Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Clever Season (A Fairy Tale Romance) (Continued) by Linsey Lanier

(Continued from here.)

Three hours later we were in the middle of the ocean and I felt like I’d swallowed some bad pork. I leaned against the rail on the starboard side of the ship, trying to focus on the horizon. I’d heard that helped seasickness, but right now every bob and wave was making me want to upchuck.

Beside me, Chad scanned the sea. “I’m sorry you’re not feeling well, Stacey.”

I lifted myself and turned to look at him. He was gorgeous as usual. With the sea wind blowing through his dark hair and tunic, I wanted him to take me in his arms and give me one of those fiery kisses of his.

Then I remembered how mad I was at him. “You know, you could have consulted me before we let Captain Bly bring us all the way out here.”

He regarded me with a raised brow. “Bly? His name is Copper. And what do you mean? I thought we were looking for the blackguard, Sinbad.”

“Yeah, but if you call in a professional investigator on a case, you ought to let her handle it.”

His jaw stiffened. “I don’t understand.”

Of course, he didn’t. During my first hour on the ship—before the seasickness set in—I’d questioned every one of Copper’s buccaneers and nobody fessed up to knowing a thing about Sinbad or Sally. In my opinion, they were a pack of liars but I couldn’t prove a thing. I was no closer to finding Sally’s killer than when I first saw her on the beach. To top that off, I had no idea where we were.

I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was around and lowered my voice. “Did you stop to think this captain might kidnap you for a nice, fat ransom? You are a king’s son, after all.”

He rubbed his chin. “I didn’t consider that.”

“Besides, we have no real proof that they know where Sinbad is.”

He put his hands behind his back and his face went hard. “They know. I can sense it.”

I exhaled. “Well, when we get back to my world we’re going to have to think about some ground rules.”

“You want to go back to your world right away?”
That was a kicker. “Uh, yeah. It’s only fair. We said we’d split the time and so far, I only got a couple of weeks.”

“Hmm.” He turned to look at the ocean again.

“What does that ‘hmm’ mean?”

“It’s just that I have responsibilities here. Latham and the Slate brothers need assistance. And my father—”

“Now wait just a cotton picking minute. Are you saying you don’t want to go back to my world?”

“Ahoy.” The call came from the lookout seal in the crow’s nest. “Two points off starboard bow. Leviathan!”

A big wave rocked the ship. I grabbed onto the rail and peered in the direction the seal had pointed. A scaly green body shot out of the waves and dove back in. It looked like a giant greenish-blue snake.

“What is that?” I gasped, feeling even sicker.

“Sea monster,” Chad answered, ice in his voice.

A sea monster? That was all we needed.

“Yo ho, me hearties. There ye be.”

I spun around and saw Captain Copper and Barbarossa, the walrus buccaneer, hobbling and waddling toward us from the poop deck.

I glared at the captain. “You didn’t say there were sea monsters in this ocean, Copper.”

“Ye didn’t ask me, lass.” He gave me a wink, but I was in no mood for flirting.

“How soon before we get to Sinbad’s place?”

“Precisely my question, Copper,” Chad said.

Copper rubbed his chin and chuckled. “Funny thing about that. I was just checking me emails and a few websites and I discovered the going rate for a handsome prince isn’t what I’d thought it would be.”

I slapped my forehead. I knew Copper was up to something like that. I felt Chad tense beside me and knew something bad was about to happen.

“In fact, you’re worth more to me dead. I’d have a crack at yer father’s kingdom. And so you and yer lady friend will be walkin’ the plank. Unless she chooses to stay here with me.” He gave me another wink. “Savvy?”

That was too much for Chad. Livid, he drew Attila. “Thou surly, swag-bellied miscreant.”

Copper reached for his saber. “Oh ho, ye think ye can take on the captain, do ye?”

“With pleasure.”

I raised my hands. “Hey, let’s calm down and be gentlemen about this. I’m sure we can work something out.” Though I had no idea what.

Both of them ignored me. They stood off.

Chad took a stance, looking very Sir Lancelot and Errol Flynn and Johnny Depp with his muscular legs and torso and arms.

Copper struck a similar pose, but looked more like a cherry tomato.

They shuffled forward then back, forward and back again. They swung. Blades clashed. Advance, thrust, parry. Advance, thrust, parry.

This was getting ridiculous. “Hey, knock it off.”

