Salt & Stone
Under the sea lie the secrets of her past… and a deadly threat to her future.
Targa fears the truth will lose her the man she loves. As she returns to Poland to reunite with Antoni, she wishes she could share her mermaid secrets without betraying her kind. But when a magical stone goes missing from her museum, the siren may have to choose between protecting her loved ones and treason.
As Targa tracks the stolen gem, she discovers a sinister plot centuries in the making. And the power the thieves seek could leave both the land and the sea utterly devastated.
Can Targa protect the secrets of her people, or will her attempt at a double life take everything she loves away?
Salt & Stone is an enchanting book in The Siren’s Curse YA fantasy series. If you like conflicted heroines, simmering romance, and modern mermaids, you’ll love USA Today Bestselling Author A.L. Knorr’s aquatic adventure.
Release date: December 11, 2018
Publisher: Intellectually Promiscuous Press
Print pages: 264
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Salt & Stone
For a mermaid, flying is torture. The best thing to do is to sleep. Any hopes I had that becoming an elemental would make it easier to fly vanished soon after takeoff. Imaginary chains wrapped around every joint and threatened to pull me down through the floor as the plane ascended. Mom had surmised that sirens were tied to the ocean in inexplicable ways, and flying thirty-thousand feet over the earth’s surface was just too far from water. Thank goodness I never wanted to be an astronaut, I’d probably die a few minutes after take-off. Mom and I were roused awake by the steward after landing, groggy and exhausted. But at least the feeling of having lead for bones was over.
We staggered drunkenly off the plane and were met at the small Gdansk airstrip by a Novak driver. He introduced himself to us but I immediately forgot his name in my haze of exhaustion. Relieved to be on the ground and in desperate need of a good night’s sleep, even after all the hours we’d been unconscious, Mom and I leaned against one another in the back of the limousine until we arrived at the manor. I sent Antoni, my sweetheart, a text letting him know we were on the ground and he sent back a heart and a ‘see you soon.’
Somehow, we and our bags made our way into a suite in the manor by the kindly staff, but the whole thing was a bit of a blur.
Rolling over in bed the next morning and opening my eyes, it took a full fifteen seconds before I remembered where I was. I was not in the same suite as when we had been in Gdansk last time. Lifting my head from the pillow, I looked around, blinking owlishly at my surroundings like I’d jumped through a wormhole and tumbled into an alternate universe.
The bed was enormous—–a bonafide king-sized mattress. The bedding was soft and smelled faintly of lavender. The duvet cover and pillow cases were a crisp, bright white embroidered with the Novak logo. The dove gray walls with white trim and wainscoting looked freshly painted and two mahogany dressers sat side by side against the wall. Beyond the bed, two open double doors revealed a sitting room with plush furniture and an entertainment unit. Book‐ shelves filled with colorful spines bracketed the cabinet and a large vase filled with lilies sat on a coffee table. I gave a delicate sniff––real lilies, not silk ones.
I grabbed my phone and sent Antoni a text: When do I get to see you?
A loud buzzing sound made me jump out of my skin. I threw back the covers, looking frantically for its source. Locating the panel with a speaker near the door to the suite, I pressed the talk button and the buzzing sound ceased.
“Miss MacAuley?” asked a warm female voice with the rich Polish accent I had come to love so much.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“I hope I didn’t wake you.”
“No, I was awake.” I yawned. “Just.”
“Did you have a good rest?”
“Yes, actually.” I realized that I had slept through the night without dreams or tossing and turning. This was a blessing because after what had happened to my hometown and to one of my best friends, I had suffered a few nightmares. “I feel good.”
“Great, because you have a big day today, remember?”
“Sorry, but who am I speaking with?” I cringed. In all likelihood, I’d met this person when we arrived last night but didn’t remember.
“It’s Marian Suhre, Mrs. Krulikoski’s secretary.” There was no hint of irony in her tone, she sounded professional and kind.
I remembered Marian because we’d been emailing since Mom and I had made the decision to return to Poland, but the other name… something about it was familiar but I couldn’t place it. I wracked my memory in earnest. Krulikoski, I knew this name, somehow...
Marian hadn’t responded, but was waiting for me to confirm that I knew who she was talking about. So I replied dumbly, “Okay.”
“It’s eight o’clock. The car is scheduled to take you to the office in one hour’s time. Breakfast is served in the dining room. I will meet you and Mrs. MacAuley in the front foyer at nine.”
“Right.” I projected confidence, but squirmed internally. I had barely paid attention to the schedule I had been sent via email, we’d been so busy preparing for our international move. “Uh, Marian? Mrs. Suhre?”
“Call me Marian, if you like.”
“Thanks, and please call me Targa. Does my mother––you can call her Mira, by the way––does she know all this?”
There was a long pause, during which she was probably wondering why I hadn’t communicated this to my mother myself after I’d received her carefully structured and thorough email with this very information and itinerary.
“I’ll make sure she does.”
“Thank you.” I rested my forehead against the wall beside the panel and grimaced. I wasn’t making a good impression. She was probably questioning Martinius’s good sense for the hundredth time. Why had he given over his company to these two daft Canadian women? Couldn’t say I blamed her.
“Not a problem,” she said. “See you in an hour.”
I wanted to find my mom, just to make sure she was awake and indeed up to speed, but poking my head out of my suite door revealed a bewilderingly long hallway––in both directions––lined with many doors. I didn’t have time to find her now.
After hopping in the shower and coming fully awake, my spirits brightened. This was an exciting new chapter of my life, and Antoni was here somewhere. I could barely restrain myself from dancing for joy under the spray of the showerhead. Butterflies took flight in my stomach when I imagined throwing myself into his arms and feeling his big, warm body next to mine again. My skin tingled with inspired gooseflesh and excitement, not just for Antoni, but for all of the recent changes for me…and Mom.
