Contemporary New Adult Romance with a hint of paranormal
Ages 17+ (mature content - sex scenes are hot but not explicit)
Do you believe in mermaids and mermen?
The sea has always been close to my heart and features in many of my stories. The sea is the first goddess, the Sumerian Tiamat, the sea dragon of chaos — a living body of water obeying the tides and deep currents, eating up land and spewing new continents, wrecking ships and sometimes spitting out marvels.
The Greek sea — the Aegean of Greece in particular — is often wracked by violent storms and swept by strong winds in the late summer. Stories of gods and goddesses with fishtails have been around for what seems like forever — tritons and nereids haunting the waves and inhabiting the blue depths of the sea.
In later, historical times, the old form of the mermaid goddess was conflated with the Virgin, as protector of those at sea. Panagia Gorgona (The Mermaid Virgin) has been venerated on the islands of Greece, as for example on Mitilini (Lesvos), where she has a chapel and is portrayed with a fishtail and a trident, surrounded by dolphins and fish.
Summer is almost over.
A terrible mistake haunts college student Olivia Spencer. To escape the past, she travels to the Mediterranean island of Crete, hoping for the courage to start anew.
By the sea, she meets sexy and enigmatic Kai. But there’s more to Kai than meets the eye — and nobody wants to talk about it. The locals shun him, accusing him of magic. Kai, apparently, belongs to the sea, no matter how crazy that sounds.
Kai isn’t free to be with her or live his own life, and this is how he will stay, unless Olivia can break his curse and save him — in doing so atoning for those she failed in the past.
“Hello, morning.” A man entered through a door, scratching at his chin. “Sorry, I am...” He stopped, snorted. “Well, hello.”
She still couldn’t see his expression without her lenses, but she recognized that tone of voice. Flirting. Her cheeks heated as he came closer, leaning over the desk, and she saw him better. Dark shoulder-length hair and hazel eyes, three-day-old stubble darkening his jaw. He looked like the mysterious guy on the beach, only older and bulkier. Maybe all Cretans looked like that.
An island of hunks.
“I’m here, I fix something.” He dragged the vowels, his voice musical. “No more milk for breakfast. Customers complain, I need to do something, fast. I call Kai, milk is on the way.”
Kai. Rhymed with sky.
“I’m not here to complain about the milk,” she stammered. “I just wanted to leave my key. Or should I take it with me?”
“No, leave it, leave it.” He smirked. “Safe with me.” He waved at what had to be the new arrivals. “Can I help you?”
She turned to go and promptly crashed into someone. Her purse fell and she back-pedaled into the desk as the sound of something heavy hitting the floor reverberated through the lobby.
“Oh fuck,” the blurry figure facing her muttered in a crisp American accent and bent down to pick up whatever it was he’d dropped. Even without lenses she could see how wide his shoulders were and the dark hue of his hair.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered and dropped to her knees to help him. She picked up a carton and tried to read what it was. Of course she couldn’t. It was all in Greek.
“And the milk arrive,” the receptionist grated, though there was laughter in his voice.
So this was Kai that rhymed with sky.
“Here, give me that,” Kai said, his deep voice familiar.
Olivia glanced up into dark eyes that held a streak of blue and froze. “You.” The guy she’d met at the beach the previous evening. She tightened her hold on the carton and blurted, “I didn’t recognize you dressed.”
The receptionist whistled and chuckled.
Kai stilled. Dark eyes widened, then crinkled at the corners, a corner of his mouth lifting. “You must be kidding me...”
Oh damn, she’d caught the German bug. Her thoughts flowed out of her mouth without any filter. “Um, I didn’t mean it that way... Crap.”
He grabbed the carton from her hand and stood, instantly going blurry once more. She remained on her knees, caught between deciding on the best way to get out with her last shreds of dignity intact, and piecing it all together.
Kai worked here. Lived here, probably, which would explain his presence at the beach. Did that mean she would be seeing him every day?
And why did the prospect send a thrill through her?
“Are you all right?” His low voice brought her out of her brief trance.
She’d zoned out on the lobby floor. Hopeless. “Fine, I just, um...”
“Here.” He reached down for her. “Let me help you up.”
She took his hand, firm and strong, and let him pull her to her feet. “I’m really sorry I bumped into you. I lost my contact lens and I’m kinda blind right now, so... I need to get a taxi into town.” She realized he still held her hand and she looked up to find an odd expression on his face.
“No need for a taxi. I’m going into town.” He looked down at their interlinked hands and frowned. “I’m going there to pick up some provisions for the hotel. I can drop you off at an optician’s.”
The receptionist whistled again. Kai turned and gave him the finger — maybe, she couldn’t be sure — then nodded at the exit. “If that’s okay with you.”
“Sure, yes, thank you,” she said, relieved and curious and wondering about the streak of blue she’d seen in his dark eyes.
