Chapter One


“I need to talk to you.”

Zane looked up at her from his place beside the pool. She was dressed in a rather small bikini, looking as inviting as always. Even after four years together, he couldn’t get enough of her.

“What about?” he asked.

“I—uh,” Rikki said, in an unusual display of insecurity.

He sat up straighter, putting his book aside and focusing completely on her. She was only insecure when it came to asking him for things, or discussing serious matters, and having his concentration completely on her tended to make it easier for her to say whatever was on her mind.

“I—” she said again, and trailed off once more.

He took her hand, standing up beside her. “What is it, love?”

She studied the ground, biting her lip. His imagination started running wild with ideas on what could be wrong for her to be so closed up about it, so hesitant to tell him about it. Was she sick? Had something happened to her friends? Was there something wrong on in her mermaid life?

“I’m pregnant.”

His world stopped.


She pursed her mouth. “You heard me.”


“I don’t know how it happened,” Rikki said. “We’re always careful, but I guess nothing’s one hundred percent for sure, and I just—I’ve been feeling sick, and then I didn’t get my period, and at first I thought it might be something mermaid, but then—I just took the test. Three, actually. And they’re all positive.”

“You’re—pregnant,” Zane said. “As in—having a baby?”

“Is there any other kind of pregnant?” Set her chin defiantly. “It’s yours, so don’t even try to say otherwise.”

The thought hadn’t even occurred to him – he trusted Rikki implicitly. If she was pregnant, then it was most definitely his – he was simply having more trouble with the idea of her being pregnant to begin with. Pregnant meant a baby. A baby. They were twenty years old – he was not old enough to become a parent! Though he’d imagined marrying her and having kids with her, it was something for later – much, much later.

He realized she was looking at him, waiting for him to say something.

“I—I don’t—uh,” he said, unable to get his brain to work. “You’re sure?”

“Three pregnancy tests,” she said patiently, as though she hadn’t just told him that thirty seconds earlier. “I’m sure.”

“How—uh, long?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Rikki said, shrugging and looking down. “The test doesn’t say that, and I haven’t been to the doctor, obviously.” She paused, and added, “But I think it’s about a month or so. It’s how long I’ve been feeling—ill.”

He swallowed. He’d known that Rikki was feeling under the weather – it was hard to live with someone and not realize when they were puking at all hours of the day – but they hadn’t gone to the doctor, because she’d refused it, knowing that even a simple blood test would be dangerous, a risk to their secret.

Now that she’d told him she was pregnant, the signs fit. Zane had heard about morning sickness and a wide variety of other things pregnancy brought. The biggest part of it, obviously, was a baby at the end of it.

Unbidden, the image of Rikki, stomach bulging with pregnancy, entered his mind. Although it was a somewhat inviting image, it freaked him out to the point where he could feel his heart racing.

“Are you going to keep it?” he asked weakly.

She shrugged, studying the ground again. “I don’t know. It’s not just my decision. It should be ours. Do you want to be a father?”

Zane couldn’t see himself as a father of someone. The only role model he had was his own father and he wasn’t a particularly great dad, especially not when Zane was little. He wondered if he himself could forget his child at a resort while on a business trip, or use the child as a servant rather than a son or daughter.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I thought I’d be a father at some point but now—”

“It’s a bit early, yeah,” she said, still avoiding eye contact. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” he echoed. “About what?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. This, I guess. Though it’s not really just my fault, is it?”

“No,” he said, knowing they were both at equal blame, if blame was to be doled out.

He pulled her close, hugging her and kissing her forehead.

“We don’t have to decide right now,” Rikki said against his shoulder. “We still have a bit of time, I think.”

He ran a hand down the side of her face, and then, hesitatingly, allowed the hand to continue down, over supple breasts and down to her stomach. It was as taut and flat as he’d always known it – but something was growing in there now, a little combination of him and her, a little person of its own. A baby, their baby. If they allowed this to continue, they’d be parents eight or so months down the road.

“I’m going for a swim,” Rikki said, pulling away. “We both need to think, before we decide anything.”

He nodded. “I’ll—uh, be here, I guess.”

Sometimes he wished he could go with her under water – he loved the serenity of the world below the surface and dove when he had the chance, but swimming without masks and oxygen, with the tail of a fish instead of diving equipment had to be amazing.

She stood up on her toes and placed a kiss on his lips, and then she left without another word.

He dove into the pool, hoping that the water would cool his head, because his thoughts were racing a million miles a minute. He thought of holding a baby – he couldn’t remember ever having done that, because he had no siblings and no cousins that were younger than him and there just didn’t seem to be babies around him. Now he might have his own? The thought was freaky.

