Authors: Tera Lynn Childs
FINS ARE FOREVER
TERA LYNN CHILDS
For Jenny, because she keeps
the crazy at bay
Don’t miss the first fin-flicking romance Credits
About the Publisher
t the moment I am sole heir to the throne of Thalassinia, Aone of the most prosperous underwater kingdoms in the world. I am a princess without equal in most of the seven seas, or any other body of water, for that matter. Raised to al the duties that my title requires and prepared to be my kingdom’s future queen, I am respected, revered, and real y, real y loved by (most of) the people.
A mermaid and a princess, al wrapped into one. Talk about every little human girl’s dream.
But come my eighteenth birthday in eighteen days—not that I’m counting—I’l be just a girl. Wel , stil a
girl, true, but an
mergirl just the same.
At midnight, after my birthday bal , I wil sign the renunciation paperwork, inking Princess Waterlily out of existence. In her place wil be plain old Lily Sanderson, living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to figure out this human thing once and for al . I’m also facing a whole new wave of pressures that go along with the job—
col ege, career, future, tests and applications and GPA and a mil ion other little things that weren’t even on my sonar when the plan was to return to Thalassinia after graduation next month.
It’s a little overwhelming at times, which possibly explains why I’m doodling hearts and bubbles and L+Q=4EVA instead of copying Mr. Kingsley’s notes from the board.
“There should be a law against having trig this late in the day,” Quince complains from the desk next to mine.
Startled, I hastily cover my daydreamy notes with my textbook and look up at Quince. But his attention is focused
—as mine should be—on our teacher and the equation on the board. I sigh with relief. I shouldn’t be embarrassed by my love doodles, because we are official y a couple now, so I have every right. Stil , I don’t want him to think I’m any more of a lovesick guppy than he already knows.
Casual y as I can, I flip to a clean page and try—pretend—
to focus on math. My attention is stil on Quince.
Head hanging down over my textbook, I slide another sideways glance at his handsome face. Mostly just because I can, but also because he’s nice to look at.
There’s not much fault to find in his strong jaw, dark blond hair, and Caribbean blue eyes. Eyes that remind me of home.
Before the accidental kiss and bond that brought us together, he sat one row over, on the other side of my recently former crush, Brody. When I came back to Seaview and we started dating official y and for certain, Quince made Brody switch so he could sit next to me. I never knew Brody was such a pushover, but I’m glad. This is the only class Quince and I have together, and I’d rather have him at my side.
“I know, right,” Brody says from one row over. “Maybe we should start an antitrig petition.”
Quince laughs. He’s been a lot nicer to Brody since I got over my ridiculous and unfounded crush and started dating
Tearing his attention away from the board, Quince turns to face me, catching me staring—okay,
. Even though, as his official girlfriend, I have free rein to stare—okay,
—I stil can’t stop the heat that blushes my cheeks to what I’m sure is an anemone shade of red.
“You’re watching me, princess.” His soft lips spread into an appreciative smile. “People might get the wrong idea.”
“What, that I actual y like you now?” I tease.
He shakes his head and leans toward me. “No, that you’re trying to see past me to get an eyeful of Benson.” He tilts his head in Brody’s direction. He knows it bugs me when he deliberately gets Brody’s name wrong. But I’m learning not to rise to the bait. Instead, I fight back.
I shift my gaze to the board and fix an innocent look on my face.
“What makes you think that’s the
idea?” Quince leans even closer and says, “Because you came back for me.”
Thankful y I’m saved from coming up with a response by the bel signaling the end of sixth period. I’m getting better at trading barbs with him, but I’m not even close to his level yet.
Everyone, including Quince and me, hurriedly shoves their trig books into backpacks and messenger bags and bolts for the hal before Kingsley can assign the homework he’s forgotten.
“I wish you had study hal ,” I say as we weave through the crowd. It would be nice if we had it together.
“Me, too,” he says, placing a gentle hand on my lower back to guide me into an opening in the stream of students.
“Between my job and your extracurriculars, I’ve barely gotten to see you since you came back.”
“I know.” I weave closer to him to avoid an overstuffed backpack. “It wil be better after graduation.”
“Then I’l start working ful -time,” he argues.
“It’l stil be better,” I insist. “No more homework until col ege.”
If I get in, that is. My grades have been submediocre—
partly because many of the subjects are completely foreign to the mer world, and partly because I never imagined going to col ege. I didn’t need a degree to rule Thalassinia.
Now that’s al changed, and at my meeting with the school counselor this week, I learned that the only way I’l get into col ege—
col ege—is to ace the SATs. I’ve enlisted my genius best human friend’s help and enrol ed in an intensive test-prep class, but I’m not counting on a decent score. Tests and I don’t real y get along.
