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Authors: Anne Greenwood Brown

Promise Bound

BOOK: Promise Bound
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ALSO BY ANNE GREENWOOD BROWN

Lies Beneath

Deep Betrayal

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2014 by Anne Greenwood Brown
Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Elena Kalis

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

Visit us on the Web!
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Brown, Anne Greenwood.
Promise bound / Anne Greenwood Brown. — First edition.
pages   cm
Sequel to: Deep betrayal.
Summary: “The stakes are high, with many lives at risk, but Calder and Lily must confront the past as well as their darkest impulses if they want a chance at being together” — Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-385-74383-9 (hardback) — ISBN 978-0-385-37129-2 (ebook)
[1. Mermen—Fiction. 2. Mermaids—Fiction. 3. Love—Fiction. 4. Families—Fiction.
5. Superior, Lake—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.B812742Pr 2014
[Fic]—dc23
2013028765

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

For Sammy, Matt, and Sophie,
who changed my world forever

PROLOGUE
CALDER

J
ack Pettit was dead but louder than ever. Pavati might have put an end to his obsessive mission to “out” the merpeople, but it wasn’t like we were rid of him. Lily—who had a knack for blaming herself for everything—would never forgive herself for his death, and Gabby Pettit’s incessant calls made sure she’d never forget.

Still, Gabby hadn’t been the only one affecting Lily’s mood. Sometime last August, a slightly incoherent Daniel Catron stumbled back to Bayfield after taking off with Pavati. At the time, none of us knew how successful Pavati’s
procreation plans had been with Daniel. Just in case our fears were realized, Lily befriended him—counseled him, really—to make sure he understood the consequences of agreeing to father a merchild: namely, the need to raise it for a year and then return the baby, without argument, as soon as it was walking. Lily didn’t want her family history to repeat itself. None of us wanted that.

But more than Gabby’s persistent questions and Daniel’s perpetual obsessing, it was Lily’s newly acknowledged mergenetics that grated on my mind. “Tomorrow’s Friday,” she’d say, announcing the end of every week like an alarm clock going off, breaking my heart with the delicacy of a sledgehammer.

Lily would have liked to swim every day, but the metamorphosis back to legs was still so excruciating for her that a weekly torture session was all she could stomach. Jason swam every day, but I waited out the dry week with Lily, unwilling to leave her behind anymore. When Jason’s Friday class was over, we’d all take to the water together, returning at sunrise on Saturday mornings. Lily would make me and Jason leave the water first and go back to the house without her. It wasn’t just for modesty; she didn’t want us to witness her straining and writhing on the beach.

As soon as we reentered the house, Jason would put on Queen’s
Greatest Hits
and turn the volume up to ten. Neither of us confessed to Lily that it was never enough to drown out her screams.

Mrs. Hancock—Carolyn, she wanted me to call her, but
I just couldn’t do it, so we settled on Mrs. H—dealt with her anxiety over Lily by fussing over me. Each night she made me a comfortable bed on the family room couch, by the fire. Though I reveled in her motherly attentions, it was painful to watch as she maneuvered her wheelchair around the couch, ineffectively tugging at sheets and denying the need for help.

Being part of the Hancock family was better than I could have ever hoped for. It made me eager to solidify my role in the family, and there was a ring in my duffel bag that gave testament to how ready I was to make the ultimate promise. If only I could find the right time. The right words.

So I guess it was no surprise that, with all these distractions, I barely noticed when summer slipped away and was startled by a yellow leaf that floated past my face and settled gently on my toes. I wanted to leave for the Bahamas as soon as the last Labor Day vacationer had packed his station wagon and grabbed a coffee for the road trip home, but Lily had other ideas.

She wanted to go. I was sure of it. Who wouldn’t want to explore that new world I described for her late at night as we whispered together in the hammock—a new world filled with turquoise water, red coral, and conch sandwiches on sugar-sand beaches?

But we were all making sacrifices.

Jason had to stay behind and teach at the college, so Lily and I agreed to suffer through the winter in solidarity. If she had known back in September how hard the winter would
be, it might not have been such an obvious choice for her. But she’d never shied away from what was hard, so there was little use in pushing her.

Or maybe I let her have her way because I secretly hoped she’d regain her humanity once winter’s brutality made the water easier to resist. I was wrong, of course. Winter’s ice didn’t take away the lure of the lake for any of us. It only sharpened the barb.

Mrs. H’s generous acceptance of her family’s new “idiosyncrasies” made it easy for Jason to finally get his act together and stay close to home. For Christmas, she bought us an industrial-sized bubbler, which Jason ran on an extension cord to the end of the dock. It hung in the water and kept a twenty-foot circle from freezing. There, in that miserably frigid reprieve we came to call the Spa, Jason, Lily, and I escaped our drying bodies and burned off the pent-up energy that sizzled in our veins.

This was the pattern of my and Lily’s lives: six days of drying, one day of freezing, and the steely gray of winter holding us all in its cold embrace. It felt like a never-ending waiting period. Me, impatiently waiting for Lily to change her mind and catch a red-eye to the Caribbean. Jason, stoically waiting for his class to end so he could escape his human legs. Lily’s little sister, Sophie, waiting in wonder to see what
she’d
become. Mrs. H, waiting anxiously to see who’d leave her first.

And then, of course, we were all waiting for Maris and Pavati to return to Bayfield with the spring migration—and, most impatiently, for what Pavati might return
with
. If
Daniel Catron had managed to father a merchild, none of us knew how a baby would factor into our lives, and none of us was really that eager to find out.

Once Lily turned the calendar from April to May, we didn’t have much longer to wait.

PART ONE

Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling
,

At their return, up the high strand
,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin
,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in
.

—Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach”

1
LILY

I
t was happening again. I could tell because everything was in color, as if I were Dorothy leaving Kansas and landing in Oz. My dreams used to be in black-and-white. Not so much lately.

Ever since I started wearing the beach glass pendant once worn by Nadia White, my grandmother and Calder’s adopted mermaid mother, my dreams had purpose. I didn’t know how it worked, and Calder blamed it all on my overactive imagination, but Nadia directed my dreams.

What was more irritating, she never let me be just a
fly on the wall, watching events unfold. Rather, she made me the star—or herself the star, with me wearing her skin. I could barely tell where Nadia’s body left off and mine began. Tonight, as I drifted off to sleep, my body felt foreign once again, like a glove when you’re used to wearing mittens.…

I am walking up the path to my front door. My grandfather, Tom Hancock, has left the door unlocked, but it’s not because he is expecting us … me … 
Nadia
. Whatever.

The lack of invitation does not prevent us from stealing into his warm and tidy house and standing outside his bedroom door. From our position in the hallway, we can hear the bedsprings groan as he turns over. We hear a woman’s sigh—like gravel on our heart. We close our eyes to shut off the urge to scream at them both, to rip all the hair from the woman’s head. Instead, we climb the narrow staircase, touching the pictures on the wall. At the top, we trail along the dark corridor to the nursery and step inside, inhaling the sweet baby smell. Vanilla and lavender.

The moment is pure as sunlight, tickling our senses, but is interrupted by the creak of a loose floorboard on a stubborn nail. We scurry deeper into the room, holding tight to the wall like a startled crayfish.

“What are you doing, Nadia?” Tom asks, his voice dangerously calm.

My grandfather is just as perfect as Nadia remembered. Young. Broad-shouldered. A rough scruff around his jaw. Good hands.

BOOK: Promise Bound
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