The following is the first glimpse of my new dark, gritty thriller, Hybrid, Shadowmark Origins Book 2. This is Morse’s tragic tale. An alien-human hybrid, Morse is caught between his duty to his alien masters and the woman he loves.
When I arrived at the beach that afternoon, Toral and Charan sat with another, older woman who I assumed was their sister. They both wore saris. Toral’s was a serene blue, like the water. Her sister Hiraani had none of Toral’s beauty, but she was pleasant enough as I shook her hand and chatted with them. After a few moments, all of us sat in the sand facing the beach.
Toral gave no indication of our after-breakfast kiss. I, however, kept stealing glances at her and wondering what was wrong with me.
“I am worried for Toral,” said Hiraani after a few minutes of idle chatting. She shifted on the sand and smoothed it down underneath her like it was a lumpy blanket. “She has never really learned to swim. Will the tide be too much for her?”
“Hiraani—” Toral began, her tone carrying a warning.
“Hush, sister. You don’t know what you are asking of this man. What if you get caught in the current?”
I suspected Hiraani’s reluctance went beyond her fear of Toral drowning.
“It’s very mild here, and the surf is gentle,” I said. “I won’t let anything happen to your sister.”
Toral shot me a look, and our eyes connected. Something in my chest gave a little flutter.
“How can you be certain?” Hiraani’s sharp voice drew my attention back to her. She pierced me with a glare like I had never experienced before from any human. Like she could see right through me and into my stone-cold heart. I almost stood and apologized for disturbing their vacation. If I did, I could maybe even evade punishment for the time wasted.
I debated my choices. Since Roy had to plug his phone into a charger before anything else happened, I didn’t have much to do now. He wouldn’t do that until tonight. I could have got a few hours’ sleep instead of sitting on that foolish beach, but a swim with Toral was too appealing.
“Oh, enough!” Toral said, interrupting my inner turmoil. She stood and grabbed my hand.
Surprised, I stood with her. Her hand was soft and warm, textured with an overlaying grit of sand.
“We will be fine,” she told Hiraani. “He is just going to show me how to float. Correct, Morse?”
Toral pulled me down to the water. When we reached the wet sand, Toral released me to remove her sari, exposing a blue underskirt and a blouse that didn’t quite cover her midriff. She let the sari slip from her elegant, delicate fingers. The wind caught it and floated the fabric like a flying carpet. As it settled behind us, I tried not to gape at Toral.
“Are you going to wear your shoes?” she asked with an amused smirk on her face.
“What? Oh. No.”
I sheepishly removed my shoes and socks and then rolled up my khakis so they wouldn’t flap around my legs. Then I straightened and smiled. “Ready?”
“What do I need to do?”
We walked out into the surf, me explaining the simple mechanics of floating. “The key is to relax and let the water do the work.”
I’d never taught a woman how to swim. Actually, I’d never taught anyone how to swim. I didn’t even remember learning myself. Like breathing, it was just something I had always known how to do.
We moved out into the waist-deep water. The sun beat down, shining all the way to the rocky bottom. The surf rocked us back and forth but didn’t pull us back out. I looked back at Hiraani and Charan watching us on the beach. Toral ignored them. Her thin petticoat floated and swirled around her in the water. A wave approached, and the sea receded. The blue satin clung to her hips and legs. I tried not to stare and held both her hands as the wave hit us.
“Let’s move out a bit farther,” I said.
She didn’t protest as I led her beyond the breakers. The water rose to her chest, sometimes gently picking her up off her feet and floating her away from me. I kept a firm grip on her.
“Your hands are rough,” she said.
“Sorry. Feeling okay?”
“Yes. What’s next?”
“Lay back, let your back arch. Your feet will follow.”
I moved close and put my hand on the small of her back, supporting her while she tried to follow my instructions. The first time, she panicked and flailed her arms. She splashed me while trying to right herself, and water went up my nose.
“Don’t panic!” I said. She emerged from the water laughing, sputtering with the water that had gotten up her own nose. Her laugh was infectious. My goofy grin reappeared. When she recovered, we tried again. And again.
On the fourth attempt, she stopped struggling and allowed me to support her in the water. Her braid floated near my arm, brushed against my shirt.
Toral looked at my chest, then back to my eyes before closing hers and willing herself to relax. I glanced down at my chest, but she couldn’t see anything under the two dark t-shirts I wore. My eyes fell on her exposed midriff before I gradually moved away from her.
“Not yet,” Toral said without opening her eyes. “I’m not ready for you to let go.” She grabbed my forearm. I sank down in the water and kicked us farther out where I could tread water more easily. She didn’t notice. I moved closer to her head. Salt droplets sparkled on her eyelashes.
What are you doing, Morse? The small fluttering in my chest expanded like a tiny bird had become trapped inside and was beating its wings against my heart. If I hadn’t been so content and relaxed, it would have nauseated me.
I tapped her shoulder. “Toral.”
Her eyes fluttered open.
“Hold on to me, okay?” I put her hand on my shoulder and then let go.
She smiled. “I am doing it! You are a good teacher, Monsieur Morse.”
“And you are a good pupil. Ready to go back now?”
“Are they watching?”
I glanced up to shore for the first time since the lesson began. Charan and Hiraani were standing on the beach, shielding their eyes from the sun as they tried to watch us. But we were too far out now for them to see anything clearly. Just our heads bobbing around in the water.
“They can’t really see us.”
“Kiss me again.”
Did you like it? Tell me what you think in the comments! Look for Hybrid late 2017.
Want to read more? Go to Snippet #2.