“You’l get in,” Quince assures me, proving once again that he can read my mind, even without a magical bond.
“And if you don’t,” he adds, slinging an arm around my shoulders, “you can always take over for me at the lumberyard.”
“Ha ha,” I reply, sending a sharp elbow into his ribs.
“Lighten up, princess.” He tugs me closer, probably so I can’t swing my arm enough to get in another jab. “You’l do fine.”
“What, you’re psychic now?”
“Didn’t you know?” he asks seriously. “Must be an aftereffect of the bond.”
I sigh. If only that were true. If only Daddy hadn’t severed the bond ful y and Quince stil had some mer magic in his blood. If only.
I lean into his side, inhaling his scent of leather and mint toothpaste.
But I can’t change the past. I just have to content myself with being with him here. Which isn’t as rare as he seems to think. Ever since I returned to land, to high school, to Seaview, to
last week, Quince has been walking me to classes when he can and giving me rides to and from school on his charming death trap of a motorcycle. He’s even stopped by a couple times to share milk and cookies when he gets home from his part-time job at the lumberyard. He’s being a most devoted boyfriend—
something I never would have guessed in the three years that he tortured and tormented me at every turn. Who knew he secretly loved me?
I’m a very lucky girl.
And the best part? He thinks he’s a very lucky boy, too.
We’ve just made it into the hal that leads to my classroom and the boys’ locker room when the rumble starts.
At first it’s just the sound, a deep, low roar that sounds like the Earth itself is moaning. That startles most everyone in the hal and they stop, looking around, uncertain at this strange, unidentifiable sound.
Then we feel it. The ground beneath me starts to shake, kind of like when a wave comes in and pul s the sand from beneath your feet—except that I’m standing on linoleum tile, not a beach.
“What the hel ?” Quince shouts above the roar and the shouts of panicked students.
The classroom door closest to us slams shut.
“I don’t know,” I reply, grabbing hold of his hand and squeezing. “It almost feels like… an earthquake.” The metal locker doors grind against their frames, and the fluorescent tubes above flicker with the movement.
This is crazy. Florida doesn’t have earthquakes like this.
Especial y not
Florida. Hurricanes? Yes. Tornadoes?
Unfortunately. But it doesn’t have earthquakes, and certainly not ones this powerful. The entire school is shaking.
“Come on,” Quince yel s, pul ing me toward the gym. “We need to get in a doorway.”
We’re not the only ones with that idea. Groups of terrified-looking students huddle under the beige metal frames of the four sets of double doors leading to the boys’ gym.
There’s just enough room for us to squeeze into the last doorway.
I don’t know how Quince knows what to do—I guess he’s just that kind of can-do guy—or why a doorway is the best place to be, but I’m relieved. Land-based earthquakes are way beyond my realm of experience. I’ve been in a few underwater quakes. They’re not at al the same. Mostly it’s a lot of noise and heavier-than-usual current flow. If the epicenter is close, sometimes the ground vibrates a little.
Our belongings might get swirled around, but our buildings don’t shake. Nothing like this.
None of our settlements are built on fault lines, so we don’t have to worry about what would happen if the epicenter were directly beneath Thalassinia.
They might be feeling the effects of this quake, though.
The kingdom isn’t that far offshore. If the school is shaking around me, who knows how far out the tremors are radiating? I should send a messenger gul when I get home, just to check in.
“Maybe it’s a bomb,” a terrified freshman next to me whimpers.
“Or a terrorist,” her friend says, gasping. “It could be an attack.”
“It’s not an attack,” I say, trying to calm them down without rol ing my eyes at the melodrama.
Quince leans around me and gives them a reassuring smile. “It’s just an earthquake. It’l be over in a—” Before he finishes, the roar quiets and the ground stil s.
The hal goes eerily quiet, everyone frozen in an aftershock of confusion. Even the lights above have stopped flickering. I’l bet Seaview High has never been this silent during school hours ever. Then, after half a second, the hal way explodes in noise and chatter as stil -freaked students hurry on to their classrooms.
Quince says, “That was—”
“—weird,” I finish.
Quince and I stand there, hand in hand, for several long moments, like we’re waiting for something. For the other shoe to drop, maybe. The fire alarm or a tsunami or just another quake. It doesn’t seem like this sort of thing could just… be over.
After a couple minutes, it seems obvious that it was a one-time thing.
The PA system squeals to life, blasting from the speakers in the hal ceiling. “Al students, please proceed to your seventh-period classrooms immediately. Seventh-period teachers, please print out your attendance sheet and send it to the front office when al students have been accounted for.” There’s a squeal—they real y should have Ferret, the news team sound guy, check out the mic—and short pause, fol owed by “Teachers with an open seventh period, report to the principal’s office for further instruction. That is al .”