Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them By Brittanie Charmintine
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Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love
" Everyone knows mermaid blood is like
Right before her senior year, mermaid
Waverly Marie Fishwater's parents inform
her they're moving to the Bay Area in
Northern California. She's to attend a
cross-cultural experimental high school.
The major problem is that it's a vampire
school, and mermaid blood is their favorite
I could not believe my parents were making me change schools in my senior year. I've been at South
Pacifica High for three years. I'm the captain of the water polo team, a champion diver, on the debate
team, and I've never been out on a date. Now my chances for ever finding a boyfriend are about zero.
You would think with my debate skills, I could change my parents' minds. But the abbreviated version
of the conversation went like this:
"But, Mom!" I said, in a kind of whiney telepathic voice. (That's how we mermaids communicate
underwater. By sending out brain signals. We can modulate them in any old way, and because I'm
seventeen, I'm really good at "whiney" and "condescending." I'm trying to nail "sexy," but I think my
inner sexy voice sounds like I've been swimming laps from the coast to the Farallon Islands for a week
solid. It's all breathy and a little desperate too.)
"Waverly Marie Fishwater," my mom thought at me. She had the "angry mom" voice down pretty
good by now. I am the youngest of sixteen brothers and sisters. "Your father cannot give up this
opportunity. We are moving North, and you will like it." She brushed my floating green hair away from
my shoulders and kissed my forehead. "You'll be fine, honey," her thought-voice softened. "Everyone
loves you. You'll make new friends."
Yeah, mom thinks she can say something like this, and it will automatically come true. She is part fairy,
but she doesn't practice her skills much, so usually she predicts stuff, and it doesn't happen. She's a
lazy prognosticator. "You don't understand. You're ruining my life.
"Pack your shells and bikini tops. We swim at sunrise tomorrow. Say goodbye to your friends. You can
see them next summer," she thought-said brightly. She flipped around gracefully with a little flick of
her tail and swam off to our underwater cave.
It was totally unfair. I'm the only one of the Fishwater fingerlings* that has to move. My siblings have
their own grown-up lives in college or raising their own fingerlings..
So now I'm swimming over to my friend Carla Reefcraft's place to break the news. Carla and I have
been best friends since we were six. Carla will be devastated. Why does this make me feel better? I am
a terrible mermaid.
The water in her lagoon is warmer than our place. The Reefcrafts are a wealthy family. Mrs. Reefcraft
has a mermaid scalecare line (salt water wreaks havoc on the scales) and Mr. Reefcraft plays golf all
day with the humans. Oh, I don't think I mentioned, when we're not in water we sprout legs and look
pretty much human except for the opalescent green hair and rainbow-colored eyes. We have wigs and
contacts so we can blend pretty well. Humans smell bad though. Like sun-baked algae.
"Hey, Wave. Wassup?" Carla asks. Her hair is braided into an intricate design that makes it look like
she's wearing an oversized tiara. "Wanna go landside and check out that new roller-coaster on the
boardwalk? Wait, is something wrong?
I can't help it. I burst into tears. Our tears are iridescent and have magical properties, so we don't cry
much because the part of the ocean where you cry can start having weird after-effects like palm trees
growing from the ocean floor and birds diving into the water, developing gills, and turning into fish.
She knows I'm upset because I can't stop the stupid tears. "I'm moving," I think at her in a super
pathetic tone. Yeah, I guess I'm good at "pathetic" too.
"What?" She swims at me and wraps her arms around my shoulders.
This makes me cry harder. A palm tree pops up from the ocean floor disrupting some crabs. They give
me the stink eye. "Sorry," I think at them, but I don't think they understand Mermish, which is pretty
similar to English. I don't speak crab either so I guess we're even. "My mom just told me. My dad's got
a new job in the North." Dad's a math teacher. He works at my high school, which is totally
embarrassing. Some of my friends think he's cute, which is super gross!
"Can't you stay here? I'm sure my parents would let you live with us so you can finish off at Pacifica.
We have to go to grad night at Great America together. It's our dream."
"I know, but my parents seem to like me. There's no way they'll let me stay. I'm the last kid. Parents
hate that whole empty nest concept. Neptune's Beard, I hate not being able to control my own life."
"When are you going?"
"Holy crab! Well, we still have twelve hours. Let's not waste them."
"Okay," I think at her. I've finally stopped crying, but not before five birds have switched species.
Carla's older brother, Finn, jets over to us. I have to admit I've had a crush on him since his pecs started
to fill out and his six-pack torso narrowed down to a slim waist.
"Hey, Sis. Hey, gorgeous." He had the "sexy" thought-voice down. No matter how cold the water,
when I'm around Finn, it's like I'm in a geo-thermal hot spring. "What's up?"
"Nothing, Finn. Don't you have a date with Shelly Sharkweather?" says Carla.
Shelly Sharkweather? Ugh! The most gorgeous girl in our school. Great body, of course. Her hair
practically glows and so does her skin. Her scales are the color of an oil spill on the water's surface. It's
really pretty, but deadly too. "You're dating Shelly?" I manage to think at him in a pretty controlled
tone, I hope.
"Why? Don't like that, Fishwater? Do you want to date me?" He loves to tease.
"Eww, no," I think at him. "You're like my brother." I say this, but inside I want to die. If mermaids
could blush, the light from the glow would make the water look like it does right after a shark attack.
"She's moving," Carla says.
"Yeah. We're going North. My dad's got a job working for some new experimental high school. And I
have to go there. He says it's about integration and stuff. Learning from other cultures. It's landside."
"Not West Marin Heights?"
"Yeah," I thought-said. "How'd you know?"
"I hear things," he's dragging his fins across the thick sand and flicks a snail into a nearby stand of
seaweed. "But I can't believe your parents are sending you there. I thought they loved you."
"They do." Uh, oh, maybe they don't. Maybe they're punishing me for my whining and occasional
sullenness. I'm supposed to do that at my age. It's part of the separation process. "Why? What's
wrong with West Marin Heights."
"Not too much," he says. "Other than the vampires."
"Yeah. It's a vampire school."
"But I'm a mermaid."
He looks at me like I've sprung a second tail. "Better watch your tail, I mean back."
"I gotta go," I say.
"Wait, the roller coaster," says Carla.
"I'll see you later," I say, swimming for home like a torpedo, my heart thumping so loud, I'm afraid
sharks will hear the blood moving inside my body. Why are my parents trying to have me killed? I'm
not that horrible. But what other explanation could they have? Everyone knows, mermaid blood is like
We're all moved into our new cave up the coast in Marin. It's the night before I start at West Marin
Heights. My dad and I are having a "heart to heart" at a nearby beach on Tomales Bay called Heart's
Desire. Does he even get the irony? Dad says the bay water is warmer than the ocean, so I should be
happy. As if all one requires in life is warmer water. Yeah, maybe you have to leave all your friends and
give up your whole life, oh, and go to school with vampires, but the average water temperature is two
whole degrees less freezing, so count your blessings.
I'm lying on my back in a shell top and bikini bottom flapping my arms and newly sprouted legs,
making angel impressions in the wet sand. It's just after sunset and the foggy air makes it almost as
wet as being in the water. There aren't any humans. Turns out they have to be out of here by
sundown. I can't believe humans have such stupid rules. How can you close a beach? It's like closing
A gob of cold wet sand splats onto my stomach. I practically levitate off the ground. "Hey," I cry. "Stop
it." I've ruined my perfect sand angel.
He's laughing, out loud of course because we're landside. We can still use our thought-voices on land,
but we try to practice outside voices when we're above water. It's like immersing yourself in a new
language. Except that we're not immersed when we talk out loud. I'm babbling. Sorry.
"You aren't listening to a word I'm saying." He's still having a good chuckle at my expense. "And I said
them quite well, too." He balls up another wad of wet sand and holds it threateningly over his
shoulder, aimed in my direction. "You're listening now, though. Right?"
"Why do I always have to listen to you, but you never listen to me?"
"I'm the parent. You're the fingerling. That's why. Now, as I was saying, this is the first year West
Marin Heights is opening up to new species. The vampire community is trying to improve its
reputation. They're tired of being thought of as bloodthirsty monsters."
I've found a sand dollar, and I'm dragging it through the sand in a circle. Then the water crashes on to
it and erases my work.
"Waverly Marie Fishwater," he yells, and splat, another ball of wet sand hits me, this time in the neck. I
gather up a glob of sand, making sure to include some slimy seaweed in the mix and throw it at him. I
get him right on his forehead. We both laugh as we scrape off the sandy muck. "That's my girl. You
have great aim, Wave."
I glow a little at the compliment. I know it's my dad saying it, and parents love to dole out the
accolades, but it still feels good.
"Now, about your listening skills ..."
"I heard you, Dad," I say. "You were telling me about the vampires being monsters who are going to
bite my neck during lunch and slurp up all my delicious mermaid blood."
"Waverly," he says in that "why do I have to try to reason with my hormonal teenage daughter?" tone.
"They are forbidden to bite you. You are perfectly safe. They want to learn about our culture, and we'll
learn about theirs."
"I don't want to learn about murderers."
"They don't do that any more," Dad insists. "And it's not only mermaids attending. Most of the non-
human species will be there."
"Like who? Or what?" I say, casually. I'm interested, but I don't want to sound like I am.
"Oh, it just keeps getting better."
"And fairies. A few minor gods."
"Sounds like a freak show," I say, but I'm a little bit excited too. I've never met a full fairy let alone a
god, minor or otherwise. I hope they're Greek gods. They have the hottest abs.
"I'll pretend you didn't say that about your future schoolmates," my dad says. "But what I haven't told
you yet is going to make you very happy. You're not going to be the only mermaid. One of your friends
from Pacifica is attending as well."
"Her name is Shelly Sharkweather."
"You're joking, right?"
"No, Isn't it great?"
Suddenly, vampires aren't the scariest predators at West Marin Heights. "Terrific," I say, standing. "I'll
see you at dinner."
"Wait, we're not done heart to hearting." He grabs my hand and tries to drag me back down. But I'm
almost as strong as he is. I free my hand and jump into the water. It's freezing. My legs tingle and itch
as they transform into fins. My head bobs above the surface, the cold water encircling my neck.
"I'm done," I say. "Why did we have to do this?" Yeah, I'm full-on whining now.
Waverly," he says. "Come on. It'll be an experience."
"So's having a death match with a Great White," I say. "And I don't have to do that to know it sucks."
I submerge and swim out to the middle of the bay lamenting the fact that I can breathe both in and
out of the water. It's hard to drown yourself when you're a mermaid.
I'm swimming alone toward West Marin Heights for my first day. Dad left earlier to get his classroom
prepared. I think he wanted me to go with him and hold his hand, but I told him he'd do fine on his
own; then I went back to sleep.
The fog is so dense, it's like I'm propelling myself through a cloud. My head is above water, and I'm
navigating by smell. As I get closer to the shore, the scent of sage and oysters and the wood smoke
from the school chimneys intensifies. Apparently the school compound is "off the grid" meaning
there's no human electricity or phone service or cable television.
My long green hair floats around me. I've worn it loose today; so when it dries it'll conceal my neck.
That's just smart when you're going to hang out with vampires. Don't add to the temptation. My
waterproof backpack contains a change of clothes because a shell bikini top won't be enough once I
sprout legs. I plan to emerge on the shore a short distance from the school and change. Merfolk are
pretty shy. We're not used to having, well, you know, "parts," so we like to cover up when we're
I'm supposed to be at school in five minutes, and I'm only about two-thirds of the way across. The fog
is beginning to break up. I've just gone into turboswim, when I catch a glitter of Great White shark fins
gliding toward me. I speak enough Shark that I'm not too worried. We had agreements with most of
the sharks back in Pacifica. I send them a telepathic message in what is probably garbled Shark saying,
"Hey, I'm new here. Nice to meet y'all."
Apparently my Shark is rustier than I thought, because they keep coming. Maybe there's a different
dialect up here. I don't have time for this right now, but with bullies, you have to establish your
position on the food chain right away, or they'll never leave you in peace.
I stop swimming. The sharks do their little threatening shark circle around me, only their fins sticking
out of the water. I don't know if you've ever gotten a good look at a shark's face, but when their
mouths are closed they look like an old human who's lost his teeth.
"Come on, guys. I mean you no harm, and I'm late for school. Move off," I say this out loud. Even if
they can't understand the words, hopefully they'll get how serious I am. The one closest to me opens
his maw, and it becomes very obvious these folks haven't left their teeth home in some jar. They smell
terrible-like bloody, rotten, death. "Go away! I mean it!" I shriek.
These are the dumbest sharks I've ever encountered. I wonder if there's some kind of pollutant in the
water that's taking them down a significant number of IQ points. I start to splash at them, but they get
more aggressive. I don't want to hurt them. I plunge into the water planning to swim beneath them,
but something grabs me around the chest and we plummet to the bottom of the bay. The instant we
hit the sea floor, my tail accordions in an astonishing shock of pain.
My arms are pinned to my sides, as if I'm bound in yards of seaweed. I manage to straighten my tail.
"Let go of me," I scream/think to the thing that's restraining me, but it either doesn't hear or care to
hear. I'm thrashing my tail trying to escape the bindings.
In the meantime, the sharks are twisting and whirling, churning the water and slapping their tails in a
blood-frenzy. Bubbles obscure my vision. A shark scrapes the back of my tail, and it stings with shark
burn. "Let me go," I think angrily.
The bindings suddenly release, and I'm free. I twirl checking see where my captor has gone. Don't
want him (it?) sneaking up on me again. The bubbles are now tinged with red. I check my body, and
appear to be in one piece. Something bumps against my arm. It's a head. Please let it be attached to a
I feel for a torso, and it appears there is one, and it's in the right place. It's wearing clothing. Crab, it's
a human, and oh, no, it's missing part of its leg. The sharks are crazed. Okay, I warned them, so I'm
not going to feel bad about this.
The sharks are moving in to divvy up the human when I pull the tail on the one closest to me and
throw it up and out of the water. It will probably end up a half a mile away. I do this to each one until
I've cleared the area. Then I grab the human under his arms, and surge to the surface.
I launch myself onto the sand on my backside with the human, cold and limp, on top of me. I've
squished the backpack, but there are only clothes inside. I barely feel the pain of my transformation
into a biped. As soon as I have legs, I sit and lay the body on the sand. He's wearing a red plaid shirt.
Does he have a heartbeat? I tear open the shirt; buttons fly off. I put my ear to his chest. No heartbeat,
and he is ice cold. Holy crab!
I try to remember that course I took a few years ago in human physiology. We learned CPR. First you're
supposed to do chest compressions but how many? Then you tilt the head back, pinch the nose
closed, cover the victim's mouth and breathe. How many breaths? Oh, heck. I just get to work pressing
on his chest as fast as I can. I am totally not noticing what a sculpted, hard, pale-skinned chest he has,
nor am I noticing his six-pack abs, because even I know it's wrong to gawk at someone who is
I execute about thirty compressions, then tilt his head and pinch his nose. Then I cover his mouth with
mine and breathe. I twist my head, trying to watch his chest to see if it moves. Nothing happens. I
breathe into him again. He's moving. He's alive! I am saving a life!
While I'm contemplating my triumph, I notice his tongue in my mouth. Moving against my tongue.
Tinglings radiate down my body. So this is a kiss? I want it to last forever, but what the hell? As I pull
my mouth away, something sharp snags my lip, and I taste blood.
The guy moans. "Mmmmmm." He reaches for me. "More."
I jump back so fast, he ends up clutching air. I pick up a nearby piece of driftwood and brandish it at
him. Then I realize all I'm wearing is a backpack and a shell bra. I drop the driftwood and rotate the
backpack to cover my "parts."
The vampire is laughing even though part of his leg is still missing.
"What is wrong with you?" I say.
He looks down at the mangled leg.
"Exactly, you're missing some serious flesh. What are you even doing here?"
"Rescuing you," he says, leaning back on his elbows. His leg begins to reform.
Now I laugh. "That's rich, you're rescuing me?"
"Yeah, I was hanging out near the top of that tree," he points to a hundred foot redwood. "And I saw
those sharks circling you. I couldn't just let them eat you. Headmaster Crumpet said we weren't
supposed to let the new kids die, so I dove in to rescue you."
He grins, and I do not notice that his smile is a bit crooked and adorable. He has very white teeth, a
couple of needlelike fangs, dimples, and eyes the exact sapphire blue of the deepest part of the ocean.
I'm climbing the steep pathway from the beach to West Marin Heights. I carry my "rescuer" as far away
from my body as possible to keep his leg from dripping blood on me.
We are surrounded by stands of redwoods huddled in their tight family circles. Redwoods have to
intermingle their ridiculously shallow roots and stay close or one good wind and they fall. The older
trees tower into the sky, morning light filtering through their limbs, while the saplings cling to their
bases. All the circles have at least a few charcoaled tree stumps blanketed in moss, sprouting bouquets
of ferns, each frond shaped like a mermaid's tail.
Leaves crunch under my bare feet, and the long grass is scratchy against my ankles. I forgot to pack
shoes. My mom's totally going to be on my case. I'm covered in goosebumps because all I'm wearing is
a gauzy white sundress. Mom told me to pack a sweater, but I didn't, mostly based on principle.
Parents are always trying to overdress their fingerlings when they go landside. Sometimes it feels like
they use layers of clothing to coddle us when they can't be around to do it themselves.
"This is embarrassing," says the vampire. "I can't have you carry me into school. Just give me a little
more of your blood."
"No can do, vampire. I have a strict no-drinking policy. My blood stays in its own circulatory system. Tell
me where the infirmary is, and I'll drop you off as quietly as possible."
"I don't need an infirmary, mermaid. I need the commissary. Fresh blood will heal me."
I shiver at the thought of eating in a cafeteria that serves blood. "Don't call me 'mermaid.' It's
"Then don't call me 'vampire.'"
He has a point. (Or two of them!) "What should I call you?"
"Pierce. Pierce Knightguard."
"Seriously?" I roll my eyes. Sorry, can't help it. It's in the teen handbook. Look it up: Must roll eyes
when people say anything absurd. (Footnote: especially when person responsible for said absurdity is a
What?" he says, looking a little hurt.
"You're a vampire named Pierce?"
"I mean ... it's a little obvious."
"You can't talk to me that way, even if you are cute and delicious."
I let Pierce slip from my arms. He lands with a muted thud on a bed of redwood droppings. "Oops.
Sorry about that." Just like with sharks, you have to show dominance right away. If I let Pierce think of
me as a healthy breakfast food, I'm screwed. I'm nobody's kelp smoothie.
"Hey," Pierce jumps up on to his good leg. "That hurt."
Okay, that wasn't nice of me. I didn't have to drop an injured classmate, even if he is a ravenous
vampire. "Wait, let me carry you," I say. He folds his arms across his chest, which is totally exposed
because of the way I ripped apart his shirt earlier. At least that's one thing I've done right today. He's
balancing on one leg as gracefully as a blue heron. "Come on. I shouldn't have done that."
"Actually, it might've been a good move on your part." He gives me that crooked grin, and his dimples
are so deep, he could hold a good-sized pebble in each one.
"What do you mean?" Neptune's Beard, Pierce is handsome. Even missing an alarming chunk of a
major body part, he makes Finn look like a rubber-lipped serf perch by comparison.
"I mean," his dark eyebrows furrow into a V. Why is he getting all serious on me? He licks his lips. "I
mean, your blood tastes like ..."
"What? Crack? Vampire crack?"
"Why would you think something so horrible? No, you taste like the first rain on a crackling desert
My jaw drops. A vampire poet? He hops closer to me. I take a step back even though I want to throw
myself in his arms and kiss him again. He leans close to my neck, and I can feel my pulse thudding in
my throat. He smiles. How embarrassing. He can sense my heart rate accelerating. "Well, that makes
me feel better," I manage to croak.
"Race you to school?" He hops backward and throws his head in the direction of the craftsman
bungalow on top of the hill, a thin line of gray smoke snaking from the chimney.
I laugh. "It's no fun to race the leg-impaired," I say.
"Come on. Loser has to grant the winner a wish."
"I'm only one-eighth fairy. I'm not authorized to grant wishes."
"Anyone can grant a wish, Waverly," he says.
Hmmm. This has possibilities. I can wish for him never to come near me again. "You got it vampire." I
take off. Even if I'm not a fancy, supernaturally fast, one-legged creature of the night, I'm not going to
let him show me up, though I feel a little guilty not at least giving the invalid a head start.
"It's Pierce!" He yells. I look over my shoulder in time to see him launch into the air. He buzzes my head
as he flies over.
"What, you can fly?" I can't believe this jerk. I'm carrying him, and the whole time he could have flown
himself to class? Vampires suck!
I stomp the rest of the way up the hill. When I reach the top, I hear the chattering and giggling that
signifies a gathering of students. It's coming from the biggest building, which lies across a meadowed
courtyard. Not until I cross the threshold into the crowded hall, do I realize, I hadn't told Pierce my
As I get closer to the noise, I resist the urge to cover my ears. I can't be blamed for being a little
overwhelmed. When you're used to an "all-telepathic" education, hearing a hundred voices going at
once has to have an effect. Despite this, I have to admit I'm a little excited. I get to meet actual gods.
What do you even talk to a god about? The weather? Favorite eon? Do you regret the whole
poisonous jellyfish idea?
And then there are the fairies. Maybe I'm related to one of them! Maybe I could learn to grant wishes
for real. Werewolves, I don't know much about them other than what most people know: they are
hairy, have big teeth and suffer from an unhealthy relationship with the lunar cycle.
I arrange my hair to cover my neck and tug on the bottom of my dress before stepping all the way
The air is thick and stifling and burns my lungs. There is a fire blazing in a fireplace almost big enough
to accommodate my whole family. Despite the heat, one skinny guy with a mop of black hair is
practically inside the inglenook. He has a smoldering look. Literally. It's hard to tell in a smoke-filled
room, but it looks like a gray vapor is coiling from his mouth. It's a school for, um, alternative beings,
so I'm sure a guy who likes his skin crispy is nothing out of the ordinary.
First thing I do, is check for vampires. There they are in the middle of the audience. I can tell they're
vampires because of their stillness and the fact that they're wearing plaid flannel shirts—even the
females. The plaid attire is a real surprise for me. Everyone thinks that vampires wear black capes with
tall stand-up collars, but it turns out they all dress like they're going out into the forest to cut timber.
All the chairs are taken, meaning many of the students are seated against the wall on the saggy
wooden floor, which slants toward the middle of the room as if it has surrendered to time. Almost
everyone is sitting with his or her own species, except for Shelly who is sprawled across the laps of
some hot togaed guys (gods of course!). I stand in the back, leaning against the warm paneled wall,
which is blackened by smoke, scratched and scarred. I can almost see the memories encrusted within.
"Are you okay, Wave? You're late," my dad thinks at me in a concerned tone.
He's sitting at a long table in front of the room with an eclectic group of what must be the other
teachers. My dad is so large he barely fits in the human-sized chair. In addition to dad, there are several
plaid-clad vampires, a young towheaded boy in a long purple robe, a yellow-eyed werewolfy-type, a
fuchsia-haired fairy with a crown of live butterflies as she smokes a pipe, and a goddess with a killer
body, wearing nothing but mud and leaves.
"I'm fine, Dad," I think back. "Just ran into a few sharks and a vampire on the way to school. No big
"What?" he think-asks in his alarmed-dad tone.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that we can communicate telepathically. Otherwise I'd have to
actually have this conversation with my dad in front of everyone. Like most teens, I prefer to
perpetuate the myth that I sprang fully-formed from sea foam.
Why do parents think you can't handle things yourself? You don't live in the oceans for seventeen
years and not learn a few things about surviving a hostile environment.
"Can we talk about this later," I plead.
"Of course my little fingerling."
Shelly looks at me and smirks. She's obviously been listening to my mental conversation with dad. She
really has no manners.
I'm saved from having to teach her a valuable lesson about privacy when the kid with white-blonde
hair stands and takes the podium at the center of the teacher's table. He clears his throat, and for
some reason everyone is instantly quiet. I giggle. Everyone turns around to look at me. I think about
diving under the back row of chairs, but instead, I straighten my back and manage to say "sorry." You
have to admit it's funny that supernatural beings are scared of a twelve-year-old.
He smiles at me and looks like he's suppressing a laugh. "I would like to welcome you all to West Marin
Heights," he says. "For those of you who do not know me, I'm Headmaster Crumpet." He looks at me
and bites his lip to keep from laughing. I see his fangs. Right. Vampire. And a nice one. He could've
totally nailed me for inappropriately-timed laughter.
Crumpet looks like a fingerling, but he's probably ancient, like even older than my parents. And
speaking of vampires, Pierce walks through the door on both feet. If I thought he was attractive with
one leg, that was nothing compared to seeing him arrive under his own power. He stands so close to
me I feel the heat rising from his skin now that he's ... um ... fed.
"Hey," he whispers in my ear. I shiver, and he grins.
"I'm just cold," I lie. I keep my eyes focused straight ahead, but I can feel the vampire's body quivering
I hear a telepathic gasp from Shelly, and I know she's noticed Pierce. She scoots off of the god's lap
and sits on the floor gawking at Pierce. "He is so hot," she thinks at me. "And lucky for me you hate
I pretend not to hear.
I think Headmaster Crumpet is introducing the teachers. I'm not paying much attention because Pierce
has also noticed Shelly. How could he not when she's gawking at him like a moray eel? And I don't
think I've mentioned she's wearing a miniscule black "skirt" and a black leather bustier. Her golden-
green hair is in a ponytail exposing her neck, like a vampire invitation. Her long legs are bare, and she's
practically falling out of her top. Some girls are so desperate it's pathetic.
Applause punctuates the smoke-filled room as Crumpet introduces each teacher.
I have to warn Pierce about Shelly's predatory ways. Even an evil bloodsucking denizen of the night,
doesn't deserve her. I wave my arm in front of Pierce's face to break the eye contact. He doesn't turn
his head, but I can see his smirk. "Jealous, Waverly?" He whispers.
Maybe I won't help him.
"Neptune's Beard," Shelly thinks at me. "His chest! Those abs! Wow!" She's practically salivating. I'm
so mad at myself for ripping his shirt.
I decide it's better to listen to Crumpet than Shelly, so I try to block her thoughts. This is when I hear
Crumpet saying something about student cabins being completed right on schedule thanks to a
generous donation from Brack Sharkweather. The room breaks into excited applause as Mr.
Sharkweather, Shelly's father, strides in wearing black jeans, a cowboy hat and boots and a red plaid
shirt, which is an obvious kiss-ass move. He makes his way toward the front shaking hands with people
along the way like the politician he is, I mean was. He served on the Merfolk Council, but got kicked
out for some hush-hush reason.
This is when it sinks in. West Marin Heights is a boarding school, and no one thought to mention this
fact? " Boarding school? What in Hades?" I think at my dad, in my best indignant tone.
"If you paid attention, you would know." He's shaking his head and frowning. He doesn't say anything
about my using an expletive because I've trained my parents to "choose their battles" with me. I find
that if I make a big deal about enough things, they can't keep up the energy to fight on that scale.
They're pretty old, and they've already raised fifteen teenagers; this is where I benefit from being the
youngest. My siblings have eroded their resolve like water wearing away at the rocks.
"You're saying you told me it was a boarding school? Because I'm sure I would have heard that."
"Yes, Wave, I did."
"You're going to let me sleep in a cabin with vampires?" I look over at Pierce. Something is amusing
him because he's smirking again. I really hate it when he does this, even if it does show off his dimples
in a really adorable way. Luckily, Pierce can't hear my conversation with dad, because vampires are not
Pierce laughs, and turns his head to look at me, his dark blue eyes sparkling with mischief. He shrugs.
"I am full of surprises."
Despite the hot room, goose bumps prickle up my arms. He has more secrets? What in Hades do I
know about vampires? I didn't know they could fly. I didn't know they wore plaid. I didn't know they
liked poetry. So how do I know whether or not they're telepathic? Can he hear everything that crosses
my mind or only the things I broadcast? I can't help running through every thought I've had since I met
him-about his body, his kiss, Shelly. I pretty much want to die.
"It's only a temporary side effect because I tasted your blood, Waverly," he says, chewing on his
bottom lip. This is probably how he knew my name. I'm beyond mad at myself. The only reason he
tasted my blood was because I was dumb enough to perform CPR on a vampire. And then I had to go
and pull my mouth away so fast that he snagged my lip.
"The vampires won't hurt you, Wave," Dad thinks at me. "Remember, they're trying to improve their
reputation." My dad and Pierce exchange glances. Does my dad know Pierce, or is he giving him some
kind of non-verbal warning about not snacking on his daughter? "And because I work here, I've
managed to get you some great bunkmates."
This is going to be a disaster.
Crumpet clears his throat, and the room quiets instantaneously. Mr. Sharkweather is standing in front
of the podium. "On behalf of West Marin Heights, I would like to thank you for your generous
contribution." Crumpet reaches over and shakes Mr. Sharkweather's hand, but I notice a fleeting
grimace cross Crumpet's face.
"My pleasure, Headmaster Crumpet," says Brack. "And the Sharkweather family has one more surprise
for all of you. Shelly?" He motions for her to join him in front.
Shelly tosses her ponytail and steps carefully over the gods. She almost trips, and one of them, an
Adonis type of course, helps steady her. "Thanks," she beams at him. Once she's made it to the front
she nods her head at her dad, Headmaster Crumpet and the teachers. "Okay, tonight I'm having a first
day of school party, and you're all invited." The students clap and cheer. "And here's the best part."
Shelly pauses for dramatic emphasis and smiles. "It's on my family's new yacht. We sail from the dock
at seven. Don't be late!"
The group ignites into conversation and laughter-except for the sullen guy in the fireplace, who
stoically folds his arms across his chest.
Shelly looks at me like she'd like to exclude me, but I'm freaking going whether she wants me there or
not. I have to keep on eye on Pierce to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid, like fall in the water
and get eaten by sharks or by Shelly.
"Thank you Mr. Sharkweather, Miss Sharkweather," says Crumpet. "Alright students, the remainder of
the day will be about getting to know your professors and cabin mates. We've planned some fun
activities to teach you about trust. If nothing else, we at West Marin Heights hope that by the end of
the school term, you will learn to work together in harmony. Though you all come from different
species with different customs, you will find that we have much in common.
"Fairy Princess Iridessa, if you would be so kind as to distribute the cabin assignments."
The fuchsia-haired fairy princess sets down her pipe and rises. Somehow the butterflies remain in
crown formation. She clears her throat. "If you will all prepare yourselves." Her voice is kind of high-
pitched and haunting-like a humpback whale.
Before I can prepare for anything, there's a deafening explosion, and then I'm spinning like a whirlpool
in a cloud of sparkling fairy dust.
Next thing I know I'm standing inside a wood cabin. My head is still going in circles. I topple backward
and hit the wooden floor hard, right on my butt. "Crap! That hurt!" My heart is pounding, and I'm
having a hard time catching my breath. Fairies can teleport people? And come on. Magic shouldn't be
sprung on people like that. You should at least have to wave a wand in the air or make up some
Someone laughs. It's Shelly, and her hands are on her slim hips. "Nice one, Fishwater," she says. Pierce
is there too, along with five other beings, one of whom is the guy from the fireplace. Coincidentally,
he's landed next to the cabin's stone fireplace where a small fire crackles and burns.
Pierce leans over and extends his hand to me. "I don't need your help, vampire," I mumble in kind of a
mean way. The truth is I am more embarrassed than angry.
"I understand," he says. Oh right, mind reader. I end up taking his hand, and try my best not to think
about the thrill of molten heat that starts where our hands are joined, then courses through my body. I
jerk my hand back as soon as I'm upright.
Pierce looks strangely at his hand. What, does he think I've infected him with some weird mermaid
disease? He gives me a funny look, and I'm hoping he doesn't know what I felt when we touched. I'm
doing my best to block my thoughts. I really need a distraction.
One of my new roommates-a girl wearing what looks like a blue nightgown-smiles and nods at me. A
second later the cabin door creaks open. Headmaster Crumpet walks in. I want to hug him for his
"Hello, students," he says cheerfully. I swear he sounds like a fingerling coming over to our cave to ask
us if we want to go hunt sea urchins. "I trust you've all introduced yourselves to one another?"
"Not yet," says Shelly.
"Let's form a circle, and everyone can say his or her name and species."
We do as he says. Shelly manages to situate herself next to Pierce. What a shocker.
"I'll start! I'm Shelly Sharkweather," she laughs. "Of course you already know who I am because of the
awesome yacht party I'm putting on tonight. I'm a mermaid, but I guess you could tell with the green
hair and all."
"My name is Pierce Knightgard. Vampire." Shelly is gazing at him like he's some kind of celebrity. It's
"Pickles McPhee, fairy-godmother-in-training," says the blue nightgown girl. She tries to curtsy, but
messes it up and stumbles over her own feet. The other fairy grimaces and rolls her eyes, but Pickles
laughs. "Yeah, I like to trip on Tuesdays. Well on all days but mostly Tuesdays." I like her instantly.
"Thunder Woolfson. Werewolf." I'm standing next to Thunder. My head comes up to his elbow. He
has frizzy roan hair that is so voluminous, it's like there's an extra person in the room.
"Waverly Fishwater, mermaid. Uh, nice to meet you all." Just because I'm freaking out, and my ass is
killing me doesn't mean I shouldn't have any manners.
"Lily-Bella, fairy-princess-in-training. I like makeup, clothes, jewels, princes on horseback and the color
pink," she says, dropping into a perfect curtsy. Her pale blonde hair is twisted into a smooth bun
dotted with ladybugs. She's wearing a rose-colored gown with a huge blood-red jewel pendant
around her neck.
Huh? There are two kinds of fairies.
"Cupid. God," Cupid says, sounding a little bored with the rest of us. He has shoulder-length blonde
curls. His toga is trimmed in gold, and he has matching gold booties. "Of love," he adds, looking right
at Pierce and Shelly. This god is going to be trouble. I can tell.
"I'm Fintan Byrnes," says fireplace guy, a bit of grey smoke coming out of his mouth. "I don't know
what I am or why I'm here." He stares us all down, as if daring us to say anything about his being
ignorant of his own species. I wonder if he doesn't know or doesn't want to tell us?
"Now that you've met your cabin mates, why don't we have a look around before we get started
working on trusting one another?"
I really need to pay better attention because it suddenly dawns on me that I'm sharing a cabin with
Pierce and Shelly. These are the classmates handpicked by Dad for my safety? I get to spend my senior
year not with my lifelong friends, but with my biggest enemy and my biggest ... well ... whatever the
Hades Pierce is.
"Your cabin is one of the new ones," Headmaster Crumpet says. He takes an audible breath. "Smell
that fresh wood and turpentine? You can look around if you'd like. The girl's bedroom is on the right,
the boy's on the left. Each has its own bathroom. This is the common area."
"Come on Pierce, help me pick out my bed," Shelly says, grabbing Pierce's elbow and leading him to
the girl's bedroom.
I have something to give you. Meet me at "our" beach at 6:30. We can go to the party together.
It's almost six p.m., and I'm sitting on the bottom bunk on the left side of the girl's bedroom folding
the note from Pierce until it is as tiny and inconspicuous as possible. Shelly is in a chair facing the vanity
mirror while Lily-Bella waves her wand over Shelly's hair. One hairstyle after another blooms on Shelly's
head as they try to find the perfect one. Shelly is staring at the note in the mirror's reflection. I push it
into the front pocket of my jeans to get it out of sight.
Pickles lies on the top bunk reading some Fairy Godmother training manual. I plan to set the book on
fire when she's not looking. I don't like the F.G. rules at all. They are ridiculous. Why should a person
have to spend her life forced into making other people happy? Case in point-she insisted on taking the
top bunk. Sure I preferred the bottom, but the only way she was going to let me have the top was if I
physically restrained her. I don't want to do that sort of thing to my new friend, and frankly, I don't
want to expend the energy tying her down every night for the rest of the semester.
Besides the beds and the vanity, the girls' room has four desks, four wardrobes and a bathroom with
two sinks, two showers and two stalls. Lily-Bella and Shelly's half of the room is covered in
predominantly pink clothing, glittery makeup, hairbrushes, ribbons, jewelry, tiaras and dozens of
perfume bottles. It is strange to see these items in a spare, log cabin in the woods. There are two
windows overlooking the redwood forest. Shelly and Lily-Bella have now spritzed each and every
perfume into the air at least twice, so our room smells like a horrible accident at the human perfume
"Maybe we should go back to picking out our outfits before we decide on hair and fragrance," says
Shelly. "I think that would make more sense."
"You're right. Outfits first," says Lily-Bella.
Shelly and Fairy Princess Lily-Bella wear only matching bra and underwear sets. By now they've each
tried on about a hundred different ensembles. Despite the gushing commentary from the two of them
as to how "totally cute" they look with each successive change, nothing has met the mysterious
standard required to attend a yacht party.
I feel a little underdressed in my jeans and South Pacifica High Debate Team Champions sweatshirt.
And now that I'm meeting Pierce alone before the party, I wish I did have something a little nicer. In
my former mostly-aquatic lifestyle, I didn't require much beyond shell tops and casualwear for going to
the boardwalk with Carla.
Wait, why am I worried about what I'm wearing? I don't care what Pierce thinks. If anything, I want to
look as unappetizing as possible. Why am I so happy at the prospect of being alone with him? It's
probably just my curiosity. What could he want to give me?
"What about this one?" says Lily Bella, twirling in another pink sparkly gown. I swear to Neptune it
looks exactly the same as half the gowns she's already tried on.
"It's soooo cute," says Shelly, who is slipping into a tight black leather mini-dress and matching
platform heels. "What do you think about this?" She cuts a model's pose, which involves standing at
an angle, flicking her long green waves over her shoulder and puckering her glossy lips. She looks a
little like a sea bass.
"It's really cute," says Lilly-Bella, but I think I like the pink one better.
"Of course you do," I mutter.
"What?" says Lilly Bella.
"I mean, I know you love pink, right? You said that when you introduced yourself. So it makes sense
that you'd prefer the pink," I say, totally back-pedaling.
"I think they're all lovely," says Pickles.
"But what are you two wearing?" says Lily-Bella. "This is a party not a ... a ... well I actually don't know
where you would ever wear what you have on. Hey, Shelly, I think we ought to give our new
bunkmates a makeover. What do you think?"
"Great idea," says Shelly. "I know just the outfit for Waverly."
Why do I have a terrible sense of foreboding? "That's okay," I say. "I like this." I stand up and tug the
bottom of the sweatshirt. There is a crusty mustard splotch over the word "Champions." Probably from
the pretzel I had at the boardwalk the last time I wore it.
Lily-Bella grimaces, and says, "Oh, no way. You have to let us fix you up. It'll be super fun."
"I'm not allowed to dress up," says Pickles, who is still in her blue nightgown. She puts down her book
and looks so longingly at the silk and taffeta dresses it makes me sad.
"What do you mean?" I say.
"Fairy godmothers aren't supposed to dress like fairy princesses. It's a fairy godmother rule."
"Fairy godmothers have a dress code?"
That stupid book again. "Well, you're not a fairy godmother yet, right? You're still training. If you knew
all the rules already, you wouldn't have to train, so I say we get ourselves made over. I'll only do it if
Pickles' eyes widen and so does her smile. "Well, as a fairy godmother in training, I'm supposed to
facilitate other people's wishes."
"Yes, and this is my wish, so you don't have any choice. You have to do it."
"If you put it that way ..." Pickles looks ecstatic. I am making her life better! I pull her in for a big
"Ouch!" she says, still smiling though.
"Ooh, sorry," I say. "I'm not used to hugging non-merfolk. I'll be more careful next time."
"Don't you dare, Waverly Marie Fishwater," she says. "It was the best hug I ever had!"
Later I'm going to burn the manual and have a stern conversation/lecture with Pickles about her career
"We better get started," says Shelly. "This is going to take a while."
I only have one question in my mind: why is Shelly suddenly being so nice? I don't say anything, on the
off chance she's decided to stop being a horrible witch now that we're roommates. But that doesn't
mean I'm falling for it either.
"So who's first?" says Lily-Bella.
"Let's do Waverly first," says Pickles. "She is so beautiful."
"No, I think you first, Pickles. I can't wait to see you dressed like a princess."
Pickles blushes. In no time, we have all dressed her in one of the sparkly pink gowns with a tiara. She
really does look like royalty. "My mom would kill me," she says, twirling.
"We won't tell," I say.
"Your turn," says Shelly. "How about this one?" she says, holding up the black leather atrocity.
"Not really my thing," I say. I look around the room at the pink sparkly assortment and realize none of
them is really me. "Maybe I'll just wear what I've got on."
"No," says Pickles. I know what you should do." She grabs a wand from under her mattress and waves
it over me. Shelly, Lily-Bella and I all look in the mirror and gasp. Pickles grins widely.
"Wow," I whisper. It's perfect. "Thank you, Pickles."
"Yeah," says Shelly, but she doesn't seem too happy about it.
"You're a goddess," says Lily-Bella.
"Don't say that in front of the real goddesses. I don't think they'd appreciate the comparison, and I
don't want to get zapped by lightning or anything." I laugh.
"Time for hair and makeup," says Lily Bella, grabbing her wand.
So now I'm at the beach where I rescued Pierce. He called it "our beach." I swoon a little. It could be
from thinking that Pierce and I have our own place or it could be that I can't breathe because I am in a
long strapless column of aquamarine satin, which is close-fitting through the bodice and past my hips
and then flares at my lower calf. Lily-Bella had applied my makeup with some fairy beautification spell
she called a glamour.
She abracadabraed my hair in an intricate design composed of braids and loose pieces, with tiny pearls
stuck on the ends of pins and thin iridescent ribbon scattered throughout. It sounds ridiculous, but it is
actually lovely and romantic. I ended up wrapping a scarf around my neck for safety purposes. Shelly
thought it ruined the outfit, but I'd rather be unfashionable than dead. I have to admit that when I
looked in the cabin's mirror when it was all done, I looked amazing, maybe even sexy!
There is a breeze, and my bare legs and arms are covered with goose bumps. I am unprepared for the
cold. I dig my bare feet into the sand, which has retained some of the warmth from earlier in the day. I
cannot sit in this dress, and my heart is really pounding as I wait for Pierce. He'll probably hear it a mile
away. I try some deep breathing to calm myself, but it doesn't do any good.
It feels like kind of a long time has passed. Where is he? I look up at the redwood he told me he had
climbed this morning. "Pierce?" I call. There is no answer. I decide to go poking around the scrubby
brush nearby to see if he's hiding. I don't think he would do that, but I can't stand around waiting like
an idiot. I see something poking out from under one of the bushes. It's my backpack. I must've left it
here when I got distracted by Pierce and his sculpted chest and his bloody leg.
I'm getting this horrible pang in the pit of my stomach that something has gone wrong. It has to be
almost 7, and there is no sign of Pierce. Is this his idea of a joke? I throw the backpack over my
shoulder and run along the beach to the other side of the cove where the dock is located.
When I get there I see the yacht floating in the middle of the bay, lit with thousands of fairy lights like a
some remote galaxy. Music wafts toward the shore, muted by distance. Shelly's laugh cuts through the
night like a knife.
Why didn't Pierce show up? Is he on the boat laughing at me? Or, and this is the more likely scenario,
did Shelly mastermind this whole thing to keep me away from the party? As if a half a mile of water
could stop me! I strip off the dress, stuff it in the waterproof backpack, strap it to my back and dive
into the water.
Once I recover from the shock of the freezing water, I relax a bit, close my eyes, and make a little
telepathic sigh as the individual cells in my tail draw in the saltwater like a sponge. I feel so free! It's
like being back home in Pacifica, swimming with Carla beyond the reef.
Oh, Carla! I swallow the lump that forms in my throat. Neptune's Beard, I miss her so much. Now I
have to live on land and sleep in a log cabin with Shelly Sharkweather, piles of pink fabric, and gallons
of perfume. On the upside, the stench will probably ward off wild animal attacks.
I dive to the bottom of the bay and swim through a thick meadow of eelgrass. The soft long green
ribbon-like leaves sweep against my body, awakening every nerve ending. For some weird reason, I
think about Pierce.
Pierce! Holy crab! I'm down here acting like a fingerling who's never left the lagoon when I have to
get to that yacht before Shelly mauls Pierce, or Pierce munches Shelly, or some combination of the two
A horrible image of Pierce and Shelly making out in some gaudy gold-trimmed, mirrored yacht
bedroom flashes through my mind and makes me queasy. The vision is so vivid, it includes: a zebra-skin
rug (totally gross by the way), a scarlet bedspread and a lavender-scented bubbling Jacuzzi. If you
remember, I'm only one-eighth fairy, but sometimes my visions come true. Okay, maybe a vision came
true only one time, but that doesn't mean it can't happen again.
I tighten the straps on my backpack and blast into turboswim. I'm going so fast, that even with my
enhanced mermaid eyesight, I barely notice the oily shimmer floating in the eelgrass. But as the
shimmer intensifies, I feel a prickling sensation on my skin, sort of like a mild jellyfish sting. I decelerate
enough to notice that there is no marine life nearby. The eelgrass is thinning and brown, the kelp is
slimy and decomposing.
I like to think I'm the kind of mermaid who can appreciate all types of ocean decor, I mean, not every
square inch can be a coral reef, but this place is totally unpleasant. It is unlike anything I've ever seen.
I turn around, and I'm about to shove off when a telepathic shriek explodes in my brain.
"Aaargh," I reply. Neptune's Beard the screech is loud. It sounds like someone's in trouble. Will I ever
get to the party? I look around for anyone else who might help, but nope. It's up to me. Great!
"Where are you?" I telepathically holler.
I get no answer other than more of the high-pitched, brain-scrambling noise. I clench my teeth and
continue looking for the source. The screaming gets shriller, the oil gets oozier, and the burning
sensation on my skin becomes almost unbearable.
The scream intensifies. I see an enormous limestone rock jutting from the floor of the bay.
"Can you please stop screeching, and tell me where you are?"
The noise coalesces into words: "Stay away from the cave. Save yourself!"
"Go away before it's too late."
"I could get out of here a lot faster if you'd shut up and tell me where you are." I know I'm not
sounding all heroic and patient, but at a time like this, you really need the victim to at least try to help
with the rescue, plus my skin feels like I'm being boiled in a hydrothermal vent.
I flit around the limestone wall and see an eerie light emanating from a fissure in the rock. I peer inside
The water inside the cave is a pulsing kaleidoscope of indigo, yellow, pink, chartreuse, orange and teal.
It is beautiful, but scary at the same time—like a jellyfish or a sea anemone or a stingray.
"You should go away, please," begs the voice.
This has to be the place. I strip off the backpack and try to squeeze through the fissure, scraping myself
on the barnacles growing along the surface of the opening. Now I'm bleeding. Terrific. The sharks
won't be far off. I finally make it through, and now that I am bleeding, the burning sensation
heightens to the point where it feels like I'm swimming in acid.
The swirling colors inside the cavern, which is about the size of my cabin, are intense and disorienting.
I can't breathe. It's like oxygen cannot exist in this place.
"Where are you?" I am not panicking. I am not panicking.
"In the cave!"
"I know that already." Okay, I'm a little bit panicking.
I catch a glimpse of a coral seahorse thrashing as if he's been struck by lightning. His tail is pinned
under a boulder that must have dislodged and trapped him. I lunge toward him. I lift the boulder and
throw it to the side. I try to grab the seahorse so we can get the hell out of here, but he keeps wiggling
out of my grasp.
"Can you settle down?"
"Nope," he thinks at me.
I finally manage to scoop him into my hand and cover him with my other hand. I jet outside the cave,
scraping myself again. I don't slow down until I'm beyond the eelgrass, in clean oxygen-rich water. The
burning on my tail subsides and the seahorse stops struggling and relaxes his cries into a tiny whimper.
I stop next to a healthy kelp bed to examine the damage to the seahorse and to me. He seems fine,
but I'm bleeding all over, and my hair is a disaster. Right then, a gang of Great Whites charges.
"Come on guys, not again." I really don't have time for this. These are the dumbest sharks ever. "Don't
you remember? It was only this morning, for Neptune's sake."
They look stupidly at one another, and I can see it finally registering that I'm the one who flung them
halfway to San Diego. They glance kind of longingly at the seahorse. "No way. You can't have him
either. You have no idea what I've gone through to save him. Shoo!"
They turn around and swim off, allowing me to bleed in peace.
"Thank you," says the seahorse.
"You're welcome," I say. "Sorry about yelling at you before."
"I deserved it. Why did you come after me when I warned you to stay away?" He's floating above my
palm, looking a little stronger, but he's trying to look over my shoulders. I turn my head to see what so
interesting, but all I can see is kelp and more kelp.
"It sounded like you were hurt."
He looks at me with sad tiny black eyes. "Not many creatures would have come into that cave to save a
"Stop looking around. The sharks aren't coming back." I hope.
"I'm not worried about sharks."
"Then what is it?"
"Nothing," he says, looking defensive.
"Right. Can you tell me why you ended up in that cave?"
"It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"The burning water wasn't a tip off that maybe you were wrong?"
"Better to die in that cave than have Olga find me." He winces.
"My wife." He looks super anxious now.
"You were hiding from your wife?"
He stops acting like a wanted criminal and looks at me intently. "She wants more fry! I still haven't
gotten my body back from the last brood. Females just don't understand what it's like to be pregnant.
The distended abdomen! The weird cravings! The white pasty skin! If females had to carry the young,
there would be a lot fewer seahorses. I can tell you that."
"Maybe, um, tell her how you feel. I'm sure she'll understand." I can't believe I'm down here
dispensing marital advice to a seahorse. I've got my own problems.
"No she won't. She's been acting crazy lately. A lot of folks down here aren't acting right. The sharks
are even stupider than normal, as you just saw. Some of the jellyfish have started getting tangled in
their own tentacles."
"What's wrong with the water?" I don't have time for this, but if something is wrong with the water, it
could affect my whole family.
"How long has it been like this?"
"I'm a seahorse," he says. "No sense of time. Look, I gotta go find a new hiding place. If you swim
across Olga, remember, you never saw me. And I guess I owe you for saving my life."
"It's okay, you don't owe me anything."
"If I live long enough, I promise to repay you. You're the nicest merperson I've ever met. What's your
"Thank you, Waverly." He bows. "I'm Beau, but if you see Olga, you never heard that name."
"Good luck." I wave goodbye. I'm pretty tired now, but nothing is going to stop me from getting to
that party! I know I need to talk to my dad about what's going on in that cave, but it can wait a few
more hours. I launch into turboswim.
The music is getting louder, and the yacht is slapping against the waves. I'm bobbing next to the stern
trying to figure out how to get aboard, when I realize I have bigger problems than scaling a giant
yacht. I left my backpack with my dress next to that awful cave. There's no way I'm going back there,
but I can't confront Shelly Sharkweather in front of the whole school naked. Plus, I'm bleeding, which
is a very, very bad idea when you're going to a party with a sexy vampire, who may or may not have
stood you up. Wait, did I just use the word sexy to describe Pierce?
"I think you did," comes the sexy, I mean, not sexy, voice from somewhere on deck.
I am trying to concentrate on anything other than Pierce to keep him from invading my thoughts. I
notice a soprano singing a cappella in a language I don't understand. I hear the clinking of silverware
and glasses, laughter and a foghorn off in the distance. Occasionally there are bursts of fairy magic
and flashes of lightning. The fairy lights on the yacht are changing from red to violet, across the visual
spectrum, so slowly it's barely noticeable.
"Too late, Waverly," Pierce says. "I already know that you think I'm sexy."
"I was thinking you are snoopy, not sexy. Your blood-enhanced mind-reading must be wearing off."
"No, it lasts a good twenty-four hours," he chuckles. "And your mind is one of the most interesting
places I've ever seen. A shining garden of contradiction."
Ugh, vampire poetry! "Voyeur!"
"I don't think you're in a position to criticize me when I'm your only hope of getting onto this boat,
Waverly. Say something nice, and I might help you."
I want to throw him back to the sharks.
"I heard that."
"Stop getting into my brain, you ... you ..."
"You kind, helpful, intelligent, vampire."
"And sexy," he says. "Don't forget. Say it. Out loud."
