Fins Are Forever Page 2

“And if you don’t,” he adds, slinging an arm around my shoulders, “you can always take over for me at the lumberyard.”

“Ha ha,” I reply, sending a sharp elbow into his ribs.

“Lighten up, princess.” He tugs me closer, probably so I can’t swing my arm enough to get in another jab. “You’l do fine.”

“What, you’re psychic now?”

“Didn’t you know?” he asks seriously. “Must be an aftereffect of the bond.”

I sigh. If only that were true. If only Daddy hadn’t severed the bond ful y and Quince stil had some mer magic in his blood. If only.

I lean into his side, inhaling his scent of leather and mint toothpaste.

But I can’t change the past. I just have to content myself with being with him here. Which isn’t as rare as he seems to think. Ever since I returned to land, to high school, to Seaview, to him last week, Quince has been walking me to classes when he can and giving me rides to and from school on his charming death trap of a motorcycle. He’s even stopped by a couple times to share milk and cookies when he gets home from his part-time job at the lumberyard. He’s being a most devoted boyfriend—something I never would have guessed in the three years that he tortured and tormented me at every turn. Who knew he secretly loved me?

I’m a very lucky girl.

And the best part? He thinks he’s a very lucky boy, too.

We’ve just made it into the hal that leads to my classroom and the boys’ locker room when the rumble starts.

At first it’s just the sound, a deep, low roar that sounds like the Earth itself is moaning. That startles most everyone in the hal and they stop, looking around, uncertain at this strange, unidentifiable sound.

Then we feel it. The ground beneath me starts to shake, kind of like when a wave comes in and pul s the sand from beneath your feet—except that I’m standing on linoleum tile, not a beach.

“What the hel ?” Quince shouts above the roar and the shouts of panicked students.

The classroom door closest to us slams shut.

“I don’t know,” I reply, grabbing hold of his hand and squeezing. “It almost feels like… an earthquake.” The metal locker doors grind against their frames, and the fluorescent tubes above flicker with the movement.

This is crazy. Florida doesn’t have earthquakes like this.

Especial y not south Florida. Hurricanes? Yes. Tornadoes?


Swarms of killer sharks offshore?

Unfortunately. But it doesn’t have earthquakes, and certainly not ones this powerful. The entire school is shaking.

“Come on,” Quince yel s, pul ing me toward the gym. “We need to get in a doorway.”

We’re not the only ones with that idea. Groups of terrified-looking students huddle under the beige metal frames of the four sets of double doors leading to the boys’ gym.

There’s just enough room for us to squeeze into the last doorway.

I don’t know how Quince knows what to do—I guess he’s just that kind of can-do guy—or why a doorway is the best place to be, but I’m relieved. Land-based earthquakes are way beyond my realm of experience. I’ve been in a few underwater quakes. They’re not at al the same. Mostly it’s a lot of noise and heavier-than-usual current flow. If the epicenter is close, sometimes the ground vibrates a little.

Our belongings might get swirled around, but our buildings don’t shake. Nothing like this.

None of our settlements are built on fault lines, so we don’t have to worry about what would happen if the epicenter were directly beneath Thalassinia.

They might be feeling the effects of this quake, though.

The kingdom isn’t that far offshore. If the school is shaking around me, who knows how far out the tremors are radiating? I should send a messenger gul when I get home, just to check in.

“Maybe it’s a bomb,” a terrified freshman next to me whimpers.

“Or a terrorist,” her friend says, gasping. “It could be an attack.”

“It’s not an attack,” I say, trying to calm them down without rol ing my eyes at the melodrama.

Quince leans around me and gives them a reassuring smile. “It’s just an earthquake. It’l be over in a—” Before he finishes, the roar quiets and the ground stil s.

The hal goes eerily quiet, everyone frozen in an aftershock of confusion. Even the lights above have stopped flickering. I’l bet Seaview High has never been this silent during school hours ever. Then, after half a second, the hal way explodes in noise and chatter as stil -freaked students hurry on to their classrooms.

Quince says, “That was—”

“—weird,” I finish.

Quince and I stand there, hand in hand, for several long moments, like we’re waiting for something. For the other shoe to drop, maybe. The fire alarm or a tsunami or just another quake. It doesn’t seem like this sort of thing could just… be over.

After a couple minutes, it seems obvious that it was a one-time thing.

The PA system squeals to life, blasting from the speakers in the hal ceiling. “Al students, please proceed to your seventh-period classrooms immediately. Seventh-period teachers, please print out your attendance sheet and send it to the front office when al students have been accounted for.” There’s a squeal—they real y should have Ferret, the news team sound guy, check out the mic—and short pause, fol owed by “Teachers with an open seventh period, report to the principal’s office for further instruction. That is al .”

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