Super sweet freebie for Enslaved by the Sea Lord

"Aya's Perfect Halloween"

Here is the spooky bonus epilogue to book three, Enslaved by the Sea Lord, in the Lords of Atlantis series: "Aya's Perfect Halloween."

Chronologically, it takes place two years after Aya and Soren find their happy ending in Enslaved by the Sea Lord. This means it occurs after the events of Surrendering to the Sea Lord but you do not have to read that far to enjoy this scene!

You really should read the full novel Enslaved by the Sea Lord first. It's **FREE** with Kindle Unlimited. It is available here:

mobi: Kindle download

epub: epub download

Can't read either format? No worries. I've reproduced the whole text below!

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and I was thrilled to discover perfectionist Aya feels the same way. But a new threat endangers her happily-ever-after. It will take all of devilish Soren’s devotion to save their love — and heat Aya’s dangerously frozen heart.


"Aya's Perfect Halloween"

Aya’s nerves frayed.

She knotted her gloved hands in her lap as her driver conveyed her down the mile-long driveway of the colonial estate.

Soren's commentary behind her didn't help.

"This shirt is torn." He rubbed the hem of the nerdy striped shirt between his powerful fingers. His biceps bulged, causing the ripped sleeves to crack further. "Is this appropriate attire for an important party?"

“Yes.” She smoothed her bulging Marie Antoinette gown across the middle bench seats. Early afternoon sun made the French silk gleam. “It’s appropriate for a Halloween costume ball.”

“And I do not wear glasses.” He fingered the empty frames and left a smear of green paint.

She twisted behind her, straining in the corset, and wiped the smear with her tissue. Preparation was the number one weapon of the triumphant. “It’s part of the costume.”

“Why do I need this costume?” He lifted his foot, which he had removed from the loafers she had searched three upscale New York shoe shops to find, and flexed. His foot elongated into a fin. “Mermen are monsters. Monsters are popular on this human holiday. I could wear no ‘costume’ on Halloween.”

“The mer ‘costume’ is nude.”

He lowered his foot, irritated. “The host did not mind.”

Aya’s frayed patience snapped. “You may not be naked in front of senators. This is a very important opportunity for us to socialize outside Washington DC. These guests could grant mermen ‘foreign national’ or ‘citizenship’ privileges. The last thing we need is to give any hint our rivals are right, that mermen are ‘half animals without souls.’”

“This ‘Hulk’ is a monster.”

“You are Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk.” She was proud of her quick work. They’d received the invitation less than twenty-four hours ago and most costumes in upstate were already rented. “Our guests would likely extend legal privileges to a comic book character who transforms. You’re the same.”

“Less green,” he grumbled.

Soren could portray the full superhero. In the more than two years since she’d laid eyes on his broad shoulders and tapered waist and dangerous black tattoos, he’d fulfilled her every fantasy. But Aya had wanted to put Soren in even more clothing.

This party made her nervous.

“Anyway,” Aya finished as they pulled up to park in front of the palatial manor, “a proper Halloween costume is being dressed as something you’re not.”

Their driver exited and walked around to open the side doors.

Soren clicked his belt putting his rumbling voice too near her ear. “You dress as a queen.”

“A human queen.”

“What is the difference?”

“No super powers. Varying importance throughout history.” She pushed out of the car, landing on her French heels, and smoothed her voluminous robes once more. “And, sometimes, deep tragedy.”

October wind shook her skirts. Around the colonial brick, the ancient oak trees rustled golden brown and red leaves. The air was crisp and cool.

Soren loomed beside her.

Aya was not a small woman except in the assets department — although her inability to fit into her usual size six clothing meant her underwater seaweed diet hadn’t been slimming. Even with her tall gray wig, Soren towered over her, broader and more powerful. His dangerous black tattoos hid beneath the green paint. He was her delicious Maori warrior, and she was gladder to have him beside her than anyone else.

Although now she wanted to wrestle him to the cool pebbles of the senators’ manor.

“Tragedy?” Soren glanced sideways down at her. “Then I am glad this ‘human queen’ is only a costume. For us, there will be no tragedy.”

