Fun and frolicking freebie for Surrendering to the Sea Lord

Fun Sweet Bonus Ending!

Here is the "happy ending to the happy ending" bonus epilogue for Surrendering to the Sea Lord, book five in the Lords of Atlantis series: "Milly's Queenly Life."

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This is exclusive to newsletter subscribers, so please do not share it. Also, you should really read Surrendering to the Sea Lord first. This story contains massive spoilers! It is a fun, steamy story of Milly and Uvim living as newlyweds in Dragao Azul -- and the unexpected shock that threatens everything!

Epilogue for Surrendering to the Sea Lord

"Milly's Queenly Life"

“You know what I think?”

Milly interrupted the arguing elders and honorable warriors in the king’s castle of undersea city Dragao Azul.

The arguments broke off — some unwillingly — and most floating males rotated in the middle of the courtyard to stare at her.

“What is your idea, my Milly?” her husband, Second Lieutenant Uvim, asked.

Although he spoke rarely, his words carried weight. The last of the arguers turned to listen.

She smiled with enthusiasm. “I think we should invite the Newas hunting party ‘invaders’ to our wedding feast.”

The elders’ jaws dropped in unison. The honorable warriors looked like they’d swallowed bitter lemons, even though she had yet to taste a mer food that even came close to the sour yellow citrus. The king’s wrinkled face smoothed to blank. After living among the mer for weeks, she now knew that expression was his way of being surprised.

Uvim listened intently. “Why?”

Her chest vibrated to convey her reason underwater. “Because—”

“Impossible!” One loud elder, Veno, burst out his protest. “We must run them off!”

Others shouted him down. “Honor requires we treat them with respect!”

“Drive them into the nearest trench.”

“Leave them alone.”

“They might wish to join our city. We could use more warriors!”

“Accepting them or fighting them will anger Newas. Leave them alone. We must not risk another war.”

“Why not risk a war? Our army has returned from the surface. We will drive them out.”

“Peaceful visitors receive hospitality!” One particularly hot elder reached for a deadly trident.

And then suddenly everyone swarmed the pile of weapons, armed themselves, and began slashing. Peace-keeping warriors darted between the warring elders, parrying and sparring to keep the weapons from severing any limbs.

Milly kicked her fins to get herself out of the way of an accidental slice.

Uvim shielded her. His broad back rippled as he wielded his trident in her defense.

“Augh! Stop this!” Zara raised her hands. White light burst from her fingers and formed a shield over the dwindled pile. The unarmed elders attacking it were pushed back. “No armed combat. There are children present.”

Her and Elan’s toddler, Zain, rooted around in the garden beneath their heated debate. The king watched him closely, a smear of mud on his royal cheek.

“This is a civil discussion,” Zara said. “You put the weapons in a pile and you leave them there.”

The elders and warriors disentangled and  glared at her for interrupting their fight.

“Weapons. Pile. Now.”

They obeyed, although one muttered at the fact that Uvim and First Lieutenant Elan did not add their weapons to the pile.

“There. Now.” She dropped her hands, removing the barrier. “My sister was telling you why she wants to invite a bunch of foreign warriors to her wedding feast.”

“Never!” Elder Veno attacked the weapons pile.

Zara threw up her hands. The barrier reformed. He bounced off.

Zara’s husband, Elan, wrested the elder back to the negotiation ring.

“Shut it, all of you,” she snapped, holding up one finger. “Milly. Go.”

“Three reasons.” Milly held up her own fingers and counted them down. “First, because it’s friendly. If they are a simple hunting party, then we’re treating them with the respect that you usually give to fellow hunters.”

The elder who’d made that argument nodded with righteous justification.

“Wedding feast meat is too much respect,” his neighbor muttered.

“No hunters linger for so long!” another shouted. “It is a trap. We cannot trust—”

“Second,” she vibrated louder to be heard over the boiling argument, “because if they’re refugees escaping Newas, then they’re probably starving, and so feeding them will entice them to join our city.”

The protests started. “We must protect our queens. We must—”

Zara made an all-too-human exasperated scream.

The fights stopped abruptly.

Milly smiled at her sister in thanks. “Third, if their intentions are not friendly, then they’ll know we have three powerful queens who are not afraid to defend our city.”

“We must protect—”

“Shhh.” Zara held her shimmering fingers to her lips, reminding everyone of the super powers queens alone possessed.

The elder lapsed silent.

“That’s my idea.” Milly clapped her hands gently under the force of the water. “Questions?”

The males all blinked, surprised, as if they did not realize Milly would offer them a time to debate or ask questions at the end.

“What if they are scouts for a larger force?” Elder Veno demanded. “Then they have lured us into a trap.”

“Then we’ll defeat the trap,” Milly replied.

They were struck. “Defeat the trap?”

“You, me, Zara. Dragao Azul’s army.”

“It is dangerous to underestimate your enemies,” he warned.

