From a chance encounter...
Morgan of the finfolk does not normally waste his attention on humankind, but while in Copenhagen, he meets a young woman who captures his interest-if only for a night. On sojourn in Europe before starting medical school, Elizabeth is intelligent, attractive - and eager for a little adventure...
A memory kept...
Sixteen years later, Dr. Elizabeth Rodriguez is called to the island of World's End to become its only doctor. There, she hopes to reconnect with her troubled son Zack, who has become withdrawn since her husband's death. She has no idea that World's End will also reconnect her with Morgan.
And a future about to be born...
From the moment Morgan lays his eyes on young Zack, he suspects the boy is finfolk-and his own son. As he and Liz clash over Zack's fate, they discover their desire is as strong as ever. But proud Morgan's loyalty has always been the sea, while Liz's responsibilities lie on land. Will their reignited passion be enough to bring them together? Or will their secrets force them apart?
Copenhagen, sixteen years ago
The trip of a lifetime, the tour brochure had promised. Culture, nightlife, adventure, and romance in Europe's most swinging capital.
Twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Ramsey tightened her grip on her purse strap. Getting accosted outside a dance club in Copenhagen might qualify as adventure.
She looked at the men blocking her way back inside the club. Three of them--she counted--with pockmarked skin, bad hair, and crappy attitudes.
Not a chance.
She bit her lip, betrayed by the travel company's PR and her own expectations. Her cheeks were hot. Her head still pounded from the techno beat vibrating down the grimy steps.
The skinny guy in the middle called an invitation, thrusting his hips forward suggestively. The red neon sign over the club's entrance illuminated the line of his underwear and a slice of hairy stomach.
She glanced again at the club door, hoping for rescue. A couple of women maybe, or another American. If Allyson had only stuck by their buddy arrangement . . . But her roommate had ditched her earlier that evening for a Swedish graduate student, Gunnar or Gondor or whatever his name was. Sooner or later, Liz would have to make her way back to their hotel alone.
She looked around for a cab. Or a cop. Copenhagen was safe, everyone said, even at three in the morning. But she didn't speak the language. She wasn't in control of the situation. She hated that.
Plus it would totally suck if the first time ever she flouted her parents' wishes, they turned out to be right after all.
Liz shifted her weight in her platform sandals. Better to walk away, she reasoned, than get into a wrestling match with the Grunge Triplets. She was only a block or two from the square. Plenty of taxis there.
She anchored her tiny purse under her arm and picked her way along the cracked, uneven sidewalk, scanning for a cab.
Mistake. She realized it almost at once. Because instead of abandoning her for more willing game inside, the three men followed. Skin prickled on her upper arms, exposed by her skimpy halter top. She needed a jacket.
She needed to get the hell away.
She heard them behind her, scuffling feet and whistles that required no translation. Her breathing hitched. She quickened her step, her gaze darting in search of a lit window, an open door, the lights and bustle of Norrebrogade.
Nothing. Just the flat, black waters of a canal and a row of small, shuttered shops, their bright facades faded to gray by the night.
Nerves scraped under her skin. Had she turned the wrong way? Should she turn back? But they were right behind her, heavy footsteps, coming closer, coming faster, almost...
Her neck wrenched. Her head jerked back.
Ow ow ow.
Pain and panic flared. Tears stung her eyes. The guy following her had grabbed her hair, yanking her to a halt.
She whirled in self-defense, striking out, striking back. Her clenched fist connected with something hard and moist. Her knuckles burned.
She'd hit the bald guy. The big one. Snatching back her hand, she watched, appalled, as blood bloomed in his mouth.
His companions laughed. Violence thickened the air.
Oh God. Oh shit. What had she done?
Slowly, her attacker dragged the back of his arm across his cut lip. He stared down at his wrist; up into her eyes. And smiled, his teeth stained with blood.
Fear tightened her chest. She sucked in her breath to scream. Before the sound escaped, movement flashed in her peripheral vision. Something big, something fast, flowing out of the darkness behind her.
