Of Neptune Page 29

His last meal was at the Conway’s house—and even then, he’d barely touched his dinner. He’s guessing that was two days ago—two days that have passed with Emma thinking he’d returned to the ocean to tell Grom about Neptune. Two days since he all but disappeared from existence, with no one realizing he’s missing.

Did Emma stay? Did she go home? Did she come to look for me? He hopes she didn’t go in search of him and stumble across Tyrden herself. Or what if she did? He quickly dismisses the thought. If Tyrden had Emma, he would have already used it against him.

The older Syrena leans back in his seat. He forks a big chunk of fish into his mouth and moans in appreciation. The plate could easily feed two. “I have some more questions for you, Highness. I’m hoping you answer them this time, because to miss out on a meal like this would be a shame.”

Watching Tyrden eat makes Galen slightly delirious. Even more so than the hovering and cutting technique his captor used the day before. But it’s not so much about enduring the agonizing hunger as it is about regaining some strength. Each day he stays here without food or water, he loses energy and strength—both things necessary to escape. And by how comfortable Tyrden has made himself here, he looks like he might be in it for the long haul.

My best chance is to escape—but how? For all he knows, there could be someone standing guard at the door, though only Tyrden comes and goes. Galen remembers the men who captured him in the woods. Where are they now? Not to mention the thick ropes holding each of his limbs to the metal chair, cinched so tightly they threaten to cut off circulation.

“What do you want to know?” Galen grinds his teeth. Think of the energy food will give you.

“Emma already divulged to Reed how you came to be in the good town of Neptune. So Antonis sent you here. Why do you think he would do that?”

“Reed?”

“Oh, yes. They’ve been spending all their time together. Does it hurt not to be missed?”

The idea of Emma spending enough time with Reed to tell him anything worries Galen, but at least he knows she’s not being held prisoner somewhere like he is. Still, Reed has the presence of a trumpet fish slithering around, stalking its colorful—and unsuspecting—prey on the reef. So slow and casual that it looks harmless. Until it strikes.

Galen clears his throat of bitterness and concentrates on the question. Why would Antonis send us here? “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Reed? He seems helpful enough.”

Tyrden helps himself to another heaping bite, taking his time to savor it. “Reed is an entitled fool who uses his daddy’s position for his own gain. I have no use for Reed.”

Galen can’t decide if Tyrden is purposely all over the place or if he’s genuinely skittish.

If he’s not on speaking terms with Reed, where is Tyrden getting his information? Then Galen realizes the full picture. He must be getting the information from Reder himself. Reder must be the one who ordered his capture. It makes perfect sense, given the way Reder was withdrawn at dinner, the way he scrutinized Galen under the pretense of hospitality. Reed must tell his father about his ventures with Emma. Then Reder tells Tyrden.

Which means Tyrden could just be a pawn—pawns are much more pliable than leaders.

Tyrden seems to read his mind. “I’ll tell you a secret, Highness, about Reed’s father. Reder isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. He’s not the savior of this town, as he would have you believe. Too soft, if you ask me.”

This is too soft? “When will Reder be visiting us?”

Tyrden tilts his head. “Why would you think Reder would bother himself to come visit you? Maybe he wants to give Emma and Reed a chance to bond. Get you out of the way for a while.” At this he seems amused. “Seems to be working all right.”

“Reed is not Emma’s type.”

Tyrden swallows another bite and leans forward, eyeing Galen. “No? But what if it’s not about types? What if it’s about what Reed can offer her? That’s one thing I’ve learned about women. They like security.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s say you get out of here by some miracle and somehow you two run off into the sunset. All you can offer her is a life of hiding what she is. Or … you’re not considering living in the ocean, are you? Let her surface for air every few hours like a whale?” Tyrden chuckles. “Reed—Neptune—can offer her so much more. She told him all about how your Archives begrudgingly voted to let her live. How generous of them.”

Galen closes his eyes against the truth. “Neptune is still in hiding. You’re not all completely safe from humans.”

Tyrden makes a show of looking around. “What humans? Oh, you mean the rest of the world? Let me tell you something, Highness. The rest of the world couldn’t care less about this little speck of a town. Do you know what I do for a living?” Tyrden sneers. “There’s a cannery on the edge of the city limits. Real shack of a place. We’ve got three full-blooded Syrena, descendants of Poseidon himself, using their Gift to keep the cannery busy stocking fish. We’ve got shipments going out daily to big cities. We can hardly keep up with the demand. To them, we’re just a quiet little fishing village etching out an existence in the mountains. We’re beneath them. What do they care about us?”

“Someday they will.”

Tyrden waves in dismissal. “Just like a Triton to be skeptical. We’ve survived this long without discovery, haven’t we? Heck, we’ve survived this long without even the kingdoms knowing!”

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