Seventeen-year-old Emma Harris is drowning on dry land.
No one knows what’s happening to her, and she’d like to keep her evolution from human to mermaid a secret, but the truth is getting harder and harder to hide. From her adoptive family, from her friends, and especially from the irresistible James Phelps.
Her time in the ocean is spent dodging a possessive merman, while her time on land is split between caring for her special-needs brother and squeezing in every last possible moment of human life. She soon realizes falling for James is unavoidable when he constantly comes to Emma’s rescue and somehow manages to see through her carefully constructed icy facade to the vulnerability she lives with every day. Everything about James makes Emma yearn for a life on land she just can’t have.
When Emma’s brother disappears on her watch, James is the only person she trusts to help her save him. But even if they can save her brother, nothing can prevent her return to the sea. Whether she likes it or not, Emma is changing—unable to breathe without yielding to the tide—and it’s only a matter of time before she’s forced to surrender forever.
“It’s okay, Emma. It’s just school.”
“Yep. And Everest is just a mountain.” She glanced at her younger brother, Keith, wondering again if it was a mistake for her parents to enroll him in regular high school. The district classified him as “special needs,” and Emma agreed with that label. He was special, and for whatever reason, he thought he needed to attend school with her.
What if people were mean to him because he was different? What if bullies picked on him? What if he came away traumatized for life? Hoping he was still this excited about school at the end of the day, she nudged him with her bag. “Let’s go, you grown-up high schooler.”
Keith’s grin split his face, lighting his eyes with excitement and pressing a wrinkle into his prominent forehead. The look melted Emma’s heart. If they were mean to him, she’d destroy them. Destroy them completely.
“You’ll find me at lunch, right?” He started toward the building, twisting the bottom of his T-shirt into a ball. The first nervous gesture he’d shown since they’d left the house.
“Yep. And we can eat outside on the grass if you want.”
“Okay, ’cause I know I’m going to be hungry. It’s my first day of high school, and Gran says teenage boys are always hungry.”
Smiling at his eagerness, Emma saw Keith to his first class, where a petite woman with dark, spiked hair introduced herself. “Hello, Keith,” she said. “I’m Mrs. Long, the aide. I’m here to help you learn everything you need to know about high school.”
“Hi, Mrs. Long.” Obviously embarrassed, Keith pulled the collar of his shirt over his face, hiding his pink-tinted cheeks.
“Is this your sister?” Mrs. Long asked, trying to force him to engage. “Are you going to introduce us?”
Hesitant to leave until she was sure Keith would be okay, Emma said, “Why don’t you be a gentleman and introduce me to your teacher?” Nothing. She kept her voice light, despite the nerves buzzing along her skin. “Keith, I’m going to be late to class. You don’t want me to get in trouble, do you?”
“No.” He shook his head, still hiding.
“Remember what we talked about?” she asked, tugging on the wrinkled bottom of his shirt and trying not to curse her parents. “How it’s polite to look at people when you talk to them?”
“How if you’re going to high school, you have to have manners and pay attention to what your teacher says?”
This time, he let the shirt down enough that his eyes peeked over the top. “Yes.”
“And do you still want to go to high school, or have you changed your mind? Because if you’d rather go home, I can take you.” And she would, even if it meant missing her entire first-period class.
He let go of his shirt and smoothed it over his torso, biting his lip. “No, I’m big. I want to stay.”
Pride filled the empty spaces in her chest. Keith was so much stronger than she would ever be. “Then hurry and introduce me before I’m late.”
Scuffing his shoe on the ground, he muttered, “This is my sister, Emma.”