Long ago, Lindh lost his wife to a fellow Guardian. Taking vengeance into his own hands, he was betrayed by his Guardian brothers. He left, taking his twin children to live on the surface world.
Trillian, a grandson of Neptune, has received permission to stay on land for one year to learn the skills he always dreamed of as an artist.
Neither man expected to find each other.
Neither expected to find love—life’s greatest masterpiece.
For Lindh Hali, being a chef rather than a Guardian of Neptune had its advantages. No one knew he was a merman besides his children and loyal soldiers. Well, except for Batair, his close friend, confidant, and brother of the sea who first knew him as Lanh Seamus. Lindh had used that name when he moved to the surface to escape detection by any trouble that might have followed him.
It had been years, and the only battle he faced now was in the kitchen of Iliona’s Sea Haven—his restaurant, the namesake of his lost love—or with his twins Coralia and Adamaris. Well, sometimes, the occasional human who’d had too much to drink. And the only commands he gave to his faithful Guardian soldiers Dorian, Azizi, and Edra were for meals to be prepared and delivered to the tables. It was a life he loved.
Did he miss life beneath the surface? If he was honest with himself, sometimes. But along with missing that life was grieving the mate violently taken from him years ago. He would not return there, even if Neptune ordered him home.
Lindh walked into his restaurant, pulling a fresh hand towel through his fingers with thoughts of tonight’s menu on his mind. He loved this place and had worked hard to ensure people had a place to feel at home, relax, and spend a little time with friends and family. Customers were seated at the carved wooden bar beneath the stained-glass chandeliers, each displaying a creature from his beloved ocean. Spinning sharks hunted a school of fish on one while a purple octopus slid its long tentacles over and under the golden lights of another. Each round table boasted a group of people savoring meals he’d designed himself, the seafood fresh and delicious. The laughter he heard while people talked and ate, telling stories and meeting new friends, filled his heart.
Lindh had a new idea to work on for his menu. He craved new flavors, sometimes savory with sweet, other times tangy and rich. A barrel of fresh apples waited to be peeled and cut for a grilled fish taco bowl with green apples and guacamole. His daughter Coralia was partial to green apples, so Lindh had to admit to being biased when deciding what he would serve as this week’s special. He made his guacamole from scratch, everything fresh and ripe.
“It’s a packed house, Tetra Lindh,” Dorian said, his voice like sanded oak. He was big, not as broad or tall as Lindh. Still, Dorian was a presence here that none could ignore. He’d accepted his place at Iliona’s Sea Haven rather than the battlefield.
They all had. Lindh was blessed to have people as loyal as his soldiers to share this life. He had a family, one he’d brought with him and those who would never leave him behind. Dorian, Edra, and Azizi had dropped everything, leaving their people to follow Lindh and his children. Times had been hard at first, but they had each other and endured. He would forever be grateful to them.
“How many times have I asked you to leave that title behind?” Lindh growled.
“Too many to count, but you’ll always be the head of our Guardian troop to us. You’ll always have our respect as our leader, no matter where we travel,” Dorian responded.
Lindh sighed. Arguing about it was futile, he knew. It had been years since he felt like a Guardian and even longer since he felt like Tetra Lindh. Here, his life was about family and his people, not being the arm of Neptune and the protector of all the god viewed as worthy. So rather than rehash the argument, Lindh focused on the people filling his place.
“Yes, it’s packed, but then it always is.” Lindh peered outside to the line beyond the entrance.
“A blessing, that.” Dorian smiled warmly.
Dorian’s statement couldn’t be more true. No matter how tired Lindh was or how much his feet ached before he went to sleep, the restaurant allowed him to live well. His children, now adults and studying in college, wanted for nothing. They often spent their evenings at the restaurant helping, sometimes encouraging him to take a night off, which was rare. He enjoyed his life, his work, and the people who came to his restaurant. Another diner was simply an addition to his personal coral garden.
“I’d best find my way back to the kitchen to deal with these apples you’ve left us.” Dorian laughed as he headed for the kitchen.
“I was going to do that.” Lindh had figured he’d be the one peeling all those apples.
“You could, but who would check the tables and do the visiting you’re known for as the host? None of us want that job. So that leaves you, Tetra.” Dorian slapped his back companionably and walked through the double doors to the kitchen.
Lindh laughed, the sound rumbling through the room. He’d gotten better at modulating his tone over the years—less creature and more human—though he sometimes slipped up. A few heads popped up, looking for the source of the sound because his voice carried, no matter how much he adjusted it. When they saw it was him, some gazes lingered with interest, and others renewed their conversation punctuated with bites of their meals. Lindh nodded to those who continued to stare, smiling kindly at the blushes that appeared.
Lindh turned away, unprepared for the golden man standing before him. His eyes, an unnatural green, were wide and almond-shaped, and white-blonde hair fell from his crown and flowed over his shoulders. He was slim with a toned body Lindh surprisingly wanted to touch. He caught himself before doing just that but stepped closer to breathe him in.