I am gritting my teeth so hard, I may have to survive on a liquid diet from now on. "Sexy. Okay,
"Not yet," he says, and I don't think he's referring to our conversation either. Why does this make me
feel so happy?
He chuckles again.
"For the last time, stop listening to my thoughts. It's rude!"
"I can't help it, Waverly. You are endlessly entertaining."
"How did you even know I was here?"
He laughs. "Smelled you."
"What, I smell bad?"
"Bad? No, Waverly. You smell delicious."
Uh, right, the blood. How could I forget? "Don't get any ideas," I say.
"Too late for that. Are you badly hurt?"
"Just some scrapes. I'll be fine," I say. "I mean as long as you don't drain my circulatory system."
"I'm wounded, Waverly," he says. He looks over his shoulder toward the front of the boat. "Wait,
quiet. Someone is coming."
I hear the clicking of platform heels on the deck. Eels Meals! It's Shelly. I can smell the collection of
perfume she tried on in the room. I lower myself until only my head is above the water.
"Who were you talking to," says Shelly.
"The night," says Pierce, sounding all poet-like.
"I sometimes talk to the universe," says Shelly. "It's totally profound. Like sometimes I ask for stuff, then
I get it. You have to totally want whatever it is really badly, or you won't get it, though."
"I'm glad you have such a strong grasp of the concept."
"Thanks," she says, sounding breathy and frankly desperate. I can see her stroking Pierce's hand, which
is resting on the rail. "I do grasp it." She stops stroking and rests her hand on top of his. "I'm sorry
Waverly didn't come."
She doesn't sound at all sorry. I imagine pulling her hair out strand by strand. He pulls his hand free.
"Oh, I have a feeling she might show up, " Pierce says.
"I wouldn't be so sure," Shelly says, sidling closer. She's pressing herself against his chest, moving her
hair to the side-totally offering her neck! Gross! My hair is sparking. It does this when I am really, really
emotional. Let me tell you that nothing good ever comes from my hair turning on me. My mom says it
has something to do with my latent fairy genetics.
Luckily, Shelly is so busy with Pierce, she doesn't notice the reflection of sparks in the water. Pierce
peels Shelly's hands off of him and backs away. Gotta say, this vampire does seem to have appetite
"I think Cupid is looking for you and wants to dance with you. You should go," Pierce says. "You
should never jilt a god."
"But I want to talk to you," Shelly says. I can hear her pouting.
"You remember the last girl who angered Cupid?"
"What was her name?" Shelly says, totally not getting Pierce's subtlety.
"Give me a minute on my own," Pierce says; he sounds pretty exasperated.
"Okay, but I'll be back," she says, in a husky voice. Click, click, click and she's gone. My hair calms
"It's safe now," Pierce says. I'm going to fly down and lift you aboard."
"Don't think so."
"Are you saying you swam halfway across the bay to masquerade as a mermaid figurehead? Because if
you are, you are at the wrong end of the boat. Figureheads are at the bow."
"I'm not stupid," I say. "It's just that I am wardrobe-challenged right now."
"You mean naked."
"I don't see the problem."
I am glaring at him in my mind, and summoning up images of him being eaten by sharks and carried
off to sea in a jellyfish-infested riptide.
"I see," he says. And suddenly, he's gone. Great! Maybe I took that vampire eradication fantasy a little
too far. Now what am I going to do?
Only moments later, a portable ladder drops over the side and splashes into the water scaring the kelp
out of me. Vampires are ridiculously quiet. Must remember this. "Uh, Pierce?"
"Yes, Waverly." I practically melt every time he says my name. Holy crab. Why did I have to think that?
But thankfully, he doesn't say anything.
"Well, um, there's still the problem of my, um, lack of clothing."
"Got you covered," he says.
"Really? Now you're making puns?"
He dangles the end of a white beach towel over the side.
When I finally make it up the ladder (which requires a lot of agility and upper body strength as I
transition from tail to leg form), Pierce is holding the fluffy towel behind his back, shielding me from
view. I grab the towel and wrap myself inside. It's even warm!
As soon as I finish tucking the end of the towel so it stays in place, he turns and hugs me. "I was so
worried about you. And you are hurt." I am melting into him. I'm not even concerned that his mouth is
inches from my neck.
"I'm fine," I say. "But you never came to meet me the beach."
He pulls away, his dark blue eyes boring into mine. "You sent me a note saying that you didn't want
me to," he says.
"I did not. I was waiting for you. That's why I'm late."
"Shelly!" We both snarl at the same time.
"Wait until I find her," Pierce's fangs slide down.
"Put your fangs away," I say. There is no way I'm letting him get close enough to Shelly to bite her. "I'll
take care of her. She is my bunkmate and a menace to mermaidhood!"
"But of course, my lady," Pierce bows, his fangs retract. "She is your quarry." He really does seem like a
gallant knight sometimes.
"Thanks," I say.
"Waverly ..." he whispers my name and enfolds me into his arms.
I can't believe how much I want him to kiss me, and I'm almost positive he won't bite my neck.
I stand on tiptoe and tilt my face toward his. He caresses my chin in his hands, stroking my cheeks with
his thumbs. The world swirls around us. The stars blend together and form new suns. The bay empties
of water the way it would before a tsunami. Our lips are separated by a breath. We are so close. I close
Abruptly, Pierce lets go of my face. My eyes fly open. What? He doesn't want me? I could die right
now; I am so mortified.
One second he's next to me, the next he's five feet away, pacing in circles and running his hand
through his already tousled brown hair. "Waverly ..."
"Don't ..." I can't keep the hurt out of my voice. I do not want to know why he is rejecting me. I
tighten the towel around my body.
Pierce stops walking. "Look at me," he says.
"No, I gotta go. Thanks for your, uh, help."
"Waverly, it's not that I don't want ... "
He's biting his lip, which really shows off his dimples. I can tell he wants to tell me something but for
some reason he can't. Well. I. Hate. Secrets! I have no idea what my next move is, but I have to get
away from Pierce. I'll find a stateroom, see if I can dig up some clothes, let Shelly know she's welcome
to Pierce and then go somewhere to sleep off my humiliation.
Before my mind can even register his movement, Pierce is pulling me toward his body, crushing me to
him. He pins me with his gaze (some vamp trick probably 'cause I have no control over my legs), and I
can see the reflection of my hair (sparking again!) in his irises. I'm holding my breath. I'm so trapped. I
want to get away from him and his rejection, but I also want him to want me, so I can be the one to
reject him. It looks as if his eyes are on fire. Then he closes them and presses his cool lips to mine.
Although my brain wishes he'd release his freaky vampire hold on me so I can jump into the water, my
body has other ideas. My heart is pounding; the blood in my veins is burning. Before I know it, I'm
kissing him back. We are kissing each other, and I am lost at sea.
Somewhere at the edge of my consciousness, the band is playing loud music. It sounds like waves
crashing over rocks and mammoth glaciers sheering into the ocean. And then it dawns on me that
those sounds are really coming from inside my own body. The kiss lasts an eternity, and ends in an
"Waverly," Pierce says, our lips close. We are still tangled in each other's arms.
I pull back and look into his eyes. "Pierce, that was, uh ..."
He presses little kisses from my temple to the corner of my mouth; my bare toes curl against the wet
teak deck. "I know."
"Are you reading my mind again?"
"Crashing waves and mammoth glaciers, huh?" He grins, dimples on full display.
"I can't wait until tomorrow morning when you'll be out of my head."
"Only if I don't have any more of your blood."
"Not happening, vampire. No way."
He licks my shoulder where I scraped it swimming into the cave. Gross!
"Mmmmm," he says.
His eyes look a little dilated. Double gross. Maybe mermaid blood is like a vampire drug.
"Why in Neptune's name did you do that? Does it start the 24-hour thing all over again? Because if it
does, I'm hiding in the water 'til tomorrow night."
"No, Waverly. You're safe. It has to be fresh blood."
"Urgh!" Why did I have to ask?
"Let's stop worrying about me reading your confused brainwaves and get you warmed up. There's a
stateroom on the bottom level with a bathroom, and we can get there through that door, so we
shouldn't run into anyone."
"I'm surprised no one has come back here this whole time."
He smiles and shrugs his shoulder. "It's a vampire thing."
"Wait a minute. How exactly do you know there's a stateroom?" Yeah, I'm thinking about my vision of
Shelly and Pierce and the zebra-skin rug.
"You're funny, Waverly! I found it when I was looking for the towel."
He holds my hand and leads me to a wood-framed glass door. My heart is positively beating through
my chest as I contemplate going to the stateroom alone with Pierce, which I know is probably a very
stupid thing to do.
Instead of worrying, I focus on the extraordinary feel of his cool hand in mine. We close the door, and
the noise of the party subsides. There is a narrow spiral staircase lit from above by a chandelier. The
dappled crystal light illuminates intricate carvings on the bannister, depicting every species of shark.
"This room has a bathroom," Pierce says. He opens the door, and I gasp. Not only is the room
enormous, it is outfitted with a zebra-skin rug, a scarlet bedspread, and a Jacuzzi (empty though).
There is a fish tank recessed into the walls that wraps around the room, and it is filled with sharks.
There's a huge desk on the left side of the room that looks like it's made out of some kind of
endangered wood. A sleek computer rests in the middle surrounded by a host of gold-framed
photographs-some are on land, others under the ocean. The shots are of Brack Sharkweather, Shelly,
and a beautiful mermaid I have never seen, but she looks like Shelly. In all the years I've known her, it's
just been Shelly and her dad. I never thought about her even having a mother. I don't like the way this
makes me the tiniest bit sorry for her. My mother may be supremely annoying, but I know she loves
me. Yeah, I'm admitting it, even if she did send me to a vampire school, I know she'd lay down her life
"Bathroom's through there," He points to a door.
I shower and feel like a new mermaid. (In case you're wondering, mermaids have to be submerged to
grow tails so showers are fine.) The cuts are almost healed. Merfolk are fast healers. Now, there is the
problem of clothes. I don't want to confront Shelly wearing a towel. It doesn't give the right message
of vengeful authority that I'm going for.
I come out of the steamy bathroom wrapped in a fresh towel. Pierce is lying across the bed in a white
shirt and jeans. He looks so hot in that shirt, I plan to sneak into the boy's bedroom and burn those
awful plaid shirts in a big bonfire along with the F.G. Training Manual. He's reading a magazine called
The Robb Report - Exotic Pleasures. Pierce sits abruptly, and the magazine drops to the floor scattering
some papers that were inside.
I carefully hold onto the towel, lean over, pick up the magazine and set it on the bed while Pierce
watches. "You could help," I say.
"I could," he agrees.
"I was rather enjoying the show, but if you insist." He grins.
"Don't you shine those dimples at me, Pierce Knightguard! I am immune."
Now he's laughing, but he gathers the papers into a stack.
"Let me see those," I say, holding out my hand. I read the title on page one. The first line reads:
"Employment Agreement Between Brack Sharkweather (employee) and Deep Oceans Technology Inc.,
a Subsidiary of Megacorp, Inc. (employer). Huh? "Mr. Sharkweather works for Megacorp?" I don't
know anything about human money, but the salary is the number one followed by a lot of zeros.
"Nothing, it's just kind of weird."
"Merfolk don't usually work for human corporations. It's probably nothing," I say. But it really bothers
me for some reason. I stuff the papers back inside the magazine. "Where did you find this?"
Pierce takes the magazine from me and puts it on the side table. Then he hands me a pile of clothes. "I
found these in the other bedroom. They must be Shelly's."
They consist of: a white ruffled crop top, what looks like a pink bandeau, but I suspect is Shelly's idea
of a skirt, and some fluffy gray shark bedroom slippers.
I give him my most serious glare, and he laughs. "Beggars and choosers," he says.
"That is it? You checked everywhere?"
"You're welcome, Waverly."
"I'm sorry, Pierce. I don't mean to be ungrateful."
"Are you kidding? If I had to wear that I'd jump overboard. Come on. Get dressed, and let's go on a
"I can't face the entire student body like this," I say as I come out of the bathroom once again. "I wish I
had something intimidating to wear."
My hair is loose and damp, but my makeup has made it through my adventure because it was a fairy
glamour. Still, I know I look like an idiot.
Pierce doesn't speak. He just stares at me with this hooded look.
"Why aren't you laughing?" I say, tugging the bottom of the fabric scrap posing as a skirt.
"You are Amphitrite, the queen of the sea."
He stands, pulls me into his arms and lowers his face to mine. Oh, wow! I get another one of those
mind-bending kisses? Yes! This time it's even more intense and a little dangerous. It's like he is fighting
to control something, but close to losing the battle. I know I should be scared, but I'm not. There is no
way I can stop, so I surrender instead. My hair is sparking; my body is tingling. Electricity whirls around
our bodies, wrapping us in a cocoon of pure energy.
I'm getting dizzy, and at the edge of my awareness, I realize I haven't taken a breath in a long time.
Breathing can be so overrated. But before I suffocate, Pierce ends the kiss. Mind reader!
"I'd like to keep you around a little longer," he says, laughing.
I gently slug his shoulder in mock annoyance.
"Ouch! You mermaids pack quite a punch."
"Only a little longer?"
He hugs me and plants a tiny kiss behind my ear that nearly undoes me. "A lot longer, Waverly."
Pierce looks toward the door. "What is it?" I say.
Vampire hearing. Right.
"You can come in Pickles," Pierce says.
The door opens and Pickles comes in looking pretty guilty. "How long were you standing there?" I say.
She closes the door behind her.
"Since you made your wish." Pickles looks so beautiful and happy in her pink gown and gleaming tiara
that I don't want to let on how disappointed I am that she interrupted, well, whatever that was that
was happening with Pierce.
"Wait, what? Since I made what wish?" Why don't I like the sound of this?
"I can see why you wished. Wow! Where did you dig up those clothes? But I do kinda like the slippers."
"Figures," says Pickles, pulling her wand out of thin air. "So, what would you like this time? We can go
with the classic mermaid style like you had on earlier, or something more Cinderella? We have to
practice making dresses out of rags and golden coaches out of pumpkins for days, in F.G. Level Ten. So
I'm pretty good at it, but it's a little cliché. So much chiffon and the pumpkins begin to smell after
midnight. Glass slippers. Ugh! They are so medievally uncomfortable."
"Pickles, you're rambling."
"Sorry. So what'll it be?"
"Pickles, is there something you want to tell me?" I say.
"No, not really." She won't look me in the eye. I glare her down. "Well, I was going to tell you later."
"Tell me what?"
"I've been assigned."
"Assigned?" Neptune's Beard, it's like pulling out a swordfish's bill.
"Yeah! Great news! I just found out I'm your fairy godmother," she says.
"What?" I'm trying to keep the shock off of my face. I do my best to smile.
"Isn't it great?" she chirps.
This is not what I want for Pickles, but now is not the time to let her know. She is just so thrilled.
Instead I give her a hug, careful not to break her delicate fairy frame. "I'm happy too," I say.
Pierce wisely says nothing.
Two minutes later, I'm climbing the spiral staircase in the most amazing dress you can imagine. When
you first see it, it looks like a simple short, off the shoulder cocktail dress. But if you look closely, you
can see the fabric is woven from fragments of the ocean-mother of pearl, shells, coral, ribbons of
delicate seaweed-all set in a blue fabric that undulates as I move, as if it is made from ripples across the
ocean. My hair is dry and loose around my shoulders. Pierce is in front of me, holding my hand as we
I look over my shoulder at Pickles. "Thank you again for this dress, Pickles. "You are an artist."
She's beaming at me. "Thanks, Wave," she says. "I'm glad you're pleased. Do you have any other
wishes right now?"
"Only that you enjoy the party."
"As you wish," she says
We open the door, and the first thing I hear is Shelly's voice. "Pierce? Pierce? I'm coming to find you. I
love to play hide and seek!"
Even though the music is loud, Shelly's high-pitched voice cuts right through. Someone is singing:
"Every breath you take ... every step you take ... I'll be watching you"--probably in Shelly's honor.
"There you are, Pierce. I knew I'd find you! What were you doing below? Waiting for me? Did you find
the Jacuzzi in my dad's room?" Shelly titters. "Before we do that, you owe me a dance." She grabs
Pierce's arm and tries to pull him up the last few steps.
"Shelly ..." Pierce says firmly as he peels her fingers off of his arm one at a time. She's wearing a
strapless sheer black gown that sure wasn't in the cabin back at school. It has a slit up one leg that
goes practically to her waist and she is tottering in six-inch heels.
Pierce steps out of the narrow doorway. I am right behind him, and we're still holding hands.
When Shelly sees my head pop up behind Pierce, her eyes turn into big round O's of horror. When she
sees we're holding hands, her jaw drops like a viperfish. It's not her most attractive look.
"Waverly?" She finally is able to spit out my name.
Pierce squeezes past Shelly and leads me and Pickles on to the deck. He squeezes my hand, and Pickles
comes up on my other side clutching her wand and looking like a fairy badass. Well, as badass as a
person can look in pink tulle.
I could've sworn we came up the same steps we took down from the back deck, but we are now in
the front, right in the heart of the party. There is so much going on, I can't even take it all in. It's like
being at the boardwalk with Carla, except instead of bumper cars and roller coasters, there are fairies
dive-bombing their classmates and gods retaliating with sharp, silvery flashes of lightning. It even
smells like the boardwalk-like corn dogs and cotton candy and coconut oil. My stomach growls. I
realize I haven't eaten since lunch. Wait, what am I doing? Focus! Shelly first, corn dog with loads of
"You look ..." Shelly begins, but somehow can't find the words. I catch glimpses of her thoughts (I
know it's rude, but we're talking about Shelly here), and let me tell you, she is not happy about my
new outfit. "You look ..."
"She looks damned amazing," says Cupid, sauntering over, sipping something out of a coconut shell.
Instead of the toga, he's wearing Hawaiian print Bermuda shorts and an orange polo shirt with a little
"bow and arrow" emblem where there is usually an alligator. He is also wearing green rubber boots
and a bow tie. I'm flattered by his assessment of my look. I really am, but the compliment needs to be
put into perspective. I don't think Cupid is the world's greatest fashion authority.
Shelly glares at Cupid, then regains her composure, and puts on her fake smile. "Yeah, I guess it's
better than that mustard-stained debate team sweatshirt she had on earlier. Not like my dress. My dad
got it for me as a surprise from Paris. It's one-of-a-kind couture!" She boasts haughtily, but Cupid rolls
"I don't care how much it costs; Waverly still looks stunning and far better than you."
"Go to Hades," Shelly says.
"I would, but last time I saw him, he told me something like 'never again enter my domain or I'll spear
you to a rock with your own arrow for all eternity.'"
"I meant ..." Shelly begins.
"Look, Cupid, I really need to talk to Shelly. I'm glad you like the dress. Pickles, er, made, zapped,
enchanted, well, it's from Pickles," I say. "She's amazing."
"Thanks, Wave," she says.
"You're welcome Pickles, but, as I was saying, Cupid, Shelly and I have some THINGS to discuss."
"I need to go check on something," Shelly says, looking uncomfortable and backing away.
My hair starts sparking orange. Shelly obviously has never heard the rumors about my little hair
problem, because she looks as if she's about to get fire-roasted by a mermaid-eating dragon.
"Don't move! You're not going anywhere!" I must have yelled this because suddenly, the music stops,
the fairies stop, the lightning stops and everyone crowds together to see what the uproar is about.
Shelly is hemmed in by a wall of supernatural beings-vampires and fairies, werewolves and minor
She turns and faces me. "Yes, Waverly? What's your problem?"
"Oh, come on, Shelly. You know what my problem is. My problem is that you connived to keep me
away from this party so you could have Pierce to yourself. There are plenty of other guys at this school.
You only want Pierce because I want him. But back off Shelly; Pierce is mine." My hair is sparking so
much now, that I may actually set the boat on fire.
"You don't even like vampires," Shelly spits back at me. "You think they're vile." She tries to back up a
couple more steps.
"I never said that!"
"You thought it!"
"It's bad enough that you read a private note from Pierce to me asking me to meet him and come to
the party together, and then forged a reply telling him I wasn't interested. But the real crime is your
audacity in thinking no one would figure out your idiotic plan!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Shelly says, looking over her shoulder, probably for backup.
No one moves, but they are all listening. "I didn't forge anything."
"Then what's this?" Pierce pulls the note out of his jean pocket and holds it up. His fangs drop and,
even though he's standing there vampire still, his muscles tense, and I know that in one heartbeat
Shelly could be ... um ... on the menu?
"I got this," I whisper to him.
While he's looking at me, Shelly grabs the note and sprints for the railing. She's ripping the paper into
tiny pieces as she goes. She's still moving as she pulls back her arm to toss the evidence into the bay,
when one of her 6" heels snags on the deck boards, and she looses her balance. She trips gracelessly
and steps on her one-of-a-kind couture dress from daddy. There's a violent sound of ripping fabric,
and bottom half of her dress tears off, exposing her totally inappropriate leopard-print thong with the
words "Lucky Me" in pink letters on the front. She cannot stop her momentum before she stumbles
into the rail, flips over and falls over the side of the yacht. She's screaming the whole way down and
hits the water with a gigantic splash. Everyone rushes to the rail. Moments later, Shelly surfaces,
looking totally bedraggled. She's covered in seaweed, and spitting more of it out of her mouth.
"Hey, what happened to the party? Let's boogie," says Cupid.
The band starts up again. They're doing some amazing rap song about the moon. Everyone starts
dancing. I can barely hear Shelly yelling from the water. I think she's saying something about a ladder.
I'm not sure though, so I decide not to worry about it, and apparently no one else is either.
"You told Shelly that I'm yours?" Pierce is grinning at me.
"Don't get any ideas, vampire. I was just making a point."
"The name's Pierce, mermaid. And I believe it's time for a dance." He kisses my hand all gallant-like
and leads me toward the dance floor.
"I'm kind of hungry," I say.
"Oh, okay," I say, smiling.
Pierce wraps one arm around my waist and holds my hand in the other. I am pressed into his chest. He
smells clean and dazzling, like the air over the Pacific after an electric storm. The music changes to
something slow and beautiful that I've never heard before. It envelops us in a world of our own. It's
just me and Pierce, and his hand on my waist and my arm feeling the muscles on his back. We dance,
and there is nothing solid beneath my feet.
When the music stops, Pierce gets me a corndog totally drowning in mustard. It's too early to be
totally in love, right? We stroll to the back of the boat where it's quiet. I'm eating my corndog; he's
sipping some glass of red fluid. Believe me! I'm not going to ask. We're leaning against the rail, the
breeze on our faces. We're listening to the night; watching the stars and the reflection of the moon,
distorted by the rippling water. A bat ray breaks through the surface, and swims away from the ship.
"What's that?" Pierce says.
"What's what?" I say.
"That glow over the water." He points to a spot in the far distance.
"I don't see anything," I say. Vampire vision!
He steps behind me, and pulls me against his cool chest. He repositions me and points again. I can
barely see it, but quite a ways off there is a weird glow over the surface of the water. It's indigo,
yellow, pink, chartreuse, orange and teal, exactly like the colors in that toxic cave, where I saved Beau.
First Quarter Schedule:
1. Life Drawing - Professor Glorious Goddess Gaia (Should be fun)
2. Interspecies Bio, Blood and Reproduction - Headmaster Crumpet (Can I die now?)
4. Lunar Psychology - Professor Skender Woolfson (Werewolves and the moon! Fascinating!)
5. Math is Cool! - Professor Gil Fishwater (Does he really think anyone is buying this course name?)
And on full moons:
6. Enchanted Dance - Fairy Princess Iridessa (Pickles says we're not allowed to stop until our feet
Today is our first Life Drawing class at West Marin High. At least we get to have class outside on the
beach! The sun is fat and yellow today. We are in a semi-circle facing the water, each of us in a chair
with an easel and oil pastels.
Mermaids are not known for their drawing and painting skills. Graphite and watercolors and such
don't work that well in an ocean setting.
Pierce is next to me-his paper half-covered in confident strokes, his fingers stained with color. Pickles is
on my other side. She has zapped all her pastels so they sparkle, and now the colors won't stick to the
paper. They lift off and rearrange themselves into spiral galaxies. Meaning, her drawing looks nothing
like our volunteer model-Cupid.
The god of love is lying on his side across a boulder, important "parts" swathed in nothing but
seaweed. The only other thing he's wearing is his bow tie, which he refuses to remove. He thinks it
makes him look 'fetching.'
He and the teacher Gloria (short for The Glorious Goddess Gaia-the one who wears mud and leaves)
got into a big argument when we first started about motifs and artistic integrity and freedom of
expression, and after a while my eyes glazed over because I had absolutely no idea what they were
All I know is that I wouldn't want to piss off this goddess. But Cupid doesn't care at all. He keeps
smirking at her. I think he might get detention.
I'm still working on Cupid's torso. I'm trying to get his pectoral muscle just right, because it is perfectly
defined and gorgeous and deserves a decent rendering. It's good to be able to think this without
worrying that Pierce can hear my thoughts. Thank Neptune that nightmare is over. He is never, ever,
ever, tasting my blood again.
Pierce looks at my work and frowns.
"Why are you making that face?" I say.
"Give me a break, Knightgard. This is my first try."
Gloria walks behind us and leans over to get a better look at my work. A plop of mud lands on my
thigh. (I'm wearing my first pair of shorts courtesy of Pickles!) I try to wipe it off surreptitiously, but
only end up making it worse as my fingers are coated with flesh-toned pastels.
"Very nice, Miss Fishwater," she says.
"Thanks," I say. I'm practically beaming now. Maybe this whole vampire school thing will work out!
After the party last night on the yacht when everyone was so nice to me, and Gloria's encouragement,
I'm starting to think maybe the school year won't be an exercise in humiliation.
"Miss McPhee?" Gloria is frowning at Pickles.
"Yes?" Pickles says.
"Please control your artwork. We cannot have the oils running amok. Remember, this is your creation,
and your materials must bend to your will!"
"Thank you, Miss Gloria," Pickles says. "I'll try."
Suddenly, Gloria takes off running to the other side of the semi-circle. Fintan has set his paper on fire
for the third time. Little flecks of ash rain down on us. I wipe them from my paper and end up
smudging Cupid's belly button.
"Poor Fintan," Pickles says. "He doesn't mean to set stuff on fire."
"How do you know, Pickles?" I say.
"He told me last night. At the party. I'm going over to talk to him," she says getting up and leaving
before I can grill her (I mean inquire politely) about what happened at the party with Fintan.
I turn back to my own creation. I'm chewing on my lip intensely while concentrating on the belly
I can feel Pierce's gaze against my neck. I raise the collar of the flannel shirt I stole from his room last
night before I went to bed. I only took it because it smelled like him, and he really should be more
vigilant about his stuff. Out of the corner of my eye, I can tell he's totally scowling at me like he's just
had a big goblet of curdled blood.
I ignore Pierce, pick up the yellow pastel and take another look at Cupid's chest to make sure I get the
highlight of the sun glimmering on his perfectly tanned god skin just right. Cupid winks at me. I smile
back, just because I know it'll make Pierce mad, and also, Cupid's mischievousness is hard to resist.
I look at his picture and notice Pierce has drawn devil horns on Cupid's head. I can't help smiling. I've
never had anyone jealous over me before, and it makes me so happy!
"What happened to Shelly?" Pickles asks, sitting back down. She rummages through her lunch basket
and pulls out an apple. She's totally given up containing her artwork. It is drawing itself now. Her
Cupid now looks a little like a golden-haired manatee.
"I heard she went to the infirmary last night. Chiron is treating her for 'acute aquatic overexposure.' It
makes no sense though."
"Why not?" Pickles takes a huge bite out of her apple.
"How does a mermaid get sick from the water? It's like a bird being allergic to air or a lion suffering in
Pickle's brushstrokes leave the canvas and dart through the air like tiny projectiles. Vang Cunningham,
one of the vampires from the cabin next to ours, leaps from his chair. "Hey! Cut it out!" With vampire
speed, he bats the colors away from his paper. Some of them land in the water, some on the sand, but
a couple splat on Cupid's bare chest.
"What in Hades, Vang?" Cupid rolls into the water, trying to wipe the oil pastels off of his chest. "I'll
never get that seaweed draping to match!"
"Miss McPhee!" Gloria is super exasperated.
"Stop already!" Pickles commands. The colors stop their shenanigans and zip back to her paper,
splatting down in utter chaos. Her artwork looks like a horror scene of smashed pumpkins, shattered
glass and broken dreams.
Pickles exhales really loud, like she's totally frustrated.
"Okay, class. Back to work now," says Gloria, clapping her hands. "Before the light changes. Cupid,
really!" She zaps a flesh-toned bathing suit on him as he climbs back on to his rock.
"Prude," Cupid says under his breath. As if whispering does any good with thirteen pairs of
supernatural ears nearby.
Cupid has regrouped on his rock with a similar seaweed draping, but the bow tie is now in his hair. He
smirks. "At least it's not around my neck," he says guilelessly.
"I can move it there for you," Pierce offers.
"Thanks, bro, but I think I'll keep you and my neck in separate realms."
I laugh, and Pierce gives me a dirty look. I smile at him then turn to Pickles. Her creation is so horrific, I
might actually throw up. "Pickles, honey. I know it's not your fault, but I wish you'd sort out your ...
uh ... drawing," I say.
"Yes, Waverly," she says giddily.
Why is she so happy?
Pickles throws the half-eaten apple back into the basket, grabs her wand, and waves it over the paper.
Now the drawing is so perfect, it's almost like a photograph of Cupid. It's even got the smears of
sparkly color on his chest that didn't come off in the water.
"Wow, Pickles! That's brilliant!"
"Thanks for wishing," Pickles says.
"Your wish gave me the power I needed to fix it."
Ugh! Pretty soon I'm going to have to break Pickles' heart and tell her she's not allowed to fairy
godmother me, but I can't do it yet; she just gets so elated every time she gets to do stuff for me. I'll
just have to remember not to wish for anything!
Turns out I had that thought a few seconds too soon, because at that moment, who should emerge
from the surf, but my own father. Don't get me wrong, I really love my father, but no teenager wants
her dad showing up in her class on her first day of school, like she's a fingerling. And definitely no
teenager wants her dad showing up at her class any time ever, naked! Urgh!
I let out a breath and relax a little when I see he is wearing a rain poncho that falls to his knees. At
least I don't have to bury myself in the sand.
"Gil," says Gloria. She's actually batting her eyelashes. For the first time I notice that you can see every
curve of Gloria's body beneath the thin layer of mud and speckling of leaves.
"Hello, Gloria," he says. "May I borrow Waverly for a moment?"
"Of course! She is an excellent artist. Very focused."
"Thank you, Gloria. Waverly?"
I really don't like the look on his face. My stomach is churning. "What happened?" I think ask him.
"Everyone is going to be okay," he thinks back at me. I follow him up the path toward the main
campus, the ferns swishing against my bare legs, leaves crunching beneath my flip-flops. "Just follow
Once we get out of supernatural hearing range he stops. We're on a bluff that juts over crashing
waves. The saltwater spray is cold against my sun-warmed skin.
"Waverly, your mother has had to go back to Pacifica."
"What? Why? When is she leaving?"
"She's already gone, Wave. She left a little while ago."
"No," I say. "She would never leave without saying goodbye to me." My eyes fill with tears. I wipe them
with the hem of the flannel shirt. Dad's solemn eyes tell me he's telling me the truth. I already miss
her. Even if she is always nagging me about picking up after myself in the cave or whether I'm eating
enough kelp, we are so connected; it's as if I've lost a part of myself. "What happened?"
"She hasn't been feeling well, Waverly. Her skin is itchy, and she feels a little disoriented. And then we
found out today that she is ... well ... I mean ..."
"What?" I feel terrible! My mom is sick, and all I'm thinking about is myself and what I need?
"We're going to have a merbaby!" He blurts. "You're going to have a new brother or sister!" Dad is
grinning like an idiot right now, and looking at me as if I should be high-fiving him like I did when my
team won the Pacific Regional Debate Team Championship.
"No! You can't. I mean it's been seventeen years. You guys are way too old." Gross!
His face softens into concern. "I didn't think you'd be quite so upset, Wave. You know you'll always be
dear to me and your mom." He hugs me, kisses my head then musses my hair.
"I'm not worried about that, dad. Sheesh. Why couldn't she stay here and have the baby?"
"As I said. She hasn't been feeling well. Dr. Chiron thought it would be best if she went home
immediately. I'm going to move into the professor's quarters."
"You're not living in the bay? You love the water."
He gives me the funniest expression, then looks at his feet, avoiding my eyes. This is when it hits me.
He knows something about what's going on in that cave. With all that's happened, I haven't had a
chance to talk to him yet about what I saw.
"Dad," I say. "There's something I forgot to tell you. It's about this weird underwater cave."
His head snaps up, and his rainbow eyes are full of horror.
"Dad, what's going on?" We're talking out loud since if someone walks by, it would look pretty weird
if we were just standing there gesturing. The rock we're standing on is super slippery from the
constant ocean spray. My clothes are getting soaked. Dad is in his waterproof poncho.
Dad grabs my shoulders, and looks down at me with the most serious expression I've ever seen on
him. "Waverly ..."
"You're kind of hurting me." He lessens his grip, marginally.
"Look at me, Waverly. You never saw anything in that cave."
"If you're trying to hypnotize me, it's not working. I totally remember the cave because it nearly burned
off my skin!"
"Waverly," he blows out a breath. "You need to keep out of this. I'm telling you it's for the best. Trust
"But, dad, if something is wrong with the water in the bay, we have to fix it. Fish are suffering, mom,
Shelly ..." Beau. Poor Beau!
Dad exhales in frustration. "Waverly, if you want to help me, your mom, the new merbaby, your
friends, you will never mention this to another living soul. No matter what happens to me or anyone
else. Do you understand?" Bringing up the merbaby is a low move on his part.
"How can I understand what you refuse to explain? And what do you mean that something might
happen to you?" He stares at me like he's drawing a picture of me in his mind-a photograph that no
one can ever take away from him. "Dad, you're scaring me. What is your involvement in all this?" An
enormous wave crashes on to the rock. Water is dripping down my nose. I try to wipe it with Pierce's
shirt, but it's soaked and does no good.
"Waverly. Did you not hear what I said? I can't tell you anything. Just know that the problem is being
addressed by the royal family, the Merfolk Council, the school board ..."
"I am not a fingerling, Dad. I am smart and useful. I could help."
"I know you're not a fingerling, Wave, but you're still my merbaby, always, and I can't even think about
something happening to you."
"What, dad? Who would hurt me? I mean other than vampires draining my blood or Shelly tearing out
my hair or Lily-Bella accidentally suffocating me in a pile of pink tulle. If you don't tell me, isn't that
putting me more at risk?" I see a hesitation in his face. I know I've just scored big points with my
excellent debate skills!
But instead of caving and telling me what's going on, he straightens his back in resolve. "The only way
you can help is by letting the professionals handle the problem."
"Professionals? You're a math teacher, dad. You teach polynomials and irrational numbers and
vectors, whatever those are. What in Hades do you know about espionage? I'm a teenager. Believe
me, if you want subterfuge, hire a teenage girl. We are better than anyone at this kind of stuff."
"I don't even want to know what you mean by that, Waverly."
"Never mind." It's amazing to me that parents forget all this when they grow up. How they snuck
around and forgot to mention exactly, specifically, what they were really doing on Friday night. It's like
they go through some mandatory brainwashing ceremony the night before they have their first baby.
"What secret teen subterfuge?"
"I can't really tell you any of that dad," I pause here for dramatic emphasis. "Because if I told you
anything, your life could be in danger."
"Waverly, do not take this situation lightly."
"I don't, Dad."
"And promise not to discuss this with another living soul."
"Ugh!" Big eye roll here. He glares at me. "I promise!"
"Good, now off to class."
"Just tell me one thing," I say, just because I am terrible at giving up on an argument.
"Waverly Marie Fishwater!"
There it is. When a parent calls you by your full name, it is a warning they're about to lose it, like when
a rattlesnake shakes its rattle. But I don't care. I just keep thinking about Beau. "Dad, is the problem
only in the bay or is the ocean affected too? It's important. I have to know."
"So far it's confined to the bay. Now that's it Wave. No more. You need to go to Biology now."
Interspecies Biology-where we get to learn about sex from a professor who looks like he's about
twelve, and also study blood in a room full of vampires I wonder if there's any way to switch classes. I'd
rather study the history of sand than biology. "I'm not feeling well, Dad. Could you send an excuse to
get me out of class?"
"You're sick?" He looks worried. Even though I want to say, 'yes, yes, I'm totally sick,' I can't do that to
"No. I'm okay." But why am I okay? How come everyone else who's gone in the bay is sick? Except for
me, and Pierce, and I guess, my dad. I want to ask him about this, but he's already called me by my full
name once, if I make him do it twice, he'll probably find a way to make me take Biology every day for
the rest of my life. There is an answer, and I'll figure it out.
"Good. The best thing for you to do right now is to go to Biology and act normal. Not too normal,
though. We don't want to raise any suspicion."
"Very funny, Dad," I say.
He kisses my head. "Full moon tonight," he says.
I totally didn't realize it was a full moon. This means we have fairy dance class and get to dance until
our feet are bloody. What a fantastic way to spend an evening with a bunch of bloodthirsty vampires!
My soggy flip-flops make a squeaking noise with every step as I trudge up the path to the Craftsman
bungalow classrooms that sit perched around the meadow in the center of campus. While I walk, I'm
plotting my own investigation. You'd think after seventeen years of living with me, my father would
know I never give up an argument this easily.
I get to Bio, but apparently Headmaster Crumpet hasn't started teaching yet. I know this because the
kids are chattering and launching paper airplanes at the really high ceiling. Because this is no ordinary
school, the planes make buzzing sounds, like oversized mosquitoes, and perform all kinds of fancy
maneuvers-loops, rolls, the occasional dive-bombing of another student. One of the more erratic
planes has a sparkly contrail. Pretty sure this one belongs to Pickles. Two of the planes are shooting
little blasts of chalk at one another. Headmaster Crumpet is grinning at the chaos, like he really is
"Welcome, Miss Fishwater. Glad you could join us. I've been waiting for you before beginning the unit
on Divine Reproduction.
Lucky me! I'm thinking, but because I'm supposed to act normal I say, "I'm sorry I'm late." I manage to
say this so casually, I really impress myself. I am good at this! I can pretend to be ignorant, I mean
uninformed, all day long.
For some reason, Pierce is sitting at the teacher's desk in the front of the room. Why is he sitting apart
from the other students? Has he already gotten in trouble?
He gives me a funny look and mouths, "Are you okay?" I wonder if he can still read my mind, because I
gave such a convincing performance of my okayness when I walked into the room. I cannot
understand how else he would guess something was wrong. I smile totally casually at him. He mouths,
"meet me after class." And he looks super serious and almost adultish. I don't like this at all. Frankly,
there are too many serious adults in my life as it is. Still, even though I can't tell him anything about
what happened with my dad, just the idea of being close to Pierce makes me feel a little better.
"No problem, Miss Fishwater," says Headmaster Crumpet. "Alright, students, please ground your
aircraft." All the airplanes except the erratic, sparkly one, float down from the ceiling as if they're made
of ordinary paper. "Miss McPhee."
"I'm trying," says Pickles.
"Pierce?" Headmaster Crumpet says. "Please."
Pierce floats to the ceiling, grabs the errant aircraft and floats down. He hands the plane to Pickles. It's
trying to take off again, but she grabs it. It's fighting her the whole time until she manages to stuff it
into her basket and close the lid. You can still hear it banging around inside like a wild animal trying to
"Please get a textbook from my TA and take a seat, Waverly," says Headmaster Crumpet. "Oh, dear,
you are quite drenched."
"I'm okay," I assure him. "Mermaid," I say by way of explanation.
Pierce is holding up a textbook. He's a TA? He tries to catch my eye again, but I take the book and go
to find a seat.
There are skeletons hanging around the perimeter of the room, and posters showing stuff about
digestion and circulation and reproduction. I may never eat again!
The classroom is arranged in blocks of four desks clustered together. There is only one seat available.
It's near the window. The three other students in the cluster are Cupid, Vang and Shelly. As I walk past
Pickles' table, she raises an eyebrow at me. I know she's asking whether I might want to wish for
another seating arrangement, but I bite my lip and shake my head. I've got to wean Pickles from her
F.G. role. And Shelly looks pretty awful and unthreatening right now. Like she's molting a little, and
she has this faraway look in her eyes as if she's, like, far away. I really don't think she's even paying
I sit. Cupid smirks at me. He's leaning back in his chair, his long legs crossed and sticking straight out.
He's wearing a short toga draped over one shoulder and his bow tie. It is very distracting. Guys
shouldn't bare this much skin in a classroom setting. Especially guys with defined muscles and golden
skin. And especially given the subject matter.
Headmaster Crumpet clears his throat. "I've decided to begin with the unit on Divine Reproduction
because it is by far the most diverse and fascinating. It covers everything from Athena's gestation and
birth from her father's skull to Aphrodite's birth in the sea foam created by her father's castrated
"Mom loves to tell that story," Cupid says. Right, Aphrodite is Cupid's mom. I knew that!
"If you'll take note of the illustrations in Chapter 1 ..." Headmaster Crumpet says.
After a few minutes, my eyes start to glaze over. Who knew reproduction could be so boring? My
mind starts to wander. The subject of reproduction reminds me of poor Beau. I wonder if Olga found
him? I wonder if he's pregnant? I wish I could warn him to get out of the bay, but how?
The next thing I hear is the sound of chairs scraping on the wood floor. Somehow, the hour has gone
by, and I've managed not to hear a word. I close my book and get up. There's a puddle of water on
the floor beneath my chair.
"Hey, Wave. Everything okay?" says Pickles.
"Yeah, I'm good."
"I'm starved," Pickles says, picking up her basket. Her plane is still banging around trying to escape.
"I'll catch up with you, Pickles."
As Pierce and I step out of the classroom, I notice Pickles opening her basket and releasing the plane
into the sky.
The meadow is drenched in sunlight and humming with insect activity. The air is heavy with moisture
and the most amazing smell. My stomach growls.
"It's pizza day," says Pierce. "Lots of garlic." He wrinkles his nose. Right, vampires don't like garlic. I
must remember this because someday, it could prove useful. You never know.
"I think I might like pizza." I've never had it before, but the smell is heavenly.
"What's going on?" he says, wasting no time.
"Nothing," I say. "Where's the cafeteria again?"
"Look, Waverly, I've tasted your blood. I know when you're not telling me the truth."
"You're bluffing," I say. I really, really hope I'm right about this.
"Maybe a little." He puts his arms around me and holds me. I can't tell you how good this feels. I feel
myself relaxing into him. I had no idea I was so tense.
"You really are wet," he says. He grabs the mass of my hair (there's so much of it that it takes forever
to dry) and squeezes out the excess.
"I'm sorry, Pierce, but I'm not allowed to talk about it."
"I can help you," he says.
"No, you can't."
"I know there is something wrong, and that you believe you're not going to tell me what it is. But if
you think that's going to work, you really don't know me. Are you ready? I need to show you
"Ready for what?" I ask.
He grabs me around my waist.
"This," he says, and suddenly we're accelerating into the sky
It's like being on the hang glider ride at the boardwalk times a thousand! Wow! I am flying! I stretch
out my arms as if they're wings. My flip-flops fall off as we skim the treetops. The bay is a shiny jewel
and for once, I'm totally speechless.
We are flying so fast, everything's a blur. It's like turboswim, but instead of water, air rushies along my
skin. It's amazing because the air feels as substantial as water when you're going this fast. Pierce dives
toward the bay, and right before we're going to crash through the surface, he levels off, and we're
blasting over the water so low, the spray from the whitecaps hits my face. The silvery dark head of a
harbor seal pops out of the water. He seems a little startled, but before I can telepathically explain the
situation, he is far behind us.
Pierce increases our altitude so we're almost flying vertically. We're shooting up along the face of a
cliff toward the sky-perfectly blue except for a few smudges of gray clouds. Pierce's arms are still
around my waist, and it takes a moment for me to realize we're no longer flying. We have landed in
the high grass of a meadow atop a bluff overlooking both the bay and the ocean. The meadow is
dotted with wildflowers in vibrant shades of orange, yellow, red and purple.
"That was amazing," I say, breathing hard even though Pierce did all the work. Pierce is still holding me
as tightly as he had when we were flying. I'm totally in bliss until I realize he's sniffing the back of my
neck. Apparently he's hungry. I mean I am too; we've missed lunch.
"Don't get any ideas, vampire. No mermaids on the menu today. I don't care if you're attractive and
charming and poetic."
"But I took you flying," Pierce says nuzzling my neck. I break away from his hold and turn toward him. I
give him my hardest glare, no easy feat for someone with rainbow eyes. "I'm only kidding, Waverly. I
promise never to sample your blood without permission."
"No matter how hungry I am."
He's giving me sad eyes, fluttering those thick dark lashes and using his dimples to bend my will. "Not
going to work, vampire."
"Can't blame a vampire for trying," he says, grinning.
A gust of wind whips past us, and the ocean is rumbling and churning and reminding me of home.
Some day I'm going to swim with Pierce to Pacifica and introduce him to Carla and my mom and my
brothers and sisters. I want him to see our cave. In some ways, a vampire is the perfect boyfriend for a
mermaid (if you ignore the whole problem of mermaid blood being like a vampire drug) because they
don't need to breathe and can share the experience of being underwater. "This place is amazing," I
say, because it is. "What's it called?"
I laugh. "Very funny. Come on, for real."
"It is called Pierce's Point, and it's a very special place to me. I've never brought anyone here before.
He looks kind of solemn about this, so I decide to go along with it. I mean since he's not snacking on
me. "Why is it special?" I say.
"This is where I became a vampire, Waverly. Where Crumpet found me and turned me. That's why I
took the name Pierce. Vampires choose a new name when they are turned, because they must
disappear from their human lives. I am named for this spot, not the reverse. I brought you here
because you are special to me."
And then he leans in and kisses me, softly at first, then a bit more hungrily. And somehow, I don't care
any more about missing lunch.
Suddenly he breaks off the kiss. Wait, no! Come back!
"Waverly, you must tell me what is wrong. I'm sure I can help. Come here. Sit down, and we can talk."
We both sit cross-legged in the meadow, our knees touching. He plucks a blade of grass and twirls it
around his finger not making eye contact. He's probably giving me time to think.
What am I going to tell him? I've promised my dad not to mention the cave to anyone, and a Fishwater
never breaks her promise. "Pierce, it's not like I want to keep secrets from you. It's just that I promised
He arches one of those dark eyebrows and frowns. Even when he frowns, his dimples are adorable.
"Your dad ... does he know something about what has you worried?"
"What exactly did you promise? Maybe there's a loophole."
"Hmmm," I say, looking up at the sky, as if the exact words were written there. Focus, Waverly. "I think
he said: 'And promise not discuss this with another living soul.' And then I gave him an exceptionally
good eye roll and said 'I promise.'"
"Oh, then you can definitely tell me," he says, releasing the twisted grass on to the ground.
"How do you figure?"
"Technically, I'm dead."
"You mean undead."
"I suppose. But either way, you can tell me, because I am not alive in the traditional sense.
Maybe he's right. And don't I owe it to Beau to do everything in my power to help him? Maybe dad
worded it like that because he wanted me to tell Pierce. I take a deep breath and plunge in. "He
wouldn't tell me much. But I am so worried about what's happening to the water."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember that weird glow we saw from the back of the yacht at the party."
"Yeah. I've noticed it from here a couple of times."
"Really? Oh no. Where?"
"There." He points toward a section of the bay, which I'm certain is close to the cave. If I squint, I can
just barely see the glow. My stomach is churning with worry for Beau and the other creatures in the
bay. My mind is going in a thousand directions trying to come up with a plan. Step one, tell Pierce
what I know.
"Well, when I was swimming to the party, I ended up in a cave that was contaminated with something
like acid. The water inside glowed with those same colors. The sharks are getting stupider, even more
than usual. My mom had to leave the bay because she hasn't been well. I have friends in there, Pierce.
I have to help them."
"Wait, slow down, Waverly." He takes my hands in his cool ones, and I relax a little.
Just then, we hear a thrumming near the cliff. We get up and walk to the edge. Beneath us is the
Sharkweather yacht, a shiny metallic blade cutting through the waves.
"I wonder what it's doing over here?" I say.
"It has been coming near the shore almost every day."
"Seems dangerous to be that close." I look down at the jagged rocks at the base of the cliff.
"And there's something else," says Pierce.
"The Sharkweather yacht. I've seen it in the area of the bay near that glow." A flock of seagulls comes
screeching past us. They are so rude. One of them actually buzzes my head. I duck and lose my
footing. Pierce grabs me and pulls me away from the edge.
"Thanks," I say. "See, even the seagulls are getting stupid. What do you think all of this means?"
"There might be a connection between the yacht and the glow. Maybe Brack Sharkweather has
something to do with this strange contamination of the water. I can talk to Headmaster Crumpet. Find
out if he knows anything."
"Don't mention this to him. What if he says something to my dad?"
"I do have access to all the files in his office. I could see if I can find anything on my own."
"That'd be great," I say. It feels good to have an ally in this mess. "Thanks, Pierce." I put my arms
around him, lean my head against his chest. He's running his fingers through my hair and it feels
incredible, and I don't ever want him to stop.
My stomach rumbles. We both laugh.
"Neptune's Beard, I wish someone would deliver lunch." I'm remembering the awesome smell of pizza.
"Yeah?" Hmmm. What is that amazing smell? Garlic? I turn around.
In the middle of the meadow, there is a shimmer of green fabric decorated with the same wildflowers
that are in the meadow. It almost looks as if it's made from the meadow itself. On top are fluffy
pillows, a huge round garlic and sausage pizza in a pan and bottles of something red. Urgh. This is
when I realize I'd forgotten my solemn vow never to wish for anything. How did Pickles even hear me?
On the other hand, I am really hungry. "Picnic?"
"You're really going to eat all that garlic?"
"Alright then," he says eying the bottles.
I decide I'm not going to let that red fluid ruin my appetite.
I wake slowly and realize I'm shivering. Evidently I've fallen asleep on the picnic blanket next to what
feels like a vampire-sized glacier.
"Wave, don't go. Please. I'm sorry. I didn't ..." The glacier speaks.
"You're sorry about what?" I say, trying to get hold of the edge of the blanket to capture some of my
own body heat.
Pierce's eyes pop open, and he looks at me sheepishly. "Nothing ... I was just ... dreaming." He wraps
his arms around me and squeezes.
"Pierce, a little lighter. I need to breathe."
"Sorry, Wave. And you're cold!" In less than a second, the remnants of our picnic are stacked neatly on
the ground, and we're cocooned inside the blanket. It's still cold, I mean vampires have little body
heat, but then he presses those full lips on to mine and kisses me, slowly, until I'm practically panting.
Oh, right, I'm totally not cold now. He wrinkles his nose. "You smell like garlic."
"And you still kissed me?"
"I forced myself," he says, grinning.
"Just so I understand, the garlic does make my blood all tainted and stuff, right?" I say, hopefully.
"No, Waverly," he says. "Your blood still smells delectable." His stomach actually growls.
An owl screeches from a nearby tree. The full moon is just rising in the sky. "Eels meals! Pierce, we
slept through two classes! I'm gonna get a five-hour lecture from my dad, and then he'll make me
graph parabolas on the beach this weekend until I either die of sun-exposure or boredom."
"I'm sure he'll understand," says Pierce.
"You don't know my dad," I say.
"Of course I don't," says Pierce, looking strangely guilty again. "Why would you think I did?"
"I don't. Pierce, are you okay?"
"Yes, but we should get back." He looks up at the moon. "It's almost time for Enchanted Dance."
Oh, right. The class where you dance until your shoes are bloody. No thanks! "Maybe we should stay
here and watch the moon rise. I mean we've missed so much already. What's one more class?"
"I think you should go. No sense getting on Fairy Princess Iridessa's Bad List. And I have an idea."
"What do you mean I should go? Aren't you coming?"
"The whole school will be at the dance. It'll be a great opportunity for me to sneak into the
Headmaster's office. I could try to do it during the day, but there might be less chance of getting
caught if I go now."
"What about you being on Iridessa's Bad List?"
"I'm already on it. One more incident won't make any difference."