“Fair enough,” she agreed easily. “It’s just that you all defeated the All-Council army after it had already besieged and imprisoned most of you. Then, you only had Zara. Now Jen and I are healers. Zara and Sydney can shield or push others back. And Sydney’s made friends with the giant cave guardian who lives nearest to the Newas warriors’ current camp. Didn’t a giant cave guardian chase off a megalodon?”

“In battle.” Elan supported her. “I have seen this.”

“Surely a giant cave guardian will defend his territory from a megalodon,” elder Veno sniffed. “But attack at our command? Even if Queen Sydney commands, he is a wild beast, not a disciplined battalion.”

“My big black cave guardian, Clifford, saved everyone from a bomb in Horta.”

Now Clifford was a permanent resident. Ships gave her a wide berth and nobody anchored near her cave unless they wanted a curious, tentactular embrace.

She emerged regularly to accept tribute. The locals hailed her as their savior, and stalls were set up next to the marina to sell fish to tourists. She was growing into a fat, happy, and fully tentacled giant cave guardian. And, most importantly, she was no longer so lonely.

“We cannot rest our defense on an animal,” the one elder said.

“We won’t,” Milly interrupted, trying to stop the inevitable slide back into an argument. “Not unless the hunting party actually is a…”

 “We cannot rely on a cave guardian!”

“Respect your queen,” a warrior growled.

“The city must be guarded!”

Too late. The arguments had already started.

Zara caught Milly’s eye and shook her head.

But, the arguments had a new direction and new energy. Now, instead of arguing about what to do, they adopted Milly’s idea to approach the Newas hunting party with something and argued about what or how. By the time they’d determined who would go and who would stay, what weapons to wield, whether or not to brandish them, and the words in their first greeting, Zara had mediated too many times. Her patience snapped.

“We’re leaving now,” Zara finally said. “You can keep arguing. But the army is leaving.”

Elder Veno puffed up with importance. “Queen Zara, we have not resolved the issue of—”

“Then resolve it!”


“Augh!” She gripped her hair in her fists. “How did this city ever survive? You fight like children! Did your king shout himself hoarse? Because I feel like my chest is going to cave in!”

She turned and kicked hard for the entry and stormed out.

The males stared after her.

Then, they quickly hashed out their final concerns. Their words were more subdued; they tweaked their plan and moved to executed it.

If anything, after Zara left, they sounded somewhat sad.

Milly entwined her arms around Uvim. His embrace was filled with steady warmth and happiness. He kicked to the exit.

Outside, the Life Tree shimmered calming energy, tinkling and pure, over the bobbing city of glowing green bulbs.

Milly closed her eyes and soaked in the splendid calm. It felt like she was lying in the sunshine, floating on a raft in a pool, with nowhere to be and no responsibilities — the start of summer vacation, when the long days of freedom lasted forever.

Elan and Zara swam just ahead of them. He was trying to calm her sister.

“This is your democracy, Zara. We are trying at your request.”

“But there are so many fights. How did your king foster a productive discussion?”

“He did not.”


“Zara, before you, his words were law. An elder might present his opinion. At any time, the king would silence the elder and ask for a different opinion. Or he make his own ruling alone. The time before you was silent.”

“I could use with some silence,” she said dryly, wrapped her arms around Elan, and sagged tiredly. “This is too hard.”

“It is hard for us also.”

Hmm. Maybe they needed a “now it’s your turn” speaking stick. Or parliamentary procedure. Hadn’t Jen been a high school club president?

Jen and Sydney were taking their daily swim around periphery of the castles. They liked to get out together — they used to walk together around a mall and at a park.

The elders spilled out of the king’s castle and into the main square, still arguing.

Elder Veno, as usual, was loudest. “No, you must yield!”

Zara jolted.

Elan laid a calming hand on her back.

“We are not prepared to reign in a wild, multi-armed, giant cave guardian. If it turns against us then we will be the ones destroyed and scattered,” Elder Veno told his head-shaking adversaries.

Zara turned and fumed. “Will you all shut up?”

They stopped abruptly, stunned by her outburst.

“We’re not summoning a giant cave guardian unless it’s a last resort. For the last time!”

Elan tried to draw her back into his arms. “Zara—”

“I can’t take this any more!” She swam away in a huff.

Elan nodded respectfully to the elders and swam after his wife.

The elders closed in on themselves. Especially elder Veno. He scratched at an old scar just below his rib cage. It made his shoulders hunch in. Defensive.

Milly understood Zara’s frustration. If not for Zara policing the warriors, Milly would never have been able to share her idea.

But Zara was still their queen. And it hurt to be disciplined by a figure they respected.

Milly released Uvim and swam to the elders. “Elder Veno.”

He stiffened, clamping down his hurt as he forced himself to face her. “Queen Milly?”

“Thank you for asking difficult questions.”

His jaw dropped. “You thank me?”

“You’re our ‘devil’s advocate’ who asks the hard questions to make sure we’ve thought of everything. I know you’re only protecting our warriors. So, for caring deeply, thank you.”

