A Note from Emma
**First: an obvious HUGE spoiler alert. This bonus story takes place after the events of Breaker, the final book in the Ondine Quartet series. If you don’t want to be spoiled about the ending, please do not continue reading. **
I am not a fan of epilogues. I don’t like to be spoon-fed the future of my favorite characters as if it needs to be spelled out. I believe readers are more than capable of imagining their own futures for beloved characters.
Therefore, this is not an epilogue. The ending of BREAKER stands as is and I don’t consider this to be an addendum to it.
This is a glimpse into the Ondine Quartet world a few years after the events of Breaker. It is the future I imagine for some of our characters. You, of course, may have very different ideas of what happened to everyone. That would be fantastic!
The story of what happens after BREAKER exists in you. This is simply one version of it.
“In fighting, there are only two rules. Either you’re standing or you’re on the ground. There is no in-between.”
The row of ondines stood at attention. Blank faces stared straight ahead.
“Gretchen.” I whipped around.
The ondine froze, her hands still in the process of redoing her ponytail. “Yes?”
“Tell me the focal points of a grevaol maneuver.”
“Um…” She slowly lowered her hands and fidgeted. “The knee and the arm—“
“Jaw, lower back, and knee in that order so you can attack a target’s vulnerable joints and bring him down with maximum speed. If you’d been paying attention to Gardinel Percailou’s talk earlier, rather than your phone messages, you would’ve known that.”
“I was paying attention,” she said sullenly. “I just forgot.”
No one spoke but an additional hushed silence settled over the room.
Something flashed through Gretchen’s eyes. Simmering hurt.
I stepped back. “Show me what you’ve learned this month.”
Reluctant, she followed me to the center of the mat.
Gretchen had entered the program in its initial year as a scrawny eleven-year-old. Now a tall, sixteen-year-old with long arms and even longer legs, she’d begun to display significant technical growth this year.
Unfortunately, she’d also discovered the distraction of partying with boys.
I balanced on my feet and studied her.
She rocked back and forth on her heels, her gaze nervously darting across my body.
Too much pent-up energy. She needed to get it out of her system.
I balanced on the balls of my feet, arms loose and relaxed by my side.
She tilted her chin.
Gretchen raised her hands, a slight hesitance drifting through her eyes.
I raised my brow. “Is that all you learned this month?”
Her mouth tightened.
Her right fist whipped toward my ribs.
Her arm span gave her a slight advantage. She could strike an opponent without getting too close.
But her timing was off.
If she’d struck on the tail end of her spin, she could’ve landed a solid, centered punch.
Instead, she barely grazed the side of my ribs.
Not only was it easy to dodge, but the missed hit threw her off-balance.
I pivoted and landed two sharp blows in quick succession.
Elbow between her shoulder blades. Punch to the back of her thigh.
She exhaled sharply, but retreated out of reach before I could land another strike.
Her face paled from the pain, but her eyes had brightened with focus.
She slid across the floor on silent feet and leaped into the air for a butterfly kick.
Considering she’d just learned it two weeks ago, her form wasn’t bad at all.
But again, timing and aim was off.
I pulled back, easily dodging her feet.
She landed and launched into another offensive attack.
Punch. Roundhouse kick.
All easily dodged.
Talented, but lacked focus.
Her face tightened with frustration.
Anger made her clumsy and left her vulnerable.
With a swift kick against her inner thigh, I brought her down.
Wincing, Gretchen curled on the mat and grabbed her throbbing leg.
I asked the question my mother had asked countless times.
“What was the mistake?”
She muttered something under her breath.
Gretchen took a deep breath and slowly pulled herself off the ground.
“I got mad and left myself open.”
“If you did that out in the field, you would’ve been dead. Or you might’ve gotten someone else dead,” I said bluntly.
Her face fell.
Once again, the memories resurfaced as it did every day I taught these ondines.
The years spent sweating and hurting in impromptu basement training rooms and countless human dojos. The relentless stream of criticism.
But those memories were no longer me.
And I was here so these ondines could experience a path far different from mine.
