Sushi in Atlantis
Wet (multi-author series)
by Ashlynn Monroe
eBook BIN: 06166-01980
If Prince Reil cannot find a land-dweller to be his mate by his twenty-fifth birthday, he will be a dolphin forever. Riel decides it’s better to die as half a man than live as all of a fish. Caprice sees the hottest blond ever and decides being stranded doesn’t mean her time in paradise is ruined. Just because she missed the boat doesn’t mean she’s missed the fun. Can Reil convince his mocha beauty to make whoopee before he becomes sushi?
Note: Prologue omitted
Reil burst through the doors of his father’s great judgment hall, pushing the stunned guards out of his way. He noticed how warily he was being watched, but he didn’t care. If they killed him, at least he wouldn’t have to experience the curse. Since dawn, when he’d begun reading the true history of his family, he’d felt doomed. He felt torn between hatred and disbelief that no one in the kingdom had given him fair warning.
The elderly ruler pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head with annoyance, and leaned over to whisper to his trusty servant Valex. The glittering gold crown tilted on his head. The elderly ruler pushed it back securely. The man’s long, white hair and beard were the only signs of his advanced age. Reil knew his father was still fit.
The torches made the gold and silver room glint with extravagance. This single chamber was what was left of Atlantis’s previous glory, and all that remained of the old city.
“What conspiracy are you hatching now, Father?” Reil shouted. He regarded his sire with no fear, only disrespect. His younger sisters all stood cowering by their sire’s side. He watched the four blonde heads bow, unable to look at him or their father.
They all looked so much alike and he loved them with all his heart. Sadly, their father had beaten the spines out of all of them. He’d found his today, and he hoped his sisters would find their courage, too.
None would dare speak to King Delvan as Reil had just done. He glared at his sisters, and then glanced nervously at his father again. “Why did you keep the curse from me? You must have known, because I see you still have legs.”
The king gave a great bark of laughter. “Who told you? Was it Hesham?” Delvan gave the record keeper his most evil smile. Reil saw the terror on the man’s face, and the wet spot forming at the crotch of his robes.
“Leave him alone, Father. Mother gave me the ancient tome on her deathbed.”
“Meddlesome woman,” the king muttered.
“Do not speak ill of her! You treated her lowlier than our servants, and yet you still disparage her even as she lies in her cold coral tomb under the city. Why would you keep something like this from me?” Reil cleared his throat as he realized how hurt his tone sounded. He hated the betrayal. His sire had always been a hard man, but he’d believed the man loved him, until today. He hated to show his callous king any sign of weakness.
“I like being king. Unfortunately, others do not enjoy the crown on my head. If you find a mate, my enemies will eventually raise up to put you on my throne. I knew the moment you came squalling into the world you’d be my greatest adversary.”
Reil’s eyes widened as he gazed at the twisted man. His mouth parted as he tried to justify those cold words. Nothing inside of him could make him understand or forgive his father now. “You’d have me lose myself because you fear for your position? I’m your son — your heir. You should have seen me as an asset, not an enemy. Father, as hateful as you are, I’d not have allowed you to be usurped; however, I will be the first to rise against you now.”
The king laughed a great heaving belly laugh. The sound echoed off the great bejeweled crystal dome that kept the Atlantic Ocean from spilling in onto the city. Without the dome, they’d all immediately shift into their dolphin form. They were only human when they remained dry.
“What is this great secret?” asked Anaqua, the oldest princess. He could see she was slowly finding her courage. They were only a year apart in age, and the siblings were close.
“My shifting ability is not like yours, sister. If I do not find a mate — a land dwelling mate — by midnight on my twenty-fifth birthday, I am doomed. I’ll be trapped in dolphin form for the rest of my life.” He watched her eyes grow wide. “You see, the curse that sank our great nation and turned us into men who become dolphins was not the only curse the witch put on our people. Because the prince of Atlantis shunned her on his twenty-fifth birthday, when he picked another, more suitable bride over the foreign stranger, she cursed his line. Every prince born to the Atlantian throne will stay in dolphin form if he cannot find a bride from outside of Atlantis.”
She gasped. “No! Father, how could you?” Her lips trembled and she rushed to Reil’s side. She threw her arms around him. “You must hurry! Your birthday is only two tides away. I don’t want to lose you, my dearest brother.”
“I have no intention of staying here and waiting for this doom. Now I understand why Mother never swam with us. You told us she was ill, but she was never Atlantian, was she?”