He gives me that crooked grin with full-on dimple action. I scramble out of the cocoon.
As soon as we are both free from the blanket, everything disappears in a sparkly tornado of fairy dust-
the blanket, the pillows, the empty pizza pan, the ... um ... bottles. "Wow, Pickles thinks of
everything," I say.
Pierce pulls me into his arms, facing him this time, and suddenly we're a meteor streaking across a sky
dominated by a lemon moon.
As we approach the glade where the dance is to take place, I can feel the magic of the fairy dust
buzzing against my skin, like diving into ocean foam.
We alight in back of the chattering mass of students, who are gathered at the base of a stage made
from an enormous tree stump. Fairy Princess Iridessa, in full pink ball gown attire, is perched on top of
it, wearing her crown of live butterflies over her fuchsia hair, and smoking her ever-present pipe. Some
of the teachers are there too, seated on smaller stump next to the stage. My dad isn't here. Thank
Neptune! He never was much for land-based dancing.
"I'll see you back at the cabin after the class, Wave," Pierce says, kissing the top of my head. Before I
can respond, he's a blur.
"Please pay attention, class," says Fairy Princess Iridessa in her high-pitched voice. "Lily-Bella? Vang?
Could you please come up here, and help me demonstrate?"
"Psssst, Waverly! Over here!" It's Pickles. Even though it's chilly, she's wearing shorts just like the ones
she made for me.
"Hey Pickles. Wow!" We hug, and I do a good job of not crushing the life out of her! "That picnic you
sent was amazing. Thank you so much."
Pickles blushes, obviously very proud of her work. "Glad you liked it. First time I ever made pizza! So
tell me. You missed class today. Um, what happened with you and Pierce? I mean everyone kind of
"We fell asleep."
"What!" Pickles says, shocked.
"Nothing happened, Pickles. Neptune's Beard! I thought fairies were supposed to be all virtuous and
"Believe me, we are," says Pickles, in a sorrowful tone. "At least the fairy godmothers-in-training have
F.P. Iridessa clears her throat in annoyance. "See how Lily-Bella and Vang are floating? That's what you
will all be attempting. Now everyone find a partner. Quickly, before the moon reaches its apex. That is
when the magic is the most concentrated and accessible."
"Where's your partner?" Pickles says, scanning the crowd for Pierce.
"Uh, he wasn't, um, feeling good. He went back to the cabin."
"I didn't think vampires got sick," Pickles says. Students are shuffling around, whispering and giggling
in their quests for partners.
"I think something's going around," I say. I don't like lying to Pickles, but I really don't want her
involved with the issue of the toxic water. We're dealing with someone ruthless enough to hurt
millions of creatures living in the bay. This is when I notice she isn't really listening to me anyway. "Who
are you looking for?"
"No one," Pickles says. I follow her line of sight and watch as her eyes settle on Fintan Byrnes.
He looks back at Pickles, and he gives her sort of a squashed smile, but for him I think it's the
equivalent of a huge grin.
"Go dance with Fintan," I whisper. "I think he likes you."
"It won't matter," says Pickles. "And I don't want to lead him on. He's way too nice, and he's already
been hurt by enough people."
Fintan is making his way through the crowd to Pickles. She hides behind me. I spin and hold her
shoulders. "Pickles, why can't you like someone?"
She looks at the ground. "I know you're going to get upset."
"I care about you, Pickles. You can tell me anything."
"Fairy godmothers-in-training aren't allowed to date. We are betrothed at birth and must marry on the
eve of our eighteenth year."
"No!" I say. I can't believe it. Merfolk haven't had arranged marriages since the Middle Ages.
"I'm afraid it's true," she says.
"Hello Waverly." Fintan nods solemnly at me. Pickles steps out from behind me, and when Fintan sees
her, his green eyes radiate light. "Would you like to be my partner, Pickles?" He offers her his hand.
"I'm ... um ... sor ..."
"I really wish you would," I say, knowing that now she'll have to do it. What? Friends help friends in
any way possible.
"Sure, Fintan," she says taking his hand. She tries to frown at me, but I can tell she's super happy. He
leads her toward the stage where the students are gathering in a circle.
I stand back, watching Fintan and Pickles join the circle. I'm actually still kind of groggy from napping
at the cliff. All I want to do is go back to sleep, so it's good Pierce isn't here. And all the students seem
to be paired up.
"No decent fairy dance is performed with feet touching the ground," the F.P. continues. "It's simply
vulgar. An affront to mother earth."
Gloria, the earth goddess herself, is seated in the front row of teachers, dripping mud. She waves at
the gathering with a tiny flick of her hand, then whispers something to Cupid who is dangling from a
tree branch, upside-down. In his toga! If you want to know what the gods wear under their togas,
don't ask me. I'm way too embarrassed to talk about it! But I will say this much. Cupid is totally hot!
Whatever Gloria whispered causes Cupid to roar with laughter. I guess they've worked out their
"artistic differences" from earlier today in Life Drawing.
Iridessa shakes her head at them, then throws her smoking pipe into the middle of the circle. A
bonfire, as high as the treetops, blazes to life. The fire cracks and sputters and sparks float like fireflies.
From somewhere music rises into the glade. It is old music, reverent and ethereal, a sonnet to the
moon. Goose bumps run up my arms and down my back. The dancers in the circle levitate and begin
dancing a foot off the ground.
"Where were you guys?"
I whirl around to find Cupid standing right behind me. I could've sworn he was in his tree only a
moment ago. It's really hard to keep tabs on people at a school for supernatural beings. Cupid
wriggles his golden eyebrows at me.
"Which guys?" I ask flatly.
"You and Pierce."
"None of your business, Cupid." Okay, maybe I say this a little too defensively. I'm still not used to the
whole "god deference" thing.
"All love is my business, mermaid. Speaking of which, what do you think about Pickles and Fintan?" He
nods in their direction.
They are floating higher than the others, twirling and spinning, in the firelight. I have never seen
Pickles look more radiant. When I first met her she told me she was clumsy, but in Fintan's arms, she is
dancing even more beautifully than Lily-Bella. I sigh. "Pickles says she's not allowed to date. It's a
stupid Fairy Godmother rule."
"We'll see about that," says Cupid.
Moments later, I hear a scream. It's Pickles; she must have lost her concentration! It's as if the magical
floor holding her up, is pulled from beneath her feet. She's falling toward the raging bonfire.
In less than the span of time between heartbeats, Fintan leaps through the flames and catches her. He
wraps his body around hers and carries her to safety. I rush over. Fintan is unscathed and so is Pickles.
Even their clothes are fine, though grey smoke rises from Fintan's entire body. What is this guy who
seems to have such mastery over fire?
"Miss McPhee, Mr. Byrnes?" Headmaster Crumpet appears next to the couple. "Are you quite alright?"
"Yes, sir," says Fintan.
"Uh, huh," says Pickles. She's gazing into Fintan's eyes as if she's mesmerized.
"Miss McPhee, are you sure?"
"I'm fine," she says. Fintan is still carrying her. She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him full
on the mouth. Yes, in front of everyone!
"Pickles!" I say.
She looks at me and grins.
Fintan turns the same red as the fire. "I will take her back to the cabin to rest," he says. He walks away,
not even bothering to wait for permission.
"All right students," says Headmaster Crumpet. "You may continue." He grabs F.P. Iridessa's arm and
leads her to the dance circle. It's hilarious to see Iridessa trying to be graceful with Crumpet barely tall
enough to reach her chin.
"Did you do that with Fintan and Pickles?" I whisper to Cupid.
He gives me a bow. "Love god," he says, winking at me.
You have to admit, Cupid's got the best job a god could possibly have!
I trust Fintan, but I'm still going back to the cabin to make sure Pickles is well cared for. I have to. She is
my fairy godmother and my best friend!
I'm alone in the girl's bedroom. Pickles is in the common room with Fintan. Lily-Bella is still at the
dance. And Shelly? She wasn't even at Enchanted Dance class. Will she end up on Princess Iridessa's
Bad List? The last time I saw Shelly was in Interspecies Bio where she looked like she was molting.
It's stuffy in our room, and the smell of perfume is overwhelming. I open the window. Outside, owls
hoot, and the wind whistles past the cabin. I want to take a quick shower and go to sleep, but first I'll
need something to wear to bed. We left our room pretty messy, so I have to rummage around to find
something. Finally I see a hint of turquoise peeking from beneath the pink. Yay! It's my debate team
sweatshirt! Now, where are my underpants?
Through the door, I hear Pickles giggle. When we returned to the cabin after the dance, I tried to get
her to go to bed and get some sleep, but she wanted to ... um ... talk to Fintan a little longer. Fintan
seems pretty nice. He heated a mug of water with his hands and made Pickles bergamot tea. I asked
him about his abilities with fire, and he said he'd always had them. Like baby fry being able to swim, or
a fawn being able to walk right after its birth, controlling fire is just something he apparently does
I take a long shower, worrying about Pierce the whole time. I hope he doesn't get caught. At first I
wonder if I should go check on him? But he's smart and fast and has better hearing than a dolphin.
And I'm so exhausted, I'd probably do something stupid that would get us both in trouble.
The warm water in the shower is bliss, and I wash my hair with some of Lily-Bella's shampoo. It's a
scent called jasmine, and it's kind of nice. Afterward, my hair is smooth and slick and sticks to my body
like thick blades of kelp.
I put on my underwear and throw on the sweatshirt, noticing the mustard stain. Who's going to see
me anyway? I crawl between the cool sheets. My eyelids are heavy, and the back of my eyeballs ache.
The air is smoky and dry from the fire blazing in the common room, and I'm lulled to sleep by the low,
even murmur of Fintan's voice.
Pierce and I are holding hands and swimming on the surface of the open ocean. The salmon sky is
streaked with gray clouds; the sun ahead of us is a pinprick of light on the horizon. It seems to get
farther away the faster we swim.
A pod of bottlenose dolphins joins, flanking us like sentinels. They have sleek grey skin and permanent
smiles. They're chattering in their native dolphin tongue. I am able to pick up a few words. They are
commenting on my hair. (Dolphins are a little jealous of mermaid hair. Don't know why. It would look
totally ridiculous on a dolphin.)
A shimmering wave of anchovies swarms within our ranks. So do bat rays, eels and even sharks. In the
air, a flock of gulls tracks our movement.
The headwind picks up, slowing our progress. The ocean water swells and chops and turns into the
same oily, freaky kaleidoscope of color that was inside the cave.
"Pierce, we've got to get out of here!"
The dolphins bite the ends of my hair and tug. "Hey, that hurts," I think. Pierce's hand tightens around
mine, but they pull harder. "No!" I scream as Pierce's hand slides away. "Pierce!"
The dolphins let go of my hair and poke my body with their snouts. "Ouch!"
Now they're arguing.
"You said she was smart!"
"Is not. She's as sentient as a piece of driftwood."
"Poke her harder. Neptune's spear! If a shark came in here looking for dinner, she'd be halfway
through its digestive tract by now."
"Sharks don't come on land."
"It was a metaphor!"
"Waverly? Waverly? Wake up."
I drag myself out of what I now realize is a dream, but my heart is still racing. The poking continues,
but it's obviously not dolphins. In fact, something is walking on the bedspread. Rodents? Urgh! "Hey!"
I sit, and start swatting. Wait, the rodents called me by name? That's not normal.
"What in Neptune's name?" I say.
"Waverly! Waverly! It's me, Beau."
Two tiny horses trot across the covers, one coral, the other a silvery-blue.
"Beau," I think say. "But you're a seahorse."
"Told you she wasn't that bright," the blue seahorse thinks at me in kind of an abrasive tone.
"Shush, Olga. She saved my life."
"I am totally confused," I say. "But it is great to see you! Who is your friend?"
Beau hops on to my hand and does a horse bow. "Hello, Waverly. May I introduce you to my wife? This
is Olga." He gives me a significant look that translates to: See what I mean? This is why I was hiding in
a poisonous cave. I almost understand now.
"We're merhorses," says Olga in a condescending voice.
"Merhorses? But there is no such thing as a merhorse."
Olga snorts. "Dumb as a shark," she says. "Merfolk think they are so special. Like they're the only
magical, morphing sea creatures."
"That woman is so insensitive," Beau think mutters. "Sorry, Waverly. We are merhorses. Seahorses in
water, land horses on, well, land. We try to keep a low profile, because we have certain abilities we
don't want other creatures to know about. We might be exploited."
"That's top-secret information, Beau. Need to know basis only. She's a total stranger."
"Olga, if you don't stop right now, you're never getting another brood!"
Olga rears and tries to look all threatening, but she's like three inches tall, so I can't help laughing.
"Look, Waverly, We don't have much time. Got about two hundred fingerlings back in the bay that
need their crustacean dinner and a bedtime story, but we had to come warn you about what we saw. I
wanted to come alone, but Olga didn't believe I was rescued by a mermaid. She never believes
anything I say."
"Wow, two hundred fingerlings! That's even worse than my parents!"
Olga paws the plaid bedspread and snorts. I ignore her.
"Start at the beginning, Beau. What happened?"
"After you left, Olga found me quite a ways from the cave. She was pretty mad, because she'd been
searching for me everywhere. She said it was time for me to get pregnant. No more excuses. So I told
her we couldn't have more fry right now, because of what's happening in the cave and that it's
affecting more and more of the bay and the sharks are getting dumber and the jellyfish are getting
tangled in in their own tentacles and the eelgrass is dying and lots of other crazy things are happening.
But like I said, she never believes anything I say, so she made me take her back to that horrible cave
and show her."
"No, Beau. You didn't!"
"I did. And I saw something."
"Humans. Those scubahumans. We've seen them before. They look ridiculous in those sharkskin suits
and silly oversized flippers."
"What were they doing?"
"They lowered big containers into the water near the cave. Then they opened a place in the rock; I
couldn't figure out how. It swung out like a door, but it was made to look like rock. They rolled the
containers inside, shut it back up so it looked like rock again, and swam to the surface, back to some
"When did this happen?"
"I have no idea," Beau says. "No sense of time whatsoever."
"Right. I remember you telling me that."
"See, Olga. She believes me when I tell her something."
Olga glared at him. "Okay, you were telling the truth. I believe you. Can we go back now?"
"Did the containers have any markings on them?"
"No. They were plain and the color of dried seaweed. Waverly, can you help us stop these humans?"
He looks at me, sadly. "We love the bay, but we'll soon have to leave. As it is, we are moving farther
and farther away from the cave to try and keep the little ones safe. Do you know how hard it'll be to
move our entire family? Plus, there'll a whole new ecosystem to learn. New schools. New predators.
Most of the fry are too young to take their land form."
"I promise I'll stop them," I say to Beau.
"You are the nicest mermaid I've ever met," he says.
The door to the bedroom opens, and Pickles enters. "Baby horses!" she squeals.
Fintan follows her in. "Pickles, are you okay?"
"I'm fine. But look, Waverly has tiny horse pets. They are adorable."
"Tell her we are not pets," Olga snorts indignantly.
"They're not pets, Pickles. "They are my friends, Beau and Olga."
"Why are you here?" Fintan asks, out loud.
"We were warning Waverly about the bad humans poisoning the bay. She's going to stop them. Could
be dangerous, but I've seen her confront a shiver of Great Whites while bleeding. They swam away,
cowering in fear!"
Something is very strange. It seems like Beau is understanding and think-answering Fintan.
"Humans are poisoning the bay?" says Fintan.
"What?" says Pickles. "No!"
"We believe so," Beau thinks.
Beau is answering Fintan's question. "Wait," I think say. "You guys understand each another?"
"Guess so," Fintan says out loud.
I realize Fintan can hear my think speech as well! "How is this possible?"
"Don't know," says Fintan. "I've never done it before."
"What haven't you done before?" says Pickles, putting her hands on her hips. "Who are you talking to,
and what is going on with the water?"
No! Pickles and Fintan cannot get involved in this. It is too dangerous. "Pickles! It's nothing for you to
worry about. My friends were leaving."
"I think Waverly is going to do something to fight the humans contaminating the bay," says Fintan.
"Waverly Marie Fishwater, if you think you're going to do something dangerous without me, you are
one crazy mermaid. I am your fairy godmother. When are you going to understand what that means?"
Ugh! She used my full name. So parental.
Lily-Bella floats into the room, yawning. Suddenly, her eyes brighten. "Merhorses!" she says. "I haven't
seen a merhorse since I went on vacation with my family to Atlantis. It was one of those "educational"
trips your parents try to make sound cool. All those ancient artifacts. It was so boring. Except for the
"I like her," thinks Olga.
"What's all the racket?" says Thunder Woolfson. His bulk fills the doorframe.
"Humans are poisoning the water," says Pickles, and we are going to stop them."
"What was that, Pickles?" It's Pierce in the common room. He's okay!
Thunder steps into the room making way for Pierce.
"You made it back!" I leap from the bed and jump into Pierce's arms. I kiss him. He tastes like
strawberries, and his full lips are almost warm.
When we finally break the kiss, Pierce says, "I'm definitely going to leave more often. That was ..."
"I know," I say, grinning at him.
"Uh, get a room guys," says Pickles.
"You're one to talk," I say.
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Pickles laughs. Fintan wraps his arms around her waist.
"From what I heard Pickles saying about the poisoned water, I guess everyone knows?" says Pierce.
"Yes, but I'm worried. I don't want to put my friends in danger."
"You're not doing anything to us," says Pickles. "We want to help, right guys?"
Everyone talks at once. They all want to help! Warmth spreads through my body like a geo-thermal hot
spring. This is when I realize, all I've got on is my stained sweatshirt and underwear. But guess what?
Right now, I don't even care.
The first thing I do, after I clear the bedroom of roommates and merhorses, is put on some pants. I
pledge that for as long as I am living in the cabin, I will go to bed wearing a full pajama ensemble. I
have a feeling this won't be the last midnight strategic-planning session. Beau and Olga have gone
home to their brood and will check in on our progress.
Once I'm dressed, I enter the common room. Krill's gills! There are strands of white fairy lights on the
ceiling, which illuminate a silver platter of miniature cakes on the coffee table. Each confection is
frosted in a different shade of pink and topped with sugared violets and tiny silver-horned unicorns.
"Wow, who did the lights and the little cakes?"
"I did," Lily-Bella says. "They're called cupcakes."
"It looks amazing in here!"
"Thanks." Lily-Bella is in a pink satin nightgown, her pale blonde hair shimmering under the fairy lights.
She's on the sofa that's closest to the window, sitting beside Thunder who's wearing his usual black t-
shirt and jeans. Pierce and Pickles, are on the opposite sofa. I notice Pierce has stolen back the plaid
shirt that I "borrowed." Fintan is pacing next to the fireplace. Each time he passes the hearth, the fire
blazes excitedly for a moment like a puppy happy to see its master. Shadows flicker on the walls like
The wind is howling, and the Hawaiian-print curtains blow into the room. I'm sure the curtain was
dark green earlier today. I can only assume Cupid is redecorating.
"Better shut that," I say. As I close the window, I think I see something moving through the bushes.
Probably a deer or fox or Bigfoot. You can never assume anything at a school for supernatural beings!
"Okay, everyone," I say, taking a seat next to Pierce. "We should probably start planning. But before
we do, I want to make sure you know the risks." I smell the sugary cupcakes, and my stomach growls
super loud. Everyone cracks up. I'm a little embarrassed, but I laugh too. "Sorry." I help myself to a
cupcake and take a bite, carefully avoiding the too-cute unicorn. "Wow!" Cupcakes taste like thick,
sweet amazingness. Pierce watches me eat. I feel kind of bad that he can't enjoy real food.
I squeeze his hand, then he lifts mine to his lips and kisses my knuckles. I shake my head to clear the
fog of Pierce attraction that is clogging my brain. Maybe I should get him to move so I can
concentrate. He smiles at me, yeah, with full-blown dimple action. I think I'll keep him here. Now,
what I was going to say? Oh, right. Warn friends of danger.
"Okay, so we are dealing with someone or some group that is really evil. These aren't the sorts of
villains who are going to be easy on us because we're teenagers with the best years of our lives ahead
of us." I give them all my most serious expression to make sure they get the risk.
"I am definitely in," says Thunder, picking up a cupcake. "This is our territory, and no one is coming in
and messing it up. I can get the whole pack behind us too."
"Thanks, Thunder," I say. "Let's keep it to ourselves at first. Once we know what we're doing, we can
bring in the rest of your pack."
"Okay," says Thunder. He eats the entire cupcake in one bite. "Ummmm."
"Well, I can't wait," says Lily-Bella, eyes shining in a kind of feral, scary way. "I haven't had a good fight
since I left the Fairy Princess Academy. Nobody on earth can match the wrath of a fairy princess
scorned by her prince or held captive in a dragon's lair."
Thunder casually rests his muscled arm over the back of the sofa behind Lily-Bella. She glances over her
shoulder and smiles.
"Thank you, Lily-Bella. Uh, hopefully this won't lead to any physical confrontation. Pickles?"
"I'm definitely in. You know I am."
Fintan stops pacing. "I'm all for going after these guys, but maybe we should go to Headmaster
Crumpet." He puts his arms protectively on Pickle's shoulders. She covers his hands with hers, which
makes me smile. Yay, Pickles!
"I don't think that's a good idea, Fintan," I say. "I know it sounds logical, but my dad told me I couldn't
tell anyone and not to get involved. If the headmaster knows, I'm sure he'll tell my dad."
Neptune's Beard. If my father finds out they know, I'll be in huge trouble. He'll ground me for all
eternity and ask questions later.
"There is something else that you guys don't know yet," says Pierce. "Something I discovered tonight."
"What? In Crumpet's office?" I say.
"Yeah. I found out Brack Sharkweather has been donating large sums of money to West Marin
Heights. And he's been appointed to the school board."
"So?" says Fintan.
"So, Sharkweather has a lot of power at this school. It's his yacht that we've seen in the area of the
poisoned water and also anchoring in a shallow, rocky area near the shore. That means he's a suspect.
If Waverly's father and the others are working on the case, fine. But what if Sharkweather has snowed
them and is covering something up?"
"Okay," says Fintan. I get it. He kisses Pickles' auburn curls. Orange and red sparks shoot out of the
fireplace. I swear it looks like the fire is jealous. "Stop that." Fintan glares at the fire. It sparks one last
time, then settles down.
"What we need is information. Solid evidence," I say.
"Where is the cave in relation to the boat sightings?" says Thunder.
"I could draw it on a piece of paper," I say.
"I think I can do better than that," says Pickles. I mean, if you wish it." She's already aiming her wand at
"I do! I wish for something better than a piece of paper that represents a map of the area."
Almost before I'm even done wishing, the plate of cupcakes on the table has transformed into a
miniature model of Tomales Bay and the surrounding area. And not like a toy model. It is alive! There
are tiny birds flitting amongst the trees. Bats, mice, skunks and deer, roaming in the forest. Beneath
the bay there are tiny fish and kelp and eelgrass. Miniscule seals, the size of ants, poke their heads
above the surface. On one side of the bay there is a strange glow over a small area in the water. On
the opposite end is Pierce's Point. And lurking in the middle of the bay, is the Sharkweather yacht, tiny
henchmen, I mean people, walking on the upper deck.
"This is amazing, Pickles," I say. "How did you do it?"
Fintan has stopped pacing and is looking at the model in awe. We all are.
"Oh," she says. "It's just a small enhancement of the basic "Turning a Pumpkin into a Golden Coach"
spell. Child's play."
"You get to learn way cooler stuff than we do," says Lily-Bella.
"Thanks," says Pickles, sounding very pleased.
"Okay, guys," I say. "This area with the eerie colorful light is where the water is poisoned. Beau and
Olga told me they have seen divers lowering containers off of a ship and storing them in the cave. And
over here," I point to the rocky area beneath Pierce's point," is where Pierce has noticed the yacht.
Why would it go there instead of the pier next to the school grounds?
"Maybe because there is a road right there," says Pickles.
"Holy Seacow. You're right. That road would allow them to haul in and transfer the barrels.
"I think it's the Sharkweathers," says Thunder. I say we capture the dad, tie him to a tree and question
him with the help of blunt objects."
"As appealing as that might be, I don't think it's the best plan," I say.
"I know," says Thunder. "It's only that I enjoy a good interrogation."
"What we need to confirm is whether the divers are coming from the Sharkweather yacht and the
source of those barrels. It would be great to get on the boat. If only I could do it without being seen ...
"You become invisible?" says Pierce. "Who says you are going to be the spy?" His blue eyes are
sparking right now, but the tips of my hair are as well.
"We are talking about the water Pierce. The ocean is my home, and I am going to protect it!"
"I will be coming with you then," Pierce counters.
"Two of us will be harder to hide than one," I say logically.
"Waverly?" says Pickles.
"I might have another spell that could help. It's pretty advanced, but I've read about it in the F.G.
Training Manual, and I think I can do it."
"I don't think now is the time to test out complicated spells," says Pierce.
My hair is really sparking now. Pierce wisely doesn't say anything. "Tell us, Pickles."
"Well ..." She looks at Pierce uncomfortably. "Um ... it is called the Camouflage Spell."
"What does it do?" says Lily-Bella.
"It makes the person look like something that blends in with the background. Like if you were in a
classroom, you would look like a desk to anyone who saw you. If you were on a boat, you might look
like an anchor or a jolly boat."
"That's amazing," I say. "Let's try it right now."
"Excuse us," says Pierce, grabbing my arm. "I need to talk to Waverly outside."
"No you don't," I say. My hair is shooting off purple sparks, which means I am totally pissed.
Pierce lifts me into his arms, and before I know what's happening, we are out the door and a hundred
yards from the cabin on the path that leads to campus. Stupid vampire powers! And it's freezing out
"Put me down," I say through clenched teeth.
"Not until you promise to calm down."
"I am calm."
"I'd hate to see you agitated," he says, grinning.
"Stop flashing those dimples at me, Pierce Knightguard. They are not working. Not one bit. Why did
you carry me out of there as if I was some fingerling?"
He sets me on the path and pulls me against his body. "Stop that!"
"Stop what?" he says, but he totally does not give me the chance to answer because he's pressing his
lips to mine and kissing me in that deep, delicious way that makes my entire body ache with pleasure. I
am melting into him. He still tastes like strawberries.
Pierce moans. I love that kissing me has this effect on him. He is twisting my hair in one hand, his
fingers running down my spine. My arms are wrapped around his back, and I'm trying to pull him
closer even though we are pressed right up against one another.
I don't know what to do. I am so attracted to him that I'm kind of scared. I should stop, but I don't
Suddenly, he breaks off the kiss.
"What's going on?" In one swift move, we are lying on the hard rocky ground facing one another
beneath a stickery bush. "Ouch." He covers my mouth with his hand.
"Shh," he whispers in my ear.
"What's happening?" I whisper against his hand.
"It's Shelly. And her father." Vampire hearing!
The wind whistles through the redwoods. I hold my breath, straining my ears. Finally I hear Mr.
Sharkweather's voice and the rhythm of footsteps cracking on branches.
"Don't wander around this place at night, Shelly. It isn't safe."
"Dad, can't we just go home? I hate it here."
"No. Do as I say, and stop asking questions. It won't be for much longer."
Eels meals! What is going on?
"We have to get back to the cabin before the Sharkweathers get there and see Pickles' model of the
bay," I say.
"No problem, mermaid."
Pierce rises from the bushes, lifts me, and we shoot into the night sky. We are flying so fast, the wet air
is like needles on my skin. "My window is open. We can go in that way." We shoot into the girls'
bedroom. "Pickles! The model," I yell as soon as we are inside. We touch down on a pile of clothing. I
hear the front door of the cabin creak open. Oh, no! We're too late! I yank open the bedroom door to
the common room.
Panicked, I scan the room. Pickles, Fintan, Thunder, Lily-Bella and Cupid (wearing red footsie pajamas
and a bow tie) are sitting on the sofas eating cupcakes from a silver platter that occupies the space on
the table where the model had been. They're acting super relaxed and casual. I breathe a sigh of relief.
How did Cupid get here without us noticing him coming down the path? Gods!
"What model?" says Shelly. Ugh, she heard me yell? She and her dad are standing in front of the open
door. He's frowning at me as if I've entered Neptune's Cavern without my shells.
The wind moans and blows apart the delicate strands of fairy lights. Each point of light turns out to be
an actual fairy. They stick out their tiny glowing tongues at Pickles. Shelly and her dad have to duck to
avoid the fairies as they stream out. Brack Sharkweather closes the door behind them. Now the only
light is from the fire, its red flames reflecting off the walls.
"Hi, Shelly. Mr. Sharkweather. Cupcake?" asks Lily-Bella, innocently.
"Hello Waverly, Pierce," Cupid says, his mouth full of cupcake. "Have fun?" He's wriggling his blonde
eyebrows at us.
My face heats.
"Miss Fishwater," says Brack Sharkweather. I am going to have to report your behavior to the
headmaster. Having a boy in your bedroom is strictly prohibited. I will see you are put on strict
probation and will not be able to leave school grounds for a month. I am very disappointed in you,
giving merfolk a bad name with your promiscuous behavior."
I really hate her laugh, and yes, I get the irony of her dad accusing me of promiscuity while his
daughter stands there in a bustier and miniskirt, her golden-green hair once again in a ponytail
exposing her neck like a vampire invitation. "Mr. Sharkweather. Nothing happened between Pierce
and me. And why am I the one being punished? What about Pierce?"
"Vampires aren't my problem, Miss Fishwater." Mr. Sharkweather spat these words, making it clear
that he doesn't care for vampires. Funny that he's kissing up to Headmaster Crumpet. "Shelly, I'll see
you on the yacht for dinner tomorrow night with the headmaster." He glares at all of us and walks out,
the door banging closed behind him.
Shelly smirks at me, swipes three cupcakes and takes them into the bedroom, slamming the door. A
moment later the water is running in the shower.
"I'm on probation?" I whisper. "Can't leave the grounds? How are we going to spy on the yacht if I
can't get out?"
Pierce smiles. "I guess I'll have to do it."
"No way, Knightguard. I will figure out a way. Tomorrow night. We're going on a shark hunt. I'm
going to take down Sharkweather and no one is going to stop me."
"Then can I tie him to a tree and question him?" asks Thunder.
"Yes," I say. "And I'm going to be the one handing you the blunt objects.
"Ooh," says Cupid. "I'll help."
Math ≠ Fun
The only good thing about math class today is that it's on the beach, and it is sunny. The bad part
(other than the fact that my dad is the teacher, and half the girls in the class are mooning over him
right now, urgh!) is that we are having a lesson on infinity. With sand. We are dropping the grains into
buckets with tweezers and keeping count.
My dad thinks this is hilarious.
"Whoever gets to infinity first is the winner," my dad says encouragingly.
"Dad, we already know we can never reach infinity. Can't we do something more fun now like
Euclidean geometry or gouging out our eyeballs with the tweezers?"
"Oh, come on, Waverly, my dad thinks at me. "This is fun. Math is fun." I can tell he's telepathically
willing me to believe this statement.
"Dad, I'm not six," I think say back. "I've known the true nature of math for years now."
"Yes. It's a conspiracy, conceived by adults for the purpose of making the lives of their offspring a living
My dad shakes his head. He looks really disappointed. "Look Dad, I'm sorry I didn't get the math gene,
"It's alright, Wave. Maybe your new baby brother or sister will like math."
Shelly is watching us, her eyes narrowed. I really didn't want her to know about my mom being
pregnant. A horrible vision flashes through my mind of my mom and the babies suffering. Someone is
making my mom cry! I drop the tweezers and start to shake.
"Wave, are you okay?" says Pierce. He leaves his bucket and holds my face in his hands.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I force a smile 'cause everyone is looking at us, including my dad. I pick up the
tweezers. "I'll tell you later," I whisper to Pierce.
I try to calm myself. Hopefully this isn't a real fairy prediction that might come true. I'm sure my mom
and the babies will be fine. Wait, babies? Is mom having twins? Nooooooo!
I notice Shelly looking at me again. "Stop poking around in my brain," I think at her. "It is incredibly
She grins and resumes her counting. I pick up a grain of sand and drop it in the bucket. "Seventeen
thousand one hundred and twenty two, Seventeen thousand one hundred and twenty three ..." I'm
concentrating on the numbers as hard as I can to keep all other thoughts out of my head.
A blur sweeps across the sand and stops next to my dad. It's Headmaster Crumpet. Oh, no. I hope he's
not here to take me into custody right in front of my dad!
"I'm sorry to disturb your lesson," says Headmaster Crumpet. "But might I have a word with the class?"
"Of course, Sir," says my dad. It is weird that he is being all deferential towards someone who looks
"Thank you, Gil. Sorry to interrupt what looks like a fascinating exploration into the world of sand, but
I have an announcement, which I think you will all be quite happy to hear. Most of you are new, and
do not know about the West Marin Heights annual Halloween gala. Being an all-vampire school for so
many years, you can imagine that Halloween is a very important holiday for us. There will be no classes
that day so everyone can prepare. There will be prizes for the best costumes, so you should all start
thinking about what you would like to be."
Everyone starts chattering excitedly. It sounds really fun. I am so relieved the headmaster isn't here to
take me off to lifelong detention in front of everyone.
"The School Board has nominated two students to be in charge of the event. They will be forming a
committee to help with the planning. Serving on the committee is a great honor. The committee heads
are ..." Headmaster Crumpet scans the class. "Cupid ..." The class erupts in applause. Cupid rises and
gives us a bow. " ... and Shelly Sharkweather."
Shelly stands and curtsies. She's grinning. I can tell she already knew she was chosen. Suddenly this
party doesn't seem like it'll be that fun. The applause for Cupid dies out.
"Shelly, who would you like to serve on the committee with you?" says Crumpet.
"Hmmm. I think I'd like Pierce and Lily-Bella." Everyone claps and hoots.
What? Shelly wants Pierce? I thought she knew we were done with that game and that she had lost. I
look at Pierce, silently begging him to decline. Instead, he and Lily-Bella get up and stand next to
Shelly. Pierce looks at me. I can tell he's trying to tell me something, but I can't figure out what.
"Excellent choices, Miss Sharkweather. And Cupid?"
"I choose Waverly and Fintan." Everyone throws their buckets into the air and cheers. Sand flies
everywhere. I am thrilled that now I can keep an eye on Shelly during the party planning and that the
class is so happy about me and Fintan being on the committee, but why did they have to toss their
buckets? Now we are going to have to start counting to infinity all over again. This class really is going
to be infinite.
"Excellent choices, Cupid. You will have your first meeting right after math class today. We need to
secure a venue right away. Again, I apologize for the interruption. Waverly?"
"Could you please accompany me to the office?"
Oh, no! Please don't say anything in front of my dad.
"Sure. No problem," I say.
"Is it okay if I borrow your daughter, Gil? We have a few things to discuss.
"What's going on, Waverly?" my dad thinks at me.
"I have no idea, dad," I lie. By the way, telepathic lying is a whole skill unto itself. As a teen mermaid, I
have gotten pretty good at it, but under stressful circumstances like this, it is really difficult.
His mouth tightens into a straight line. "We will talk later."
"Sure, Dad," I think at him in my most casual, unworried tone. I glance back at Pierce over my
"It'll be okay," he mouths.
I follow the headmaster up the beach, relieved I've gotten away with utter parental mortification,
when I hear Shelly say out loud, "Waverly was caught alone in the bedroom with a boy last night."
Maybe I can get Thunder to tie Shelly to the tree along with her father.
Headmaster Crumpet's office smells like wood-smoke and old paper. The walls are lined with shelves
crammed full with toys still in their boxes. This makes me kind of sad. For the first time I realize that
being changed into a vampire when he was still a human boy must've been difficult. He didn't get to
have a real childhood.
"Waverly, I brought you to my office because I want to chat with you about the school policy regarding
dating." He has a very stern look on his face.
"There's a policy? I never heard this before."
"It's rather new," he says. I am afraid you are confined to campus for the next month. But that
shouldn't be a problem, right?" He looks at me with a serious expression. "You don't need to leave the
school grounds, after all. We have everything you need right here, and I don't want to see you get
"What do you mean?"
"Only that Fairy Princess Iridessa has set some new, highly unbreakable and rather nasty fairy spells at
the campus borders. And don't bother using Pickles to wish the spell away. Princess Iridessa's spell is
stronger than any fairy godmother magic. We've always had these spells in place to keep the humans
from detecting our presence, but now, I'm afraid, they have been enhanced to keep you from leaving.
My jaw drops. "You can't hold me prisoner."
"This is a school, Miss Fishwater. Of course we can."
Is Crumpet working with Sharkweather? I can't believe it. But why else would he be acting this way? I
am so glad we didn't share our findings about the water being poisoned with the headmaster.
"Is that it? I should get back to class."
"That is all, Miss Fishwater." I stand, the chair scraping against the wood floor.
"Uh, thanks." I practically run back to math class. Tonight I am going to sneak onto that yacht and
figure out their dastardly plan.
Now all I have to do is figure out how to break an unbreakable fairy spell.
After leaving Crumpet's office, I set out to find my cabinmates. Maybe one of my friends will have an
idea about how I can break the unbreakable fairy spell, or at least tell me what will happen if I try to
walk through it. I hear them before I see them—explosions and familiar laughter emanating from the
I hurry across the meadow noting the new golden Cupid statue in the courtyard. The figure holds a
bow and arrow poised and ready to fly at the statue of The Glorious Goddess Gaia that has always
been in the courtyard. It's way better than the pastels we did in Life Drawing. Must've come from the
advanced art class.
The minute I step inside the cafeteria, I have to duck to avoid being hit by a raw meatball that splats on
the door to the gym across the hall. Inside it's chaos. Of course I've heard of food fights, but
apparently at West Marin Heights, a food fight involves food directly in combat with other food, the
students, walls, floor and even the ceiling, being collateral damage.
There are about thirty students inside. A group of gods is safely protected by some kind of magical
barrier. The vampires, fairies and werewolves are hiding under the tables, laughing and pointing at the
midair explosions of food, except for Pickles who in the middle of the room swirling her wand in the
air and cursing in a way that I am fairly certain is prohibited by the F.G. Training Manual. A pile of raw
meat (the werewolves love the stuff) forms itself into balls. The balls launch into the air where they
meet fairy cupcakes, bottles of blood, kelp smoothies, hot dogs, pizza and goblets of ambrosia. The
combatants collide and burst apart leaving frosting, cake, tiny sugared unicorns, meat and blood
everywhere. It looks like a horrible crime has been committed.
I grab a tray from a cart near the door and use it to block the onslaught as I enter the room, yelling as
loud as I can, "I wish the food would stop fighting!"
All at once the food stops midair and falls to the floor with horrible sounds of squelching and
shattering. Everyone boos. It smells like the boardwalk at the end of a hot summer's day when the
trashcans are overflowing with half-eaten hot dogs, food wrappers and flies.
"Thank you, Wave. I don't know how this happened," says Pickles. "All I was trying to do was make
some special meat cupcakes for Thunder."
"That's okay, Pickles. "I wish this was all cleaned up."
Pickles waves her wand, and half the room is clean. She tries to clean the rest. Beads of sweat form on
"What's up, Pickles?"
"I don't know. Something is wrong. Oh, no!"
"What? Pickles, what's wrong?"
"I might have the fairy flu." She sneezes sparkles of fairy dust. "Oh, sorry," she says, picking up an
ambrosia-soaked napkin from the table.
Lily-Bella waves her wand; a clean white handkerchief appears. "Here you go, Hon."
"Thanks." Pickles blows her nose.
"What's the fairy flu?" I say.
"It's very rare, but it kind of makes sense," Pickles says. She glances at Fintan and then at her flip-
"How do you get the fairy flu, Pickles?" asks Fintan.
"Maybe it's something embarrassing," I say. "Like a girl thing that she doesn't want to announce to
half the school. I wish you didn't have the fairy flu."
"If only it were that easy," Pickles says, sneezing again, this time into the handkerchief. Fairy
goddaughter magic, though strong, isn't enough to cure the fairy flu."
"I'm so sorry, Pickles."
"Can we talk about this later?" she whispers to Fintan and me.
"Of course." Fintan clasps Pickles' hand. She gives him a weak smile.
"Can you clean up the room, Lily-Bella?" I say, wiping some frosting from my shorts.
"I can't. Not my spell. Maybe one of the gods could?"
"Hey, gods," says Thunder. "Clean up in the meat aisle."
A goddess from my Lunar Studies class, I think her name is Khione, looks over her bare togaed
shoulder, waves one arm, and the room is clean, except now it is snowing. Big, thick, freezing flakes.
Speaking of big, thick, freezing flakes ... "Hey, does anyone know where Pierce is?"
"He went with Shelly and Cupid to check out party venues," Lily-Bella says.
"What?" I guess I yelled that because everyone in the room is looking at me. "Without the rest of the
"You were with Crumpet, and Fintan and I were supposed to come here and figure out the food for
My hair sparks purple. Right to "super pissed." I really don't like the idea of Pierce being almost alone
with Shelly. I suppose I should totally trust him, which I totally do, but Shelly? She I do not trust at all.
And Cupid? I'm not sure. Okay, I need to focus on what's important right now which is to figure out a
way of getting off campus to spy on the yacht tonight. "Hey, Lily-Bella, Thunder, Pickles I could use
"Sure, Wave. What's up?"
"Maybe we should go somewhere a little more private ... and less ... freezing."
Our legs are buried to the ankles as the room has filled with a carpet of snow. The other students have
taken sides and are making snowballs at breakneck speed, arming for what will probably be the
snowball fight of the millennium.
"How about the boys bathroom?" says Thunder.
"No offense, Thunder, but maybe the girl's bathroom would be better."
We are squeezed into the girl's bathroom, which consists of two pink stalls, two sinks, a Roman-tiled
floor and mirrors on the walls and ceilings. There is magical graffiti on the stall doors. The words
change into whatever is the most offensive to the reader, so I see something different than the others.
I try not to look; because it's so embarrassing it makes me cringe. All I'll say is I've never seen an
octopus do anything like that. No one else seems to care about the graffiti that much. "Okay, I am
super glad we didn't say anything to the headmaster about what's going on around here because I
think he might be involved." I explain what happened in Crumpet's office. Jaws drop all around.
"So does anyone have any ideas on how to break Princess Iridessa's spell?"
"We could tie her to a tree and force her to remove the spell," Thunder suggests.
"Or, we could ask her nicely," says Pickles, sneezing.
"Well," Lily-Bella says, checking her hair in the mirror. "Ugh!" She waves her wand and her hair
rearranges itself into a gorgeous French twist with tiny lilies tucked into the twist. "Blech! I really need
to practice that more. Anyway, there's only one way to break the spell."
"There's a way to break the spell? I had no idea it would be this simple. What do we have to do?"
"We have to steal Princess Iridessa's wand."
"The only way to reverse the spell is to use the same wand that created it."
"How do we steal her wand?" I ask.
Pickles shakes her head. "Princess Iridessa takes her wand everywhere like all fairies." Her voice is
scratchy and has dropped almost an octave. "We keep our wands in a fairy dimension where they
follow us and are ready to be summoned at any time. And a fairy can only summon her own wand."
"Okay, I will go into the fairy dimension and get the wand." I say. "Tell me how to get there and how
to identify Iridessa's wand. I promise not to touch anything else. But I'd better go now. We only have a
few hours until sundown, and that's when they're meeting on the yacht for dinner."
Lily-Bella laughs. It sounds like bells. "You can't go to the fairy dimension. Only a fairy can go there. I'll
"I'm one-eighth fairy. On my mother's side."
"You are? Wow! That's totally cool. I wondered when I saw your hair spark the first time. Anyway,
one-eighth isn't enough. Only a full fairy can go. And it's guarded by hungry dragons and peevish fire-
spirits. If I manage to get past the dragons' fiery breath and survive the fire-sprit's earsplitting screams,
then all I have to do is snag Iridessa's wand from the caldera of an erupting volcano." She smiles like
she's just given us her recipe for fairy cupcakes instead of describing a venture into, well, essentially,
"I don't think this is a good plan," says Thunder. He looks as white as foaming surf. "My plan is safer."
Lily-Bella puts her hand on Thunder's arm. "You're very sweet, Thunder, but trust me. Your way is not
safer. You really don't want to get on Fairy Princess Iridessa's Bad List."
"That's really a thing?" I ask.
"Oh, yes." Her eyes are shining in that feral, crazed way she gets when she thinks about something
risky and unsafe.
"Wait," says Pickles, sneezing again. "Fairies can't actually go into the fairy dimension. "We call the
wand. It comes. We release the wand; it goes back. We don't ever go inside."
"They tell you that in F.G. training?" Lily-Bella purses her lips. "It's a lie. You can go, only it's extremely
dangerous. Now, we'll need to keep Iridessa occupied while I'm there. She cannot summon her
"I could arrange a fire to distract her," Fintan says. "In the glade where we had Enchanted Dance
"What no! No to all of this," I say. "We'll figure out another way."
"Don't worry, Wave. It'll be a small fire," says Fintan. "I won't burn down the whole school ... I hope."
"But won't Princess Iridessa summon her wand to put out the fire?" I say.
"Nope. Fairy magic doesn't work on fire. It has something to do with fire being a fairy's natural enemy.
If she tries fairy magic, with her massive powers, she could end up torching the entire state of
California," says Lily-Bella. "It's why the fairy dimension is guarded by dragons and stocked with
volcanoes and fire-spirits. You might as well go along with it, Waverly. Because I'm stealing that wand,
and there's nothing you can do to stop me." Her eyes are flashing, and her jaw is tight.
"I want you to know I don't like this idea at all."
"It's okay, Wave," says Lily-Bella. I'll slip into the fairy dimension, steal the wand, reverse the spell, and
sneak back while Fintan sets fire to the glade. Now there's one problem left to resolve."
"Pickles, can you do the camouflage spell when you have the fairy flu?"
"Yeah. I think so." More sneezing.
"Uh, no offence, Pickles," I say. "But maybe Lily-Bella should do it."
"I wish I could. It's totally awesome, but it's strictly a F.G. spell."
I exhale in frustration. What if the spell doesn't hold, and Pierce and I are caught spying? I don't think
they'll chuckle about it and serve us tea. "Maybe we should test it out," I say.
"Good idea," says Pickles. She starts chanting and waving her wand around like she's trying to swat
away an errant seagull."
"Nothing's happening," I say. Eels meals! Now what am I going to do? No way am I letting Pierce do
this alone while Shelly's on that boat tonight. And what's to keep him from being discovered? He also
needs this spell.
"Where is she?" says Thunder, wagging his head to and fro.
"See that toilet?" says Pickles.
"You turned me into a toilet?" I say, indignantly. Sure enough, I look in the mirror, and there is no
reflection of me.
"I didn't turn you into a toilet," says Pickles. "It's just that you look like a toilet because that's what
you're standing in front of."
Thunder starts guffawing like a lunatic. He smacks his leg. Tears roll down his ruddy face.
"Get away from me!" I yell. There is nowhere to go in the small room. Thunder tries to sit on me, and
we end up crashing to the floor. "Aarrgh!" I'm squished beneath him. Have I mentioned that Thunder
weighs nearly as much as a blue whale?
Pickles sneezes, and I know the spell has dissolved because I can see my reflection in the mirror.
"Oh fickleheart!" Pickles stomps her foot. "I dropped the spell."
The bathroom door opens.
"What's going on?" says Pierce. He's showing Thunder some fang. Neptune's Beard, vampires are
Thunder jumps off of me. I can breathe again. "Nothing, bro," says Thunder.
I'm struggling to stand. Pierce squeezes into the room and helps me up. I feel that now familiar spark
of electricity when he touches me. "Are you okay?" he says, hugging me, his voice full of concern.
"Thanks, yeah." I don't want him to know that the spell didn't last. He might nix the whole recon
mission tonight, and I'm sure we'll get it working soon. "I'm fine. We were just ..."
"Testing the camouflage spell?"
"Yeah. It's great. Anyway, where have you been?" I take a step back and hit my head on the stall door.
"Looking for places to have the Halloween party. Sorry."
"It's perfectly okay. I don't mind at all that you took off with Shelly. I'm sure you two had lots to talk
"Waverly. Nothing happened. So have you decided to table this ridiculous idea of yours and let me do
the mission to the boat alone?"
"Not at all, Pierce. I am so going. "But can I ask you a question?"
"How often do you visit this girl's bathroom?"
Pierce, Pickles, Thunder and I are standing on the beach in a grove of palm trees. It's getting late. The
sun is a squashed orange on the horizon, and the air is chilled. The yacht is floating in the middle of
the bay, beckoning and threatening, as solid and white as an iceberg.
"Hey, look," says Pickles, obviously proud of Fintan's handiwork. She sneezes.
Smoke rises from the forest, and we can hear the students and teachers shouting. The glade is
burning. The school is absolute mayhem. Everything is going along as planned. Except that Lily-Bella
hasn't returned from her ... uh ... errand. I'm getting worried.
Pickles hasn't yet invoked the camouflage spell. We're waiting until the last possible moment so it'll
last for hopefully the whole evening. She's been practicing for hours. So far besides the toilet, I've
been hidden in plain sight as a bunk bed, a potted plant, and a naked sculpture of Cupid in the school
courtyard. The spell has held for up to an hour. I hope that will be enough time to do our spying.
Suddenly, the air in front of us tears apart into a slash of orange flame, and Lily-Bella steps through. As
soon as she's fully in our dimension, the slash disappears. Her hair is scorched, her normally creamy
face smudged, her pink gown in shreds, smoke wafting from the singed hemline. She's smiling like a
"Lily-Bella! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, Wave. I'm fine. Look, I managed to reverse the spell, but I think Iridessa might suspect
something. I gotta go. Good luck!" She kisses Thunder on the cheek and disappears in a cloud of fairy
dust. Thunder is grinning and practically floating three inches above the sand.
"Okay, Pickles. Let's do this," I say.
Pickles waves her wand, and Pierce disappears. Now I just see the palm tree he was standing in front
of. I feel Pierce's arm wrap around my waist.
"Good job, Pickles," I say.
"Thanks. You two are the cutest palm trees I've ever seen! I just hope it holds."
"It will," says Thunder. But he doesn't look convinced.
"It better," says Pierce."
"I love you guys." Pickles leans close to me.
"Pickles, why are you patting my nose?"
"Sorry, thought it was your shoulder."
"That's okay. See you in a couple of hours," I say.
They head up the hill to give Fintan the all clear so he can snuff the fire before it consumes the forest.
"Waverly, we can't even see one another," says Pierce. "For safety purposes, before we fly off into this
insane venture of yours, I recommend that I drink just a little of your blood so I can hear your
"Are you crazy?" I wriggle out of his arm. "Not ever, whatsoever, in a million billion years is that going
to happen, vampire."
"Look, Waverly. I'm not asking for nutritional purposes. I'm asking because if I can read your mind,
even if I can't see you, even if we get separated, I'll be able to communicate with you silently. It's much
"Safer for me? Are you serious? You could lose control and turn me into some weird mermaid/vampire
hybrid. That's assuming I could even be turned into a vampire, which I'm sure I can't because it's
freaking never happened. More likely I'd be dead. And then, I'm telling you, Pierce, if you kill me, my
dad will kill you. And it won't even matter that you're already dead. You will be all the way dead. So
for your own good, no freaking way."
"You owe me a wish."
"What? I don't owe you anything."
"If you'll remember the first day we met? We had a friendly race. I won. You lost. Loser owes winner a
"You totally cheated! You could fly! You didn't tell me that."
"You didn't ask, mermaid. So I did nothing wrong. You owe me a wish, fair and square. And I'm
wishing for a tiny sip of your blood. You won't even feel it. You might even like it."
Though all I see is a palm tree, I can feel Pierce's body move against mine. There is the course of
electricity. Yes! Yes! My body is saying. Let him have our blood. Please! Shut up body. It's only a
vampire trick. He's making us think we want this, and we totally don't.
This is when I feel fangs scraping along my neck. I am getting goose pimples and pulling him closer.
Hmmm. Maybe he's right. Maybe if he can communicate with me telepathically while on the mission it
would help. And it'll wear off in twenty-four hours. Once we return, I will avoid him for a whole day.
"You promise not to kill me?"
"I promise, mermaid."
"Are you licking your lips, vampire? I heard lip licking and it isn't instilling confidence."
"Sorry, I didn't realize I was doing that."