“You can’t promise that.”

“I can. Our hearts beat in harmony. With you, I feel only happiness.”

Her heart swelled around the small band that kept her emotions in check. She swallowed hard so as not to cry.

Soren reached for her, to give her the hug he must sense she wanted.

She gasped and stepped away. “This dress is rented!”

He curled his great green-painted hands into fists.

Once, he might have been hurt by her rejection, but now, he knew her too well. His dark eyes gleamed with devilish warning. “Finish this party quickly or it will be covered in green paint.”

The heat of his growl sent little shivers up her spine in anticipation. In sync, they climbed the steps into the colonial mansion.

And her heart eased with his smile. He was exhausted too. They had been on the move since she had embraced her queen powers and they had saved Atlantis.

First, she had represented Atlantis before the hide-bound, traditionalist All-Council. Those crusty mermen had been officious and rude, dismissed her as an outsider, tried to speak only to Soren, and refused to acknowledge how they had betrayed their own rules. Basically, they had been finny versions of the old money capitalists who’d dismissed her “startup” cosmetics company because it was only three generations old.

She’d shut down the All-Council the same way she’d shut down her other detractors: With credible threats. If the All-Council ever tried to destroy Atlantis again, then the queens would not stay in Atlantis. They would conquer the whole ocean.

The All-Council elders expected Soren to rein her in. But he did not. Her abilities did not intimidate him. He puffed, proud, as she wrung out every promise.

After the All-Council, she and Soren had gone to the surface to prosecute Aya’s mother. Cousin Elyssa had started the court proceedings. Aya had given her deposition to the prosecutors — and had been disowned for her trouble.

This had stabbed her through the heart because she had always craved her mother's approval. Now, her mother would spend the rest of her life in jail and blamed Aya.

Aya was motherless.

Just like the warriors of Atlantis. Like Soren. And all the others before now.

Despite the fact that Aya was old enough to be a mother herself, knowing she was an orphan was hard.

And then after facing her mother, Aya and Soren had spoken before the United States Congress, the UN. and multiple governments. But the legal status of mermen was still in limbo.

Then, she and Soren had dived back to Atlantis for the birth of Elyssa's baby, a mischievous young fry named Kael.

“The first prince of Atlantis,” Aya had said, shocking the heck out of Elyssa’s husband King Kadir. It had been so long since anyone, even a king, had had more than one young fry. Imagining a bountiful family brought tears to his eyes.

And now she and Soren had surfaced again. As the  director of the newly incorporated Mer-Human Foundation, Aya managed everything related to the warriors:

They’d attended the grand opening of MerMatch, the new online mer-human dating site run by Lucy’s great friend Mel.

Atlantis healer Balim had exchanged knowledge with the local physicians’ association about the Life Tree and its super healing Sea Opals.

Queen Zara had published extensive research about the former sacred brides of rebel city Dragao Azul and was now facilitating a support group.

Human allies had formed to track the terrorist organization Sons of Hercules.

Construction companies bid to build and connect a surface platform to the ruins of ancient Atlantis.

And Aya was lobbying once more in front of Congress to get legal protections for mermen, end the hate speech of the Sons of Hercules, and pave the way for greater harmony.

They just had time to squeeze in this Halloween party before flying to The Hague to address, once more, the UN.

It was exhausting. Aya could not rest for an instant.

And this party would not be restful for a new, aggravating reason.

Doormen in old English livery opened the doors.

She and Soren strolled down the long hall decorated with fall pumpkins, spooky ghosts, dried corn stalks, and scarecrows. The buzz of music and laughter grew as they approached the stately ballroom.

Her dread grew.

Soren stopped her at the doorway. “Your soul light is unsteady.”

Aya silently berated herself, straightened, and tightened her Pilates-strong abdomen. This was too important to pass up just because of a personality conflict. “I will talk to the senators. You be yourself.”

He studied her for a long, tantalizing moment and nodded his understanding. He would watch her like he always did. Protectively, from a distance, and prepared for action.