Neither of them blinked. It was as if I’d become invisible, which really made me mad. They took a break to catch their breath and stood eyeing each other like two wild lions in a jungle. Then the battle began again.

Clang, clang, clang. Advance, thrust, parry. The swords cut through the air and clattered against each other, flashing enough metal to land a spaceship. Chad should have won easily in the first minute. He was clearly a better swordsman and was in much better shape. But Copper held his own. He was small and quick and hard to keep up with.

I heard seal’s breath behind me. “Get ’em, Captain.”

I turned around and saw Barbarossa, the other seal and the starfish. The buccaneers had gathered to watch the show.

Enough with the swashbuckling, already. I knew how to put a stop to this. I reached into my boot for my .22—and froze. It was gone. I glared at the crew. “Which one of you scallywags took my gun?”

Nobody said a word.

“Aye, I’ll make ye walk the plank one way or another.”

Plank? I spun back around.

A narrow opening had appeared in the side of the ship and a long board stretched out over the waters. Chad was on the board, madly wielding Attila against Copper’s blade. My heart started to pound.

“It’s you who’ll be walking the plank, thou unmuzzled rouge.” Chad cried and backed up another few inches. What the heck was he doing?

Copper laughed. “If I were you I’d think again.”

“Thou venomed villain.”

“Thou spoiled son of an aristocrat,” Copper mocked.

If only I had my gun. Then I got it. Chad was trying to lure Copper onto the plank, then finish him off and dunk him in the sea. But just as he was about to make his final blow, a wave swelled beneath the vessel, shooting the boat up and into the air.

Chad lost his balance and fell off the board.

“No.” I screamed and ran onto the board behind Copper. “What have you done, you jerk?” I charged at him with both hands, wanting to shove him into the drink as well.

But he sidestepped. I ran out of board. Down I went.

I hit the water with a splash and felt my body turn into an icicle. Fortunately, I’d had some drowning training in the police academy and kept my head.

When I came to the surface, I swung my wet hair out of my face and began treading water alongside Chad. I glared up at Copper.

He looked down at us, gloating. “You two ought to know better than to trust a pirate.”

“You lying son of a—”

“I’m no liar, lass. I said I’d take ye to Sinbad and I have.”

“I don’t see any Sinbad.”

“You will. Sinbad’s in Davy Jones’ Locker. You’ll be getting there quick once Leviathan catches yer scent.”

I turned my head and saw the scaly, greenish-blue body diving into the water not so far away.

The ocean swelled and the last thing I heard as the ship moved away was Copper’s awful laugh in my ears.

The ship was half a naut away and starting to look like a toy boat in the distance when another wave hit us.

“Hey,” I cried as the water forced me up to the height of a two-story bungalow and dropped me down again. Up I went. Down I went. This wasn’t helping my stomach at all. “What are we going to do?” I yelled to Chad.

But I didn’t hear an answer and I couldn’t see my paramour. “Chad,” I cried, my heart pounding.

Suddenly, the water began to quake.

Behind me, I heard a huge roar.

I swung my head around, spotted Chad and screamed.

There was a huge aquamarine head with giant jaws and teeth coming right for us.

“Look out,” I yelled.

Somehow, Chad still had Attila, his trusty sword, in his hand. He brandished the weapon and poked the monster right in the nose just before it gobbled him up.

The creature shrieked and wagged its monstrous head in the air.

Before it could recover, Chad took a deep breath and dove under the water—just as another wave rolled in.

“Wait for me.” I did the same.

Below the surface, I opened my eyes and had to fight to keep from gasping. The sea creature’s long, scaly body, as wide as a freight train, slithered gracefully through the water, its iridescent movements so terrifyingly beautiful, they were mesmerizing.

It had a pair of big webbed feet with claws like a giant eagle’s talons. And wings. The thing had wings?

Where was Chad? I stared hard and finally spotted him hacking away with Attila at the beast’s torso. But its scales were too thick to penetrate.

The monster’s head was above water, no doubt hunting for us. It was only a matter of time before it figured out where we were.

I felt like I was having a deja vu. Mordo, I thought. The dragon I’d killed when I first met Chad. This thing must be a relation.

As fast as I could, I swam over to him. How we could both hold our breath so long underwater, I had no idea, but there was no time to think about that now.

I grabbed hold of Chad’s arm.

He spun around, nearly coming at me with his sword. He frowned at me.

I pointed to my throat—Mordo’s weak spot.

