am.
No longer a girl, I am every inch an Aquarathiqueen.
SEAMONSTER by Amalie Howard (Aquarathi #1.5)
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AMALIE HOWARD grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. 22 countries, surfing with sharks and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts.
She is the author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, PW, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Magazine Summer Read. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in New York with her husband and three children. Visit her at www.amaliehoward.com.