Selkie’s Lure

Rosanna Leo

 

Chapter 1

Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

“GOD-AWFUL pink slush.” Edan Kirk stuck the tiny umbrellas in the cocktail glasses as he finished preparing yet another series of fruity beverages. It was bad enough they didn’t get enough customers at The Water Horse Pub. If the customers they did have ordered ale or hard liquor, he’d be a damn sight happier. When intrepid tourists managed to wander into the place, half of them insisted on ordering “something fun and Scottish” and the other half wanted Las Vegas-style cocktails. There was something emasculating in pouring out pink slush all night long.

Niall Barber, his friend and the pub’s owner, laughed. He didn’t care if the cocktails made Edan feel less of a man, as long as money went into the till.

Edan rolled his eyes and pushed the drinks across the bar to the waiting customers, a troupe of lively American women. They’d come the previous evening too. Truth be told, they didn’t normally get repeat customers other than a few locals, so Niall had insisted they pander to the women, giving them whatever they wanted. Clustered before him at the bar, they giggled and blushed and sipped their sweet concoctions.

“Thank you, Edan,” their ringleader trilled.

He stared at the petite blonde, trying to remember her name. As soon as they’d entered the pub, they’d spotted him, made a beeline for his area, and had peppered him with their names. What was hers again? Shelley? Sheila? Shana. Yes, that was it. “You’re welcome, Shana, lass.”

The women looked at each other as if Brad Pitt had just confessed his undying love for the lot of them. Her cheeks pink, Shana turned back to Edan. “Oh, God. You Orkney men have such gorgeous accents. Say my name again.”

By Freya’s tits. He stifled a sigh. If it weren’t for the fact Niall was his best friend, he might be tempted to walk out of the damned pub. However, he’d promised he’d be nice. The publican relied on the tourist trade, and their takings had been meager of late. Edan forced a smile. “Shana.”

They squealed as one horny unit of tipsy women.

Niall pulled him aside. “Have you noticed they order more when you serve them?”

“Do they?”

“The lasses like you. Why do you think they came back two nights in a row?”

“Because they had nothing else to do?”

“No, my friend.” He gestured at Edan’s body. “Because of…all this.”

“All what?”

“Feck, you can be obtuse when you want to be.” He leaned in and whispered. “They can’t resist you, you daft creature. Didn’t you tell those women some selkie stories last night?”

“I might have.” When the women had arrived the previous evening, he’d sensed their interest. It was possible he might have capitalized on it a wee bit by weaving tales of Orkney legend and romance. He was a born storyteller and appreciated a good yarn. They’d left him a big tip too, one he’d put in Niall’s coffers, having no need for it himself.

“For God’s sake, man. If it means they return to buy more drinks, do it again. Unleash the power of your animal magnetism.”

“Let’s not overdo it. Besides, this is a temporary arrangement.”

“Right. Temporary. Got it.”

When two of Niall’s servers had recently quit, enticed by the bright lights of Edinburgh, he had been left in a lurch. Desperate, he’d called on Edan and had asked him to cover a few shifts.

That was a month ago. As far as Edan could tell, Niall hadn’t even written up the job advertisement yet.

“Why didn’t I hire you sooner? You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to this pub.”

“As much as I appreciate the sentiment, it probably has something to do with the fact I’m not a real bartender.”

“I think you should reconsider your career path, Edan. Now, do you have another wee selkie story up your sleeve for the ladies?”

“I have many selkie stories, but it doesn’t mean I want to tell them to every last person who pops his head in the pub door.”

“Why not?”

“You know damn well why not. Discretion is vital.”

“No offense, friend, but discretion can kiss my arse. I need to keep this place afloat. Besides, you know as well as I do no one believes the old myths. Hell, if it wasn’t for the fact I…”

“Stop right there.” He glowered at his loose-lipped associate.

“Please, Edan. I’m a man on the verge of financial ruin.”

“Ruin? You’re about twelve months away from ruin.”