Gretchen turned to go back in line.
I patted her back and murmured, “It was better. Jeremy wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
She stiffened slightly but by the time she returned to her spot, a tiny twinkle had returned to her eyes.
The others remained stoic and still, the room’s fluorescent lights harshly illuminating their faces.
Had I once looked like that? A combination of young vulnerability and fierce determination?
“We’ll soon be entering the final month of the school year,” I told them. “I, along with Head Chevalier Martin and Gardinel Belicoux, will begin monitoring your progress to determine selection into the elite program.”
Again, no one moved. But energy raced down the line.
“When I was your age, they only accepted five —“
“That was when there was no ondine program, right?” Gretchen asked.
“Yes and now we take fifteen. You know how difficult that is, given your numbers.”
“My advice? Keep working.” I paused. “Class dismissed.”
The ondines hurried toward the doors, the room abuzz with their excited conversations.
I took a long sip of water and tried to ignore the cold lump of anxiety sitting in the pit of my stomach.
I’d hoped that small demonstration with Gretchen would take the edge off, but it hadn’t.
I glanced at the clock.
Of course it was.
The same time I ended class every afternoon.
I strode down the corridor, attempting to shake off jittery nerves. A few recruits greeted me, mostly ondines. The demillirs cast curious glances my way but most didn’t know me. I’d watched several of them train under Tristan and Ethan, so I was aware of their talent.
We had several exceptional candidates for the elites next year. Gretchen’s class was a strong one. Competition would be fierce.
The door to the Head Chevalier office was slightly ajar.
I stepped inside.
Papers were messily scattered across the desk. A large framed photo of Cam standing beside Stan in Mexico hung on the wall. They both wore huge grins and atrocious pastel-colored fish-print shirts.
I casually flipped through the papers. All training program related material.
Maybe he kept it somewhere else.
I opened the side drawer and immediately found the document at the top of a small stack.
“Does Cam know you’re digging around his desk?”
I glanced up and casually rolled the sheet of paper in my hand. “You really should call him Head Chevalier Martin.”
Helene leaned against the doorjamb and crossed her arms. Long, fine blonde hair fell softly against her shoulders, framing a heart-shaped face with delicate features and intelligent gray eyes.
She shrugged. “He’s not here.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?”
Earlier this morning, Garreth had gleefully told me the elites would be learning alkevi. When I’d learned that maneuver, it’d taken me a week to be able to walk normally again.
She gave a dramatic sigh. “Garreth sent me down here.”
“Because I told him I was planning on going to California this summer once graduation was over.”
I resisted the urge to sigh. “And why would you tell him that?”
She frowned as if I’d disappointed her. “Because I’m going to USC film school’s summer program.”
“When did you decide that?”
“A few months ago. I told you about it —“
“You said you were thinking of exploring a few options,” I pointed out. “So why did Garreth send you down here?”
“Because he said that if I were planning on already ditching my duties as a possible chevalier, then I would need to discuss options with the Head Chevalier.”
“I told you not to say anything until you got inducted first,” a voice said.
Julian walked in, black hair slightly ruffled from the wind and dark blue eyes sparkling with amusement. “Bad form, Bessette.”
Helene tossed her hair back. “You’re only saying that because you’re Mom’s messenger.”
Julian opened his mouth. Helene steamrolled right over him.
“Mom wants me to go back to New York for the summer. Take a film course at The New School.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“She just wants me there so she can keep an eye on me!”
“Does she have a reason to feel that way?”
She shifted. “Of course not.”
I raised my brow. After arriving with Holden and the other nixes to Haverleau, Tara had quickly become Helene’s closest friend.
Two clever girls with slightly overactive imaginations and a casual disregard for rules meant they’d quickly acquired a penchant for trouble.
“What does Dax think about this?” Julian asked.
“Dax doesn’t make my decisions for me,” she said loudly. “Just because he’s my boyfriend —“
“Who’s also royalty —“
“So?” She rolled her eyes. “Do guys always have such an inflated sense of self?”
