Authors: A.M. Hargrove
Tags: #Sci-Fi Romance
Published By AM Hargrove, LLC
Copyright © 2015 A. M. Hargrove
All rights reserved.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to peoples either living or deceased is purely coincidental. Names, places, and characters are figments of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.
Cover by Mayhem Cover Creations
Thank you to all the readers who have been with me from the beginning, who have discovered me recently, or picked this one up as a new read. Words can’t express how thankful I am for giving me the chance to entertain you for a few hours of your life. I hope I live up to your expectations.
Here’s a shout out to my betas, who put up with me on this one. Gah, I was mess, with a newly acquired puppy, trying to keep it all straight. I was
prepared and I’ll just leave it at that. Terri, Kat, Andrea, and Kristie—I would be LOST without you ladies. Seriously. Thanks for bailing me out and catching all the mess ups on Sabin. Mwah! And a whopper of a thanks goes to Heather King for choosing the name Serena. I was in turmoil and she came through like the totally cool friend that she is!
Finally, thank you Jessica at Rare Bird Words for editing. Whew! This was a long one, too!
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with scuba diving. I first fell in love with the idea when I used to watch my little goldfish swim around in their bowl. As silly as it seems, it was the movie
The Little Mermaid
that fueled my obsession.
My excitement surges as I prepare to drop back in the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea for the first time ever.
“Listen up everyone,” the dive master, Joe, begins. “We’re making two drops. The first group of three will drop here, and we’re leaving a buoy with the beacon. A line is attached. In case of an emergency, all you need to do is surface and activate the emergency mode on the buoy. It’s right on top and you can’t miss it. The maximum depth here is only sixty feet, so you should all be fine. Any questions?”
Everyone shakes their heads. This is a shallow, night dive between Peter Island and Salt Island, in the British Virgin Islands. Our goal is to collect different species that are indigenous to the area so we can study them to identify any mutations in response to environmental factors, and my heart is pumping hard from excitement. Night dives bring out different species of fish and the marine biologist in me is thrilled. But even if I weren’t here to conduct research for my master’s degree, I still would be stoked knowing how this is going to be all kinds of awesome. If possible, I would live in the water.
“We’ll be back to pick you up in one hour. This area is out of the main traffic line, plus the buoy is lit with a large blinking light, as you can see, so even if you surface, just hang tight and you’ll be fine.”
They lower the buoy, and it’s big enough to sit on the edge.
“You can drop at any time.” Joe glances around at all our exuberant faces, including the two professors and three Ph.D. candidates that accompany me.
I don’t want to waste precious dive time, so I put on my mask and flop backwards into the water. The sea is dark and chilly, but I acclimate quickly because of the neoprene suit I am wearing. I adjust my buoyancy control device so I can sink to the bottom and wait for my companions.
Once they join me, we’re off, and I go to work. My wrist mounted light guides me along as I use my plankton net to gather samples, never drifting too far from the others. It only seems like minutes when I’m alerted that we are close to our one-hour mark. When a companion gives me the signal to surface, I resent it. I could stay here for hours.
Right as I’m securing my mesh bags onto my belt, something catches my eye—an oval-shaped odd colored stone, suspended from a black chain. I snatch it, giving it a quick glance. It’s intriguing but doesn’t necessarily look antique or expensive. Then again, the dim light in the dark water might not be doing it justice. I stuff it in my mesh bag, and then surface, intending to pay closer attention to my little treasure at a later time.
It’s not uncommon to find things while diving—jewelry, sunglasses, money, you name it. None of it usually amounts to much. There isn’t a lost and found for sea dives. Besides, half of the time what I find is considered junk. If the jewelry isn’t broken, it’s one earring, or oftentimes cheap costume jewelry. Once, when I went through the hassle and paperwork of claiming an item for discovery, the examiner gave me the stink eye when she found a “made in China” stamp on the clasp. But even as I surface, something about this seems special, different somehow. I don’t spend time examining it now, but plan to inspect it more closely later.
Once the boat picks us up, it’s hard to think straight between the roar of the engine and all the chatter. I’m riding high from being in the water, mentally calculating when I can do it again. But I do know one thing. SCUBA diving ranks number one for me, despite the negativity my family gives me about it. Like my instructor told me, I must’ve been born to do this. Being under water sure brings me happiness.
The next morning, I dress and I’m on my way down to eat breakfast when I remember the necklace. Grabbing it off the desk, I stuff it in my bag with the rest of my jewelry. What I couldn’t have known is this action seals my fate, a fate filled with danger that would lead me down a path I could never have anticipated.
The knock on my door surprises me. I wasn’t expecting anyone so when I open it, I’m even more shocked to see who it is.
“L’han, we need you to come with us.”
“Please, L’han. Just come.”
“I don’t understand.” He doesn’t speak, so I have no choice but to follow him. When we arrive at our destination, my parents are there. My mother is on the floor, sobbing, and my father is as distraught as my mother.
Looking at my escort, I ask, “What the hell is going on?” We are in the Hall of the Council. It is also where Paradox lies … where my sister is on duty. The question of why my parents are so upset lingers as I look up to the massive doors before me. “Answer me!” Those damn Council members. Such idiots.
“L’han, please. Inside.” The tremor in his voice alarms me. I know in my heart what I will find. “We need a third party verification. Your brother could not be located.”
Motherfucker. Opening the doors, I spy the vague outline of her body. It lies in a heap on the floor, in front of the place where Paradox is kept. The vault for Paradox is undisturbed. Tuara, on the other hand, is not. When I drop to my knees by her side, her eyes, which bear a remarkable resemblance to mine, are wide open and stare directly at me. But they are lifeless orbs, blank, and vacant. Blood soaks the bodice of her gown, part of her regimental uniform. When I open it, I can see why. Her sternum is gashed open, torn by what were no doubt her mortal wounds.
Stupid Council member. “It is she. Tuara of the sovereign house of Lhu’hantran. My sister.” Then I stare him down and snarl, “And I want to know who did this. Do you hear me? How did the Shaurok get in here? This was a calculated taking of a royal life, the life of a guard of Paradox. You tell your Council this needs their utmost attention!”
“Yes, L’han. But the Shaurok …”
“Fuck the Shaurok. I want to know how they got in. And why didn’t they take Judgment Day?”
I don’t know if he stays or leaves, because all my focus is on my sister. She was older than me by two years. And I feel like my heart has just stopped beating.