Of Neptune Page 45

“I’m here because my grandfather sent me. It’s not some fulfilled prophecy or anything like that.”

Reder smiles. “Prophecy? Of course not. But why do you think Antonis sent you here?”

The truth is, I still don’t know. I’m sure he wanted me to see that there are other Half-Breeds out there, that I’m not the outcast that I think I am. But what I’m supposed to do with that information, I have no clue.

When I don’t offer an immediate answer, Reder leans back in his chair. “I met your grandfather when he visited all those years ago. He was, of course, primarily concerned with finding your mother. He thought she may have heard of Neptune, may have sought it out.”

“My grandfather said he stumbled across Neptune when he was looking for her.” He never mentioned that he knew about it all along. But that is what the Retelling claims. That all Poseidon kings, generation after generation, have known all about the existence of Half-Breeds. I suddenly feel betrayed. He could have just told me that to begin with. Then again, he probably worried that I would share the info with Galen—and I probably would have.

“Your grandfather has always been a supporter of peace between the ocean dwellers and the citizens of Neptune. But like us, he didn’t know how to go about pursuing it. Until now. Until you. I believe that’s why he sent you here.”

“Be more specific.”

“You’ve already said the Archive council accepted your existence. That they even approved your mating with Galen, a Triton prince. Do you realize the significance in that?”

Maybe I look at the world with a smaller lens than Reder does. “I see why you would see it as significant. But I was the exception.”

Reder nods. “Yes, you were. Think of all the lessons history has to teach us, Emma. Exceptions have always opened the door to bigger change. Your grandfather knows that.”

“I think you’re overestimating my influence in the kingdoms.” By a long shot. When they made the exception for me, the lone Half-Breed, it was that I could live. It didn’t mean I was granted voting powers or anything. “Besides, why would you—why would Neptune—want to unite with them anyway?”

Reder’s eyes light up. “Think of what Neptune can offer the ocean dwellers. We can provide eyes and ears on land.”

“Galen already does that. He’s ambassador to the humans.”

“Galen is one person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Galen has done an outstanding job in that respect. He seems very loyal to the kingdoms. But think of how much more effective an entire town of ambassadors could be. Plus, many of us have the Gift of Poseidon. We could ensure that all Syrena are fed for centuries to come.”

I’m about to bring up the fact that I would never let the kingdoms starve—I have the Gift, too, after all—but I know he’ll use the “how much more so” comparison again. And I can’t bring myself to argue that point. It makes too much sense. “But what does Neptune have to gain?”

Reder considers, tilting his head. “When did your father die, Emma?”

This is unexpected, and I almost sputter into my hot chocolate. “Three years ago. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Was your father rich?”

I shrug. He was a doctor, so we weren’t poor by any means. But we didn’t have a maid and a butler, either. “No.”

“Say he was. Say he was abundantly wealthy. And say, he left most of his wealth to you. How would you feel?”

Still not getting where this is going. “Grateful?” is what I hope he’s looking for.

“Of course you would. But—what if your attorneys found a glitch in your father’s will, a technicality that, by law, kept you from enjoying your inheritance? What if other people named in the will could enjoy what they inherited, but not you? Because of that one little legal stipulation, you were kept from what you were meant to have. Then how would you feel?”

Ahhhh. Reder views the ocean as the legacy of all Syrena. Except there is that one glitch, as Reder said, that one tiny law separating Half-Breeds from their birthright. And in his eyes, I’ve overcome that glitch. “I still don’t understand how I can help.” That one tiny law, after all, is centuries old and deeply entrenched in the minds of the kingdoms.

“I’m not asking you to shoulder the burden of the world, Emma. I’m just asking you to try to open up communications between Neptune and the underwater realm. Starting with your grandfather.”

Deep down, I know what my answer is. Because deep down I want it, too.

24

“LET ME go, Galen,” are the words he wakes up to. At first, they echo around him in Rachel’s voice. Then gradually they manifest themselves into Emma’s. Why would Emma be telling me to let her go?

His mind floods with images of their last words together, their heated exchange. Surely she’s not giving up on us?

It takes several moments for his brain to register that it was all just a dream, then several more for his eyes to open, to focus on reality. When they do, he’s startled to find Tyrden sitting in front of him. His expression is grim. In his hand he turns his knife over and over. What now? “It’s time for you to make the phone call. You can thank Reder for that.” He pulls out Galen’s cell phone and starts scrolling through the numbers.

Think. His consciousness fights for orientation, for a grasp on what might have happened while he was out. Why can I thank Reder? Inevitably, he wonders if Emma is okay. But his brain stops at the possibility that she might not be.

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