They entered the party. Old money, new money, ball gowns twice as round as Aya’s, and outfits that were little more than string and body paint filled the giant hall. A jazzy band played cheerful, spooky tunes and fake cobwebbing with black and orange streamers adorned the gilt windows and marble columns.

Aya beelined for her targets: senators, legislators, and friendly business people. She socialized, made her pitches, and seemed to hit a brick wall. These guests were absolutely not interested in the mer.

“Honey,” one old boy senator sloshed his cocktail tumbler as he interrupted her conversation, “you know why I can’t give you my vote. Your boy’s only half human.”

She did not smile. “But if they were voting in your district, then—”

“Now, now, you all. Let’s not talk about politics here.” The host, an elder senator in a different district, swooped on her and edged out the intoxicated peer. He took Aya under his arm and turned her to the floor-to-ceiling windows. “Awful kind of you to come. Look at how well my daughter is getting along with your husband.”

The senator’s adult daughter, wearing nothing but a few seashells over her large assets, leaned too close to Soren.

Anger flushed Aya. But her voice was neutral and calm. “I see.”

His daughter reached over and grabbed Soren’s crotch.

He had no reaction, as if she were squeezing his shoulder rather than his male package.

The daughter moved forward to rub against him.

Soren stepped back.

She posed for a new attack.

Aya saw red.

“You have considered her offer.” The senator squeezed Aya’s shoulder. “She’s the biggest ally you have.”

With allies like her, who needed enemies?

“Excuse me.” Aya floated through the crowd to Soren.

Soren turned and greeted Aya. He often knew where she was without looking. It was part of their connection.

Aya put herself in front of Soren as a physical barrier. He might not notice another woman feeling him up but no way was Aya allowing it.

Her voice was so cool and toneless it was the audible equivalent of beige. “Can I help you?”

“Aya.” The senator’s daughter smiled with teeth. “Soren and I were just discussing my offer. Have you reconsidered?”


“Yes,” Soren contradicted.

Aya knew what he meant and so remained silent.

The daughter’s eyes widened. She looked between them, intrigued that Aya didn’t disagree, and then she licked her red lips. “I am glad to hear it.”

“You will meet warriors seeking brides,” Soren said. “You will meet them on our new ‘dating website.’”

She pouted. “Oh. That takes so long. Your race is so desperate for babies. I’m right here.” She reached around Aya to sidle up to Soren.

Aya slid into her path to intercept. “We are not interested in using you as a surrogate for our baby at this time.”

“Soren's baby,” the daughter sniped.

Aya’s tone froze to ice. “Thank you for your generous offer.”

“The other queens have babies already so I thought maybe there was a problem. Your population is plummeting. It’s been two years, Aya. What are you waiting for?”

“We are not waiting,” Soren said.

“That’s what I thought.” The daughter arched her brow at Aya, superior, and swiped for Soren’s arm. “Come with me, Soren. I’ll show you a real woman.”

Soren stood with Aya like a rock. He appeared mildly confused at this strange female’s insistence. “Real woman?”

Aya’s tone felt so cold it could crack whatever it touched. “We have another engagement. Thank you. We are leaving. Soren?” She turned to exit.

Soren moved with her.

Thank goodness.

The first time she’d tried to exit a room, her honest warrior had bluntly said they didn’t have another engagement, and there had been an awkward, embarrassing silence. But now he moved. He’d understood her explanation that anything could be “another engagement,” even sleeping, and they could always be “engaged” elsewhere.

The woman pouted and tugged at Soren. “You can go. Soren will stay with me.”

“I go with my queen.” He pulled away.

She clutched the frayed sleeve and ripped it. “Soren!”

“Contact MerMatch,” he instructed and followed Aya out of the ball.

She stormed out. As they waited for the driver to bring around their SUV, she muttered under her breath, “The mer don’t need to an entitled, tantrum-throwing child.”

He rumbled with amusement. “She acts that way because she has not found her true match.”

Aya snorted. The vehicle arrived, and she climbed into her seat, clicked her belt, still careful of her dress. “I don’t think ‘finding the right man’ cures a mental imbalance.”