He pulled in his abdomen, pushed back his shoulders, and puffed out his chest. “Yes, Queen Milly. You are welcome.”

Good. He no longer looked like he’d been kicked.

She nodded to the other elders as well and swam to Uvim.

Elder Veno turned to the other. “Our queens are leaving the city. We must dispatch our warriors.”

All harmonized and raced to execute their orders.

Uvim nuzzled her gently. “I also must gather my warriors.”

“I’ll meet you at the edge of the city.”

He hesitated.

“Yes?” she prompted.

Since his speech introducing the mer — and accidentally convincing hundreds of humans to work together to free their harbor of deadly dynamite — he did not often hold back his thoughts. The fears that had once forced him silent had been excised.

But now, he was simply trying to phrase his thoughts carefully. “You understand many things without anyone having to explain.”

She grinned. “I’m sure it’s because I have a patient, thoughtful husband who’ll reward me when I take the time to listen.”

His smile softened. Love shone in his intense amethyst-threaded green eyes. “Again. You understand much.”

“I can’t wait for you to reward me later.”

He treated her with a sweet, solemn kiss.

Then, he left her to gather his warriors.

She kicked through the city, her long fins fluttering behind her like a wedding veil.

It was awesome living in this undersea world. The castles floated like giant balloons above a living “jungle” of coral below. All fed on the Life Tree’s radiant energy.

Tons of fish darted all around. Mostly pelagics, but because of the coral, a large volume that would normally live up in shallow, warm coastal regions.

Warriors kept away any dangerous predators. Larger fish, even ones that wouldn’t be dangerous, could cause accidental damage by their size.

This was her life now. This was her town, her roads, her neighbors.

People listened to her ideas. They nodded in respect.

The Azores had been her home. But here was her family.

Overall it was pretty rocking.

Zara and Elan waited at the edge of the city. They were joined by Jen and Sydney, city girls from Boston who were consistently cheerful about their surprise change of circumstance.

“Road trip!” Sydney said. “I call shotgun.”

Zara treated her to raised brows. “Shotgun?”

The warriors were confused.

“We do not have that human weapon here,” Sydney’s brawny husband Xalu said. “And it would not operate effectively in a combat situation.”

She laughed and tackled him in a hug. “Have I told you lately that you’re my favorite?”

He accepted her snuggly kisses. “Favorite what?”


“No, you have not told me this.”

She grinned. “I better get started. Right, Jen?”

Jen didn’t reply because she was tightly pressed to Dosan. Kissing was really the only way to silence the otherwise sarcastic, opinionated sapphire warrior.

Uvim told her that the city had been much lightened since she, Jen, and Sydney had come. The city was more protected and hopeful since Zara had thrown off the tyrannical rule of the traditionalist All-Council, but everyday living was now more light-hearted. He saw more smiles between warriors, heard more laughter in the castles, and the elders had started to tell happier stories in addition to the depressing cautionary tales of losses and defeats.

That was why the city’s treatment of the Newas hunting party was so important.

The small band camped on the very edge of Dragao Azul territory — but they were clearly inside the boundary. Uvim had assured her no warrior mistook the boundaries of another city.

Having encroached, what was their plan? They had not sent any peaceful warrior to talk. And they had shied away from meeting any individuals.

Did they intend violence? Or did they have another intention?

Now, they would find out.

The army set out. Along the way, Xalu and Sydney veered off with a small contingent of protective warriors on their own secret mission.

The rest continued directly toward the mysterious hunting party.

The farther Milly traveled from the Life Tree, the more barren the ocean became. Little life was possible at these extreme depths. Cold tension in the water made it harder to move through and gave the water a “wooly” texture.

Darkness did not bother her. Light or dark, she saw almost an infinite distance. Down here, the infinite distance had less life, and therefore less music, than on the surface, housing one big concerto of singing fish and ocean life.

The small hunting party emerged with tridents long before they got anywhere near close enough to do anything. The band of warriors also saw their army.

The hunting party gathered together.

“Not violent,” Uvim told Milly, kicking together with her while his warriors came behind him. “They are cautious. They are not looking for other warriors. Perhaps they truly are a hunting party.”

“We’ll find out.”

They flew to the barren rise housing the foreign warriors.

They camped at the edge of a long, deep crevasse marked with symbols.

Keep off Dragao Azul’s lawn, probably.

The hunting party huddled as Dragao Azul’s army spread across the hilly, barren plain. Uvim, Dosan, Elan, and their three queens swam forward to parlay.

The hunting party sent one warrior forward, but he only kicked a few strokes.

Uvim tensed. “Reticence to leave the party could indicate a trap.”

“Or he could be terrified,” she murmured.

Zara kicked forward, completely unafraid. “Hey. You’re camping on Dragao Azul territory. Why?”

The hunting party and their designated speaker all stared at her like she’d sprouted two heads.

