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I dropped in on the wave just as it crested. As I did, I made the mistake of looking toward shore—exactly what my dad had told me not to do. I could see him there, standing under a light and looking out at me. I couldn’t see his expression, but I figured it wasn’t happy. But if I nailed this wave, all would be forgiven.
I turned to look down at the wave and realized that I couldn’t see anything—the lights on shore had disrupted my vision, just as my dad had said they would. I felt a moment of panic at the idea of surfing this wave, which was high enough that riding its crest felt like being at the top of a mountain. And then it was too late to do anything but ride as I plummeted down the sheer, flat face of the most mammoth wave I’d ever ridden.
It was amazing, exhilarating, terrifying and awe-inspiring all at the same time. More than once I thought I was going into the drink, but I managed to hold on—by my toenails sometimes—until the wave brought me in. I didn’t get as close to shore as my dad did, didn’t get a chance to shoot the barrel as the wave turned choppier, started to break up.
I jockeyed for position, hung on as long as possible, then dropped out right before the thing crashed into the surface of the ocean. As the waves bumped me around some—the water was getting rougher—I fumbled for my board. Once I found it, I straddled it and let out a war whoop of epic proportions. My dad echoed it from his spot on the water. He was paddling out to meet me and probably do the whole crazy thing again, and I couldn’t wait. I’d ridden the hell out of that wave and couldn’t have been prouder.
Grinning, thrilled with myself and the whole world, I turned toward my dad, wanting to share my exhilaration with him. He was close enough that I could see his grin and I smiled back, waved a little. He was as stoked as I was that I had not let that swell take me down.
“That was awesome, Temp—”
He stopped talking mid-sentence, a strange look crossing his face before he disappeared suddenly beneath the choppy surface of the ocean.
What the hell?
“Dad!” I called, but he didn’t answer. Seconds later, I saw his board floating several feet away.
Confusion turned to alarm and I ditched my board, diving deep between the crests of one wave and the next. As I did, I blew the air out of my lungs and let my gills take over so that I wouldn’t have to worry about hitting the surface for air. Though I was prepared, that first breath of salt water hurt like a bitch as my human lungs fought instinctively to reject it. I ignored the pain, ignored the messages that warned me I was drowning, and dived deeper. Swum faster.
As I did, visions of sharks and swordfish and even huge, carnivorous seals ripped through my head. As did images of Tiamat and her vicious pet, the Lusca. Something had my dad—of that I had no doubt. Now it was a matter of finding out if it was just an animal doing what came naturally to it or if it was a darker, more dangerous force.
Smart enough to know I wasn’t going to be able to find him out here in the dark, I closed my eyes and tried to focus through the terror ripping me apart. A couple deep breaths, a little shot of power, and I’d created a large, encapsulated ball of light that illuminated the ocean around me. I quickly tethered it to me with another blast of power, so that it moved where I did, and then I went deep.
As I dove, I didn’t know what to wish for: a shark could very well have killed my father by now. But then, so could Tiamat—unless she wanted something from him. Like to use him as bait to make me swim directly into one of her traps.
If it was her, she was getting her wish because while the logical portion of my brain was shouting warnings at me, I was paying it absolutely no attention. Sheer terror had seized control of me and I was bumbling around like a total frube, desperate for some—any—sign of my father. It had been two and a half, maybe three minutes since he’d been grabbed. I only had a couple more to find him before brain damage started to kick in.
Freaking out, panicked beyond just about anything I had ever felt before, I forced myself to surface. To look out over the black water and try to see if I could spot anything. But there was nothing but the inevitable push and pull of the waves and the glowing blue of the algae all around me. In the distance, I could see the lights of my board glowing purple against the dark water, but there was no sign of my father.
And that’s when it registered. While the ocean all around me was lit up an other-worldly blue, there was a heavy concentration of the phosphorescent light about thirty feet in front of me. Heavy enough that it meant something was there right now disturbing the algae.
I shot forward, using every ounce of power and strength I had to swim faster than I ever had before. I got there in seconds—I’d never been more thankful for the whole mermaid thing—and then dove deep, circling the lit up area much like a shark did its prey.
And that’s when I saw him, floating along beneath the surface. His arms were above his head, his legs slightly open. His eyes were closed, his face lax, and I knew. I just knew that I was too late. That my father was dead because I hadn’t been strong enough to stop it.
I arrowed through the water toward him, so close to hysteria that I forgot how to breathe through my gills. Instead, I opened my mouth and ended up gulping in huge swallows of salt water, choking on it.
My human body wanted to cough, to expel the noxious stuff, but I held it down with sheer will alone. If I had any chance of doing CPR, of getting the water out of his lungs, every second counted.
I reached my father moments later, wrapped my arms around his waist and used the powerful muscles in my legs, muscles I’d spent the last year building, to kick us straight up to the surface.
As I broke through the water, I dragged air into my abused lungs even as I tried to figure out if my dad was breathing. He wasn’t—of course he wasn’t—so I whirled around in a desperate bid to find shore. In just the last few minutes the ocean had grown much choppier, though I didn’t know if it was from the incoming storm or my own freaked out emotions. It didn’t matter either way, I supposed, not when the end result was the same. We’d been pushed farther out to sea by the seething, roiling waves, shore much too far away to reach in time to save my dad, even for me.
Wrapping my arms around him again—this time above his waist and below his breastbone—I drove my fist directly back and into the bottom of his lungs. Water shot from his mouth, so I did it again and again and again. It was awkward as hell with the waves building up all around us, but I forced my body to relax. To just ride out the waves. Soon, I had determinedthe timing of the ocean, and what part of the wave I needed to be at to squeeze the most water from my father’s lungs.
I rode the waves for long seconds, not attempting to fight them or get closer to shore, but simply trying to clear my dad’s lungs enough that he could breathe. I was focusing so completely on the task that when it finally happened, when he spit out a huge mouthful of water and then started to cough, I could barely believe it. I kept pounding my fist into the spot below his sternum until he started struggling against me.
And even then, even as I heard him draw one loud, shaky breath into his lungs, I still didn’t believe it. “Daddy?” I shouted to be heard above the roaring of the waves, slipping back into the childhood endearment as if it were a comfortable old slipper that had just been waiting for me to find it again.
“What happened?” he gasped between coughing fits.
I was hoping he’d be able to tell me that. “I don’t know. Are you okay?” All his limbs were attached and he didn’t seem to be bleeding, but something had obviously happened to him out here.
Something that seemed less and less like an animal attack and more like—
At that moment, something wrapped itself around my ankles and tugged. Hard.
CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, Amy Plum! Happy Hunting!!!!!