He nodded and swam along the monster’s body, trying to find its neck area.

The body twisted and spun. I was sure any second now the head would plunge under the water and find us.

I followed Chad, daring to touch the body feeling for a soft spot. It seemed to slow down. Maybe it thought I was a piece of driftwood to scratch against.

Finally, right between the set of claws, the scales gave way to gooey flesh. That was it. The soft spot. With my free arm, I waved madly to Chad.

In an instant he was beside me. With both hands, he wielded Attila over his head and drove the blade into the monster’s throat.

The cry that vibrated through the water from above was like a whole herd of elephants in heat. The monster began to twist and turn, writhing in death pangs. Or at least I hoped that’s what it was. Blood spilled into the water, clouding it until I couldn’t see anything.

And then through the murky water, I saw it coming at me full force. The claw. It smacked me on the head and I went flying.

First sideways. Then down.

Down, down I went. The water swirled around me. I struggled as hard as I could. My ears popped as the water pressure increased. My head spun. All I saw was blackness. I closed my eyes. I must have loss consciousness. I had no idea how long I’d been out when I felt my feet touch firm surface.

I opened my eyes. I was still holding my breath—how I had no idea—and I was on the bottom of the ocean. Seaweed and jellyfish and sea horses floated around me.

I moved my legs and discovered I could walk. Where was Chad? I didn’t see him, but after a few steps I realized there was a large structure just ahead.

It was large and oval shaped and seem to be made of metal. It was riveted together like a sunken submarine and covered with yellowish green of moss and barnacles that made it glow like something from another world.

There was a door on the side of it and over the door hung a wooden sign with letters carved into it. I stopped and read. “Davy Jones Locker.”

My heart stopped. Was I dead? This wasn’t the way I thought it would all end. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to my folks.

Just then I saw Chad walking along as if in slow motion. Was he dead, too? His tunic was open and billowed, showing off his beautiful chest. His dark hair swirled around his too gorgeous face. As he came nearer, I saw he was holding his breath, too. He seemed like he was alive, but I didn’t have a lot of experience being dead, so I didn’t know for sure.

He gestured at the yellowish green building with the sign.

I nodded and pushed myself forward, which was easier than I’d thought it would be. Before I knew, I was at the door.

I knocked.

“No visitors,” a muffled voice from inside said. The accent sounded foreign.

I knocked again.

“I’m busy.”

I didn’t dare open my mouth to yell, so I pounded at the door.

After a minute or two, it swung open. “What is it?”

Before me stood a good-looking young man dressed all in purple—tunic, a richly woven vest, loose-fitting slacks and a turban. A black widow’s peak of hair stuck out from beneath the turban, and his thin black brows and goatee looked like they’d been penciled in by a Hollywood makeup artist.


I pointed at my mouth, trying to indicate I couldn’t talk. I tried to play charades, gesturing to Chad and inside the door.

He rolled his eyes then shook his head. “Very well. Come in.”

Chad and I stepped inside a circular foyer with a Persian rug on the floor and a chandelier overhead. Through a columned arch I spied a long hall.

“One moment.” We waited while our host brought us towels to dry off.

I rubbed the towel through my wet hair. “Sorry to drop in on you like this, but we didn’t have much choice.” I dried my hand and held it out to him. “Stacey Alexander. Private investigator.”

“How very nice to meet you.” At least he was polite. He turned to Chad. “And you are?”

“Prince Chad, heir apparent to the throne of King Thrugood.”

Sinbad’s face grew serious. He made a deep bow from the waist, twirling his hand in the air as he dipped. “My liege.”

Chad gave him a regal nod.

“We’d like to talk to you,” I said.

He looked slightly annoyed. “We’ll have to talk while I work. You interrupted a project.”

He led us into a cozy living room, down a hall and into what looked like a workshop. It was large and well lighted, though it had no windows. I took in the space. There were tools, a worktable and shelves filled with seashells in all shapes and sizes. Starfish, sand dollars, conches. Clam clamshells, oyster shells, scallop shells. Every mollusk you could imagine.

I ran my finger over the workbench. “You have quite a collection here, Sinbad.”

He turned to study me and folded his arms. “I see you know my name.”

Chad stepped up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders in a protective move. “We know more than your name, sir.” There was a threat in his voice. “We know your occupation, if one can call it that.”

Unperturbed, Sinbad chuckled. “My former occupation, you mean.”

