You think you know the story of The Little Mermaid…
A tragic accident on the eve of her eighteenth birthday leads Princess Erica to a chance encounter with a mysterious man on the beach. When he turns up at her birthday party and whisks her off her feet, she knows she has to find out everything about him, but why won’t he speak and where does he keep disappearing to?
Ari knows he’s crossed a line by mingling with the land humans, but how can he resist the beautiful princess whose life he saved? He must decide whether to stay on land and become like her, or continue to live without her in the depths of the ocean.
Trapped in a centuries long battle between his kind and hers, his decision will rock both their kingdoms.
With a sea witch that needs repaying and the small matter of Erica’s engagement to someone else, Ari knows the odds are stacked against him.
Dark Water is the fourth in the Reverse Fairytale series and the first Little Mermaid retelling by USA Today bestselling author J.A.Armitage. Take everything you think you know about fairytales and turn it on its head.
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“May God bless her and all who sail on her.”
I cleared my throat, hoping I’d said it correctly, and gripped the bottle of champagne, terrified of letting it go too early or, worse still, missing the ship entirely.
Beyond the ship, the ocean shimmered in the midday sun. Diamond-like sparkles of light bounced off the calm cerulean water—water that looked so inviting, I wanted nothing more than to jump in, to surrender to the balmy ripples. Of course, wanting it and doing it were two different things. First of all, I couldn’t swim, and secondly, my mother would pitch a fit if I took another step closer to the dock edge. She was already a bag of nerves from today’s event.
I looked behind me, needing reassurance from my parents. This was my first official royal engagement, and I was terrified of messing it up. My father beamed at me with pride while my mother gave me a thin smile. I could see the fear in her eyes although she was doing her best to hide it. I was amazed she’d come at all. The ocean positively terrified her. My father’s hand was almost white with how hard my mother was squeezing it. Next to them, my little brother, Anthony, was picking his nose and examining the treasure he found up there. Not for the first time I was reminded how fortunate it was that I was the first in line to the throne.
Beside me, my life-long best friend nudged me to let go of the bottle. Officially, his title was Sir Hayden Harrington-Blythe, but to me, he was just Hayden. He’d been my first crush since our first day in kindergarten when he’d pulled on my pigtails, and I’d stamped on his foot. Despite our unpromising start, over the years we’d turned into friends. My crush on him was long since over, and his pigtail pulling days were long gone, but somehow, our friendship had survived.
“You do know you are supposed to let go of the bottle right?” whispered Hayden in my ear. I gave him a look I only ever reserved for him and lifted the bottle. Letting go, I watched it swing on a length of string, arcing towards the majestic ship’s wooden hull. It made a tinkling sound as it smashed against the side of the ship, scattering glass all over the paved dock. I couldn’t help thinking it was a waste of good champagne and that it would be better served at the ball being held in honor of my birthday in a couple of days’ time. Still, I felt invigorated by the salty smell of the ocean, the atmosphere of a thousand happy people coming out to see the launch, and the fact that I now had a boat that bore my name. I was feeling as excited as I could hope to feel, second only to being allowed to actually go out on the damn thing.
The Erica Rose’s white sails flapped in the breeze below the official flag of Trifork as if she were eager to be off, out onto the ocean. I couldn’t blame her. To sail on the ocean was a lifelong dream of mine. Ever since I could remember, I’d looked out of my bedroom window toward the ocean and dreamed of the day that I’d be able to disappear beyond the rolling waves toward the horizon.
It was a dream that had never, and would never, be realized as long as my parents were in charge. For a kingdom so well-known for its naval and merchant vessels, my parents were ridiculously strict about letting me go near the ocean. This was the closest I’d gotten in the whole eighteen years of my life, and I had a full team of palace guards surrounding me, stopping me from taking one step closer to the water’s edge than I had to. It was all because of my mother, of course. My father might have been the one that ruled Trifork, but in the palace, my mother was the one that wore the pants, so to speak. If my mother said I couldn’t go near the ocean, then my father wasn’t going to argue with her. However, today was a special day, and not even my mother could come up with a good enough reason for us not to be here. She might have been absolutely petrified, but she was the queen, a duty she held above everything, even crippling panic.
Everybody clapped as the wooden ship began pulling up its anchor, its crew readying themselves to set sail.
I took a deep breath and inhaled the salty air. Above the excited chatter of the crowd, seagulls cawed to each other as they flew overhead looking for an easy snack. Oh, how I envied them and their freedom.
My father managed to extricate himself from my mother’s vice-like grip and joined me on the dock’s edge. My poor mother’s face turned even more ashen, and she had to grip a nearby railing instead to save herself from fainting. It was almost cruel, living so close to the ocean and being so frightened of it. I saw her eyes darting past my father and me to the ocean behind us as though it could somehow climb above the dock and swallow us whole. I don’t doubt it could on a stormy day, but today the skies were blue, and the sea was calm.
“We here in Trifork have a rich sailing heritage, one of which I am immensely proud,” began my father into the microphone that had been set up for the occasion. “Today is a big day for me, both as a king and a father. As you all know, my daughter, the princess Erica Rose, will turn eighteen in just two days’ time. Her first official engagement was supposed to be at the ball, but she begged me to be allowed to launch this ship. Being the dutiful father I am, I agreed.” He paused at this point waiting for a laugh. When he got it, he carried on. “This is my birthday gift to you, dear Erica. I know you’ve always had a fondness for the sea and so this ship not only bears your name but also belongs to you.”
I blinked a couple of times, unsure if what I was hearing was true. The ship was mine? I wasn’t allowed to dip my toes in the shallow waves at the beach, but I was allowed to own a ship?
I gazed up at the huge galleon. “She’s mine?” Hope rose in my chest that I might, for the first time in my life, be able to go out on the ocean. My parents had never so much as let me sail in a dinghy before now, let alone go on a ship.
“She’s all yours, sweetheart. As part of our fleet and a working ship, she will be taken out by her captain, Captain Jackson. But when she’s back in Trifork, you will be able to see her whenever you want.”
“Yes,” beamed my father, oblivious to the disappointment I was feeling. Only see her? I didn’t want a ship to look at. I’d spent my entire life watching the ships of Trifork sail in and out of the harbor. I wanted to sail to foreign lands, to feel the sea breeze upon my cheek. I wanted to know what it felt like to roll over the gentle waves with the vastness of the ocean the only thing in view.
About the Author
J.A lives in a total fantasy world (because reality is boring right?) When she’s not writing all the crazy fun in her head, she can be found eating cake, designing pretty pictures and hanging upside down from the tallest climbing frame in the local playground while her children look on in embarrassment. She’s travelled the world working as everything from a banana picker in Australia to a Pantomime clown, has climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and the bottom of the Grand Canyon and once gave birth to a surrogate baby for a friend of hers.
She spends way too much time gossiping on facebook and if you want to be part of her Reading Army, where you’ll get lots of freebies, exclusive sneak peeks and super secret sales, join up here
Somehow she finds time to write.