I'm about to come up with some kind of witty retort, but I can't speak. Pierce is drinking my blood, and
Hades Harmonicas, I LOVE IT!
Why does it have to feel so amazing to have your blood sucked out of your body by a hot, funny, sexy
vampire poet? Here's what it's like: my body is totally relaxed; my limbs feel like I've just gotten back
from a transoceanic swim. My heart is pumping hard. His body is cool next to mine. And the place
where his fangs are piercing my neck is the center of my universe. It feels like pure energy and
So when he pulls away after just a few seconds, I scream nooooo! Don't stop! in my head and grab for
him, but all I get is air. Because of Pickles' spell I can't even see him, and he's obviously used his evil
vampiric abilities to jump away from me at speed. Sometimes I really hate vampires! "More!"
I hear a totally sexy deep-throated laugh from ten feet away. "No, Waverly. I know you want me to
drink all of your delicious mermaid blood, but I'd like to keep your circulatory system up and running to
manufacture more of the tasty treat."
"You are so ..."
"Yes, how did you ... know?" Ugh, right, I totally forgot what it was like having him in my head. Utter,
"Sorry, Wave. Let's go on this ill-conceived spy mission. I don't know what you think we're going to
find out at a dinner party, but we better go now before Pickles' spell wears off. Fairy godmothers really
need to get their act together. Why don't they concentrate on spell longevity? Seems like a fairly
essential spell component."
I feel his arm snake around my waist and his warmish lips press against mine. "Maybe you need just a
tiny bit more blood?" I offer.
He blasts us into the sky, his laugh almost lost in the whistling of the wind we are creating as we pass
through the atmosphere.
Pierce brings us to the top cabin on the yacht where candlelight flickers from the windows. We touch
down on the deck. Inside the cabin, Crumpet, Sharkweather and Shelly are seated at one end of a long
dark wood table. All down the center of the table are silver candelabras and elongated silver bowls
filled with strange feral-looking fruits-some shaped like sea urchins, others with claws, spikes or
tentacles. The walls are "decorated" with stuffed leopard, hammerhead and nurse sharks attached to
rectangles of wood, like some sick art form. I shudder. There are wooden pillars with shark carvings at
each corner of the room.
"I can barely hear them through the glass," Pierce says.
Interesting. Vampire-proof glass.
It's so weird that I can't see, Pierce-only the white hull he's standing in front of, but I do notice a subtle
rippling in the air where he must be. He takes my hand and squeezes. I really like this and not just
because I need reassurance. I try not to think about the electric feel of his strong, cool hand in mine
because I don't want him to know.
"I already know, Wave," he whispers into my ear.
"Someday, Pierce, I am going to figure out how to read your thoughts, and you are going down!" I
"All my thoughts are of your strength and beauty, Waverly. You are like a mountain draped in a cloak
of snow, shimmering in the winter's light."
You know, I think he uses poetry as a weapon, sort of the same way he uses those dimples of his. I
melt every time. Must resist!
Pierce laughs softly. "Maybe we should go back to school if you're nervous?" he whispers.
"No! We have to get inside."
"Shhh!" he hisses. "Someone's coming."
Moments later I hear wheels clicking over the wooden deck and the jangling of what sounds like
glassware and dishes. A skinny guy in a tuxedo approaches, pushing a cart laden with food, and a fat
guy in the same outfit is pushing a cart of drinks that includes a crystal decanter of red fluid. Urgh!
What? Even though I've decided I like Pierce drinking my blood doesn't mean all of a sudden I like
seeing the stuff outside of a body. The carts stop, and all is silent as the skinny guy reaches a white-
gloved hand toward the doorknob. The food smells unbelievably good. Oh, wow! I recognize that
smell! Garlic. Yum. My stomach growls. Eels meals!
"What was that, Chum?" says the fat guy.
"I didn't hear anything," says Chum.
"Sounded like an animal."
Chum looks around. "I don't see anything, Gurges. You really gotta stop drinking the boss's stash.
Come on, let's go in before this food gets cold, and the boss throws us overboard again. I can't afford
At least the spell seems to be working. Feeling slightly more confident, I hold my breath and pull Pierce
into the room right behind Chum and Gurges.
"About time," hollers Brack Sharkweather. "Hard to get good help on a yacht these days."
"Dad, they're standing right here. They can hear you," Shelly says, rolling her eyes. I kind of respect her
for calling out her dad and for her professional-grade eye rolling.
Brack glares at Shelly. She is deliberately not looking him in the eye. She's in a long silver gown, and
her waist-length golden green hair is shiny and iridescent like a rainbow trout.
Crumpet and Brack are also in tuxedoes, which looks pretty funny on Crumpet. I've only just gotten
used to him in his plaid shirts and jeans. Crumpet looks right at the spot where Pierce and I are
standing next to the door. The headmaster arches an eyebrow. My heart speeds. Oh, no! Vampire
senses! He can probably smell us or hear my heart pounding in my chest.
Pierce squeezes my hand. I think he's trying to tell me it'll be okay, but I'm ready to run out of there.
"Headmaster, would you like some O-negative de Virgin? I had it flown in from a French nunnery only
"Gross, Dad," says Shelly, wrinkling her nose.
Crumpet looks away from Pierce, and me and gives Sharkweather a tight smile. "Please."
Gurges pours some blood into Crumpet's goblet while I work on not gagging. Crumpet takes a sip.
Chum dishes up the food to Shelly and her dad-some kind of pasta with lobster, raw oysters and
seaweed salad. But after the virgin blood, I am totally not hungry any more. Once Chum and Gurges
are done serving, they stand at attention at the back of the room doing absolutely nothing. They look
"So what about my proposal to admit more merfolk to the school, Crumpet?" says Sharkweather. He
picks up an oyster, slides it into his mouth, slurps and swallows it whole.
"I'm not sure it's a good idea. We're already into the semester, and the students are bonding. I think it
best if we wait and admit them next semester."
"I don't think you understand the scale of my contributions to your school Headmaster." He's spits the
"Oh, Brack, I do understand, but I didn't realize they came with strings attached. I thought they were
Mr. Sharkweather laughs, low and amused. "I don't know the meaning of the word."
"Perhaps you should go back and complete your education."
"Look, Sharkweather, I did what you asked with the Fishwater girl; I think I've held up my end of the
bargain. But we will not admit any more merfolk this semester. I simply do not understand the
Mr. Sharkweather kicks Shelly under the table. She coughs and wipes her mouth on the white linen
napkin. "Oh, Headmaster Crumpet. It is so lonely for me at the school."
Shelly sounds like she is reciting a speech, probably scripted by her father.
"I need to be able to mingle with more of my own kind," she drones on. "There are several friends of
mine from Pacifica that would make excellent additions to our school. I just don't think it's fair that
there are only two mermaids, and one of us is, well, you already know about Waverly Fishwater."
I want to tackle Shelly and push her face into the pasta. Pierce grabs me around my waist and keeps
me firmly planted. When he grabbed me like that, I nearly screamed. I mentally chastise him for his
idiocy, but instead of feeling bad, I feel him smirking against my neck. I subconsciously push against
him, wanting him to take a bite. Oh, Neptune, help me!
Shelly tucks her thumbs under her hair and scoops the mass over one shoulder, exposing her long
smooth neck. "I would be so grateful if you could allow in more merfolk now rather than wait till next
"I understand your situation, Shelly. But there are many students at West Marin Heights, and the whole
idea of admitting different species this year is to integrate and learn about one another. I suggest you
take this time to do so."
"I assure you we can donate enough money to quickly add accommodations for the new students.
And perhaps a bonus for the Headmaster?"
Crumpet scowls and looks like he's about to drop fang. "Are you trying to bribe me, Sharkweather?"
"Don't act like you are innocent here, Crumpet. "We both know you've taken my money for months
"All of your money has gone into the school."
Sharkweather laughs again. "Whatever interpretation helps you sleep at night, Crumpet. Now ..."
Chum puts a hand to his ear and nods his head as if he is listening to someone speak. I notice a coiled
wire going from Chum's ear, down his neck. "Mr. Sharkweather?" says Chum.
"What is it?"
"Uh, well, it seems there is a problem in the engine room that needs your personal attention.
Fear flashes across Sharkweather's face. There must be something frightening in the engine room.
Crumpet stands so fast I didn't see him move. "I was about done here anyway. Good night, Mr.
"I am not done with you," says Sharkweather. "Remember, I have evidence that could get you fired.
Your little favor with the Fishwater girl only goes so far in exchange for all I've done for you."
"I did that for her protection, not for you, Sharkweather. Sorry to have this discussion in your presence,
Shelly, but it seems your father has insisted on involving you."
"It's okay, Headmaster. I'm used to people getting irate with Daddy."
"Shelly Scylla Sharkweather." There it is. All three names. Wait, Scylla? Isn't that a sea nymph who
turns into a monster? Who would name their kid that?
Eye roll, Shelly.
"I have no further business with you Sharkweather. I shall leave you to your errand in the engine
Crumpet sweeps out of the dining cabin totally staring at the spot where Pierce and I are standing. He
must know we're here. But why didn't he tell Sharkweather of our presence if the headmaster is
Sharkweather's accomplice? Are they working together? Listening in on their argument I am
beginning to wonder. But even if Crumpet didn't want to expose us, I did directly defy his orders, and
now it will be obvious who was behind the theft of Iridessa's wand. No way am I letting Lily-Bella take
the blame. Things just keep getting more complicated.
"Shelly, you stay here. I'll be right back, to discuss your behavior. Men?"
Sharkweather, Gurges and Chum file out of the dining room. Let's follow them, I think to Pierce. Being
able to read my mind is actually helpful. We head for the door, and we're almost home free, when
Shelly elects to ignore her father, gets up to leave and is about to bump into us. Pierce lifts me, and
shoots us sideways across the room leaving the door clear. Pierce sets me down. I run my hand over
the shark carvings as we wait for Shelly to exit. I swear one of the mounted sharks on the wall is
watching me. But that's ridiculous. I'm invisible, and the mounted sharks have glass eyes. How can a
place this beautiful be so creepy?
"Take my hand, and I'll guide you," Pierce whispers. "I can hear where they're headed. I think Shelly is
following her father as well."
Pierce and I exit the room and quietly cross the deck. The air is thick and heavy, and the starlight is
obscured by gray clouds. In the distance I hear the high-pitched whine of a motorboat and the lonely
bellow of a foghorn. Pierce leads me down some metal stairs, and I try not to make any noise.
We descend several flights until we are in the bowels of the yacht. There is a loud hum and a vibration
that makes my teeth chatter. This level of the boat smells like burnt oil.
We get to the bottom where there is passage lit with dull yellow light. Sharkweather, Gurges and
Chum move toward a bright open doorway at the end of the passage, the fall of their heavy boots
echoing in the chamber. Who wears boots with a tuxedo? Weird. Shelly holds back until the men are
through; then she conceals herself just outside the room, behind the door. I hold my breath praying to
Neptune that the Camouflage Spell holds. We make it past Shelly into what must be the engine room.
But being here makes me nervous. If the spell wears off, we'll have to climb three flights of stairs to
The vibrations and thrum of the engines is loud, and it's hard to think straight. It's so bright in this
room I have to squint. There are stainless-steel tubes snaking through the room, in the middle of
which, are two enormous twenty-foot tall stainless-steel tanks surrounded by gray equipment. The
only color is from the pair of red fire extinguishers, one at each end of the cavernous space.
Maybe you were right about this being a bad idea, I think to Pierce. We should get out of here.
He squeezes my hand, and I can tell we're not going anywhere right now. The men are in the back of
the room in a tiny alcove on the other side of the drums. We stand right outside so we can hear their
"Well, Sharkweather?" says a smooth, oily, eel-like voice I don't recognize. I try to get a better look but
apparently the guy is sitting down and Sharkweather and his waiter/bodyguards are blocking my view.
"Sir. Let me explain," says Sharkweather.
"The only thing I want to hear out of your mouth is that you are bringing me a new delivery of merfolk.
We are about to go national with our marketing campaign, and we are falling behind in production. I
grow tired of your excuses."
"I am doing my best. Crumpet is resisting. I can't just bring more merfolk here without a reason. The
Council is already delving into the previous disappearances. My sources tell me the royal family might
get involved, and apparently they have sent a spy. I am being watched."
Disappearances? Spies? The royal family? What is going on? This is way bigger and more dangerous
than I thought. Holy Seacow!
"At least get me that Fishwater girl."
Who, me? Pierce is crushing my hand. Ouch! He lessens the pressure, slightly.
"It's not that easy, Sir. Her father has hired a vampire bodyguard, and he is watching her carefully."
Hired a bodyguard? A vampire? What? Pierce is with me because my dad hired him? I nearly blow our
cover, I am so angry. I yank my hand out of Pierce's grip. I'm so mad I'm shaking. Pierce says nothing!
"I needn't remind you, Sharkweather, that you don't want to see me cross. You know what I am
"I will get you a merperson within the week."
"That's a start. Are you ready to pick up the next shipment for disposal in the cave?"
"Yes, we will be there tomorrow night. The cove beneath Pierce's Point."
"Don't blow this, Sharkweather. I've made you a very wealthy man. And if you want to see HER alive,
you know what you have to do."
See whom alive? What's happening?
I glance at the stainless-steel drum and see our reflection. Boy do I look pissed! And Pierce looks scared
and even whiter than usual. Not that I care. Wait, why am I thinking about what we look like? No!
Pierce, the spell has worn off! We have to get out of here!! Now! But how? Shelly Sharkweather is
standing next to the only exit.
I let Pierce pull me down to hide behind the drum. I am still totally pissed, but if we're going to escape,
I'll have to thrash him, I mean confront him, later. We're crouching behind the tank. My heart is
pounding. Pierce points to the door.
We're going to run? They'll see us! I think to Pierce.
"Why are you still here, Sharkweather?" asks the stranger with the oily voice.
Now! Pierce mouths.
He stands and grabs me. We blast across the room.
"Someone's here!" says the oily-voiced man.
"What the ...?" Sharkweather burbles.
I don't hear the rest because Pierce and I are flying across the room in a blur. I guess he's hopped-up
on mermaid blood, and it's making him even faster than normal. Even if they see us, they won't know
what it is.
Everything is going great until we get to the exit, and I realize that my hair has been sparking. Couldn't
see it when we are invisible, and now it's going to give us away. Shelly is blocking the door, but Pierce
doesn't slow down. At the last second, Shelly leaps out of the way, and we blast past her, but I know
she saw my hair go off. She will totally know it was Pierce and I.
Pierce flies us up the stairs and out on to the deck. In seconds, we're in the sky flying away from the
yacht over the dark water. My heart is pounding, and my hair is sparking dark purple, red and gold.
I've never even seen this combination! Now that we're off the yacht and out of danger my rage with
Pierce escalates. I really can't be with Pierce right now. He was hired to watch me? This whole thing
has been a job for him? I am beyond hurt. A giant lump forms in my throat, and I can barely speak.
Finally, I manage to say, "Pierce. Let go of me!"
"I don't care if my dad gets mad at you for abandoning your post. I was nothing but a job for you this
"Waverly, it's not like that."
"So you aren't working for my dad?"
He looks so guilty. The truth is there on his face. He is working for my dad. I hold back a sob. I will not
give him the satisfaction of seeing me cry. "Let go!"
"I warned you!" I shove him. It takes more strength than hurtling Great Whites but I am pretty strong,
so after a few tries I succeed in flinging him into the mist, while I plummet into the ocean. Thank
Neptune I decided to wear a flouncy skirt tonight because my legs transform into a tail in mere
seconds, though my underwear is shredded and my shoes float to the surface. The smart mermaid
always wears skirts or dresses whenever she is going near the ocean. I cannot tell you how good it
feels to be back in the water. Even though it seems that the toxins don't have an effect on me, I have
been avoiding the bay. But now, I can feel how much my body yearned to be here. The only problem
is, I'm still crying magical mermaid tears, and I cannot stop. I look down and see a palm tree sprouting
from the bottom of the bay.
Why didn't Pierce tell me that my dad hired him? I really thought he loved me. And this whole time ... I
try to choke back the sob. This whole time he was being paid to be with me. And I kissed him! I gave
him my blood!
I cry even harder and start to hiccup. A shiver of Great Whites swims toward me. "Get away!" I think at
them in Mermish. Neptune's Nails, I wish I had paid better attention in my Conversational Shark class
at Pacifica. At the time I thought I'd have no use for the language.
They swim faster, their great maws open, showing rows of pointy teeth with pink remnants of dinner.
"Please, you guys! You really don't want to come near me when I'm crying."
But it's too late. One by one each shark transforms into a seagull. Now I have to freaking rescue six
seagulls! I really am not in any state to rescue anyone else when I can't even rescue myself, but the
newly-made seagulls are pathetic, flapping their wings and trying to figure out how to breathe
underwater. Ugh! I grab them, one at a time, yes, while being scratched and bloodied by the claws at
the ends of their flailing webbed feet, and throw them up out of the water and into the sky. Once all
six of them are safely airborne, and my arms and face are bleeding, I jet into turboswim. I have to get
out of the water before I mess up the entire ecosystem.
The first thing I have to do when I get back to campus is take the blame for Iridessa's missing wand. No
way can I allow Lily-Bella to be punished, even if this gets me kicked out of the school. Then I have to
grill my dad as to why in Hades he hired a bodyguard to protect me? I am not a helpless fingerling!
And why a vampire? I think my dad really has lost it. It's like asking a shark to babysit a sea lion. The
good news is now I am so mad, I have stopped crying. The oceans are once again safe from Waverly
The water is so cold; it's practically arctic. As I near the shore, I slow down. Believe me, it is not a
pleasant sensation to hit land in turbo-swim. I swim past a kelp garden, the fronds swaying like wraiths
in the undercurrent. A shiver of spotted baby nurse sharks approaches. They take one look at me, turn
tail and speed away. At least there are some intelligent sharks in the bay.
I propel myself onto beach and wait for my legs to form. After they've sprouted, I lie on the cool, wet
sand, listening to the moaning ocean and the cries of owls and the howls of coyotes off in the
distance. The sky is still thick with clouds, and I can smell the smoke from the earlier conflagration in
the fairy meadow. There is a flapping of wings. It's the seagulls. They've followed me. I stand, and
shoo them, but they aren't listening. And I speak absolutely no seagull. It's one of those language
courses only taken by kids who want to do really well on the MAT's (Merfolk Aptitude Test).
I should probably go back to the cabin and clean up the sticky sand and blood before turning myself in,
but I'm in no mood to act rationally. I stand, tug my skirt so it covers as much of my thighs as it can (no
underwear!) and stomp along the beach barefoot, my feet sinking into the thick, gurgly sand. It's
windy, and because I'm soaked, I'm positively freezing.
I walk up the path toward campus; my legs and feet are now also bleeding from stepping on jagged
rocks and scratching against blackberry vines. Two of the seagulls are still following me. I'm going to
"What's happened to you, mermaid?"
Oh joy, it's Cupid. Thankfully he's sitting on a tree branch in his toga and bow tie right side up. He
takes three huge bites out of an apple, and throws the core into the ferns at the bottom of the tree.
"Don't mess with me, Love God." I fold my arms over my chest trying to get some warmth.
The seagull pair flies over Cupid, flapping their wings above his golden curls. "New friends?" He bats
them away, and jumps from the branch on to the path in front of me. "You look awful. Have you been
playing with sharks again?" he says, grinning. "Your battle with the Great Whites on the first day of
school is legendary."
"Great White death matches are a specialty of mine." If he only knew how many different sharks I've
had to deal with tonight! "Look Cupid, I have to talk to Iridessa right away, so can we pick up the
The seagulls are cawing like crazy. "I warned you to stay away from me," I think in Mermish. Of course
this does no good.
"Wait, Waverly, you really do look terrible. Are you okay?" He puts his hands on my shoulders, and a
ripple of warmth and peace flows through my body.
"Surprisingly, I am fine," I say. "Thanks for whatever that calming thing is that you just did to me."
"You looked like you needed it. And you're bleeding. Did Pierce do this?" Cupid frowns and his bow
and arrow appear out of thin air.
"Sort of. I mean not the bleeding part."
"I would rip him limb from limb if he were still here. The lout!"
"Much as I appreciate the offer, Cupid, I think I'll be the one ripping his limbs. Wait, did you say 'if he
were still here?'"
"You don't know?"
"No, I've been out, uh, swimming for a while." How much time had passed? "Where is Pierce?"
"He got thrown out of school."
"He admitted that he stole Iridessa's wand, and boy was she mad. She insisted that Headmaster
Crumpet expel him or else she was going to quit. It nearly rekilled Crumpet to do it, though. Pierce is
like a son to him."
"But Pierce didn't steal the wand. Um ... I did."
Cupid raises his eyebrows.
"I did," I say more confidently.
"Shut up!" I say to the seagulls. Cupid stares at them, they hop on to the branch and quiet down.
Oh, no. I realize Pierce did this to protect me. He knew I would take the blame to protect Lily-Bella. He
was probably reading my mind while I was swimming back to school! He is still trying to be my
bodyguard even after I essentially fired him. Maybe he thinks I'll forgive him because of this, but no
"Look, Waverly, I wouldn't go to Iridessa right now and take the blame. Think about it. What if this is
part of a bigger plan? I don't know what, but I think you should keep quiet for now. Don't let Pierce's
sacrifice be in vain."
"Alright, but not for long. I won't let Pierce take the blame for something he didn't do even if he is a
lying, evil, denizen of the night. I will get him returned to the school and then I will ..."
"I'm thinking. Okay, I can't think right now of a good punishment because of your 'let's all be calm and
happy' influence. I'll have to ask Thunder for suggestions. He's good at this sort of thing."
"I'm sure he is, Waverly."
"I gotta go talk to my dad then."
"Maybe I should take you to see Chiron first. You look pretty beat up."
"I'm okay. Mermaids heal super fast."
"If you say so. See you back at the cabin."
"Any time, Wave." He winks at me and shoots an arrow into the tree. I hear a screech, and seagull
feathers float through the air. "Love hurts," he says.
"Oh, no, Cupid. You didn't harm them?"
"Take a look."
I do. Ugh! They are definitely not hurt, and I don't have to tell you what they're doing!
My dad's is the furthest of the teacher cabins. It is smaller than mine, but he has it all to himself. I don't
"Dad?" I burst inside, nearly breaking the door off its hinges. I guess Cupid's little calming effect has
already worn off. "How could you ...?" I slam the door, and the cabin shakes.
"Waverly," my dad stands giving me a look of concern. I can't even imagine how scary I must look,
wet, sandy, bleeding.
Oh, no. My dad isn't alone. Headmaster Crumpet stands and turns to face me. He's still in his tuxedo.
"Hello, Waverly. Thank you for stopping in."
There is no merry fire going in the fireplace and the room smells like pine. My teeth are chattering.
"Uh, sorry, Dad. Didn't know you were busy. I'll, um, come back later." I turn to leave.
"Waverly Marie Fishwater. Come in here right now, and sit. We have to talk."
I plop down on the plaid sofa identical to the one in my cabin, cover my legs with the plaid wool
blanket and fix my face with a stubborn, 'Oh brother' expression. To that, I add a bit of an eye roll and
an impatient sigh, then wrap my arms against my chest in the universal gesture of 'Leave me alone.'
Really, that's all I got.
"I understand you have disobeyed not only me but also the headmaster. Is this correct?"
"Dad, you already know the truth. Why don't you just tell me the bottom line? I'm tired, and I'm
bleeding all over school property." Why do parents do this? They know what you've done. You know
what you've done. And they make you go over the whole thing as if that is going to change the facts.
"I am very disappointed in you, Waverly."
I can't help it. I don't mean to look into his eyes, but I do, and he is so distressed I actually feel like a
horrible mermaid. "Dad, I'm sorry, I thought ..."
Headmaster Crumpet sits there like a stone. I have no idea what he's thinking.
"Waverly, that is the problem. You didn't think. I expressly told you that there were bigger things at
play here. Dangerous things. And still, you put your life in danger, broke school rules, and now Pierce
has been expelled. All because of your inability to think things through." Now I feel even worse. Pierce
has been expelled because of me. Sure I'm furious with him, but he didn't want to go to the yacht
tonight. I was too stubborn to listen.
"Dad, I screwed up; I know I did. I'm really sorry. I was only trying to help." I want to tell my dad what I
learned: that Crumpet has been taking money from Sharkweather for the school, that Sharkweather
has been dumping toxins in the bay, and that there is someone else involved. Someone who wants
more merfolk enrolled in the school, though I don't know why. But I don't think we should have this
discussion in front of Crumpet. I think he's okay, but I'm not totally sure. I'll talk to Dad tomorrow. If
we're still speaking.
Dad exhales loudly and looks at the headmaster. Crumpet gives a tiny nod.
"I'm afraid you are on probation, Waverly. One more infraction and you will have to leave. I hope you
understand how this makes me look as an employee of this school?"
"I do, Dad, and I am sorry. But please tell me why you hired Pierce to protect me. Why did you think I
needed protection? And if this school is so dangerous, why did you bring me and mom here?"
"Those are all valid questions, Waverly, but I cannot answer them right now; I have more business to
discuss with Headmaster Crumpet. Please know that I did what I thought was best for my family. I love
you, Waverly. And I knew Pierce to be an honorable and powerful vampire who would take good care
of my precious daughter."
"Yes, Waverly," says Headmaster Crumpet. "Only one vampire of Pierce's abilities is made each century.
He is modest, and does not admit this freely. He will be sorely missed at the school." I want to ask
more, but I don't think it's the best time for the headmaster to talk about how wonderful Pierce is.
Crumpet already looks like he's been stung in the face by a jellyfish.
"Where has he gone?"
"I am not at liberty to say, Waverly," says the headmaster. "I am sorry."
Someone knocks tentatively on the door. Who could it be?
"Come in, Pickles," says my dad.
Pickles comes in and quietly closes the door.
"Hello Headmaster Crumpet, Mr. Fishwater, Wave." She sneezes. Fairy dust flies through the air. She
conjures a handkerchief. There are dark circles around Pickles' eyes and her red hair looks like a bird
has been nesting in it. In fact, a tiny bird peeks through the nest and chirps. "Quiet, Jay."
"Pickles, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"But you look terrible and you have a bird in your hair."
"I know. I rescued him. He fell out of a tree. Meet Jay. He's a junco."
"You named a junco, Jay?"
"Sure, why not?"
I shake my head.
"Thank you for coming, Pickles," says Mr. Crumpet.
"Is anyone going to tell me what is going on?"
"Of course, Waverly. Say hello to Pickles, your new bodyguard."
Pickles looks at me, shrugs her shoulders, and sneezes into her handkerchief. Jay is ejected from his
nest, and lands on the sofa. He hops on to my shoulder. He is pretty cute-brown and pudgy.
"You didn't think we'd leave you unsupervised after what happened tonight," my dad says.
I get it. He's telling me I can't be trusted. "But Dad ..."
"She is your fairy godmother, therefore, she is a good candidate. And remember, Waverly, if you
disobey again, not only will you be expelled, so will she. Now get back to your cabin and clean up,
honey." He kisses my head and thinks at me, "We'll talk later." He practically pushes us out and closes
I linger for a moment on the wooden deck to eavesdrop. "Are you sure Pierce knows what he's
doing?" my dad asks.
I strain to hear Crumpet's response, but he's too quiet.
"Come on, Wave." Pickles pulls me away. I want to stay, but now that Pickles is my jailer, I mean best
friend, I don't want her to think I'm going to make trouble and get her thrown out of school.
We walk down the path to our cabin, Jay hasn't moved off of my shoulder. I'm still wet, and the wind
is making me shiver. My teeth are chattering, and all I want is to take a steaming shower and climb
Pickles puts her arm around me. "I'm sorry about Pierce and everything." She sneezes, startling Jay. He
flies back into her hair and settles in. Pickles is the kindest person I know. I put my arm around her.
The sun outside the cabin window is high in the sky the next morning. I'm still in bed. It's Saturday;
there are no classes, so I intend to hide under the covers all day and cry about Pierce and feel sorry for
myself. One minute I'm furious with him for lying to me. The next I'm wondering if maybe he had a
good reason. I want there to be a good reason, I really, really do. I was awful to him because I was so
mad. But I can't stop thinking that I should've given him a chance to explain.
Outside the window, I think I see a flash of pale skin and dark hair running through the redwoods, but
it must be my mind playing tricks with me. Pierce has been expelled.
I remember after the picnic when he was talking in his sleep. He said, "Don't go. I'm sorry." I knew
then he was hiding something, but didn't want to make a big deal about it. Then I think about the
feeling of waking in his arms, and the kiss that followed, and I'm undone. I'm doing some really
impressive whimpering when the covers are ripped off of me. It's cold! I try to grab them, but Pickles
has tossed them on to the floor.
"Pickles! Give those back!"
"You are not staying in bed all day long and feeling sorry for yourself. Come on. Get up."
"Go away." I cover my face with the pillow. She tries to wrench that away as well. As if a fairy
godmother could wrestle a pillow from a mermaid! I pull really hard and I hear a thump.
I sit up so fast, my head spins. Pickles is on the floor, legs in the air.
"I always forget how strong you are."
I hop out of bed to help her, muscles aching from my dealings with the Great White Seagulls
yesterday; at least the scratches are healed. I reach down to help her up. "I'm sorry Pickles. Oh, no,
your hands are so clammy."
"It's okay." She sneezes.
Hades harmonicas. I get a good look at her. Pickles looks terrible. Her red hair is as bushy as Thunder's.
Her skin is so pale I can see faint outlines of the veins beneath. Her blue dress is on backward. Her nose
is as red as coral. Here I am feeling sorry for myself while my best friend is clearly very sick. I am a
"Pickles, what's wrong?"
"The fairy flu, remember? It's getting worse."
I lead her over to my bed and sit her down. I get my blankets and wrap them around her shoulders.
"Do you want some tea?"
"No thanks. I've already had six cups today. Lily-Bella made them."
Lily-Bella is taking care of Pickles when it should've been me.
"Why is it so quiet? Where is everyone?"
"Outside. Cupid has a surprise."
"Really? Well if Cupid says he has a surprise, it's bound to be weird. Every single thing that god does is
Pickles gives me a weak smile.
"Yeah. He says you should get dressed quickly."
"I need to talk to my dad."
"I heard at breakfast that your dad and the headmaster are off at an important meeting all day. They'll
be back tonight."
"What is it?"
"Pickles, we learned some terrible things last night on the yacht. Sharkweather is the one dumping
toxins in the bay, but he is being blackmailed by someone."
"I couldn't see him, and I didn't recognize his voice. I overheard him threatening Sharkweather. He said
he wants more merfolk enrolled in the school for some reason, but Sharkweather said there were spies
at the school and that the merfolk royal family is getting involved. Then the mystery man suggested he
could use me, but Sharkweather told him that my father had arranged for a bodyguard. That's how I
found out Pierce was only spending time with me because my dad hired him."
"You really believe Pierce was with you because he was paid?"
"Uh, well ..."
"I thought you were smart. Pierce is crazy in love with you, you idiot."
"You're only saying this to make me feel better. Because that's what best friends do."
"Waverly Marie Fishwater, I would never do that. Best friends are honest with each other!"
"I'm sorry, Pickles. Of course they are. I guess I'm afraid to hope that Pierce really does care about me."
Pickles shakes her head.
"So now I don't know what to do about Sharkweather. There's a pickup of more toxic waste
happening tonight near Pierce's Point. But I can't leave the school to find out. And Pierce is gone."
"Waverly, there's nothing you can do right now."
"I wish I could tell my dad what I know."
"Leave him a note."
I'm finishing up the note when I hear Cupid calling: "Waverly! Pickles!" I look up and see he's watching
us through the open window of the girl's bedroom. I have no idea how long he's been there. "Enough
of your little girlfest. Time for my surprise. Never again keep a god waiting. You never know what
wrath he might cast upon you." He waves his hand and the dark green curtains are now a lime green
Hawaiian print. "Fairy grove in five."
Before Cupid gets carried away with the Hawaiian theme, and I end up in a hula skirt, I get up and
rummage through the clothes on the floor. Since we're in a hurry, I say, "I wish I were already dressed."
Tears spring from her eyes. "What did I say? I'm sorry, Pickles. I didn't mean to take advantage of you.
I'll find something to wear."
"It's not that Waverly. It's the flu. I can't do magic any more. Please don't tell anyone, though. Not
until I figure out what to do."
"No! Oh, poor Pickles. How long will it last?"
"That's the thing. It's because in violation of a major F.G. Law-I'm dating Fintan."
"What?" I am aghast.
She points to her bed where I find the F.G. Handbook. It's open to the page titled Fairy Flu:
Any fairy who breaks one of the ten major laws of fairy, shall have her powers stripped, and endure
the ravages of fairy flu, until said behavior ceases, and she is reinstated by a Level One Fairy.
"That's horrible, Pickles. It's so unfair."
"I broke the rules."
"You are the best person I know. The rules are wrong. No one else can tell you whom you should or
shouldn't love. We need to change the law. Fight it."
"It's been like this for thousands of years. Even if the law changed, I'd be shunned by fairy society. My
parents would disown me."
"You, my friend, are guilty of loving someone who is warm and kind and in love with you too. If that's
a crime, then it's one you should commit. You can't break up with Fintan. He'll be devastated, and so
I scoop her into a one armed embrace, smoothing her hair with the other hand. "We will figure this
out, Pickles. I promise you!"
She pulls away and wipes her hazel eyes with her fist. She smiles, just a little. "You know what, Wave?"
"I know this makes no sense. I know the law is strictly enforced. But somehow I still believe you. If
Waverly Marie Fishwater says she is going to do something, she will."
"I appreciate your confidence in me, Pickles. I can be a bit of trouble when provoked."
"I noticed." She smiles again, and I am so happy, I throw on the closest articles of clothing without
paying any attention to what they are. Jay the junco flies on to my shoulder. It's not until we are
outside the cabin, holding hands and halfway to the fairy grove, that I notice I'm wearing a pink t-shirt,
pink sweater and a pink skirt. At least there are no sparkles!
After dropping the note at Dad's cabin, Pickles and I walk down the path through the forest. Jay is
perched on Pickles' head. We find Cupid standing in the middle of the grove with Lily-Bella, Shelly,
Fintan and Thunder. Shelly wears her customary mask of unpleasantness. She's trying to communicate
with me telepathically, but I close her off. I decide not to say anything mean to her just in case she
hasn't told her dad yet that I was on the yacht last night. She seemed to be kind of mad at him too, so
maybe she's kept it to herself, but still, I don't want her in my head.
The light is magical, filtering through the trees. There are birds singing. The air still smells a little like
smoke, but miraculously, none of the trees are even charred. Whatever Fintan is, he is truly a marvel.
He walks over to Pickles, touches her forehead removes his red sweater and wraps it around her
"Glad you could join us," says Cupid. "Nice pink, Wave." He winks. "Sure you wouldn't prefer a grass
"I am totally sure." What's going on?"
"Cupid won't tell us," says Lily-Bella, grinning. She and Thunder are holding hands. I am delighted for
them. "I think it's going to be dangerous!"
"I hope so," says Thunder.
The ground shakes. The trees quiver, and redwood needles rain upon our heads. Jay takes off and
disappears in the forest. Even though the sky is clear, the sound of thunder rumbles through the grove.
Cupid looks up and so do the rest of us. Something gold is flying straight at us. It's coming so fast, I
can't make out what it is. It hovers for a moment over the grove, then plummets. We scramble out of
the way, right before it lands with a boom. Dust and redwood droppings fly. Once the dust settles, I
can finally see what it is: a golden, jewel-encrusted chariot let by four winged, golden-horned
unicorns. They whinny, flap their wings, and paw anxiously at the ground. "Flying unicorns?"
"Red Velvet, Sprinkles, Mocha, 'Nilla! Come on Cupcakes. Chill!" Cupid's voice thunders through the
grove. "They're not unicorns, Wave, they're alicorns-winged unicorns. Very rare," Cupid says in a less
The alicorns' bright blue eyes look a little crazed, but they stand as still as marble statues.
"Cool landing," says Thunder.
"Can I pet them?" says Pickles"
"Can I fly on one of the alicorns?" says Lily-Bella.
"What are these interesting sun carvings on the sides of the chariot?" asks Fintan.
"Can we just get this meeting started?" Shelly ties her hair in a ponytail. "I've got to do a pedicure
before my date tonight."
I know she wants me to ask whom she's going out with, but I don't. I turn back to Cupid. "What's
"We are going to a special location to conduct the next Halloween Gala planning meeting. I'm getting
rather bored being on campus."
"Uh, well, you all have fun," I say. "I'm not allowed to leave."
"Already talked to your dad, Wave," says Cupid. "Asked if it was okay for you to stay on the planning
committee and come to the meeting today. He said it was a good idea. He thought it best if you stayed
busy doing something 'productive.'" Cupid makes little golden finger quotes in the air. They dissipate
after a second or two.
"You're sure?" I narrow my eyes at Cupid.
"You better be, love god."
Cupid smiles and claps his hands. "Glad that's settled. Everyone, hop in."
"Nice ride," says Thunder.
"It's not mine. It's my Uncle Apollo's. Now, get in quickly. Got to get this rig back before ..."
"Before what?" I say.
Cupid opens a little golden door, and we pile in. The seats are crushed purple velvet and the floor is
translucent. "Okay, Cupcakes," says Cupid. The alicorns paw at the ground and spread their wings. The
chariot bobs a few feet in the air. Cupid jumps in last, gathers the golden reins, and yells, "Liftoff!"
The chariot leaps straight up, and once we're clear of the treetops it launches into something faster
than turboswim. I'm clutching the seat, and someone is screaming. Oh wait, it's me!
The sky is a blur. So is the ground beneath the glass bottom of the chariot. The wind is rushing at us so
hard my long green hair flaps wildly.
"Control your hair," Shelly says, batting my hair away from her face.
"Sorry." I can feel her telepathically pushing against my brain. I increase my protections against her
invasion. She looks so distressed; I almost let down my guard. But I don't because it could be a ploy on
The chariot climbs so high, it becomes difficult to breathe. We are in the stratosphere. I can actually
see the curvature of the earth. It would be breathtaking, but as I can't breathe, I'll just say it's stunning.
I'm feeling dizzy, and worried I might black out, but before this happens, the chariot plummets toward
the Earth. I'm screaming again. So are Pickles and Shelly. Fintan is stoic as ever. Thunder and Lily-Bella
are grinning, and Cupid keeps turning back from driving the alicorns, to look at Pickles and Shelly and
me. He seems to be enjoying our fear immensely. I stop screaming and glare at him.
We are dropping toward a mountain shrouded in clouds. As we pass through them, the air is moist
and freezing and smells of honeysuckle. In moments we land in a courtyard paved in black marble and
surrounded by golden temples. Between the temples are gardens carpeted with gold, red, purple,
orange, blue and pink flowers and dotted with marble fountains, and topiary shaped like the gods and
My jaw drops in disbelief. "What is this place?" I'm taking deep gulps of air.
"We're on Mount Olympus. Quick. Get out. My mom's place is over there." We walk through the
courtyard towards a brass palace with a marble statue of Cupid as a baby out front. "Ignore that stupid
statue. Mom thinks it's adorable. This is why I rarely bring friends up here. Imagine bringing a date
home and your mother showing off your naked baby statues. Ugh!"
Mount Olympus. Really? I can't believe I am here. I wonder if I could meet Neptune? That would be
incredible. "Where is everyone?"
"Big meeting down at Uncle Hades' place. Come on, we will need to leave here before they get back."
"Don't we have to take care of the alicorns or something?" I say.
"No, they'll be fine. But I won't be unless we get out of here before Uncle Apollo returns and finds out
I stole, I mean borrowed, his most prized possession."
He hustles us into the palace through golden doors decorated with heart-shaped rubies. The
cavernous hallway smells like mint and rosemary. Our footsteps echo off of the walls and thirty-foot
high ceilings. All around us are sculptures of Aphrodite and Cupid and oil paintings depicting couples
in love. A pang sorrow of hits me in the gut when I see the pictures. I really miss Pierce, and I'm
worried about him. Where has he gone? Why won't they tell me?
"This is incredible, man. Why are you living in a cabin when you could be here?" asks Thunder.
"Live with mother? I would rather live with Uncle Hades than here."
"Yeah, I get that," says Pickles.
"Come see my favorite room," says Cupid. He's practically jumping up and down. This can only mean
"Your bedroom?" I guess.
"Yep," says Cupid.
"Maybe we should meet in the hallway," I say.
"No way. Not with all those people watching us. Come on; it's through here."
As we follow him, I notice that the eyes of the people in the paintings do seem to follow us. It's creepy
and disconcerting. I hustle after Cupid not wanting to be left alone with the artwork. When I catch up
with the group, I notice Shelly has lagged behind. She's lingering outside the door to Cupid's
She grabs my arm. "I need to talk to you," she says.
"Come on ladies," says Cupid. "Time for our meeting."
Shelly sighs in frustration but let's go of me. We follow him into what looks more like a boudoir than a
There is sultry jazz music playing, but I'm not sure where it's coming from. It's warm in Cupid's room.
It feels like sunlight is hitting my skin, but the only sun is coming through a bank of windows at the far
end of the room. They overlook a garden of red and pink roses. His room smells like cinnamon rolls.
There is shag carpet, a chaise lounge, a love seat, heart-themed flocked wallpaper, Hawaiian print
curtains, and a giant round bed in the center of the room covered in dark red silk sheets, pink pillows
strewn across the top. All the other furniture is gold. There is a collection of bowties pinned in rows
that occupies an entire wall and another wall with posters of attractive humans, I think they are
celebrities, some in more clothing than others. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling, and there are lava
lamps boiling in reds and pinks and yellows on every surface.
Cupid stretches across his bed. At least he bothers to make sure his short toga is covering his "bits."
Pickles sits in a wing-backed chair. Fintan is across the room by the fireplace pacing, smoke streaming
from his ears. A fire ignites, even though there wasn't even any wood in the fireplace.
Thunder and Lily-Bella are on the pink satin loveseat. Shelly takes the chaise lounge close to the bed.
There are no other seats. Cupid pats the bed. "Come on Wave. Right here."
"Nonsense. Come on. I don't bite." I raise my eyebrows at him. "Okay, I do bite, but I promise not to
bite you. Today." He wiggles his eyebrows.
I shake my head but sit on the edge of the bed.
"Okay. I now call the second meeting of the Halloween Gala Planning Committee to order." A golden
gavel appears in Cupid's hand. He uses it to hit the bed knob. "I am sorry that we have to continue
planning without one of our members present." Cupid looks at me. I barely hold it together. "But we
only have a month left, and there is much to do. I hereby deputize Pickles and Thunder to serve on the
committee with us. All in favor?"
We all say yes. Am I really going to sit here and plan a party when there are so many more important
things to worry about? But everyone is having such a good time. I don't want to spoil it. After we
finish talking about the Halloween Gala, I'll fill everyone in on what we learned on the yacht.
Hopefully, together we can come up with a brilliant idea on what we should do.
"Excellent. I understand the food committee met with some problems in the cafeteria and haven't
come up with any solid suggestions. Anyone?"
"Pizza," I manage to say even though party planning is not what I want to be doing right now. Cupid
touches my shoulder, and I feel that sense of calm flow over me. "With garlic."
"Excellent choice. Anyone else?"
"Raw meatballs," says Lily-Bella, looking up at Thunder. He kisses her head.
"And blood," says Shelly, of course.
"Cupcakes too," says Lily-Bella.
"You know, I'm rather hungry," says Cupid. "Anyone for Chinese?"
"What?" I say.
"Take out," Cupid says.
"You have take-out on Mt. Olympus?"
"Wave, honey, we have everything on Mt. Olympus."
Ten minutes later we are tucking into chow mein, sweet and sour pork, white rice, and a bunch of
other things I don't recognize. I have no idea how to use chopsticks, so I've taken to spearing my food.
The pork is sweet and salty and melts in my mouth. It is almost as good as corn dogs saturated with
mustard! Turns out I was starving. I barely chew before putting the next bite in my mouth. "Chinese!" I
say with my mouth full. Everyone looks at me. "At the party. We must have Chinese food."
Everyone nods in silent agreement. No one wants to stop eating to talk.
After we're done we launch into a discussion of locations. The scouts have found an abandoned
warehouse not far from school that would be perfect. People start talking about the decorations and
such, when I realize I have to use the bathroom.
"Out the door and to the left," says Cupid. I don't even bother asking how he knew I needed to go.
When I come out of the bathroom, Shelly is waiting for me. I try to walk past her but she blocks me.
"Come on, Shelly."
"Waverly. Please. Please listen to me for just one minute. That's all I need. Look, I saw you and Pierce
on the yacht last night."
She has my attention.
"Don't worry, I haven't told anyone. As a matter of fact, I'm glad you were there. Look, I know you
hate me, and probably for good reason. I've been horrible to you. And if you were me, I'd probably
deck me and walk away. But you're a good person, Waverly. I know you are, and I really need you to
"I'm not that good."
"Waverly, they have my mother." She starts to sob. "And I think they're hurting her. Please, Waverly. I
need you to get her back."
"Who has your mother?"
"The DOT Corporation. My dad begged his boss not to hurt her. I don't know why my dad doesn't go
after her. I tried to ask him but he got really mad and told me to stay out of it. I think dad is too scared
of the boss to do anything, but I don't trust the guy. I want my mom back. Now."
"Why are you asking me?"
"Because, Waverly. You're smart. You're resourceful. You aren't afraid. Look, there's a pickup tonight.
I heard my dad and the boss talking about it. A truck will come to deliver the barrels of some kind of
toxic waste. All we have to do is follow the truck when it leaves."
"I heard the same thing. But what are they making?"
"I don't know, but it must be something terrible. It's a top-secret operation. I can't believe my dad is
involved in this. I am so mad at him right now."
"I am really sorry, Shelly, but I'm on probation. I can't leave the school. If I get caught, Pickles will also
be expelled. I'm sorry about your mom, Shelly." I think of my mom, so far away; soon she'll be giving
birth. I remember the terrible vision I had of her being tortured. What if that's what's happening to
Shelly's mom? How can I not help? But Pickles. I can't hurt her. "Maybe we can go back to the
meeting and see if anyone else can figure out what to do."
"Waverly Marie Fishwater," says Pickles, walking toward us. "You are going to stop these criminals and
help rescue Shelly's mom. Damn the consequences. I'm tired of adults and all their rules!"
Pickles sneezes. "It's okay, Waverly."
"You are a terrible bodyguard," I say, hugging her. Shelly looks at us as if she has never been hugged in
her life. Neptune's Beard, what if she hasn't? I gather her into the hug, and from the lurching of
Shelly's shoulders I can tell she's sobbing.
"Welcome back ladies," Cupid says. "I trust you found the facilities to your liking?"
"Yes, Cupid. All is well in your god-sized bathroom."
"Good to know. And for the record, the bathroom isn't the only thing god-sized around here," Cupid
grins and does his lecherous eyebrow wiggle.
"Could've fooled me," Shelly says. "We all saw the naked statue of you out front."
Cupid turns as red as the roses in his garden. Actually, the redder he gets, the paler the roses look, like
he's stealing their color. "I was a baby."
"Of course," says Shelly.
"I suppose you're an expert. And, Zeus knows, I do prefer someone with experience."
Shelly's eyes flash, and her fists clench. I better change the subject before we have an all-out brawl.
"Much as I hate to interrupt this "conversation" you and Shelly are having, we have something really
important to talk to all of you about."
"Of course. Everyone sit. That's good. We'll get to your little problem in just a moment. We're almost
done with the party planning."
"This is more important than party planning," I say. I really don't think I can focus on celebrating when
so many friends of mine are at risk.
"Do not question a god, Waverly. Trust me. This party will be one of the most important events in your
"Enough. Now, the party." Cupid waves his hand and a scroll appears, hanging in the air with no one
holding it. "Let me see. I will enquire about using that old warehouse as the venue for the party. There
will be a costume contest with Gaia, Iridessa, and Crumpet as judges. Gaia will absolutely hate doing it
so all the more reason to pick her," Cupid chuckles and then snorts. "Sorry, that is going to be terribly
amusing. And, Iridessa, will judge even though she has no taste and no sense of humor. And Crumpet
"Er ... Cupid, why would you appoint a costume judge who has no sense of humor and no taste?" I
"Because I'm already on her bad list, and if she doesn't get to judge she'll turn me into a frog. Again.
Fairies are always stuck in the past. They have the absolute worst imaginations. Sorry Lily-Bella, Pickles.
You guys aren't like her."
"It's okay, Cupid. I pretty much agree. Archaic spells. Ancient rules."
"Lily-Bella and Fintan will be in charge of decorations. Remember what I said Lily-Bella."
"No pink," Lily-Bella nods her head.
"Good. And Fintan, remember, lots of pyrotechnics, but let's try not to blow up anything, or anyone,
Fintan frowns. "I'll try," he says. "But can't promise. Sometimes when I'm around, stuff explodes."
"I have the utmost confidence in you old chap. Now, let's see. Oh, yes. The haunted house. Originally
Pierce was going to organize it, as scaring people to death is more in the vampire sphere of expertise,
but well ..." He looks at me. "Sorry, Wave."
"It's okay," I croak, a little lump building in my throat.
"Would you and Pickles be in charge of the haunted house?"
"Sure," I say.
"Yeah," Pickles says, but she looks at me nervously.
"That's okay, Pickles. I've been to the haunted house at the pier a hundred times. We'll figure it out
The scroll winds up revealing the next part of the plans. The heading is now "Food," and lists the items
we discussed before I went to the god-sized bathroom.
"Now where was I?" says Cupid. "Oh, yes, food. We'll have everything we discussed earlier-raw
meatballs, cupcakes, Chinese, garlic pizza, and blood. Plus, blood-free beverages for the hemophobic.
The list scrolls up. "Thunder is in charge of security."
"If anyone is out of line, my security team and I will tie them to trees." Thunder hits his hand with a fist.
"Sounds like an effective deterrent," says Cupid. "I think we've got a plan."
"Finally! Now can we talk about what we know about the bay being poisoned by a corporation that is
blackmailing Shelly's father, possibly kidnapped Shelly's mom, and wants more mermaids at WMH for
some unknown, yet I'm sure sinister, reason?" I say all in one breath.
"What?" says Lily-Bella.
"Blackmail?" says Thunder.
"More mermaids?" says Fintan.
"Guess we're done with this." Cupid waves his hand in the air and the scroll rolls up like a lizard's
tongue and disappears.
"Tell us what you and Pierce found out," Lily-Bella says. "We were all dying to know, but we didn't
want to wake you this morning after what happened ..... oh, sorry, Wave. News spread through the
cafeteria like wildfire. The whole school knows."
"It's alright, Lily-Bella. Gossip travels just as fast at a land school as an underwater one. You guys don't
have to keep apologizing about Pierce just because I found out he wasn't my boyfriend so much as my
bodyguard. Now he's gone."
"He got kicked out protecting me," Lily-Bella says. "I told him not to, but he wouldn't listen."
"Pierce is stubborn like that. No one blames you. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I am the one who
asked you to steal the wand," I say. "And now I don't even know where he is."
"Why don't we find out?" says Cupid.
"I look into my magic lava lamp and ask it to show me Pierce. It's pretty simple really."
"So you can spy on anyone whenever you want?" I ask.
"Gods need something to make their eternal existence entertaining."
"You're kidding, man," says Thunder.
"Don't worry, Thunder. The gods mostly like to watch humans. They're far more entertaining."
Cupid pulls one of the lava lamps off of a shelf and places it on the shag carpet next to the bed. "Come
on everyone. Have a seat."
We sit in a circle around the lamp. Cupid waves his hand and the Hawaiian-print curtains close. The
room is dark except for the glow of the light, red and gold swirls of wax dance eerily in the oil.
"Show us your secrets oh lava lamp of luminescent wisdom!"
The colors swirl. They're actually coalescing into a shape! I can't believe it. Will I really get to see
Pierce? The wax in the oil forms itself into a tongue sticking straight at Cupid. My heart sinks.
"You are the dumbest lava lamp I've ever owned!" Cupid roars. A wind blows through the room. There
are little lightening bolts and claps of thunder. "I am a god, so get in line pronto, and show me Pierce
Knightguard, or suffer my wrath!"