I hid a smile. “Not all. But if you’re talking about Dax and Julian —“
“Haha.” Julian looked at Helene. “Catrin is concerned. You and Tara heading out to California together sounds like trouble.”
Helene scowled. “Just because you have unresolved issues with Tara doesn’t automatically mean we’re doing something wrong.”
“I’m going back to class,” she said loftily and turned to go. “You can tell Mom that if she wants to see me, she can find me on the beaches of California.”
She sauntered away looking so startlingly like Renee that for a moment, I thought I was seeing a ghost.
Julian turned to me. “Hey.”
I came around the desk and gave him a hug. “Hey yourself.”
I last saw him a few months ago when we worked together to take down a drug ring in Florida.
“You look good.”
“Don’t I always?”
“Does your massive head get its own seat on the plane when you travel?”
“We take up all of first class.” He settled into a chair in front of the desk. “Where’s Cam?”
“From what I heard in the hallway, I think he’s dealing with a few recruits who thought it’d be funny to clog the toilets in the locker room.”
Julian exhaled. “I really don’t miss being Head Chevalier.”
“How long you staying?”
“A few days. Dropped by to spend time with the old man. How are your ondines doing?”
I leaned back in the chair and tried not to sound too boastful. “Really well.”
Gretchen and her group were the strongest ondine class we had yet.
Most of the previous classes were filled with older ondines who’d joined the program too late to learn anything more than basic self-defense.
But Gretchen’s group was the first class of ondines who’d entered at the earliest age permitted in the program. They were the first group to have received full training and it showed.
“Look at you.” Julian grinned. “Proud mama.”
“You would be too if you saw them.”
“I’ll check them out tomorrow.” He studied me. “Any special plans tonight?”
I shuffled a few papers around on the desk. “No. Just staying in. Maybe watching some TV.”
A long silence.
“This is why I can’t take you on the undercover stuff. You suck at lying.”
“I’m not lying.”
A soft smile. “It’ll be okay.”
“Of course it will,” I said heartily.
Thankfully, he moved on.
We caught up on smaller news and events that weren’t shared during our weekly phone conversations. He told me about Catrin’s current boyfriend, a nice, distinguished demillir from Canada who was madly in love with her. About his recent visit to a Klimt exhibit and his plans with his father tonight.
I told him about my first trip to Italy last month, the rich sights, tastes, and sounds that had seeped under my skin and into my blood. About the recent Governor’s Ball and how Aubrey had transformed it into a themed costume ball.
It didn’t take long for anxiety to dissipate. All that remained were nostalgia and comfort, old friends catching up on the minutiae of life.
By the time Julian left, the Training Center had grown quiet.
The clock ticked.
I forced down dinner and flipped through channels on the television for a few hours.
But staying still in the cottage was impossible. My nerves couldn’t handle it.
Visiting Aub was better than sitting here alone. I could talk to her about why Cam was hiding things from me.
Moonlight drenched the rich florals of the Royal Gardens and a crisp snap to the spring air hinted at the rain to come.
I entered the Governing House and momentarily paused in the imposing foyer. The chandelier glittered, casting bright illumination against the marble floor and rich mahogany paneling.
Aubrey stared down at me. Her portrait had been done five years ago when she’d first taken office, but she hadn’t changed much.
Her steel prosthetic hand spoke of strength, while her face radiated bristling intelligence.
“Kendra.” Jeeves strode toward me, slightly more dressed up than usual in a slim fitting black suit. “Didn’t expect to see you.”
“Thought I’d hang out here tonight. Have you seen him yet?”
“On my way right now.” He smiled. “My son is taking me to the newest wine bar in Lyondale.”
Pride laced his voice. Julian told me he was actually taking his father to a pick-up bar in the hopes he’d finally meet an interesting woman to talk to.
Probably better if I didn’t mention that part.
“Sounds like fun. Don’t drink too many pinot noirs.”
“I’ll try not to.” Jeeves headed for the exit. “The Head Chevalier is with her.”
Their voices filtered out into the east corridor hallway.
I pushed open the door without bothering to knock.
“When were you planning on telling me about the operation in Portland?”