“I have seen many males cured. They acted from fear, hoarded selfishly, lashed out at the smallest slight. After they met their brides, they could endure the hardest aggravation without complaint. So, perhaps, she will find this calm after she meets the male who makes her inner soul light shine.”

Her rage burned. “I don’t really care.”

“You should. Her soul is very dark. She is deeply damaged. I wish her well.”

Aya couldn’t lose control in front of her driver. “Let’s talk about this later.”

He leaned back in his seat. The foliage of upstate New York turned golden in the early evening. It was well before they had planned on leaving. “Are we?”

“Hmm?” She was already thinking of the speech she needed to tweak for The Hague. They had to return her costume, and the flight was mid-morning, so…

“Are we waiting to produce our young fry?”

A vessel broke in her heart. Two liquids mixed, frothed, and pressed against her chest.

She was going to explode or leap across the backseat and strangle the ever-loving daylights out of her beloved husband.

Yes. The last one.

“Aya?” His green arm snaked too close to her costume.

She twitched. Control. Ice cold. “We will discuss it later.”

He subsided.

Since he could see her emotion-linked soul light, he must know a huge fight was imminent.

They arrived. Compared to the colonial mansion, the five-bedroom row house seemed too small. Aya opened and stormed through the cobwebbed gate, up the pumpkin-lined concrete steps — nearly tripping on her rental gown several times and gathering it up — and reached the front door. A goofy gargoyle stuck out a stone tongue at her. She tore at the handle.


Okay. This was good. Mel was still at the pumpkin patch with her children’s play group. There would be no witnesses to her meltdown.

Aya tried to control her temper. Her heart thudded against her chest.

Soren used to the key to let them in.

Scents of roasted apples with cinnamon and raisins filled the warm, carpeted foyer. Toys for children, ages toddler to teen, tumbled across all surfaces. Half-eaten bowls of pumpkin spice O’s spilled from abandoned cereal bowls on the kitchen table. Mel’s five children kept her running but the imperfection of their space overflowed with love. She was there for her kids.

Aya stomped up the stairs. The children’s rooms were another reminder of how she was inadequate at the basic functions of being female. She continued up the next set of steps.

Soren followed her into the guest suite on the third floor and closed the door behind them. “Aya—”

“No!” She whirled on him, hands on her corseted hips — the only way a woman with her stick figure would ever have the suggestion of curves — and shrieked. “We’re not waiting. There’s something wrong with me. Something missing that doesn't allow me to have a baby like everyone else.”

“Ah. I thought—”

“And if you’re tired of trying with someone who’s broken, maybe you should go have sex with that other woman!”

His dark brows wrinkled. “You are not broken.”

“I am! I’m broken and I’m pissed.” She laid out all the reasons that had been crushing her down, a little at first, but with heavier weights after Elyssa and Lucy had announced their second pregnancies while Aya had yet to conceive once. “I didn’t want to go to this party and now Halloween, the one holiday I ever enjoyed, is ruined. All because that woman pointed out the truth. I can never have a baby. We live such hectic lives I can’t imagine what adding a baby would look like. And I’ll probably be a terrible mom so it's just as well.”

Soren picked up her jacket from the closet and carried it toward her.

She folded her arms. “I told the truth and now you’re getting rid of me? You want me to go? Well, I’m not going anywhere. You’re—”

He threw the coat around her and then enfolded her in a giant, comfy, wonderful hug.

She relaxed against her will. He held her like a cat, careful of the crazy claws. She was torn between snort-laughing and being even more upset.

“This dress is a rental,” she said, muffled from in his comforting warmth.

“I touch your jacket.”

Aya searched for a new argument. She didn’t want his hug — No. That was a lie. She really did want it. Really badly.

Soren gave her what she needed. Always.

Especially when she insisted she didn’t want it.

“I’m fine,” she said. “It’s okay. I’m calm.”

Ignoring her empty words and keeping her close, he attacked her arguments like a dutiful First Lieutenant.

“Halloween is ruined, you say.” He probed the easiest argument. “It is occurring in two days. How can we save this holiday?”

She was going to cry. “It’s stupid.”