Then, they looked past her to a familiar face.

The Newas speaker focused on Elan, floating behind Zara with a deadly trident. “You are the First Lieutenant?”

He briefly inclined his head and jerked his chin in his wife’s direction. “My queen asked you a question.”

“But you are First Lieutenant.”

He shrugged. However the conversation was supposed to go, he didn’t care and he wasn’t going to make things normal or easy on the invaders.

The Newas speaker looked behind him at the other four warriors from his city. He faced Zara finally and swallowed. “You are a … a queen?”

“That’s what they tell me.”

He squinted at Milly and Jen.

Milly released Uvim and turned to face the warrior. Jen disentangled from Dosan and did the same.

The Newas speaker blinked, frowned, and stared harder.

For the first time since she’d stuffed her clothes in a cave in Horta harbor, Milly moved to cover her nipples and thatch. For the first time since she’d shifted to mer, she was conscious of being naked.

Utterly naked.

Everybody was.

Tattoos swirled all over the warriors’ nude bodies, even around their cocks swinging, loose and relaxed, in the currents.

It was funny that she’d barely noticed. It wasn’t like skinny dipping in a giant nudist colony. She’d never averted her eyes — until now, when a foreign warrior made her suddenly conscious of her state.

Being naked didn’t have the same meaning as it did on the shore. Like, when one culture found  bare wrists seductive, but nobody else notice or cared when they wore short sleeves. It was like that times a thousand. She didn’t have to remind herself not to look at all the cocks, butts, or even bare pectorals. She didn’t see them at all.

Huh. She didn’t realize her vision was blurred except at a time like right now, when another warrior was obviously trying to identify her sex. He couldn’t tell unless he squinted.


“Three queens,” the Newas speaker breathed. Which was impressive since he was immersed in water and vibrating words in his chest cavity, not actually speaking.

“Four, actually.” Zara pointed.

In the far distance, the horrible screech of a hundred cars braked in unison.

The noise surely originated from the blue tentacles mass of the giant cave guardian.

The hunting party hunched in.

Dragao Azul’s warriors fiddled restlessly.

Uvim rumbled. “Steady.”

His warriors resumed formation.

The midnight blue giant cave guardian approached.

Sydney and Xalu led the way.

“Hi!” She greeted the army cheerily. “Am I late?”

“Right on time,” Jen said.

“Great! Let me introduce you to my very special friend. Captain Morgan!”

The huge blue octopus waved his tentacles. He seemed to be younger and perhaps less controlled than either Milly’s good friend Clifford or the giant cave guardian Jen had befriended on the other end of Dragao Azul’s territory, a sweet female named Bubbles.

Captain Morgan zoomed over the army, zigging and zagging erratically.

The warriors flattened, tridents raised like defensive spikes.

Captain Morgan disappeared over the cliff. A short time later they heard a bellow.

“What was that?” she gasped.

“A sperm whale,” Uvim said quietly.

The Newas warriors clung to each other in terror.

“Oh well, Captain Morgan had to run.” Sydney shrugged and laughed. “I guess if we need him, I’ll just call him back.”

Their speaker shuddered from the mass. “You are friends with a giant cave guardian?”

“He’s my friend. Milly and Jen have theirs.” She turned to Zara. “We really have to find you one.”

“I don’t have time to cultivate a relationship with a large octopode.”

“But they’re so sweet.”

“I’ve got Zain, the lost brides, and my other projects. Which brings us to today’s waste of time.” Zara faced the stunned hunting party “Why are you here?”

The spokesperson’s lips flapped.

Another warrior — younger and braver, maybe — broke from the group and pushed the spokesperson forward like a shield. He spoke from behind. “We are hunting.”

“The ocean is large. Fish are everywhere.”

“We…” He looked wildly at the helpless warriors behind him. “There is a migration … a very important migration of fish … from our history…”

“And you chased that important fish from your history out of your territory, across half the ocean, and into Dragao Azul’s territory weeks ago.”

The warriors looked at each other. Zara clearly wasn’t buying their story but clearly it was all they had.

“Yes,” the bravest one declared. While hiding behind the struck-dumb speaker.

Zara looked at Elan.

He did not give her any signal about what to do.

She looked at Milly.

Time for the next phase of their plan.

“Well, you are a long way from your territory and it seems you were unsuccessful at catching your fish,” Milly said.

The Newas warriors didn’t respond to that observation.

“Maybe we can help? Uvim.”

Uvim ordered his warriors forward. Two swam toward the Newas warriors carrying a box.

The Newas warriors braced.

Milly spread her arms in welcome. “Please enjoy the leftovers of our triple wedding feast.”

Uvim’s warriors deposited the travel crate in front of the hunting party.

Giving away food was not the mer way. They had all faced starvation. The thought of giving away their most precious wedding celebration meat — aged to perfection, flavored like the richest steak with buttery mushrooms and thick slices of shiitake all rolled into one food that set her mouth water in memory — had nearly caused the elders to throw the one who had suggested it through a wall.