“A business owner can never be too careful or too successful. I’m asking you, as your dearest friend. Help a beggar out. Bat your eyelashes and flip your hair. You know, flirt with the customers.”

Flirt with the customers. It was one thing when he did it on his own terms, but another thing entirely when mandated by his boss.

He began to walk away when Shana called out to him. “Edan. Tell us again about how to find a selkie lover.”

Damn. They really had responded to those old stories.

Niall, already pouring a pint for the old man propping up the other side of the bar, called out. “Go on, Edan. Tell them.”

Fine. He’d do it once more to help his friend but not again.

He stood before the women and leaned on the bar, noting how their gazes followed the line of his arm. Looking at each of them in turn, acknowledging them with a wink or a nod, he laid it on as thick as he could. “Here in Orkney, people tell tales of the magical selkie race. Some believe selkies are descended from angels who fell out of the sky into the cold sea. Under the waves, they take the form of large seals but can shed their animal pelts and transform into human guise.” He grinned at Shana. “I’m told human women find them irresistible. With their alluring voices and beautiful forms, selkie men have broken the hearts of many a lonely human woman.”

Shana sighed.

“They say if a lovelorn woman cries seven tears into the sea, she can call a selkie. He will shift into his human body, discarding his pelt, and pleasure her as no human man can. Many an enterprising lass has tried to steal a selkie pelt, hiding it from him. If she succeeds, the selkie is obliged to stay with her, bringing her untold ecstasy. But if he finds his pelt, he will abandon her and return to the surf. Our folklore is filled with tales of humans who were left by their selkie lovers.”

“It’s so tragic,” said Shana. “I heard some women threw themselves into the sea after being abandoned.”

“A grief-stricken human would do anything in an attempt to reunite with a selkie lover. Others have remained alone, changed by the greatest sorrow they have ever known. No one can resist the seduction of the selkie. If you ever find yourself on a lonely Orcadian beach and spot an animal skin lying among the rocks, by all that’s holy, leave it where it is and forget you ever saw it. You wouldn’t want to exchange a few moments of pleasure for the devastating grief that will inevitably follow.”

The women gazed at him, holding their breath.

Shana’s eyes dropped and lingered below his waist. “You’d make an awesome selkie. I don’t suppose you have a pelt lying around here somewhere.”

“And if I did? Do you really think I’d tell you?”

“Oh, come on, Edan.”

“Don’t get your hopes up, lass. It’s just a myth.”

At another time he might have succumbed to her pretty pout. Indeed, he might have taken her home and shagged her all night long, but for some strange reason he just wasn’t in the mood.

He understood Niall had a business to run. He knew his flirtations with the customers would encourage them to return. It wasn’t the first time Niall had witnessed his friend’s appeal and he’d encouraged his cheeky repartee before. Edan hadn’t minded. He’d fucking loved it. He knew he could bring home a new woman every night if he wanted to. Hell, an assortment of them. All he had to do was serve them a drink or two, smile, and let his natural charm do the rest. A man like him held a certain sway over human women. Tourists found him even more exotic. He was an unknown quantity, and women on vacation from responsibility and work saw him as a titillating escape from their lives, even if they didn’t understand what made him so different.

It didn’t mean he enjoyed exploiting himself and he didn’t like the idea of having to rehash the old selkie legends. For someone like him, a bit of caution went a long way. If people wanted to appreciate Orkney folklore, they could read about it in a book. To hear it spill from his lips, in the honeyed tones of a selkie male in his prime, it gave people funny ideas.

It made them want to believe.

Shana, encouraged by her pals, crept up to him at the end of the bar. “Can I touch your hair?”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s just…I’ve never met anyone like you. The guys back home in Nebraska don’t have your accent or your smile or your long, red hair.” She put out a hand to touch him.

He patted her hand, setting it on the bar. “Shana, love. I think it’s time to cut you off.”

“What time do you finish here?”

