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Sonora woke quietly, her eyelids fluttering a few times before her eyes focused enough for her to see anything. In the dim light, Ian came into view. He'd pulled a chair close to the side of the bed and sat slumped there with his head in his hand.

She didn't move but just watched him for a moment. Vague memories of him rushing through the ocean to get her somewhere she could breathe, of him holding her as she choked out all the sea water she had taken in, came to her.

Along with the memories were the feelings that came with them. Sonora's fear as she had wrapped her arms around Ian when he'd swam, her trust in him as he held her, her gratitude as he soothed her.

There was something about this man.

Even now, she should be indignant he was here in her room. Okay, technically not her room, but still indignant. But instead to see him here at her side, worried about her- Stop it, stop it! This man kid-napped-me. What is wrong with me? I thought he was a creeper for spying on me and suddenly I'm okay with him sitting by my bed, watching me sleep?

Ian raised his head and looked at her. Their gazes met and held. The direct stare of his grey eyes seemed to be asking something of her. But Sonora wasn't sure what the question was or if she even wanted to answer it. Unable to take anymore, she lowered her gaze, breaking the contact.

Ian gave a sad, little smile as she sat up, and said, "My family is here again."

"Is that why you're hiding out in my room?" she joked, trying to ease the tension.

"What? No, why would-" Ian shook his head in confusion. "Is that what you do? I wanted to make sure you were okay."

She shrugged. "Sometimes. If my family is being particularly frustrating."

Ian chuckled. "I have not fallen into that habit."

"Oh, it just seemed like you'd been here a while."

"I was."

Umm, well, that's awkward.

"I'm fine. You can tell your family that too."

"That is not why they are here. We are going to a family dinner tonight. My sisters brought you over some clothes, so you would have something more suitable to wear."

Ian stood and moved his chair back to its original position. Sonora watched as he walked toward the door, picking at the blanket that covered her.


When he turned, she spoke, her words stuttered as she chose the right ones. "Before what happened this afternoon, your family was, let's just say, unhappy with me being here. Very unhappy, if I understood correctly."

Ian started to speak, but Sonora raised a hand so he would let her finish. "And then the obvious lack of any nice words to describe humans. I have to ask. Do all Atlantians hate humans?"

There was a flicker of acknowledgment in Ian's eyes, and he hedged. "Hate is a strong word."

"That's why I used it."

"You have to understand, Sunny, there is a long history there."

"Really? Because I didn't know anything about you, nor did any of my friends or family so I have to assume the general public is ignorant of your existence. I've never heard of Atlantians being mentioned in history books, or on the news. Only in storybooks. So who is this history with?"

Ian turned dismissive. "It is a very long story, and we don't have time for it now."

Sonora felt her body heat rise as she tipped her head and shook it at him. "How convenient for you."

Ian sighed. "Fine. The condensed version is, even though we have stayed hidden, at times, we were discovered. In many cases, it was fine, but in others it was disastrous. Not long ago, one of our people had a ... loss. He became inconsolable, and it led to him making unwise decisions where the humans were concerned."

"How unwise?"

"He murdered them, lots of them." Sonora's eyes widened with the news, but she listened as Ian went on. "After that happened, there were retaliations from the humans. Have been since then to now. Torture, mutilation, and murders of our people. Not the one that was guilty, but innocent people. Once, we looked at humans as adorable curiosities, now they are looked at with suspicion and disgust."

A chill made its way slowly down Sonora's spine. "All of us?"

Ian looked away. His lack of an answer gave her the one she was looking for.

Confused, Sonora asked, "They can't understand that most of us aren't like that?"

Ian's belief in his words showed in his confident voice. "Enough of you are. Look at your world. Violence between nations, between neighbors, even between family members. If there was one word to describe your world, it would be violent."

"That isn't true. There is a lot of good too."

"Maybe. Hidden under all the bad. When I am on land, I watch your news. What do you see when you watch it? Because violence or threat of violence is all I see."

"You just told me one of yours murdered-"

"That was one man, Sunny! Against people who were responsible for his loss. Some would call that justice."

"So you don't have any violence here?"


Sonora brought her hand to her forehead. "But that is how they'll all see me?"

Ian sat at the foot of the bed and leaned toward her. "That is what you will have to overcome, but they will see the true you as my family and I have."

"So they do hate me. Whoever is at this dinner tonight." A thought occurred to her. "Is that why you've kept me here? You thought I was going to hurt someone?"

He straightened. "No, that is an entirely different matter altogether."

Sonora pressed him. "And are you ever going to tell me what that is?"

"Yes, tonight." Ian sighed. "I think."

Sonora started to ask another question, but Ian rose from the bed.

"Enough questions now. You need to get ready."

Sonora wanted to shout at him that she wanted all her questions answered now. But hearing the entire situation between the Atlantians and humans, she was worried her guest status would be downgraded if she didn't cooperate. She didn't really know these people. She didn't know what they would do.

The news also made her reluctant to join a larger group. "Can't we just eat here? I like it when we do that. Why do we have to go?"

"Thanks to my sisters, they all know about you now and want to meet you. It is important that they meet you before the others."

"Others? What others?"

"The dinner tonight is for my family, my clan. It is their right to meet you before the others that belong to this city."

Although she hadn't been in control since well before she arrived here, it seemed to be spiraling ever more out of her grasp. Sonora could feel the dread building in the pit of her stomach as she thought of what she faced tonight. She couldn't think of a more intimidating evening then to walk into a room of angry, prejudged Atlantians and try to win them over.

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