But Milly liked this tweak to her idea. And the king had liked it very much too. His approval had finally convinced them.

Their generosity flaunted their wealth and stability.

Dragao Azul had thrown off the All-Council  and they were not starving. They were not plunged into chaos, turned into savages, vulnerable to any warring city hungry for conquest.

No, they thrived so fully they could give away celebration meat to a simple, ragged hunting party .

“Even if you do give away the last of the meat,” Milly had said, “you’ll just go out and hunt more now. Won’t you? We’ll help.”

And it had struck the warriors that for the first time in many years — half a generation or longer —  they actually could leave the city with only the queens for protection and conduct a proper hunt. Or some queens could replace warriors, giving them additional strength, while others remained behind, giving them protection. Anything was possible.

Their city was stronger. Their lives were better. And they could be so generous as to give away a partially-eaten crates of celebration meat.

The Dragao Azul warriors deposited the crate and returned to their controlled positions in Uvim’s army.

The hunting party didn’t trust her gift. The others held back while one crept forward and cautiously opened it. His mouth widened and his shoulders sagged. His eyes blinked.

The others hissed at him to say what was inside.

He blinked as if the chest were full of gold bars and diamonds. Like he’d never seen such wealth in his life and he was frightened to touch it.

The others finally couldn’t control their curiosity, crept up beside him and looked. Their reactions mirrored his. Complete, unguarded amazement.

“It’s delicious,” Milly said.

They stared at the box like they couldn’t look away. Like, if they looked away, it would disappear.

“And it’s certainly enough to see you all back to Newas,” Zara said pointedly. “Why don’t you set off? Right now.”

Her tone snapped them out of their shock. The Newas hunting party carefully gathered up the crate and their camp, watching their backs and their fronts and above and below as though expecting a surprise attack. They eased toward the cliff, dragging their weapons and woven seaweed and tools. They obeyed Zara’s suggestion and broke camp.

“Manners,” Elan said mildly, reminding them like he would any young trainee to consider their positions.

“Thank you,” one of the hunting party called out.

A chorus of thanks followed. They backed off swiftly. Leaving, Milly thought, to eat their food out of sight, where they’d know they were safe.

So, they were a hunting party, apparently. Not a war party after all. Or were they? She coudln’t tell.

Everyone else remained on guard, but a new, cautious hope energized the defenders.

“Let’s go home and have some,” Sydney suggested, surprising the warriors nearby.

“You can’t have special treats every day,” Jen chided her gently.

“We don’t run off invaders every day, either.” Sydney suddenly turned to Xalu. “Do we?”

He pulled her into his arms. “No. We do not.”

“Then it clearly calls for a celebration.”

The other warriors seemed very cheerful about it. Now, knowing they could hunt any time, they had more an urge to enjoy their special flavors.

Elan signaled to retreat.

Uvim and Dosan ordered their warriors to reform and return to the city as an organized patrol.

“Did you figure it out?” Milly asked Uvim. “Were they a real hunting party?”

“Unlikely,” he said. “Clearly they were waiting to meet with us and speak. But why? They did not say much of substance.”

“Maybe they were curious to see Zara.”

“Queen Zara? Why?”

“Maybe they just wanted to see a queen.”

His brows lifted. “Yes, this is very possible.”

Other cities must be interested in emergence of queens but traveling to Atlantis — the focus of the rebellion — risked a death sentence. And any cities loyal to the All-Council had to pretend the mer were still living secretly beneath the waves, not wooing modern women. So couldn’t come right out and ask.

If the young Newas warriors had wanted to see queens, she was glad to have given them a chance. And, to show off how organized and strong the city was, and to advertise that they were friends with a terrifying giant cave guardian, and—

Her guts clenched.

It felt like she’d been punched. Shot. Stabbed.

She bent over. “Ungh.”


Her cramp lasted forever. A hundred times worse than when she was on her period. She tasted  sour poison in the back of her mouth.

“Milly!” Uvim held her face. Panic filled his. “What is happening.”

The horrible pain abated. “Did I get shot?”

“There are no wounds.” He sounded frantic.

Another cramp twisted her intestines. “Oh, god!”

Faces appeared around her. Zara, grim. Jen and Sydney, worried. And Uvim, terrified.

“Can you heal yourself?” Zara asked. “You have that power.”

Milly put her hands on her abdomen. “Feel better and … ungh.”

“Return to the Life Tree at once,” Elan ordered.

Uvim held her tightly. His touch seemed to help. They rushed to the city.

Hundreds of thoughts went through her head between the brain-numbing waves of pain during that desperate flight. Nausea. Was she poisoned? Food poisoning? Was someone trying to assassinate her? Movie plots lodged disturbingly in her mind.

And then a devil stabbed her full-force with a red hot trident. And twisted.

She gagged to throw up.