I can't even tell you what the lava lamp does next. All I'll say is that it's a rude human gesture made
with a certain finger.
"Enough!" Cupid bellows.
"Maybe you should try being nice to it," says Pickles. "Maybe you've hurt its feelings."
"Whatever," says Cupid. He waves his hands and the wind dies down. "Fine. I'll try it for you, Pickles.
And for Wave too. I know she's lovesick over Pierce even if she won't admit it. You can't fool the love
"I only want to see that he's okay because I feel bad that I got him into trouble." Even as I say this, I
know I'm lying.
Cupid purses his lips and shakes his head but doesn't call me out. He puts his face next to the lamp.
"Okay lamp. I'm sorry I lorded over you like that. You are a lovely, talented and lusciously shaped lamp.
Can you please show us Pierce Knightguard? I mean if you want to."
The wax starts spinning really fast. I guess that worked. Then it slows and begins to coalesce. I see
Pierce's image! My heart flutters.
"What's he doing?" Lily-Bella asks.
"It's hard to see," says Thunder.
"What's that," says Pickles." She's pointing at a very disturbing image.
"Neptune's Beard! It looks a giant fish tank. But those aren't fish," I say.
"What are they?" says Pickles. "It's so blurry."
"They're merfolk," says Shelly.
I think I'm going to be sick. There are six fuzzy merfolk languishing in what appears to be a huge
industrial fish tank. They look very thin and their hair is a sick pea-green color. My stomach fills with
acid. "That's horrible," I say. What kind of person would do this to another being?
"One of them could be my mom," Shelly's voice cracking.
"Oh, Shelly, I'm so sorry," says Pickles. She holds Shelly's hand.
There is a sudden movement in the lamp. It's hard to tell, but I think Pierce looks over his shoulder. He
seems startled. Then he disappears from view. Something scared Pierce? What could scare a vampire
"Where did he go?" says Thunder.
"I don't know. It's like he vanished," I say.
"Do you know those merfolk?" says Pickles.
"I can't tell who they are. Can you make the image clearer, Cupid? And can you reset it to find Pierce
again?" I say, hopefully.
"I doubt it. It's a cut-rate, loser lamp I got from a bazaar in San Francisco." The image swirls back into
the finger gesture, and then goes dark. Cupid throws it against the wall. Glass shatters and the oily
liquid explodes everywhere, including on my borrowed pink outfit. Cupid waves his hand and the mess
disappears. "I've been wanting to do that for a long time. Now, where were we?"
Pickles scoots over and hugs me. "It's okay, Wave. Maybe Pierce will rescue them."
"But he disappeared. Whoever is doing this must be more powerful than a vampire?"
"Look, Wave. Sometimes the lamp is wrong. It really is, or was, the worst lamp I've ever had."
I sit up straight and focus on the problem. "Okay guys, we need to plan our next move. I didn't get a
good look at the guy who is blackmailing Shelly's dad, but I'm sure the DOT Corporation is behind this.
They're dumping toxic waste into the bay, holding merfolk prisoners, and blackmailing Shelly's dad.
The strange man I heard on the yacht wants more merfolk at the school, but apparently the merfolk
royal family has hired a spy to keep an eye on him."
A tear streams down Shelly's cheek. Luckily the tears don't have the same potency when the
merperson is out of the water. Something is niggling at my brain. Why are they keeping those merfolk
in a tank of water? Something about mermaid tears is important. I'm sure of it.
"Don't worry, Shelly," Pickles says. "We'll get your mom back home safe."
"The yacht is picking up more toxic waste tonight," I say. "It's being transported by a truck. All we have
to do is follow the truck after it has made the delivery, and hopefully it will lead us to the source."
"How will you follow it?" says Fintan.
"I have an idea," says Shelly. "We could ..."
Shelly is interrupted by a thundering voice. "Cupid?"
"Who's that?" says Fintan.
"Oh, crap. It's Uncle Apollo."
"Where are you, you scoundrel? I shall send you to Hades for punishment you worm of a god!"
"You guys better get out of here," says Cupid. "I'll hold him off." He waves his hand. The top of the
castle disappears, and Apollo's chariot hovers above us. "Don't worry. The allicorns pretty much can fly
without guidance. Most of the time anyway. I'll probably be with Uncle Hades for a while. He'll tire of
torturing me. Eventually. See you soon."
We climb in, and in moments we're careening through the air. As we zoom into the fairy grove, three
white seagulls scatter, squawking and flapping in annoyance.
It's eight o'clock. My dad and Headmaster Crumpet never returned from their meeting. Even though I
wanted to speak to Dad about what I learned on the yacht last night, I decided it was probably for the
best that I didn't get to. There is no way he would let me do something as stupidly dangerous as what
I'm about to do. Parents never want their fingerlings to do anything risky. Here's the plan: Shelly and I
go to the yacht and hide in some barrels which will be loaded on to the truck after it drops off the new
toxic waste shipment. Then we discover who's behind all this, rescue the trapped merfolk, and
hopefully find a way to stop the culprits from polluting the bay.
Shelly and I climb into a metal dinghy at the dock. It rocks as we get in and my feet slip on the slick
bench. I manage to sit, but the aluminum seat is cold and wet. Why am I wearing a skirt and no shoes
or underwear? Oh right, standard mermaid safety. We're traveling over water. I do have my
waterproof pack containing underwear, pants, shoes and socks. The half moon is hidden in dark
clouds, and a bat flies over close to our heads. Is it wrong that the bat makes me think of Pierce in
flight? Everything reminds me of him-the smell of strawberries, the feel of the wind on my neck, the
redwoods, the beach, the wisps of a fairy love song coming from the grove up the hill. I push down my
fear. I have to stay focused.
Shelly fires up the motor. It is so loud I'm afraid someone will come down and stop us from leaving. I
wanted us to swim to the yacht, but Shelly isn't allowed to go in the water. I still don't know why it
affects her and not me.
"I want you to know I appreciate what you're doing, Waverly," Shelly yells over the roar of the engine.
The wind is blowing my hair, but at least it is in a ponytail.
"It's okay, Shelly," I yell back. "I have to stop these people and I appreciate your help."
She looks away and frowns. What does this mean? I'm getting a really bad feeling about this venture.
It's probably nothing though. Shelly and I want the same thing right now-to stop the DOT Corporation.
"We'll find your mom, Shelly," I say. Not only to reassure her but also to remind her that we share a
In a few minutes we arrive next to the yacht. Shelly cuts the engine and she deftly ties the dingy to the
yacht. We climb up the ladder on to the deck.
"Shhh," says Shelly. "Everyone should be getting ready for dinner, so we should be able to get the hold
without being seen."
"Good. The pickup is at ten. Now follow me."
We walk as quietly as we can down flight of metal stairs similar to the one that led to the engine room,
though this one was at the aft of the ship. We come to a huge metal door that has a combination
lock. I hear voices not far away. "Do you know the combination?" I think ask Shelly.
"Of course," she thinks back. "What teenager doesn't know how to sneak into the forbidden places in
her own home?"
"You're right. Sorry I asked. But, um, someone's coming, so a little faster."
"If you'd stop thinking at me, I could concentrate."
The footsteps get closer; my heart rate accelerates. Finally Shelly gets the door open. We slip inside a
dark room and close the door as softly as we can. The footsteps stop right outside the door.
"Gurges, I told you no one was here," says Chum. "How much rum did you drink?"
"Half a bottle, but I'm sure I heard something."
"You smell like a sailor."
"I am a sailor," says Gurges, letting out a huge belch. "What time's the pickup?"
"We still have an hour. Come on. The boss'll be expecting his grub."
"I think it's disgusting that he eats grubs."
"What do you want?" says Chum. "He's a fish."
They both snort with laughter. Finally, they walk away, and I let out the breath I'd been holding. This is
when I realize the room reeks like a beached whale left in the sun for months. Urgh!
"Nice smell," I say.
"It's horrible. I know. But this is where they keep the barrels." She switches on the light. The room is
not as big as I thought it would be. About the size of our cabin, and there are half a dozen metal
barrels on a pallet.
"These are the empty barrels. The ones that leaked and have to go back. She opens a lid. "Okay, get
"Quickly. Someone could come any time to get things ready."
"Okay, but how will you close the lid of your barrel by yourself?"
"I'm not going."
"What? I thought we were doing this together!"
"I have to go have dinner with my dad. If I don't he'll be furious."
"I have to do this alone?" I really want to kill Shelly right now. But I realize I have to go.
"You'll be fine, Waverly. You can do anything."
"Wait, how will I get back to school afterward?"
"I'll take care of it," she says. "Trust me. Come on. Get in."
Trust her? I climb into the barrel. I'm sitting with my knees pulled into to my chest. "How will I
"It's probably not airtight. It has a leak, remember?"
"What!" Shelly closes the lid, and it's pitch black inside. "Shelly! Wait." My voice is tinny in the small
I hear the door close. I'm alone. In a barrel with residues of toxic waste. Getting ready to be
transported to a truck to an unknown location to face kidnappers and polluters by myself.
"Waverly Marie Fishwater," I say to myself. "You've bested great white sharks, vampires, and malicious
mermaids. What are a few evil humans?"
Every time the truck hits a bump, my head smacks the top of the barrel. My legs have fallen asleep.
There are needlelike prickles going from my feet to my thighs. I am freezing even though I changed
into my pants, socks and shoes before climbing into the barrel. It's like I'm being whipped around on
the Wipeout ride at the Boardwalk, only without the strobes, musical accompaniment or my seat belt.
It's pitch black, and my brain is fuzzy from the thrashing and the depleted oxygen supply. I can't tell
how long we've been driving, but thankfully, the truck jerks to a stop. Doors slam in the front, and
something creaks in the back.
"Where do these old barrels go?" says a gravelly-voiced man.
"They're defects," says another man who's voice has the high, squeaky tone of a dolphin. "Get the
forklift, and throw 'em into the recycling behind the barn. The boss likes to show what a good guy he
is by recycling. How great he is to the earth." The men laugh.
The "boss" wants people to think he cares about the earth? I am so angry that my hair starts sparking
orange-red. This "boss" must be the mysterious man from the engine room on the yacht.
There are mechanical sounds, and then something lifts the barrel I'm in. It's clanging against the other
barrels. Then the barrel tumbles and hits the ground hard, my shoulder jams against the side. My teeth
bang together, and my stomach clenches. Finally it comes to a halt. I am trying to catch my breath and
give my hair the opportunity to calm down. After a few minutes of silence, I decide it's safe to get out.
I push against the lid. It's on really tight. If I have to force it open, I know it'll make noise, but it can't
be helped. I have to risk it.
I push with all my strength. The lid flies off and makes a horrible banging sound, metal on metal. The
barrel rolls some more, and I fall out on to a pile of scrap metal. The air smells like metal and grass,
manure and a faint hint of ocean. Though I have no idea where I am, it can't be too far from the
"Did you hear something?" Squeaks the man with the high-pitched voice.
"Yeah. What was it?"
"Get the flashlight out of the truck." Humans have terrible night vision. Thankfully.
I know I only have moments before the men return. I can either crawl back into the barrel to hide or
make a break for it. My body can barely unfold itself. I ignore the strain in my muscles. I stand, and pick
my way quickly over the pile. There's a huge barn on one side of a meadow, and an oak tree on the
other. Black and white cows lie about the knoll. They see me and start lowing. I speak no cow,
truthfully I don't even know it it's an official language. I think they only know one word-Moo, which
means everything, but I'm grateful for the noise. Their eyes follow me as I make a run for the tree. I'm
hiding behind the enormous trunk when a flashlight beam glances over the spot where I was only
moments before. A fat raccoon races over the pile, dislodging debris.
"It was only a raccoon," says the gravelly-voiced man.
I silently thank the raccoon.
"You're welcome," says the raccoon. Wait, I speak raccoon?
"Did you see something over there?" The flashlight beam sweeps in my direction. My heart is
pounding, and my hair throws off some orange sparks.
"By that tree. I thought I saw embers just now. Like from a fire."
I stand against the trunk, the gnarled wood pressed against my face, holding my breath, and willing
my hair to settle. I clasp it in my hands to hide as much of the sparking as I can. The flashlight beam
shines on the matted dying grass next to the tree.
"Must've been a reflection."
"Yeah. Let's get back to the barn quick, or all the whisky will be gone."
Their footsteps fade, and I exhale. My hair calms. Off in the distance a barn door slides open and then
Now that I'm alone, I take the time to assess my surroundings. The night is chilly and the wind is
blowing. The location looks abandoned and lonely. One tree. One enormous barn that is five times as
long as the yacht. There are about a dozen vehicles parked-a few dark-blue pickup trucks and some
brand new yellow farm equipment.
I leave the relative safety of the tree to explore. I need to find out what's going on and where the toxic
waste is coming from. I can't get the image of those poor merfolk languishing in the tank out of my
mind. If they are here, I need to rescue them.
To that end, I think-say a greeting in as wide an area as I can. "Hello. Is anyone here?"
I hear nothing. I make my way over to the barn. I don't want to go in the same door as the men, so I
walk around the back, trying to keep from crunching the gravel around the base of the barn as I hunt
for another way in.
I cannot see another entrance. I'm wondering whether I should risk going in the front door when I
hear a faint warning in my head.
"You have to get out of here," says the voice. It's a merman, his voice is weak and pleading.
"Where are you?"
"You are in terrible danger. Go now!"
"I will as soon as you tell me who and where you are. Where you're being held."
"She's Fishwater's fingerling," says another thought-voice, this one higher and reedier-a female.
"I don't care, Avalon. She can't help us. They'll just get her too."
"Maybe she's got backup."
"Are you alone?"
Should I lie to get them to tell me where they are? "I've got a bunch of support." That really isn't a lie,
right? I mean maybe not at the moment but in general.
"There are security cameras everywhere. Armed guards. Locks on all the doors inside," says the weak
voice. "We think the lab we're being kept in is on the upper level."
"Don't worry! I promise I will try to get you out!"
I have no choice. I have to risk the front door. As I make my way there stepping quietly on the gravel,
one pearlescent white horse, four sleek, black horses and a shabby brown miniature donkey crest a
knoll and saunter in my direction.
"Ho there mermaid," brays the donkey in a theatrical tone.
I understand him perfectly! I speak donkey too? Wow!
"Hi!" I curtsey for some reason. The donkey seems to approve.
"Are you hair and makeup? Or catering?"
He pulls back his lips baring his teeth. "I see you're not very bright. Perhaps you're the director?"
"What are you talking about?" Maybe something has been lost in translation.
The horses paw at the ground and nicker uncomfortably.
"My fellow thespians and I are not used to such treatment."
"We are trained actors. Allow me to introduce Fernanda, Snow Queen, Purple Kisses, Glitter and Bling
and KitKatz, from Hollywood. I am Cyril, from London."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Waverly. From Pacifica."
"Pleasure," says Cyril. "As I was saying, normally we are given clean, warm stalls and plenty of grain.
We are groomed several times per day, and as a stunt donkey, I have it in my contract to receive daily
massages. None of this has happened. I am afraid I'll have to have to report this production to the
"You are from the production?"
"I don't know what you're talking about. Sorry."
"If you're not here for the shoot, why are you here?"
Do I tell the donkey the truth? What if he's with the bad guys? Here to get information from me. But
humans can't speak to any animals, so it's probably safe. But I'll still be cautious. "I'm here to, um,
scope out the place. Do you know what's going on here?"
"I wish I did. It's the strangest set I've ever been on. Nothing happens except for the occasional
delivery. All they give us to eat is hay! And we have to sleep outside. A whole barn and we are not
allowed inside. Not that we'd want to really. It's most unpleasant. I'm afraid you're the most
excitement we've had in weeks."
"You've been in the barn?"
"Yes! But it smells terrible. No hay or oats or grain or manure. And there are boxes everywhere. It's
way too sterile."
"How did you get in?"
"Through there." He throws his little brown head toward a high open window near the roof the barn.
It has to be three stories up.
"I'm a stunt donkey. It's really not that hard."
"Uh, can you show me?"
"If you'd like. I really have nothing better to do. Ladies." He turns and steps through his posse.
We walk to the back of the barn. The window is so high, I cannot imagine how we're going to get up
"Climb on," says Cyril.
"You are slow, my dear. On my back of course."
"But I'll hurt you."
"I am a stunt donkey. I'm professionally trained." He bares his teeth again. He really seems miffed that
I've questioned his strength.
I climb on to his back. I have to bend my legs and press them against his warm coat so they don't drag
on the ground.
"Hold on to my neck."
I grab him around the neck. Wings erupt from his sides just behind where I'm sitting. He launches into
the air. "Holy crab!"
In seconds we're at the window. Cyril flaps his wings keeping us aloft.
"What are you?"
"I told you, I'm a stunt donkey. I've had some "enhancements" done in Hollywood."
"Oh, well, wow! Thank you!"
"Go on now."
I climb through the window. Thankfully, there is a structural beam inside, right below the window that
I clamber on to.
Below me is a cold, cavernous room lit with pale yellow light, half-filled with cardboard boxes stacked
almost to the roof. The boxes are labeled "Elixir of the Sea." What could that be? If the boxes are solid
enough, I can jump to the nearest stack and work my way down. I reach my foot and test the stability
of the stack. It seems okay. In less than a minute I've made my way safely to the bottom. The room is
freezing. The floor is concrete, and the air smells like chemicals and cardboard and something acrid
that burns the inside of my nose.
The merman I thought-spoke to said that they were being kept on an upper level. I walk around the
perimeter of the space looking for stairs or a door. A rat skitters across my path, and I almost cry out.
It's a little embarrassing that I'm afraid of rodents and not sharks, but hey, I'm only merfolk. The rat
squeezes under a crack at the juncture of the wall and the floor. I realize it's a door. On the other side,
someone screams; then I hear the clomp of heavy boots running away. I take a chance that means
whoever is guarding on the other side is as terrified of rats as I am. I turn the knob and find myself in a
modern grey stairwell. I take the stairs two at a time, go through another door and end up in a long
white hallway with bright lights on the ceiling that hum and crackle.
I don't see anyone. There are so many doors. Where would they be holding the merfolk?
"I'm on the upper level," I think to them. "Which room are you in?" I stand quietly waiting for an
answer, listening for guards. There is laughter coming from a room farther down the hall. My heart
pounds, and my palms sweat. Neptune's Beard, please keep the humans from coming out into the
"Look, we don't know exactly where we are," says the merman. "The humans brought us in drugged.
One minute we were swimming in the ocean, the next we woke up in this tank. We don't even have
any idea how long we've been here."
"Well, keep thinking at me." I walk in the direction of their thought-voices. They keep thinking
warnings at me about the danger, and I want to scream back that this is not helpful while I'm trying to
rescue them singlehandedly. But I can't say that because I told them I have backup.
Following their voices, I find myself in front of a door marked: "Lab - Authorized Personnel Only.
Trespassers will be eaten by sharks." How welcoming. "Do you know how I can get the door open?
The knob's not turning."
"No idea how. Look, they're going to deliver our food in the morning. Someone will come into the
room then. You and your group can take him. You have weapons?"
"Uh, well ... wait, I hear someone coming." Down the hall, a door opens and closes. A man in black,
with a weapon on a belt at his waist walks toward me. Actually, he is sort of weaving in my direction,
first hitting one wall with his shoulder, then the other.
"It's probably security," the merman think-says. "I hope you're well-trained."
There is nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. The only thing to do is stand my ground and try to talk my
way out of this. The guard draws his weapon and points it at me.
"And what do we have here?" The man has greasy hair, a huge bulbous red nose and horrible teeth.
"I'm here, uh, for a surprise inspection of the boxes of, um, Elixir of the Sea. I'm from DOT
headquarters," I say, recalling the name of the corporation that I saw on the contract in Mr.
Sharkweather's stateroom on the yacht the night of the party. "I think I got lost. I'll just head back
downstairs now." I try to walk past him, but he grabs my arm.
"In the middle of the night?" He narrows his bloodshot eyes.
"If I came during the day, it wouldn't be a surprise." I could probably take this guy out, but I'd like to
avoid violence if I can and he might scream and warn others.
"I suppose you're right. Okay." He lowers his weapon.
That was easy! I am really good at espionage!
As I'm rejoicing in my victory, another man, this one in a white coat, with sparse white hair and watery
pale blue eyes enters the hallway through the stairwell door. "Who's this, Pellicose?"
"She's here inspecting the product. From Corporate."
'Doc' regards me with interest, then looks at the guard. "Pellicose, you idiot. Drinking on the job?"
"It's Quinn's birthday," says Pellicose, hiccupping.
"You fool! She's a mermaid. Help me get her into the lab. Keep the gun on her."
"Sure thing, Doc." Pellicose tries to twirl his gun, but ends up dropping it on the floor. "Oops!" He
scoops it up and points it at me again.
"What? Why? I haven't done anything!"
"The boss has been waiting for some new merfolk, and you are a wonderful specimen. So young. A
teenager I believe. So emotional. You will be a wonderful asset."
"What do you mean 'asset'?" I'm an idiot. Why hadn't I thought to wear a wig and contacts. Of course
these humans would know I was a mermaid with my green hair and stupid rainbow eyes. I'm more
angry with myself than scared.
"You'll see very soon. The boss will be thrilled. He has been worried that we have been falling behind
in production. Now we will finish in time for the press reveal. Every major network will be there. It's
going to be the biggest media event since the introduction of the iPhone.
Doc presses a code onto a numerical panel-2416256. He didn't even bother hiding it from me. The
door slides open. "Come on, Pellicose. Keep that gun aimed at her and get inside."
"But I thought no guns are allowed in the lab."
"Shut up and do as I say!"
"Shut up and do as I say," Pellicose silently mimics Doc when he's not looking. I can smell the man's
Even though Pellicose seems to loathe Doc, the drunk guard obeys orders. He pushes me inside with
one hand, the weapon in his other still pointed at my head. We are in another bright white room with
those same annoying lights. A gleaming metal table occupies the middle of the room. The counters
against the wall are covered with microscopes and strange bottles of various-colored liquids. It's even
colder in here than in the other parts of the "barn." There is an ominous-looking contraption in one
corner. It's a chair surrounded by strange devices made of metal and glass, needles and straps.
"What's happening?" It's the female mermaid thinking to me. The one the male called Avalon.
"Uhhhh.... nothing. No problem. I'll get back to you." No need worrying them. Plus, their voices are so
close. I think they're right on the other side of the inner door. I'm sure I could take both these humans.
What I'm not sure about is the weapon pointed at my head.
"Hand me the gun and get her in the Lachrystractor. Quick. Merfolk are stronger than they look," says
Doc. He takes the gun from Pellicose and holds it right next to my head. "Don't try anything mermaid.
That gun is for real and can kill you instantly."
I can't help it. My hair starts sparking bright purple.
"What the hell?" Pellicose jumps away from me.
I'm about to grab the gun, but Doc hits me in the head with the weapon, and as much as I want to
fight it, I can feel consciousness slipping away.
I wake strapped to that horrible chair. Pellicose is holding the gun at me, and Doc is turning dials on
the machine. "Welcome back, mermaid."
"What are you doing?" My voice is shaking.
"Harvesting your tears." He covers my eyes with strange goggles, sort of like the ones human divers
wear. But I cannot see anything through them. Tears! I was right. They're doing something with
mermaid tears. They're magical. They have the ability to create life, to change the species of animals.
They must do something on a molecular level. Something humans would want. It has to be related to
the boxes of Elixir of the Sea. They are manufacturing something for humans and are planning a big
press event to tell the world about it. The toxic waste must come from manufacturing Elixir of the Sea.
I've got to get out of here and stop them. I'm the only one who knows what's happening. I pull
against the restraints. They dig into my arms.
"Now this won't hurt me a bit," says Doc. He's laughing.
"Why do you want my tears?" I ask, hoping to stall him. If I can just loosen the restraints a little more.
"None of your business mermaid. But I suppose it won't hurt if I tell you, since you'll never leave this
place. You are far too valuable. Mermaid tears are the secret to eternal youth, my dear. Our skin
moisturizer will stop the aging process. We will make a fortune. That's why we want your tears. Now,
no more questions."
A slight pain forms in my chest. It gets worse and worse, but I refuse to cry.
"Cry, dammit. I don't want to kill you, but this pain can get a lot more acute. Stop fighting it."
I can't cry. I pull against the straps. They're loosening. Only a little, but they are looser. I focus all my
attention on the straps. This becomes harder as the pain intensifies. It's like someone is burning a hole
in my chest. It's almost impossible not to cry. My hair is sparking. I can't see, but I know it is. I'm
straining against the straps. I can almost get one hand free.
There is a tremendous boom inside the room.
"What the hell is that?" says Doc.
"Crap," says Pellicose.
I get one hand out of the strap, and pull off the mask so I can see what happened. There is a huge
hole in the wall. The room is filled with dust and broken pieces of wood. I cough. As the dust settles I
see that Pellicose and Doc are now lying on the floor, whimpering in fear, while a furious, extremely
hot, dark-haired, dimpled, blue-eyed, vampire hovers over them. My heart skips several beats.
"Waverly. Thank god you're okay."
"Pierce!" Now I do start to cry.
"It's okay, Wave. I'm here. No one's going to hurt you." He pulls off the other strap, and lifts me out of
the chair and into his arms.
"Oh, Pierce. How did you find me?" I wrap my arms around his neck and breathe in the strawberry
scent of him.
"I have my ways. But, Wave, what were you thinking coming here alone?"
"I came to find out what's happening, Pierce. And now I know! They're holding merfolk in the next
room. Oh my gosh! We need to free them! And they're manufacturing something called Elixir of the
Sea using mermaid tears. That's what's causing the toxic waste."
"You're amazing, Wave, but you could've been hurt. I couldn't have lived with myself if something had
happened to you. We will address the problem of the merfolk, but first we have to take care of these
malevolent miscreants," Pierce growls.
"What the hell are you?" says Doc.
"Your worst nightmare," says Pierce, in a low, menacing tone that makes the hairs on my arms stand
up. "No one messes with the woman I love."
He loves me! I knew he loved me. He wasn't just working for my dad!
I squeeze him tightly, pressing into his cool body. He kisses me, and runs his hands up and down my
back and arms as if making sure that I'm in one piece. Everywhere he touches tingles. He breaks off
the kiss, and I try to pull his lips back to mine.
"Before I ravish you further, I'm afraid I have to take care of our audience," says Pierce.
"What are you going to do with us, man?" says Pellicose.
"He won't do anything," says Doc, brandishing the gun. He pulls the trigger and there's a loud bang.
Pierce pushes me out of the way. He catches the projectile between his thumb and forefinger. "What
the hell? That's impossible!"
"Please don't hurt me," says Pellicose. "I've got a cat at home who needs me!"
"Both of you look at me," Pierce commands.
The two men's heads snap up. They stare vacantly into Pierce's eyes.
"You will forget that we were even here. The hole in the wall was caused by an explosion in the lab
due to your negligence. You will quit your jobs and spend the rest of your days volunteering at
homeless shelters. Be off!"
The two men go running from the lab.
"You hypnotized them? Vampires can do that?"
"Of course, Waverly. Especially the weak-minded. I have many tricks I haven't revealed to you yet."
"How about the one where you kiss me and never stop?"
"Oh, I love that one," says Pierce.
He pulls me into an embrace, moonlight streams into the room. He kisses me so profoundly, I think I
hear angels singing.
Despite the fact that the guards outside the room have surely heard the wall crashing in, and we
should be acting fast to evacuate, I can't quite stop kissing Pierce. I mean, just wow! Though I have no
experience at this at all, I have a feeling the guy is really, really good at it. Even my toes are melting. I'm
running my hands over his biceps, which are like iron beneath his plaid shirt-my favorite. It still smells
faintly of seawater. I know I should be asking about where he's been, about the vision in the scrying
lamp, about working for my dad, but all those things will have to wait. I think I might have moaned a
little just now.
"Ahem." It's the mermaid in the next room. "We hate to interrupt whatever is going on in there,
Neptune's Beard! I need to stop kissing Pierce! The angel chorus will have to wait. Pierce's lips quiver
against my mouth. I can tell he's trying not to laugh.
I pull away. This can only mean ... "Are you reading my mind again, vampire?" I think at him.
"Perhaps," he says.
"It's been more than 24 hours since you had my blood." I think I might have whined a little bit when I
said that out loud.
"I saved some for dessert."
"Ew! That's disgusting. I don't even want to know where you stored my blood." Even as I'm saying
this, my body flushes with excitement over the memory of Pierce biting my neck. I might even have
cocked my head to make my neck a little more accessible. Ugh! I step back.
"If a vampire could blush, Waverly Marie Fishwater, I would be the color of ..."
"I was going to say the rapturous color of the sky over the ocean at sunrise. And I cannot take your
blood right now, mermaid, as much as I'd like to." He eyes my neck and licks his lips. Because
mermaids heal so fast, I know there is no, um, evidence of his, um, previous encounter with my
jugular. "You cannot fathom the self-control it takes not to overindulge."
"Ahem. Mermaid being held in captivity in a tank over here."
"Oh right, sorry." I really do need to be able to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. "We'll
discuss this later, vampire."
He grins. The nerve. And kisses me so softly, like a feather brushing my lips. Stop, Waverly!
Concentrate. We need to get out of here before the guards arrive! Right now!
"Pierce," I say out loud. "We need to move quickly and rescue the merfolk being held prisoner in the
next room. The humans have been extricating their tears with that horrible machine you found me in.
The humans called it a Lachrystractor. It uses pain to make merfolk cry, then harvests their tears to
make Elixir of the Sea, a product they're going to sell to make a fortune. It stops humans from aging."
"Don't worry, Wave. I'm putting out a repulsing energy field. Should hold off the guards for a few
more minutes. And with regard to the chair in question ... Pierce kicks the chair with enormous force.
It dislodges from the bolts holding it to the floor and hits the ceiling. It drops to the floor and explodes.
Shards of glass and twisted metal fly everywhere. Nothing hits me because Pierce has pushed me to
the white tiled floor and is using his body as a shield.
"Uh, oh," says Pierce.
"Someone's coming." He leaps off and pulls me to standing.
"What about your magical repulsion energy?"
"I guess I'm just too attractive sometimes." He grins.
I punch him in the arm. "Men!"
"You called me a man. Not a vampire."
I'm about to make a quip back at him, but when I look into his beautiful blue eyes with the ridiculously
long dark eyelashes, I can see how happy he is that I've called him a man. It seems to mean a lot to him
that I see him this way instead of as a vampire. Being a man describes his essence. Eels meals! Here I
am waxing philosophical when I'm supposed to be on a rescue mission. Ugh!
Next thing I know, Pierce is dragging me through the door to the room where the merfolk are being
held. He slams it shut then smashes the lock rendering it inoperable.
There are six merfolk in the tank-four females and two males, just like we saw in the scrying lava lamp
up at Mount Olympus. Their hair and skin are so pale, it's as if someone has sucked not only the color
but also the life force from their bodies. A lump grows in my throat. "I'm so sorry," I think at them.
"That's ..." one of the merman begins, but his head snaps up when we hear boots running into the lab
"Whoa, man! What's happened in here?" says a guard with a high-pitched young voice. He sounds like
"Big explosion. Maybe dangerous? Doc and Pellicose, they run from lab just now," says another guard
who must be from a country near the Black Sea. "I get bad feeling; shouldn't be here."
"That Doc dude's spent too much time breathing his own fumes. But I know what you're saying, man.
It's like something's trying to push us out of here. But we have a job to do."
"Da." The guard bangs on the door. "Lock is busted from inside. But we need go in, you think?"
My heart is thumping like crazy. Will they be able to get through? I'm holding my breath and trying not
to make a sound.
Pierce shakes his head and mouths, "It'll be okay."
After what seems like an eternity, the Black Sea guard says, "We shoot lock?"
My eyes widen. What, no!
"Can't do that, dude. What if we killed whatever's in there? I've always wondered what's the big
secret. I guess with the explosion in the lab, we have the authority to go in. My money's on
Frankenstein's monster. But you know the rules. No guns in the lab. Let's go get the chainsaw from
the tool shed."
There is the ebb of booted footsteps, and then the lab is silent. I breathe.
"Glad you could join us," thinks one of the mermaids in the tank.
I finally get a good look at them. Their chests are bare. My hair sparks orange. I can feel their shock at
seeing my hair, but they don't say anything. The humans have not only held them prisoner, but they
have also stolen their dignity. Mermaids loathe exposing their breasts like that, especially in such tight
quarters. I really don't know the words to communicate my sadness for their circumstance. Everything
seems trite. "I'm so sorry," I think back. "This is ..."
"It's okay. At least they feed us," thinks one of the mermen, the biggest one, whose broad back is
pushed up against the rear of the tank to make room for the others.
"How does the tank open?" I can't see any way of doing it beyond shattering the thing, which I'm
happy to do. It would be no problem for me or for Pierce. I just wouldn't want to hurt the merfolk.
"Miss Fishwater," says the large merman.
"Please call me Waverly."
"Of course, Waverly. I'm Fitzwilliam. And this is Avalon, I believe you know her daughter Shelly?"
Holy crab! It is Shelly's mom.
"How is my baby?" Avalon, I mean Mrs. Sharkweather thinks at me. Her eyes look so sad, her cheeks
drawn, but I can see the resemblance to Shelly, the small perky nose and full lips. There are traces of
the Sharkweather gold shot through Avalon's hair and scales.
"She's fine, Mrs. Sharkweather. She misses you."
Mrs. Sharkweather sobs, her frail shoulders shuddering. There is nothing in the tank other than water,
so there is no risk of anything transforming from her tears. Merfolk are immune.
"It's okay, Avalon," says one of the other mermaids, who takes Mrs. Sharkweather in her arms.
"And this is Marina, Nerida, Valerie and Brine."
"Nice to meet you. I mean it's not nice to meet you here, but I'm glad to ..." Ugh. I can't say anything
right. "Anyway, this is Pierce, my, um, boyfriend." They frown at him. Vampires are not that popular in
"The humans will return shortly," thinks Fitzwilliam. "You must be gone from here when they do."
"You mean we must be gone, right?"
"We've discussed it, Waverly. The best plan is for you to leave us here. If you rescue us, the humans will
know their security has been breeched and will double their precautions. If we escape, they will only
go and kidnap more innocent merfolk. No. You need to return later with backup and destroy this
place. Expose them so they can never do this again. It will already be harder to enter because of the
damage to the lab; they will be suspicious. If you can put an end to their operation, it will be worth our
sacrifice of a little more time here. They won't kill us. They need us. And knowing that you are aware
of our plight and that there will be an end to this, will comfort us until our release."
"I know you want to save us, Waverly, but trust me, this is the best way."
"He's right, Wave," whispers Pierce.
"How do you know what he said?"
"I read it from your mind."
"We can come back with the others and do the job right," Pierce says.
"But how will we get so many people here with all the security?"
"If I may make a suggestion?" says Fitzwilliam.
"Of course," I say.
"I think it's time for a party."
We arrive back at the cabin in the wee hours of the morning and kiss goodnight in the common room.
I want to do a lot more of that kissing, but frankly, I am exhausted. I tiptoe into the girl's bedroom not
wanting to wake anyone. The window is open, the Hawaiian print curtains unfurling into the room like
the wings of a bat ray. I can smell the trees and the soil and smoke from the teacher's cabins in the
perfumed air. I sink into the bed, not bothering to change into pajamas or even brush my teeth. Pickles
sneezes in her sleep. I listen for sounds of her wakening, but she seems to be sleeping soundly. In
moments, I am slipping under as well.
The next morning I waken with Pickles' puffy red face right in front of mine. She sneezes, barely
covering her nose in time. A bit of fairy dust escapes her sleeve and glitters down to my pillow, which
now glows pink and has tiny unicorns chasing one another up the seam. I sit, the bed creaking, and
flip the thing over, because dancing unicorns always make me irritated in the morning. No one should
have to wake up to something that pink and cheerful.
Then I realize! "You did magic."
Pickles looks down and brushes some fairy dust from her lap. "I can't control it though. It's like
whatever magic I have comes out when I sneeze. And look what I've done. Cupid is going to kill me."
"Look at the curtains."
"Yep." Pickles sniffles.
Cupid's beloved Hawaiian print curtains are now sparkly pink with unicorns dancing in hula skirts. Each
time they flutter in the breeze, the unicorns sway their hips awkwardly.
"Maybe we can change them back before Cupid returns from Hades."
"How long do you think Apollo will keep him there?"
"He was pretty irate. But I can't imagine Cupid allowing himself to be imprisoned for long. I mean, if
anyone can rock irons and chains, it's Cupid, but they don't go that well with bow ties and Hawaiian
"You're right, Wave. Sorry I woke you, but I didn't think you'd want to miss breakfast."
My stomach growls like an angry vampire. When was the last time I ate? Oh, right. The Chinese food
on Mount Olympus. I scramble out of bed still wearing my torn and filthy clothes from the previous
night. I smell like a combination of wet donkey and toxic waste.
"Waverly, you look awful." She grabs my arms and purses her lips. "What happened last night? We
were so surprised when Shelly came back alone! Everyone is super mad at her for abandoning you like
that. And here I was feeling sorry for her!"
"I wasn't that happy about being deserted either. I was shocked, actually. But Shelly's been through a
lot. Last night I found out so much. It was really worth it." I scour the floor for something not pink. I
am determined not to wear anything pink today. I brought so few clothes with me, finding them is like
finding a specific grain of sand on the beach, so I've given up on being reunited with them any time
soon. I scoop up Shelly's black leather bustier.
"You wouldn't," Pickles says. I can tell it's a challenge.
"Humph!" I put my hands on my hips and stare back at her. The mood I'm in is exactly the type that
requires one to don leather clothing. I scrounge around and find Shelly's matching black leather
miniskirt, knee-high boots and a leather jacket.
Pickles watches me with great interest and a crooked smile. "If you're going to wear that, I can't even
imagine what happened last night. I don't think this is the same Waverly. My Waverly wouldn't dress
like this. What have you done with her?"
"I have to gear up mentally for what's ahead. No better way than to look the part."
"Let me help you with that," Pickles says, untying the laces on the bustier. "Tell me what happened."
"Well, the humans are working out of a barn only a few miles from here. They're pretending it's a
working ranch to avoid questions from the locals. They've even hired horses and a donkey from
Hollywood to make it all look real."
"Why couldn't they just get local animals?"
"Neptune's beard! I never thought about that. I have no idea. Stupid city humans! Anyway, they are
manufacturing a product called Elixir of the Sea. And Pickles, the main ingredient is merfolk tears!
That's why they're holding my people prisoner. And Shelly's mom is one of them! There are six in total
squished in a tank about a quarter the size of this room. There's nothing in it to make them more
comfortable-no sand, no kelp, nothing. Even goldfish kept in bowls have it better."
"You saw Shelly's mom?"
I give Pickles an abbreviated version of events. When I'm done, Pickles places her hand over her heart
"Pierce rescued you? That's so romantic."
"Did you hear the part about the hostages and torture?"
"Of course, Waverly, but I'm so glad Pierce saved you. I told you he loved you, you idiot!" Pickles
elbows me in the arm. "But do you think they'll allow him back in school? I mean he was expelled."
"I think they will, Pickles. There are bigger things to worry about than who stole a wand. We have to
expose and take down the DOT Corporation. We have to rescue the merfolk. We have to save the
bay." My stomach grumbles again.
"And we have to eat breakfast," says Pickles, holding up each boot for me to slip into.
When I walk into the cafeteria dressed to kill, everything stops. Forks are poised, chewing halts and
conversation hangs in the air so thick you can almost see it. It's like the universe is on pause. I zero in
on one face across the room. Once I see Pierce watching me, his sculpted jaw dropped, eyes wide, I
smile and walk past everyone as if my outfit is no big deal. Shelly gasps as I pass her table. She's sitting
alone. I look at her, daring her to say anything about borrowing her clothes.
"You ... um ... you look amazing, Waverly," she says.
"I'm really sorry about last night. I knew my dad would get suspicious if I wasn't at dinner. I realize
what I did was totally wrong, though."
I kneel next to her, the leather squeaking. "It's okay, Shelly." I hold her arms, really more to keep my
balance in her super high-heeled leather boots than for affection and whisper in her ear. "They have
your mom. She's okay. She will be okay."
Shelly sobs. I really do feel sorry for her. She is so lost.
Suddenly Cupid comes bounding through the doorway in his bow tie, galoshes, Hawaiian-print board
shorts and bronze bare chest. "Show's over people!"
The conversation starts back up, and people are pretending to eat. I can tell they're all still waiting to
see what'll happen next.
Cupid saunters past the tables heading straight toward me. He reaches a hand down and helps me up.
He whistles. "Waverly Marie Fishwater!"
"Honey, you are a sight." He puts his arms around me and plants a kiss right on my lips!
The room begins to swirl. I am overcome with the oddest sensation. I want to kiss him back! But part
of me knows this is wrong. I'm not supposed to be wanting to do that with Cupid! I'm in a love-
drugged haze and can barely stand. Cupid steadies me as I awkwardly try to kiss him. But before I can,
Pierce has knocked Cupid across the room, swept me up in his arms and is kissing me madly. In front
of everyone. I feel his fangs with my tongue.
Eventually I have to breathe. So we pause. I look up to see Cupid rubbing his chin and grinning.
"I definitely still have the touch," he says proudly. "Good one, Pierce."
I've come out of my Cupid-instigated fog of love enough to realize that we shouldn't be acting like
this. I jump from Pierce's arms and fix my outfit, tugging on the skirt and straightening the bustier.
"Everyone mind your own business," Cupid's voice thunders over the room. Now people are vigorously
eating and talking. The room is abuzz. Pierce, Cupid and I take a seat at a table with Pickles, Fintan,
Lily-Bella and Thunder.
"How was hell?" says Pierce, his fangs still down.
"Hades," Cupid corrects. "And it was an utter bore. As soon as Apollo left, I pulled the arrow out of my
chest. That Hades has no imagination. It's always the 'I'll spear you to a rock with your own arrow for
all eternity, blah blah blah!' Anyway, I healed it right up, and headed back to this realm. So much more
civilized. Gods! So tell me my lovelies, what have I missed?"
Pierce, in a very stilted tone, with his jaw set and his eyes dark, quietly fills Cupid, Thunder, Lily-Bella,
and Fintan in on last night's events. I can tell Pickles and Fintan are holding hands under the table.
Pickles sneezes intermittently, and it's having an interesting effect on the napkins at our table, which
are now covered with sparkling unicorns.
In the meantime, I'm cramming food into my mouth: blueberry pancakes loaded with butter and
maple syrup, bacon, scrambled eggs, wheat toast with strawberry jam, a few croissants and a giant
glass of orange juice. Even though Pierce is still talking, everyone is watching me eat.
"Could you guys stop looking at me?" I ask.
"Nope," says Thunder. "I'd like to place a bet on when you're going to burst open. I say the rest of the
bacon will do her in."
"I think she'll make it through that mountain of toast first," says Lily-Bella, wiping a bit of raw meat
from Thunder's mouth with her unicorned napkin. He smiles at her.
I put down my fork. I'm eyeing the rest of my breakfast longingly, but when your friends are making
bets on your food consumption, it's time to show a little restraint.
Pierce finishes the story.
"Oh my goddess," says Lily-Bella. "That's horrible! How can they do that?"
"I will make them pay!" says Thunder.
"How will we get in?" says Fintan.
"We will have the Halloween party in their barn. It will be the cover for our operation."
"This is going to be the best party ever," says Lily-Bella. Yeah, she has that wild, shiny, 'kick some ass
now,' look in her eyes.
"I already have some thoughts on explosives," says Fintan.
"Will there be trees?" says Thunder.
"There's a huge oak on the property," I promise.
"Excellent," says Thunder.
"You're sure the merfolk will be okay until Halloween?" says Pickles.
"It won't be easy, but this is what they want," I say. "It's the only way to destroy the operation. It's for
the greater good."
"But how are we going to get the humans to let us have a Halloween party at their secret lair?" says
"They are planning to hold a huge press event and party at the barn on Halloween," I say. "Humans are
going to be flown in from all over the world. There are going to be television cameras and every other
kind of human communication system present. It's the perfect time to strike. The whole world will find
out what the DOT Corporation is doing to the oceans."
"I still don't understand how we're getting to have our party there," says Lily-Bella. "They're having
their own party. Are we crashing?"
"I like crashing," says Thunder.
"Me too, Thundy."
"We're not crashing," says Pierce, looking at Cupid.
"Then how?" says Lily-Bella.
"Cupid, have you ever considered a career as a professional party planner?" says Pierce, through gritted
"Can't get more professional than this," Cupid gestures with his hands down his body as if it's
something on display.
"Well here's the plan," I interject before Pierce loses it with Cupid. "The real party planner that the
humans hired, she's about to fall madly in love."
Cupid smiles. "I like the way you think, my dear Waverly. I've got an arrow all sharp and polished and
ready for action."
"Perfect. Once Cupid takes over as the humans' party planner, the rest is easy. Well, sort of easy. There
are still the armed guards and the psycho human boss to deal with."
I'm about to say more about the plan, but Headmaster Crumpet and my dad walk into the cafeteria.
I'm a little shocked to see my dad looking haggard with dark circles under his eyes and disheveled
clothing. Crumpet is clapping his hands to get everyone's attention.
The room quiets once again. My mind is working furiously. What am I going to tell my dad? If I tell him
the truth, will he try to stop the humans on his own? Will he tell Crumpet? Is Crumpet on our side?
Crumpet clears his throat loudly. "Good morning, students. I'm sorry to interrupt your breakfast, but I
have a very important announcement to make." He looks around the room. When he sees Pierce, he
smiles broadly and winks.
Maybe Crumpet's okay. Then my dad notices me. His eyes practically jump out of his face. Oh, right. I
forgot about my outfit. Oops! Well, I am a grown mermaid and can wear whatever I want!
"As you know, our Halloween extravaganza is coming up soon. And we are expecting some very
prominent visitors to join us. We have just learned that the merfolk royal family will attend the
festivities. I expect you all to be on your best behavior. I want nothing, absolutely nothing, to go
For some reason, Crumpet looks straight at me.
"It is imperative that we show our important guests that West Marin Heights is a worthy institution. I
implore you all, for if our beloved school is to continue operating, we will need the blessing of the
royal family. That's all. Enjoy your meal, and we'll see you in class."
I feel Pierce's jealous frown on the back of my neck as we fly from West Marin Heights to the DOT
Corporation barn where we are to have our first press event planning session. Having "disposed" of the
real party planner, we are going with Cupid to meet with the boss himself! Apparently this party is too
important to hand off to his underlings. But the closer we get to the barn, the tighter the knot in my
stomach. I am worried about two things: 1. Will our disguises be enough to convince the boss that we
are event planners? And 2. Will I be able to keep from throwing him into the merfolk tank with an
electric eel, a box jelly, and a starving lionfish?
The weather belies my trepidation-the afternoon sun is warm, the sky is a deep, show-off blue, the few
clouds are frothy dollops of sea foam. Because we are so high it's cold, especially with the ice sculpture
that is Pierce Knightguard, holding me. But I endure the ... um ... hardship. Thank Neptune he can't
read my mind any more. I may never let him drink my blood again!
But even as I think this, I know it's a lie. My blood is singing with the desire to become Pierce's lunch.
Shut up blood!
Pierce has barely spoken to me since Cupid planted that kiss on me in the cafeteria. I think he noticed
that I kind of liked it and that I sort of tried to kiss Cupid back. But Cupid's got powers! Love powers!
It's not like I go around throwing myself at random gods. It doesn't help that Cupid's flying ahead of
us and looking back over his shoulder every few minutes and smirking.
"Ouch, you're crushing me, vampire."
"Just making sure you don't fall. We're not over the ocean now, mermaid. That's a forest. It's a long
ways down. There are very pointy treetops you would impale yourself on."
Never anger a vampire poet boyfriend. Not because you're worried he might drink all your blood, but
because the brooding is as annoying as sand-burn. Is it wrong that I'm thinking about impaling him on
the pointy treetops? No, I suppose that wouldn't be a great plan. Maybe instead I should hitch a ride
with Cupid, though that probably wouldn't make my life any easier.
Cupid spins and dives toward the earth. Pierce, not to be outdone by Cupid's flying artistry, twists, and
we plummet. I clutch my wig and scream. It's like the Undertow, the spinning roller coaster at the
boardwalk, I try to tell myself. But myself argues and says that there's very little probability of death on
the coaster. The ground is moving quickly toward us, a blur of sand-colored grasses and dirt road. At
the last moment, Pierce turns us right-side up, and we land hard on our feet. I glare at Pierce but
decide not to say anything about his competitive stunt, because we have a job to do. And if I'm being
totally honest, I love that he is possessive of me. It makes my spine prickle and my cheekbones ache
because I grin whenever I think about his jealousy. I am a very bad mermaid.
"Why did we land in a field next to a road?" I ask. Before we started our hair-raising descent I could see
that the barn was still fairly far off, over the next knoll. Around us are brown hills, and the liquorice
smell of fennel floats in on the light wind. Even though there's a breeze, my head is hot under the wig,
and I haven't worn contacts in so long, since the last time Carla and I went to the boardwalk, that I
keep wiping my eyes.
"We landed here because we obviously can't fly into the human enclave. The "boss" can't know we're
supernaturals. It'd blow the whole thing. We are just ordinary party planners here to rescue his event,"
Pierce says. "We talked about this, Wave. Weren't you listening?"
"Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating," I say. What I don't say is: especially when you're
around, because I don't want Pierce to know the effect he has on me. "So he'll think we walked to the
meeting at the barn?"
"Nope," says Cupid.
A couple of small cars drive past the field we are standing on. Then suddenly Pierce steps into the
middle of the road; something sleek and powerful looking, and the color of fresh blood, approaches.
The driver of the car stops it so hard, dirt flies everywhere.
"What the hell, you idiot?" The driver, a white-haired human with a huge belly and a few curls of white
chest hair peeking over the top of his Hawaiian shirt, hops out of the vehicle. Cupid is eying the shirt
with utter disgust.
"I need to borrow your vehicle," Pierce says smoothly, gazing deeply into the human's eyes. "Would
that be all right with you?"
"Yeah, sure. No problem."
"I'll need it for about an hour. That all right?"
"Of course. I'll just sit right here on this nice soft rock and read the Wall Street Journal while I wait. You
take all the time you need," says the man. His eyes have a faraway look, as if his consciousness is
ebbing like a receding tide.
"Philistine! Some people should not be allowed to wear Hawaiian prints," Cupid grumbles. He waves
his hand. I look back, and the man is now shirtless. Cupid is serious about his warped sense of fashion.
"Pierce, can't you just do that vampire juju hypnosis thing on the boss?"
"I will try, Waverly, but it only works on the weak-minded. Remember that."
We climb into the two-seater car, which has doors that open like wings. The car vibrates with
unleashed power. The interior smells like polished metal and leather and sunbaked algae. Pierce is in
the driver's seat as Cupid has made it clear that gods do not drive human vehicles. I'm in the
passenger's seat in Cupid's lap. Pierce is practically snarling at Cupid and drops fang.
"You picked the car, dude," says Cupid.
Between the two seats, there's a silver stick with a ball on top. Pierce jiggles it, and there's a horrible
"You do know how to drive?" says Cupid.
"Of course. Piece of cake."
"How much have you driven?" I ask.
"I used to watch my parents. Why, Waverly, you're turning white as a vampire." He pulls my face to his
and kisses me possessively. I'm squirming on Cupid's lap. "I'm just kidding. I had my license for a year
when I was human. It's just that I've never driven a manual transmission."
"What is that?"
"Never mind." He moves the stick, and suddenly the car is screeching down the country road, toward
the evil lair.
We arrive at the barn. I look for Cyril the donkey and his pals, but can't see them anywhere. This makes
me uneasy. Did the humans discover that Cyril helped me? I hope they're okay.
Cupid knocks on the front door. I adjust my wig, which is styled in a short, neck-exposing, shiny black
bob, with thick bangs. The contact lenses are blue, and Lily-Bella has dressed me in a low cut, black
tank with tight black leather pants and boots. While we wait for someone to come to the door, Cupid
keeps eying my behind, just to piss off Pierce. Cupid strikes a handsome pose in his dark gray pants
and jacket and crisp white shirt, a pink Gerber daisy in the lapel. He looks like a male supermodel.