She no longer had to work in a job she hated, and she had control of the artifacts from The Sybellen. I could be with the man I had fallen so hard for only a few months ago, much sooner than I had ever anticipated. Of course, at the time, no one knew Saltford was going to suffer from a massive natural disaster (supernatural attack), or that my high school was going to be destroyed (pulverized by a demon), or that my friends had had their own transformative summers (becoming powerful elementals) and were changing their lives just as drastically as I was changing mine. It was scary and sad and exhilarating all at once.
Hurriedly, I toweled off and found a blow dryer in one of the many drawers in my rather large bathroom. Fumbling in my luggage, I dried my hair before putting it up in a topknot. I applied a little bit of makeup, not knowing what to expect at the office. Were these offices dirty and industrial, or sleek and modern, or something else altogether? Marian hadn’t told me how to dress, so I pulled out a pair of black jeans and paired them with a gray silk camisole and short black dress jacket. It was the best I had besides the gorgeous gown Antoni had gifted me with, and I wasn’t about to wear that, so this outfit would have to do.
A final check in the mirror called for little hoop earrings, and I felt ready to take on whatever was coming, especially Antoni. I took another peek at my phone. He still hadn’t replied to my question. Probably working.
Looking into the bright eyes of the young woman in the mirror–– hair pulled up and back like she didn’t need anything to hide behind, I smiled confidently. Grabbing my little purse, I left my suite in search of the dining room, where I hoped I’d find Mom. I had just pulled my door closed and wondered whether someone had given me a key or not the day before, when Mom appeared beside me.
“Good morning, Sunshine. You look nice.”
I gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You do too.”
Mom was wearing black pants, flat Oxfords I’d picked out for her, a pale green blouse, and a black cardigan. Everything we wore was new, given we’d lost nearly all our possessions in the storm. Her hair was tied back in a low ponytail and her face bare of makeup.
“How did you sleep?” I asked.
“Like a dead log.” She looped her arm through mine and steered me in a direction which I hoped led to the stairs. I didn’t even know which floor we were on.
“I think the expression is either ‘like the dead’ or ‘like a log,’” I replied with a smile.
“Why must you bore me with linguistics?”
“Well, you know, you’re the owner of a salvage company now, not to mention a fine collection of really old soggy stuff you rescued from The Sybellen. I figured you might want to step it up a notch, is all.”
“Ugh,” she groaned. “Don’t remind me. We could be exploring the Aegean by now.” We came to the wide staircase I recognized and began descending. Mom cocked an eyebrow in my direction. “It’s not too late to change your mind, you know. We could be braless and careless before lunch today.”
I shot her a hybrid look of exasperation and amusement.
Mom had been incensed when I’d told her I wasn’t interested in going to live in the ocean with her at this point in my life. The disaster in Saltford put her ire on pause, and it wasn’t hard to convince her to move. I knew she was still hoping I would change my mind, but how could I turn my back on Martinius’ wishes for his legacy? He’d left us his manor, his companies, and every other asset he and previous generations of Novaks had worked so hard for. What he’d given us was a huge responsibility, I couldn’t just abandon it. Plus I was in love. Antoni and my friends were strong emotional ties. There was no way I would abandon them either.
We were welcomed into the dining room by the smell of baked goods, sausages, and eggs. While we filled our ravenous bellies, we speculated on what today might be like.
“Do you remember meeting someone by the name of Krulikoski, last time we were here?” I asked as I speared a piece of cantaloupe.
Mom nodded. “The lady with the deep voice, from the party.” My memory flooded with images of the elegant woman in the gray gown. I smacked my own forehead. “Of course! The CFO! The one who introduced Martinius at The Sybellen’s salvage wrap-up party.”
She nodded. “Only I think she’s the CEO now.”
It came back to me. Hanna Krulikoski, she’d been given active control of the company after Martinius’s death until the board made a decision about who would take the dead president and CEO’s role. Marian had likely told me about the board’s decision in an email, and I’d been too distracted to pay attention. Apparently they’d decided to make her position permanent.
I wondered where the chips had fallen for Antoni in the post-death shuffle of the Novak company roster. I hoped he’d done well for himself. He had big ambitions and came across as incredibly capable, but what did I know about what a company this size was looking for? I hoped for some kindly individual at Novak to take me aside and discretely fill me in on all the big players. A bubble of anxiety inflated in my gullet and I shoved it down with a gulp of orange juice. I was the owner of Novak now, but I didn’t know what people expected from me. Were they going to be hostile? Did they think Martinius was a crackpot old guy who’d lost his marbles? I’d soon find out.
As we were finishing breakfast, a woman in a household staff uniform came in and began to clean up. “Good morning,” she said pleasantly. “I hope you slept well.”
“Morning…” Mom looked mildly pained.
“Serafina.” She smiled. “But everyone calls me Sera. Me and my husband Adalbert are your full-time live-in staff. Anything you need, just ask one of us.”
We thanked Sera and made our way to the front foyer. Breakfast didn’t settle happily in my stomach after all the mental speculation and I put a hand over my belly, feeling slightly nauseated. I could literally stop a tidal wave, but put me in front of my ‘employees’ and my brain went numb.
A woman in a pantsuit and tailored jacket stood in the front hall holding a portfolio in her arms and chatting quietly with a fellow dressed in what looked like a driver’s uniform. She brightened when she saw us coming.
“Here they are.” She smiled warmly, the corners of her eyes crinkling. I liked her immediately. “Are you ready to meet your staff and see your offices?”
Mom and I glanced at one another. She tilted her head in my direction. “This is your rodeo, sweetheart. I’m just along for the ride.”
I cleared my throat. “Ready as we’ll ever be.”
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