On Lily Sanderson’s eighteenth birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mergirl, true, but signing the renunciation will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being-human thing once and for all.

Now that Lily and Quince are together, mer bond or not, she’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession of Thalassinia. But just when she thinks she has everything figured out, the waves start to get rough. Lily’s father sends a certain whirlpool-stirring cousin to stay with her on land. What did Doe do to get herself exiled from Thalassinia and stuck in terraped form, when everyone knows how much she hates humans? And why why why is she batting her eyelashes at Lily’s former crush, Brody?

The seafoam on the raging surf comes when a merboy from Lily’s past shows up—Tellin asks Lily for something that clouds her view of the horizon. There’s a future with Quince on land, her loyalty to the kingdom in the sea, and Lily tossing on the waves in the middle. Will she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her own dreams?

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Book Data

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Lily Sanderson Quince Fletcher Dosinia Sanderson

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Reviews

  • “Lily is caught in a riptide between what her heart wants and what her head knows is right. Childs has crafted a delightful tale populated with likable characters and imaginative settings. With mermaid fiction on a rise in popularity, this bubbly, lighthearted romance is sure to make a splash.” ~ School Library Journal
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Honors

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

At the moment I am sole heir to the throne of Thalassinia, one of the most prosperous underwater kingdoms in the world. I am a princess without equal in most of the seven seas, or any other body of water, for that matter. Raised to all the duties that my title requires and prepared to be my kingdom’s future queen, I am respected, revered, and really, really loved by (most of) the people.

A mermaid and a princess, all wrapped into one. Talk about every little human girl’s dream.

But come my eighteenth birthday in eighteen days—not that I’m counting—I’ll be just a girl. Well, still a mer girl, true, but an average mer girl just the same.

At midnight, after my birthday ball, I will sign the renunciation paperwork, inking Princess Waterlily out of existence. In her place will be plain old Lily Sanderson, living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to figure out this human thing once and for all. I’m also facing a whole new wave of pressures that go along with the job — college, career, future, tests and applications and GPA and a million other little things that weren’t even on my sonar when the plan was to return to Thalassinia after graduation next month.

It’s a little overwhelming at times, which possibly explains why I’m doodling hearts and bubbles and L+Q=4EVA instead of copying Mr. Kingsley’s notes from the board.

“There should be a law against having trig this late in the day,” Quince complains from the desk next to mine.

Startled, I hastily cover my daydreamy notes with my textbook and look up at Quince. But his attention is focused—as mine should be—on our teacher and the equation on the board. I sigh with relief. I shouldn’t be embarrassed by my love doodles because we are officially a couple now, so I have every right. Still, I don’t want him to think I’m any more of a love-sick guppy than he already knows.

Casually as I can, I flip to a clean page and try—pretend—to focus on math. My attention is still on Quince.

Head hanging down over my textbook, I slide another sideways glance at his handsome face. Mostly just because I can, but also because he’s nice to look at. There’s not much fault to find in his strong jaw, dark blond hair, and Caribbean blue eyes. Eyes that remind me of home.

Before the accidental kiss and bond that brought us together he sat one row over, on the other side of my recently-former crush, Brody. When I came back to Seaview and we started dating officially and for certain, Quince made Brody switch so he could sit next to me. I never knew Brody was such a pushover, but I’m glad. This is the only class Quince and I have together, and I’d rather have him at my side.

“I know, right,” Brody says from one row over. “Maybe we should start an anti-trig petition.”

Quince laughs. He’s been a lot nicer to Brody since I got over my ridiculous and unfounded crush and started dating him instead.

Tearing his attention away from the board, Quince turns to face me, catching me staring—okay, ogling. Even though, as his official girlfriend, I have free rein to stare—okay, ogle—I still can’t stop the heat that blushes my cheeks to what I’m sure is an anemone shade of red.

“You’re watching me, princess.” His soft lips spread into an appreciative smile. “People might get the wrong idea.”

“What, that I actually like you now?” I tease.

He shakes his head and leans toward me. “No, that you’re trying to see past me to get an eyeful of Benson.”

He tilts his head in Brody’s direction. He knows it bugs me when he deliberately get Brody’s name wrong. But I’m learning not to rise to the bait. Instead, I fight back.

I shift my gaze to the board and fix an innocent look on my face.

“What makes you think that’s the wrong idea?”

Quince leans even closer and says, “Because you came back for me.”

“I—“

Thankfully I’m saved from coming up with a response by the bell signaling the end of sixth period. I’m getting better at trading barbs with him, but I’m not even close to his level yet.

