For as long as I can remember, the sea has called to me, luring me to explore the secrets hidden beneath its cresting waves.
Faye is tossed into a current of uncertainty as she deliberates over her college choices. More than anything she wants to study by the sea, forever chasing the line where the ocean meets the horizon. But she finds herself dragged down by the riptide of her and her mother’s financial restraints. How can she be true to herself when anchored by her world’s limitations?
As the leader of the deadliest group in the Ether, Daron is at the top of his game. Yet there is one thing he’s failed at time and again—finding the human-raised Ether. It’s a known fact amongst his team that success on that particular mission would change their lives in unimaginable ways. Yet Daron couldn’t comprehend how true that was… until he saw Faye.
Guided by Daron, Faye enters a world she never knew existed. One filled with mythical creatures, struggling to coexist. As Faye wrestles with where she fits in this magical realm, secrets are revealed that turn the tide once more.
Inky darkness is seeping ever closer. Can Faye and Daron work together to save Ether and themselves? Or will the world be crushed under a wave of evil?
From author Nicole Bailey comes a young adult adventure filled with magic, intrigue, and the inner well of strength that flows through us all.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The first spark of an image for this book was of a girl looking out over the ocean, longing for something within it and not knowing what it is.
I love putting unexpected twists on tropes (and in the storylines) and adore blending in myths and mythology in my books.
Diversity and compassion for others are important values to me and weave their way into all of my books.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I actually don't really feel like I "come up with" my characters but more like my characters come to me and it's my job to uncover them. (Much as Michelangelo said he chipped away at anything that wasn't his statue the David.) It's always fun for me when my characters surprise me because I know they will surprise readers too. That said, one of my favorite tropes is found family, and I just love having a group of different personalities blending together and all the banter and fun that comes with that.
When I was a child, my mom took me to the sea. There we built sandcastles. There we danced like fairies in a ring. There we stood as the ocean sucked at our toes, tucking them down into the sand like clams. I always imagined the ocean was trying to pull me in. As if it wanted me to come and live there like the water horses my mom told me about. But I was a child then. As I grew older, I didn’t believe that anymore. I didn’t know my childhood imaginings had been right.
It was a good way to die. Swimming in the ocean alone. I suppose it was good I didn’t have a lot of opportunities.
The day at the beach wasn’t one either. I never had a chance to be alone. Mom smacked a volleyball. It soared across the blue sky like a bird in flight before dropping. Merri raised her hands, hitting it with a loud thump. Their laughter and conversation drifted to me on the breeze. My breathing mimicked the roaring of the waves and I focused on that. I wished to be alone with nothing but the salt water and crashing waves and inky clouds rolling in for company.
I floated in the deep, just at the point where the waves formed. My legs dangled in the water, so far from the sand sprinkled with hidden shells far below me. A wave came and I stretched out, making my body part of the sea, like driftwood that might ebb and flow long enough that it became something different entirely, instead of a broken branch, a treasure.
The wave propelled me forward towards the beach. The water kissed my face, my lips tasted of salt, no beginning or ending existed between the ocean and myself. When the water grew too shallow, I turned to walk back into the deep, my toes sinking into the damp sand, but I paused.
It was just a glimmer. It could have been the scales of a fish or a reflection on the choppy water. But my stomach fluttered. And I still wonder, even now, if there wasn’t something out in the ocean that day, seeking me out.
I wrung my long black hair out. The water dripped back into the sea. And I walked up the beach, dropping into a beach chair, the plastic rungs biting into my legs. I snatched sunscreen out of my bag. Better to put some on before mom reminded me. I had fair skin, yes, but I had never once burned. A fact that didn’t stop my mom from worrying in the least.
As if my thoughts summoned her, mom walked over, dropping into the chair beside me. Her short caramel curls fluttered in the breeze. She drew a book out of her bag and slipped it into her lap. “So, Faye, are you ready to start school this week?”
I dropped my head against the chair and groaned. “Mom.”
“It’s your senior year. There’s so much to look forward to.” I slid down in the chair.
“Yeah being done.”
“Come on, there has to be something you are looking forward to. Merri is excited.” She gestured to her on the beach where Merri popped a pair of oversized, red sunglasses onto her face.
“Merri is always excited about everything.”
“Have you thought about joining the swim team this year?”
“Mom,” I dragged her name out. “I don’t want to be part of a team.”
She sighed and picked up her book, popping her finger into the page where her bookmark rested and tucking her feet down into the sand. Her eyes skimmed over the page but they were tight, her lips pursed.
I fiddled with the frayed edge of my beach towel. “What are you reading about?” She flipped the book closed where I could make out the cover. I groaned but had to fight the smile edging up on my lips. “Selkies? Mom. This is a vacation, not work.”
She chuckled. “I teach mythology because I love it.”
“You know everything there is to know about mythology by now. Why not pick up a beach read?”
“There’s always more to learn,” she said, before flipping the book back open.