“Far too late for you.” He offered her what he hoped was a gentle smile.

“Wait! Come back to my B&B tonight. I’m very…agreeable.”

Edan knew Niall would skelp him for what he was about to say. “Thank you for your tantalizing offer, but no.” He lowered his voice and looked deep into her awestruck eyes. “Sit with your friends and forget about me.”

Blinking, her face blank, she turned and sat down with the other women.

Niall walked over, shaking his head. “You’re an eejit. What was wrong with her?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh, let me guess. You’re tired of being a sex symbol, aren’t you? It’s hard work being so attractive to the opposite sex, isn’t it? Damn, Edan. I know a hundred men who’d trade places with you in a second.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

He put up his hands in mock surrender. “I didn’t realize how grating it must be on your nerves to have women throw themselves at you day in and day out.” He laughed. “Forgive me for being a mere man and not a selkie love god.”

“There’s nothing mere about you.”

Niall had his own secret, one the pub owner rarely discussed and for good reason. Their friendship had been founded years ago on their shared sense of humor, but it wasn’t the only thing that bound them. They had seen past each other’s façades long ago. He supposed that was why they got along so well.

“I might have a couple of unusual talents as well, but do the lasses flock to me? No. They run in the opposite direction.”

“Look, I’m not complaining. I realize my nature has its perks, most of them sexual, but there’s something to be said for the thrill of the chase. Just for once I’d like to meet a woman who’s immune to my charms.” He grinned. “And then I’d like to convince her of them.”

“Good luck with that. In the meantime, I’m happy to take your cast-offs.” He walked away to flirt with Shana.

Edan threw his dishrag onto the counter behind the bar and picked up his copy of The Orcadian. Let Niall pander to the horny women this time.

An article caught his eye and the headline tugged at his insides. Remains of local man found in cave. Police scour beach for clues.

A dark memory niggled at the back of his brain. Something so horrible he’d managed to put it out of his head for years, but it demanded his attention now, cloying at him in sweet, womanly tones.

Edan, my Edan.

Funny. Although he hadn’t heard her voice for years, he could still recall the musical inflections when she spoke his name.

Niall meandered over and looked over his shoulder. “Anything more exciting than the rugby scores?”

“They found another body. The man who went missing last week.”

“Foul play?”

“I should bloody well think so, although police seem to have ruled it out. He was nothing more than a pile of bones when they found him.”

“A pile of bones?”

“Aye, and they were licked clean from the sound of it.”

“Stop. You know I have a sensitive stomach.”

Edan patted him on the shoulder. “There, there, dear.” He turned his gaze back to the newspaper article. “A lone man ventured through the most isolated part of a nature preserve. The beach in that area is rocky and closed off to the public. And yet he braved it, wandering into the caves there on his own. Why?”

“Drunk? Lost? Looking for bonny seashells for his collection? I can think of a number of reasons.”

“Perhaps you’re right. He probably fell, hit his head on the rocks, and was polished off by birds of prey.” Edan folded up the newspaper and set it aside. “I’m just not sure I believe it.”

The door to the pub opened. Another bevy of tourist women flounced in, their beacon-like gazes landing on Edan.

Niall’s jaw dropped. “I think someone’s been talking about our storytelling bartender.”

“I’ve never seen so many women in here at once.”

“Edan, I need you to dredge up every last legend and fairy tale you know. Spin your yarns. Regale the ladies with your tales of the finfolk and mermaids. And while you’re at it, sell them the good stuff.”

He braced himself with a deep breath. His mood had soured after reading the newspaper article. He didn’t want to talk to tourists and he certainly didn’t feel like recounting stories about the blasted finfolk, those scaly shit-disturbers.

Besides, the only story currently racing through his brain involved a legend not often told on Orkney, one about a so-called mythical creature so foul, so abhorrent, most humans would recoil in disgust.

“Are you going to serve them?”

He snapped out of his funk. “Right. Just give me a minute.”

