Release Date: 11/26/14
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Link to publisher’s page: http://www.ellorascave.com/
Genre: paranormal romance
Content/Theme(s) merfolk, action/adventure, Greek gods, magic, shifters,
Purchase Links: http://www.ellorascave.com/sea-change.html#
Shot at by drug dealers and left to drown, marine biologist Heidi is rescued by the hottest boat bum she’s ever seen. Tall, dark and handsome, Jake is every girl’s dream. But with her best friend missing or dead and the bad guys still after her, the last thing she has time for is romance.
As a merman, exiled from his colony and under a curse on when to shapeshift, Jake can’t afford to be around humans, especially a marine biologist who might discover his species. But he can’t throw Heidi to the wolves of the drug dealers and possibly corrupt law enforcement. He’ll fight drug lords, pirates and even the gods to protect her. More complications arise when Jake’s family shows up looking for help, but the biggest problem of all is whether Jake and Heidi can resist the massive attraction that grows between them.
Heidi knew they were in trouble before the first crate hit the water.
It had been a great day right up until it went to hell. The night was warm and clear, the water calm as a lake. She loved the sun, the sea, and especially her post-doctoral research project recording the behaviors and social activities of dolphins. She got to sit in a boat in the sunshine for hours on end with her favorite person in the world and study her favorite animal. In fact, she’d been so caught up in tonight’s research that she’d ignored the seaplane circling the cove where they floated in a rocky, cliff-lined inlet, just south of Ensenada. A pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins had played in the cove all day, providing an ideal observation opportunity. A few minutes before midnight, though, when the plane started dropping wooden crates wrapped in inflatable sleeves into the glassy, black water, Heidi’s gut clenched. Things were about to get messy.
“Brad, we need to get out of here. Fast.” She packed up her camera and notebook, her fingers shaking with haste. “I mean it.” Couldn’t he hear the terror making her voice quaver? Later, she might be embarrassed about being so scared. Right now she just wanted to be gone.
“Just a minute.” Lost in the research “zone”, Brad continued to scan the horizon. “I’ve got two adults and a juvenile…”
He was her best friend and she loved him like a brother, but right now Heidi longed to shake him into action. “Dude, we’ve got a freaking drug deal going down in this cove. Ignore the dolphins and start the damn engine. Now.” She secured the last of her equipment and yanked the binoculars out of Brad’s hands.
“What the hell?” He looked to where she pointed, saw the plane, gulped, and then turned his back to her to start up the small boat’s outboard engine.
“Strange planes dropping crates at midnight can’t be good. We’ve got to get out of here before the retrieval team shows up.” Heidi mentally willed the temperamental motor to start. Please don’t let us die!
No luck. He pulled the cord but the engine didn’t make a sound.
“Goddamn it, the crappy-assed thing’s flooded again,” Brad grumbled. Since their Zodiac was really nothing more than a giant rubber raft with a plywood floor, they hadn’t invested in a big motor, just a used one that would let them putter from place to place, watching the dolphins.
Dumb, dumb, dumb. “Of course it is. It always is when we need it most.” She watched as the plane disappeared. “Try priming it.”
As Brad primed the motor, Heidi picked up the plastic oars from the bottom of the boat and shoved them into the oarlocks. If nothing else, she’d row. One good thing about being almost six feet tall with the shoulders of a linebacker was that she could row as well as most of the guys in the marine biology department—better than some. Thank you, Viking ancestors.
While Brad messed with the motor, she began to pull in long strokes toward the nearest shore.
She’d only made it about a quarter of the distance when the sound of a different, bigger engine caught Heidi’s ears. From the south, she saw the running lights of a fast, slim cigarette boat. The low, sleek watercraft, about twice the size of their inflatable, sped into the cove then slowed to an idle near the southern shoreline where the crates bobbed in the waves.
“Shit, they’re here. They’re picking up the crates.” She could hear her voice rising in pitch, even as she tried to keep the volume down. Heidi rowed even harder toward the northern point of the cove. “Come on, buddy, this is bad. We’ve got to get out of here. Fast.”
There was a chance, just a slim one, that in the meager light of the moon, they’d blend in with the rocky coast enough to be overlooked while they rowed around the nearby outcropping and out of the cove.
Shouts in angry Spanish emerged from the other boat.
Heidi groaned. She recognized a few of those words. “Shit, we’ve been spotted. Hurry.”
Brad just grunted and kept working.
“Why the hell did I have to pick tonight to watch the dolphins? And why did you have to agree with me?” Duh, because the full moon and the calm seas made for excellent viewing conditions. Apparently they were also good conditions for a drug deal. “Come on, Brad. We’ve got to move!” She could see the headlines: “University Scientists Killed in International Drug-related Shootout.” Not good.
“No luck.” Brad turned to her as the powerful speed boat gunned its engines and headed toward them. “Any ideas?”
“Kick it!” It was a last-ditch play, one she’d seen her father use back in Minnesota once or twice, but this was a time for a Hail Mary if there ever was one. Her arms were beginning to ache—these oars weren’t designed for speed.
“Aye-aye, cap’n.” Brad hauled off and kicked the old Evinrude with his sneaker-clad foot. And glory be, it started. Heidi pulled up the oars and held on to her seat as Brad cranked it up to full throttle and they turned toward the tip of the cove. There was a resort just a little way up the coast, with lots and lots of people around. “We can make it.”
“Maybe,” Heidi conceded. But she didn’t believe it. The cigarette boat drew closer, and the shouts, now in a mixture of Spanish and English, carried across the unusually placid waters of the Pacific. Desperate to do something, anything, Heidi grabbed the emergency kit and scrabbled for the flare gun.
Her words were choked off as she heard a sharp report, felt something whiz by her left ear. “Oh, fuck, they’re shooting!”
“And gaining on us.” Brad swore in a steady stream. “Get down, Heidi!”
She did, falling to her knees between the seats and tugging at his shirt. “Get down yourself, you idiot!” She’d worked with Brad since they were undergrads. He was her best friend in the world, and she was every bit as terrified for him as she was for herself.
Their inflatable craft was more maneuverable than the power boat, but that didn’t help in the open ocean, and the other boat blew it away for speed. The bad guys were gaining quickly and shooting as they came.
She fired a flare back at the boat, but it fell short and she heard their raucous laughter ring out over the water. Damn, there were only two flares. She took a steady aim—as steady as she could get in a boat chopping through the waves, anyway, and waited until the other boat closed. Then she aimed at the shooter.
He screamed and toppled into the water, but the boat still kept coming. Another man produced a gun.
Heidi barely remembered how to pray, but right now she was sending off maydays to every god, goddess or other spirit she could think of.
There was a jarring thud followed by a sickening ripping sound and the grinding crunch of plywood being shredded. She could hear the roar and smell the gas fumes from the cigarette boat’s powerful engine. The impact threw her forward, smacking her head on the seat in front of her. She heard a scream, thought it might have been herself. The Zodiac spun in distorted circles no amusement park ride would ever want to duplicate, hissing and spitting as it went.
But it was only half of the Zodiac, Heidi saw in one heart-rending moment of visual clarity. A scream of anguish tore from her throat. “Brad!”
She couldn’t see the other half of their boat through the spray and smoke. There were more shots, some of them probably at her. And then the torn bow of the inflatable spun and flipped, flinging Heidi into the air before dropping her under the oily black waves. Just before she hit the water, she felt something strike the side of her head.
The world went black.
Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 19 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons, granddaughter, and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.