Pierce though, makes Cupid look like a blobfish in comparison. Pierce is in a dark blue suit with a
skinny blue tie. His dark hair is perfectly mussed, and his bright blue eyes, are seductive promises. All of
this is topped off with those dimples that suck you in like tiny whirlpools of no escape. I squeeze his
hand hard; I want him to know he's the only man for me.
The barn door slides open and a tall, pole-thin man in jeans, a black polo shirt and a black jacket with
bushy straw-colored hair is standing inside. The guy looks like a broom. I think I catch a glimpse of a
firearm barely hidden beneath the jacket.
"What you want?" It's the Black Sea guard from the other day. I recognize his voice.
"We're here about the press event," says Cupid smoothly.
"You no look like da party planner."
"I work for her firm," Cupid says, presenting a business card that he must've manufactured from air.
Gods! "She's become ... indisposed ..."
Cupid had no problem "convincing" the previous party planner to suddenly leave town. All it took was
one arrow as she was pumping gas, and the woman fell passionately in love with the next guy she
saw-an accountant from a place called Akron, Ohio. Cupid said that the last time he saw them they
were "balancing their assets and working on their journal entries." I have no idea what he's talking
about, but he did have a lewd grin on his face as he explained the situation.
The security guard slides his thumb over the embossed card. "Follow me."
It's weird to be back in this building. All I want to do is go to the merfolk and set them free. I look up
at Pierce, and he squeezes my shoulder. I shouldn't be nervous because, after all, I am accompanied by
a super hot flying vampire poet and a god, but I will not underestimate our foe. He has come this far
by controlling one of the most formidable mermen in the Pacific-Brack Sharkweather. I'll have to be on
I throw out my telepathic voice in the direction of the captive merfolk. "It's Waverly. Are you guys
"We've been better," answers Fitzwilliam.
"Do you want us to break you out today?"
"No, let's proceed with the plan. But Miss Fishwater?"
"Be careful, the boss is not to be taken lightly. He is very powerful and astute. Be on your guard. And
never allow yourself to be alone with him. Apparently he has quite the sordid reputation with the
"Uh, thanks," I say. Now I'm totally freaked out, whereas before I was only mildly panicked.
We are ushered into a narrow office at the front of the barn with a long window overlooking the
"Bring them in, Igor," says a voice from the inner office. I recognize the oily voice immediately. It makes
the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. It's the man from the engine room. "Wait out
there. I'll call you if I need you."
We walk through the doorway into the inner sanctum. It's dark and cavelike in here, and the air smells
so sweet, I can taste it in the back of my throat. There are no windows. There is, however, a long tank
behind the desk filled with tropical fish. This is the only attempt at décor in the room. The man behind
a huge wooden desk stands and looks down at us. He isn't at all what I imagined from his voice. He's
tall, but also large, almost as big as my dad. He has long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, broad
shoulders, and a square jaw. He has one green eye and one blue eye, and they seem to focus
independently on things in the periphery. But it's the fact that he is extremely attractive that surprises
me the most. There is a certain magnetism that exudes from him and buzzes through the room.
"Dirk Darkins." He holds out his hand for Cupid to shake.
"Peter Gibbons," says Cupid, shaking Dirk's hand. "And may I present my assistants, Tim Mohlar and
Dirk shakes Pierce's hand, and then he clasps my hand and holds it a little too long. He looks into my
eyes, and I can't help feeling that he can see my true eye color beneath the contacts. He's still holding
my hand and gazing up and down my body. "Lovely," he says.
I don't look at Pierce, but I can tell he's glaring at Dirk and would really prefer to eat him now and
dispense with the pleasantries.
"So you're my new event planner?" The man narrows his eyes at Cupid, who maintains his smile.
"Yes, sir," says Cupid. "I've arranged parties for some of the biggest names in the world."
"I appreciate you stepping in at this late date. This event is extremely important. There is no margin for
error. Please have a seat."
We do. My black leather pants squeak against the leather chair.
"There will be no errors, Mr. Darkins. I have thoroughly read the file on your event and have a few
suggestions for improvement."
Mr. Darkins places his hands on his huge wooden desk and leans forward. "Yes?"
"From what I gathered from the file, you want to attract press from all over the world to attend this
event. I have a lot of contacts in Hollywood and in the political arena and ..." Cupid lowers his voice. "I
can even bring in some royals. Once word leaks of this, we will have no problem attracting the press
from every important news organization on the planet."
"You seem confident about this, Mr. Gibbons. "You are this well connected?"
"Oh, Mr. Darkins, you really have no idea."
Even though Mr. Darkins is speaking to Cupid, he keeps staring at me. Does he know I'm a mermaid? I
look at my lap, not wanting to make eye contact.
"Well, that would be quite a feat."
"No problem for me. As a matter of fact, I understand you are a Patty Cary fan?"
"How do you know this," Mr. Darkins says, narrowing his eyes.
"It appears to be in your file," says Cupid smoothly.
"I see. Well, yes. I am."
"Well, I think I can get her here."
"You can get the most popular singer in the world?"
"She owes me a little favor. I, uh, fixed her up with that English rogue she's married to. Anyway, I think
her arrival ought to be your grand entrance. You should pick her up at the airport in a limo and show
up together; the press will go wild."
"Oh, and one more thing."
"As the event takes place on Halloween, I think the décor should be Halloween-chic."
Mr. Darkins frowns. I can tell he doesn't like this idea at all. "I don't think so, Mr. Gibbons."
"Think about it! You are introducing a product that is all about youth and beauty and overcoming the
ravages of aging. What better way to do this than to show the transformation of the monster into the
beauty? It will be marvelous."
"I think you will love the décor once you see it," says Pierce, gazing into Mr. Darkins' eyes.
"I don't think I will," insists Mr. Darkins, cracking his knuckles and holding Pierce's gaze. "What are
Holy crab! He knows!
"I am an expert in Halloween décor. Have you heard of the Haunted Ball?"
"Yes, of course."
"That's why I brought in Mr. Mohlar," says Cupid. "This will be an explosive event that no one will ever
Mr. Darkins leans back in his chair and fixes his gaze on me. "Well then. I suppose I have to defer to
the experts. I will however require an escort for the party. Miss Spring?"
"What? I mean yes?"
"You will do just fine."
"Here are my terms: My guards will help you with the set up and provide protection for our esteemed
guests. This is a high security venue. I assure you that they're armed." Mr. Darkins gestures toward
Igor, still standing behind us beside the door. How is Fintan going to set up explosives with guards
watching his every move?
"We can bring in our own security team, Mr. Darkins. They are experts in this type of event."
"No need," says Mr. Darkins, folding his arms over his massive chest.
"Now, let's see what else? Oh, you will have an unlimited budget and create the Halloween event of
the century. If I am pleased, you will receive double your fee. And Miss Spring shall be my date for the
evening. She will accompany me in the limousine to pick up Miss Cary from the airport. She will stay
beside me all evening. I will not negotiate."
I look at Pierce who is giving me a tiny shake of his head. Then I look at Dirk Darkins. What am I going
to do? This will mean I'll have to be alone with him in the back of a limousine. The way he looks at me
makes me very uncomfortable. It's like I'm a seal, and he's a shark. But he's only a human. A human
who could not be swayed by Pierce's powers, I remind myself. A human who is feared by many
merfolk. A human who is destroying the bay.
"Of course, Mr. Darkins. It would be a pleasure," I say through gritted teeth.
We've arrived back at school, and have a whole hour before dinner. Pierce and I are alone in the fairy
grove, lying next to one another in the meadow looking up at the expanse of tangled tree limbs and
being serenaded by frogs from a nearby pond.
"You don't have to do this, Waverly," says Pierce for the four-millionth time. "We'll find another way.
"It's okay, Pierce. You'll be following from the air. You'll know what's going on inside the limo with
that freaky vampire hearing of yours. And I'm pretty strong, too, if you hadn't noticed."
"I know my shark-flinger." He presses a lingering kiss on to each of my hands. I shiver.
"You say the nicest things to me." I turn toward him and put my head on his cool, silent chest. He
smells different in his suit. Like something from the jungle-exotic and prowling. He wraps an arm over
me and pulls me even closer.
"Waverly, I cannot stand the thought of anything happening to you. I don't want you putting yourself
at risk like this. That human scares me. There is something about him. Something ... I don't know what
"Maybe that you couldn't control him with your freaky vampire mind control?"
"Waverly, my powers are not all freaky, are they?"
Without thinking, I roll on top of him, startling not only him but also myself. What has gotten into me?
It must be the outfit. And the hair. Being in disguise is kind of freeing. "No, all your powers are
definitely not freaky, vampire." I lower my face to his and initiate a kiss that is not at all tentative. I kiss
him like a girl who wears leather and has sexy black hair. And eel's meals is he kissing me back! I'm
running my fingers through his silky dark hair.
"I think I like you in black hair and leather, Waverly."
He rolls us over, and now he's on top of me. There's a subtle shift, and now he's in charge. He kisses
me hard; it's dangerous and possessive, and for some reason, I like it. I can feel the passion and almost
desperation behind it. My entire body tingles, and the leather pants feel too warm.
When the kiss finally ends, I'm panting. Pierce looks at me, not smirking and proud of his obvious
effect on me, but with utter love.
"Pierce, I love you," I say.
He kisses my nose, then my eyes, then my cheeks, and then my neck. I turn my head so he can get to
my neck more easily.
"Waverly, no," he says. "I haven't fed all day, and I don't know whether I'll be able to control myself. I
wish you could understand how much I love drinking your blood. Remember when we first met?"
"Of course, Pierce. I can never forget that day. The day I rescued you from rabid sharks."
"Well, yes, but remember when you asked me what your blood tasted like?"
"Yes, you said it was like 'the first rain on a crackling desert landscape.'"
"Well, that's true, but do you remember what you said?"
"Oh, yeah, you mean about vampire crack?"
"Exactly. Your blood is like a drug. And the more I have, the more I want."
"I trust you, Pierce."
He licks my throat, and I shiver again.
He growls, low and menacing and it's so sexy, I can barely contain myself. Then he pierces my neck
with his fangs. My heart is pumping faster, my body rippling with pleasure.
He stops after less than a second, shaking his head. His pupils are pinpricks "No!"
"Yes, Waverly." His voice is hoarse. "And it wasn't only a second. It was almost a full minute."
"But ..." Pierce shuts me up by kissing me, and I can taste my own blood. We are wrapped around one
another and the kiss is almost as good as the bite. The air around our bodies heats and shimmers, and
we are floating above the fairy meadow. Floating on the magic. Our magic. And for a moment, our
"I know," says Pierce. "I love you too, Waverly."
"Now stop talking, and kiss me some more. We have at least a few more minutes before dinner."
Something hits my head.
"What?" I try to brush it away, but my wig comes loose and falls to the ground. Our magic spell is lost,
and Pierce and I also drop. He spins under me at vampire speed, taking the brunt of the fall. "What
"Looks like Jay. Pickles' bird friend."
Jay lights on my shoulder and starts pecking at me.
"Hey, stop it!"
"I think he's trying to tell us something," says Pierce.
"Oh, what, you speak junco now?"
"No, there's a little note tied to his foot."
"Oh, right. Sorry."
"It's okay, Wave. What does it say?"
I gently remove the paper. "Thanks, Jay." The bird bobs his head and takes off back toward campus. I
unroll the message. "Oh, no!"
"What is it?"
"It's Pickles! She's gone. And so is Fintan."
Pierce lifts me and we zoom toward campus. We practically fly into the cafeteria where a bunch of
students are lined up to get their dinner. Lily-Bella and Thunder are sitting at a table, waving to us
frantically from across the room.
"They ran away," says Lily-Bella, a platter of cupcakes sitting in front of her on the table uneaten.
"Why? Why would they do that?"
"Pickles' mother is here. She came to take Pickles out of school. Mrs. McPhee heard about Pickles
having the fairy flu and being in love with Fintan. We don't know how she found out. Who would tell
"Oh, poor Pickles." Pierce and I join Lily-Bella and Thunder at their table.
"Then we have another problem," Pierce says.
"What?" asks Lily-Bella.
"We need Fintan if we're going to take down Darkins and the DOT Corp. on Halloween. The whole
thing hinges on him, especially now that you and I are out of commission for a good part of the set
"Well, we will have to get rid of Mrs. McPhee, and get Fintan and Pickles back to school before
Halloween," I say.
"I can tie Mrs. McPhee to a tree, and then ..." Thunder picks up one of Lily-Bella's cupcakes and
crushes it in his fist.
"I don't think that will be necessary," I say, dragging the innocent platter of cupcakes across the table
and out of Thunder's reach.
"We only have two days," says Thunder.
"Yeah, but we have a hot vampire poet, a kick-ass fairy, a werewolf who is prone to violence," I nod at
the ruined cupcake, "and an angry mermaid. We'll find them in time."
"Don't forget a hot love god," says Cupid, joining us. He's still in his supermodel outfit from earlier and
even Lily-Bella seems affected by his charms.
"We can do it ourselves," says Pierce clearly not happy to see Cupid again.
"Come on now, Pierce. We need all the help we can get," I say.
"Where should we look first?" I ask.
"I know where she is," says Lily-Bella.
"The fairy dimension."
"But I thought only fairies can go there," says Pierce. He glances at me with a worried expression. Oh,
he knows me well!
"That's what I thought, but Fintan does seem to have some sort of affinity with fire. Perhaps he can
exist there without being harmed."
"But why would you think that's where they went?" I ask.
"Because my wand told me," says Lily-Bella.
"Your wand talks?"
"Sometimes. When it wants to."
"Alright then. I guess we're going to the fairy dimension," I say.
"You guys can't go," says Lily-Bella, eyes wide.
"If you think a little thing like total incineration is keeping me away from rescuing my friends, you're
crazy. And don't you say a word, Pierce Knightguard. I'm going."
I march out of the cafeteria before anyone else argues with me. I'm a mermaid who doesn't do well
taking orders from others.
Chapter 27 - Part I
Cupid, Lily-Bella, Thunder, Pierce, and I are back at the beach, the wind whipping through our hair and
bending the stand of palm trees where Pierce drank my blood for the first time. I squeeze Pierce's hand
and he smiles at me, with full dimple action. Even though I'm in jeans and one of Pierce's plaid shirts,
I'm cold. Pierce wraps me in his (freezing) arms and kisses my head. I don't mention that he is causing
goose bumps to erupt along my arms. Lily-Bella is in full-on fairy princess garb—flowing pink gown,
tiara, ballerina slippers, her long blonde hair in its perfect twist. Pierce is in khaki pants and a plaid shirt
while Thunder dons tight blue breeches and a white shirt with puffy sleeves, his long red hair
cascading over his shoulders. I think he's trying to look like a prince or something, and it's kind of
hilarious and sweet at the same time. Cupid wears a short toga with a bow tie—weird choice for going
into the fiery fairy realm.
It's a new moon and a cloudless sky, so there's nothing to obscure the infinity of sparkling stars,
strewn like fairy dust across the heavens. I look out over the bay and smell the salty, inviting scent of
home. Part of me would like to forget all this, dive in, turboswim to Pacifica, and be safe in our cave
with my mom. But of course, I can't do that. If Darkins is allowed to continue, soon Pacifica will be
We're at the same location where Lily-Bella ripped the fabric of the fairy dimension the day she stole
Princess Iridessa's wand. Lily-Bella thought perhaps it would still be a weak spot between realms,
making it easier for us non-fairy types to jump through. I may be imagining it, but I think I can still
smell the ozone from the last time the fairy world intersected with ours. If it smells this much now,
how horrible will it be inside the place? And I remember Lily-Bella telling us there are fire-spirits,
dragons and volcanoes in addition to the blistering heat and stench. I really hope Cupid's plan works.
It's 50/50. Cupid is a powerful god, but he is also adept at screwing things up and being carried off to
Hades for impalement.
Cupid's plan is as follows: we enter the fairy dimension, recover Fintan, who is instrumental in
destroying Darkins by blowing up his evil lair and Pickles, who is my dear friend and fairy godmother.
We then hide the lovers in Cupid's Mount Olympus bachelor pad until the party/takedown. Mrs.
McPhee, Pickles' mother, will be "dealt with" was all Cupid would say on that matter.
"Okay, y'all," says Cupid. "Eat one of these, and you should be immune from being burnt alive when
you enter the fairy dimension." He hands Thunder, Lily-Bella and I something called a taco, which he
described as a corn-based shell with meat, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. "Lily-Bella, your taco is just
for fun. You do not need the protection magic, but thought you might be hungry."
"Thanks, Cupid! I am," says Lily-Bella.
"And, Pierce, sorry, dude. I had to put your magic in a vial of blood, because of your ... well ... digestive
limitations." He gives Pierce an unappetizing vial of red fluid. Urgh!
"I understand," Pierce says. But I can see he's sad about this. I can't imagine never getting to eat real
The tacos are wrapped in a piece of thin yellow paper, but I can feel the warmth through the
wrapping. They smell fantastic. I love it when magic involves eating!
"You're giving us magic tacos?" says Thunder. "You gotta be joking."
"What do you have against tacos, wolf?" says Cupid, his god eyes flashing red. That's a little scary.
"Where do I start? Vegetables? Cooked meat? The fact that tacos are the least magical food on the
"You dare question a god?" says Cupid.
Thunder eyes the closest palm tree. I can tell what he's thinking. I shake my head and mouth, "no!"
"Whatever, man. Let's do this," says Thunder.
I exhale in relief. We extricate our tacos from the crinkly paper. Thunder's is way bigger than the rest of
ours; it's stuffed with raw meat, and is vegetable free.
"Oh, wow. Sorry, man. This looks awesome."
Cupid smiles. "Never again question me. I am a god who knows his tacos!"
"I won't sir!" Thunder salutes Cupid.
I take a bite off of one of the corners of the taco. It's delicious! Salty, crunchy, savory and full of flavor.
Nearly as good as pizza! I do feel a little different. It's as if I'm standing inside of a Waverly-sized
bubble. I can practically see the iridescent film of a real bubble surrounding me. I touch my arm, but it
feels no different than usual. We're all chowing down, and Pierce lifts the vial to his lips and chugs. I
try not to look, but he is clearly enjoying it so much I have to watch.
"Wow! Thanks, Cupid!"
"You're welcome, vampire."
"For what?" I ask.
"The blood was taco-flavored. I haven't tasted real food in so long. It brought back many memories of
going out for Mexican dinners with my family."
"Cupid," I say, "sometimes you are so kind, I don't even know who you are."
"Thank you, Waverly. I like to keep everyone guessing. Try not to let it get around. Now. There's one
thing I must mention."
"What?" says Pierce.
"The magic only lasts for one hour, so you better get moving."
"What do you mean 'you?'" I ask. "Aren't you coming?"
"Me, to the fairy realm? Gods, no!"
"No decent god would be caught dead there. The décor is abysmal!"
"Cupid," I say, using the doubting tone my mother invokes when she knows I'm hiding something.
"What's the real reason?"
"Décor!" Cupid looks down and draws a little circle in the sand with the tip of his golden slipper.
"Come on! Wait. You're scared!"
"I am not scared. It's just that last time I went, Fairy Princess Iridessa said if I ever returned she would
throw me into the volcano and keep me there for a thousand years. I have better things to do than boil
in lava for ten centuries."
"Why did you even go there at all?" I ask. "It sounds like a terrible place."
"Once you're inside the castle, it's nirvana." Cupid shuts his eyes and sighs, obviously delighting in his
memories of the delights of the fairy castle.
"Did you say the magic only works for one hour?" says Thunder.
Cupid's eyes pop open. "I might've mentioned that."
"Why didn't you tell us this earlier?"
I'm stunned. "But weren't you all dismissive of F.G. spells being stupid because they go out of
commission at midnight? This is even worse! Only one hour!" And to think I had just complimented
Cupid on his thoughtfulness.
"Waverly," Lily-Bella grabs my arm.
"We can stand here and criticize Cupid, or we can get going so we don't run out of time."
"Gods!" I say as Lily-Bella slashes her wand into the ether like a sword and opens a fiery door into the
fairy dimension. Immediately my nose is assaulted by an appalling, acrid, fiery odor. I pinch my nose
closed and breathe through my mouth. The entrance to the fairy dimension is a jagged red glow of
swirling dust. A hot wind pushes at us, like a warning not to proceed.
"What an interesting smell," says Thunder, covering his nose with his hand.
"Yeah, it's brimstone," says Lily-Bella. "It's the first repellent against non-fairies entering the
"It smells like rotten eggs and skunk," says Thunder
"And moldy garlic," says Pierce, wriggling his nose.
"At least you don't have to breathe, Pierce," I say.
"Come on guys. We can't waste time here," says Lily-Bella. "Let's go."
Lily-Bella steps into the entrance. There's a flash of red light, and then I can no longer see her. I push
against the wind. The closer I get, the stronger it becomes. Well, scorching, powerful wind! I am
mermaid! I push through, shoulder first. The heat once I'm inside is staggering. I can tell the only thing
keeping me from being barbecued is the bubble of Cupid's magic providing a barrier to my skin. I
cannot see anything; the red light is so intense. A moment later, Pierce is through. He feels along my
arms, making sure I'm okay. Then Thunder comes in and the jagged portal to our world disappears
with a resounding pop.
"Come toward my voice," says Lily-Bella. "You guys okay?"
"It's really hot in here," says Thunder.
"I know. Should be better after you pass completely through the portal and into the fairy dimension."
"Why would a fairy even want to come here?" I ask. Cupid called this Nirvana?
"It will become clear," says Lily-Bella. "Once we get to the castle."
Once we're out of the portal, the landscape changes. It's still hot and smelly, but it's dark and misty
and damp and there are groves of giant crooked black trees, bare as skeletons.
"Nice trees," says Thunder.
"Don't go too close, Thundy," says Lily-Bella. They may look fun, but their roots are murder."
Thunder frowns, but puts his arms around Lily-Bella and plants a kiss on her lips so scorching I have to
"Cupid's tacos worked," Lily Bella says cheerfully, after the kiss.
'Apparently," I say.
"Excellent. Now follow me. Don't lag behind. There are other horrors meant to keep out anyone who
might get past the conflagration at the entry."
As if on cue, off in the distance, I hear a horrible shrieking that makes the hairs on my neck stick up.
"What's that?" I ask.
"Oh, that?" says Lily-Bella. "It's only the ear-splitting screams of the fire spirits. Wait 'til we get closer.
You'll want to rip your ears off."
"Why are you smiling?
"Because it's just so cool that you are all here, I never thought I would get to show it to you" says Lily-
Bella. "Come on. We have to get to the Floating Castle of Doom, and it's a long ways off."
"Floating Castle of Doom?" I say.
"Yeah, according to my wand, that's where Fintan and Pickles are hiding. Don't worry, Wave. It's just a
name they use to make it seem scary."
She breaks into a run before I can say a word.
My heart is pounding as we run through the spooky forest, and the shrieking is getting so loud and the
stench so overwhelming that I'm no longer sure whether I'm smelling the tortured shrieks or hearing
the brimstone, because it's all melded into one horrendous mixture.
Something flies over my head, snagging and yanking out some of my hair. "Ouch!" It's so dark and
misty in here; it is hard for me to see what it is. There are thousands of them racing at us and over us.
"Hit the ground," says Lily-Bella.
I drop and Pierce drops on top of me. I mean, I don't need him to do this, but I really appreciate that
he wants to protect me. I see Lily-Bella has done the same for Thunder, which is rather amusing as she
is about half his size. The ground smells like shark breath and is covered with slimy, pulsing roots that
ripple beneath my body. Why would fairies, creatures that love tiaras and pink and sparkles, invent a
realm of Hades like this? Makes no sense. They should have a place with pink cotton-candy clouds and
rainbows and unicorns.
Looking up, I can see that the creatures are about the size of seagulls, but with crimson skin, and
batlike wings. They fly over. "Why aren't they diving at us?" I yell at Lily-Bella to be heard over the din.
"Because they hate the Roiling Roots of Repulsiveness."
The roots curl up my arms and legs like sinewy, living ropes. Ugh! I try to get up but only manage to
shake Pierce off of me. "They've got me!"
"Relax, Wave. The more you struggle, the tighter they get," says Lily-Bella. The last of the fire spirits
flies over us, but the echoes of their screams are burned into my brain.
"Don't worry, Wave," says Pierce. He sits next to me, and pulls at the roots. Nothing happens. I try as
hard as I can to get up.
"Waverly, you must relax. The Roiling Roots of Repulsiveness get their power from your struggle," says
Lily-Bella. "If you don't stop struggling, in about sixty seconds you're going to be tree food."
"Oh, Lily-Bella. You know just the thing to calm a mermaid down!" But I know she's right. I have to
stop struggling. I force myself to relax. As I do, the roots lessen their grip and disappear back into the
ground. Pierce helps me up.
"Well done, Wave," says Lily-Bella.
My jeans and top are now damp and cling to my skin.
As we continue to race across the foggy landscape toward the castle, the temperature increases. The
ground gets softer and wetter, and begins spurting boiling magma. One fountain comes up so close to
me, it burns my ankle though the jeans. "Aaagghhh! Holy crab! What happened to Cupid's protection
Lily-Bella and Thunder slow and turn their heads to look at me. "Oh unicorn poop, Wave! The
protection bubble only works for the entrance. I should've told you not to wear jeans. The magma
loves denim. You might want to remove them if you don't want to have your legs singed to a crisp."
"You know, Lily-Bella, you might've mentioned this."
"I'm sorry, I had a lot on my mind."
Another magma jet spurts at me, and there's a blaze of fire across my thigh. Now I'm trying to keep up
with the others as I hop around attempting to remove my jeans. "Lily-Bella. Some new pants maybe?"
"Sorry, Wave. My magic won't work anywhere in the fairy dimension except inside the castle."
They all stop running and wait as I finally slip off my jeans. As soon as the denim hits the ground, the
magma boils around them and swallows them. The only good part, is now the lava seems satisfied and
the spurting and bubbling ceases.
"Happy face bikini underwear?" teases Pierce.
"Don't look at my underwear! I thought you were a gentleman!" I say, breaking into a run, heading for
an enormous volcano, bellowing and belching and making the landscape shudder like an earthquake
After what seems like forever, we get close enough to see the castle above the volcano. Here's the
problem: it's floating over the caldera, which is spurting flumes of lava as enormous and bright as solar
flares. Why couldn't the castle be on land, with a nice little alligator-filled moat and a legion of soldiers
posted along its crenellated battlements, their armored arms poised with bows and poisoned tipped
"So, there's an elevator?" I say hopefully.
"That's very funny," says Lily-Bella. "No. We have to dance."
"What?" I growl.
"Dance. You know, you move your feet and body in a rhythmic fashion. Like we learned in the class at
the fairy meadow. We have to dance so that we can float up to the castle. It's fairly obvious. How else
would we get there? You know sometimes, I don't understand mermaids."
"I. Don't . Dance."
"You should've paid attention in Fairy Dance Class." Lily-Bella grabs Thunder, and steps on to a sleek
white dance floor. Colored lights beam on to the floor and flash in swirls and explosions of color.
Music starts thumping away. A woman's voice starts singing: "Starships were meant to fly. Hands up
and touch the sky."
Thunder and Lily-Bella hold hands and dance, moving their hips in unison. Thunder twirls Lily-Bella,
then they join hands again and really start to move.
Pierce holds his hand out to me. "Wave?"
Oh whatever! I'm already wearing happy face underwear. Dancing like a fool won't make me look like
any more of an idiot. I start dancing. Pierce dances just as well as Thunder and Lily-Bella. At first, I copy
what the others are doing, but as I move, the music wraps itself around me, and I feel it all the way in
my bones. I finally let go of worrying what I look like and just feel. I can do this! It's fun! I am a dancer!
Lily-Bella and Thunder start floating. Pierce pulls me into his arms, and we are floating as well. It's
"You did it, Wave he says, kissing me.
"I did!" I say. I realize that Pierce could have flown us up to the castle, but he didn't. He wanted me to
fly, and I did!
Chapter 27 - Part II
We land softly on the top of the stone castle. There are no fires or volcanoes or screeching creatures or
horrible roots up here. There are birds chirping and the air is fragrant with jasmine, Lily-Bella's favorite
shampoo scent. We're on a luminous pale surface with potted orange and lemon trees along the edge
of the bailey next to the battlement. The glowing iridescent stone walls of the castle are adorned in a
crisscross pattern of the star jasmine vines. There is a feeling of utter peace and beauty, and I cannot
imagine why anyone would want to leave this place.
Lily-Bella puts her fingers to her lips indicating we should be quiet. Then she gestures for us to follow
her. She waves her wand and an arched wooden door appears in the wall of the castle. We enter a
dark, room that smells like baking pies and melted chocolate and yeasty bread. My stomach grumbles.
Lily-Bella waves her wand again and the room is bathed in a magical fairy light. Wands are so cool. I
wonder if I have enough fairy in me to use one?
There are gleaming silver ovens, and the marble countertops are covered with the most beautiful
baked goods I've ever seen: golden-crusted latticework pies with oozing red fruit, sugar-sparkled
razor-thin cookies, a seven-tiered tower, laden with violet and unicorn-topped cupcakes.
"What is this place?" I whisper.
"It's the castle's pastry kitchen. But DON'T eat anything."
"Not a problem for me," says Pierce.
My mouth waters. "Why not?" I'm already planning to live permanently in this very room.
"Because once you eat the food in the fairy dimension, you'll never want to leave here."
"But don't fairies eat it?"
"Of course, but it doesn't have the same effect on us."
She pops a cookie into her mouth as if to prove her point. "I protest!!!! Why are there so many rules in
"Fintan and Pickles are close by," says Lily-Bella, totally ignoring my question. "But I can feel the
presence of others as well. Powerful fairies are here at the castle today. Stay close, the castle changes
at its own will. Passages shift, rooms reposition themselves. If you separate from me, you may never
get out of here. My wand will show us the safest route. Any questions?"
"Only one," I say.
"About my clothes." Everyone stares at my bare legs.
"Oh, right," says Lily-Bella.
She waves her wand, and now I'm dressed like Lily-Bella in a long poufy satin gown, but mine is a
lovely teal instead of pink. It doesn't seem like the best outfit for subterfuge, but I don't want to argue.
At least I'm not prancing around in comical underwear! "Thanks."
"Sure. I suppose I did us all a favor," Lily-Bella says, smiling at me.
"Speak for yourself, Lily-Bella. I rather enjoyed her other outfit." Pierce grins. He thinks if he does that
adorable dimpled grin thing, I won't say anything about his remark. My mouth is open, forming a
retort when Lily-Bella's wand starts to vibrate, the glowing tip flashing on and off like a lighthouse.
"Let's go," she says.
We exit through a door on the opposite side of the kitchen from where we came in and walk into a
hallway. Even though we're still indoors, the floor is carpeted with sweet-smelling grass sprinkled with
wildflowers in dazzling colors I've never seen in the earthly realm. Ivy climbs the walls. There are fairy
lights dancing on the ceiling, and tiny allicorns flying from flower to flower like pollinating bees.
Miniature fairies, in sheer gowns, frolic on the leaves.
"Come on, I think they're out here," says Lily-Bella. She waves her wand and a door appears. We open
it, and I am stunned at what I see.
It's a field, as big as the entire WMH campus, with perfectly manicured grass and a forest of pink pine
trees. It's dotted with small beehive-shaped huts that look like they're made of hay. There are gurgling
streams, with pink deer stopping by for a drink. Little pink bunnies, swans, polar bears, dogs, cats,
horses, unicorns, ibises, and seagulls populate this strange forest. I think fairies have an unhealthy
relationship with the color pink. At least the grass is normal. I hear giggling.
"What's that?" I ask.
"Look," says Thunder, pointing at the stream.
A half dozen nymphs clad only in water drops and moonbeams rise from the river. They are gorgeous,
and the only thing covering their breasts is their long hair, the color of pearls. They're waving at
Thunder and Pierce.
"Want to go for a swim boys?" Says one of the nymphs.
Thunder starts walking toward them, looking dazed. Lily-Bella pulls him back. "Thunder. Hello?
Thunder? Remember me? Your girlfriend?"
Thunder looks at Lily-Bella. For a second he doesn't recognize her. He shakes his head and pulls Lily-
Bella in for a hug. "Oh, wow! I don't know what came over me!"
"I do," says Lily-Bella. "Sorry girls, these boys are taken. Go find your own!"
"Have you seen Cupid?" says another of the nymphs, this one even lovelier than the others. "He
promised he'd come back."
"We haven't seen him," Lily-Bella lies. Now git!" She raises her wand, and the nymphs disappear,
splashing into the watery depths.
"Nymphs!" Lily-Bella huffs. "Guys can't resist them."
I look at Pierce, but he shrugs and plants a kiss on my lips. "There's no other girl for me," he whispers
in my ear. Apparently vampires are immune.
"Where are we?" Thunder says, cheeks flushed to match his hair, probably trying to change the topic
"This is the throne room," says Lily-Bella.
"Where's the throne?" I ask.
"It only appears when it is needed. Right there." She points to a spot in the middle of the field. As soon
as Lily-Bella finishes her sentence, two golden thrones, covered in pink silks, materialize from the ether.
"This way, quick!"
We hide behind a massive pine, Pierce behind me, Thunder behind Lily-Bella. Thunder reaches around
her and places his large hand reverently on the craggy pink trunk. I peek around the edge to see what
is happening. In moments, two figures appear seated on the thrones. One is Fairy Princess Iridessa. The
other, I do not recognize. She's in a simple blue gown with a crown. She has bright red hair that looks
like a flame. Oh, dear. It must be ..."
"Pickles' mom," whispers Lily-Bella."
"Pickles' mother is a princess?" I ask.
"Actually, she's the queen. Pickles is the princess. Mrs. McPhee even outranks Iridessa. You didn't
I shake my head. How did I not know Pickles was royal? Because she never once acted as if she were
better than anyone else. She is the purest soul I've ever known. Why should Pickles be made to suffer
like this? I am so angry with her mom, it takes all my self-control not to march over there, mash her
into a little ball and throw her over the side of the castle. So much for the castle making me feel all
blissed out. Pierce gives my hand an icy squeeze and kisses my head, obviously reading my mind again.
The queen snaps her fingers and a footman appears with a rolling tray of tea and pastries. The
footman is dressed in a tuxedo, and his hand shakes as he pours from a silver teapot. "Spellman! The
cream and the sugar first, then the tea!" says Mrs. ... uh ... Queen McPhee.
"We will find them, Moira; they cannot have gone far," says Fairy Princess Iridessa.
"You'd better, or I'll close that ridiculous school down. What was I thinking putting my child in with
such an element? I knew it was a mistake. I should not have let that Crumpet fill my head with his
stupid ideas about diversity and understanding other cultures. That will be all, Spellman." The queen
waves her hand, and the footman disappears. "The man simply does not understand protocol. And
you! I thought you were going to keep an eye on things!"
"Really, Moira. You're just upset. Once this is over I'm sure you'll ..."
"I am more than upset. I want my daughter back. And that, that, whatever he is. Fintan. He must be
eliminated." The queen picks up a pastry and takes a dainty nibble.
What does she mean eliminated? Thunder is digging his fingers into the pink tree bark. My heart is
hammering in my chest, and my hair is starting to spark. Lily-Bella's eyes are round with alarm. She
waves her wand, and my hair settles down. "Thanks," I mouth. She nods her head.
"Surely you are not expecting us to kill the boy," says Iridessa.
At least someone is being rational!
Queen Moira sips her tea, shakes her head, and sets the cup back on the tray. "Well, no. But surely he
can be sent back to where he came from.
"He grew up in the human foster care system. He never lived anywhere more than three months. Every
place he was sent burnt down. He had no home to speak of until coming to West Marin Heights."
"Well, he's old enough to be on his own now. Put him back in the human world, and erase his
memories. That should take care of the problem. And Pickles is coming home. I'm keeping her locked
in our castle until she marries the prince we've chosen for her."
What, no! Pickles will die if she has to live that way! And she loves Fintan!
Queen Moira glares at Iridessa.
"As you wish, Queen Moira," Iridessa says through clenched teeth.
The two fairies disappear, as do the tea, pastries and the golden thrones. I breathe my first real breath
since the royal fairies of doom appeared.
"At least it doesn't seem like they know Pickles and Fintan are here at the castle. We have to get to
them first," says Lily-Bella.
"But I don't understand why Pickles would even bring Fintan here. It seems like the worst place in the
universe to hide from her mother," I say.
"Clearly her mother had kept this world a secret from Pickles, so she had no idea it was a place her
mother visited regularly. Fairy godmothers aren't supposed to enter this world until their 18th birthday
when they are wed."
"More rules!" I say.
"We're running out of time," says Lily-Bella. "Unless you want to get burnt to a crisp on the way out,
we have about twenty minutes to find Pickles and Fintan and return to the human dimension. Come
We gather up our skirts and run through the field. "There," says Lily-Bella, pointing to a hut that looks
like all the others.
We dive through the entrance, and instead of being inside a grass hut, we're back in the pastry
kitchen. Fintan is standing next to one of the ovens; smoke is escaping through the stove door and
curling around Fintan who is lifting a unicorn cupcake to his mouth.
"Waverly, Pierce, Lily-Bella, Thunder! What are you guys doing here?" says Pickles.
"Fintan, no!" I leap across the room and bat the cupcake out of Fintan's mouth a moment before he
was going to take a bite.
"Hey! Why'd you do that?" Fintan reaches for another cupcake.
"Stop, Fintan," says Lily-Bella. "If you eat that you'll never be able to leave this realm. Ever!"
"Really?" says Fintan, looking at Pickles for confirmation.
"I don't know," says Pickles. "I've never been here before."
"Well then thanks, Waverly," says Fintan. "But, uh, can I ask you what you are all doing here?"
"We've come to get you guys," says Thunder. "We need Fintan to ..."
"No! He can't go back," says Pickles, grabbing Fintan's hand. "My mom is really angry and wants
Fintan thrown out of school." Pickles sneezes.
"I take Pickles' other hand. She looks even frailer than before and Fintan seems exhausted. "I am glad
to see you guys. I was so worried."
"How did you guys get here?" says Pickles.
"Cupid helped us," I say. "Look, we don't have much time to talk. We just overheard your mom and
"They're here?" says Pickles, eyes widening.
"Yes! And they said they're going to lock you up until you are married, and they're going to send
Fintan back to the human world. After ..."
"After what?" says Fintan, trying to maintain calm, but smoke is rising from his shoulders and head.
"After wiping your mind."
"I see," says Fintan. Sparks fly from his fingertips.
"Look guys, we have to get you both back," I say. "We need Fintan to blow up the barn at the
Halloween party and put an end to The Dot Corporation. We have so much to tell you. But we have to
go now. Cupid has promised to keep you hidden in Olympus. No one will find you there."
We hear heavy footsteps coming down a nearby corridor.
"Let's go!" says Lily-Bella. She waves her wand, and a door appears leading outside of the castle. We
run across the bailey until we're at the spot we landed after our fairy dance.
"Now what?" I say.
"We jump," says Lily-Bella.
"We can't jump!"
"It'll be fine. There's a really deep moat below. It's actually fun."
Rather than standing there arguing with me like a good fairy, Lily-Bella dives off the battlement. A
second later we hear a splash. "Come on," she beckons from far below.
"But I'll turn into a mermaid," I mumble. The footsteps are getting closer. More than footsteps, they
sound like metal boots hitting the stone floors.
"No problem, Waverly," says Pierce. Everyone else jumps, but Pierce lifts me and flies us gently to the
ground. The others come trudging out of the water, soaked.
"Stop! Pickles! You stop right now!" Back on the castle baily, Queen Moira is leaning over the edge
with a legion of armored soldiers behind her, each carrying a blade taller than a grown merman. Why
did I wish for armored soldiers earlier? "Jump you idiots," says the queen. "Sieze them."
We take off, and I don't turn around even when I hear the splashes of the guards as they hit the moat.
We're running over the wet ground, the air becoming more putrid as we get further from the palace.
Luckily no one's magic works in this part of the fairy dimension, or I'm pretty sure we'd all be fairy dust
But no matter how fast we are, I can see that we are about to be overtaken. Pickles trips over a root.
Fintan stops to help her. The army, Queen Moira at the lead is almost upon us. Coming from the other
direction, preceded by ear-splitting screams, is a colony of fire spirits, heading straight for us. We are
"Pickles," says Fintan.
"This isn't going to work. Your family will never let us be together. It's making you sick, and now
they're going to lock you up! I cannot allow this to happen. It's over. I'm sorry."
"Fintan, no! We'll find a way," says Pickles, tears in her eyes.
"Don't you see? We can't run forever. Good-bye, Pickles," Fintan says, marching away from us, his
hands over his head, sparks flying from his fingertips. He's surrendering to the Queen and her army.
I'm holding Pickles, and we're both crying. But even as we're standing there in the midst of fairy hell, I
can feel her body getting stronger. She no longer has the fairy flu. Her eyes are bright green, glistening
"Take him to the dungeon," says Queen Moira.
"Mother, no! He broke up with me. Let him go."
"Not until his mind is wiped. Can't have him remembering you, my daughter. Trying to come back for
Just as one of the guards is about to grab Fintan, there is a shriek, and the fire spirits turn around and
fly away at top speed. The army scatters. Queen Moira is yelling at them to return to their formation,
but they are tripping over themselves trying to get away. Then the whole world rumbles, and there is a
trembling roar. A wind of fire shoots across the landscape, and the smell of brimstone is as thick and
tangible as a yellow cloud. Queen Moira grabs Fintan.
"Uh, I think we should go now," says Lily-Bella. "There may be too many for us to fight."
"Too many what?" I say just as six dark shadows swirl on the ground. I look up. Above us are six
dragons, the size of barns, circling the queen and Fintan like vultures.
"Run," says Lily-Bella.
"No!" says Pickles. "What about Fintan and my mom?"
The dragons dive at the queen and Fintan. One of the dragons scoops him up with her wing and
tosses him on to her back.
"Fintan!" Pickles screams his name. He looks at her calmly, as if he isn't scared at all. The six dragons
soar away leaving Queen Moira futilely shaking her fist in the air in fury. We've run out of time, and
there's clearly nothing we can do for Fintan. We grab Pickles and race toward the fiery doorway out of
It's Halloween-the day we will take down Darkins, rescue the merfolk, save the bay, and finally get
back to the normal teen problems of dating, math homework, and overprotective parents. My mouth
is dry and my stomach is twisted in knots. So much is riding on us today, but I'm excited too. We are
doing this! All of us together! Except for Fintan and Pickles, I remind myself. No one has heard from
Fintan. And poor Pickles! As soon as this is over, I'm determined to visit her on Mt. Olympus where
Cupid has stashed her in hiding from her mother.
So far there are sixteen of us West Marin Heights students hiding behind a knoll near the dusty dirt
road that leads to the Darkins compound. We're waiting for Cupid to bring the final group of students.
Then we'll lay out the details of our plan for everyone.
While we wait, Thunder and Lily-Bella have wandered off and disappeared behind an enormous
eucalyptus tree. Pierce has gone ahead into the compound to scope out the positions and number of
Darkins' guards. Shelly is sitting by herself in the meadow, picking at the grass. She's been a bit of a
loner since abandoning me in the barrel that night. We haven't told her yet about her mom being
here. We don't trust her not to do something rash.
A tractor rumbles past on the road beneath us, startling me. It's same road where Pierce "borrowed" a
car last time we came here. The sun is high in the sky, and I'm sweating in my leather pants and black
wig, but there's no help for that. Today I am Kelly Spring-party planner extraordinaire.
I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. There's a sudden blissfully cool rush of fennel-scented
wind as Cupid sweeps by and steers Apollo's golden chariot to a flat spot in the middle of a stand of
trees at the top of the knoll. Four weres hop over the side-Gunther, Tamar, Charlotte and Kiara. Vang,
the cute vampire from Biology with dark eyes and skin and the brightest smile I've ever seen, opens the
door, jumps out and offers his hand to Khione, goddess of snow. She takes it and steps gracefully to
the ground, a flurry of snowflakes spiraling up and down her thin body. She seems oblivious to the
way Vang is looking at her.
"I can't believe you stole Apollo's chariot again," I say.
"That is because there is something about gods that you do not know," Cupid says, as he releases the
alicorns from their golden harness.
"We never learn from our mistakes!"
"Besides the likelihood of Apollo locking you up in Hades again, what if one of the guards from the
compound sees magical winged unicorns chomping on their grass?"
"Do not worry, my dear. They have a glamour upon them which makes them look like ordinary horses
One of the alicorns whinnies in protest.
"What is it, Sprinkles?" says Cupid.
"She says 'I am no ordinary horse, you arse,'" I translate for him. "Her words not mine."
Cupid waves his hand, and the errant alicorn is now a donkey. Cupid glares at the other alicorns.
"Anyone else have anything to add?"
The alicorns all whinny politely.
"Alright Red Velvet, Mocha, 'Nilla! Go have a nice graze," Cupid says, slapping each one on the rump.
"Lay off the dandelions Sprinkles! You're getting a bit plump." The equines take off toward a patch of
green on the brown knoll in the shade of an oak.
I look around to see if I can locate Cyril the stunt donkey and his horse friends. I've been worried about
them since we had the meeting with Dirk. I really hope nothing happened to them. Could Darkins have
discovered that Cyril helped me gain access to the facility? I think, "Cyril!" as hard as I can, but there's
"Okay, people," says Cupid. He's wearing his Peter Gibbons suit, this time with a bow tie and a pink
carnation at his lapel instead of a gerber daisy. His normally curly blonde hair is slicked back and he's
wearing horn-rimmed glasses low on his nose, even though I'm pretty sure gods don't need them.
He's carrying a more mundane clipboard rather than the magical scroll he used when we planned the
party so long ago in his Mount Olympus bedroom/boudoir. "Gather round. Lily-Bella? Thunder?" They
appear from behind the tree. "Oh, don't blush you two. I am the god of love after all. Anywho, time to
explain to you all what is happening here today. We're still having the Halloween party for the school,
but at the same time we are also destroying the DOT Corporation by exposing their evil."
"Who?" says Vang.
"It's a long story, and we haven't got a lot of time. What you need to know is that the DOT
Corporation is poisoning the bay with a toxic pollutant that is a byproduct of their manufacturing, and
they have been holding merfolk as prisoners. We need to stop them and put a permanent end to their
production site. The head of the company, one Dirk Darkins," Cupid waves his arm and a holographic
image of Darkins (embellished with devil horns) rotates on a little platform, "is going down tonight.
We all have jobs to do. We need to do them in the correct order and as efficiently as possible. We
must look like humans as we are going to be watched constantly by Darkins' guards. So no magical
funny business." Cupid waves his arm again and the holo-Dirk is enveloped in red flames, and turns to
"You sure we're still having the party?" says Charlotte. I have a costume and everything. I'm going as
Little Red Riding Hood." The wolves all chuckle. Inside joke I guess.
"We're still having a party," says Cupid. "The students of West Marin Heights will all be arriving and
they will be joined by the merfolk royal family and the human press from all over the world. When
everyone has arrived we are going to expose Darkins. And to make sure he cannot ever do this again,
we're going to blow up his building, which contains all his research, equipment and product. Any
Everyone talks at once. The wolves seem pretty happy about the prospect of blowing things up.
Khione is cranky, but she always is. Shelly looks up at me, arching a brow.
"What's going on, Wave?" She thinks at me. "What did Cupid mean that they're holding the merfolk
here? Is my mom here?"
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, Shelly."
"We have to go get her. Right now!" She gets up, runs over to me, and grasps my shoulders.
"Not yet. We have to do things in the right order. But don't worry. You're going to be part of the
"Quiet! Now where was I?" says Cupid.
"On Mars?" says Vang, hopefully.
"Don't think I haven't been there," says Cupid. "Mars is a personal friend."
"Come on, guys. We need to get to work," I say. "Cupid, why don't you give out the assignments?"
"Of course. Wolf pack?"
"Yes," says the wolf pack in chorus. It's kind of spooky how they are perfectly in sync.
"You are in charge of first erecting the marquee, then setting up the tables and outdoor kitchen and
lastly, and finally and most importantly placing the explosives. Originally Fintan was in charge of
torching the place, but as you all know, he was hijacked unexpectedly and, for now, we cannot locate
him. So Thunder has kindly stepped in and offered your services. He's been accumulating the dynamite
over the last week and researching the best way to blow stuff up. Do as he instructs. I want no
premature conflagrations. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," the wolves chime in.
"Lily-Bella, Wave, you're in charge of the haunted house."
"Got it," I say. "I'm going to need help with unloading the boxes of stuff I ordered off of the human
"Internet," says Pierce, appearing from nowhere.
"Whatever," I say.
"I'll help with the boxes," says Vang.
"Shelly, I have a special assignment for you. How are you at flying a chariot?"
"I have my license," she says.
"I won't even ask how you convinced once of the gods to teach you how to drive a chariot. You and I
are going to free your mother and the rest of the merfolk. After they're free, they're going to need to
be transported for medical attention. Chiron awaits their arrival back at school.
"Thank you," says Shelly. I can see she's worried about her mom not being well, but she is also thrilled
about the impending rescue. And merfolk heal quickly.
Cupid checks his clipboard and asks, "Pierce, do you have a report on the guard situation?"
"It's not good. There are twenty-four armed guards policing the premises. They are linked to one
another with a communications system. So what one knows, they all know."
"That's not good," says Cupid.
"We could tie them to trees," says Charlotte. Apparently the tree thing isn't only a favored pastime
particular to Thunder.
"No," says Cupid. We have to enact plan B."
"Which is?" says Vang.
"That haunted house had better be really good. Perhaps our security guard friends can be seduced into
trying it out and will find themselves enjoying it too much to leave." Cupid has a scary glitter in his
eyes. "Any of you without jobs will accompany me to the DOT Corporation offices to assemble the
"What's a press kit?" says Khione.
"Well, it's a little surprise I'm putting together for Mr. Darkins. Originally each press person was to be
given a folder containing information about the corporation and its new miraculous product. Mr.
Darkins has personally overseen the production of these. However, I have assembled photographic
evidence of all of Darkins' evil deeds to distribute in identical folders. We will switch them with the
originals, and Darkins will not know until it is too late. Oh, and one last thing. Please refer to me as Mr.
Gibbons. Pierce is Mr. Mohlar, and Waverly is Miss Spring. Now, let's walk down to the compound."
"I'm in heels," says Khione.
"It's a five minute walk," says Cupid. "Deal with it." Cupid shakes his head and mutters: "goddesses!"
A few hours later, I'm watching the Woolfson pack finish erecting the marquee across the meadow
from the barn. The male wolves are shirtless, and have glistening, well-toned abs, which I admit I am
Darkins' security team, all in black jeans, black leather jackets and dark mirrored sunglasses are
peppered around the property like a pod of orcas circling their prey.
"That look okay, Miss ... uh ... Spring?" says Gunther, coming to stand next to me to view the
completed marquee. It's enormous, almost as large as the barn. You could easily hold a circus under
"Yes, it's perfect. I can't believe you got the whole thing up so fast."
Gunther gives me a handsome werewolf grin. "Woolfson pack at your service." He actually bows!
Charlotte elbows him. "Wolf," she says. "Sorry about him, Wave."
"That's okay," I say.
Pierce comes up behind me, puts his arms around my waist and kisses the back of my neck. It's like he
has secret vampire radar and knows when I'm totally innocently admiring a bunch of bare-chested
werewolves. I turn around and kiss him. He smells of strawberries. Gunther and his fellow wolves have
wisely made themselves scarce.
"Have you communicated with the merfolk in the tank?" he asks.
"Yes Pier ... um, I mean Mr. Mohlar."
"They know the plan?"
"Yes. They are waiting for Cupid and Shelly to rescue them." We had decided not to let the others in
on the rescue mission. We could not risk anyone slipping up and talking about it in front of a guard.
"We need to distract the guards," he whispers in my ear, then takes a little nip. No, Waverly! I
reprimand myself when I have thoughts of Pierce biting me right in the middle of this zoo. That will
"I know. Don't worry, Lily Bella and I will get the haunted house set up and then contain the guards.
Have you seen Cyril the Stunt Donkey and his horse friends? I want them cleared from the site before
anything, uh, goes off later."