He disappeared into the back room, ignoring the cook’s inquisitive stare, and made his way to the bank of lockers in the hallway outside the staff room. He unlocked his locker and reached inside where he stowed his backpack. Moving the flap up slightly, he felt inside. His hand met with thick animal skin.

“There you are, my beauty.” Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply and swayed in his spot. As he inhaled, he caught a whiff of the sea. He could almost taste the salt as it coated his tongue, could feel the stretch of his bones as his body surrendered to an ancient magic. The gulls cried as their wings sliced through the clouds and it seemed they called his name.

Remains of local man found.

“No.” Releasing his grip on the pelt, he tucked it away and slammed the locker door shut, taking care to lock it properly. He was letting his imagination carry him away. “Back to work.”

As he headed back into the pub, he tried his hardest to wear a mask of congeniality despite the chill at the back of his neck.

He’d have to tell some other tales, perhaps something to do with Orkney’s legendary fairies, or perhaps the trows, a troll-like being. There would be no more stories of the sea tonight. After all, he knew exactly what sorts of creatures lurked near the waves and didn’t care to describe them for the sake of a tip.

* * * *

Even though he knew no human in his right mind would wander the cold shore in the wee hours of the morning, Edan still cast regular glances along Dingieshowe Beach in Deerness. Thankfully, it was deserted. So were all the other beaches he’d visited that night.

Perhaps it was lunacy to haul his carcass over so many stretches of sand in one evening but it made him feel better. He was looking for signs and so far he hadn’t found any.

Although Deerness was a good twenty-minute drive from Kirkwall, he’d willingly made the journey. Dingieshowe Beach was sheltered by sand dunes and provided a measure of privacy for those who appreciated it. He understood the sea’s allure. Anytime he needed to clear his mind, he came to the beach.

He would always want to be near the water.

So would Breena.

In fact, their first meeting had been in this exact place. When he first noticed her picking her way over the pebbles, he thought he’d glimpsed an angel. He knew the truth now.

It had been some time since he’d allowed himself to wonder about her, but he still thought the wind carried her laughter some days.

She was the biggest mistake of his life, a source of constant regret and shame. Breena might have ruled his heart while he lingered in a hazy state of denial and grief but he’d always known there was something of the grave about her. He just hadn’t cared. He’d courted death in the weeks following Ellen’s murder, and Breena appeased his need for danger. She’d given him exactly what he wanted, what he needed. Her timing had been impeccable. That alone should have tipped him off.

After he knew the truth about Breena, he’d had no choice but to remove his blinders and take a stand. Their affair had to end. It would only end in death. Hers or his, he couldn’t say, but someone would die. There was no denying who she was, what she was. He’d done the right thing in turning away from her and hoped no one else had to pay for his rebuttal, but he knew that wouldn’t be the case.

Someone would suffer. Death would always follow her.

Had someone, something, killed that man near the caves? When Edan heard grim news involving strange deaths, his head always went to the dark place Breena still occupied. Niall found nothing strange in the official report. The dead man had most likely been under the influence and had gone for a nighttime walk. No doubt he’d lost his footing somewhere and had been washed up into the cave. He’d been discovered in a section of beach littered by boulders and rough sandstone ledges. No one would willingly venture there alone, unless of course they had no common sense.

It made for a tidy story, but Edan didn’t buy it. He just had no proof. Hopefully tonight he would find some.

Content no one watched him, Edan removed his backpack and set it down on the sand behind a large stone. He removed the animal pelt inside, keeping it close. His gaze locked on the surf, he stepped out of his boots and stripped out of his clothes. After tucking his clothing in his backpack, he dragged over a large piece of driftwood and hid the pack.

Edan picked up the seal skin and brought it to his face. He inhaled the scent of seawater and sun.

You are home, selkie.