He indulged himself in the fantasy of having a mini-Rikki, a little baby girl with pale white hair, large blue eyes and red ruby lips. He imagined Rikki as a mother, holding a child in her arms, caring and loving it with that massive capacity to love she had beneath the tough exterior. He imagined the three of them, him, her and the baby, a little happy family.

They wouldn’t have trouble with money – his father had warmed up to Rikki and realized that the two were going to be together for a long time and the allowance Zane received was enough to cover the bills of the apartment he shared with Rikki by the university, and what was left over at the end of the month sat in their joint account. They both worked part time – he at his father’s company, she at a restaurant – so that they didn’t live completely on his father’s charity. Zane didn’t think his father would be thrilled about a baby so early, but he doubted his father would disinherit him, or anything like it. Zane was, after all, a grown-up. He’d be twenty-one by the time the baby was born.

His mind returned to the image of the happy family. He had no idea what it took to raise a child, but he suspected it was quite a bit of work – babies cried and pooped and were awake in the middle of the night, and they weren’t necessarily silent when they should be. He wasn’t a kids-person, being far too spoiled to like a little creature that stole every bit of attention and required him to put its need before his own.

It was a bad idea, really. Having a baby now, it was far too early and stupid. They should wait five or seven or even ten years and then he might be mature enough to handle the responsibility.

Yet a part of him refused to accept that easy way out. A part of him that he hadn’t known existed was terribly excited, about seeing a mesh of him and Rikki, about meeting the little person they created, even though it was probably just a little blob that didn’t look anything like a human yet.

He sighed. He needed to talk to Rikki; he would get nowhere just thinking alone.

New scene

An hour later, he had reached the moon pool. He didn’t know whether she would be there or not, but it was the only place he knew to look – he couldn’t very well search the sea for her.

She was in the water, arms resting on the rocks, head to the side, watching him as he came into the cave. She’d probably heard him a while ago, as he made his way through the tunnels.

She looked beautiful, her hair slicked back and trails of water running down her face and shoulders. Below the surface, he could see her golden tail, lazily moving this way and that.


“Hi,” he said, taking off his shoes and sitting down next to her. He dipped his feet into the warm water.

“You look like you’ve been thinking.”

“Is that a look?” he asked.

“You get this crease between your eyebrows,” she said, smiling slightly. “So serious.”

He gave a light shrug. “This is serious.”

She sighed. “I know. I just—I have no idea.”

“We’re too young,” Zane said. “We’re not done with school, we’re not ready for the responsibility, and the only logical thing is to abort it.”

She looked stricken, her mouth falling open at his bluntness.


“But I still want it.”

Her eyes widened even more, in complete shock.

“You—want this baby?” she asked.

He ran a hand through his hair. “I—yeah. I do. I shouldn’t, because it’s not logical or smart, but—I do.”

She pulled herself out of the water to sit next to him, tail still swishing back and forth in the water. She wrung her hands nervously.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s not like it’s a dog or something. If we do this, we can’t undo it – we can’t give the baby back. And you’re not exactly father material and I don’t know that I’m cut out to be a mother – I don’t even have a mother, and your father isn’t the best ever, and I just—I don’t know.”

He pulled her to him, meeting her wet lips in a kiss. She stole his breath, still, even though four years had passed since they became a couple.

When they pulled apart, he leaned his forehead against hers.

“I’m not going to pressure you,” he said. “If you don’t want to do this, then that’s okay. We’ll have more chances, later on. I just want to be with you and make you happy.”

She smiled, a slightly pained smile. “If anyone else’d heard you just now, they’d’ve thought you’d been replaced by a pod person.”

He grinned briefly. “Can’t have them knowing I’m nice.”

“Emma still doesn’t trust you completely,” Rikki said.

“Then I guess I don’t trust her, so that’s fine,” Zane said.

“Don’t trust her with what?” Rikki said. “You have no secrets.”

He leaned forward and whispered in her ear. “We have a secret.”

He placed his hand on her stomach again. It seemed warm under his touch, and he imagined a little prickly heartbeat in there. She placed a hand over his, lacing their fingers together.

“You really want to have a baby with me?” Rikki asked.

Zane smiled at her. “I really do.”

She bit her lip. “And you’re not going to freak out on me in a week or a month or a year?”

“I’ll try not to,” Zane said.

She smiled. “You’ll be a good father.”

“You’ll be a great mother.”

She made a face. “I doubt it. I’m sure we’ll screw this kid up badly.”

He chuckled. He hoped they wouldn’t, although he supposed it could be argued that most people were screwed up one way or another because of their parents.

“Do you want a baby with me?” Zane asked.

“Haven’t found a better candidate yet,” Rikki smiled.

He chuckled. “Good to know.”

“So we’re really having a baby?”

Zane smiled at her. “Yeah.”

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