He smiled, a faint pulling of his lips, and it was only when he withdrew his hand she realized she wanted it back.
Kai led the way to the parking lot behind the hotel. A pickup truck sat under a purple bougainvillea in full blossom. The sun already stung her skin and struck reflections off the sea down below.
Inside the truck it was warm but Kai opened the doors and it cooled down enough for her to climb inside. The cloth covers of the seats were dusty; the dashboard looked grimy, although she didn’t want to press her nose to it to examine it.
Then Kai slid inside, slamming the car door closed, and his scent hit her. He smelled like the sea, salty and woodsy and fresh with an undertone of musk. She inhaled deeply, hoping he wouldn’t notice. One of the perks of being half-blind, if you could call them a perk, was she had a better feel for the other senses. Sounds, smells, textures became more intense when you had to rely on them to get around, and she wanted to sink in his scent and dream of waves and sparkling fish.
“Buckle up,” he said, a dark brow arching.
She realized she’d been leaning toward him and jerked back. Shit. She pulled on the safety belt and nodded. “Aye aye, Captain.”
He puffed out a breath, and she wasn’t sure if it was annoyance or amusement. She hoped it was the latter. He was being nice and she didn’t want to put him off.
“So do you know where I can find an optician’s store?” She glanced out the window as he pulled out of the parking lot, seeing streaks of color and indistinct shapes. She turned back toward him. At least she could make out most of his features.
“Optonet. It’s near the town center.” He switched on the radio. A song blared out — Greek, of course — with lots of percussion and an oriental rhythm. “I’ll drop you off there, then continue to the other side of town to pick up provisions. Need me to give you a lift on my way back?”
Tempting as it sounded, he’d done a lot already. She gazed at his dark lashes, so long they swept along his cheekbones when he blinked. “Nah, I’ll be fine. I’ll grab a taxi back, thank you.”
“Why are you staring at me?” It came out a bit antsy, as if he’d caught her stalking him or something.
“Oh. You’re the only thing — well, person — I can actually see right now.” She hoped her cheeks weren’t about to flush again. “I have no idea where we are and can’t see a damn thing outside.” And you’re gorgeous.
Yeah, better not say that.
A corner of his mouth twitched up like before. She liked his half-smiles, she decided. “So you’re looking at me because I’m the only thing you can see, huh?”
She shrugged. “It’s not such a bad view.”
Damn. She hadn’t been supposed to say that, and she normally didn’t blurt out her thoughts. She was a quiet person and Kirsten always teased her about it. What was it about this guy that made her spew out such things?
Then again, maybe it was because he didn’t speak much and she wanted to fill the silence between them.
Which again begged the question why...
“We haven’t been introduced properly.” She put out her hand. “I’m Olivia Spencer. You can call me Liv.”
He caught her hand in his, his grip strong. Muscles flexed in his tanned arm. “Kai.”
She smiled. “Nice to meet you, Kai. Are you from around here?” Oh god, there she went again. She needed a silencer for her mouth.
He started to nod, then shook his head.
Okay, confusing. Coupled with his comment of being sometimes here and sometimes not... “You don’t have a Greek accent. You grew up in the States, didn’t you?”
He turned off the radio. “Yeah,” he said. “New Jersey. You?”
“Vermont. But I’m moving to New York, hopefully. I asked for a transfer to a college there.” She pursed her lips. She wanted to ask him if he studied, if his parents were from Crete, but she already sounded like a police interrogator. Like the Inquisition, rather. Great.
“Have you picked a major?” he asked and she smiled, relieved he was taking the lead.
His brows drew together, his full lips pressed in a line. Had she said something wrong? “You don’t like literature?”
“I don’t read.”
Oh. “At all?” Didn’t even seem possible in her world, but he appeared to be worlds away. And why did he seem upset?
She was slowly realizing she was worlds away from home, too.
He said nothing as they drove on, old two-storey houses crowding the sides of the streets as they entered the center of the Chania town. Honks and shouts filled the awkward silence between them but did nothing to dispel the tension.
They stopped in front of a line of shops. Kai pulled on the handbrake, not looking at her, his jaw clenched. He nodded at the storefronts. “This is it. Second shop from the left.”
“Thank you.” She slung her purse over her shoulder, debated saying something more, asking him what had pissed him off. Trying to figure him out. But she shouldn’t bother. She didn’t need this. “See you around.”
He drove off as soon as her door slammed shut.
Find out more about Crete and the inspiration behind the novel here:
Chrystalla is Greek Cypriot (hence the strange name) and likes writing about bratty, angsty boys and spunky girls in fantasy and science-fiction worlds. She writes mainly for a young adult public but not only (heed the warnings!)
She's currently preparing a non-fiction book about dragons, because the truth must out, and is juggling two series ("Elei's Chronicles" and "Boreal and John Grey").
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