Cam threw his hands up. “Why the hell are you going through my —“
“It’s your own fault for leaving it in such an obvious place.” I handed the sheet of paper containing op details to him.
Aub arched her brow. “She has a point.”
I took a seat. “Explain.”
Cam grunted. “I was planning to try Bernard out in the field.”
“That chevalier originally from Merbais?” Aubrey wrinkled her nose. “Hasn’t he been handling equipment in the Training Center because he can barely pick up a kouperet without dropping it?”
“Yeah, but he wouldn’t stop harassing me about wanting to go out in the field. The guy is unbelievably persistent.” Cam shrugged. “I had Garreth and Adrian train him over the past few months and according to them, he’s improved. Apparently, he’s a pretty decent chevalier once he took that stick out of his ass. Thought this would be a good case to test him out on.”
Not a bad point.
Chevaliers were investigating a string of robberies in the Portland area that were tied to a known nix fencer. The likely culprits were a pair of Rogue demillir brothers, who’d apparently run out of money and decided stealing from wealthy humans was the best way to fix their cash flow problem.
Cam was planning an op on their last known residence to bring them in.
These were low risk, non-violent offenders. Entering a home to arrest the suspects was exciting without being overly risky. It was an ideal situation for training a newbie.
Most of these scenarios involved the inexperienced chevalier working with an older, experienced one.
I crossed my legs. “Who are you pairing him up with?”
No. “Cam, I swear if you put me with —“
“It’s only for two hours. Max,” he said hastily. “Come on, Irisaive. You owe me.”
“For the last case. The one I wanted to do in Michigan. I let you have it.”
Damn it, he had. It’d been a good one, too.
He leaned in. “You can see Gabe while you’re there.”
“Ooh.” Aub made a face. “Low blow, Cam.”
He spread his arms. “Just calling it as it is.”
It was a strong incentive. I hadn’t seen my uncle in almost a year. Frequent video calls weren’t quite the same as seeing him face to face. Besides, I wanted to check out his new martial arts school.
“Okay,” I said slowly. “But only if you can convince Stan to express mail a batch of eclairs over.”
His face brightened. “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that. Ha—“
“Do we have a deal?”
“Sure.” His brow furrowed. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said, irritated. “Well, except for the fact that I’m now babysitting Percy Weasley.”
He stood and headed for the door. “I have no idea who that is but I’m sure he’s better than Bernard.”
“You’re an uneducated heathen, Martin,” Aub called out.
Cam tiredly waved and left.
I looked at her. “He needs to get out more.”
Aub leaned back and briefly shut her eyes. “That was exactly what I was telling him before you came storming in here.”
“That he needs to get a life outside the chevaliers?”
“No, that he needs to stop screwing around with Rina and let her know if he’s serious or not.”
Rina, a bubbly ondine who worked in the Department of Justice, had been dating Cam off and on for about a year. It was his first real relationship after Chloe and, as expected, he was being rather cagey about it.
“I like her.”
“Me too.” Aubrey opened her eyes. “Just wish he’d learn to like himself a little more.”
“Yeah, I know.” I stretched my legs out. “And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Come on, Aub. You need to do stuff outside this office, too.”
“Unless something has already happened that I don’t know about,” I said slowly.
“I wouldn’t call it something big,” she said evasively.
“But it is something.” I rested my arms on her desk. “I’m not leaving until you tell me.”
She glanced down then up at me. “Holden.”
I lowered my voice. “Holy shit. You and Holden?”
A slight blush crept up her cheeks. “It was just one time.”
“Two weeks ago. I was working late and he came here to talk and one thing led to another and—“
I yanked my arms back. “Don’t tell me on this desk.”
“Well, not exactly…never mind.” She shook her head. “We should talk about you.”
“Are you seriously asking me that?”
She narrowed her eyes. In the moonlight, they appeared like glittering emerald pools.
“Adrenaline is practically shooting out of your skin, Kendra. Are you sure you’re okay?”
She stood. “Let’s do something. We can head into Lyondale and grab a drink —“
“Come on, Aub. It’s okay. I know it’ll be okay.”
