Damn her editor. She was such a hard ass.
Becca Paxton tried for the fifth time to reach a town councilwoman for a comment following a stupid remark she’d made at the council table during a meeting. Councilwoman Franks was obviously dodging Becca’s calls and the copy desk was waiting.
The council meeting had run past midnight after she’d pulled an eight-hour day before the meeting. Becca was at the end of her eight-hour shift--and her patience.
Her focus was shot. She couldn’t write another word if she had to.
Sleep--she wanted sleep and the delicious, blue-eyed, sandy-haired man who’d taken over her dreams.
They were so real she felt herself flushing and wet just thinking about him.
“Cheryl,” she called to her editor, “she won’t answer or call back. I left her my office and cell number.”
Cheryl peered at her over her reading glasses. “Did you text her?”
Mike, her colleague, looked over at her, rolled his eyes, and winced.
Becca gritted her teeth. “I don’t have her cell phone number. City Hall wouldn’t give it to me.”
Cheryl stared at her laptop and didn’t answer her.
“I’m heading out,” Becca said. She packed her laptop in its soft case and slung it and her purse over her shoulder.
Mike followed her out. They both paused for a beat in the parking lot. Becca felt the island breeze on her skin and watched as the sun slipped closer toward the ocean.
“It’s easy to forget this, isn’t it?” Mike said.
They were both island transplants from small towns in the Midwest and hired in at the Kauai Gazette on the same day.
“Got any plans?” he said.
She and Mike were only friends. He was deliriously happy with Cerissa, who Becca found offbeat, quirky, sweet, and delightful.
“Sleep,” she said. “Lots of it. I may actually use my comp time tomorrow.”
“Glenn from sports keeps asking me about you. Have lunch with the guy. Put him out of his misery.”
Becca laughed. “I’ll think about it. Go home to Cerissa.”
He waved goodbye, and she stowed her computer in the backseat of her Corolla. She glanced in her rearview mirror and cringed. Haggard blue eyes ringed with dark circles stared back at her. She’d pulled her shoulder-length blonde hair, which had lightened a bit in the island sun, into a pony tail which only drew more attention to her pale skin.
She’d only dated a couple guys since she got the staff writer job a year ago. Eager to get a foothold and make a name for herself, she’d focused on her job and worked a lot of nights on her beat. She should let Mike fix her up with Glenn.
He was hot and real. An island native, his dark hair and eyes and firm, heavy-set build turned more than one female head.
So why did she only want to shut her eyes so a guy with a lean, surfer’s body and amazing hands could do things to her she’d never done with anybody when she was awake?
She pulled into her apartment complex as her cell phone pinged.
It was a text from Councilwoman Franks.
She texted Cheryl the councilwoman’s response, copied and pasted it into Cheryl’s email, called her editor’s desk phone and left a message. She called Councilwoman Franks back, but she didn’t answer.
Her text had been delivered. She sent another asking her to confirm receipt and added that she’d called Franks, but got no response.
Cheryl texted back yes, no “good job,” no “nice follow up,” or even “thank-you.”
Becca rested her head on her steering wheel. She loved Kauai, known as the Garden Island, even though she was terrified to swim in the vast expanse of the ocean, something she’d only discovered after she moved from the mainland.
She did fine in pools. She’d grown up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and had made occasional trips with her family up to Lake Michigan when she was growing up. She never went in past her waist and only put her feet into the Pacific.
Her younger brother and sister, Keith and Cara, who were inseparable as children and still close, dove without fear into the whitecaps while she dogpaddled close to shore, the odd one out.
Her father spent most of his time making sure her mother took her anti-psychotic meds. Becca wasn’t asked to join in her younger siblings antics, which seemed silly to her, anyway.
So Becca grew up with her nose stuck in a book, magazine, or newspaper and joined Keith and Cara outside for a game of horse or burn, only at her parents’ urging.
Someone tapped on the window.
She jumped. Cold sweat trickled down her back. How could she have left herself so vulnerable? She kept her hand on her cell phone.
The police she talked to on the crime part of her beat always said not to fight for property.
She turned her head to look at the person who knocked.
It was him--the guy from her dreams.
Was she falling prey to her mother’s mental illness?
“No,” she screamed.
Another car pulled next to her and the guy standing beside her car was gone.
The older lady in the other vehicle didn’t spare her a glance as she got out of her car, her ear glued to a cell phone.
Shaking, Becca got out of her car, stood on unsteady legs, grabbed her stuff, walked into the building, got on the elevator, and made her way to her third floor apartment. She dropped her stuff on her tiny kitchen table.
She didn’t think her dreams could be a sign of psychosis. Her dream man did not ask her to harm herself or others.
The last thing she wanted now was to shut her eyes. She sank into her couch and did a search on her cell phone on symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Was she experiencing a brief psychotic episode? Some of the symptoms fit--seeing and feeling things that weren’t there. The information said these episodes were triggered by severe stress, such as death of a loved one or a natural disaster. A cranky editor didn’t qualify.
Her heart, which had been hammering in her chest since the knock on her car window, slowed and against her will her eyes closed, pulling her into a dreamless sleep.