Everyone, including Quince and me, hurriedly shoves their trig books into backpacks and messenger bags and bolts for the hall before Kingsley can assign the homework he’s forgotten.

“I wish you had study hall,” I say as we weave through the crowd. It would be nice if we had it together.

“Me, too,” he says, placing a gentle hand on my lower back to guide me into an opening in the stream of students. “Between my job and your extracurriculars, I’ve barely gotten to see you since you got back.”

“I know.” I weave closer to him to avoid an overstuffed backpack. “It will be better after graduation.”

“Then I’ll start working full-time,” he argues.

“It’ll still be better,” I insist. “No more homework until college.”

If I get in, that is. My grades have been sub-mediocre—partly because many of the subjects are completely foreign to the mer world, and partly because I never imagined going to college. I didn’t need a degree to rule Thalassinia. Now that’s all changed, and at my meeting with the school counselor this week I learned that the only way I’ll get into college—any college—is to ace the SATs. I’ve enlisted my genius best human friend’s help and enrolled in an intensive test prep class, but I’m not counting on a decent score. Tests and I don’t really get along.

“You’ll get in,” Quince assures me, proving once again that he can read my mind, even without a magical bond. “And if you don’t,” he adds, slinging an arm around my shoulders. “You can always take over for me at the lumberyard.”

“Ha ha,” I reply, sending a sharp elbow into his ribs.

“Lighten up, princess.” He tugs me closer, probably so I can’t swing my arm enough to get in another jab. “You’ll do fine.”

“What, you’re psychic now?”

“Didn’t you know?” he asks seriously. “Must be an aftereffect of the bond.”

I sigh. If only that were true. If only Daddy hadn’t severed the bond fully and Quince still had some mer magic in his blood. If only.

I lean into his side, inhaling his scent of leather and mint toothpaste.

But I can’t change the past. I just have to content myself with being with him on land. Which isn’t as rare as he seems to think. Ever since I returned to land, to high school, to Seaview, to him last week, Quince has been walking me to classes when he can and giving me rides to and from school on his charming deathtrap of a motorcycle. He’s even stopped by a couple times to share milk and cookies when he gets home from his part-time job at the lumberyard. He’s being a most devoted boyfriend—something I never would have guessed in the three years that he tortured and tormented me at every turn. Who knew he secretly loved me?

I’m a very lucky girl.

And the best part? He thinks he’s a very lucky boy, too.

We’ve just made it into the hall that leads to my classroom and the boys’ locker room when the rumble starts.

At first it’s just the sound, a deep, low roar that sounds like the Earth itself is moaning. That startles most everyone in the hall and they stop, looking around, uncertain at this strange, unidentifiable sound.

Then we feel it. The ground beneath me starts to shake, kind of like when a wave comes in and pulls the sand from beneath your feet—except that I’m standing on linoleum tile, not a beach.

“What the hell?” Quince shouts above the roar and the shouts of panicked students.

The classroom door closest to us slams shut.

“I don’t know,” I reply, grabbing hold of his hand and squeezing. “It almost feels like … an earthquake.”

The metal locker doors grind against their frames, and the fluorescent tubes above flicker with the movement.

This is crazy. Florida doesn’t have earthquakes like this. Especially not south Florida. Hurricanes? Yes. Tornadoes? Occasionally. Swarms of killer sharks off shore? Unfortunately. But it doesn’t have earthquakes, and certainly not ones this powerful. The entire school is shaking.

“Come on,” Quince yells, pulling me toward the gym. “We need to get in a doorway.”

We’re not the only ones with that idea. Groups of terrified-looking students huddle under the beige metal frames of the four sets of double doors leading to the boys’ gym. There’s just enough room for us to squeeze into the last doorway.

I don’t know how Quince knows what to do—I guess he’s just that kind of can-do guy—or why a doorway is the best place to be, but I’m relieved. Land-based earthquakes are way beyond my realm of experience. I’ve been in a few underwater quakes. They’re not at all the same. Mostly it’s a lot of noise and heavier-than-usual current flow. If the epicenter is close, sometimes the ground vibrates a little. Our belongings might get swirled around, but our buildings don’t shake. Nothing like this.

None of our settlements are built on fault lines, so we don’t have worry about what would happen if the epicenter were directly beneath Thalassinia.

They might be feeling the effects of this quake, though. The kingdom isn’t that far offshore. If the school is shaking around me, who knows how far out the tremors are radiating? I should send a messenger gull when I get home, just to check in.

“Maybe it’s a bomb,” a terrified freshman next to me whimpers.

“Or a terrorist,” her friend says, gasping. “It could be an attack.”

“It’s not an attack,” I say, trying to calm them down without rolling my eyes at the melodrama.