“You’re a pirate.”

“Correction. I was a pirate. Love has made me give that profession up.”

Had he become Sally’s supplier? Or had he decided to go into competition against her? I gestured to the shelves. “And start collecting sea shells instead?”

He smiled, shyly I thought. “I know it sounds a bit bizarre.” He opened his mouth and for a moment I thought he was going to launch into the chorus of Camelot. Instead, he grew dreamy-eyed. “But love has turned me around. In fact, it’s turned me into a conchologist. It’s a good business, actually. And an honest one.”

I wasn’t buying it. “I think it made you konk someone on the head.”

His dark, penciled-in brows knit together. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I put my hands on my hips. “Your girlfriend? Sally the mermaid?”

“You know Sally?” He actually blushed. “Yes, Sally and I are quite serious about each other.” He sighed deeply. “There’s no woman in the deep blue sea who has done as much for me. She can stop my heart and make it yearn for something more. Something better than anything I’ve ever known before.”

Well, she was a mermaid. Time to cut to the chase. “Is that why you killed her, Sinbad?” I sneered. “Because you loved her so much?”

His face went dark. “What you mean? Sally’s not dead.”

“She was the last time I saw her. Her friend Skeg found her body on the beach this morning.”

He staggered back against the workbench knocking over some shells. “This cannot be true. You have to be lying.”

Either he was doing a good acting job or this guy was for real. I softened my approach a tad. “I’m sorry, Sinbad, but it is true. I’ve been called in to find her killer.”

He straightened, his face full of terror. “You are not telling the truth. I am going to find out for myself.”

He brushed past us and ran out of the room.

“After him,” Chad said.

We trotted down the hall behind Sinbad, zigzagging through corridors until we reached the end of one where the man had just disappeared through an opening. Chad raced to the spot, grabbed the handle and threw open the door.

I followed him inside and found myself in a small, oval shaped room with walls lined with rounded windows. Sinbad was in a chair behind a control panel and what looked like a steering wheel. Behind him were two passenger seats.


“Sit down and buckle your seat belts,” Sinbad commanded over his shoulder as he pulled levers and a motor started to churn. “This vessel is solid, but it moves fast.”

We had just enough time to climb into the seats and buckle in before the engine roared and the whole house—or whatever it was—shook like rocks in a blender. We lifted off the ocean floor, hovered a minute, then with a whoosh we took off.

The contraption was heading straight up. My ears popped and my nose felt like it was going to start to bleed. Seconds late, we hit the surface and began skipping over the ocean at breakneck speed.

I wanted to scream. Or barf. If my stomach had been sick on Fortune’s Lady, it was ready for quarantine now. I hung on to the arms of my seat, my knuckles turning white. I stole a glance at Chad and saw him gritting his teeth.

I closed my eyes as the churning sensation washed over me. We must’ve been going a thousand nauts a minute. After what seemed like an hour of agony, but was only about fifteen minutes, we came to a grinding halt.

My head jerked forward as the brakes squealed. From the front window I could see we were on the beach, spewing up sand like a geyser as we skidded to a stop.
Sinbad thrust open a hatch over his head and jumped out. “Sally,” he cried.

I followed through the opening with Chad right behind me. We raced over the sand until we found Sinbad standing over the body.

His shoulders heaved as he wept openly. “Sally, Sally my love. What happened to you?” He bent down, took her limp hand in his and kissed it.

The donkey-surfer dude was still there. Angrily, he pawed the ground. “What happened to her? You, like, killed her, man. The prince is going to put you in the dungeon for that.”

Sinbad shot up and glared at Skeg. “I did not kill her. I loved her.”

At the moment I was inclined to believe him. A man doesn’t race over the water and cry like that for ego.

“Wait a minute,” said the seal, who was also still hanging around. “Look.” He pointed at the body with his flipper.

We all stared down at Sally, holding our breaths. Her fingers began to move. Her arms slid over the sand and her hands lifted to peel the seashells off her eyes.

Slowly, she sat up. “Wow. That was some meditation session.” She held out the shells. “These work better than cucumbers.”

My chin hit the sand. “Meditating? She wasn’t dead?” I turned and scowled at the donkey-surfer.

He raised his hands. “Like…like, I thought she was dead, man. I assumed she’d washed up on the beach.”

The seal sat up on his hind paws, took a flipper and gave him a slap right on his donkey butt. “You’ve got to stop doing that, Skeg. You know what it makes you when you assume.”

