The man beckoned to her from beneath the silky surface of the sea. The familiar unease unfurled in Imogen’s core, and instead of turning away as she usually did, Imogen met his gaze and tried to study him objectively.
The man’s grin widened. He was really more of a creature, she supposed. His skin was so white that the pearlescent sheen of it gleamed in the soft light from the moon, reminding Imogen of the underbelly of a salmon. Eyes of milky opalescence blinked at her, flashes of pinks and greens shimmering in their depths. Both beautiful and terrifying, Imogen swallowed against her suddenly dry throat as the man raised a hand and beckoned to her once more. The most surprising thing? A part of her wanted to follow him. To dive into the wintry cold water of the sea, sinking into the inky depths, and deliver her mind over to the delusions that had danced on the edge of her consciousness for years now. When that urge became dangerously close to engulfing her, Imogen turned from the bow of the boat and shuddered, gulping in a few deep breaths and forcing herself to break the pull she felt from the creature she saw in the water.
That she’d seen most of her life, that is. In her dreams as well.
It was always the same man who followed her – slipping silently just below the ocean’s surface – during stormy nights or calm blue-sky days. A part of her hated this creature, for his appearance threw her own sanity into question, and yet another part of her yearned to go to him. It was as though he was a missing link in her life, but Imogen didn’t have the time nor inclination to dissect just what he symbolized for her. Maybe, someday, when her boat was paid off and she could take a moment to breathe, Imogen would plop herself down on a therapist’s couch and pour out all of her fears. But that day had not yet come, and Imogen doubted it ever would. The luxury of analysis and self-improvement was not afforded to a person like her, who spent every waking moment trying to build her business and keep her deck crew employed.
Annoyed with herself, and the direction of her thoughts, Imogen strode across the deck of the Mystic Pirate, her very own charter boat, and locked the wheelhouse. They’d arrived in Grace’s Cove that morning, the harbor hugged by rolling green hills with colorful houses dotting the winding streets. It was a charming village, and a place that Imogen had been scouting for longer charter trips for the American tourists that visited each summer. She wanted to meet with a few B&B owners to see about offering a land and sea package holiday. Imogen’s instincts told her that a package which mixed the best of what Ireland had to offer would be well-received, particularly by tourists who had limited vacation days.
Imogen leapt onto the dock, pausing to slip on her shoes, and then walked toward the village, still feeling the familiar rocking of the boat beneath her. It was always that way when she stepped onto land, Imogen thought with a bemused smile on her face. At sea, she was at her most stable, while on land she felt off-kilter and out of sorts. With no family to speak of, and very few friends, the gentle rocking motion that plagued most sailors when they went to land was a comfortable reminder to Imogen of where she really belonged.
A captain of her own ship, on the water, controlling her own destiny.
She’d never fit in the regular world anyway, for she had no frame of reference for how the usual things were done. She’d never had birthday parties or played sports and had just enough schooling to get by. No, Imogen wasn’t going to bake a pie with a baby perched on her hip. The very thought made her laugh, as the vision of that life seemed more delusional to her than the creature that followed her at the ocean’s edge.
A recent rain had left puddles in the streets of Grace’s Cove, and they reflected the lights of the shops and restaurants that clustered together, winding up the street toward the top of the hill. Imogen strolled along, her hands in the pockets of her fleece jacket, and hummed a song that had been niggling at her brain for a while. It was one of those things where she just couldn’t place the tune, and it had been driving her wild for months. She heard the song in her dreams, and she caught herself singing it during the day while she helped to clean the boat or tallied their provisions. It was a melancholy tune, almost heartbreaking in its need, and Imogen still hadn’t been able to discover where she’d learned of it.
Opal eyes blinked at her from a puddle on the street and Imogen skidded to a stop, her stomach twisting, as the creature from the ocean smiled up at her. This was…this was new, Imogen thought, sweat breaking out across her brow. Fear gripped her and she turned to run, only to slam directly into a wall.
