You know, she continued, usually, the more time passes after a mermaid’s seventeenth birthday, the more powers she gets. That you had so much power so quickly made me think that you were going to have a lot of surprises in store for us.
She quirked one perfectly shaped eyebrow and I couldn’t help it. I thought of the electricity thing I’d done with Tiamat’s goons.
Of Kona explaining how rare that kind of magic was.
Of the voice deep inside myself that had warned me not to tell Hailana.
Did Hailana somehow know about it? Had I slipped up in practice, used it without realizing? I racked my brain, tried to think of every move I’d made, but nothing came to mind. I didn’t remember wielding electricity against Sabyn or anyone else he’d brought in to train with us. Except …
Except that nearly every time Sabyn touched me, we both lit up like the Electric Light Parade my mother used to drag us to see at Disneyland every summer. I’d thought it was a training thing, something that wasn’t all that unusual. But what if it was the giveaway? Was that bizarre reaction between us what had tipped off Sabyn, and in turn, Hailana?
I fought the urge to scream in frustration. I hated this. Hated not knowing all the things I should, all the bits and pieces that went into life down here. On land, it wasn’t easy—especially with all the mermaid stuff that had grown almost impossible to hide—but at least up there I understood what was expected of me. What I needed to do to keep myself safe and sane. Down below, it was a whole different story, and I kept feeling like I was a couple scenes behind the pack.
I studied Hailana, tried to gauge what she was getting at. If she were fishing, and I didn’t react to it, maybe she would let the subject drop. I hoped so, because everything inside of me said that if she knew of my most recent talent, how easily I had killed those men, that I would find myself following even more closely in my mother’s footsteps.
I didn’t want to do that, couldn’t do that. For seven years I’d sworn I wouldn’t be like my mother, wouldn’t make the same choices she had. And yet, here I was, in her city, with her queen, living her life—or as close to it as Hailana could get me. Again I thought of those people I’d seen my mother kill remorselessly, again I shoved the memory away.
Tried to focus instead on the problem at hand.
I didn’t know what to do, didn’t have a clue what to say to her. I needed Kona, who knew so much more about this life than I did. I had questions for him, needed answers, but he was so wrapped up in protecting me from the perceived threat of Sabyn that he’d forgotten the ways in which I really needed him.
If only there was some way—
Tempest? Are you listening to me? Hailana’s voice, much sharper than it had been before, dragged me back to the present. From the impatient look on her face she’d been talking for quite some time, while I’d been drifting in La La Land, trying to make some sense of the world that was slowly crumbling around me.
Sorry, Hailana. It’s been a rough couple of days. Sabyn’s a tough trainer.
That’s why he’s good for you. Jared wasn’t pushing you, and that isn’t going to do us any good. When Tiamat comes back for you, she’s going to come with everything she’s got.
I know. It was pretty hard to forget, what with everyone reminding me of that fact every time I turned around.
There was a long silence as the merQueen waited for me to say what I had come to say. But it was harder than I thought to just blurt it out, now that I was in front of her. Looking down, I traced patterns on Hailana’s desk as I tried to get my thoughts in order.
Are you okay, Tempest? she finally asked.
Yeah, of course. I was just … I looked up into her narrowed gaze and knew that it was now or never. If I didn’t ask her my questions soon, I never would. Did you choose Sabyn on purpose? Because you knew it would upset Kona?
Mmmmm, now we get to the heart of the matter. Is the selkie prince threatened by such a young, handsome merman spending so much time with you?
The selkie prince, I repeated, is upset because he doesn’t like Sabyn. But I think you know that. I watched her carefully, trying to catch any flicker in her expression. She didn’t so much as blink.
Is he still beating that drum? she asked. It was an accident— Annalisse fell and injured herself severely—with Tiamat’s help. Sabyn tried to save her, but he couldn’t. Everyone knows that but Kona.
I was reeling a little bit at the knowledge of how Kona’s sister had died, but I wouldn’t give Hailana the satisfaction of seeing he’d never shared the details with me.
So you knew about Sabyn’s history with Kona, how Kona felt about him, and you decided to have me train with him anyway? I asked, just to clarify things. I already knew it was true, even before she answered. Hailana did what she wanted, when she wanted to do it and to hell with anyone else’s feelings.
I don’t make decisions for my clan based on keeping the selkie prince happy, she told me blandly. I’m truly sorry if my choices have caused any stress between you.
Yeah, and if I believed that … I didn’t need to see the sudden, cagey look in her eye to know that she was trying to play me. Of course, a lot of what she’d done lately seemed to have been with the express intention of causing trouble between Kona and me. The fact that we were letting her, that we were falling right into line with her schemes, was no one’s fault but Kona’s and mine. I would even bet that Sabyn was making all those crazy comments to me, not just to get under Kona’s skin, but on direct order from her. The straightforward approach wasn’t really Hailana’s style.
Is that all you wanted? she asked. To find out about Kona and Sabyn?
That was my cue to leave, to get up from the desk and walk out before this meeting descended into the free-for-all our conferences so often became. I started to say yes, started to get up and swim to the door, but in the end, I couldn’t do it. There was another question burning inside of me, one that was so important I trembled with the need to have an answer.
Tempest? she prompted. Is there something else?
What was my mother’s real job for you?
You say she was a priestess, say that she was your right hand. You also tell me that you want me to follow in her wake, but you’ve never actually told me what she did for you.
That’s easy. Hailana’s eyes were frigid, ferocious, as they looked me over. She did whatever I asked of her. And she kept her mouth shut about doing it. In time, you’ll learn to do the same thing.
That was exactly what I was afraid of.
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