"Oh, yeah," says Pierce, with a wry smile. "I saw them."
"Thank Neptune!" I say "Why? What's happening?"
"Let's just say that Cyril and the recently transformed Sprinkles seem to be getting along."
"Anyway, Miss Spring. I'm going around the back to see about the surveillance on the second floor
window. I'll check back."
"Okay, Mr. Mohlar. Good luck," I say and kiss him. I think he sighed a little. I really like that I can make
this boy sigh. And not just any boy, but Pierce Knightguard-hot, dimpled, strong, flying vampire.
"That was you sighing," he says, grinning.
"Was not!" Why can't I remember to stop admiring Pierce when he's recently had my blood? I had to
let him have some this morning because when I take off in the limo with Mr. Darkins, it will really help
if Pierce knows what's going on inside as he flies above the car. But seriously, Pierce is going to get a
big head if I can't control my thoughts around him!
"See you later, Miss Spring," Pierce says, prowling off, in his dark blue Tim Mohlar suit and skinny tie.
Now I sigh. Yeah, I'm mermaid enough to admit this!
"Where do you want this stuff?" says Thunder, carrying a box of Halloween decorations the size of a
"The haunted house is going to be in a separate section in the back of the marquee behind a thick
"Okay, Miss Spring. Oh, and Cupi ... I mean Mr. Gibbons ... says you're giving us the signal when the
guards are in the haunted house and distracted so the pack can lay the explosives. That barn is going
to blow up like the Fourth of July!"
"That's great Thunder," I say. "But remember not to blow anything up until after the press conference
and we make sure everyone is out of the building."
"Even Darkins?" says Thunder, frowning.
"Everyone," I say firmly.
"But I can tie him to a tree later, right?"
"We'll see," I say.
Thunder lets out a low growl.
"It's okay, Thundy," says Lily-Bella, joining us at the marquee entrance. "I'm sure we'll find someone for
you to tie up before the end of the party!"
Thunder kisses Lily-Bella's head. "That's why I love you! You know just what I like!"
"Keep unloading the stuff," I say. "And Lily-Bella, let's create that haunted house."
"You got it."
"Can you hand me another bowl of eyeballs?" I ask, yawning after an hour and a half of haunted
house set up.
"It would be a lot easier if you'd just let me wave my wand and finish the haunted house," Lily-Bella
says. "Besides, I'm hungry. At least I was hungry before I had to touch these gooey fake eyeballs. Why
do humans like them?"
"I don't know. I actually don't know why they like most of this stuff . But I ordered the most popular
items, so obviously humans like disembodied "parts," fake blood, cackling skulls, chattering teeth,
skeletons, black cats and all the rest of it. And remember Cu ... I mean Mr. Gibbons said no magic.
Darkins' guards are right outside the marquee watching everything we do."
Tires crunch over the gravel parking area, and car doors creak open and slam shut. Through the thin
walls of the tent, I smell the most delicious aroma. The food for the party has arrived. My stomach
growls. It's garlic. Wow!
Lily-Bella rolls her eyes at me. "Come on, Wave. It's way past lunch. Let's eat."
I take a discerning look at the haunted house we've created. Plastic spiders hanging from the top of
the marquee, plastic dancing skeletons, fake cobwebs, dry ice machines, tacky spooky music. "This
looks ridiculous," I say.
"It'll be better in the dark," Lily-Bella says trying to be encouraging.
"It will only be darker, not better," I say.
"The actors will help, right?"
I really wish Pickles were here. She was supposed to help with the haunted house. She would have
made sure I didn't mess it up. But if the haunted house is no good, we'll never be able to distract the
guards for long enough.
I look around inside the marquee, and then pop my head out the doorway and check outside. There
are no guards close by. "Okay, Lily-Bella. Go ahead."
"You know. Zap this thing, and then let's get lunch."
"You got it."
She waves her wand, and I have to cover my mouth not to scream. "Holy crab! Let's get out of here!"
I move so fast out of the haunted house that I wonder if some of Pierce's vampire speed has rubbed
off on me.
Lily-Bella catches up with me. "You like it?" she says, eyes bright.
"It's the scariest thing I've ever seen in my life," I assure her. "And I've grown up in the ocean with
blobfish, moray eels, seventeen older brothers and sisters, and shell bras!"
"Thanks, Miss Spring!"
One final flick of her wand as we approach the exit to the marquee, and the main room is fully
decorated. Orange and yellow fairy lights on the ceiling. Pumpkins and candle centerpieces on the
round tables topped with orange and black organza tablecloths. The tent is bathed in black light with
tiny ghostlike images dancing on the canvas.
Wow! I've really got to get a wand.
Standing next to the makeshift outdoor kitchen, Lily-Bella and I wolf down something called Kung Pao
Chicken, which is chicken with garlic and chilies and peanuts and ginger. It's amazing. The werewolves
and Cupid come over to us and grab plates. There is so much food for the party; I'm not worried about
"Everything ready on your end Miss Spring?" says Cupid. He's picking the chilies out of his helping and
eating them first.
"Yes, sir, Mr. Gibbons."
"Excellent," says Cupid in a rather loud voice. "May I suggest you test the haunted house on some of
Mr. Darkins' staff? Don't want to disappoint the press tonight at the party.
"Of course," I say.
After fifteen minutes of fruitless cajoling, Lily-Bella and I are standing at the entrance of the Marquee,
no closer to getting the guards interested in the haunted house. Where has Cupid gone off to again?
Couldn't he just do some god thing and lock all the guards in the bathroom for a couple of hours?
Gods are never around when you need them!
"What are we going to do?" I ask Lily-Bella. I am sweating. My eye makeup is melting. I probably look
as scary as some of the creatures currently residing in the haunted house. I shiver remembering the
monsters, missing arms, empty eye sockets, blood, exposed bones, living skeletons, torture devices and
stench that Lily-Bella so artfully created from her mind and the ether. I am a little intimidated by Lily-
Bella now that I know what creeps around in her subconscious.
"I don't know. The guards are too vigilant. They must be afraid of what Darkins will do if they abandon
"What's wrong, Wave?" It's Shelly.
"We can't convince the guards to try out the haunted house," I say.
"We even called them sissies for not going in, but it didn't work. Those guards are as stiff as robots."
"I have an idea," says Shelly. "I'll be back in a second."
Shelly returns minutes later in what must be her Halloween costume-a sexy half-dressed angel with
feathered wings, long blonde wig, violet contact lenses, long dark eyelashes. It's like Shelly has some
kind of magnetic force. All the guards and every other male in eyeshot are staring at Shelly's long bare
legs and décolletage.
Shelly swings her fake long blonde hair and gives her wings a little flap.
"Close your mouth, Thunder," says Lily-Bella.
It takes Shelly all of five minutes to convince two-dozen burly human guards to check out the haunted
house. They follow her like newborn ducklings.
"How long do you think they'll be occupied in there," I ask Lily-Bella.
"As long as I want. Forever maybe."
"Don't worry, Wave. I'll release them eventually. I set the place up like an endless maze and added a
spell to make them to lose track of time."
"You know what, Lily-Bella?"
"You are amazing!" I give her a hug.
"You better go change and fix your makeup. You're supposed to leave with Darkins in the limo in
"Oh, no! Right. I'll get my costume. Good luck here," I say.
"You too, Wave. You're very brave to get into a car with that horrible human."
"Pierce is going to be close by the whole time."
Lily-Bella takes my hands and looks deep into my eyes. "Promise me you won't do anything all heroic
"Me?" I say, as innocently as possibly.
I quickly change into my costume inside an old tool shed and make my way to the barn entrance. I'm in
a long white gown, so silken it's like wearing a column of water. It leaves one shoulder bare. I have a
gold arm cuff on one side, and I'm in a new black wig topped with a golden tiara. Cupid got the outfit
for me in Mt. Olympus. Apparently his mom wore it to seduce Ares or something. I argued with Cupid
that the last thing I wanted to do with Darkins was to look like a love goddess, but he thundered at me
and threatened smoting and stuff. I must remember in the future never to question Cupid's fashion
A long black limousine is out front with the motor running and the passenger door open. Darkins is
waiting for me in the back seat. He is extraordinarily handsome in his expensive tuxedo, his blonde hair
falling loosely around his wide shoulders.
"You look delicious Kelly," he says in that oily voice of his. My stomach turns. "Come join me."
I look around, but Pierce is nowhere in sight. What am I going to do? I have to stall. "Uh, I think I
forgot my, um, my harp." What an idiot I am. My harp?
"You don't need a harp to entertain me, my goddess. Come in. We don't want to be late picking up
Patty Cary from the airport." He pats the black leather seat next to him.
"Pierce," I think as loud as I can. Where is he?
My heart is pounding, but I am a powerful shark thrower, I remind myself. I give one last look around,
then slide into the car. It smells like alcohol and leather, and the air conditioner is blasting cold air on
my bare arms.
"Let's go," Darkins orders the driver. "Raise the privacy screen." The limo glides out of the compound.
"Now, Miss Spring. It's just you and me at last. Champagne?"
The interior of the limousine is garish, but because it's bathed in aqua light it reminds me of the ocean
so much I feel a pang of longing. How long has it been since I've been in the water? My skin is dry and
thirsty, and I picture my tail, shriveled and dull. The blue leather seats have a wave design stitched into
them and there is a shallow elongated fish tank on the ceiling of the limo. On closer inspection, I
notice the fish are actually jagged-toothed piranha, their malignant red eyes like tiny pools of blood.
Darkins also had a fish tank in his office, not to mention the hideous the merfolk holding tank. Why
does this guy seem to have such a weird obsession with the ocean?
I wish I didn't have to be here with Dirk Darkins, but the only way we could get him off the premises
while we sabotage his event was by having him go to pick up his idol, Patty Cary, from the airport. And
he wouldn't go without me. At least with me in the car, I can make sure he doesn't change his mind
and go back before our "party planning team" is finished with their portion of the job. Then it will be
our turn. Pierce and I are the ones who are going to handle the press conference. Once the reporters
are gathered and the press kits distributed, we will go on stage and reveal what Darkins has really been
doing. Of course we won't mention anything about mermaids. Humanity is not ready for the truth.
It's so frustrating not knowing what is happening back at the barn. Have Cupid and Shelly been able to
set the merfolk free and get them to medical care? Are the guards still wandering endlessly in the
haunted house maze? Are the explosives set and ready to detonate? And where in Hades is Pierce?
Hopefully not in Hades!!!! I feel so useless babysitting this jerk while my friends do all the hard work.
"Do you like my limousine, Miss Spring? I had it custom made." He pours us each a glass of what must
be champagne and hands one to me. Then puts his pale perfectly manicured and white-cuffed hand
on my thigh. Holy crab! My heart speeds, and I suppress a gag that is threatening to gurgle from my
throat. "I'm glad we have this time alone. We can get to know one another better. Much better." His
mouth contorts into a grin as slimy as mozuku seaweed.
The car unexpectedly screeches to a stop. Champagne sloshes over the edge of the glass onto his hand
that is still resting on my thigh.
"Hell!" He says pulling his hand away.
The champagne that spilled on the thin fabric of my dress clings to my skin. Oh, no, the dress! What if
Aphrodite gets angry with me for ruining her gown and turns me into a shellfish like she did with poor
Nerites? You never know how a goddess will react.
Darkins presses a button on a panel and the darkly tinted privacy glass lowers a few inches. "Driver!"
Darkins' face is flushed, ugly and toxic as a red tide. "Do that again and you'll be out of a job.
The driver doesn't turn from the road. He grunts what must be an apology. I'm sure he must be
annoyed, but I can't see his face.
Darkins raises the privacy screen. Once again I'm alone with this jerk. I shiver.
"Sorry, Miss Spring. Or shall I call you Kelly? It's so hard to find good servants these days."
Servants? This guy is an utter snob in addition to being a horrific polluting creep! He grabs some
napkins from the bar and starts slowly wiping the champagne on my thigh.
Urgh! I take the wad of napkins. "I'll do that!" I say, perhaps a little too emphatically.
"Of course, Kelly," he says, frowning.
Once I'm done wiping, he refills my glass and hands it back to me. He looks at me as if he expects me
to say something. What had he asked me before? I really need to pay attention! Oh, I remember.
About whether I like his gaudy car. "It's the first limousine I've ever been in," I say. "I've nothing to
compare it to." I am being so tactful!
Mr. Darkins raises an eyebrow. My neck prickles. I've made a mistake. I can tell.
"You are a party planner, and you've never been in a limousine? I find that odd."
I take a huge gulp of the champagne. It burns my mouth and throat, and I spew what I haven't yet
swallowed on to Mr. Darkins' lap. "I'm so sorry!"
Mr. Darkins yanks more napkins from the bar and blots the liquid from his pants. "I guess you don't
care for my champagne? It's Dom Perignon."
I know better than to admit I have no idea who Dom Perignon is or that I've never had champagne
before. I assume drinking champagne, like driving in a limousine, must be part of a party planner's job.
Why didn't I read up on this beforehand? Note to self: in the future, prepare before getting into a car
alone with a deranged criminal. I brace myself; now I know what to expect and take a sip. "It's
delicious," I lie. "Thank you."
"Hmmm." His eyes search mine.
He suspects something. Eel's meals! I have to change the subject.
"So tell me more about the product you are announcing tonight," I say. "You seem ... uh ... very
excited about it." I am proud of myself for thinking of this. Perhaps I can find out something useful
while I'm trapped in this stupid limo with this pervert.
"It's revolutionary. I am going to change the entire beauty industry," he says, swelling his chest like a
"How is that?"
"Oh, you'll find out soon, Kelly. Right now I don't want to talk about business. I want to learn more
He scoots closer to me on the leather seat until his leg is pressed next to mine. I try to slide away, but
I'm at the edge of the seat, next to the door. "There is something about you, Kelly. I don't know what
it is, but you are unlike any other woman I've ever been with." He puts his index finger on my cheek
and traces it down to my jaw. He's so close I can smell something fermented and sour from the sweat
on his upper lip. I am clenching my fists and holding my breath. What will happen if I deck him in the
limo? I mean other than it giving me great satisfaction. I imagine him unconscious on the floor of the
limousine, and my lips curl into a smile. Bullies must be put in their place after all. But the driver will
surely report me, and I cannot in good conscience take him out as well. Can I? I guess I will if I have to.
I think Dirk completely misreads that smile that crossed my lips. He reaches up and traces his pasty
finger over my lip. I am so close to biting it, but I refrain from violence just now. Instead. I take his hand
off of my face, and try to put it back in his lap. He winces, and I realize I must be squeezing rather
"You're a strong one, Kelly," he says.
His jaw is tense. I can tell he thinks I've threatened his masculinity.
"I am pretty strong. I ... uh ... work out ..." We learned in school that humans say this when they brag
about their physical prowess. The car is accelerating. We're getting on to a road with multiple lanes.
The vehicles are hurtling along as if they're in turboswim.
"Where do you work out?"
"Places." I am totally messing this up. Dirk is looking at me like I'm a two-headed eel. Does he know
what I am? Pierce, where are you?
"Well, I see you have strong legs." He touches the skin that is exposed through a long slit in the dress
that extends all the way to my thigh. Hey!" I slap his hand away and look down. I had not noticed the
dress even had a slit. Or did Aphrodite somehow magically add one just now out of spite? I flip the
bottom of the dress over the top to cover my leg. "Hands off, buddy!" I can feel my hair sparking under
The car swerves to the side, then back again. Loud angry noises, like agitated geese, blare from all
directions. I dig my stiletto heels into the carpet and grip the door handle to keep myself from falling
"What the hell?" says Darkins, cracking open the privacy screen again. "You idiot! Where did you learn
how to drive? One more move like that, and I'll throw you out of the car and run you over. Am I
Darkins turns to me. His face is contorted, and his eyes are crazed and unfocussed. He is seriously
creeping me out.
He grabs my hair and presses his disgusting lips against mine. I yelp, and push him. He falls backwards
clutching my wig, which comes off in his hands. My green hair falls loosely over my shoulders. Dirk
looks, eyes wide, at the black wig he is still holding and then at my real hair, sparking purple and red
and orange. Neptune's Spear!
"What the hell?" Darkins yells, backing away from me, his face is as red as the eyes of the piranha
sloshing around in the ceiling tank. "Your hair!"
The look of fear on Darkins' face makes me love my hair problem for the first time.
There are more loud noises, squealing brakes, and shouting. The sounds are muted, but I can tell
whatever this driver is doing is making a lot of people really mad. We're going down a ramp, and the
car screeches as it makes a hard right turn on to another road.
"What the hell are you doing, you moron?" Darkins screams.
The car brakes, speeds, jerks, and I hear more screeching. It's hard to stay on the seat. Glasses in the
bar clang together. The car swerves, and I fall off the seat landing hard on my side. The slit in the dress
opens revealing my entire leg and the edge of my underwear. My hair is still sparking, but somehow
seeing me exposed like this seems to gives Darkins a boost of confidence. I get back up and cross my
legs letting the dress hang open. I don't want him to think he's intimidating me.
He licks his lips and rips my wig in two as if it is made of paper. "I guess I was right," he says, his voice
low and menacing. "You are different from the other women I've been with, mainly because you are
not a woman; you're a mermaid. And let me guess, the other two party planners aren't human either,
"I don't know what you mean," I lie.
"Oh, I think you do, Miss Spring. Is that even your real name?"
"It's real enough," I say.
He laughs. "Oh, you are a feisty one. You will be a wonderful addition to my merfolk collection. I might
even give you your own tank."
"I am not going to be in your collection, Mr. Darkins."
"Oh, I think you will be! I need your tears. My product, well, it's made from a very special ingredient.
From the tears of freaks like you. And oh, I have invented a tear-extracting machine. It can be quite
painful, I hear from the other freaks I managed to kidnap. But the product is a miracle. It actually
reverses the aging of human skin. I will be the richest, most famous mogul on the planet."
"I've already experienced your lovely machine," I say.
I love that I've caught him off guard.
"Yes. I guess your compound isn't as secure as you thought."
"The hole in the barn?"
"Yes, that was me. Sorry about that. No, that's a lie. I'm not really sorry about your barn Mr. Darkins. I
know all about what you're doing. How you're making Elixir of the Sea. How the manufacturing of
that beauty cream produces horrible toxic waste. And I know you're storing it in a cave, and it's leaking
into Tomales Bay. Why would you want to obliterate a whole ecosystem? Kill innocent creatures?
You're a monster Dirk Darkins!"
He laughs. Laughs! As if he thinks he can continue getting away with this!
"Oh, my dear Miss Spring. I take your assessment of me as a monster as a compliment. I am actually far
worse than any monster. Born that way, I'm afraid. And as far as dumping the toxic waste in the
ocean, well, it has to go somewhere. Can't have inspectors coming out and finding the stuff at my
production site. I'm sure the bay will recover. In a couple of hundred years or so." He laughs again.
"But you're destroying lives."
"They're only fish. Believe me. No one will care. The press is going to go wild. The only thing they'll
care about is that they get to break the story about how my product is going to revolutionize the
beauty industry. They won't give a rat's ass about few fish."
"Well, as you are now my prisoner, you won't be able to do a thing about it. So, I'm assuming that you
and your little accomplices are planning something that I won't like. Well, I can't have anything go
wrong with my big night, now can I? So I'm going to have to make a quick call to Igor. He'll have my
guards take care of Mr. Gibbons and Mr. Mohlar or whoever they really are, and of course, your other
friends setting up the party. Now, where is my cell phone?" He pats his pants pockets.
"What do you mean, "take care of?"
"Oh, now you're beginning to bore me, Miss Spring. Certainly you know that nothing and no one can
stand in my way. Never mind, I'll use the speaker phone in the car."
Oh, no! What is he going to do? I can't have him hurting my friends! That's when I realize Igor wasn't
among the guards that went into the haunted house. Why didn't I notice this earlier? What if Igor
manages to get the guards free from the haunted house maze?
Dirk presses a button, and I hear a ring. After a moment, there is a click.
"Igor, I'm afraid there's a bit of a problem, and I need your help. There is something very fishy going on
Before Dirk Darkins utters another word, I swing and hit him so hard in the jaw that he crashes against
the window, and it shatters. Glass flies everywhere. My knuckles are on fire and may be broken, but I
savor the pain. It was my best punch ever.
"Boss? Boss? Everything okay?"
I press the same button Darkins touched to start the call. The line goes dead. And speaking of dead,
Darkins is lying unconscious on the floor of the limo, bleeding. I presume if he's bleeding, it means he's
still alive. I have mixed feelings about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.
The car screeches to a stop. The privacy screen was down enough that I'm sure the driver has heard
everything. What am I going to do? The driver's door opens and slams shut. My heart is hammering in
my chest, and my hair is still sparking. I crouch on the seat next to the passenger door, ready to attack.
The door swings open. The driver rushes in at me. I propel myself at him, but he manages to push me
down on to the seat and lands on top of me, compressing his body onto mine, confining my wrists
over my head and pressing them into the seat. I'm trying to get away, but this guy is really strong.
"Wave? Wave? Are you okay?"
"Pierce?" I am so confused. What is he doing here?
He lifts his head and chest off of me. "Wave, I'm so sorry. I couldn't get off the freeway fast enough. I
am a terrible driver. I wanted to get that slime away from you. It was killing me up there."
"You ... you were in the car the whole time?"
"I said I would watch over you."
"I thought you were going to fly above us. I was so worried about where you'd gone."
"I'm sorry, Wave. But it wasn't possible to say anything to you without blowing our cover. I had to be
inside the car once I heard Darkins bragging to Igor about exactly what he was going to do to you
once he had you alone. No way was I leaving you in the car with no protection. So I hypnotized the
driver and took his uniform. It all happened at the last minute. There was no time to tell you about the
change in plan."
Pierce kisses my cheeks, my eyes, my jaw, my lips. He sits, and pulls me onto his lap. He kisses my
hands. You've hurt your hand, Wave!" He kisses each knuckle separately, and despite the pain, a jolt of
that special Pierce electricity courses through my body.
"I'm okay. I'm a mermaid. I think I will heal a whole lot faster than Darkins."
"So Mr. Darkins down there?"
"His blood smells delicious. Not quite as good as yours, but better than normal human blood."
"Urgh and so what?"
"I think Darkins is part mer. And I think he is plenty strong."
"Part mer? But why would he be hurting the bay if he has mer blood?"
"But Darkins had Sharkweather's wife. He was being blackmailed."
"I don't really know why. I suspect we'll have to find out when he's more ... talkative."
"We have to get back to the ranch right away, Pierce. Darkins called Igor. He didn't get to tell him
everything, but Igor heard the crash before I disconnected the call. He must know something is up."
"Come in front with me, Wave. Let's get back!"
"Agreed. But Patty Cary will be really mad."
"Here's Darkins' cell phone. He dropped it in the dirt when he was getting into the car. You can call
and order her another limo while I'm driving. We do have that unlimited budget Darkins' gave us."
We leave Darkins knocked out and bleeding in the back. Pierce and I get into the front. He spins the
car around, and we race down the road back towards the ranch. What is going on there? Is everyone
safe? Did Igor hear enough to cause problems? And then there's the matter of my appearance. I'm a
mess. Aphrodite's dress is wet and wrinkled, my wig is ruined, my hair is like seaweed that's been
mangled in an outboard motor, and I have to go up in front of hundreds of people. Millions really
when you consider that I'll be on TV all over the world when we expose Darkins.
"It'll be fine, Wave," says Pierce, taking my hand and kissing it. "You are Amphitrite, Queen of the
Apparently love really is blind.
"My vision is just fine, mermaid."
He kisses the top of my head, and the car moves so fast, we're almost airborne.
The limo bounces over the ruts in the dirt road that leads to Darkins' compound. I've done my best
using a mirror in a flap over the passenger's seat to braid my hair and wipe the smudged makeup from
my eyes. My hand is still aching, but it's a good ache, a reminder.
We turn into the driveway off the road. There's a bright light waving through the air like the shiny lure
of an anglerfish. A man paces beside the drive in the moonlit shadow of a gnarled oak. As we get
closer, I see the man is smoking a cigarette. I've seen the smelly things before, on the boardwalk. He
wears a black leather jacket, black jeans, boots and dark mirrored sunglasses, despite the fact that the
sun went down hours ago. "It's one of Darkins' guards. I hope the merfolk got freed and the
werewolves managed to lay the explosives before the guards escaped the haunted house."
"I'm sure they did, Wave."
The guard makes a downward motion with his hand. Apparently this means he wants Pierce to bring
down the window, because that's what Pierce does. The stink of the cigarette wafts into the limo. The
man flings it to the ground and crushes it into the gravel drive with his boot.
"Evening, sir," says Pierce affably, but I see the twitch of a muscle in his jaw.
"I need to see your ID," says the guard, his mouth in a severe line.
"You don't need to see my identification," Pierce says.
The guard opens his jacket revealing a gun tucked into the waistband. "I think I do."
I wonder if Pierce can't do his freaky vampire mind control on someone in sunglasses?
"You do know this is Darkins' car, correct? The guy paying your salary? If I were you, I'd stop
threatening the boss's driver, and let us pass. We don't want to be late."
I hope the guard doesn't ask to see Darkins who is quiet as a corpse in the back. I'm almost positive
the privacy screen is raised all the way. I force myself not to turn around and check.
"Darkins' driver was found an hour ago wandering around the field in his underwear and muttering
something about volunteering at a homeless shelter." The guard pulls out the gun and levels it at
Pierce's heart. "I'm going to need you to exit the vehicle with your hands over your head. And the
young lady as well."
Pierce turns off the car and makes a hand gesture indicating that I should stay where I am. I want to
tell him I can take care of myself, thank you very much, but I am really tired of fighting right now. He
opens the creaky limo door. Far off I hear music and the hum of a crowd.
Pierce puts one leg on to the graveled drive, then the other, his hands on his head as if in surrender.
But I know Pierce, and he would never surrender. Ever! He steps out of the limo and stands in front of
the guard, blocking me from his vision.
"Her too," the guard orders.
"I don't think so," says Pierce, the authority and menace in his voice sends chills down my spine. There
is a flash, and the guard is relieved of his sunglasses. Pierce throws them into the car on the seat next
to me. Then Pierce puts both his hands on the guard's jaw and stares into his eyes; it almost looks like
he is going to kiss him, although the look on Pierce's face is hardly romantic. "You have not seen me or
the limo or the young lady," says Pierce.
"I have not seen you or the limo or the young lady?" says the guard.
"Correct. And you, my friend, are to leave this place and never return. You will give up smoking and
volunteer for the Ocean Conservancy doing trash cleanup."
"That is a very good idea," says the guard. "I am glad I thought of it."
"Good man," says Pierce. "Now hand me your gun. You won't be needing it any more."
"Of course," says the guard, handing the gun to Pierce.
"Goodbye," says Pierce.
The man is already walking toward the road. He turns over his shoulder and smiles at Pierce. "Thanks,
man," he says, disappearing behind a bend in the road.
Pierce slides across the leather seat, turns on the car, and grips the steering wheel.
"You're going to carry a gun now?" I ask.
"No, Waverly. A vampire doesn't need a gun to kill." He stows the gun in a compartment in front of
"Is that supposed to make me feel safe?"
"It is only a fact. One you should well know. Vampires are killers. We are very fast. Had I wanted, I
could have killed that man before he uttered a single word. I tell you this because there are still a few
vampires out there who are not as restrained as I am, and you do have that delicious mermaid blood.
So never underestimate a vampire."
"I won't. Ever."
"Good, my love," Pierce says, kissing me. I wrap my arms around him, pulling him as close as I can, but
he stops kissing me and pulls away. His eyes are pinpricks and his fangs are descended. He needs me
as much as I need him. "We'll get back to this after we finish up at the party."
"Of course," I say, trying to keep the disappointment from my voice. I mean, I really want to go help all
my friends and save the planet and stuff, but holy sea cow that vampire can kiss me into oblivion.
The party is clearly in full swing. The place is packed with press and West Marin Heights students,
dancing and eating and laughing. As we crunch up the gravel drive toward the barn, a group of
mermaids and pirates with press credentials walks past, probably heading for the Chinese food cart. I
want to yell at them: Mermaids don't walk on their tails and no self-respecting pirate would wear a hat
with a skull and crossbones printed on it like a great big "I'm a pirate" target! But we have bigger fish
Pierce parks the car, and we get out. The air is fragrant with garlic and ginger and pumpkin. A song
playing is about how girls just want to have fun. There are bales of hay topped with intricately carved
jack 'o lanterns glowing with inner light—almost as if they are alive. Beautiful orange fairy lights are
floating in the air over the entire farm. I don't know what the humans are making of them, but they
seem to be accepting them as if they are perfectly normal.
A raccoon family skitters past toward the overflowing trashcans lined up at the opposite end of the
barn. "Thanks for the grub," one of the raccoons thinks at me as they pass. "Knew you were good
"No problem," I think back.
"You speak raccoon?" Pierce says. Of course, he's constantly reading my mind!
In the far parking lot, next to the yellow farm equipment, are a dozen large vans with big dishes on
top. Pierce told me they are called satellite dishes and that the press would use them to broadcast our
presentation tonight all over the world.
The most important thing we have to find out is whether Darkins' phone call to Igor did any more
damage other than alerting a guard to watch for us on the driveway. I would love to know where Igor
is as well. I hope the wolves managed to get the explosives laid out at the barn and that the merfolk
were rescued and are safely in the care of Chiron. Those poor people have suffered for so long!
"Pierce takes my hand and kisses it. "What first?"
"We need to find Cupid and get the packets from him," I say, peering through the crowd of press
people dressed like vampires and goddesses, fairies and werewolves, and West Marin Heights students
dressed like anything but. Around the periphery, Darkins' guards watch, arms uniformly folded across
chests, wide-footed ready-to-pounce stances. A few of them are looking at the limo, probably
wondering where the boss is.
"Don't worry, Wave," Pierce whispers in my ear. "I locked it, and Darkins won't be waking any time
I'm searching the crowd for Cupid, when an enormous beast wraps its arms my shoulders and
"Who else?" She says as if I should know that the only person who would attend the party as the beast
from Beauty and the Beast is Lily-Bella. She takes a step back. She's rather dashing as the Beast, in a
long purple cape with a large sword hanging from a scabbard at her thick waist. She has long furry
brown paws, and has magically transformed her face into that of a beast.
Thunder is holding back a few paces, staring at the gravel driveway and adjusting the bodice of his
ruched yellow gown. I don't think he's too happy about his outfit as the Beauty. He even has on dark
magenta lipstick and an auburn wig.
Through my peripheral vision, I notice Pierce doing his best to suppress a laugh at Thunder's
"Hey, Thunder," I say.
He grunts, not looking up at me.
"Come on, Thundy. You look stunning!" says Lily-Bella. "But wait. Aren't you guys back early? And
where is Patty Cary? Is everything okay? And Waverly, what are you supposed to be?"
I look down at Aphrodite's dress. It's wet, torn, and splattered with Darkins' blood. I look like
something dragged up from a shipwreck. "I don't know what I'm supposed to be, Cupid insisted I
wear this dress. And we're back early because we had some major trouble with Darkins."
"What did he do to you? I will turn him into a toad," Lily-Bella says, sliding her sword from its
"With a fake sword?"
"It's really my wand cleverly disguised."
"Oh, okay, but you can sheathe your wand. Darkins is out of commission right now."
"Uh, oh. What did you do to him, Wave?" says Lily-Bella, putting her sword away.
"Nothing he didn't deserve," Pierce says. "The creep!"
"I'm sure," says Lily-Bella.
"How did it go with the rescue and setting the explosives?" says Pierce.
"Perfectly," says Thunder, perking up. "We have everything laid out, and the merfolk should all be back
at the school by now. They seemed to be in pretty good shape."
"That's great! All our planning has paid off. Do you guys know where Cupid might be?"
"Backstage, I think," Lily-Bella says. "Um, he's been there for a while."
Pierce raises a dark eyebrow.
"Are you still jealous of Cupid?"
"I am not jealous of that golden-haired, overly muscled, bootie-wearing godling," Pierce growls.
We all laugh. "Of course you aren't." I kiss his dimpled cheek. "I'm heading over."
"Cool, we'll meet you at the stage for the press announcement in a few minutes," says Lily-Bella. "Right
now, my beauty needs some raw meat to sustain himself through the evening so he doesn't
accidentally eat anyone."
"I will not eat the party guests," Thunder says, flicking his long auburn tresses over his hulking
shoulders. "Though I must say, you are looking rather delicious, Madame."
"Awww, you say the nicest things, Thundy. Bye guys."
The evening is getting better with every moment. Darkins is unconscious in the back of the limo, the
explosives are set, the merfolk are free, and Pierce and I are about to put an end to Darkins' evil
We squeeze between revelers and finally make it into the marquee. There is a long white curtain
partitioning off the backstage area. I can smell coconut and pineapple before we even part the curtain.
We step behind it and krill's gills! There's Cupid in his standard short toga and bowtie, in a candlelit
space, mere feet from the stage. He's lying on a pile of Hawaiian-print pillows, sipping from a coconut
shell and being massaged and fed chunks of pineapple by the six nymphs from Fairyland. And they're
not in costume! In fact, they're wearing almost the exact same thing they wore in the Fairyland stream
—moonbeams and pearls.
"Hey, hot vampire," says the loveliest one, her long wavy hair the color of snow. "Wanna bring that
hunky bod over here and join us?"
"I've heard that nymph blood is even better than mermaid blood," titters an obsidian-haired nymph.
"Sorry, ladies. Taken," Pierce says, not taking his eyes from mine.
"Are you kidding?" I say, stomping over to Cupid's "lair," hands on my hips.
Cupid sits, waving aside his harem. They all pout but obey.
"Really?" I say, tapping my stilettoed heel.
"What did you do to my mom's dress? She's gonna freak."
"Never mind that now," I say. "Can you possibly take a break from your "activities," and help us save
"Everything is fine, Wave. Relax."
"Where are the new press packets?" says Pierce. "We should get everyone into the marquee and get
the presentation started. We'll get some people to hand out the press kits as they enter."
"The revised press kits are on Darkins' desk in the barn. They are in the exact same place and same
folders as the originals. So no one would think anything is amiss. Perhaps a couple of the ladies would
be so kind to retrieve them for us?"
"But, Cupid, we were having so much fun."
"There will be more fun later, ladies," Cupid winks. "I promise!"
Pierce snorts. Cupid glares at him. Will these two ever get along? And I have to stop liking Pierce's
jealousy. Oops! Did he hear me think that?
"Uh, Cupid," I say.
"I know it's a costume party and all, but do you think your "friends" could maybe wear some clothes?"
"Of course," Cupid says. "Go on, ladies. Get dressed and get those folders. I'll need them back here in
five minutes. Then you can stand at the door and pass them out."
The nymphs rise and head over to a lovely screen printed with hummingbirds and cherry-blossoms.
Moments later they emerge in white shirts, black vests and black pants, their hair in demure buns.
"Be back in five," says a redheaded nymph.
"We're on stage in ten minutes," I say. "And you look like a ultra-hot limo driver, but I'm in bloody
tatters. You might want to lose the cap. Hmmm. Maybe I have time to go find the Kelly Spring black
leather outfit I was wearing earlier?"
"I don't think there's time, Wave. And besides you look ..." Pierce takes my sore hands and holds them
over my head, examining every inch of my body with approval. He kisses me with great fervor.
"You definitely need your eyes checked," I say, laughing. "I don't care if you think you have super
"You are a mess," Cupid says. "And you will be addressing about a billion humans around the globe."
"Gee, thanks for the subtlety, Cupid. I really wish I had something better to wear."
I feel a rustling against my skin and look down. I gasp. "Holy sea cow!" I am in the most beautiful dress
I have ever seen. It's even more gorgeous than the one Pickles conjured for me at the yacht party on
the first day of school. This one is long and glowing in ocean blues and greens with silver sparkles of
what looks like moonlight. Beneath the surface, depending on the angle, there are shimmery glimpses
of tropical fish, bat rays and steel-toned sharks, swimming with fluid grace amongst the undulating
kelp. My waist-length hair is now loose and clean, each of the dozens of shades of green and gold are
as defined as thick brush strokes of paint. I've decided to love Cupid forever! "Wow, Cupid! Thank
"Much as I'd like to take credit for your transformation," says Cupid. "It wasn't me. You do look
stunning though, my dear. The ocean shall be jealous of your beauty."
"Hey, I wrote that in one of my poems," Pierce says.
"I was bored one day!" says Cupid.
"You read my journals?" Pierce's fangs drop.
"Maybe a little," says Cupid. "You are an excellent poet, vampire."
"Well you are a horrible ..."
The lights in the marquee flash on and off. It's show time. "Come on guys. Can you fight later? We're
"Of course, Waverly," says Cupid.
He disappears, and a moment later we hear his voice booming from the stage. "Everyone take your
seats. It's the announcement you've all been waiting for."
Pierce and I take the stage to thunderous applause. Lights flash at us, and I am momentarily blinded. I
have never been in a confined space with so many people. My mouth is dry and my heart is pounding
practically out of my chest. Pierce squeezes my hand.
"It'll be fine, Wave. We're doing it together."
I concentrate on breathing. We are standing in front of a microphone. The crowd grows quiet, except
for a few random coughs. My classmates are at the back of the room, waiting for this part to end so
they can get on with the party. Thunder and Lily-Bella wave as do a bunch of my other friends. I am
not alone, I remember. It's all of us doing this together and we are strong.
I clear my throat. "Hello everyone. My name is Kelly Spring and this is my colleague, Tim Mohlar.
Unfortunately, Mr. Darkins, inventor of Elixir of the Sea, cannot be with us at the moment as he is
trapped in an ... um ... important meeting.
I am here tonight to reveal to you, and the world, that Mr. Dirk Darkins is actually a criminal guilty of
kidnapping, extortion, brutality, and poisoning Tomales Bay with the toxic waste from the
manufacturing of Elixir of The Sea."
More lights flash. Everyone talks at once, and the din is overwhelming. Enormous cameras on the
shoulders of some of the humans come closer to the stage. Darkins' guards, slither toward us, not sure
whether it would be a good move to kill us with the whole world watching.
"Quiet, please," Pierce says into the microphone. "We have more to say."
The audience stops talking. The guards are almost upon us.
"Thank you," I say. "Mr. Darkins wants you to believe he is a philanthropic genius who will bestow his
invention, which he claims stops the aging process, upon the world. For a huge profit, I might add. Mr.
Darkins is actually a greedy gangster who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
"Liar!" says a voice coming from the entrance of the marquee. It's Darkins! The crowd breaks into a
deafening roar. Lights flash at Darkins. The cameramen move toward him. It's mayhem.
Darkins pushes through the throng of press and leaps on to the stage. He's dressed in a pristine white
suit, not a scratch on his face, his blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. His blue eyes flash almost red
with fury at me and Pierce. Pierce grabs my hand. "We have the evidence, Wave," he whispers.
Darkins takes the microphone, glaring at us. Then he turns to the crowd, smiling broadly. "Good
evening, ladies and gentleman. I must apologize for these two. They are animal activists fanatics, you
know. But I assure you, Elixir of the Sea is not and has never been tested on animals."
I grab the microphone. "If you'll all be so kind to open your press kits, we have ample evidence of Mr.
Darkins' criminal activities."
"Go ahead," says Darkins, his oily voice smooth and confident.
I am getting a bad feeling. I hold my breath. Why is Darkins so happy right now? Almost victorious.
People are opening the press kits and scanning the pages. They are cheering and looking at Darkins as
if he is a god. Somehow, Darkins must have managed to switch the packets back to the originals!
The crowd of over 150 human reporters continues to cheer for Darkins. Many are slapping the samples
of Elixir of the Sea that were included in the original press kits on to their faces. They must've read the
blurb in the glossy inserts about how the cream will give them the appearance of eternal youth.
Darkins stands next to me waving at the audience like some kind of monarch. He doesn't even seem to
notice I'm there—like I'm a tiny bug not even worth swatting. He makes a small gesture and a half-
dozen of his guards start walking toward the stage. "Oh yes, my dear," says Darkins very quietly. "I not
only switched the press kits, I have destroyed all of yours and the original evidence. Not very bright
hiding the press kits in the trunk of my limousine. I had to get in there for a change of clothes after you
managed to soil my suit with your clumsiness. You are almost too easy to defeat. Barely any fun at all."
What? Darkins' trunk was the safe hiding place Cupid talked about? And what does he mean
'clumsy?' I threw him into a window!
My classmates at the back of the room-about fifty of them including Khione, Vang, Lily-Bella, Thunder
and the other wolves-are watching the guards approach the stage. Lily-Bella nods at me and raises her
sword-shaped wand. I shake my head and mouth, "not yet." She nods back.
Pierce is pacing at the front of the stage, awaiting the guards. What's he going to do, attack them all
at once in front of everyone? I know he can, but does he realize it will be on television everywhere? I
project this thought at him. He glances back at me in time to see Darkins grab my arm, trying to keep
me in place, giving the guards an opportunity to catch me.
"Let go," I snarl, twisting in his grip.
"Don't think so, mermaid," he says out of the side of his mouth, still waving and smiling at the crowd.
Pierce glares at Darkins.
"Pierce, I got this," I think at him. "Don't eat anyone, okay?"
Pierce frowns; his eyes are focused on Darkins' hand on my arm. I can tell my boyfriend wants to
relieve Darkins of every drop of blood coursing in his evil veins.
"Pierce, watch out!" I yell as the guards suddenly bound on to the stage behind him.
Pierce pivots, grips the torso of the closest guard, and tosses him at the others. The guards fall into a
jumble of chaos. The audience of reporters is stunned. For a moment, it's quiet as they look at one
another in shock. Once they've recovered enough, they all start grinning. A story is happening before
their eyes. They jockey for position, holding up their cameras trying to get the best view of the fight.
"Seize them you idiots!" Darkins bellows at his henchmen, pointing at Pierce and me. The guards
scramble up from their pile.
Darkins is squeezing my arm so hard; I can feel the bruises forming. I take that pain, clench my teeth
and, oops! Did I mean to kick him in the crotch?
Darkins goes down on his knees, clutching his "parts" and screaming like a demented seagull.
The guards are about to grab me, when Pierce blocks them. He crosses his arms over his chest and
widens his stance. "Touch her and die," he says in a low, menacing growl that sends goose bumps
prickling up my arms and down my neck.
The guards pause, look at one another, then at Darkins, then back at Pierce.
"You fools!" says Darkins, in a pain-enhanced, high-pitched, very satisfying squeak.
It's mayhem. A hundred and fifty cameras are whirring and almost as many languages are being
spoken into microphones. Our classmates in the back are trying to push through the crowd to get to
us. The noise is deafening.
"Silence!" Pierce has the microphone. His voice booms through the marquee. The room quiets
immediately as if they know Pierce is a true predator, the top of the food chain. "I have proof."
"Proof of what?" Darkins scoffs, his oily tone returned.
"Proof of your crimes," says Pierce.
How does he have proof? Has Pierce gone insane? We've got nothing now that the folders have been
switched and all of our original documents have been destroyed by Darkins.
Pierce pulls a telephone out of his pocket.
"My phone!" says Darkins. "Give that back!"
"I don't think so," says Pierce. "What is recorded on this device will prove your guilt." Pierce pushes a
button and holds the phone up to the microphone. "I know all about what you're doing. How you're making Elixir of the Sea. How the manufacturing of
that beauty cream produces horrible toxic waste. And I know you're storing it in a cave, and it's leaking
into Tomales Bay. Why would you want to obliterate a whole ecosystem? Kill innocent creatures?
You're a monster Dirk Darkins!"
"Oh, my dear Miss Spring. I take your assessment of me as a monster as a compliment. I am actually far
worse than any monster. Born that way, I'm afraid. And as far as dumping the toxic waste in the
ocean, well, it has to go somewhere. Can't have inspectors coming out and finding the stuff at my
production site. I'm sure the bay will recover. In a couple of hundred years or so."
"But you're destroying lives."
"They're only fish. Believe me. No one will care.
Darkins' face turns the red of a shark's mouth right after it's fed. A rivulet of sweat drips down the side
of his face.
"It's a fake," he lies. Pierce pauses the recording. Darkins tries to snatch the phone back, but Pierce
captures Darkins' arm and twists it behind his back.
"If you move, or make another sound, I promise I will break your arm," Pierce says quietly. He hits the
play button again with his thumb.
"The press is going to go wild. The only thing they'll care about is that they get to break the story
about how my product is going to revolutionize the beauty industry. They won't give a rat's ass about
For a moment the crowd is silent. Darkins' mouth hangs open; his dual-toned eyes a combination of
hate and rage. His eyes! One blue and one green, he IS part mer! Once we've destroyed Darkins' barn,
and he is in custody, I will find out about his mer heritage. I want to know how someone who is part
mer could want to poison the oceans. Thunder will enjoy handling the interrogation, and I want
Pierce doesn't move. The guards don't move.
Suddenly, Darkins manages to twist out of Pierce's grip. He stands, grabs a gun out of his pocket-could
it be the same one I stored in the car earlier? In a flash of almost vampire speed, Darkins pulls me
against his chest and holds the gun to my head, the cold metal pushing into my temple. His face is so
close to mine, I can feel it is sticky and moist. It smells of seaweed and salt and mermaid tears. I gasp. It
must be the Elixir of the Sea. I wonder if it has a different effect on him? Has it make him stronger and
faster and crazier? Neptune's Beard!
"I think you'd better cooperate, Mr. Mohlar," says Darkins in a low tone through clenched teeth. "If
you want to see your girlfriend alive. Perhaps I'll let you watch while I harvest her tears. You'd like that,
I struggle against Darkins, but cannot break away because of the way he's holding me; he is so strong.
Pierce's eyes are wild; I can see him trying to figure out whether he can kill Darkins before Darkins can
squeeze the trigger.
"I think you'd better put that away, Darkins. Before someone gets hurt," I say. I am completely calm.
My hair is quiet. Because I know something he doesn't.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of Vang, Khione, Beauty and her Beast, Little Red Riding
Hood, The Three Little Pigs and the rest of the werewolves in the back. The air around the pack
members shimmers, and their bodies transform into their wolf form. It is amazing! I have never seen
them change. It's the full moon! How could I have forgotten? They stand on two legs. They are at least
seven feet tall, and covered in fur. Their costumes have somehow disappeared. They have long snouts,
yellow eyes and enormous teeth. But still, they are not crazed or wild. They are beautiful and
harmonious. Thunder is the largest-with a thick roan coat the same color as his hair when he's in
human form. The wolves walk easily through the crowd, and I can tell from their stealth, and the
power rippling from their shoulders that they are pack, communicating wordlessly, like fish in a school
that don't need a discussion to know the way of traversing the sea. I wait for the crowd to start
shrieking about the werewolves, but instead they point and stare at the wolves and marvel at their
The wolves vault on to the stage snarling, citrine eyes flaring. Charlotte, with shiny jet-black fur, arrives
first. She pulls back her furry fist, preparing to slug Darkins in the jaw, but he ducks. He recovers
instantly and dashes toward the exit, barreling over people, cameras and anything else in his way.
Darkins runs out of the marquee followed by the pack. Pierce takes my hand. "Let's get out of here!"
"Pierce, what about all these people? We can't let them go outside and see the wolves in action."
"It's okay, Wave. Go!" It's Cupid, wearing nothing but pearls, discretely arranged to cover his "parts,"
and a bow tie, his bronze ripped chest gleaming. A few people in the front rows gasp and faint at the
glorious sight of him. Where has he been this whole time? Backstage with the nymphs? "Lily-bella,
Vang, Khione?" says Cupid.
"Yes?" They say in unison.
"Watch the exit. No one leaves," says Cupid.
"But how will you keep them here against their will," I say, trying not to look at Cupid's pearls.
"Oh, they won't want to leave," says Cupid. "Ladies?"
The nymphs join Cupid on the stage, still smelling of coconut and pineapple. "Yes, Cupie?"
"Time to dance."
He waves his hand and music blasts through the room: It's close to midnight and something evil's
lurking in the dark ...
"Go, Waverly, Pierce. Believe me, no one will want to miss the nymphs' dance.
"Thanks, Cupid," I say.
The moment we're outside, Pierce takes to the air, and we're flying in the cool night under the fat full
moon. The wolves have Darkins, one at each limb, and they're carrying him toward the old oak that I
hid behind that first night. It's about a hundred yards from the barn.
The pack quickly secures Darkins to the tree with what must be remnants of the wiring for the
explosives they laid in the barn earlier. Thunder's dream has come true at last! Darkins is yelling, I can't
quite make out what he's saying, but I think he is questioning whether the wolves' parents were
married. This only seems to infuriate the wolves further. The wolves snap at his face. Darkins screams. I
kiss Pierce's rough, cool cheek. "You saved the day. How did you record that conversation with
"I had the phone, the privacy screen wasn't all the way up. I thought it couldn't hurt to have a
recording of what that slime said to you. And you got a full confession! You're brilliant, Wave."
Darkins screams some more as the wolves tighten the wires. "I didn't do very much. Darkins enjoyed
bragging about his dastardly deeds."
"Let's go help the wolves."
"You can watch from here, where I can keep you safe."
"Pierce, Darkins has been destroying the oceans not to mention kidnapping and torturing my kin. I
want to confront him. I need this! I must go down there!"
"You won't ever listen to me, will you?"
"Most likely not."
Pierce sighs even though he doesn't need to breathe. "That's what I figured." He plunges to the
ground in front of Darkins.
Darkins' eyes are wide as he watches us land. "What the hell are you?" Darkins demands of Pierce.
Pierce drops fang. Darkins squeals.
"You better believe it, Darkins. He's a vampire. And I happen to know your blood smells delicious to
him." Darkins swallows hard. I can see his carotid artery quiver because his hair is pulled back into a
ponytail, the proverbial vampire invitation.
"Don't worry, Darkins. I wouldn't want your tainted blood. I think I'll let the wolves take care of you."
The wolves have located a large black pan from the Chinese food truck-the perfect blunt object. I think
it's called a wok. Thunder holds the large wooden handle in one hand and hits his enormous furry
palm against the wok.
"No matter what happens to me," Darkins sneers, "in the end you will fail. No human can imprison the
great Dirk Darkins for long, and I practically own the legal system. I'll be rich and successful, and you'll
be nothing. Just like you are now!"
"We are taking you down, Darkins. This ends tonight," I say.
"Hahaha! You and what army are going to defeat me?"
Thunder slams the wok into Darkins' chest.
He screams and then has a coughing fit. "You will never succeed," Darkins forces out the words. "I
have enough product in that warehouse to finance the best lawyers in the world. That barn contains
my equipment, my research, all of it. I have plans to move everything in there to a safe house. You are
only delaying the inevitable."
"I don't think so," I say. "That barn is about to be destroyed and your life's work with it."
"Go ahead and try." He's smirking! I really hate when he does that.
"Guards!" yells Darkins. A couple of dozen more guards emerge from the shadows.
"Da?" says Igor, sauntering over in front of the group.
"Initiate Project Relocation," yells Darkins. "I want that barn cleared and its contents moved to the safe
"Da," says Igor. "Men!"
The security guards run toward the barn. All the wolves follow except for Charlotte. She reaches
behind the tree and pulls out a red detonation box with a handle on top.
"Sorry, Darkins," I say. "Time to blow up your barn. Quick, Charlotte! Before the guards get too close
to the explosion."
"Charlotte pushes down on the plunger. Nothing happens.
"What's wrong," I ask, horrified.
"Charlotte, did you connect the detonator to the explosives?" says Pierce.
Charlotte stomps her big furry foot and glares at Pierce. "I'll take that as a yes," I say.
Darkins bursts into fits of laughter. "What did I just tell you, losers? I cut the wires. Piece of cake. You
children should really leave the espionage to the big boys."
"Let's go," I say, already running toward the barn. "We have to stop them from getting anything out of
there!" But how? Darkins seems to have an unlimited supply of guards-it is almost as if he has his own
army. We are clearly running out of options.
The guards are almost to the entrance when something comes flying out from behind the barn and
lands in front of the door. It's Cyril. He's heehawing like crazy at the guards, baring his teeth and
kicking up his hind legs if anyone gets close.
"Shoot him!" Yells Igor.
"No!" I scream. "Cyril, get away!!!"