Quince leans around me and gives them a reassuring smile. “It’s just an earthquake. It’ll be over in a–”

Before he finishes, the roar quiets and the ground stills.

The hall goes eerily still, everyone frozen in an aftershock of confusion. Even the lights above have stopped flickering. I’ll bet Seaview High has never been this silent during school hours ever. Then, after half a second, the hallway explodes in noise and chatter as still-freaked students hurry on to their classrooms.

Quince says, “That was–”

“–weird,” I finish.

Quince and I stand there, hand in hand, for several long moments, like we’re waiting for something. For the other shoe to drop, maybe. The fire alarm or a tsunami or just another quake. It doesn’t seem like this sort of thing could just … be over.

After a couple minutes, it seems obvious that it was a one-time thing.

The PA system squeals to life, blasting from the speakers in the hall ceiling. “All students please proceed to your seventh-period classrooms immediately. Seventh-period teachers please print out your attendance sheet and send it to the front office when all students have been accounted for.” There’s a squelch—they really should have Ferrett, the news team sound guy, check out the mic—and short pause, followed by, “Teachers with an open seventh period, report to the principal’s office for further instruction. That is all.”

“You okay?” Quince asks, his voice sounding a little odd.

“Yeah,” I reply, reluctantly letting go of his hand. “We’d better go.”

“I’ll meet you right here after seventh.” He presses a quick kiss to my lips before turning and heading into the gym.

I hurry to my study hall classroom two doors down, wondering if everyone is feeling as unsettled as I am.

~

The administration spends the first half of the period continually reassuring the students that everything is fine, that Seaview is fine, and that classes should continue as usual. Which is difficult, considering the semiconstant interrupts by the blaring PA system. When Brody shows up in the doorway twenty minutes before the final bell, I’ve only managed to read one (really short) paragraph of A Separate Peace.

“Hey Coach Parsnicky,” Brody says to my study hall supervisor. “I need to steal Lily away.”

Parsnicky, coach of the freshman girls’ basketball team, shrugs and waves vaguely at me and then at the door. He doesn’t even look up from his playbook long enough to see the yellow pass in Brody’s hand.

“News team?” I ask, slipping a heavily doodled sheet of notebook paper into the book to mark my spot and then shoving the book into my backpack. I like the book well enough, but I’m relieved I don’t have to try to reread another word right now.

Brody nods, giving me that charming smile that used to make my heart flutter and my legs buckle. Now I just smile back. It’s funny how much things can change in a matter of days.

“Principal Brown wants us to do a special report about earthquake safety for Monday announcements,” Brody says as we step into the hall. “Everything’s great, don’t panic, obey all traffic laws.”

“Basically everything they’ve been broadcasting for the last half hour,” I reply. School security propaganda.

“Pretty much.”

In my time as the news team cameraperson, we’ve done almost fifty special reports. Most of them are fluff pieces about school dances and sports stars. A very few are what Brody calls Seaviewgates, uncovering things like unfair grading scandals and faculty criminal records. (Madame Elliott was subsequently cleared of all charges, by the way.) And the rest of our reports are school-sanctioned announcements that the administration thinks will actually stop locker vandalism–aka spray paint–and parking lot rage.

They have virtually no effect whatsoever.

I don’t mind the fluff pieces—I’m just the eye behind the camera anyway—but I’d love it if we could do some actually useful segments. Interviewing marine biologists about ocean warming. Or maybe an expose about illegal offshore dumping, which happens more often than the general population knows. Or even some tips about water conservation. Something that might mean something to the world.

When we reach the studio, Ferret and Amy, our CGI specialist, are already prepping the equipment.

“I’ve got our cameraman,” Brody announces.

“Camerawoman,” I correct, slinging my backpack onto the floor by the door and crossing to the video camera. It’s pointed at the green screen, where Amy can add whatever background the newscast needs.

“What’s the plan?” I ask as I remove the dust-deflecting cover from the camera and power her up.

“Just give me a minute to tweak Principal Brown’s script,” Brody says, dropping into the chair behind the computer and opening the file. “We don’t have much time to pull this together. Lily, can you set up the teleprompter?”

We all dig into our duties, and as I set up the teleprompter for Brody, I think about how lame this safety speech will be, even after Brody fixes it. We should really be reporting on the causes and effects of the quake. Why waste the students’ time when we could, you know, educate them instead?

“Brody,” I say, turning away from the teleprompter. “I have an idea.”

“What’s that, Lil?” he asks, not looking up from the screen.

“What if we trimmed Principal Brown’s safety speech,” I suggest, “and add on an expert interview?”

