“What is it?” Derek asks Emerala, a look of concern spreading across his face. He reaches out and takes her hands. For show, Alexander reminds himself, scowling. This is all for show.
“I—” she stammers and stops, glancing over the side of the rowboat at the glassy surface of the water. “I thought I saw something.”
“What did you see?” Alexander calls out to her as Derek, too, glances over the side of the boat. Emerala’s bonnet dips gracefully over her face, the shadow of the rim obscuring her eyes. Even still, Alexander can feel her meeting his gaze.
“I don’t know, I thought—” she starts and stops again, her face flushing red with embarrassment.
“Out with it, Rogue, what was it?” the Hawk snaps, impatient. One hand lingers on the hilt of his dagger.
“Remove your hand from your weapon,” Alexander hisses to his companion. “You heard Derek, they’re watching every move we make.”
The Hawk frowns and ignores him, tightening his grip upon the crooked knife. His golden eyes are narrowed into slits as he scours the horizon. A few feet away, Emerala continues to gape sheepishly at the pirates from beneath her hat.
“I must have been imagining it,” she mutters. Besides her, Derek is still peering at the cerulean surface of the water, his brows lowered.
“Well, what is it you think you saw?” Alexander prompts. She opens her mouth to speak, but is interrupted by Lachlan’s voice from the front oarlock.
“A mermaid,” he says simply, not looking up at them. Four pairs of eyes turn to the murderer that crouches at the stern of the boat. He glances up, his expression stoic. There is no trace of amusement in his gaze.
“What was that?” Alexander asks, unsure he has heard him correctly.
“The lass thinks she saw a mermaid,” Lachlan repeats slowly. The red scar over his eye gleams white in the reflection of the sunlit sea.
“Aye,” rasps the Hawk, clearly struggling to hold back laughter. “And how do you reckon that?”
Lachlan fixes him with a stare that causes Alexander’s blood to run cold. “Because I just saw one, too.”
The Hawk throws back his head to laugh, but an undulating movement from just beneath the water suddenly jostles the boat. Alexander glances downward just in time to see a rippling shadow disappearing out of sight among the colorful reefs. He blinks twice, hard, trying to justify what he just saw. Not a mermaid, but something startlingly human regardless.
Derek is the first to be pulled under. There is an outcry of protest and he is gone, his gleaming boots disappearing beneath the surface of the water with scarcely a splash. Emerala is left alone in the swaying rowboat. She gapes at the swelling surface of the water where her companion just disappeared, her lips parted in a silent scream. Two struggling shadows drift together in fragments of dark and light as the water settles back into stillness.
And then there is total pandemonium.
Hands shoot upward from the water, grabbing at the wooden edges of Alexander’s rowboat and rocking the boat back and forth. With a hoarse shout, the Hawk drops his oar. It clatters loudly against the boards underfoot. Forgetting his dagger completely, the Hawk draws his pistol and begins firing at the surface of the water. The air reeks suddenly of crisp, burning gunpowder and salt.
“Stop shooting, damn it,” Lachlan demands. Alexander whirls about in time to see glistening fingers encircle the old murderer’s ankles and pull him overboard. He has little time to react. There is a resounding splash and the entire boat is capsized. The last thing Alexander hears as the roar of the ocean pummels against his eardrums is the sound of Emerala’s screams.
He is encased, suddenly, in the pressing blue silence of the sea.
-Rogue Elegance, Volume II