I'm almost to the guards, when something rumbles overhead. Everyone drops to the ground. What is
it? The sky darkens; the full moon is totally obliterated. It's huge. There is fire shooting across the sky.
Pierce helps me to my feet. "What is it?"
A terrible roar shakes the landscape. Leathery wings flap so hard, my hair flies as if in a gale. "Holy
Neptune! It's a dragon! And is that Pickles on its back?"
"I'd say yes," says Pierce with a huge grin. "It is Pickles. And it looks like Fintan has finally found his true
The pair zooms through the wall of the barn. Splinters of wood fly. The heat is overwhelming.
"Back everyone," yells Pierce.
"Get me out of here!" yells Darkins still tied to the tree yards away. "What the hell is that thing?"
The guards are frozen in disbelief. Each werewolf grabs a guard and pushes him to safety. Cyril takes
to the sky, as do Pierce and I. We're once again flying over the ranch. There is a huge boom as half of
barn explodes. But oh no! Pickles and Fintan are still inside. I hold my breath waiting for them to come
After what feels like an eternity, the pair crashes through the other side. They fly in circles around the
barn, faster and faster. So fast, the fire rages like a cylinder into the sky. The flames seem almost high
enough to touch the moon. In seconds the entire barn is nothing but ash. And the dragon is out of
sight, lost in the smoky haze.
Darkins, who has been silent throughout the conflagration, bursts into tears. "No, no, no! This can't
be. You can't have beaten me. No!"
"Yes!" I say. "We did beat you. All of us beat you. And soon you will be the one in captivity, you creep."
The air around the wolves shimmers once again, and they are back in human form, wearing their
Halloween costumes as if by magic.
"They are freaks?" says Darkins, still arrogant despite his defeat
Thunder grabs the wok from where he had dropped it earlier. He walks over to Darkins. "Don't ever
call my pack 'freaks,'" says Thunder. "I've had enough of you for one night." Thunder brings down the
wok hard on Darkins' head, and for the second time in one evening, he is unconscious. Thunder is
grinning like a crazy man. Lily-Bella comes running out of the marquee and leaps into his arms! "Did
you see that, babe?"
"I did, Thundy." Thunder kisses Lily-Bella, then holds her in the air and twirls. "You were brilliant, but
you're getting your lipstick on me, and I don't look good in magenta!"
"Oh yes you do," says Thunder, kissing her again. She does nothing to stop him.
Khione and Vang exit the marquee holding hands. Khione takes one look at the scene and waves her
free hand prettily over the landscape. It's snowing, big thick flakes and in moments the air is so full of
snow that it's hard to see more than a few inches. The ground is covered in a blanket of white,
sparkling in the orange fairy lights from above. It's a wonderland.
Cupid and the nymphs exit next, allowing the humans to pour outside, oohing and ahhing at the
winter-like beauty. My classmates herd the humans up the road. The engines from the fleet of buses
that waits to take them back to their hotels, thrum and vibrate. I breathe a sigh of relief as the last bus
Suddenly, the wind whips up once more, and the snow blows across the farm. The clear air booms and
there is a monstrous screech. Fintan soars over us. Now that I can get a good look at him, I realize his
black wings are twice as large as the dragons we saw in Fairyland. He breathes a hundred foot flare of
fire; I think he's showing off a little bit, but we all cheer and clap. Then he dives and lands fast, his
talons kicking up gravel and digging into the earth. Pickles jumps off of his back and runs to me. We
are hugging, and neither of us care that we are doing it so hard we might break one another's bones.
The dragon bursts into flame, and Fintan, in human form clad in black leather, steps from the fire.
Once he is out of the blaze, the fire swirls around him and it seems as if his body absorbs it until it is
"We've done it!" Pickles says, pointing at the barn. "All of us! Like I said, Wave, there is no way I would
let you do anything dangerous without my help. I am your fairy godmother after all. By the way, do
you like the dress?"
"Are you kidding? I love it! And I love you!"
"Fintan, my friend," says Pierce slapping Fintan on his back. "I guess you know what you are now!"
"I do," says Fintan. "And it turns out I have a family."
I hug Fintan. "I'm so glad!"
"And speaking of family ..." says Pierce.
A procession of limos drives into the graveled courtyard. The first person to leap out of the lead car,
before it's even stopped, is my dad. He slams the door and runs toward me so fast it's as if he's in
"Waverly Marie Fishwater!"
Dad races toward me across Khione's snow-covered landscape. What will he do to me for repeatedly
going against his wishes? It's gotta be bad, because he used my full name!
Behind Dad, Crumpet, Fairy Princess Iridessa, Gloria, Professor Woolfson step out of the same limo.
There are four limousines in all, stopped in a semicircle in between the marquee and the barn. At the
back of the queue is a large silver vehicle with only one window in the front.
Dad practically knocks me over and squeezes me hard. I'm pretty sure he's broken a few bones. Pierce
even winces. I'm about to make some sort of remark about my imminent demise from his hug, when
he pulls back to look at me, and I notice the dark circles under his eyes. In the moonlight he looks
almost like a Halloween zombie. He smells like sour milk and dried salt. His clothes are wrinkled and
disheveled. His hair is a dull green, which happens when a merperson doesn't get enough rest, and he
hasn't shaved, so his chin is shadowed with green stubble. Has he been this worried about me? I bite
back my retort. "Dad! Are you okay?"
"Never mind about me! What about you? I've been so worried!"
"I'm fine, Dad. Wait. What's that? Who are they?" I say, pointing at a group of fairies coming out of
the second car, each dressed like a different variety of flower. They raise their wands, and the ground
beneath them turns bright aqua. I peer over my dad's shoulder and see they're laying an intricate blue
carpet with beautiful fish and coral and seaweed floating beneath a glossy surface.
"What are they doing?"
The other teachers and Crumpet make their way over to us. "Good evening, Waverly."
"Hello, Professor Crumpet."
"How is the party?"
"It's ... um ... great."
"Excellent. Sorry to interrupt, Gil," says Crumpet. "But once you're done talking with Waverly, could
you please join me and the other teachers inside? We must prepare for the surprise."
"Certainly, Sir," says my dad. Crumpet winks at me, and he and the teachers disappear into the
"The fairies are creating an honorary footpath for the royal family. The Queen hates it, but protocol
and all. It should only take a few minutes; then they will proceed with the royal decrees and such."
Dad takes my hands. "Waverly, I am so relieved you are alright. I would've been here sooner, but your
I remember my premonition about my mother suffering. My heart races. "Mom! Is she okay?"
"Yes, of course, Wave. I've just been back from Pacifica. She is fine."
"She gave birth a bit early."
My dad pushes the hair back from my face. "You look beautiful, Wave."
"Thanks, Dad. But what about the baby?"
"Babies," says my dad, grinning. "Kipper, Coranne and Dart." It warms me to see a smile on his weary
face. I guess this is why he's so tired. It wasn't because he was worried about me.
"One of my brother's names is Dart?"
"You should see him, Wave. The name fits. The babies think the cutest things. I could listen to their
thoughts all day. I can't wait for you to meet them."
This is when it sinks in that Dad listed three separate names. I really need to pay better attention. That
cannot mean ...
"Yes, Wave. Three new siblings for you! Two boys and a girl. Your old dad still has it!"
"Now, Waverly, about your renegade behavior! I've been handling this case for a year. I told you to
leave it to the experts, but no! You. Would. Not. Listen! You had to go putting your life at risk, despite
my express orders."
I guess my dad has recovered from the "I am so happy you're alive" phase and moved on to the "what
the Hades were you thinking?" phase.
"But Dad ..."
"Hi, Mr. Fishwater," says Pickles brightly. "You should've seen how Waverly took down Darkins and
saved the world." She points to Darkins, still tied to the oak, head slumped over as boneless as a
jellyfish. I mouth, "thank you" to Pickles. I know she's exaggerating in an attempt to get me out of
trouble with my father.
"Hello, Miss McPhee," says my dad, softening. "Yes, I see you have all have managed to capture and
confine that monster Darkins." Wait, my dad knows Darkins? "Did my daughter ... um ... incapacitate
"No, sir," says Thunder, stepping forward and shaking my dad's hand. "The pack and I caught him
trying to escape and tied him to the tree; then I brained him with a wok."
"Nice work, Mr. Woolfson. Uh, interesting costume."
"Thanks," Thunder says. "I'm Beauty."
"Obviously," says my dad, smiling. I melt a little and not only because I am thrilled that Pickles'
diversion has saved me from being reprimanded in front of the whole school. "Hello Lily-Bella, Cupid,
Khione, Vang, Fintan," he says to the group standing near us. The rest of the kids are watching the
fairies build the royal stream. Guess they can't step on normal turf.
"I am happy to see you are alright, Fintan and Pickles. The other faculty and I have been concerned.
And your mother, Queen McPhee. She has been raising hell. I knew you'd be fine. I can only imagine
what Waverly would do if I threatened to lock her up in a castle. Wait! Perhaps that is a good idea!"
Pickles winced when she heard my dad say her mother's name. "I'm fine, thank you. Mostly." Pickles
looks sadly at Fintan who standing with Thunder and Lily-Bella. So they're not back together? I
should've realized that when she created the spectacular gown for me. If she and Fintan were
together, Pickles wouldn't have her powers. Poor Pickles and Fintan. Somehow I am going to help
them fight this unjust rule. No way will it stand. And now my calendar is clear after Darkins' defeat! I
totally need a new project.
"Ah, I see," says my dad. "Well, you're back now, and that's what matters." Pickles' mouth tightens
and she looks at the snowy ground. I am told your mother only left campus yesterday. We are to send
word when we've located you."
"Please, Mr. Fishwater," Pickles whispers.
"It's too bad I haven't seen Pickles," says my dad, looking at me. "The only person I see here is a
Dragonrider who looks somewhat like her." Indeed, Pickles looks like a flaming match with her bright
red hair and all black leather that matches Fintan's. I thought the outfit was fireproofing, but evidently
it is also some kind of standard Dragonrider attire.
"Thank you!" Pickles stands on tip toes, and my dad leans over to allow her to kiss his cheek.
My dad's eyes flick over to the limos. The door to the third car, upon which gleams the twined sea
monster crest of the royal mer family, opens. Eight guards, in teal uniforms, come out of a car,
attaching long curved sabers to their belts. Once they are affixed, the soldiers march in two lines at the
start of the fairy stream. Two footmen in long green coats exit from the front of the royal limo. One
footman opens the door. Dad looks at me, raising an eyebrow and thinking: "Wave, can you at least
pretend to be an obedient loyal subject for a few minutes?" I can hear the laughter in his tone and
know he isn't really mad at me after all. In fact, I think he's a little proud.
"Why would you even doubt it?" I say, trying to control the little muscles beside to my mouth to keep
He shakes his head. We stand in a line along the fairy stream. A footman helps Queen Anthea out of
the car. She's in an all-white gown, frothy and light as sea foam. Next out of the car is her husband,
King Dorsal, in a white suit, his waist-length green hair tumbling like waves. I haven't seen the royal
family since I was a tiny fingerling. Finally, Prince Rip Tide, who is my age and considered the most
eligible merman in the Pacific, emerges from the car as gracefully as if he was in the water. He's also in
white, but with a golden cape and gold bow tie. His long hair, green and gold with streaks of
burnished red, is curly and loose. He is the most beautiful merperson I have ever seen. Everyone in the
lineup stares at him. He smiles slightly, a secret smile, like an inside joke known only to him. He's
obviously been gawked at before. Pierce pulls me tightly against his chest. I laugh as quietly as
possible. I love my jealous vampire.
Pierce fingers the hairs at my nape, gently pushes them back, and with his lips on my neck whispers:
"You know I can still read your thoughts."
His touch makes me shiver, and I cannot help lifting my neck harder against his lips. All I want is to be
alone with Pierce, taking up where we left off in the limo at the beginning of the evening. Now it's his
turn to laugh, his chest quivering against my back.
The queen and king, arm in arm, followed by their son, golden cape valiantly whipping out from
behind in the breeze that's kicked up at just the right moment, walk down the fairy stream toward my
dad and me. Pierce moves back allowing me to curtsey. My dad bows. I hold my position and look at
the them from under my lashes to find their royal personages beaming at me. Prince Rip Tide winks. I
like him immediately.
"Rise, cousins," says the Queen, her voice soft yet clear. The royal family smell like coconut cream.
Wait, did the queen say cousins? Is that a term the royals use for all merfolk? Because if we are
cousins, then ... "How can we ever thank you for stopping Darkins and his evil scheme?" She glances
with distaste at the still-collapsed Darkins. "We have been after him for years. Guards, revive him."
A fairy in the entourage waves a wand and a jug materializes. One of the guards throws its contents
over Darkins' head. The evil mastermind groans, slowly lifts his head and opens his eyes. His face is an
otherworldly red. When Darkins sees the royal family surrounded by their fierce guard, he struggles
against the wires fixing him to the tree. They hold fast. Thunder puffs his Beauty-clad chest and smiles.
Almost no one is strong enough to undo the bindings of a werewolf.
"Auntie Anthea, Uncle Dorsal," says Darkins. "I would bow, but, as you can see, I am not in a position
to do so. You are looking well."
Darkins is related to the royal family? "Dad," I think at him. "Is Darkins really ..."
"Wave, quiet now. We'll discuss this later."
"I appreciate your opinion, Dirk." The queen's voice is dripping with sarcasm. "Cannot say the same for
you. I see these young people have done quite the job on you." Darkins glares at me, Pierce, Thunder,
Cupid, Lily-Bella, Fintan and Pickles. "Here I thought you could be reformed. This time I'm afraid there
is no escape. Your mother's family will never find you. I thought we had managed to overcome your
demon half. But I see now, it will always be part of you. Nephew, I know your parentage is not your
fault, but we simply cannot allow you to roam free and wreck destruction. Guards, take him away."
The guards step forward, cut the wires with their sabers and escort Darkins to the silver vehicle at the
back of the line. "I didn't do this alone," he screams. "It was Sharkweather!"
"You kidnapped his wife!" says the queen. "And my cousin Fitzwilliam as well. You are such a fool that
fools would be offended at being placed in the same category as you. We know that at first
Sharkweather cooperated with you willingly for the sake of his greed. But when he learned that you
planned to destroy the oceans, he tried to back out of the deal. That's when you kidnapped his wife.
He is not innocent, and will pay for his deeds, but for now he is united with his family-the family you
Darkins hisses as the guards throw him into the car and slam the door. Then they stand around the
vehicle keeping watch.
"Waverly Marie Fishwater," says the queen.
"Yes, ma'am," I say. I am being so obedient and everything. Wow!
The queen laughs. Sorry, Miss Fishwater, but you thought that so loud, I could not help but overhear.
And I am glad of your boldness. It is what enabled you and your friends to accomplish what we hadn't
been able to do. I would love to meet your friends."
"Of course." I curtsey again, because it turns out I'm super good at it, and I want to show off a little
bit. "Your royal highnesses, may I present Pierce Knightguard, my ... uh ..."
"Boyfriend," says Pierce stepping forward and shaking the queen's hand."
I don't think you're supposed to touch the queen, but she seems fine with it.
"A vampire boyfriend?" says the queen.
"Yes." I say. "A vampire boyfriend."
"Times have certainly changed," says the king.
"Happily so," says Prince Rip Tide.
"Lovely to meet you, Pierce," says the queen, patting his hand warmly.
"And this is Pickles McPhee, Lily-Bella, Fintan Byrnes, Thunder Woolfson and Cupid."
"Oh, I already know Cupid," says the queen. "Doesn't everyone?"
"I am glad you think so, Highness," says Cupid. But he's not looking at the queen. His eyes haven't left
Prince Rip Tide.
The queen notices Cupid's gaze upon her son and laughs again. Can I say how much I love our royal
"Do you have the medals, my son?"
"Yes I do, Mother."
Prince Rip Tide opens a satchel and removes eight golden medallions. Trumpets sound, though I don't
see any trumpeters. Must be a royal thing that you get your own magical musical accompaniment.
"These are the highest honors in the mer world. For service to the mer people and all the inhabitants of
earth, we welcome you into the Order of Neptune, with all the benefits hereto. Please come forward
Gil and Waverly Fishwater, Pierce Knightguard, Cupid, Fintan Byrnes, Pickles McPhee, Thunder
Woolfson, and Lily-Bella. And who is this?"
Cyril has flown to my side. "Where have you been this whole time?" I think at him.
"With my lady, of course," Cyril tosses his donkey head toward a hill at the top of the property where
Sprinkles is nibbling grass.
"This is my friend, Cyril. He helped as well."
Prince Rip Tide places a ribboned medallion over each of our heads. Somehow he has one for Cyril as
well! They are heavy. The prince seems to take extra long placing Cupid's and adjusting it on his still
bare chest. Do these two know one another?
"Now, I believe you young people have a party to get on with. Oh, and one more thing before I go. My
son has expressed a desire to attend West Marin Heights and we have consented. What you have
accomplished here has proven the effectiveness of the mission statement of the school in promoting
diversity and learning from other cultures. This is the future, and my son will learn to be a better leader
by sharing in it. I trust you will make him feel comfortable, Cousin Waverly."
"Of course I will!" I want to ask about the cousin thing, but it seems kind of rude. I will question Dad
later, and if I don't get answers, I'm sure Thunder would help me get them.
"Then we shall leave you to your festivities," says the queen. "Oh, we have another surprise. One more
limo comes crunching down the drive. The footmen rush over and open the door. Out steps a tall, slim
figure with long dark hair in a skintight sparkly plaid jumpsuit.
The vampires from West Marin Heights rush toward her yelling "Patty Cary!" Who knew vampires liked
pop stars so much?
We reenter into the marquee, which has been transformed. This must be what the teachers were
doing. There are no tables, but the room is filled with orange fairy lights and bits of the of the haunted
house-pumpkins and chattering teeth, skeletons and plastic black cats, suspended magically in the air.
It smells of pumpkin and spice and there's a full werewolf band on the stage. Patty Cary hops up and
grabs a microphone.
"Thank you for having me here tonight. I am honored to perform at the West Marin Heights Annual
Halloween Party. I graduated five years ago. As part of my appreciation for the start Marin Heights
gave me, I am donating a ridiculously high sum of money to the school toward the arts. If not for the
music program at WMH, I would never have become what I am today." Patty sings a song that is
something about a tiger beating up a bad boyfriend.
Pierce wraps his arms around me and we dance. "Patty Cary is a vampire?" I whisper in his ear.
"Yes, she is," says Pierce. "How did you think we knew her?"
"I guess I thought you bribed her or did your spooky vampire voodoo on her."
"There is only one person I want to do spooky vampire voodoo on, Waverly, and that is you."
And with that, Pierce effectively ends the conversation by kissing me for the remainder of the bad
"Okay everyone," says Patty. "This next song isn't one of mine, but I think it's perfect for a Halloween
gala. There's a special dance that goes along with it. Follow along with the nymphs."
The nymphs, still in pearls, take to the stage and the song begins:
It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark
Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops your heart ...
"May I cut in?" says my dad.
"Certainly Mr. Fishwater," says Pierce.
I am surprised when Dad puts his great arms around Pierce and pats him on the back. "Well done,
Pierce. You have brought my daughter through all of this safely, and for that I am endlessly grateful.
Your father would've been very proud of you."
"Thank you for your trust, sir," says Pierce. "And believe me, it was a most difficult task." He looks at
me and smiles.
"What? I was a burden?"
"Not at all," Pierce says, taking my hand and kissing it. Neptune's Beard! Why do I have to feel that jolt
of attraction every time this vampire touches me? "It's only that you have a penchant for putting your
life at risk."
"Oh, all right then," I say. Can't really argue with the truth.
"But I enjoyed every moment we have had together." Pierce is holding my gaze with his sapphire eyes.
My vampire boyfriend is so hot!
"You do know I'm standing right here," says my dad, laughing. "Trying not to listen to your thoughts."
"I love you, Dad," I say, hugging him.
"I love you too, Wave. More than you can imagine. You are brave and kind and fair and honorable. I
am so proud of all you've done."
"But Dad, what did you mean earlier when you said you'd been working on this case for a year?"
He pulls back and looks at me. I can see he's made a decision to trust me. Treat me as an equal. "Well,
Wave, I am not really a math teacher."
"I should have known."
"How would you know?"
"Counting sand on the beach? That screamed of busy work."
He bites his lower lip. "I suppose you're right."
"So if you're not a math teacher, what are you?"
"I am a spy. But not just any spy; I am a captain in the Royal Intelligence Service. And please don't
mention this to your mother."
"She doesn't know?"
"Not as such."
Wow, Dad must be good at this spy stuff to fool my mother! She notices everything. The students and
the teachers are in lines, the nymphs at the front, all dancing like zombies. Have I ever said how glad I
am that there is no such thing as zombies? I hope! "So you're really a spy?"
"I am. But you, my daughter, are a better spy than I. As you once told me: 'If you want subterfuge, hire
a teenage girl. We are better than anyone at this kind of stuff.' I should have listened, Wave. Really
listened and trusted you. I am sorry. And Wave, they want you to join. After you graduate, you have a
job. If you want it."
"That's cool, Dad, but I'm not sure what I want to be right now, though I do like espionage quite a bit.
And I forgive you for not trusting me." I stand on tiptoes and kiss his cheek. "Parents make mistakes.
Hopefully you've learned something."
"I certainly have-that my daughter is cheeky. Now go dance with your young man."
Pierce takes me into his arms and we dance close through every song. When the attraction becomes so
intense, it's almost painful; Pierce kisses me hard and asks, "Would you like to get some fresh air?"
As we walk past the revelers, Cupid looks at me from across the room where he's holding court with
his nymphs and Prince Rip Tide. He makes a gesture as if he's shooting an imaginary arrow at my
heart. I laugh, but a moment later, I am overtaken by the same overwhelming passion that hit me in
the commissary when Cupid kissed me. Uh, oh! And this time I'm on the way outside with a hot
vampire poet who is right now flashing his dimples at me. I am lost!
We stop outside. The orange fairy lights are still out, but it is dark. Clouds have moved across the
moon. An owl calls and bats flutter over our heads. Pierce pushes me against the oak and kisses me. I
am hot. So hot. Suddenly I hate the dress. And I don't like Pierce's suit any more either. I pull the shirt
out of the pants. He grabs my hand.
"What are you doing, Wave?" His eyes are glowing blue and my hair is sparking light white diamonds.
It's never done this before.
"Taking off your clothes," I say.
"What if someone comes outside and discovers us?"
"I don't care." I yank off his tie and rip open his shirt, popping off the buttons one by one and exposing
those incredible six-pack abs I first saw on the beach the day I rescued him from sharks.
"I think we rescued each other," Pierce says reading my thoughts. He is not smiling. His look is
scorching and serious, and I realize, he is right.
He pulls me away from the tree, embraces me and takes to the sky. We are soaring through the cloudy
night, exploring the heavens, exploring one another with our lips, our tongues, our hands. I have never
been this high.
Mom and I are in the nursery in our underwater cave getting my new brothers and sister ready for the
baby shower. I've come down to Pacifica from school for the occasion. I couldn't believe my parents let
me miss class for a party! They are obviously weakening!
The nursery is as big as the girls' bedroom back at West Marin Heights. There is netting swathed over
the ceiling with tiny shells and mother of pearl captured in the mesh. Stalks of kelp, coiled in strands of
white fairy lights, climb the walls. Nurseries have to be kept clear of animal life as merbabies cry, and
we cannot have them inadvertently transforming species. Even though the water is cold, I relish the
feeling of it against my skin and scales after all this time landside.
My new siblings have short gold hair and gold tails. The green doesn't come in until about the age of
two. They have rainbow eyes, of course, but Coranne's have a mischievous magenta gleam.
"Mom, they're amazing," I think at her, struggling with Coranne to tie on her new bikini top, which is
decorated with tiny red hearts, bows and arrows. It's a gift from Cupid. He also got one for me and for
Mom. He said shell tops are barbaric and even worse 'so last year.' Coranne complains and does not
"get" why she has to wear clothing. Mer babies are born with the ability to swim and communicate
telepathically. Fingerling thoughts are usually fairly simple: hungry, cold, scared, happy, but my new
siblings are obviously very special. I think Kipper is already smarter than I am. Dart's thoughts are pure
activity, vibrating and dynamic. And then there's Coranne. With her stubbornness, I'm sure she is
going to grow up to run the Merfolk Council.
Mom is trying to catch Dart who is zipping around the room.
"Coranne, stop fighting, and let me get you dressed," I think at my squirmy sister. "Mom! A little help,
"Your sister reminds me of someone else I know," Mom says, suppressing a smile.
"Maybe Kipper would like to have a look at your pretty top," I think at Coranne. Kipper is floating near
the ceiling of the cave, sucking his little thumb and contemplating the ridges of a pink and brown
cockleshell. He's trying to figure out where the animal that created the shell has gone.
"Kipper?" I hold up the top to him, but he thinks "no" at me and goes back to studying his shell.
"I give up," I say, tossing Cupid's baby gift.
Dart zips by and snatches the top. Coranne doesn't like this, so she takes off and chases her brother.
They are adorable and exhausting.
"Oh, Wave." Mom puts her arm around me and we gawk at the gorgeous, crazy fingerlings like idiots.
I bury my head into her shoulder. "I'm so happy you're home at last. I did not like being away from
you. And now that Dad's not working at West Marin Heights any longer, you can stay here! You can
fingerlingsit and finish out high school at Pacifica and be with Carla and your other friends. We'll all be
"Not go back to West Marin Heights?" I think back in alarm. Noooo! I have to go back. I can't be apart
from Pierce, and I still need to help Fintan and Pickles!
"You told us you didn't want to go to school there, Waverly. I thought you'd be happy about this."
"Yes, dear? Dart, no!" Mom yells as Dart yanks his sister's hair.
I swim up, separate them, and snap the top away. "I mean, I love you and Dad very much, but ..."
"Wave, don't decide yet. Think about it. You'll see Carla and Finn at the baby shower. And we could
possibly move to a warmer cave near Carla because your Dad has a new job working for the royal
family. He's to be an accountant!"
An accountant? Can she really be that gullible?
"Pierce and your new friends are welcome to visit any time," she adds.
Dart and Coranne are swimming in circles so fast that the water in the nursery is filling with bubbles.
"Come on guys, please stop," I think.
"Oh, no! Kipper!" Mom thinks as she scoops him up right before his head hits the wall of the cave
from the churning water. The whole time he never lets go of the shell he is examining.
Pierce pushes in the flap at the entrance to the nursery. He's been helping my dad set up the largest
cavern in our cave for the party. Pierce is in Hawaiian-print bathing shorts (another Cupid gift), his
gorgeous chest and six-pack on full display. His hair is dark and getting pretty long. I love the way it
moves in the turbulent water. Sigh! I swallow hard, trying to block my thoughts. "Hey, Pierce."
He grins. Of course he's "heard" me. Why do I keep letting him have my blood? Oh, right. Because I
love it! Must stop! Maybe tomorrow.
Coranne stops swimming and stares at Pierce. She even bats her little golden lashes. I have no problem
at all picking up Coranne's thoughts. She is besotted with my boyfriend. She's been after him since we
arrived a couple of hours ago. Coranne swoops into his arms thinking love thoughts at him and cannot
understand why he isn't answering her. I try to explain that he isn't mer and cannot read her thoughts
unless he has her blood. She wants him to bite her, but I absolutely forbid Pierce from snacking on any
The flap pushes open again. It's Carla bobbing in the entry, her green hair fashioned in a complicated
knot of braids. "Waverly!"
"Shut the flap!" says mom, as Dart flits toward the exit. Dart almost escapes, but in a flash Pierce, still
cradling my sister with one arm, is holding the tip of my new brother's tail with his other hand. Mom
looks super impressed. She's thinking about what a good fingerlingsitter Pierce would make, even if heis
a bloodsucking denizen of the night.
"Carla! I've missed you so much!" We swim toward one another and embrace. It feels amazing. A
lump swells in my throat. It's not until now that I realize how much I've missed my oldest friend. It's as
if an ache I hadn't realized existed is now gone.
"You're back! Thank Neptune!"
"How are Finn and your parents?" I think, but she isn't paying any attention to me because she has
She gasps telepathically. "Oh. My. Gods!"
"I know," I say. "Carla, close your mouth. You're gaping like a codfish."
"But, he's ... I mean ..."
"He's a vampire."
Pierce releases Dart, who has been wriggling like mad. Then my boyfriend takes the tiny bikini top
from me and pretends to ignore us while slipping it over Coranne's golden head and tying a perfect
bow in the back. I can tell he's been listening to my end of the conversation with Carla, because he is
smiling full on. Holy crab I love those dimples.
"I know, but I was wrong before," I say. "Not all vampires are our mortal enemies. As a matter of fact,
the person who did try to kill us was part mer. Well, and part demon. But anyway, I've learned a lot at
West Marin Heights. More than I ever thought I would."
"I'm really glad West Marin wasn't as awful as you thought it would be. But your mom says now you're
back, which is the main thing. School has sucked without you. We haven't won a single water polo
match or debate since you left! But with you, we will start winning again! And you and me and Finn
can go to the Boardwalk every weekend, and you'll be here for Grad Night at Six Flags! All our dreams
will come true. Right, Mrs. Fishwater?"
I glare at my mom. "You told Carla I was staying in Pacifica?"
Pierce raises his eyebrows and mouths "what?"
"Don't worry!" I think at him.
"Waverly, why don't you introduce your friends?" My mom thinks, totally avoiding my question.
I bite my lip and nearly manage to keep from rolling my eyes! "We will talk about this later, Mom." But
I do have some manners, so I introduce Carla and Pierce.
Pierce shakes Carla's hand. Merfolk don't really shake hands, but Pierce isn't aware of our customs. He
tries to take his hand back, but she seems mesmerized and doesn't let go. Coranne is clearly jealous
and tries to bite Carla.
"Coranne, we do not bite," says Mom.
But it's too late. Coranne has accidentally bitten Pierce. Blood swirls in the water near his hand.
Coranne sticks out her little tongue and tastes the water.
"Coranne, no!" I say. "Merfolk do not eat blood."
She smiles at me, and then gazes at Pierce. "Nice man. Love you. Love, love, love you," she thinks at
Pierce. "Glad you love me too."
How cute! She says this as if they are having a telepathic conversation.
"Want go swim with you!" Coranne thinks. "Not later. Now!"
Pierce's eyes open wide.
"Is she hearing your thoughts?" I think at him. He nods.
"Coranne Elizabeth Fishwater," thinks Mom. Uh, oh! All three names. "I said we do not bite our guests.
Ever!" She takes Coranne from Pierce. Mom looks over her shoulder toward the flap leading to the
main room. People are arriving.
"We're going to meet your new admirers now. Carla, can you please apprehend Dart?"
"Sure thing, Mrs. Fishwater," says Carla. "C'mere, buddy." Dart swims easily into her arms, like a little
angel. Both Coranne and Carla look longingly at Pierce. "I'll see you in a sec, Wave." They head out the
flap I wove out of seaweed when I was a fingerling.
"Would you two mind picking up in here?" thinks Mom, waving her hand at the mess of shells and
broken bits of kelp floating in the water. "The guests might want a look at the nursery. But don't
dawdle. I have a surprise for you, Wave."
My mom, Coranne under one arm, Kipper under the other, nods at Pierce, and then she winks at me
before swimming out and leaving me alone with my boyfriend. It's at times like this that I realize she
has the potential to be a very cool mother.
As soon as she's gone, I grab Pierce's shoulders and shake him. "Coranne tasted your blood, and now
she can read your mind?"
Pierce winces and claps his hand over his mouth.
Oops! Maybe I shook him too hard?
Pierce nods. I pull his hand away and see a drop of blood in the water near his lip. He must have
punctured himself with a fang.
"I'm sorry, Pierce."
My hot hunky vampire licks his lip and shrugs.
I grasp his hands, gently. "So if I want to know what you're thinking, all I have to do is drink your,
blood?" I gulp. Blood! Urgh!
Pierce shakes his head and mouths, "no way!"
I smile and nod my head.
He releases my hands.
"Why not?" I think.
In a heartbeat he is on the other side of the cave. "You'll laugh," he mimes.
"I would never laugh at your thoughts," I think, attempting a serious tone.
I hit turboswim, not usually a good idea in a confined space, but it's the only way I can catch him. He's
pinned beneath me at the cave floor. I kiss him. There is a taste of strawberries, and then faint
brainwaves coming from Pierce buzz over my consciousness. It is different from the thoughts of
another mer. Like tasting a new food from a foreign land. They gradually coalesce into something
"I love you, Wave. I love you so much. Please come back to Marin. I need you. I want you. I want to
hold you and kiss you forever."
I do not laugh. Instead, I kiss him again. When our lips touch, a current shoots through my body as if
I've been shocked by a thousand electric eels. My tail is flipping inadvertently! It is mind-boggling to
feel Pierce's attraction to me at the same time I am feeling my own attraction to him. Somehow our
passion is more than doubled. Time stops and the kiss goes on infinitely. Neither of us needs to
breathe underwater, so we could basically do this forever or until someone notices we're not at the
party. I'm running my hands down his cool, muscular arms, and he is doing the same with my back.
"Please tell me you're coming back to Marin," he thinks.
"Of course I'm coming back, Pierce. Mom will be okay without me for a while. Plus I have to help
Pickles and Fintan, and I promised the queen I'd look after the prince, which won't be easy with Cupid
there! But the main reason I have to return is there's no way I'm ever giving up these kisses."
"Waverly Marie Fishwater!" It's my oldest brother, Gav.
Pierce and I break apart. "What?" I think.
Gav is standing in the doorway looking at us, basically horrified. As if he's never seen anyone kissing
before! He has fingerlings of his own for Neptune's sake. "Guests are arriving, Wave."
"Come on, Pierce. It's time for you to meet the rest of the Fishwater clan."
"I love you, Wave!"
"I know. I love you too."
The main room of the cave is filling up with so many of my relatives; it's hard to even move. There are
a lot of Fishwaters! And even some of our neighbors and friends have come to ogle the fingerlings.
Even though Pierce cannot communicate with my family, he fits right in as if he's always been there.
He's holding Coranne in the crook of his arm and she's sound asleep, sucking her thumb, dreaming of
dashing princes on golden seahorses. Mom has apparently been telling her the same stories she told
me as a child. Pierce smiles at her, and is nearly as besotted with my sister as she is with him. Dart jets
from one guest to the next. He's flagging but refuses to rest. Kipper is with my oldest sister, Monika,
who is a marine biologist. She's explaining something scientific about the shell and bivalves and
filtering mechanisms and the life of the animal that once lived inside.
"Congratulations, Mrs. Fishwater," I hear a familiar voice in my head. I spin around to see Shelly and
"Thank you, Shelly," thinks Mom. "Avalon!" Mom embraces Shelly's mom. "Thank Neptune you are
"Thanks to Waverly!" thinks Mrs. Sharkweather. "Is she here?"
"Oh, yes," thinks Mom, looking around the room for me.
I grab Pierce's free hand and take him with me to greet to Mrs. Sharkweather and Shelly.
"Hello, Mrs. Sharkweather." I hug her. She looks so much better than the last time I saw her in the
tank. Her hair is a lustrous golden green. She has filled out and looks like an older version of Shelly.
"Shelly told me all about what you did for me and the others. What you did for the bay! I cannot begin
to thank you for your bravery and kindness."
"You're welcome, Mrs. Sharkweather. I'm glad you're okay."
"Avalon, have you met my third cousin on my father's side?" thinks Mom, leading Mrs. Sharkweather
into a knot of merfolk I have never seen before on the opposite side of the room near the kitchen.
"Thanks again, Waverly," thinks Shelly, looking at the floor of the cave instead of at me. "I was ...
was ... horrible to you."
"You weren't very nice," I agree. "But I understand. You were going through a lot. Sorry about your
"He'll be out in a year," thinks Shelly. She looks shyly at Pierce for the first time since we swam over.
Finn makes his way through the swimming throng.
"Hey Wave! Miss me?" He hugs me, then gives Pierce the once over. Geesh! I remember when I went
all jellyfish when I saw Finn. Now there is nothing there but friendship. After introductions, Finn turns
to Shelly. "Hey Shell, ready to go to the Boardwalk?"
"Yes," thinks Shelly, taking his hand. Together they swim through the room and out the front of the
"Waverly, they're here!" thinks my mom.
The throng of guests separates and in swims Beau and Olga and what must be about a thousand
merhorse fry. Holy mother of cod!
"Waverly!" Beau swims toward us. He looks pretty good for having given birth to so many offspring.
"Beau! Olga! It's great to see you guys and your, uh ..." Brood? Herd? "Fingerlings? "They are
"Your mother invited us," thinks Olga.
"I am so happy she did!"
"Thank you for all you did to save the bay," thinks Beau. "It's such a relief that we don't have to move
the family. We have been working with the Merfolk Council to clean up the toxic waste in the cave.
Soon it will all be neutralized."
"We all did it, Beau. Not just me. You and Olga and all our friends at West Marin Heights!"
We spend the next hours of the afternoon playing with Beau and Olga's fry and my new siblings.
Thank goodness no tears are shed. I cannot imagine how Beau and Olga would handle the
transformation of one of their children into another species. Gradually the cave empties of guests.
Kipper, Coranne and Dart are asleep in the nursery. It's only my parents, Pierce and me left.
"Thanks for inviting Beau and his family, Mom."
"Of course! I had no idea there was such a thing as merhorses. It was an honor to meet them. Even
Monika couldn't believe their existence has been kept secret for so long."
Secrets! This reminds me of something I have been wondering about since the Halloween party.
"About us being related to the royal family. Is it true?"
"Yes. Distant cousins only."
"So we have royal blood?"
Pierce perks up when he 'hears' me talking about blood. I can feel his hunger and my stomach growls!
I wonder if he and I can get away for a little while? Or a long while!
"Yep," thinks Dad.
"You both know I'm going back to West Marin Heights, right?"
Pierce squeezes my hand.
"We figured," Dad thinks. "We will miss you though, hon."
"I'll miss you too."
It's hard to leave, but I know I'm doing the right thing. We hug my parents and make our goodbyes.
After kissing my new brothers and sister, Pierce and I take off, flying through the starry, cold night.
We're kept warm by one another's thoughts as we soar through the inky sky back to Marin. Back
The first time I met Waverly Marie Fishwater,
by Pierce Knightguard
People think that because we're vampires we don't feel the cold, but it's not true. All I'm wearing is a
pair of jeans and a plaid shirt. The morning fog on Tomales Bay is thick and wet and clings to my skin
like a waterlogged beach towel. If not for my vampire vision, it would be impossible to see the blue-
green tangle of mermaid hair jetting across the bay. I wish she would hurry; I want to get to the school
meeting room where I know the fire will be blazing. I don't want to be here, but I cannot turn down a
request from Headmaster Crumpet.
A hawk perches on a nearby branch and cocks its head. Obviously it isn't used to sharing a treetop
with a creature like me. Even among vampires I am unusual because I can fly. Apparently this is a rare
talent. I glare at the bird, and he spreads his wings and takes off.
I look back at the bay, and for a moment, I can't see the mermaid's hair. Then she pops through the
surface. To my horror, I also see a herd of Great Whites heading straight for her. She doesn't even try
to swim away as they form a circle around her. You would think the daughter of a math teacher would
be smarter than this. I don't know much about merpersons. I did see that Sharkweather mermaid
earlier this morning with her annoying twitter of a laugh, flirting with the gods. She didn't seem overly
bright. Maybe they're all like she is.
I'm hoping the Fishwater mermaid is going to swim away from the danger, but she doesn't, and in a
few seconds the sharks will be upon her. I don't even think, I leap from the tree and fly out over the
water and dive. The water is even colder than the air. As soon as I surface, I hear her shrieking at the
sharks. I swim as fast as I can, grab her around the waist and plummet to the bottom of the bay to get
away from the danger. It's like trying to wrestle a bear. Yes, I do have personal experience with bear
wrestling. A vampire backpacking alone in the woods can't be too picky about cuisine. This mermaid is
seriously strong and not cooperating. I try to tell her I'm here to rescue her, but talking underwater is
not one of my skills.
As I'm struggling with the mermaid, the sharks have moved in on both of us. How can I keep the
Fishwater female safe and fight off the sharks? One of them lunges at me, and a horrible pain
explodes in my leg. The water is turning red with blood. My blood. I let go of the mermaid. The sharks
are going crazy now. They're in a kind of blood frenzy like vampires experience just after they've been
turned. I lose track of what is up and what is down, and then I feel my head bump against the
mermaid's arm. The sharks are coming for me. As long as they don't bite off my head entirely, I might
survive. But getting bitten is very painful. And yes, I do get the irony.
This is when I notice that the sharks are disappearing one by one. My jaw drops when I see what's
happening. The mermaid is grabbing each one by the tail and hurling it out of the water, one after
another until they're all gone.
Then the mermaid grabs me under the arms and swims us to the beach.
I'm lying there, a little stunned. My leg is throbbing. It'll heal, but if I had some fresh blood, it would
The next thing I know, she is ripping apart my favorite plaid shirt. She puts her head against my chest,
and suddenly I don't mind so much. Even though we just came out of the cold water, her body is
warmer than mine, and she smells amazing. What is she doing? She's pinching my nose and breathing
into my mouth. Her mouth feels incredible against mine. I realize she's trying to do CPR on me. I laugh
internally. How amusing she is. Vampires don't need to breathe, and our hearts are still, yet she is
trying to bring me back to life. It's sort of poetic really.
I let her go on with the chest compressions. I can't help peeking at her. I can tell she is trying to check
me out in a furtive way. I like that she is.
And now I do something I'm not really proud of, but she is so appealing, I can't help kissing her the
next time she breathes into me. Her mouth is warm and alive. I was worried how she might react, but
it seems like she is enjoying it too.
But all of a sudden she pulls away. I guess she figured out why I don't have a pulse. My fang snags her
lip. It breaks the surface and a tiny drop of her blood drips into my mouth. It is the most delicious thing
I have ever tasted. I decide I don't care about keeping the new kids alive. All I want is more of that
delicious mermaid blood.
"Mmmmmm," I can't help saying. "More." Probably not the most tactful thing I could've said.
The Night I Should Not Have Kissed Waverly
Marie Fishwater by Pierce Knightguard
Chapter 9 written from Pierce's point of viewWhere is Waverly? It's only my first day as her bodyguard, and I have failed miserably. First, I almost got
eaten by sharks and she had to save me. And now, I have searched this entire yacht, from the
gleaming engine room to the opulent staterooms, and Waverly is not on board. My invitation to have
her meet me before the party was an utter failure. She refused it. In truth, I should be happy she isn't
attracted to me. Makes my job less complicated. Speaking of jobs, what am I going to tell her dad? To
get away from the noise of the party and contemplate my next move I needed to be alone, but Shelly
Sharkweather kept buzzing after me like a mosquito. I have finally managed to escape to the aft.
The yacht floats in the middle of the bay, thumping against the water, out of sync with the muses up
front who are performing a song in ancient Greek. A shooting star catches my eye as it whizzes past
Orion's belt. No one ever talks about one of the best parts about being a vampire-a telescopic view the
night sky, but without the telescope. Tonight the Milky Way is a delicate silvery cloud, a bridal veil of
celestial lace stretching across the heavens. Jupiter's stormy red eye keeps watch, and the rings of
Saturn are icy pinks and greys.
I scanthe shore, but even with my vampire sight, I can't locate her. I close my eyes and reach out
telepathically to see if I pick up any communications from her brain. But there is only silence.
Then I smell her! Relief courses through my veins. She smells like everything red and rich and cool. Like
life. My stomach growls. I slap my abdomen. "Silence," I command. Of course it answers by growling
again. Vampires have many powers, but we are still servants of biology, the same as humans. Perhaps
even more. And here I am worrying about my appetite when Waverly obviously has an open wound, or
I wouldn't be smelling her like this.
"I'm bleeding, which is a very, very bad idea when you're going to a party with a sexy vampire, who
may or may not have stood you up."
Her inner voice is so clear, it's as if she is standing next to me. And I only had a drop of her blood. I am
way happier about her calling me sexy than I have any right to be. I grab the rail and scan the water.
There she is, about twenty feet away, her head above the surface, iridescent green hair floating around
"Wait, did I just use the word sexy to describe Pierce?"
"I believe you did," I say. I can't resist teasing her. I'm rewarded with an increase in her blood pressure.
She will have a hard time getting aboard without help, but I need to get her on deck so I can see how
badly she is injured. I have to offer assistance in a way that doesn't seem too obvious or pushy or
demeaning. I am not allowed to tell her I'm working for her father. I should say something calming
Don't be alarmed. I'm here to help . I can fly down and rescue you." But instead I blurt out: "Too
late, Waverly. I already know that you think I'm sexy." Why does she have this effect on me?
"I was thinking you are snoopy, not sexy," she says. "Your blood-enhanced mind-reading must be
"No, it lasts a good twenty-four hours," a chuckle slips out even though I know it will only make her
mad. Once again, I can't help it. "And your mind is one of the most interesting places I've ever been. A
shining garden of contradiction." I use poetry to cover up my attraction. She can't know how I feel
about her. I have a job to do, and nothing can happen between the two of us. "Ugh, vampire poetry
!" she thinks. "Voyeur!" she says out loud.
"I don't think you're in a position to criticize me when I'm your only hope of getting onto this boat,
Waverly. Say something nice, and I might help you." She is incessantly fun to tease.
I want to throw him back to the sharks.
"I heard that."
"Stop getting into my brain, you ... you ..."
"Careful," I warn, a huge grin plastered on my face.
"You kind, helpful, intelligent, vampire."
"And sexy," I say. "Don't forget. Say it. Out loud."
"Sexy. Okay, satisfied?" She manages to say.
"Not yet," I say, laughing. I know she isn't sure what I'm suggesting.
"For the last time, stop listening to my thoughts. It's rude!"
"I can't help it, Waverly. You are endlessly entertaining," I admit.
"How did you even know I was here?"
"What, I smell bad?"
Is she insane? "Bad? No, Waverly. You smell delicious."
"Don't get any ideas," she says.
"Too late for that." Why did I say that? I shouldn't be flirting with her this way. Time to get serious.
"Are you badly hurt?"
"Just some scrapes. I'll be fine," she says. "I mean as long as you don't drain my circulatory system."
"I'm wounded, Waverly, I just want to make sure you aren't hurt." I say. But as I'm about to swoop
down and pluck her from the water, I smell Shelly's overpowering perfume, and then I hear the loud
plunking of her platform heels. I glance over my shoulder. "Wait, quiet. Someone is coming."
Waverly sinks lower in the water right before Shelly appears.
"Who were you talking to," says Shelly.
"The night," I say. It's all I can come up with on such short notice. Not bad though. I'll have to
"I sometimes talk to the universe," says Shelly. "It's totally profound. Like sometimes I ask for stuff, then
I get it. You have to totally want whatever it is really badly, or you won't get it, though."
"I'm glad you have such a strong grasp of the concept," I say, doing everything I can not to gag at her
"Thanks," she says in a little pouty girl voice. She must assume it is sexy. She touches my hand, which is
resting on the rail with her fingertip, then strokes the skin from my wrist to the tip of my index finger.
Her heart rate accelerates, as does her breathing. "I do grasp it." She grabs my hand. Hard. I try to
extricate it. "I'm sorry Waverly didn't come; guess she doesn't like parties or the company."
"Oh, I have a feeling she might show up," I say.
"I wouldn't be so sure," Shelly presses her body against mine, pushes her hair off to one side as if
offering her neck to me! Out of the corner of my eye, I detect red sparks in the water. As if Waverly
has lit a Fourth of July sparkler. I wonder what is causing the sparks? Must be some type of mermaid
skill I don't know about. Luckily, Shelly doesn't seem to notice. I yank my hand out from under hers
and make sure her back is to water to keep her from noticing Waverly.
"I think Cupid is looking for you and wants to dance with you. You should go," I say. That should get
rid of her. She was definitely fascinated by the gods earlier today.
"But I want to talk to you," Shelly says, frowning.
"You should never jilt a god. You remember the last girl who angered Cupid?"
"What was her name?" I can't believe how dense she is.
"Give me a minute on my own," I say, trying not give in to the urge to conk her over the head and toss
her into the sea.
"Okay, but I'll be back," she says. Finally, she toddles off on her wobbly heels.
"It's safe now," I say to Waverly. I'm going to fly down and lift you aboard."
"Don't think so."
"Are you saying you swam halfway across the bay to masquerade as a mermaid figurehead? Because if
you are, you are at the wrong end of the boat. Figureheads are at the bow."
"I'm not stupid," she says. "It's just that I am wardrobe-challenged right now."
"You mean naked."
"I don't see the problem," I say, but the image of Waverly's dad coming at me with a pointy stake says
I pick up a telepathic transmission from Waverly's brain of me being devoured by sharks and carried off
to sea in a jellyfish-infested riptide from Waverly's brain. She is creative at least.
"I see," I say. All right, if she won't let me fly her aboard, I'll have to get a ladder and a towel. While I
was looking for her earlier, I saw a rope ladder mid ship and towels below deck. I quickly gather the
items, race back to where she is, and throw the ladder over the side.
"Yes, Waverly." Her heart race increases as I say her name, but I don't comment about it.
"Well, um, there's still the problem of my, um, lack of clothing."
"Got you covered," I say.
"Really? Now you're making puns?"
I dangle the end of the towel over the side.
It takes a good five minutes for her to make it up the ladder. I stand with my back to the deck the
whole time, the towel spread out behind me, trying not to notice the smell of her blood or think about
how she looks. She takes the towel. I wait until I feel her standing still before I turn around. Then I pull
her into my arms and hug her. What has gotten over me? I'm crazy. All I want to do is touch her.
"I was so worried about you. And you are hurt." My mouth is a heartbeat away from her neck. Her
carotid artery pulses hypnotically, beckoning. The memory of that drop of her blood I had earlier makes
me salivate. I don't even know if I can control myself if I get any closer.
"I'm fine," she says. "But you never came to meet me the beach."
I manage to pull myself away and stare at her. What is she talking about? She stood me up. "You sent
me a very adamantly phrased note saying that you didn't want me to," I say. "Something about how
you'd rather scrape barnacles from a whale's nostril."
"I did not. I was waiting for you. That's why I'm late."
"Shelly!" We say simultaneously.
"Wait until I find her." I drop fang.
"Put your fangs away," she says. "I'll take care of her. She is my bunkmate and a menace to
"But of course, my lady," I bow, and when I rise, I have managed to get my fangs back in place. "She is
"Thanks," she says.
"Waverly ..." I whisper, and pull her back into an embrace. In her mind, I can sense that she is begging
me to kiss her. I want to more than anything in the world. She stands on her toes and looks up at me. I
hold her chin and gently trace her cheekbones with my thumbs. Our lips are practically touching. She
closes her eyes. I am about to kiss her, when I picture her father coming at me with that stake in one
hand, a three-pronged trident gripped in his other. Even worse, I picture Crumpet's disappointment in
me. As my sire, I cannot help to want to please him. He is my father, for all intents and purposes. He
saved my life by killing me, and this is how I repay him?
I release Waverly. Her eyes open in shock. I can see the hurt. Hear it in her brain. Because I'm nervous, I
rake my hand through my hair. It's a quirk left over from when I was a human. "Waverly ..."
"Don't." She tugs on the towel.
"Look at me," I command.
"No, I gotta go. Thanks for your, uh, help."
Obviously my vampire powers do not work on Waverly. By all rights she should be mesmerized and
looking straight into my eyes and obeying my command. I want to voodoo the memory of what I've
done out of her consciousness. "Waverly, it's not that I don't want ... "
I bite my lip. What should I do? I want to tell her I'm working for her dad. She is my responsibility. We
can never be together. Then I look at her face. The luscious pout on her lips. The intelligence and wit
behind her rainbow eyes. Her beautiful hair cascading over her body like green fire. And before I am
conscious that I have even moved, I wrap my arms around Waverly's shoulders and wrench her body
against mine. I stare into her eyes. I know her attraction to me is real. It's not my powers making her
heart stammer and her breath shallow. She wants me, and I want her. Her hair is sparking again. She
stops breathing. I can't help myself. My lips are on hers. They are warm. Her mouth opens, and we are
kissing deeply. I have never felt anything like this before. It is as if I have lived, and died, and lived