The waves seemed to whisper a welcome as they crashed to the shore. Without wasting another moment, he walked toward the water and wrapped the skin around his hips. When he made shallow water, he took a breath and allowed his body to transform. He’d been shifting for almost six hundred years now and barely registered the details of the change anymore. Normally, he shifted quickly, but now, with a dark beach all to himself, he closed his eyes and relished each stage of the metamorphosis. His bones realigned, snapping into place. His muscles thickened, assuming animal proportions, and his skin sprouted the thick fur that would keep him warm in frigid waters. Like a good stretch after a tumultuous night of sex, it made him feel alive.

At home in his seal form, Edan dove into deeper water, indulging in a flick of his hind flippers. Curbing his desire to play, he kept low and propelled himself through the waves. It wouldn’t do to be seen. Shape-shifting selkies were bigger than common seals. The average person might not think anything upon seeing a seal of his size in the water, but it was always best to err on the side of caution.

Breena, of course, would recognize him in an instant. She would know the reddish sheen to his fur, would see it even under the moonlight. Was it possible she perched on one of the rocks overlooking the beach right now?

Not likely. She was probably toying with some other poor soul right now, making him half-mad with desire. He had known that mania and didn’t care to relive it.

Still, he didn’t lose sight of the fact this was their place. If she ever did come looking for him, she would likely come here. They used to frolic in these waters before he understood what she was capable of doing. If he was to find any evidence of foul play, it would be here.

He swam and swam, leaving the isthmus that was Dingieshowe, searching for human bones. He looked in places the police wouldn’t be able to access, even with their boats. He ventured close to sea caves, eroded into the cliffs over thousands of years, and made his way among the many boulders littering the water’s edge.

He found nothing.

After patrolling the shore for the better part of an hour, Edan began to feel the call of his bed. He might possess more stamina than a human man but it had been a long day. Resolved to catch a couple hours of sleep before morning, he swam toward the shore. Relinquishing his pelt, letting it slide from his body, he stood up straight.

A man appeared before him.

No. A woman.

Because she wore fatigues, he was momentarily confused, but there was no mistaking her buxom figure. She was certainly doing her best to look like an army man, right down to her combat boots.

The lass smiled and aimed a camera phone at him. “Hello, sailor. Did you fall off your boat?”

Fuck. What sort of woman walked on the beach at four in the morning? “Something like that.”

Despite the obvious threat posed by her camera, he couldn’t help noticing she was a beauty. Perhaps not in the Hollywood starlet sense, but her imperfections intrigued him. She’d pulled her chestnut hair back into a tight ponytail. There was an asymmetry to her face that gave an edge to delicate features. Her nose was slightly crooked near the tip and one eyebrow arched higher than the other. Her generous mouth was compressed but it looked capable of wide smiles.

And her scent. It hit him hard and made him see stars, like that time his younger brother Calan lobbed a dictionary at his head. She smelled like strawberries, juicy and ripe from the bush. Interesting, considering she was dressed like Rambo.

His gut turned, as if skewered on a rotisserie. As his innards roiled, he couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to wind her ponytail around his fingers, draw her close and…

“Well?” Her eyebrow quirked even higher.

How much had she seen?

He stepped toward her but when she snapped several photos in quick succession, he stopped moving. “It’s not polite to take photos of a man in his birthday suit.”

“Yes, but you’re not quite a man, are you?”

She’d seen everything, then. He’d simply have to persuade her not to trust her senses. He’d talked himself out of worse scrapes. Edan waved his hand in the direction of his crotch. “I’m all man, lass, as you can see.”

She indulged in a quick glance. Her eyes widened in clear wonder, as if she’d never seen anything quite like him before. “Something more, then.” She nodded toward his pelt. “I’ll take that, please.”

“I don’t think so.” He hedged his bets he could convince her to give up whatever mischief she’d planned. How had he missed her on the beach? Too distracted by the thought of Breena, perhaps. “You’ve seen enough to understand I’m a selkie. If you know that, you know I need this pelt. If you’re looking for a lover, you need to be wily and steal the skin. I won’t just hand it over, unless of course you can prove to me you’d be worth a tussle.”

