Deciding to give Jet and Valerie some time alone, I joined Skye and Kelsey in the living room. Skye had turned on Beauty & the Beast for the young girl. Kelsey swiveled her head around to look at me when I entered the room.
"Who are you?" she asked bluntly.
Skye smiled at her. "This is my sister, Marina," she said kindly.
I smiled at Kelsey too. "What's your name?" I asked her, even though I already knew it.
"Kelsey," she said, "I'm a bunny."
I was slightly stunned at the ease with which she explained what animal she could turn into, but I guess living in the tribe her whole life, without having to hide what she is, would do that to you. It was a good thing she wasn't living with normal people—although, a child constantly saying she's a bunny would probably go unnoticed.
"How old are you?" I asked her.
"Six and a half," she said like a typical child, "What are you?"
"A wolf," I answered.
Kelsey's eyes widened. "Like what attacks Belle?" she asked, pointing to the T.V. screen.
She was at the point in the movie where the Beast is preparing for his big dinner with Belle. I realized she had already watched the part where Belle runs away and the Beast rescues her from a pack of wolves. "Oh no," I assured her, "I would never hurt anyone."
For the first time since I walked in the room Kelsey smiled. "Oh good," she said and turned back to the T.V. Sitting down on the couch next to Skye, I pulled my phone out of my pocket. I had a new text from Cammie. Unlocking my phone, I read, "Need a swim. Meet me at the beach! Pleaseeeee". I checked the time—she had only texted me five minutes ago. I texted her back, telling her I would meet her there in ten minutes. Standing up again, I addressed Kelsey, "It was very nice to meet you, Kelsey."
The girl didn't even turn around at the sound of her name—she was too engrossed in the movie once more—either that or I just wasn't very good with kids.
Stopping in the kitchen to let Jet know I would be back soon, I grabbed my car keys and headed back outside. Although I knew my dad had forbidden us to shift because of the hunters, I knew there was no way hunters could follow me out at sea.
I drove the short distance between my house and my secret beach. I hopped out of my Jeep and looked up at the sky. Clouds were forming but they were nowhere near black enough to be storm clouds. Bounding down the hidden path to the beach, I saw that Cammie was already seated in the sand, waiting for me.
"It's not even Friday yet," I said as I approached her.
She turned her head to look at me and smiled. "I couldn't wait," she said.
"There's no one else here right?" I asked, glancing around at the nearby trees. After what happened with the hunters the other day, I didn't want to ever be caught off guard again.
Cammie frowned. "Of course not."
I tried to erase the concern from my face. I hadn't told Cammie about the hunters knowing Jet and I were shapeshifters—in fact, I hadn't told Cammie about our confrontation with the hunters at all. I didn't want her to worry. Besides, the hunters weren't after her. They were after shapeshifters. Odds were they didn't even know mermaids existed. But then again, they knew shapeshifters existed. How did they know shapeshifters existed? My first instinct was to say that they had seen Henry shift, but that wouldn't explain what the hunter that chased me said about having the upper hand and the color of my real eyes.
I tried to shake the thoughts of the hunter from my mind as I undressed, but the image of the smile he had on his face when he knew he caught me was unmoving. It was as if someone had tattooed the shape, the color, the smoothness of the hunter's lips on the front of my brain. The most unnerving part of it was that I felt as if the tattoo artist had begun to draw the smile before I saw it on the hunter—as if I had seen it before that day in the woods.
"Marina!" Cammie called from the water, "Come on!"
I quickly hid my clothes under a bush and ran into the water, shifting into my dolphin form as I ducked under. We swam for awhile, fooling around—twirling and flipping—every so often. But after about an hour a ker-plunking on the surface above our heads told us it had begun to rain. Together we swam to the top and I shifted back.
"We should probably go back," Cammie said, looking around.
"Yeah, it looks like there is going to be a bad storm," I said, just as a wave swelled over our heads, pulling us under once more. I immediately shifted into my dolphin form again and followed Cammie back towards our beach, but we were pretty far out—my guess was we still had an hour's swim before we reached the beach.
We swam fast. We knew that the longer we stayed in the water, the rougher the ocean got. Every time we had to surface for air, the storm had gotten worse. We had to dive down a little lower to avoid being thrown around by the enlarging waves above us each time we submerged.
We were about fifteen minutes away from the beach when Cammie stopped, motioning that she needed another breath. I nodded and followed her to the surface—fighting the strength of the current the entire time.
As soon as my head broke the raging surface of the water, I heard Cammie scream my name. She was pointing to a small, white sailboat a couple yards away. The boat was rocking so much I was amazed it was even still afloat. It only had one passenger—a boy desperately trying to gain control of the sailboat despite the storm raging around him.
The boy was soaking wet from the rain—his blonde hair looking more brownish in the darkness of the storm and streaks of it plastered to his face. I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't believe it.
The boy on the boat was Brad.
Cammie and I watched as he struggled against the force of the ocean. His biceps bulged as his pushed and pulled the oars on either side of the boat. But with the power of the storm, there was no way he was going to be able to paddle to shore. Then, as if he had heard my thoughts and couldn't resist contradicting me, his sailboat started moving towards shore. A triumphant smile flashed across his face.
That was when I felt myself sinking.
Despite the heavy rain, I saw his facial expression perfectly—I saw his smile perfectly. Why? Because I already had the image ingrained in my brain.
Brad was the hunter.
How had I not put it together before? The sound of Brad's voice was like nails on a chalkboard for me. Why hadn't my mind connected the hunter's voice to Brad sooner?
Brad was a hunter—not just any hunter—a hunter who hunted shapeshifters. And he was eating lunch with two shapeshifters five days a week. I had four classes with him—he was going to school with a shapeshifter and didn't know it. He had no idea that the girl he liked to annoy the hell out of was the same creature he had wanted to kill on his hunting trip.
In the next second, a huge wave swelled over Brad's head and tipped the sailboat over. And, for one brief, peaceful millisecond I felt as if I had gotten my revenge.
"Brad!" Cammie screamed, lunging forward, and that peace was gone.
Shifting back again, I grabbed hold of Cammie's arm. "What are you doing?" I yelled over the storm.
"I have to save him!" she yelled back, "I can't let him drown!"
Yards away I saw Brad surface, only to be tossed back under by another wave, but I still didn't let go of Cammie. Part of me didn't want Brad to be saved. He was a hunter—he had probably killed before—he had wanted to kill me. But I couldn't just stand by and watch him die. It wasn't right.
"He can't see you like this!" I shouted to Cammie.
She shook her head, her eyes glassy, and, I knew despite the ocean water and the rain, she was crying. "I don't care!"
"Get to the beach!" I shouted as I stared into her eyes, "I'll save Brad!" I let go of Cammie's arm and shifted once more into my dolphin form. I dove under again and found Brad tumbling through the water. Catching him on his stomach, I lifted my head, pushing him towards the surface of the water.
He gasped for air when we broke through the water. I maneuvered through the crashing waves, doing my best to stay above water—although that wasn't always possible—while Brad desperately clung to my dorsal fin.
By the time I got close enough for Brad to swim to shore on his own, my entire body ached and my tail felt like it was going to fall off. I watched as Brad crawled out of the water and collapsed coughing on the sand before I dove deep down under the water and swam back to where I knew Cammie would be waiting—the whole time thinking about how I had just saved the life of the person who wanted me dead.
Today I have a new request :)
I hope to publish my stories through Smashwords soon and am trying to spread the word about them. If you could follow me on twitter careese19 (Colette Reese) and help to spread the word that would be awesome! Thanks!