House of Royale (Secret Keepers #4)(3)

Doc distracted me when he handed me a cutting board, small knife, and some very red tomatoes. “Dice them up,” he said. We finished the salad in silence. He added the salmon last, and we ate out on the deck. No point having a stunning view if you weren’t going to enjoy it. I grew restless after dinner, wanting to head into the water, but the injury was tiring me enough that I thought some sleep was the better option.

I’d just have to be satisfied with the view of the ocean through the windows.

The next morning I was up with the sun. Just before it actually, which was my preference. I liked to see the dawn of each new day; it reminded me I was still alive. Despite my family completely giving up on me, I was not giving up on myself.

Doc was awake. I heard him shuffling around, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I needed my morning swim. Running barefoot, I ditched my denim cutoffs, leaving just the shirt and my underwear on. When the cool water washed around my ankles, everything inside me felt better. Stronger. My head cleared, and the worries that had plagued me faded away.

This was what I lived for. Something my very straitlaced parents did not understand. They were both astronomers; they cared for the sky. Neither of them even knew how to swim. I often wondered where the hell I’d come from. Were they really my parents? But no doubt if I’d been adopted they would have dumped me long before I was eighteen.

I just didn’t fit in their lives. Luckily, I had my own version of a family.

Under the water.

Once I was far enough out, I took a breath and dived. Despite the low light—the sun was still rising—I could see as clearly down here as I could above. There was none of the disorientation other swimmers spoke of, no need for goggles or masks. My eyes never hurt either. For years now I’d wondered if I was one of those genetically advanced humans, like from the movies. A fish person or something. Humans had originally come from the water, so maybe we were evolving to go back there. What other explanation could there be?

Fish swam around me, and I ran my hands gently over them. The scars on my left hand were amplified under the water; I was lucky to still have full use of it. Doc told me I should have lost the hand, that there had been too much damage for a recovery, but even at the age of seven I’d insisted on trying to save it. And somehow the dead tissue had almost regenerated. It wasn’t immediately clear when you looked at it; most of the damage was on my palm, but my hand was in a permanent half-claw position from the scar tissue and internal damage. It was functional, though, cutting through the water with ease. And that’s all that mattered.

I’d had one or two guys kind of freak out when they saw it, like it meant I was damaged goods. I’d be lying if I said that sort of judgement didn’t hurt, but I just went back to the ocean. No one judged me there.

As I swam faster, I sent out the call I’d mastered, almost like echolocation, along with a series of clicks that told my friends I was out and ready to swim. The pod of six dolphins met me about a hundred yards offshore and kept pace with me as I dived through the rolling blue waves. My mind shut off and I just existed. We went for miles. I lost track of how far we swam, but I could no longer see land.

It was only when Jojo, the smallest of the females, started clicking at me that the sound of the boat registered. I usually paid close attention to those things because humans would freak out if they saw me swimming like this with a pod of dolphins. Ducking down deep, I left the surface for the world below.

Some days I imagined never having to return, just living forever under the water. I had no problem eating raw fish and seaweed, and I could swim for hours, but I still needed to breathe and sleep, and I hadn’t figured out a way to do both safely.

Forgetting about the boat, I made my way toward the cathedrals. I didn’t come here as often as I’d like because it was very touristy, but right then I needed to see the lights. Just for the clarity their natural beauty brought me. Halfway there the dolphins said goodbye, in their way, and I waved before lowering my head and swimming as fast as I could. I always swam with my eyes open so I wouldn’t miss anything. Millions of colored fish, the lazy glide of the turtles, sharks doing their predator thing—the only creatures in the blue to scare me. Just a little. Mostly because they were king and I respected them.

When the familiar rocks came into sight, some of the tension in my chest eased. Whatever the events of yesterday, this was grounding. It was weird that I couldn’t get that chick’s face out of my head, but since I’d never see her again, it was better I just moved on.

She was just a girl I helped; nobody special.


I got an hour’s exploration in before the thrum of another engine disturbed my trip through the lights of the underwater cathedrals. It was probably time for the tourist boats to start, which was my signal to get out of there. I rose to the surface for one more gulp of air, then dove down again and was about to start swimming when an unusual noise caught my attention. Turning in the water, I tried to determine what it was.

Definitely not an engine—it almost sounded like something was zooming through the water the same way I did, only much faster. Since I’d never seen another human move at those speeds, or animal for that matter, I wondered if it was a projectile of some description? A missile … maybe?

A missile? Not many missiles usually shot around the Hawaiian Islands. Had I missed an announcement about Navy drills in this area? Was war about to start? Were we under attack?

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