Somewhere at the edge of my consciousness, the band is playing loud music. It sounds like waves crashing over rocks and mammoth glaciers sheering into the ocean. And then it dawns on me that those sounds are really coming from inside my own body. The kiss lasts an eternity, and ends in an instant.

"Waverly," Pierce says, our lips close. We are still tangled in each other's arms.

I pull back and look into his eyes. "Pierce, that was, uh ..."

He presses little kisses from my temple to the corner of my mouth; my bare toes curl against the wet teak deck. "I know."

"Are you reading my mind again?"

"Crashing waves and mammoth glaciers, huh?" He grins, dimples on full display.

"I can't wait until tomorrow morning when you'll be out of my head."

"Only if I don't have any more of your blood."

"Not happening, vampire. No way."

He licks my shoulder where I scraped it swimming into the cave. Gross!

"Mmmmm," he says.

His eyes look a little dilated. Double gross. Maybe mermaid blood is like a vampire drug.

"Why in Neptune's name did you do that? Does it start the 24-hour thing all over again? Because if it does, I'm hiding in the water 'til tomorrow night."

"No, Waverly. You're safe. It has to be fresh blood."

"Urgh!" Why did I have to ask?

"Let's stop worrying about me reading your confused brainwaves and get you warmed up. There's a stateroom on the bottom level with a bathroom, and we can get there through that door, so we shouldn't run into anyone."

"I'm surprised no one has come back here this whole time."

He smiles and shrugs his shoulder. "It's a vampire thing."

"Wait a minute. How exactly do you know there's a stateroom?" Yeah, I'm thinking about my vision of Shelly and Pierce and the zebra-skin rug.

"You're funny, Waverly! I found it when I was looking for the towel."

"Oh, okay."

He holds my hand and leads me to a wood-framed glass door. My heart is positively beating through my chest as I contemplate going to the stateroom alone with Pierce, which I know is probably a very stupid thing to do.

Instead of worrying, I focus on the extraordinary feel of his cool hand in mine. We close the door, and the noise of the party subsides. There is a narrow spiral staircase lit from above by a chandelier. The dappled crystal light illuminates intricate carvings on the bannister, depicting every species of shark.

"This room has a bathroom," Pierce says. He opens the door, and I gasp. Not only is the room enormous, it is outfitted with a zebra-skin rug, a scarlet bedspread, and a Jacuzzi (empty though). There is a fish tank recessed into the walls that wraps around the room, and it is filled with sharks. There's a huge desk on the left side of the room that looks like it's made out of some kind of endangered wood. A sleek computer rests in the middle surrounded by a host of gold-framed photographs-some are on land, others under the ocean. The shots are of Brack Sharkweather, Shelly, and a beautiful mermaid I have never seen, but she looks like Shelly. In all the years I've known her, it's just been Shelly and her dad. I never thought about her even having a mother. I don't like the way this makes me the tiniest bit sorry for her. My mother may be supremely annoying, but I know she loves me. Yeah, I'm admitting it, even if she did send me to a vampire school, I know she'd lay down her life for me.

Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them (Winner Watty Award 2014)Read this story for FREE!