His father glared. “No, she was my land-dwelling mate. My father’s father was the first to realize the value of hiding our personal family curse. I just took it a step further, and hid it from you.” He laughed again, and the sound resonated as deranged instead of mirthful. “I won’t let you leave, my boy. You’ll stay in your room until the shift takes you — forever. Guards!”
The sound of armor clanking filled the room as a stream of his father’s loyal guards rushed in. Reil could see the determined look on their faces. When two of them grabbed his arms, the reality of his situation sank in. They were going to keep him locked up until the man inside was dead.
He had no interest in finding himself in a can of non-dolphin safe tuna.
The shock wore off and Reil began struggling against the men holding him. Anaqua rushed to help him but one of the guards swatted the lithe blonde down as if she were a fly. Seeing his sister sliding across the marble floor spurred him to action and he began fighting with all the hatred he held inside for his bitter sire. He would not allow his father to remain on the throne. He saw now how demented the man truly was, and the years of excusing his behavior out of loyalty were over.
Reil kneed one of the guards in the groin and the man’s grip loosened as he howled with agony. Taking the arm of the other man, he swung him around toward the gaggle of his over-armed comrades. The heavy, mostly ceremonial, armor made it easy for him to push them down like toys when he flung his surprised attacker into the bumbling assembly.
There had been no war on Atlantis, because the city remained hidden beneath the waves for centuries, and the guards were peacekeepers, not warriors. Reil gave his beloved sister a final glance as she made her way off the floor, regaining her regal composure.
“Stay safe,” he pleaded as his gaze met the deep blue of his sister’s eyes for a final farewell. Then he turned and jumped toward the great pool in the center of the judgment hall. The moment he touched the water his body morphed into the sleek gray skin of his dolphin form. His clothing ripped away and floated in the water around him. He swam through the passage that led to the ocean, but he heard splashing behind him and knew the guards pursued him. It was better to try to escape than to stay in Atlantis to become sushi. As much as he loved his home, until his father was off the throne, there’d be no welcome for him there.
* * *
Caprice stood on the deck of the Sea Princess. She’d saved up for two years to take this cruise with her best friends from college, Daniela and Melody. This was the fantasy vacation the three single working women had Skyped about every Thursday night for years, and it wasn’t disappointing. Melody handed Caprice another fruity drink. She didn’t know what its name was, but there was an umbrella and she felt a bit drunk, so it was all good. “Thanks, doll,” Caprice chirped as she took a sip out of the bendy straw. Sighing she tipped her head back and let the Caribbean sun warm her face.
“Damn, girl, you look so relaxed and refreshed. You were right, we needed this,” Daniela said as she came up behind her friend. “I wish we didn’t have to head home soon.”
“I think I could live like this forever. Hey! Look over there,” Caprice shouted as she pointed to where a pod of dolphins was frolicking in the waves. “I wish I were that free,” she sighed.
Melody laughed. “With your bad luck you’d be the first one to end up at Sea World, and then you wouldn’t be free anymore.”
Caprice turned around and rolled her eyes at Mel. She was lounging in a deck chair and wearing a big floppy hat she’d proudly bought for the trip. The white girl burned as red as a tomato with only a little sun, so it was probably as wise a choice as it was a ridiculous one. “I swear my luck is changing. Just because I’ve had a string of bad boyfriends, bad bosses, and bad landlords doesn’t mean I have bad luck,” Caprice insisted.
“Yeah, right. Tell me again about that time your car stalled and while you were fixing the tire the jack broke and the car ended up in that old man’s living room. Better yet, what about the last boyfriend? The one who decided he’d found God and joined the cult living naked in the desert. You have rotten luck, honey.”
Caprice stuck her tongue out and went back to watching the azure waves splash around the playful dolphins. Bad luck or not she was here, and so far, the trip was absolutely perfect. She took another sip of her drink and noticed the island up ahead. Their last sightseeing stop before the Sea Princess took them home.
She hated returning to the painful reality of her overworked and underpaid daily life. Caprice sighed and pushed the wild wind-blown black curls out of her face. She sucked down her drink and turned to go back to the cabin with her friends. They’d all promised to get laid, but so far, the only single men on the ship either didn’t speak English or were old enough to be their grandfathers. She liked older men, but the ones on this ship were old enough to remember the Civil War.
They grabbed their bags and began heading toward the exit. Triple checking that she had her camera, money, and ID, she grinned. Everything was in order and she slung her bag securely under her arm. So far, nothing had ruined the trip. She wasn’t about to take her good luck for granted. She’d talked a big game earlier, but Melody was completely right. Her luck sucked. The universe owed her one, and she was glad it had waited for the perfect time to give the bad luck hijinks a rest.