“No, I’m just so mad about that senator. He only invited us to the party to entertain his daughter’s — urgh! And we’re going to be in The Hague in two days, where they do not celebrate, so this was our one chance.”

Soren gave her the quiet space to let her emotions tumble out. Only in front of him would she ever allow this display of emotions. Only in front of him would she be hot-tempered and imperfect.

“When I was a kid, Halloween was a big deal. Bigger than Christmas or Thanksgiving. Everyone in the posh complex would visit every other apartment. Halloween was the only holiday where my mom would come home.” Aya sucked in a deep breath. “She always hired a decorator and seamstress to rake in compliments on her decorations and my costume.”

Even though it was stressful for days, it was the one time Aya got to see people and pretend that she lived a happy, whole life.

“After the trick-or-treaters left, my mom would let me skip tutoring and watch television. The only things on were old horror movies so now I pretty much know all the black and white Boris Karloff’s and stuff like that.”

He prompted her. “Can we not do that? We have these costumes. Reclaim your holiday.”

“I can’t skip the pre-meeting conferences.”

“Aya.” He growled. “There are no megalodons hovering over our city. No armies poised to attack. You may rest for two days here to create a good memory.”

“We already have flights.” But her brain was clicking. She wanted to spend the time with Soren. “I could write the speech here. I have to ask Mel.”

“Good. You are flexible. You will be a wonderful mother.”

Her old agonies flip-flopped in her heart. “So you’re saying you don’t think I’ll end up in jail.”

“You will never leave your young fry. You will always defend him. Just as you defended Queen Elyssa and Atlantis.”

“Keeping a baby safe isn’t the same as giving a baby love.”

“Then you will learn this,” he promised. “As a family. We will grow.”

“But we’re so busy. I can’t take off a year or longer. Not now.” And maybe not ever. She shook her head. “I can’t see us — me — with a baby.”

“Close your eyes.”

She snorted. “Then I can’t see anything.”


She let out a long breath and closed her eyes. “This is one of the suggested techniques for increasing fertility.”

“Good.” He continued to hold her firmly. “It is also important for a warrior to envision his journey. When he is a trainee, he envisions becoming a warrior. When he is a warrior, he envisions becoming a husband. When he is a husband, he envisions becoming a father.”

His arms were a heavy, comforting weight and another notch of relaxation filled her. She sensed his smell intoxicating her with a delicious drug. “That’s high performance envisioning.”

“I should have done this with you.” He also took a deep breath and let it out. “I see you under the water. Our young fry is sleeping as we travel to Atlantis so you hold him to your body while I hold you both close to mine. On the surface, I see you petitioning your ‘United Nations.’ You stand with your family, then you speak into the microphone, and then you nurse our young fry. We are together, secure, and happy.”

She startled awake as though awakening from a revitalizing cat nap. She couldn’t stop her practical mind from working. “Together? Even on the floor of the UN? I don’t think that's a good way to raise a baby.”

He leaned back. “What is the alternative?”


He looked confused, so she explained. Soren released her with shock. “You give human babies to a stranger!”

“Only temporarily. We don’t have the ‘village’ situation you have underwater. And it happens at school and daycare.”

She shrugged out of the jacket, draped it across a chair for washing with grease-cutting laundry detergent, and removed her costume pieces. Soren’s vision was beautiful, inspiring, and life-changing.

And maybe it wasn’t crazy to bring her baby to work with her. She would have loved to have gone to work with her mom. She’d been so desperate for love and attention as a child.

Aya was a queen, right? Not a human queen. A mer queen. She had super powers. Importance. She could set rules and others would obey them. Whether on the surface or under the water.

“I cannot give my young fry to another’s care.” He shook himself, trying to reconcile their realities. “Surface dwellers have many young fries. But mer only have one. Until now.”

“This might be pointless,” Aya warned, returning to the root of her frustration. “I might not be able to have children. It has been two years.”

He sobered, his dark eyes serious. “What does Lucy say?”

Lucy had endured years of heartbreak and failed fertility treatments before meeting her warlord, Torun, and had been healed by his Life Tree.