She flinched from this new threat.
But the thing--shadow--man--brushed by her like a shark in the water, knocking her flat on her ass. She landed hard, jarring her wrists, scraping her palms.
Darkness swirled in the narrow street. Dazed, she heard a thud, a crunch, choked sounds of pain or surprise. Fighting. Her insides roiled with fear and relief. They were fighting. She grabbed her purse, fumbling for the whistle she carried on campus.
Two sets of footsteps pounded against the pavement, leaving her attacker splayed in the gutter on the other side of the street and one man standing in a puddle of moonlight.
Shadow Man. Her rescuer.
She blinked. From her position on the ground, he looked larger than life, tall and leanly muscled in a long black leather coat.
He turned, the coat flaring around his ankles, and her heart jumped into her throat. His face was angled, cold, and pale, his hair the color of moonlight.
Liz swallowed hard, her gaze sliding up that long, powerful body to his face. His features were too strong to be really handsome, his nose too broad, his jaw too sharp. His upper lip was narrow, the lower one full, curved, and compelling.
She shivered with fear and something else. Just because he was cleaner and better dressed than the punks who had followed her from the club didn't make him any less dangerous.
She snuck a glance at her attacker lying motionless in the gutter.
Okay, more dangerous.
She couldn't see her rescuer's eyes, shadowed by the line of his brow. He stood a moment longer, watching her, waiting for . . . What? Thanks? Tears? Hysterics?
And then he turned away.
An unreasoning urgency gripped her, sharper than fear. "Wait."
He paused. Her heart hammered. Did he even speak English?
She scrambled to her feet, wiping her palms on the thighs of her jeans. "I . . . Thank you for, uh, helping me."
He ignored her, dropping on his haunches by the body in the gutter. She watched him pat down her attacker, searching for a pulse.
Or maybe his wallet.
She gripped her purse tighter. "Why did you?"
He glanced briefly over his shoulder. "It was hardly a fair fight. I do not usually interfere in the affairs of your kind."
Liz's eyes narrowed. Her kind?
Okay. She forced herself to consider the situation from his point of view, the dark street, her scanty club wear. He didn't know her. She could have been anyone. Anything. A hooker on the run from her pimp.
"You're English," she said.
"No." He did not elaborate.
"But your accent . . ." Not English, not exactly. But he definitely wasn't American.
He straightened and walked away.
He turned, silhouetted by the moon, impatience in every hard line of his body.
She swallowed. "We can't just leave."
"But . . ." She hugged her elbows, torn between her instinct for self-preservation and her sense of what was right. "Shouldn't we notify the police?"
"I have no desire to be detained by your police."
Which made her wonder uneasily what, exactly, he was doing alone on this deserted street at night.
Unfair, she thought. She didn't want to stick around either. Not that she expected the very polite Danes to lock her in some foreign cell for being stupid enough to walk alone at night. But what if they contacted the embassy? Or her parents?
Her gaze skittered to the body stretched out in the gutter. "What about him?"
"You wish him punished further?"
"No." The suggestion horrified her. "But he . . . Look, if he dies, you could be in trouble."
His eyes widened slightly, as if she had surprised him. His pupils were large and very dark, banded with a pale rim of color. Not blue, Liz thought, despite that white blond hair.
And she had no business puzzling over his eye color when there was an unconscious man lying practically at her feet.
Steeling herself to approach him--to approach them both--she knelt in the street, grateful for the thin protection of her jeans. She was uncomfortably conscious of her rescuer standing over them. His heat. His height.
"He will not die," he said quietly.
Awareness tightened the back of her neck. Nerves sharpened her voice. "How would you know?"
"I could ask the same of you."
She overcame her distaste of the body before her, forcing herself to conduct a patient assessment. Airway, breathing, circulation . . .
"I'm going to be a doctor." Not for another seven years or so, but merely saying the words gave her a measure of confidence, a portion of control.
