Of Triton Page 19

“Then why bother with all the restrictions on the Royals?” Grom asks, unconvinced. “If the Gift can be passed to anyone through their parents, like noses and fins, then why require the Royals to make a sacrifice every third generation?”

“I’ve thought about that,” Galen says. “I’m not sure if the Generals knew about genetics. But if they did, I think they had an ulterior motive for the mating tradition. The arrangement is obviously meant to keep the Syrena united. Having both houses come together every third generation is a way to force us to rely on each other. Instead of the humans.”

Nalia nods. “I would have to agree. Emma’s father and I discussed it several times. That thought had crossed our minds as well.”

Grom looks at Galen. “Is there anything else I should know? Anything at all?”

Galen feels it’s a bit hypocritical of his brother to point an accusing finger at him. After all, Grom did travel half the big land with him in the search for Emma and Nalia without once mentioning that he’d already been sealed to Paca.

Galen shakes his head. “I think that about covers it. What about you? Do you and Paca have any fingerlings on the way we should know about? Anything that could make this even more interesting?”

“Fingerlings?” Nalia sputters. “Grom, tell me you didn’t—”

“We didn’t,” Grom says. “Triton’s trident, there was no time for that, now was there? Galen and Toraf arrived right after the ceremony. Before we left for the island.”

“Well, what am I supposed to think? You’ve gone and mated yourself to—”

“Knock it off!” Emma is standing on the bed now, shoes and all, staring down at the rest of them like they’ve all been drinking salt water. “Do we have the luxury of arguing about every little thing? Or is this meeting with the Archives kind of a time-sensitive deal?”

Grom nods. “Emma is right. We’re wasting time.”

“So let’s get on with this. Go make the appeal,” Emma says. Galen knows she’s not overly excited to see her mother mated with Grom. But the only way to ensure that Galen isn’t the one to mate with her is to unseal Grom from Paca.

Not that Galen would ever take Nalia as his mate. He’d live on land and eat cheesecake for the rest of his life before that happened. But if there is a way to fix this without breaking any more laws, if there is a way to resolve this without leaving behind his heritage, Galen is in favor of at least trying.

Grom takes Emma’s hand in his and guides her back to the floor. Galen can tell she wants to recoil, but he’s proud of her when she doesn’t. He can only imagine what could be going through her mind right now, seeing the intimacy between Grom and Nalia. Even he is surprised by his brother’s sentimental behavior toward Nalia. Galen wonders if he’s getting a glimpse of Grom’s youth, of how he used to be before Nalia “died.”

Grom smiles down at Emma. “There is a matter you and I need to discuss, little one. Your mother would have to come with me. She will need to be present to prove that I have a basis for the unsealing. To prove that she’s alive. And I want to make sure that is agreeable to you.”

Galen sucks in a breath. Emma couldn’t possibly know the significance of what Grom is doing. It’s more than asking for her permission. More than taking into consideration her feelings. More, even, than respecting her opinion or whatever argument she could propose. This is not for Emma’s benefit at all. In doing all these things, Grom is showing Galen—and Nalia—that he approves of Emma. That her Half-Breed status is not something detestable to him personally. That his opinion, even as Triton king, does not necessarily agree with the law.

Which is no small thing, in Galen’s eyes. It gives him true hope that someday he will have Emma without betraying everything he’s ever known.

Galen glances at Nalia. She’s watching Grom and Emma with eyes brimming in tears. Nalia knows, too. She knows what Grom is saying between words.

Emma swallows. “The thing is, I don’t understand why any of this matters. Why is this even a discussion? Galen and Mom don’t want to mate with each other, so they won’t. They don’t ever have to go back. They could all stay all land. Even … even you could.”

Grom nods, thoughtful. Galen recognizes his brother’s diplomatic expression. “That’s true, Emma. I can’t force them back into the water, and I wouldn’t want it to come to that. And I think we all know there’s not much your mother can be forced to do.” Grom glances pointedly at Nalia, his eyes full of meaning. “But if I know anything about my brother, it’s that he’s loyal to his kind. To our legacy. If I know him at all, he’ll want to at least try to do this the right way first. Because he loves you enough to go through the trouble of setting things straight.”

Grom is more observant than Galen ever gave him credit for. Galen does want to do it the right way. It’s not a small thing to give up everything you’ve ever known. But it’s not a small thing to give up Emma, either. If there is even a slight possibility he can have them both—Emma and his heritage—then it’s certainly worth fighting for.

The small hope in him swells even bigger.

Grom looks at Galen, an obvious request for support. Galen nods down at her. “I think we should try, angelfish. It would mean a lot to me if we could try.”

“And then what?” she says, pulling her hand from Grom’s grasp. “Then Grom will mate with Mom and live happily ever after twenty thousand leagues under the sea? And what about you and me, Galen? How’s that going to work? What about college and—”

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