“Milly.” Uvim stroked her hair. His hand trembled. “Be well. Please. Be well.”

She closed her eyes and surrendered to his care.

When she opened her eyes again, they’d reached the city and Uvim laid her on the mounds of Sea Opals at the base of the healing Life Tree.

Her back rested against its trunk. She braced for the next horrible cramp.

Zara debated her options with the other women.

“Should we rush her to the surface?” Jen asked. “Ian’s wife is a doctor.”

“Look at how pale she is.” Sydney shook her head. “A medical evacuation will take too much time.”

Uvim knelt at Milly’s side and took her hands. “Elan brings our doctor.”

 “A warrior doctor?” Zara looked skeptical. “No offense, but you guys are more like witch doctors.”

Milly laughed at Zara. “You know we have magical ‘queen’ powers now because this is a magical tree.”

Zara frowned at her. “Don’t talk. Save your strength. You don’t look well.”

Fine. She did feel a little better though. Not moving and resting against the tree helped.

“Please, Milly.” Uvim rested his forehead against hers. “I cannot … without you…”

She tried to reassure him. “It’s going to be fine.”

Elan pushed through with an ancient elder she’d frequently seen hovering near the king. He made the others move back — except Uvim, who he instructed to remain close as close to Milly as possible.

“She is a queen but she is also a bride,” the elderly doctor wheezed. “She draws strength from the light in your soul. Ahhh. Queen Milly, does this hurt?”

He poked her hard in the gut.

Uvim tensed.

But it didn’t hurt. “No.”



“Up here? Here? Behind here?”

“Nope. No. Not at all.”

The elder studied her. “This pain is where?”

“It was like a stabbing pain all around here.” She pointed. “And it just kind of went away.”

He looked to Uvim and back to her. “You have consummated your marriage?”

“Uh…” Well that was a bit awkward to answer with everyone around her staring.

“Yes,” Uvim said without hesitation. “Many times. Explosive pleasure. Five per session, at least.”

The women were surprised.

Explosive pleasure,” Sydney murmured to Jen and nudged her with an elbow. Jen pushed her away with a snort.

Even Zara, now that the emergency didn’t seem immediately life-threatening, cracked a slight smile.

“This sensation is common,” the doctor told her. “Not usually so strong. You have a powerful abdomen. A hard clench.”

“Thanks?” She had no idea what he was saying. “Er, what’s common?”

“The pain.” He laid a gentle hand across her belly-button. “When the young fry seed plants the root.”

Young fry seed? Root?

Uvim leaned back on his heels. Stunned.

“You will be fine,” the elder told Uvim, as though he needed more comfort now than Milly. “A powerful abdomen is good. She will be a strong mother to grow your young fry.”

“Wait. That’s it?” Milly rested her hand across her flat-ish belly. “I’m pregnant?”

He nodded and kicked away, leaving them in their own happy — or stunned — cloud.

“If this is implantation, good luck with morning sickness,” Zara said dryly, but she was clearly relieved.

Well, heck, if Milly wasn’t going to die … She gripped Uvim’s shoulder. “It’s going to be fine. Ha! Crazy.”

He didn’t seem to fully understand. He just stared at her, neither happy nor sad.

Whatever. He had nine months to get it. And he’d always wanted a young fry, so when the news finally sank in, she was expecting a seriously happy man.

She gripped his shoulder. “Help me up.”

He lifted her above the dais — and then he held her so tight she couldn’t breathe.

His shoulders trembled.


She stroked his bulging shoulders. No wonder he was a wreck. Her stoic warrior had gone from not knowing what might be wrong — only that she hurt bad enough to die — to becoming a father in an instant. It took time to adjust.

He’d adjust better in the comfort of his castle.

She turned to kick him through the city.

Warriors parted to let her through … and then she realized that the whole city had gathered around the Life Tree. They were surrounded by worried warriors.

“Do you require this ‘medical evacuation’?” Elder Veno asked, and he looked ready to steamroll anyone who stood in the way.

“No.” She waved off his concern. “Thanks.”

They all looked deadly serious. It was kind of sweet. Really.

And also now it was kind of awkward.

“Um, you don’t need to worry. Sorry. I’m fine.”

They didn’t look reassured.

She tried again. “It was all a misunderstanding. Uh…”

Jen whispered something to Dosan.

He broke into a huge smile and threw out his arms. “Queen Milly carries Second Lieutenant Uvim’s young fry!”

Everyone cheered.

Elder Veno’s frown turned into relief. He spoke with his closest elders. All looked happy.

Dosan practically yanked Uvim off of Milly and hauled him out into the crowd. The warriors crowded him with congratulations. They were truly thrilled. They loved Zara’s baby Zain and were thrilled to have another coming baby to join their city.

“Now we’ve got to have that delicious steak.” Sydney licked her lips and glanced at Milly, then laughed and threw an arm around her shoulders. “Cheer up. Now you don’t have to send baby announcements.”

“Ha ha.”