She took a deep breath. A sour smell leaked upward from the gutter. Stale sweat maybe, or unwashed feet. Or Shaved Head Guy could have been popping nitrates. She'd seen plenty of little glass vials crushed on the sidewalk outside the club.
He sprawled on his back, in danger of swallowing his tongue. She felt gingerly for neck or spine injuries before tilting his head to clear his airway. He groaned, making her start.
Her rescuer's voice dropped out of the darkness. "Unless your compassion extends to being here when he wakes, I suggest you leave now."
She gulped. "Right. Good idea." She rocked back on her heels and stood, her legs trembling slightly in reaction.
Above the jagged rooftops, the sky was heavy purple, pregnant with early dawn. There was nothing to tell her what to do or which way to go, only dirty windows, darkened doors, and stinking puddles. Shadows lay across the street like bars, collected in drifts between the buildings like garbage.
She glanced nervously at her companion, his face etched in black and white perfection by the moon. With his broad shoulders and long black coat, he looked dark and solid. She wanted to burrow under his coat.
She cleared her throat. "Would you mind walking me as far as Norrebrogade?"
Those strange, pale eyes fixed on her face, the pupils widening like a chasm at her feet, reflecting nothing, revealing nothing. They pulled at her like gravity. She imagined herself sinking into his eyes, falling down, down, down.
"I will take you." In that voice, his low, deep, mocking voice, the words sounded almost sexual. "Since you ask."
Her cheeks flushed as she snatched herself back from the edge of . . . what?
"Just to the main street," she clarified.
He inclined his head in an oddly formal gesture. Foreign. "As far as you wish."
Her heart bumped against her ribs. He had saved her, she reminded herself. She could trust him.
She was less sure if she should trust her own judgment. She got A's in all her classes and--according to Allyson--a C minus in men.
This one stood like a bulwark in the moonlight, blocking the stench of the puddles, the reek from the alleys. His scent teased at her senses, fresh and wild as the sea.
She released her breath. "I appreciate it."
His gaze skimmed her face again."Would you, I wonder," he murmured.
His words barely registered over the pounding in her ears. He was so close. If she stood on tiptoe, she thought dizzily, she could kiss him.
Not that she would. Not that she wanted to.
He turned and strode away. Her knees sagged with disappointment and relief. She felt his absence like a chill against the front of her body.
But at least he seemed to know where he was going. He moved as surely as a cat in the dark.
She hurried after him, envying both his confidence and his shoes. Her open-toed sandals were fine on the dance floor. Not so great on these uneven streets.
he stumbled on the curb, grabbing for his arm. The leather was smooth beneath her fingers, his muscles hard as iron.
At her touch, he froze.
Morgan looked down, arrested, at the woman clinging to his arm. Was she aware what she invited? His kind did not touch. Only to fight or to mate.
His blood rushed like water under ice. Perhaps tonight he would do both.
He had not come ashore to rut. He was not as abstemious as his prince, Conn, but he had standards. Unlike his sister Morwenna and others among the mer, he did not often waste his seed on humankind.
The woman's throat moved as she swallowed. "Sorry," she said and dropped his arm.
She was very young, he observed. Attractive, with healthy skin and glossy brown hair. Her face was a strong oval, her jaw slightly squared, her unfettered breasts high and pleasing. There was even a gleam that might be intelligence in those brown eyes.
It would be no great privation to indulge her and himself.
"Do not apologize." Grasping her hand, he replaced it on his sleeve. Her nails were clean and unpolished, her fingers tapered.
He imagined those short nails pressing into his flesh, and the rush in his blood became a roar. No privation at all.
He glanced around the narrow buildings fronting the street. He would not take her here, in this filthy human warren. But there were other places less noxious and nearby. Adjusting his stride to hers, he led her away, seeking green ways and open water.
The lights and noise of the city at night eddied and ebbed around them, the amber pool of a street light, the green glow of a bar sign, a lamp in a second-floor window.
At the next intersection, she hesitated, her gaze darting down the street toward a café where trees strung with tiny lights canopied a cluster of empty tables. "Don't we want to go that way?"
