Authors: Virginia Kantra
The Children of the Sea Novels
home before midnight
(with Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, and Alyssa Day)
over the moon
(with Angela Knight, MaryJanice Davidson, and Sunny)
(with Angela Knight, Nalini Singh, and Meljean Brook)
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A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author Copyright © 2011 by Virginia Kantra.
Excerpt from Dare Island series by Virginia Kantra copyright © by Virginia Kantra.
by Ingrid Weaver © by Ingrid Caris.
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Special thanks to my online community of writer buddies (you know who you are), who have mentored, supported, and inspired me, especially Susan Andersen, Heidi Betts, Suzanne Brockmann, Kate Douglas, Eileen Dreyer, Eloisa James, and JoAnn Ross; to my editor, Cindy Hwang, for her patience and support, and to the wonderful team at Berkley; and to Michael, for reminding me what it feels like to be young and in love.
The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, But drowned the infinite of his soul.
The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea.
In the time before time, when the domains of earth, sea, and sky were formed and fire was called into being, the elementals took shape, each with their element: the children of earth, the children of the sea, the children of air, and the children of fire.
After earth had flowered and life crawled from the sea, humankind was born.
Not all of the elementals were pleased with this new creation. The children of fire rebelled, declaring war on Heaven and humankind. Forced to cohabit with the mortals, the other elementals withdrew—the fair folk to the hills and wild places of earth and the merfolk to the depths of the sea.
Over the centuries, the children of fire have grown strong, while the children of the sea have declined in numbers and in magic. In recent years, a tentative alliance between merfolk and humans has subtly altered the balance of power.
Yet the children of air, forbidden to interfere directly in mortal affairs, have continued to exist apart from both their fellow elementals and humankind.
Or mostly apart.
There are those among the angels who, in their zeal or frustration, cannot resist becoming involved in the lives and affairs of humankind. The punishment for their disobedience is the loss of their immortality. They become nephilim, the Fallen, living as humans among the humans they once protected, hunted in gleeful retribution by the children of fire.
If the balance of power shifts again, the repercussions will be felt in Heaven and on earth . . .
The man on the boat stripped half naked, exposing a lean golden chest and muscled arms.
In the parking lot across the street from the dock, Lara Rho sucked in her breath. Held it as he dropped his shirt to the deck and began to climb.
The top of the mast swayed, stark against the bold blue sky. Her stomach fluttered. Nerves? she wondered. Recognition? Or simple female appreciation?
The sun beat down, forging the water of the bay to a sheet of hammered gold. The air inside the car heated like an oven.
Beside her in the driver’s seat, Gideon stirred, chafing in the heat. His corn silk hair was pulled into a ponytail, his blue eyes narrowed against the glare. “Is he the one?”
Lara leaned forward to peer through the windshield of their nondescript gray car, testing the pull of the internal compass that had woken her at dawn. They’d driven all morning from the rolling hills of Pennsylvania through the flat Virginia tidewater, wasting precious minutes in the traffic around Norfolk before they found this place. This man.
Are you the one?
She exhaled slowly, willing herself to focus on the climber.
He certainly looked like an angel, hanging in the rigging against the bold blue sky, his bronze hair tipped with gold like a halo.
“I think so.” She bit her lip. She should
“He’s too old,” Gideon said.
Lara swallowed her own misgivings. She was the designated Seeker on this mission. Gideon was along merely to support and defend. She wanted her instincts to be right, wanted to justify their masters’ faith in her. “Late twenties,” she said. “Not much older than you.”
“He should have been found before this.”
“Maybe he wasn’t meant to be found before.” Her heartbeat quickened. Maybe she was the one meant to find him.
“Then he should be dead,” Gideon said.
The brutal truth made her shiver despite the heat. Survival depended on banding together under the Rule. She was only nine when they brought her to Rockhaven, but she remembered being alone. Hunted. If Simon Axton had not found her . . .
She pushed the memories away to study her subject. He must be forty feet above the gleaming white deck.
Snagging a rope at the top of the mast, he fed it to the two men waiting below, one old, one young, both wearing faded navy polo shirts. Some kind of uniform?
“He’s been at sea,” she murmured. “The water could have protected him.”
It could do that, couldn’t it? Protect against fire. Even if the water wasn’t blessed.
“I don’t like it,” Gideon said bluntly. “You’re sure he’s one of us?”
She had felt him more with every mile, a tug on her attention, a prickle in her fingertips. Now that she could actually see him, the hum in her blood had become a buzz.
But it was all vibration, like listening to a vacuum cleaner in the dark, without shape or color. Not only human, not wholly elemental . . .
“What else could he be?” she asked.
“He could be possessed.”
She would know, she would feel that. She was attracted, not repelled, by his energy. And yet . . . Uncertainty ate at her. She had not been a Seeker very long. The gift was rough and raw inside her, despite Miriam’s careful teaching. What if she was wrong? What if he wasn’t one of them? At best she and Gideon would have a wasted trip and she’d look like a fool. At worst, she could betray them to their enemy.
She watched the man begin his descent, his long limbs fluid in the sun, sheened with sweat and sunlight. And if she was right, his life depended on her.
She shook her head in frustration. “We’re too far away. If I could touch him . . .”
“What are you going to do?” Gideon asked dryly. “Walk up and ask to feel his muscles?”
There was an idea. She gave a small, decisive nod. “If I have to.”
She opened her door. Gideon opened his.
“No,” she said again. She needed to assert herself.
Gideon was five years older, in the cohort ahead of hers, but she was technically in charge. “I can get closer if you’re not standing next to me.”
A frown formed between his straight blond brows. “It could be dangerous.”
She had chosen their watch post. They both had scanned the area. It was safe. For now. “There’s no taint.”
“That’s not the kind of danger I’m talking about,” Gideon muttered.
She disregarded him. For thirteen years, she had trained to handle herself. She could handle this.
She swung out of the car, lowering her sunglasses onto her nose like a knight adjusting his helm, considering her strategy. Her usual approach was unlikely to work here. This subject was no confused and frightened child or even a dazed, distrustful adolescent.
After a moment’s thought, she undid another button on her blouse. Ignoring Gideon’s scowl—after all,
was not the one responsible for the success of their mission—she crossed the street to the marina. It was a long, uneven walk along sun-bleached boards to the end of the dock.
The man descending the mast had stopped halfway down, balanced on some sort of narrow crossbeam, staring out at the open sea on the other side of the boat.
She tipped back her head. Her nerves jittered. Surely he wasn’t going to . . .
He jumped. Dived, rather, a blinding arc of grace and danger, sending up a plume of white water and a shout from the younger man on deck.
She must have cried out, too. The two men on the boat turned to look at her, the young one with a nudge and the old one with a nod.
The one in the water surfaced with an explosion of breath, tossing his wet hair back from his face.
Cooling off? Or showing off?
It didn’t matter.
He stroked cleanly through the water, making for the swimming platform at the back of the boat.
Show time, she thought.
Pasting a smile on her face, she walked to the edge of the dock. “Eight point six.”
He angled his head, meeting her gaze. She felt the jolt clear to her stomach, threatening her detachment. His eyes were the same hammered gold as the water, with shadows beneath the surface.