“Mer have a closer mind-body connection,” Lucy had told Aya while wrestling her twins around her growing bump. “Like channeling the Life Tree, your body will perform when your head is in the right space.”

How could Aya get in the right space? She’d researched every spare waking moment on the surface. She’d tried different sex positions, tracked her cycles, eaten special fertility diets, practiced yoga, everything. Soren had been an unknowing but willing participant.

“It will happen,” Lucy had promised her as she’d squeezed her giggling toddlers. “Look at me!”

Aya had looked with such envy her eyes had probably turned green.

Elyssa didn't have any advice either. The longer she dwelt in Atlantis, the more she felt the power of the Life Tree in her veins. And she’d had no doubts or worries. She was easy-going about her son just like she was easy-going about everything.

“What if Lucy and Elyssa are wrong? What if it’s true for them, but I’m the problem?”

“You thought the same when you could not control your queen powers,” Soren pointed out.

“But what if this time it’s true?” she insisted. “Your race is on the brink of extinction. One queen who can’t have kids is a serious blow.”


“You can’t ignore the truth, Soren.”

“You are my queen.”

“Yes, but another woman could—”

“I cannot love another woman. I can only love you.”

Her mouth closed with a click.

“You are my love, my light, my soul, my reason for opening my eyes when I awaken, the only one I want to protect in the dark night. You were my hope and always will be. I want no other woman. You are the only one I will ever love. With my body, heart, and soul. Always.”

Her heart swelled. Tears tingled in her eyes.

Soren stepped closer and wrapped his green-smeared arms around her. “Aya—”

She jolted back. “Don’t touch the dress!”

He smoldered. His hands flexed. “Remove it. Now.”

She flushed with heat. Her husband ordered with dominance, and she grew weak with hunger for him. She wiggled out of her dress and laid undergarments, stockings, and corsets, back into their delicate wraps.

And he helped her with the silky white panties, smearing green across her hip bone skin. As he revealed her, his eyes burned black like a demon. Her delicious, powerful demon.

Aya stood nude before him. She’d grown more accustomed to it in the last two years.

She scratched a line in the paint at his cheek. “We need to clean that green stuff. Come.”

He followed her into their guest suite bathroom. Aya cleaned off the paint with grease-removal cream and then restored the rest of him to his natural state. The air crackled with tension. He hunted her. And they both knew she would be caught as his willing prey.

“There.” She folded the washcloth onto the edge of the low, empty bathroom counter. “You’re clean.”

“You have not cleaned all of me.”

Heat burned in her belly. “Is that an invitation?”

He growled with teeth. “An order.”

His powerful demand pushed her. She unbuttoned his shirt, stripped off the undershirt, and unzipped his pants. His quadriceps bulged. And so did his cock.

Black scroll tattoos scrolled around his taut skin. He was hard. Gorgeous smooth. And standing proud.

Aya encircled his erect manhood. “She tried to get a handful.”

He smirked. “For her, there is nothing to grab.”

Soren knew what she needed to hear. Always.

Aya massaged his cock. He thrust into her hands, filling her with his heat. She caressed the mountains of muscle up his bulging thighs. Then his tapered waist. She loved his bullet-proof abdomen. Endlessly broad pectorals. She savored the healed skin, once tracked with fresh scars, now made whole by the power of the Life Tree. He was smooth, marked by dangerous black tattoos, and ultimately hers.

She traced the valleys and crags of his face. Hers.

He dragged her into his claiming kiss.

His tongue plumbed her mouth. Arousal filled her body to tingling points. Her bare breasts brushed his hard pectorals and her nipples hardened into pearls.

He rumbled with approval.

And she believed him.

Yes, her bra size was much smaller than other women. Aya heard the judgment — old echoes of her mother’s tone — in her head. But now, she dismissed the unhealthy tapes. Soren had taught her she was plenty female for him.

His large hands massaged her breasts bringing her streaks of pleasure to her feminine core.

Her pussy throbbed.

She writhed against his chest because she was the only woman he ever wanted. They were destined soulmates. She was his queen.