Skeg hung his head and almost brayed in shame.

I fisted my hands on my hips. “You ought to be ashamed. What a waste of our time.”

Chad whispered in my ear. “I did warn you that people are a little strange out here.”

I narrowed my eyes at him.

Still recovering from her meditation, Sally looked up and saw Sinbad. She grinned. Then she grimaced. “What are you doing here?”

“My love, they told me you were dead.” Sinbad reached down for her.

“Leave me alone.” She got to her, uh…fins, steadied herself and shimmied over the sand, heading for her shell and seasoning stand.

Sinbad followed her. “Darling.”

“Don’t you ‘darling’ me.”

“What is wrong?”

She stopped and flung her long blond hair over her shoulder. “What’s wrong? You and your pirate ways. You told me you were through with them. You lied to me.”

“I did not lie. I have reformed. I swear it. I have fallen in love with you and have mended my ways. I have returned all the gold and silver I stole.”

Sally shook her head. Tears glistened in her eyes. “You’ve gone back to your old ways.” She turned away to start for the stand again.

“Darling.” Sinbad reached for her arm, spun her around to face him. “You are breaking my heart. Please believe me.”

“Why should I? You said you loved me and then you left for two weeks.”

“Two weeks? Has it been two weeks?” Sinbad looked like he’d been hit in the face with a dead herring. “Oh, my love. I am so sorry. I got carried away with my new seashell collection.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“Because you are the one who inspired it.”

“Hah.” She put her nose in the air.

“It’s true. Wait. I know how I can prove it. All this time, I have been making a surprise for you.”

Sally folded her arms and tapped one of her fins on the sand. “What surprise?”

He reached into the pocket of his trousers, pulled something out and opened his hand. “These.” In his palm were two perfect silver shells dangling from hooks. I wondered if the silver was from his last bit of stolen treasure, but it was much.

“Seashell earrings?” Sally squealed, her resistance crumbling. “For me?”

“All for you. Along with my heart.” Gently, he put them in her ears then took her hands in his. “You are the loveliest woman in the world.”

Just in case she had any second thoughts, I stepped up to the couple. “He’s telling the truth about reforming, Sally. I know scoundrels and this one’s gone straight for sure.”

Chad joined me. “I concur. And because you have convinced the royal detective and the crown prince of your transformation, Sinbad, you will not be incarcerated for past crimes.”

Sinbad grabbed Chad’s hand and kissed it. “Thank you, sire.”

“Be free and live well.”

“I guess I can’t argue with that.” Sally threw her arms around Sinbad’s neck and gave him a big juicy mermaid kiss.

I almost blushed. Time to leave them to get reacquainted. I let Chad take my hand and lead me away.

“Case closed,” I grinned.

“An excellent job.”

I smirked. “Even if I didn’t catch a killer?”

“But you would have.”

I shot him a look from the corner of my eye. “What was that bit about ‘royal detective’ back there?”

He straightened his broad, regal shoulders. “You don’t have to take the title if you don’t care for it.”

I shrugged. “Has kind of a nice ring…while we’re here.” I remembered we never finished our discussion on Fortune’s Lady.

He stopped and turned to face me. “Stacey, you’ve always been free to go back to your own world whenever you like.”

I thought about that. I thought about Chad sword fighting with Captain Copper, about him fighting the sea monster to save me. I’d gotten used to him. Life would be pretty dull without my swashbuckling prince. “I don’t want to go back there without you. But…we did have a deal.”

Chad sighed. “You realize I will have to return to take my father’s throne one day.”

I hadn’t wanted to think about that, but it had been in the back of my mind. Maybe that was why this was such a touchy topic. “And until then?”

“I’m a man of my word. We’ll continue to split the time between our worlds. But if I’m needed here, I may have to return on a moment’s notice. And…”


He turned his face toward the sea, his eyes like steel. “I will have to go after Copper one day. He must be brought to justice.”

I’d like to put that scallywag behind bars. I looked into Chad’s eyes. They were as deep and blue as the ocean. My heart did a little dance. I couldn’t resist him any more than Sally could Sinbad. “Okay,” I said. “As long as you take me with you.”

His broad grin was dazzling in the sun. “My dearest, most clever detective, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” And he bent his head and gave me a regal, fiery kiss that made my heart feel as if it had swum around the world.

And in a way, it had.


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