Well, at least what felt like a wall. Instead, hands gripped her arms, steadying her, and Imogen caught her breath as her gaze rose from the buttons of a flannel shirt and up, up, up to the face of a glowering man. Stormy gray eyes, a rough beard, and a chiseled jawline would be enough to make any woman swoon. For Imogen, it was like a plug finding a socket, and a strange energy coursed through her – making her feel both alive and inconceivably resilient.
She wanted to kiss him.
The thought shocked her enough to step back, cutting their physical contact, and the hum of energy lessened – but it did not entirely abate. Imogen was not a lusty person, oh no, if anything she found sex to be tedious or boring most times. Which is why it had been ages since she’d let a man touch her. And yet now, it was like all her senses woke up and she wanted, well, things she shouldn’t want from a stranger who was glaring at her on the street.
“What was that song you were singing?” The man’s voice, like honey spilled on gravel, caused her insides to go liquid so she just stared at him in confusion for a moment until his words registered. What an odd thing to ask, Imogen thought, and then heat crept up her cheeks when she realized she was just standing there with her mouth hanging open like a fish out of water.
“Um, sure and it’s just a made-up tune, really. A bit of nonsense at that.” Imogen cleared her throat and took another step back from the intensity of this man.
“Is it?” The man’s brow furrowed, and he seemed to be considering his next words carefully. Imogen wondered if she should take this opportunity to turn and run, but the confusing mix of feelings that roiled inside her kept her rooted to the spot. A door from the restaurant behind her swung open, and a patron stepped onto the street. Laughter, music, the clinking of silverware, along with the delicious scent of garlic danced in the air, and Imogen was grateful that she wasn’t alone on the street with this stranger. A man easily double her size, built of muscle, with a storm cloud of emotions on his handsome face.
“I believe it to be, yes.” Imogen spoke her words carefully, taking another step away, though her body urged her to step forward and back into his arms. It had felt safe there, though why Imogen needed to feel safe, she couldn’t be certain. Her mind flashed back to the creature in the puddle. Okay, sure, maybe a big strapping man by her side wasn’t a bad thing. Maybe just not this man…
“What are you?” His tone was clipped, and Imogen’s eyes widened when he clenched his fists at his sides.
“Surely, you’ve seen a female before, haven’t you then?” Imogen arched a brow at the man. She rocked lightly back on her heels, her hand going to her waistband where her favorite knife was tucked. Imogen had learned a lot working the docks, and protecting herself had been at the top of the list.
“You heard my question.” The man glanced to the sky, his brows drawing together in concern as lightning exploded in the velvety darkness.
There were no storm clouds. Imogen swallowed, worry filling her, as the man’s eyes sought hers once more.
“And I answered it.” Imogen lifted her chin.
“Something’s wrong.” The man moved to brush past her, but stopped just at her side, and looked down at her. “Be careful with your songs, little one. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Excuse me?” Imogen whirled as the man raced up the street, preternaturally quiet. Unease slipped through her at the faint purple tinge she could now see glowing in a soft silhouette around the man. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen such a thing, but it was something she decidedly tried to ignore. Much like the faces in the water, Imogen wasn’t interested in trying to explain why she could see people’s auras. At least that’s what her research had led her to believe. One big problem? From what she’d learned, auras came in all colors.
Imogen could only see two aura colors. Silver and purple. Neither of which helped her when it came time to convince herself that she was, indeed, normal.
While a pint and a bit of home-cooked food had initially been what had drawn Imogen from the Mystic Pirate and into the village, now she turned abruptly and made her way back to her boat, hurrying as another bolt of lightning lanced across the night sky.
Whatever problems plagued Grace’s Cove were not her own, Imogen decided, breathing out a sigh of relief when she stepped back onto her ship. Unlocking the door to her wheelhouse, she slipped inside and locked the door behind her, and then clambered down a short flight of stairs that led to the galley and lounge area. She crossed the gleaming wood floor and opened a cabinet to pull out a bottle of Green Spot that was usually reserved for the guests and poured herself a healthy glass. Leaning against the counter, Imogen took a sip, and the familiar heat of whiskey soothed her throat.
What are you?
The man’s words drifted back to her.
“I wish I knew,” Imogen said out loud, before lifting her glass in a silent toast to the strangely glowing man she’d met on the street. “Trust me, sir, I wish I knew.”
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