Ila is a selkie — a seal shapeshifter — whose time for mating has arrived. Ryan is incredibly sexy, but he’s also suspicious of everything she says and does.
Ryan Harris has come to Galapagos to solve the mystery of what happened to his father decades earlier. His only clue comes in the form of a naked woman who greets him on his arrival.
Will the lies Ila‘s told keep them apart?
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Copyright ©2021 Alice Gaines
The Mother of the Selkie clan, Inu, didn’t appear for Ila’s fertility ceremony, instead sending her daughter Ona, to perform the rites. Ona’s twin, the clan’s healer, stood next to her sister. Neither woman could fully hide the tension in their faces and postures. Something was off, and if the Mother of their clan ailed, so did the rest of the selkies.
Ila stood naked at the center of the circle of the sisters, all the rest wearing ceremonial robes. She shivered although the breeze wasn’t cold. Since the time she’d learned about mating, she’d imagined receiving a blessing from the Mother. Ona would hold that authority one day, but she didn’t now. Did that bode ill for her mating?
The soft buzz from the others assembled said they worried about the same thing. In the distant past, Selkies had been held captive by selfish mates who wanted to keep them forever. The mates would hide their selkies’ seal skins so they could neither escape nor swim. Without the ocean, a selkie withered and died. Might that happen now to Ila if she didn’t receive a proper blessing?
With the sacred words recited, Ona took Ila’s face between her palms and kissed Ila’s forehead. The sign that sealed her fate for mating. The new man would initiate Ila into the ways of sex and give her a child. If all went well, Ila would leave him, wiping out his every memory of her before she did, and return to the Sisterhood to give birth to her daughter.
“Bless you, my daughter,” Ona said.
The healer handed Ila a robe, which Ila tugged around her against a chill that shouldn’t have existed. These islands, called Galapagos by the humans, straddled the equator and didn’t get cold. Ila stared at Ona as words failed her. How did she tell Ona she wasn’t the Mother and this whole ceremony could be cursed?
None of the sisters had left but milled around, no doubt trying to hear what went on between Ila and Inu’s daughters. The healer turned to stare at all of them. “You may return to your work or homes.”
The group slowly dispersed, leaving Ila with Inu’s twin daughters — the Sisterhood’s future leader and the current healer. Both women held authority in the group, and Ila shouldn’t doubt them, but why hadn’t the Mother come herself?
“Inu isn’t sick, is she?” Ila asked.
“She’s well,” the healer said.
“Then why –”
“She sent me,” Ona said. “Do you doubt my authority?”
Her tone was meant to intimidate so Ila wouldn’t ask any more questions. Well and good for other issues, but Ila would only mate once. If something were to threaten her now, she should know it. “Every selkie dreams of her mating, and the Mother always blesses her first.”
“Inu is tired from all her duties and agreed we’d conduct the ceremony,” Ona said. “It’s time I should learn to lead.”
Inu’s duties hadn’t changed, so why should she be tired? While there was general agreement that Ona would take over for her mother, there had been no formal vote, and she hadn’t been initiated into the role. Her role here was unusual, to say the least.
“Have you dreamed of your mate?” the healer asked.
“I have.” A man named Ryan. He was handsome, certainly, but he gave off an air of uncertainty or skepticism with perhaps a note of anger beneath it all. Another reason to wonder about this mating.
“Your body has made the changes,” the healer said.
It had. With the swelling of her breasts and plumpness of her hips, Ila was ready for mating, and fate had chosen this man for her. So, why was the Mother not here to approve the match?
Ona put an arm around her. “All will be well. Do your duty and give the Sisterhood a daughter.”
She would, of course, despite any misgivings. “I will.”
“Good,” Ona said. “You’ll leave in the morning.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
USA Today bestselling author Alice Gaines has published several sensuous and erotic works. She prefers stories that stretch the imagination, highlighting the power of love and sex. Alice has a Ph.D. in psychology from U. C. Berkeley and lives in Oakland, California, with her collection of orchids and her pet corn snake, Casper.