He sculpted her sides to her hipbone and gripped, then lifted her in an easy motion onto the cleared bathroom counter.

Her knees splayed, exposing her pink bits to his hungry, worshipful gaze.

He nudged her knees wide as he pulled her to the lip of that counter. She leaned forward and rested her elbows on his bulging shoulders. Nuzzling her nose with his, he went in for another kiss. His assured dominance and desire made her go all liquid.

His cock rested at her feminine entrance.

She wrapped her legs around his waist. Her heels dug into his taut buttocks. She drew his cock into her wet channel and drove him home. He filled her. Her body shuddered in completion.

He met her eyes as they united their bodies. His gaze crackled with their shared history. They were one. He didn't need words. They both knew.

She trusted him with her whole soul.

He thrust deep. His cock plundered her channel and his head ground against her pleasure spot.

She nestled her head into his addictively masculine shoulder, opening herself to his love. His buttocks clenched as they deepened their affirmation. She was his. Utterly his. And he was hers. Forever.

Her channel spasmed around his cock in glorious pleasure. He roared. His cock flooded seed deep inside her womb, a rush of life-giving heat, and he held her close, gentle, weak. His forehead dropped to her shoulder. His body trembled.

She strokes his shoulder blades.

He was her beautiful monster. A warrior who had once feared that he would never regain his honor. Now, the most honorable First Lieutenant anyone had ever seen.

And all hers. Whether or not they had children. She had to let it go. Her love for Soren would never change.

He pulled back, stamped her with his tender, possessive kiss, and then carried her into the shower to wash off the rest of their makeup and all her worries.

Under the water showering between them, she felt a new level of love and connection to her husband. They did not express feelings often, but she always felt love and approval. Her essence, with all flaws and imperfections, was needed by Soren.

“Let’s stay,” she said.

He kissed her with happiness.

They spent the next two days relaxing. As much as Aya could ever relax. Soren learned with Mel’s family their Halloween traditions. Outside they gathered leaves and jumped in them, started a bonfire, and toasted fall marshmallows and outdoor hot dogs.

Inside, Aya researched and wrote speeches and replied to email and returned phone calls. Between chunks of work, she could look out the kitchen window and see the others. Soren often looked up and their eyes would meet.

And her heart swelled while her eyes filled with very unusual tears.

What was wrong with her? Her hormones must be seriously out of whack.

On Halloween, Mel left at noon for activities and promised to be back before bedtime. “You’re welcome to join us in trick-or-treating at the school,” she offered for the fifth time.

“I hope it’s no bother we’re here,” Aya returned.

“Oh, no bother at all!” She ignored her seven-year-old hanging off one arm and screaming that he was going to suck her blood and the five-year-old bee appearing to follow through. “I hope you won’t be too bored staying home to pass out candy.”

“This is perfect,” Aya assured her. Watching old movies and waiting for the doorbell to chime was the most luxurious, decadent, relaxing holiday she could imagine. “I hope you have a wonderful time.”

“I will have a wonderful time now. Or, my husband will. We won't come home to a toilet papered house!”

Mel strolled down the steps and joined her family in their extended minivan. The whole family waved as she pulled away.

A family took her exit as their cue to bumble up the steps. Their toddler princess did not know what to do with the bowl of mini chocolate bars Aya presented, and everyone had a good laugh.

“Look, baby, she’s a queen.” The mom pointed at the queenly wire tiara glued with rhinestones Aya had placed atop her purple-blue washable dyed hair.

The toddler eyed her comfy-yet-flattering princess-cut, white flannel nightgown with awe.

“Mermaid queen,” Aya emphasized, removing her foot from the fuzzy slippers and wiggling the elongated fin.

The parents blinked in consternation. They had not expected to meet a legitimate mermaid queen tonight and seemed of half a mind to ask if this was still a costume.

But then their princess wiggled to finish with trick-or-treating — after one house! — and the parents ushered her out the gate, passing the next group of trick-or-treaters.

During a lull, Aya left the candy by the front door and joined Soren in the family room. He dressed “as himself” in black boxers for the benefit of Mel’s plush couch — a First Lieutenant of Atlantis through and through.