Milly wanted to die of embarrassment, but she was happy for the second feast in what felt like two days — although Zara assured her time underwater passed differently. Elan tracked days to ensure they would attend their parents’ trial. Zara and Milly were united in their plan and to make sure their dangerous parents never got out.

And now they had an appointment to attend Ty’s trial also.

The Sons of Hercules — whoever they were — was a well-funded organization. Ty had been recruited by email and had started a local club of bitter, violent men. He’d received money, tools, and contacts to construct his bomb. But from who?

The Sea Festival bombing was supposed to have been their big “we exist” announcement to the world. Thank goodness their plot had failed. Even more, it had turned around and become a shining happy example of how mer and humans could work together to conquer impossible odds instead.

Still, reports of violence against mer persisted. Fish traps near the undersea city of Sireno off the coast of Mexico. No one had been killed there, either, but not for lack of trying.

Uvim remained close to Milly throughout their second feast. This time, the feast was held in their family’s castle courtyard.  She laughed and chatted and enjoyed herself.

Finally, as the feast wore to a close, Dosan swam to them. “It is time. Uvim?”

“Time?” Milly turned to her husband. “Time for what?”

Uvim flattened his lips like he didn’t know to answer.

Dosan’s brows rose. “You have not told her?”

The other warriors trailed out of his castle. They, like Uvim, did not look happy.

Unease filled her previously cheery belly. Her voice reflected the edge. “Told me what?”

Uvim looked troubled. “They want to perform a New Father Ceremony.”

New Father Ceremony? That sounded fascinating. She wanted to learn everything she could about her new home, and even more so now that she was bringing a son into it.

“Can I come?”


Shot down. She rubbed her chest. “Oh. Right. You guys probably want to celebrate with guy things, and—”

“Celebrate? No. It is a ceremony for sorrow.”


“Much sadness. We gather in the King’s courtyard, pass a vessel filled with the bitterest draught, and reminisce of the brides we have lost, the mothers we have never known. We give voice to our pain.”

Wait. “The New Father Ceremony is where a bunch of guys sit around, drink the equivalent of beer, and cry?”

“You are confused.”

“That’s not what I was expecting. I mean, sure, some guys probably would cry when they found out they were about to become fathers. But the mer want kids so badly.”

He seemed surprised to have to explain. “The announcement of the growing young fry meant a warriors time with his bride was now drawing to an end.”

Oh. Right. Because in the old days, they had to return their brides to the surface after the kid popped out.

“Now it’s just the beginning.” She linked their fingers with her promise.

“Yes.” He stared at their smooth, non-pruney, linked fingers and seemed to sigh. “I will go. I will grieve as I always have until now — for my mother, for my grandmother, for the elders who all lost their brides. And then I will return to you.”

And he’d clearly be grateful that, unlike his father and grandfather and everybody, he’d get to remain with her, together, forever.

Matching sadness for his losses filled her throat. She forced a swallow. “Your life was so hard before.”

His brows unfurrowed. “It is now better, Milly. You and the other brides have made it beautiful. Loving. More living than pure survival.”

That was so sweet. She kissed him.

Heat crackled. His tongue pumped into her and his cock hardened against her thigh. She shivered in his powerful embrace.

And then she let him go.

Uvim kicked to the exit. He paused, nodded to her, and then disappeared.

Sadness. Such sadness had once lived in these walls. Milly hoped she could turn this castle and this city into a new places of much more happiness.

Sydney settled in front of her with half a box of that addictive, delicious meat. It was like smoky like ribs and dense like chocolate — savory chocolate — so Milly wasn’t even that sad the mer didn’t have it. Mostly.

While Uvim went off to go have a cry-fest with the guys, she decided they should do something awesome as a girl-fest.

“We should have a girl’s night,” she said.

Sydney lifted her fists like she’d won. “Oh, I want to drink a margarita so bad! It’s been months. I’d rent a machine. I’d make you a strawberry peach passionfruit coconut margarita that would wreck you for all other margaritas.”

She’d said that before her Xalu her life had been such a rut that all she’d done was go to work, come home, and drink. Being sober in the ocean was the first time in a decade she’d felt alive. Down here was no alcohol and she did miss it. That’s why her giant cave guardian was named Captain Morgan. The pet octopus of Xalu’s castle she’d named Jack.

“It would be my first margarita,” Milly said. “I’m barely legal, you know.”

“You are too young to have a baby!”

She snorted. “Twenty-one is not young.”

“Oh, you are so young! You don’t know the pain of watching your youth, your desirability, and your life’s opportunities drain away. “

“I watched plenty of things drain away.”

“Do not make me throttle you! Oh. Haha! I keep expecting Xalu to pop out and say, ‘Sid-nee, do not threaten to injure another queen.’”

“Ha! That’s exactly how he’d say it, too!”

In the end, they enjoyed a sleep-over at Milly’s castle, snacking and talking and laughing.

