Lorai needs humans to live. Her particular magic feeds off joy and goodwill. Human laughter fills her with power. It works with shifters, too.
Working at the Crossroads was her means of getting out of the public eye, and she has enjoyed the quiet life making people happy with designer marine-themed gowns.
Adam is a dolphin shifter who caters to humans who want to learn the mysteries of the ocean with the possibility of treasure. His treasure-diving charter is part of his tiny empire of water-based businesses and his true passion, until he meets Lorai.
From the moment he sees the majestic mermaid dancing in the waves, he knows that their paths have connected for a reason. She is exactly what he has dreamed of. A woman who owns the waves she swims in. He only needs to seduce her into agreement. It is a dangerous plan, but he knows it will be worth it.
She whirled, bracing her tail on the aft of the ship. The dolphin streaked past her and rolled in the currents.
She paused. That was new.
He swam up to her and rolled in front of her, moving his tail in a playful manner.
She bowed from the waist and moved her arms so that her hair flared around her. She was framed in a cloak of her platinum tresses, and he jerked his nose several times in approval.
Lorai swam a distance but he outstripped her. She wasn’t a fast swimmer. To the merfolk, it made her untouchable as a mate. It had added to the appeal of the Crossroads. She didn’t have to get rejected by her own kind every day. She had far better things to do.
The dolphin nudged at her a little too close to her breasts, but she forgave him his aim. He wanted her to swim with him, so she continued to try and oblige.
It was way more of a workout than she had anticipated, and all too soon, she had to leave him to swim on without her.
Lorai turned and swam back toward the shore where she had stowed her clothing. The dolphin followed her for a while, but then, it peeled off and disappeared into the waves.
She hauled herself out and onto the dock where she had installed the cubbyholes for clothing. Her back deck extended over the water. She walked inside her home and made brunch.
When she settled on her deck and ate her meal, she let her gaze skim the water, looking for the signs of the dolphin leaping out of the water.
He had looked so small next to her in the water. Her body had been the length of his if not greater, but that is what happened when a merman and a giant had a child. It was going to be a little bigger than the average merwoman.
Lorai flipped her hair over her shoulder and watched the rippling water catching the light. On land, her size didn’t matter. She was just the same size as all other bipedal females. Her family was used to her, but the other members of her village had turned away when she began to seek a mate. They wouldn’t stay on land with her even though that was where they would breed the next generation. Her childhood friends had turned away and found mates with more standard-sized merwomen. She had been alone.
Sitting at the Isthmus in the Crossroads, she finally felt at home. The dolphin had been a flickering reminder of the friends she had left in the sea. Cetaceans were always comfortable with her. She was the size of a large dolphin or small whale. It seemed that under the water—as on land—she was always better off without her own kind.
* * * *
Adam Srim flicked his tail and entered the wet entry of the hotel, skidding to a halt on his feet. He rinsed off his skin and stood under the column of warm air.
He dressed and walked up the stairs to find Derix in the main lobby. He strode up to him and smiled. “I have a question for you.”
Derix looked up from his examination of one of the carvings in the lobby.
“Where can I find the mermaid? I haven’t seen her before, and I didn’t get a sense of her here.”
Derix frowned. “Mermaid? There aren’t any mermaid guests.”
Adam cleared his throat. “That was definitely what I saw.”
“It could be one of the mated women. They have merwoman characteristics.”
Adam cleared his throat. “Are they giants under the water? She was bigger than any mermaid I have ever seen.”
Derix looked relieved when Juno came in, but his expression grew shuttered as she got closer.
Adam looked over at Derix’s mate, and he blinked in surprise. The scruffy, perky woman had been replaced by a goddess wrapped in a sunset.
“Juno, you look wonderful.” He smiled at her.
She grinned and twirled. “Thank you, but I was hoping for more from Derix.”
Derix stepped toward her and went to one knee in front of her, “My lady. Words cannot give testament to your beauty.”
She extended her hand to him, and Adam left them as their small connection simmered with heat. That was the same chemistry he was hoping for with his own match, but finding her was becoming hopeless. The sight of the mermaid had filled him with enthusiasm. She was gorgeous, elegant and didn’t have the silver band of a mated being of the Crossroads. She was free and she was here.
Adam paused on the stairway. She didn’t have any bands on her wrist. No guest bracelet. He grinned and climbed upward. She worked here. He had just narrowed down his search. The next day, he would find her.