Ethan paced the great hall of the Garnet City. What was he thinking startling Becca like that when she was so mentally exhausted? His sire Thobian said he was impatient and told him to wait, but his need to touch her in her waking state was too strong.
It was easy to slip through the portal and bridge time and space because the autumnal equinox drew near. He’d looked into the quartz crystals a full earth year ago and saw Becca, his twin flame. His life and world had come alive and made sense.
She didn’t know her destiny was with him under the vast expanse of ocean that she feared. He had taken her in her dreams, repeatedly, to their mutual delight.
Lovion, the ranking member of the Ruling Council, smirked. “She screamed at the sight of you. She must come with you willingly.”
“Her mother’s illness makes her fearful,” Thobian said. Ethan’s sire held a seat on the Ruling Council but cast only one vote. In cases of deadlock, Lovion cast the deciding vote, and he hated land dwellers, even those who could take sea form.
“She is mine,” Ethan said it quietly and calmly. The members of the council, except for Thobian, looked shocked at Ethan’s words. Lovion sneered.
“He can be spared from his duties for a time,” Thobian said.
Sea forms ensured to their best ability that under water ecosystems remained viable in the wake of natural disruptions and those caused by land forms.
Ethan’s mother Lara and his sire Thobian chanted ancient words of protection. Ethan bowed his head in thanks. He grabbed a triangular quartz crystal and the ruby necklace he would give to Becca to signify their joining, sheathed his lucky knife, and headed through the winding caverns to the portal.
Becca sat on the beach and watched the surfers. She tried not to think about work. Things were heating up in the local election coming up in November in the town she covered as part of her beat. She loved writing about crime, education, and human interest stories, but she didn’t like the government part of her beat. She checked the time. She had agreed to have lunch with Glenn from sports. He covered high school sports and worked lots of nights, so lunch worked out best.
Becca glanced at the surfers. One caught her attention. He had golden skin over a lean, toned swimmer’s body and sun streaked hair like the guy in her hallucination. How many surfers looked like that in Kauai?
She gathered her things as the surfer drew closer. She needed to get ready for her lunch date.
She sat inside at Zeke’s restaurant, a Kauai institution, waiting for Glenn. He’d texted to say an editorial meeting had run late and he was on his way. She looked at the mermaid carved of wood that hung near the bar.
An exquisite necklace had been carved so it hung just above her bare breasts. Her tail was resplendent in shades of crimson and turquoise.
“It’s a persistent legend.” It was Glenn. He kissed her cheek and took a seat across from her. “Sorry, my editor--”
Becca laughed. “Say no more.”
They placed their orders, shrimp for her and Mahi Mahi for him. Her eyes were drawn back to the carving.
Glenn smiled and squeezed her hand. Disappointingly, she felt no spark. He felt warm and comforting, like a friend. “The old-timers say their elders believed they existed.”
Her thoughts strayed to her dream lover and the surfer. “Do you surf?” she said.
He kept hold of her hand. “Sure.” He chuckled. “I grew up here, so yeah. Went to U-H then came right back to this rock. Borin’ huh? Why did you come?”
“I don’t think it’s boring,” she said. “I don’t know why I came here. I needed a job, but there are newspapers and TV stations in Fort Wayne, where I grew up.”
“Yep,” she said, making her voice sound as flat and Midwestern as she could.
He laughed, still holding her hand. “You’re beautiful. You could be on camera.”
She shuddered. “I barely passed my speech class at I-U. If you put a mic in my face, I can’t string two words together.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said, letting go of her hand when his cell phone vibrated.
“My editor,” he said. “One second.” He ended the call quickly and they finished their food. The shrimp was succulent and beyond delicious.
She stared at the carving of the mermaid. “The detail is unbelievable,” she said, popping the last bite of shrimp into her mouth.
“There are males, too,” Glenn said, “allegedly.”
She laughed at his reporter-speak.
“Do you miss your family?” he asked.
Did she? “I was never especially close to my brother and sister. They’re still in college, I-U and Purdue. My parents--my mother’s fine when she’s on her meds.” She dropped her gaze. “She doesn’t always take them, she feels good, and then she stops. And Dad has to keep a sharp eye on her. He’s a cop, so he doesn’t miss much.”
“That’s rough,” he said.
“Not always. She’s great when she’s great,” she said.
He reached for her hand as his phone vibrated again. “Deadlines,” he muttered. He put cash on the table. “I got to get back. Stay and have dessert if you want.” He kissed her cheek and squeezed her shoulder. “Are you busy Friday night?”
Before she could answer, he said, “I’ll call you, ’kay?”
She smiled and he left her. She admired the way he moved through the room with an athlete’s grace for such a big, solid guy, but she felt--nothing, not one tingle.
She didn’t want dessert so the waiter brought her a selection of tea bags.
Ethan wanted to physically remove the island dweller’s hands from Becca’s skin. He forced himself to take deep, even breaths until the dark-haired land dweller put his mouth on her cheek and hand on her shoulder. Ethan stood so fast the chair he sat on fell to the ground behind him, startling some elders sitting near him.
He smiled in apology, righted the chair, and made his way to Becca.
© 2017 by Tara Eldana