* * *
The beach house was like all beach houses, washed in pastel colors and full of ceramics and glass tables. That is, it was nothing at all like the earthy ruggedness of the beach. I stretched out on the couch, flipping open a novel.
Merri leaned over the back of the cushions. “Come play rummy with us!
” She tilted her head to the side, resting her chin on her brown arms, her tight curly hair pulled back away from her face. I waved the book. “I’m going to read a bit, but thanks.”
She rolled her eyes but retreated and I tucked back down into the couch, opening the book again. I had nearly reread the same paragraph I had read before when Charlie walked in and flopped his five-year-old body onto the couch beside me with a sob.
I tossed the book onto the coffee table and sat up, rubbing his back. “What’s wrong, Chaz?”
His face smashed down into the couch cushions, muffling his voice. “No one will play I Spy with me! Not Mom or Dad or Merri or Aunt Linda!”
He lifted his face, his round cheeks flushed and wet, the tight curls on his head peppered with sand. “Will you?”
“Yes.” I leaned in and whispered, “Let’s go out on the beach and we can see if we spy mermaids.”
His eyes widened and he whispered back, “Are there really mermaids here, Faye?”
“Who knows? Come on,” I said, and tucked his balmy hand into my own. I shouted behind me, “I’m taking Charlie down to the beach.”
“Don’t forget the sunscreen,” Merri’s mom called.
“Got it,” I said, sliding the bottle off the foyer table.
“I spy with my little eye something that is blue,” Charlie said, rocking on his feet.
“Blue, hmmm, is it the ocean?”
“Is it the sky?”
“Is it your flip-flops?”
“Nope. Do you give up?”
“I give up,” I said.
“It’s your dress!”
I laughed and tickled his stomach. “Well, you got me. It was right under my nose.”
“Let's look for mermaids now!”
“Okay, let’s go.”
* * *
“Can I borrow the keys?” I said.
“Why? Where are you going?” My mom tilted her book down onto her stomach. The hammock she lay on swayed as she sat up. A breeze tucked under the beach house and fluttered the pages over her fingers.
Merri wrapped her arm around one of the house’s wooden stilts and swung her body forward. “Can I go with you? I wanted to get one of those baseball hats that have the beach name on it. Aren’t those cute?”
I bit back a groan but my mom said, “Okay girls. Keys are on the counter. But don’t be gone too long. Tomorrow’s our last day here.”
I ran up the stairs, grabbing the keys and we got into the car, rolling the windows down, the salty, fresh smell of the ocean overriding the floral perfume of the air freshener. Mom’s folk music blared. Merri flipped through the radio stations in the car. A song would play five words and she would flip it. Again and again. We grabbed iced-coffees through a drive-through and she leaned back, kicking her sandaled feet up on the dash, taking a long drink of hers before setting it in the cupholder. “So, where were you actually going?”
“What are you talking about?”
She laughed. “Come on, Faye. You’re choosing to leave the beach? There’s got to be a good reason. Please tell me.” She fluttered her eyelashes. “I can keep a secret.”
I squeezed the steering wheel, my knuckles turning white. “Okay. I was going to drive by Fremont.”
Merri sat up. “Wow. Does your mom know?”
“No.” I sighed. “And please don’t tell her.”
“Of course I won’t. Let’s go see it together.”
“Yeah, it will be fun! Like a mini road trip!”
“Very mini. It’s five minutes from here.”
“Perfect,” she said, popping her sunglasses back over her eyes.
We pulled onto the college campus and it was all old trees and brick buildings and benches with plaques on them that sparkled in the sunlight. I parked the car and we stepped out, carrying our coffees with us. Merri linked her elbow into mine and squealed. “Can you believe we will be in college in a year?”
A breeze fluttered the leaves in the trees and the shadows on the sidewalk danced. “Do you think you could walk to the beach from here?”
Merri shrugged. “There are bike paths, you could bike from here.” I fiddled with the plastic straw in my cup. “This campus is cool,” Merri said, “and biking to the beach would be awesome.”
“Yeah, but it wouldn’t be free tuition like where our parents work.”
“Once she gets over the surprise, I think she’ll be happy for you.”
“Yeah, surprise! I want to spend a small fortune going to another college when I could go to the one you work at for free.”
“I think she’d understand.”
I took a long pull of my coffee, the icy sweetness blooming in my mouth. “I know we don’t have the extra money and I don’t want my mom worrying about it. She’s always felt bad that she was a single mom. I mean, look at how your parents always include us in vacations and stuff.”
“Did you ever think my parents invite you guys because they like you?” she said, her eyebrows raising over her sunglasses.
“I guess. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get some scholarships, but not enough to cover the tuition here. It’s stupid to even think about it.”
Merri squeezed my arm. “You’re her only child. And people make sacrifices when they love someone. She’ll be fine.”
“Maybe,” I said. But the giant rock of a feeling that sank down into my stomach disagreed.
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