After awhile, it seemed the time when the guys would return. On the surface she rarely paid attention when time ‘seemed’ like it had come, but on the bottom of the ocean without any clocks, her slight inkling was as accurate as an alarm.

Without her saying anything, the others also began stretching and talking about how much fun they’d all had.

“I didn’t even miss Sex in the City playing in the background,” Jen said.

“Or Friends reruns,” Sydney agreed.

“I’ve never seen either of those shows.” Milly looked at Zara. “You?”

Zara shook her head.

“Oh my god! Were you raised in a convent?”

“Not exactly. But this is my first sleepover.”

“Me too,” Zara confirmed. “I lived away at college but it was hard to make friends.”

“Oh, you two are so adorable! How was it? Your first sleepover.”

“Super fun.”

“We’ll do it again when Jen’s pregnant.”

“Hey! You could be first.”

“And we’ll do it right. On the surface we’ll have mountains of potato chips, Sex in the City reruns, we’ll do facials and nail polish, and I’ll rent the margarita machine.”

“But if we’re all pregnant, you’ll be the only one who could drink,” Jen pointed out.

“It will be super fun,” Sydney declared, ignoring her. “Just like today.”

Milly laughed. Grateful for the women, for Zara, for their party. She’d had fun.

As she’d predicted, Uvim flew over the courtyard. The other women kicked for the exit, passing with friendly farewells.

Something was wrong.

Uvim hung back. A harsh expression tortured her features. He was struggling very hard with a difficult emotion.

She opened her arms.

He dove into them.

Here she had celebrated her last child-free days with her sister and new friends. Uvim had meditated on all the losses, goodbyes, and the holes in this heart. She couldn’t see the mer soul light, but he hurt with great pain.

She stroked his broad shoulders. “I’m glad you’re home.”

He trembled.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

He nodded.

“Where are your father and grandfather?”

“They are touring the outer territory.”

How thoughtful.

“Let’s celebrate we’re together.” She kicked, swimming Uvim to the favorite passageway.

Inside the curving passage, he took over, carrying her to the heart chamber with his powerful strokes. They both placed their hands on the wall. The portal opened, allowing only them inside, and sealed once more. They floated inside the tiny chamber in the innermost heart of his castle.

His kisses fell upon her mouth. Desperate, hungry, and with an edge of terror. He had soaked in sadness for hours. Only two years ago, the tyrannical All-Council still ruled their city, and he would have been forced to lose Milly. And he had nearly lost her too many times already. Their time together was precious.

He would never let her go.

And yet, just now, she had fallen so sick. Unexpectedly. There had been no chance to prepare, no time to steel himself. Thank goodness her cramps had turned out to be positive. But his fear remained. He had feared her loss.

His desperate, thorough kisses said he would take a long time to get over today’s visceral fear.

She kissed him back because he was right. There were no guarantees in life. They had to love each other. Now, hard, and with all their hearts.

His cock hardened, tracing a line of desire across her bare thigh.

She kissed down his rippling abdomen to the thicket of dark hair. Milly wrapped her fingers around his taut member. He rumbled his pleasure and thrust. His cock slid through her wet grip.

Milly teased the hard tip with feathery kisses and then sucked him into her mouth and rolled him with her tongue. Her feminine channel ached for his possession.

He slipped two fingers between her slick sex lips and eased the ache.

But that only awakened a new, needier hunger. She released his cock. “Will you?”

His eyes glowed on her with worship. “Yes.”

She lifted her hands.

He drew her up, into his arms, and positioned his cock at the entrance to her channel.

She canted her hips to take him in.

His thick head teased her rim, bobbing in and out.

Her channel throbbed. “Uvim.”

He plunged in. Yes. He gave her exactly what she craved and she yielded to his mastery.

His cock massaged her inner channel, his hard abdomen ground into her pleasurable bud, and his cock stretched her with delicious fullness. Pleasure tingled in her core as the orgasm took hold.

He rubbed her sensitive breasts. She flew over the edge and exploded with pleasure.

Uvim released his seed with a groan.

She shuddered and hugged him tight.

He relaxed

They’d been together long enough that he knew when she wanted to keep going through multiple orgasms and when she wanted to pause and savor the beauty of the one she’d just experienced.

They lay entwined. He stroked her belly gently, tracing her belly button, as the dregs of passion drained to a sweet satisfaction.

“A young fry will change our lives,” he told her. “But one thing will not change.”

“What’s that?”

“You are my queen.”

She touched her forehead to his in silent thanks.

Many things would change when they became parents. But, he was telling her that this was her place. He was her place. Whether on the surface or beneath the water. He was everything she needed.

“You’re going to be a wonderful father,” she told him.

He lifted his head to look her in the eye. “How do you know this?”


She snuggled the male who had once been forced silent, unable to express himself. His past self could never speak his heart. His past self could never have asked such a question.

Much had changed.


She nuzzled him with love. “You know exactly the right thing to say.”

Starla Night

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