“I’m not looking for a lover and I don’t want to tussle with you.”

“I’d say that was a shame, you know, if you didn’t look as if you were out to blackmail me.”

Two men, also dressed in camouflage, emerged from behind a sand dune. One of them looked as if his sole hobby was frequenting the gym. Although the other man was smaller in stature, he presented more of a threat and it had everything to do with his professional-looking video camera.

“I’d give her the pelt if I were you,” the bigger man said.

“Who the hell are you people?” Edan demanded as he slowly handed the skin over to the woman.

She took it but didn’t lower her phone. “We’re the Beast Seekers. You’re our first selkie. Smile for the cameras.” She clicked a few more shots.

“I smile for no camera and I have no clue what a beast seeker is.”

“Really?” the videographer asked, his shoulders dropping in disappointment. “Dang. I’d kind of hoped our reputation might precede us.”

When Edan shrugged in confusion, the woman explained. “We have a TV show in the United States. We hunt mythical beasts. Sort of like Ghosts Around Us, only with chupacabras and vampires.”

By all the gods. Either they were delusional or they knew the truth. The latter scenario bothered him more. “Look, I don’t care who you are and I don’t appreciate the guerilla attack.”

Perhaps the woman felt badly for photographing him naked. Perhaps the shadows on her face hinted at a sense of decency. Whatever it was, she nodded toward her companions. “At ease, Hawk. Stop filming, Jay.”

Jay, a techie type whose camera might have been another appendage, objected. “But Amy, it’s our first actual selkie!”

Amy cringed. “I’m sure our friend in the buff doesn’t appreciate being called an ‘it.’”

Jay aimed the camera at the sand.

The one called Hawk crossed his arms. “We should keep filming this dude. We need to bring back some sort of footage.” He lowered his voice. “And what if we don’t find the siren?”

“Siren?” Once again, Edan’s insides pitched as horrible memories rushed to the fore. If they knew so much about supernatural beasts, they ought to understand what a siren could do to a human. “You’re joking, right?”

“We’re dead serious.” Even in the dark, Amy’s eyes flashed. The eyes of a fanatic. “Do you know any?”

“Number one,” he countered, “why on earth would I tell you if I did? Number two, if you don’t give me a chance to put some clothes on, there’s a definite possibility your eyes might get stuck on my tadger. Pelt, please.”

Pausing to admire him a second longer, she tossed the skin to him. Edan caught it and wrapped it around his waist like a furry bath towel, keeping his gaze locked on the woman. He’d swear she frowned a little when he covered his family jewels. She liked what she saw and the knowledge made him want to puff out his chest. There was no disguising the intoxicating perfume of desire. Honeyed and cloying, it called to him, making him want to drink deep. To consume her.

His stomach growled with a strange hunger. Perhaps this was the chase he’d been craving.

Never mind that. These people are a danger to you and to themselves. Hunting sirens. No mortal with any sense would ever go looking for that sort of trouble. He had to get rid of the khaki trio and he needed to persuade them to abandon their foolish plan to hunt sirens.

Spotting his opportunity, he moved a couple of feet down the beach. There was no sense trying to convince Amy and the lads paranormal beings didn’t exist. They believed enough to produce a TV show. Still, he could distract them. “You’re barking up the wrong tree. Anyone who knows anything about siren lore knows they’ve never been spotted in Scotland. Read the myths. You want to go to Italy, to the island of Capri. Haven’t you done your homework?”

“Trust me, we have,” said Amy. “And we have it on good authority sirens have been spotted here. Not only that, they’ve killed here.”

“Whose authority?” Edan asked.

“None of your business. Now, we understand it’s some sort of code among paranormal creatures to keep humans in the dark, but you’re going to tell us everything you know, selkie man.”

“And if I don’t?”