She did possess intelligence, then. Or at least a sense of direction.
"If you like." Morgan shrugged. "It is quieter toward the harbor."
Her brow pleated. Her eyes were big and dark. He watched the silent battle between feminine caution and female desire, felt the moment of acquiescence when her hand relaxed on his forearm. He fought to keep his flare of triumph from his face.
"Quieter," she repeated.
"More . . . scenic," he said, searching for a word that might appeal to her.
"Oh." Her tongue touched her lower lip in doubt or invitation. "I haven't seen the harbor yet. This is my first visit to Copenhagen."
"Indeed." Warmth radiated from her hand up his arm. Anticipation flowed thick and urgent through his veins. She was not part of his purpose here. But she was a respite, a recompense of a sort, for long years of trial and frustration.
Her bare shoulders gleamed in the moonlight, sweetly curved as the curl of a shell. The night swirled around them like seaweed caught in the tide, the smell of beer and piss and car exhaust, a waft from a flowerbox, a breeze from the sea.
"I almost didn't come," she continued, as if he had expressed an interest. "Not part of The Plan, you know?"
He did not know and cared even less. But her voice was low pitched and pleasant. To hear it again, he asked, "There is a plan?"
She nodded, touching the ends of her hair where it brushed her smooth shoulders. He observed the small, betraying gesture with satisfaction. Consciously or not, she was signaling her awareness of him as a male.
"I start med school in the fall," she said. "My dad wanted me to stay home and do a post-bacc program, get a leg up on the competition. My mother wanted one more summer of tennis and Junior League before I slip her grasp forever."
He had no idea what she was talking about. "And what do you want?"
Her eyes crinkled. "A break," she said with such rueful honesty that he almost smiled back. "Everything always revolves around school. Like I don't live my own life, I prepare for it. I wanted . . . something different. An adventure, I guess."
He could give her something different, he thought. He would even make sure she enjoyed it.
The barred storefronts ceded ground to cobblestone streets and narrow houses with cramped garden plots. The scent of standing water and of lilies carried on the breeze. Not much farther now, he thought.
"What about you?" she asked with friendly interest.
He glanced down in surprise.
"What brings you here?"
His purpose was bitter as brine in his mouth, deep and cold as the sea.
For Morgan was warden of the northern deeps, charged by a lost king to fight a losing battle.
For a thousand years he had served the sea king's son, battling demons in the deep, defending his demesne from the sly encroachments of the sidhe. But his powers had proved useless against the depredations of humankind. For more than a century, the overflow from this city's streets and canals had polluted the sound and the sea, turning the port into a shit house. Only now, when the humans had finally learned to curb their waste, could Morgan begin the slow process of repair. Recovery of the seabed would take centuries.
He did not blame this girl--much--for what her kind had done. She was here and female and willing. Under the circumstances, he was prepared to overlook a great deal.
"Business," he said.
Her deep brown eyes assessed him. "You don't dress like a businessman."
He wore the black and silver of the finfolk, subtly altered so he could pass for a man of this place and time. "No?"
He did not respond. The sky was thick with moisture, glowing with the lights of the city and the promise of dawn. The moon wore golden vapor like a veil.
"You don't want to talk about it," she guessed.
He smiled, showing the edge of his teeth. "You did not seek my company for my conversation."
She stopped on the sidewalk, her chin tilted at a challenging angle. Despite her earlier signals, he had been too blunt. Women, human women, required some preliminaries. Or perhaps her female pride was offended. "Really? What is it you think I want from you?"
Her cheeks were flushed. Her scent filled his nostrils. Beneath the sharp notes of her annoyance, he could smell the sweetness of her body readying itself for his. His shaft went hard as stone.
"My protection," he offered.
She nodded once, her eyes big and wary. "Yeah," she admitted."Okay."
He stepped closer, watching her face carefully. "And perhaps . . . an adventure?"
