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Copyright 2021 © L.L. Standage

All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution or reproduction is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the publisher.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Cover and interior design by

We Got You Covered Book Design

To chocolate chips,

who have been my friends

through many adventures.


1. Midnight Marine Biology is Not a Good Idea

2. Mermaid Girl

3. Hottie McScottie

4. The Photo Shoot Crasher

5. Mermaid Girl Again

6. The Dream and the Clam

7. A Body and Chase

8. Under Arrest

9. “Not One of Them”

10. Special Treatment

11. Sardines and Insanity

12. Project Fathom

13. You Have No Idea What You’ve Done

14. Midnight Meetings

15. Deepest Revelations

16. I Don’t Trust Her

17. Bottom Feeders and Flirting

18. “He Hates What You Are”

19. Reconnaissance and Retrieval

20. Beneath the Surface

21. Questions and Answers

22. Polo Shirt’s Return

23. Falling

24. Pizza, Cards, and Serious Trouble

25. Terms of Request

26. The Scheming

27. A Pinch of Trickery

28. Tu Ad Cognoscendam Veritatem

29. The Imbali de Mer

30. Wrath of Sea

31. I Don’t Want You to Cry

32. Between Horizons

33. A New Life

34. Acceptance

Also by L L Standage


About the Author

Park is Closed. Do not Enter, the little orange sign read. With a quick glance around to make sure mine was the only car on the street, I turned off the headlights and drove past the sign. A dark pay station came into view ahead. The streetlights shone weakly on the desolate road stretching beyond it. I pulled to the side of the road and watched. No one emerged from the pay station. I slipped my battered copy of Subtidal Marine Biology of California, a flashlight, and my cell phone into my book bag, then got out. The balmy ocean air touched my skin. Its salty scent filled my lungs, sending a thrill through my chest. Keys in my pocket, bag on my shoulder, and not a soul in sight. Perfect.

I skirted around the empty pay station and smirked. What was the point of a having a pay station if no one sat in it to keep people out? I broke into a jog while the tension in my body eased. The road curved to an end at a parking lot, where weak moonlight shone on the trailhead’s sign. I pulled out a flashlight. Shadows leapt in the light’s beam as I started down the trail.

My phone rang from my pocket. The name Sammie Ka-blammie came up on the caller ID.

“Hey,” I said. “Did you make it to the beach?”

“I’m almost there,” Samantha replied. “Did you make it to the tide pools?”

“Heading down the trail.”

She shuddered, audible even through the phone. “It’s creepy out here. I don’t know how you talked me into this. We haven’t even been here a day. Couldn’t you wait till morning to explore your little tide pools?”

“Nope. Because Mother Nature is a brilliant, cruel mistress.”

Sam laughed. “What?”

“All the coolest stuff in nature happens in the middle of the night. I promise it’ll be worth it. Remember the red color we saw in the ocean when we first got here? That will make the—”

“Bioluminous photon-planking-jibber-jabber,” said Sam. “I know. Doesn’t make the streets near the beach any less scary in the dark.”

I laughed. “It’s bioluminescence from blooming phyto-plankton. And you could be out here taking pictures of tide pool specimens for me, but you just had to see the glowing waves.”

“Whatever, Liv,” she said. I could almost hear the eye-rolling. “I’m not crazy enough to hike down a rocky trail in the dark. Just stay on the phone with me until I…” She trailed off and sighed. I smiled.

“Do you see it?” I asked, picturing the otherworldly sight of technicolor waves off the coast of La Jolla.

“Holy crap. The waves are literally glowing blue!”

I laughed again. “You’re welcome. Take lots of pictures for me, ‘kay? I’ll see you when I get back.”

“Be careful out there.”

“Will do.”

I hung up the phone, put it in my bag, and continued on the trail. Midnight made for risky hiking, but negative tide—the best time to explore tide pools—happened at 11:15 p.m. Did bioluminescence affect tide pool creatures too? I’d soon find out. My flashlight cast craggy shadows on the ridged sea cliffs. At the bottom of the trail, I stopped. Moonlight fell on the pools, which extended farther than I’d ever seen before. My breath left my lungs. Yeah, this trespassing thing was totally worth it.

I grinned, stepped from rock to rock and knelt beside the nearest pool. My thick blonde hair fell on my face and blocked my view. Placing my book bag and flashlight on a nearby rock, I pulled the tresses into a knot on top of my head. Now then, what marine life would I find here at night? So far, nothing with bioluminescence. Disappointing, but I kept on. My flashlight beam lit up some hermit crabs, sea anemones, and a few mussels. I sighed in appreciation. That National Oceanic Association Scholarship was so in the bag. My ticket to freedom, to starting fresh, and to forgetting the pain of the crappiest senior year ever. No one could keep me from my dream career now. With my book open on my knee, I searched, identified, and searched some more.

After half an hour of crouching, my legs started to cramp. I stood to stretch them out, then froze.

Voices. Coming closer. I fumbled to turn off the flashlight and reached for my bag. My phone clattered to the rock. I lurched forward and snatched for it, but it vanished. My flashlight fell with a splash. No! Dozens of shallow pools of water, and my phone had to fall into the one chasm. I clenched my teeth, beating a fist against my thigh.

The voices grew closer. Were they security guards? If I got caught, I could get banned from this place. Not happening. I threw

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