Chapter One

Flynn Arcturus was the best damn pilot on the ocean floor, but those skills weren’t enough to save the ones he loves. Many cycles had passed since his parents’ disappearance, and the only clues left behind were a pair of merfolk tridents inside his father’s broken ship.

His shoulders, broad after years of crystal mining, slumped as Flynn scanned the seascape. He would never be able to search the miles of hills and valleys stretching out in every direction, the kelp forests that swayed gently in the barely moving water, or the fissures that gouged into the terrain like open wounds. Even if he could, would he find answers? Sure, he might be able to extract information from a merfolk if one crossed his path, but that was unlikely. Seahaven’s histories mentioned many encounters with that evil race, but so much time had passed since the last merfolk sighting that most believed the vile creatures were hunted to extinction.

Hair-like strands of pink seaweed swayed in the wake of Flynn’s submersible as he cruised toward The Giant’s Fingers. The stone pillars jut up from the ground like a garden of misshapen, petrified trees, and he increased his altitude to rise over them. The ascent gently pulled him deeper into his pilot’s chair and as he peered out the ship’s crystalline windows, he grinned at the crabs and eels scurrying into crevices within the ancient stone. His grin faded when burrowing creatures between the stones disappeared into the soil and a school of hairy anglers scattered, the glowing ‘lures’ on their heads changing in hue from a hungry red to a frightened blue. They were scared of something, and it wasn’t him.

A ten-man patrol marched out from the Fingers, small explosions following their footsteps as they walked across the sandy terrain. The glow from their breathing helms painted their determined faces a bluish hue, and Flynn suspected he knew why they appeared so irritated. Soldiers often complained about investigating reports of ‘predators’ that turned out to be harmless creatures. As it was rare for anything dangerous to get past the water golems protecting the Safe Zone boundary, the men’s efforts were usually a waste of time.

Flynn adjusted a kelp strap that was digging into his shoulder and he viewed his reflection in the aquazite window at the front of his ship. His once-bright eyes were dull with weariness and his face, pale after eighteen years in the sunless depths, hung off of him as though he were a corpse. But it wasn’t fatigue that preyed on him, it was his reluctance to admit that it likely wasn’t merfolk that took his parents. Blaming the evil creatures was easy, but accepting the possibility that his own people killed his parents and planted tridents in the ship to hide their identity was far more difficult. Why would anyone go after a pair of simple crystal miners?

“Maybe everyone’s right,” Flynn said, expelling a mouthful of warm breath on the crystal window and quickly tracing a mermaid impaled by a spear in the mist before the ship’s enchantments drew out the moisture. “Maybe merfolk really were hunted to extinction.”

The notion was shattered a moment later when he spotted a floating female figure staring intently at the black water above. A long mane of purple hair flowed like water down her back, and her lower body was covered in scales.

“It can’t be,” Flynn said, veering toward her.

The mermaid’s gaze remained fixed on the darkness overhead until Flynn was only a few swimming strides away. She yanked her head around, locking onto him with a pair of hungry blue eyes that stabbed into him like spears. Her tresses hung low, barely covering her nipples, and she offered him a hungry smile that could tear the vows from a priest. Her curves would turn an ocean goddess blue with envy and her glowing blue skin lit up the surrounding water brighter than a school of lanternfish.

The exquisite creature approached seductively, laying her webbed hands on the ship’s hull and planting a kiss on the crystalline window. Paralyzed in disbelief, Flynn would have fallen over were it not for the kelp belts securing him to his pilot’s chair. Her eyes glittered like sapphires as she offered him a flirtatious wink, then widened in surprise when he scowled in return.

“Not a chance,” Flynn said through clenched teeth. Hatred for her species dragged him back to his senses and he wasn’t going to fall for the creature’s magical charms. Not after his parents’ disappearance.

The mermaid stuck out her bottom lip, pouting, and planted her webbed hands on her shapely hips. The pout disappeared when Flynn’s nostrils flared and his lips curled with hate. With a sweep of her silver-blue tail, she launched herself from his ship and headed for a nearby cave.

Steeling his nerve, he pushed the ship up to top speed and followed her inside.