Brody actually looks up at me. “Who do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know,” I admit. “Maybe one of the science teachers? Maybe—“

“Miss Molina.” Brody jumps to his feet. “She teaches earth science.”

“And she’s the environmental club faculty sponsor,” I add.

“Perfect,” we say at the same time. Two weeks ago I would have taken that as some kind of cosmic sign. Today I just think we’re on the same page for once.

“Amy, pull up the interview backdrop.” He heads for the door. “I’ll go get Miss Molina. Have everything ready when we get back. This is going to be a bell chaser.”

Yeah, we’re going to cut it close on time.

He disappears into the hall and the rest of us scramble to get everything in place. By the time he returns with Miss Molina in tow, we’re ready to go.

“Hi, Miss Molina,” I say, waving from behind the camera as Brody gets her situated for the interview.

“Hello, Lily,” she replies with a smile.

I was in her class freshman year. She inspired me to sign up for the environmental club, but once I joined news team and became swim-team manager, I didn’t have time. Considering the reason for my choices—spending time with Brody–I kind of regret not sticking with the environmental club.

“Okay,” Brody says, adjusting his body mic. “Ready.”

Ferret does the countdown, I start recording, and the segment begins. There’s no time for clever angles and splicing cuts, so I just leave the camera on a wide view and let it roll. I listen eagerly as Brody asks a few mundane questions about the sources of earthquakes and why scientists can’t predict them.

I don’t usually interrupt his interviews because he’s pretty intense about the process, but I can’t help asking, “What about the effects offshore?”

“What do you mean?” Miss Molina asks, turning to face me.

I glance at Brody, expecting a dirty look for stealing the focus, but he looks intrigued.

“Um, I mean,” I stammer, “if we felt the quake so strongly on land, then surely it was felt in the ocean, too.”

“Most likely,” Miss Molina answers.

“Then what kind of effects will it have on ocean geology and sea life?” I feel a little self-conscious, especially since I already know the answers. The students of Seaview probably don’t, though. And maybe they should. “Do earthquakes cause the same kind of destruction underwater as they do on land?”

“Not usually,” she responds, speaking directly to the camera. “The vibrations, which cause so much damage up here, are absorbed by the water.”

“How interesting,” Brody says, wresting the interview back into his control while sticking to the new direction. “Tell us more about underwater quakes.”

I smile behind the camera, content to watch Brody go after the topic with his usual determination. For the next ten minutes, he quizzes Miss Molina about earthquakes and plate tectonics and undersea land shifts with the agility of a seasoned reporter. I throw in a couple more questions, when the interview slacks, but for the most part Brody is masterful.

With only a few minutes before the bell, he calls the shoot a wrap. I hand him the video disk and he heads to the editing station with Ferret to pull together the final cut. I shut down the camera and start to strike the teleprompter.

“Can I have a moment, Lily?” Miss Molina asks.

Her serious tone makes me a little nervous, but I say, “Sure.”

I carefully coil the cable that connects the teleprompter to the computer.

“I was very impressed with your knowledge of underwater geology,” she says. “You plan on going to college?”

“I do,” I answer. “If I get in. My grades aren’t great and I still have to take the SATs.”

She reaches into her purse and pulls out a green paper. “Do you know what school you’d like to attend?”

“Whichever one will take me,” I say. Slacker mer princesses can’t be choosy.

“You should think about Seaview Community,” she says, handing me the paper. “Their admission requirements are not as stringent as at the four-year colleges, but their classes and professors are first-rate. I’m actually a graduate of the marine biology program.”

“Really?”

“Don’t tell anyone earth science is only my second love.” She nods at the paper. “They offer a summer internship program for incoming first years. Unpaid,” she explains, “but terrific experience.”

I skim over the paper. According to the bullet points, students accepted into the program are set up with internships at the aquarium, the zoo, or a local scientific firm. That’s a huge opportunity for anyone who wants to go into marine biology. Which I just might. I need a career now, and that one seems like a perfect fit. The program has a special concentration in marine ecology and conservation. That would give me a chance to help Thalassinia, even if I’m not the queen.

The paper also says that students must demonstrate sufficient interest and aptitude for the field, as well as having both practical and educational experience.

Well, that takes me out of the running.

“I don’t think I have enough experience,” I insist. “I’ve only had one year of biology, and I haven’t been in Environmental Club since freshman year.”

“That’s more than most of their applicants will have,” she argues. “I can guarantee you a good chance at acceptance into the program and a tuition scholarship.”

“How?”

“Because I can see you have a passion for the field,” she says. Leaning back, she smiles. “And I have brunch with the program director every Sunday.”

“That’s—“ I shake my head. “Wow.”