Soren hunched in the couch, arms crossed, frowning.

On the screen, the Creature from the Black Lagoon lurked beneath an oblivious swimming woman.

Aya rested her elbows on the back of the couch beside him, dancing a little as she waited for the next doorbell. “What’s wrong?”

“Many liken mermen to this swamp creature.”

“Because your legs are separate,” she explained. “You don’t have a monofin.”

That misunderstanding was probably due to imagining mermen as half-fish. Also, ancient art showed the side profile, where two separate legs would look like one, instead of the front or back, where the separation was obvious.

“The senator’s daughter said I am ‘sexy’ and ‘like the swamp creature.’” He gestured at the screen. “This swamp creature is sexy?”

She nuzzled him. “You are sexy.”

“But this male.” He accepted her nuzzling but could only spare one tightly-crossed arm to gesture at the screen. “He is a monster. Am I a monster?”


His frown deepened. “I do not understand this comparison.”

She hugged him and kissed his jaw. He turned and sought her lips. Their souls united. On the surface, he was all human. And beneath the surface, only his fins changed. He did not turn monstrous.

Unless he was glaring at his enemies. Then, he was much more terrifying.

The doorbell rang.

She pulled back and kissed his black-tipped nose. “You are my monster.”

“Hmph.” But he seemed less angry and rested his giant palms on his tattooed knees. “Then, if you are satisfied, I do not mind.”

She kissed the top of his head and trotted back to the candy bowl. Tears of happiness welled in her eyes. She was having a fantastic holiday. Soren had helped her reclaim Halloween. They had hours until they had to change and get ready for their flight. It was just her and him and…

Aya stopped at the door.

Why was she so emotional? Sure, she’d been getting in touch with her emotions ever since she’d developed her queen powers at the Atlantis Life Tree. Normally, though, she felt justified anger. It was great! Righteous fury helped her get so much done.

But since surfacing, she’d been dragged from tearful highs to frustrated lows.

Aya rarely lost her cool. She never cried frustrated tears. And she never, ever cried from happiness. Why cry from happiness? Happiness was for smiling.

Her hormones must be really off-balance. Maybe that was why she couldn’t get pregnant! She should book a doctor’s appointment. The Life Tree had super-healing powers, but right now she felt like she was possessed. Another person was dwelling in her body. Or like…

Wait a minute.

Aya pressed one hand to her flat belly.

Was she?

The doorbell rang again.

A burst of excitement thrilled her. And made her tear up.

That would be just like her. Getting upset and impatient and not realizing she already had exactly what she wanted. She just had to open her eyes.

And her heart.

Aya sniffed back her tears, smoothed her hair and queenly nightgown (beneath which she was wearing a bra, underwear, and slip because that was proper) and pulled open the door with a smile. “Trick-or…”

The step was empty. A group of middle school-aged tweens huddled around a plastic bag just inside the gate. A glimpse of white toilet paper winked between their hands.


She suppressed the well of power at serving justice. She leaned back into the house. “Soren!”

He was at her side in an instant. “Aha.”

One kid saw them on the doorstep and froze, horrified.

Soren stalked forward.

“Go easy on them,” she said with a smile.

The kid regained his wits and shrieked. The others looked back.

Soren raised his arms and roared. “For the honor of Atlantis!”

They screamed and raced down the steps. He trotted after them, growling. They hung up at the gate, spewed onto the street, and raced pell-mell back to their own houses.

His roar subsided. He picked up the plastic bag and carried it to her. “Aya. They have left the ‘trick’ of toilet paper.”

“Nice treat.”

“Is it?”

“We’re adults. It’s practical.”

He pursed his lips. “I might prefer the sweet candy.”

“Well, come on in and get some.” She kept her one hand on her belly, leaned forward, and kissed him.

Their lives were about to change but the tight bond of love would never die. Soren had helped her to see the truth.

He was her gorgeous warrior, and she was his perfect queen.

Starla Night

11923 NE Sumner St
STE 696632
Portland, Oregon, 97220, USA