She studied me. “Do you?”
No, I didn’t. Not really.
I took a deep breath. “Yes. Now stop worrying.”
“I have to meet Tristan anyways.” I moved toward the door. “He’s arriving back from Merbais today.”
“Fine. But we’re still having brunch tomorrow!” she called out.
I waved and shut the door behind me.
The clock in the corridor chimed.
They had all returned to the ocean.
Rhian, Ryder, Marcella, Ian, Alex, Chloe. Even my mother.
There was no where to visit them and for the longest time, that had bothered me.
About two years ago, I realized how silly that was.
The ocean was everywhere, which meant they were everywhere.
I just had to go and talk to them.
Every so often, I came here to the cove to have my private conversations, a moment to let them know they were still with me.
Time passed and we continued to move forward and heal.
But I would never forget.
Wind ruffled the waters.
“Ian, you wouldn’t believe how bad it was. You could see the cheap ass boom mike in the shot and the pump inserted inside the baby doll to spill the fake blood out. You would’ve loved it. Worst horror production I’ve ever seen.”
The breeze continued to dance across waves.
“Chlo, Aub might have a thing going on with Holden now. Can you believe it? And Cam’s doing really well. He’s one of the most popular Head Chevaliers Haverleau has ever had. And I think he might have finally found the right ondine for him. But you know how stubborn he is. He just needs to figure it out for himself.“
A draft stirred the sands at my feet.
“Ry, you should see the way your brother’s side kick is coming along. He’s a shoo-in for the Elites next year. And Alex, I found the nastiest sweatshirt in the Trident the other day. Striped puke green and purple. Had your name written all over it.”
The wind picked up, the clouds concealing the moon. Darkness settled over the waters.
My phone’s alarm beeped.
Every muscle in my body tensed.
The ocean remained a calm, glossy black.
Another minute. Two.
Still, my body remained rigid, bracing itself for a fight.
Waves quietly lapped against the shore. The moon peeked out once again from behind the clouds.
I exhaled, shivering slightly as a bundle of nerves suddenly stopped jittering.
It was over.
I sensed him a moment before warm arms wrapped around my waist.
His mouth brushed against my ear. “Happy Birthday.”
I sighed and leaned back into his strength.
“It really is. Happy, I mean.”
His hold slightly tightened. “Were you still worried?”
“A little,” I admitted, then shook my head. “A lot.”
Many unmated ondines had celebrated their twenty-third birthday without being recalled to the water.
But I still retained faint memories of those endless days suspended in the depths of the ocean.
The fear hadn’t gone away. It’d simmered, tucked away deep, for five years. Some part of me had been terrified that these days with Tristan, this life we now had and had fought so hard for, would be yanked away again.
But I was now twenty-three.
And I still stood here, whole and complete, on land with the man I loved.
“Do you still want to leave tomorrow?” He pulled away and moved in front of me. “We can postpone our departure —“
“No. Your father would have a fit and attempt to kick my ass. Of course, he’d fail.”
I’d yet to take Ancelin down but some day I’d catch his stubborn ass off-guard and effectively use the grevaol maneuver against him.
Laughter danced in his eyes. “Of course.”
“Besides, I don’t want to disappoint Dax.”
It was the biggest day of his life.
“You’re right,” Tristan said softly. “We’ll leave as scheduled.”
The Selkie Kingdom coronation ceremony was important not just for Dax, who’d be the youngest king in Selkie History, but for the entire Belicoux family.
Ancelin was finally stepping back and allowing his son to shine.
And Tristan would officially be free from that throne.
“You brought me here six years ago.” I looked at him and wondered how it was possible to love someone more each day than the day before. “Do you regret any of it?”
“Well, maybe the part about teaching you selkie curse words—“
I whacked his arm.
He laughed and drew me close. “How can I regret anything if everything brought me to you?”
I reached up and pulled him down, wholeheartedly agreeing with his words through a long, languid kiss.
Moonlight stretched over the waters, the glassy surface reflecting the endless swath of midnight sky.