“If you’re seriously interested,” she says, “I could set up an interview for you.”

“That would be awesome, Miss Molina.”

“How about this Saturday?” she suggests. “Denise is free in the morning, and you could swing by her office on campus.”

I do a quick mental calendar check. “Saturday would be perfect.”

“Great,” she says. “I’ll set it up. Meanwhile, you go online and research the school and the program.”

“Absolutely!”

I shake my head in awe as Miss Molina walks away. Talk about a perfect situation. Me studying marine ecology. Working to protect the oceans from up here on land. I shove the paper into my backpack, promising myself I’ll go online tonight and check out the program’s website.

The school bell rings, sending me scurrying to clean up. I finish with the teleprompter and then help Ferret put away the sound gear. We’re just locking the sound cabinet door when Brody finishes his edit.

“Done!” he announces as he clicks the send button, shooting the digital video to Principal Brown’s email account for approval and so it can run during homeroom Monday morning.

We give each one another a round of high fives and then grab up our bags. I’d flung mine farther than the rest, so I’m the last one left in the classroom.

“I figured I’d find you in here,” a deep voice says.

Quince! I turn and find him leaning in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest and an amused smile on his face.

“I thought we were meeting outside the gym.”

Damselfish.

He’s teasing, but I still feel bad. I completely blanked.

“Sorry,” I say, hurrying over and slipping my arms around his waist. “I lost track of time. Miss Molina was telling me about the marine biology program at Seaview Community.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“She’s going to set up a meeting for me with the head of the program. She thinks I have a good chance of getting in and getting an internship and a scholarship.”

“That’s great.” He slips a hand beneath my backpack strap, pulls it off my shoulder, and slings it onto his as we leave the classroom.

I hope I haven’t made him late for work.

Quince and I fall into a comfortable silence as we walk to his motorcycle and then on the ride to our street. All in all it’s pretty handy having a next-door boyfriend. Especially when he has transportation.

He pulls into the shared driveway between Aunt Rachel’s house—my house, too, I guess—and his, purring his bike to a stop.

I climb off and remove my pink helmet.

“How late are you working?” I ask.

His arm darts out and around my waist, tugging me closer. “Until eight.”

I make a little pouty face, but I’m not trying to guilt him or anything. I don’t begrudge his job at the lumberyard. Not only does it help out with his mom’s expenses, it also helps out with those strong muscles that are holding me against his side right now.

“You’ll stop by after?”

He raises up and presses his lips against mine. “Absolutely.”

I’m tempted to sink into him and collect on the promise of more kisses, but I don’t want to make him later than he already is. He missed a bunch of work the last few weeks because of the time we had to spend in Thalassinia to get our separation. He and his mom can’t afford the lost pay for being late.

You might think I’d regret choosing to sever the magical bond that formed between us when Quince gave me my first kiss, four weeks ago. At the time, though, it was the only choice I could make. I wasn’t sure of my feelings, I didn’t trust them, and I wasn’t about to ask him to make a lifetime commitment on a hunch. He would have been tied forever to me and Thalassinia, forced into whichever body form I was in for the rest of his life. That’s a lot to ask for a land-loving guy with a struggling single mom who relies on his help and his paycheck.

And now that I’m sure of my feelings… well, I guess I’m still glad about the separation. If we’d stayed bonded, I’d probably be in Thalassinia right now, performing some kind of boring princess duty or tedious ceremony or critical judgment. Part of me belongs on land. An even bigger part of me belongs with Quince. The rest of me is terrified of the kind of responsibility that comes with becoming crown princess or—worse—queen. Yep, I’m happy with my choice.

“Go then,” I say, giving him another quick kiss. When he starts to wrap his other arm around me, I twist out of his grasp. “Later.”

He breaks into a grin. “See if Aunt Rachel will make those key lime bars again.”

“Is food all you think about?” I tease, shoving against his shoulder.

“No,” he replies, all serious. “Sometimes I think about football.”

He twists the throttle and is backing down the driveway before I can smack him again.

“Careful or I’ll request the prune pistachio balls!”

Not one of Aunt Rachel’s greatest cookie experiments.

He laughs, that deep, unrestrained laugh that makes me shiver all over. As he roars off down the street I watch until he turns the corner and disappears from sight. Oh, sigh.

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Fins Series

About the Series

Fins Are Forever is part of the Forgive My Fins series. Here is the complete (as of right now) reading order:

  1. Forgive My Fins (Book 1)
  2. Fins Are Forever (Book 2)
  3. Just For Fins (Book 3)
  4. Pretty In Pearls (eNovella)
Forgive My FinsFins Are ForeverJust For FinsPretty In Pearls

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