The Ocean's Shadow
Click on image to enlarge.
by Jennah Sharpe
Description: Storms erupt when a merman's treasure is stolen from him. A dark, shadowy creature haunts the waters of Copperberry's rugged coast. Feared by the villagers, he incites lust in the lonely women of the town. A servant, escaped from abusive employers, Claire never expected to live through the storm she threw herself into. Rescued by a mysterious man, she begins a new life, until a bounty is placed on her head. But an angry merman in exile is a dangerous creature--especially when the one woman who can return his lost emotions is taken from him. Warning, this title contains the following: explicit sex.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2007 2007
eBookwise Release Date: January 2010
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [74 KB]
Reading time: 41-58 min.
"We've got her, Mr. Silvain," called one of the men. "We found your little maid." As they moved closer, Claire watched the sparkle of greed flicker in Silvain's gaze. The oil lanterns lighting the docks would have been pretty on any other night. On this night, they merely reflected men's thoughts.
"The wench? Ah." His lips drew into what Claire would describe as a snarl, although she knew from experience others saw it as a cocky smile. He was planning all the wicked chores he could think of for her, imagining the games he'd make her play, the debts he'd claim for "saving her life". She was so certain of his thoughts that a cold sweat broke out on her palms. Her stomach heaved. Fighting to hold her composure, she straightened her head and looked directly at him.
As the men stood before him, he slowly reached into his jacket pocket and, without saying a word, produced a small leather bag. The man with the tight grip on her shoulder pushed her toward her master at the same moment he lunged for the bag. She stumbled but Silvain caught her waist, steadying her. She grimaced at the stench of scotch emanating from his mouth.
The men crowded together in a tight, conspiratorial circle without further thought for Claire. They fingered the currency inside and took off. Claire had a feeling the money would be spent on booze and women before dawn.
She didn't want to look her master in the face. The fear was quickly becoming uncontrollable. She hadn't ever wanted to see him again. He shoved her hard into the rowboat. The rough-hewn seat she fell on cut into her cheek. A small trickle of warm blood dripped down her already bruised face. This can't possibly get any worse. She was alive and was grateful the bounty hunters hadn't thought to rape her. Just take a breath. You can handle this, Claire.
Claire remained in the hull of the boat, listening calmly to the reprimands Silvain tossed at her. Two of his men rowed the boat out to sea.
On the horizon, she could see the tall masts of the ship that would carry her to America. Could she risk another escape into the water? Where was Ailfinn? If he wasn't there to save her, she'd certainly drown. Although she'd been willing to risk that only days ago, life had changed drastically. Now, she had Ailfinn. Life away from Silvain and his barbaric family was imaginable. For a moment in time, it had been attainable. It wasn't blood now that dripped quietly down Claire's cheek. She turned her head and looked over the edge. The sea was calm. There was no anger in the night sky. Perhaps he didn't know she was gone. Or maybe he didn't care.
At last she felt able to voice the question that had haunted her. "How did you know to look for me? You knew I was alive? How did you find me?" The questions sputtered out with a tremble, belying her anxiety.
Silvain grinned in the dim night. The flash of his big teeth caught the moonlight. "A gut feeling, lass. I had a feeling you went voluntarily. The storm was a nice cover for you. How you made it to shore, I've no idea, but it's of no matter to me now. It only took the task of asking a few questions in the villages along the cliffs. They were all too happy to give you up." He sneered. "I wonder why that is?"
Claire lowered her gaze. She was a stranger. Why wouldn't they give her back to her employer? They owed her nothing. Unable to conjure anger, Claire curled into a ball on the hard wooden planks of the hull.
Very slowly, her eyelids drooped as the beginnings of exhaustion overtook her. She felt weak, her arms and legs heavy and aching.
The gentle lap of the water on the hull and the rhythmic rowing had her lulled into a fitful sleep when a sudden, loud splash and rocking of the boat brought her fully awake. She propped herself up, her bound hands grabbing at the edges of the boat. She looked around, blinking as her eyes adjusted to wakefulness. It was dark but not too dark to notice Silvain was gone. Circular ripples in the early morning sea were all that remained. The two men in charge of rowing cowered in the stern, eyes not on Claire, but on the water where Silvain had disappeared. It was then that a fish tail broke the surface of the water, twisted once and came crashing down with a sound that echoed through the dark night.
When she caught a glimpse of that awe-inspiring tail fin, she jumped to her feet, rocking the boat dangerously. But falling into the water was not her fear. Being hauled aboard that ship frightened her much more. The little rowboat was much too close for comfort now, despite the fact Silvain had disappeared. His staff and his wife were still aboard that ship. She would not be taken to America. She would stay on the shores of the North Sea or die trying.
"Ailfinn!" she called out. "Ailfinn, I'm here."