He heard the betraying intake of her breath. Her small round breasts rose. And suddenly he wanted this, wanted her, beyond habit or reason, instinct or expedience. The intensity of his lust surprised him.
She was only human, after all.
Liz inhaled, her breathing no longer under her control, her heart thrumming with nerves and longing. She shouldn't . . . She never . . .
Oh, but she wanted to.
He was right in front of her, adventure personified in moonlight and black leather. Those strange, pale eyes were dark with promise, his mouth curved in a knowing smile.
She moistened her lips. "I don't even know your name."
He lowered his head, stoking her senses with the heat of his body, the flavor of his breath. "Morgan."
"Liz." He was going to kiss her, she realized. And she was going to let him. "Elizabeth Ramsey."
"Elizabeth," he repeated, a whisper of flame against her mouth.
Her bones melted. She was tingly and melting all over. Her lids drifted shut in anticipation.
A cold draft replaced the warmth where he had been.
"Come with me," Morgan said.
Her eyes popped open. "What?"
He stood several feet away, the dark sky haloing his silver hair. Behind him she could see a bridge stretching over a zigzag moat and the needle of a church spire rising like a scene from some romantic movie.
Except in the movies, the girl always got kissed.
She wrapped her arms around her waist. "Where?"
She trailed after him under the trees and on to the flat narrow bridge; glanced uncertainly down at the water and then to the end of the bridge where the walkway ended in an arched gatehouse and a short white wall with steep grassy banks on either side.
A little shiver of pleasure and excitement ran up her arms. "A castle?"
Elaborate iron sconces flanked the archway, reflected on the water. "It looks really old."
He shrugged. "A few centuries, no more."
She wandered closer, peering through the iron gate with disappointment. "It's closed."
She hadn't planned on sightseeing at four in the morning. She should get back to her hotel. Yet now that the way was barred, the citadel took on the lovely lure of the forbidden. The moonlight transformed the smooth stone walls and tiled roofs to a fairy fortress full of magic, just beyond her reach.
Morgan's teeth gleamed. "Then we will be undisturbed."
Her pulse fluttered. "But the gate . . ."
In one smooth move, he crouched on the railing of the bridge, balancing on the balls of his feet. "It's not the only way inside."
He leaped for the bank.
Her stomach catapulted into her throat. "Oh, be careful!"
He landed without a slip, without a splash. Turning, he held out his arms to her. "Jump."
She shook her head. "I am not the kind of girl who jumps into things."
Ever. The thought made her vaguely resentful.
"What kind of girl are you?" His deep voice was cool and amused.
She swallowed. "I'm more the look-before-you-leap, watch-your-step type."
"I could change that," he said.
She inhaled sharply. Her gaze swung from the three-foot railing to the eight-foot drop to the yards of swirling water between her and the bank. Her hands clutched the railing. "It's too far."
"I will catch you."
"It's too dangerous."
He didn't reply.
He didn't need to. She stood restlessly on the bridge, on the brink, on the edge, suspended in place and time.
"I don't live my life," she'd told him in truth. "I prepare for it."
Morgan waited below her in the dark, her personal adventure. She felt him in the beat of her blood like every rule she'd never broken, every risk she hadn't taken, every impulse she'd denied.
Every man her mother had warned her about.
The water chuckled and flowed.
Gripping the top rail with both hands, she swung one leg over, feeling for a toehold on the other side. Her palms were damp. Her heart thundered. She was about to commit trespass and God knew what else.
She hesitated. "What if someone sees us?"
"No one will see. Jump now. Jump."
The sky had lightened enough for her to see the pale blur of his face in the dark. With a breathless gasp, she let go, launching herself across the moat and into his arms.
Sky and water whirled. Her ears rushed, her stomach churned, her breathing stopped as she fell--dropped--smacked--into something hard and unyielding. Into him. His chest. He seized her, hauling her safely onto the bank, against his body.
Dizzy with her own daring, she tipped back her head, laughing in reaction and relief. "I did it."
His eyes gleamed. "Not yet," he said. "But we will."