She smiled. “I’ll remind you we’ve got some great footage of you shifting. Those are some impressive glutes, by the way. I’m sure the world will love seeing them as much as we have.”

If she weren’t pissing him off, he’d put her over his knee. It was time to take action. They wanted to see a paranormal creature at work? He’d show them. Edan crooked his finger in Hawk’s and Jay’s direction, beckoning them. “Fine. I’ll tell you what I know.”

The men approached, curious. With Amy watching a few feet away, he unleashed the power of his persuasive gaze on Hawk and Jay. “Forget you ever saw me. Delete your footage and go away. Now.”

Without a word of protest, Jay hit a button on his device. “Delete. Done.”

“Good man.”

“Hey,” said Amy. “What are you doing?”

Her companions blinked and then turned, walking down the beach without a word.

“Jay!” She grunted. “Hawk, come back.”

Edan scratched his head. “I think you’ve lost them, love. Maybe you should follow them to make sure they get home.”

“I still have my photos, selkie, and I’m not as impressionable as those two.”

“I believe you. I can see you’re the brains of this operation. There’s only one problem. No one will ever believe you.” He walked toward her, grinning. “You should know better than to mess with a selkie. People might think we’re all about the sex but I assure you we have other talents.”

“Stay back. I won’t let you use your mind tricks on me.”

He loomed over her, leaving only inches between them. He casually dropped his pelt, bunching it in one hand. He almost laughed out loud when her gaze followed. “I wouldn’t dream of using mind tricks on you. Besides, I have a hunch you’d be more interested in my other tricks.”

He stroked her cheek. So soft. He couldn’t resist reading her mind. Frozen to her spot, gawking at him, she might have been an open book anyway.

Oh, God. He’s so hot. And it’s been so long, way too long.

“Poor dear. Didn’t anyone ever tell you sex is healthy? You should be indulging at least twice a day.” He leaned in, gripping her arms. She dropped her phone, completely unaware of doing so. Nuzzling her neck, he whispered, “By the way, you’re quite fetching yourself, despite the unfortunate choice of attire.”

“It’s what we wear on the show,” she mumbled.

“Hmm.” Her fruity scent slammed into his brain, making him hungry. “No more chasing sirens, lass. You’ll get hurt. Understand?”

When he pulled away, she nodded, blinking over vacant eyes. Good. His selkie powers did come in handy, and not just for Niall.

Edan bent over and retrieved her fallen phone. He clicked to her photo gallery and deleted the photos she’d taken of him. He handed her the phone. “Your friends are waiting for you. Time to go.”

She shook her head, frowning. “Wait. I’m supposed to do something…”

He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her around. “Goodbye, Amy. Get a good night’s sleep and then go home to America.”

“America. Right.”

He indulged in one last inhalation, putting his nose close to her hair. “Such an obliging girl. You smell so sweet, I’m tempted let you borrow my pelt so I can keep you for a while. I think you and I could have great fun together.”

She turned around and licked her lips, her eyes glazed.

“I didn’t mean it.” Liar. “Off you go, love. Hurry.”

She wandered toward her buddies. Edan watched to make sure she caught up to them. The trio bumped into each other a couple of times but continued on toward the path leading to the road. Satisfied he’d turned them away, he retrieved his backpack and changed into his clothes.

What on earth would convince a group of so-called beast seekers to venture across an ocean to hunt sirens? Did they know something he didn’t?

He’d bloody well find out.

As Amy disappeared over the horizon, the moon bathed her in silver light, casting a sheen on her dark hair. His huntress. A modern-day Diana.

Edan suffered pangs in his gut. Pangs that spoke of confusion and loss and strange recognition. For some reason, it hurt to see her go. It felt wrong to persuade her to leave Orkney, to leave him.

Niall had clearly been working him too hard. How else could he explain the clamor in his gut and the ache in his head?

“Next time I see Niall, I’m demanding a raise.” Silencing the demon urges in his belly, he gritted his teeth and escaped into the night.